Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Creative Zen Vision W: Official Specs

Early reports of this screen have been positive stating that it does not suffer the same poor quality of the Zen Vision, specifically the small viwing angle, and looks more like the brilliant Zen Vision:M screen. The screen itself will be a 4.3” 262k color 480 x 272 LCD screen.The ZVW will step up this resolution to DVD quality resolution (720 X 480) when outputting to your TV.

Judging by the retail prices in Singapore dollars the Zen Vision: W will likely retail around $400 for the 30GB and under $500 for the 60GB version when released to the US, which, as of yet, has no offcial date.

Archos 404 PMP - Stripped Down Version of the 604

Ok, so maybe it wasn't wise to name their next PMP after an internet error code (404). The 404 offers support for MPEG-4 ASP up to 720x480 @ 30fps, WMV9, WM DRM and DivX, although not exclusively stated by Archos. You'll have to settle for viewing on a 3.5-inch 4:3 screen as opposed to the 4.3-inch widescreen display on the 604. However, the 404's smaller screen is lacking in more than size, with a more pixelated image and less vibrant colors than the 604's. Archos also left out a player stand and removable battery, both of which the 604 has. Bottom line: spend the extra fifty bucks and pick up the widscreen, 604 model.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Philips GoGear SA1335 Flash

Philips recently unveiled its new 1GB SA1335 mirror-surfaced flash player. The player provides up to 12 hours of MP3, WAV, or WMA playback on its non-removable lithium polymer battery.

Like most DAPs these days, it comes with an FM tuner, voice recorder, and direct USB 2.0 connectivity (no cable required). Not bad for $100.

Included is a customizable EQ, as well as very respectable sound quality. The GUI interface could use some work, the processor often bogs down and is unresponsive at times. Above all, it doesn't remeber the track you previously played when you turned it off - a bit annoying. A good offering overall.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Philips HP460 vs Audio Technica ATH-FC7

Let the battle of cheap, portable, closed cans rage on! The HP460s, made by Philips, has beautiful detail and midrange for headphones in this price range. The bass is deep, but like most cheap phones, a little sloppy. This leads to clouding of some of the mids, but make no mistake, they're definitely there. Highs are not too tamed, but not shrill either - just the right combination for headphones of this price range. They fit very well on the head, and are quite comfortable for extended listening sessions.

ATH-FC7s, another closed can, typically costs about $10 more at $43. One thing - these things hurt your ears. The pads are too thin, not nearly enough padding. The driver also sits close to your ear, making it uncomfortable for long listening sessions. Bass is definitely overpowering with these cans, more so then the HP460s. Overall it’s just a little "all over the place". On the plus, they are easy to drive at 35 ohms, making it good for portable use.

Overall, the HP460s win out in sound quality and comfort, and the FC7s are just a bit smaller and more portable. Skip the FC7s; go for the HP460s if you can, they're cheaper too!

Friday, August 25, 2006

Video Preview of What Could be the Next Generation "iTalk" - Is this the One?

Rumors of the new wave of next generation ipods have been absolutely storming audio sites and blogs, and there has been some very, very intriguing speculation. Some say it will include a phone, others says wi-fi capability. Either way, it's clear that DAPs will eventually be all-in-one gadgets including internet capabilities.

Anyways, here is one person’s professional rendition of what they believe to be the next generation "iTalk", to drop this fall. Doesn't look far off, in my opinion. Let's here your comments!

DIY: Release the Painful Vice-Like Grip from the AKG K81DJ.

There has been tons of buzz around the new(ish) AKG K81 DJs the last few month. The sound is excellent for the price ($55). And although they cost twice as much as the PX 100s, they are definitely better. The K81s are very clear in addition to having loads of 3-D depth in the sound. The bass is certainly present, but not over-powering as one might think from "DJ" branded headphones (unlike the smaller AKG K 26 P), and have a very nice balance of highs and lows.

The main problem? These cans grip your head like some sort of life-sized vice-grip, and don't let off. Many people have reluctantly returned them because of this major comfort issue. But, albeit with some research, here is how you can release the grip and make these cans much more comfortable.

Mod #1: Stretch the band out to release death-grip!
Step 1: Make sure the pads are facing one another and touching.
Step 2: Pull off the rubber on the headband (pulls back on when done), and reveal the metal band printed with “AKG”.
Step 3: Under the white lettering saying K81DJ on the headband, use both hands on both sides to push each side of the headband towards each other. You’ll notice the metal at the top bending and if you do it excessively forming a little hump.
Step 4: When finished and satisfied, pull the rubber back on from step one, and voila!

Mod #2 – Remove thick foam pads over drivers to open treble and clarity:
Covering the both drivers, there is a very thick foam pad. Problem with this is that it absorbs frequency and muffles the treble and mids of the K81s significantly. So simply remove the foam pads and the clarity will increase greatly, you’ll hear the difference.

Philips Unveils PX100/200 Answer

Philips has been known for only decent quality headphones. Nothing too exuberant or over the top, just good, quality cans. They struck a cord with many music-goers with their HP460 headphones, which I plan to review soon. They have great detail and some prefer them to the coveted AKG K81DJs.

Enough introduction. The Sennheiser Px100 is considered by many as the best cheap portable phone. The clarity of the mids, nice punchy bass, and great highs make the sound wonderful. Philips has released the SHL9500, sporting a remarkably similar look and folding design - except $20 cheaper from most retailers, but don't let the price cloud your judgement. The Px100 is an open phone, not the best for subway rides, whereas te SHL9500 is closed, making it a clear competitor ot the closed, PX200 can. Time will tell if these phones could become the new "flavour of the month".
Buy them for $16.12 from

14-year-old Girl Sues Friend over Missing iPod!

A 14-year old girl in the US has sued her classmate for losing her iPod. Shannon Derrik had lent her iPod to Stephanie Eick, who returned it to her by leaving it on her desk, instead of actually handing it over to her. Someone else obviously flicked it while Shannon wasn’t around, so now she’s suing Stephanie for $475 in damages.

The court in Wheaton, Illinois initially refused to file the case, but eventually, after an amended refiling by Shannon’s mother, it will be tried. We’ll keep updating you on this new trial of the century, so bookmark us right now!

Creative Zen Neeon 2 - Too Little, Too Late?

Available in 1GB, 2GB, and 4GB capacities, the newest Neeons clearly have their sights set on the nano, stepping it up with video on a 128 x 128, 1.5-inch display. Like the Iaudio 6 below, you're also getting an FM radio, voice recorder, and line-in audio capture, plus a very nice 8 hour video bettery life, and respectable 20 hour audio life.

When these Neeons drops in fall, they'll go for $125, $170, or $190, depending on capacity -- not a bad deal, especially for those folks who like personalizing their players with Creative's swappable skins. But with the new nano and sansa dropping this fall and sporting 8GB Flash drives, double the Neeons top capacity, one can't help but think this DAP is too little, too late.

Cowon iAudio 6 - Still Don't Get the Hard-Drive

Cowon has been pumping out great mp3 players lately. One of these is the new Cowon iAudio 6, equipped with a .85" hard drive. This, my friends, I don't understand. In a player of its dimensions, smaller than many flash players (35.6 x 76.1 x 19mm), what is the benefit of having a hard drive with moving parts? Small-sized mp3 players are likely to be tossed in bags, moved around, and exercised with, but Cowon removes this benefit from the iAudio 6. Why, I don’t know. In testing, the buffer time was considerably longer than most any flash player. The price isn't anything cheap either, $224.00 at Newegg for the 4GB.

I suppose it makes up for the lack of flash memory with a plethora of features, including video playback (only 15fps) on its solid 260K colour screen, Voice recording, FM recording, Line-in recording. When tested, the audio quality was above average, driving even larger, more demanding headphones, such as the Grado SR-125s, to very respectable volumes. Battery life is listed as 20hrs, although in testing it got around 15.

The interface bogs down frequently when loading large data, but nevertheless is very good and easy to use. The touch-pad is far too sensitive
and not accurate, I would have liked to seen some tactile controls here. A nice touch, holding the touch pad down in certain areas gives way to user-defined shortcuts...Much like the shortcut button on the ZVM.

Bottom line -
if you can get by the fragility of hard-drive players with moving parts, and can get used to the annoying touch-pad (which will hopefully be improved in a future firmware), the Cowon iAudio 6 is one of the top small-capacity DAPs out there.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

DIY: CMoy Pocket Headphone Amplifier

A headphone amp is simply a smaller power amplifier specifically designed to drive the miniature speakers inside headphones. One of the cheapest, and easiest pocket amps to make yourself is the CMoy. It's a solid starting point for any portable rig, although carrying around extra equipment isn't my cup of tea. Good amps provide enough quality juice ot allow your phones to be driven to their maximum potential, depending on its resistence of course, and give you better sound quality.

The CMoy can be built small enough to fit in a pocket, power supply and all. It's powerful enough to drive very inefficient headphones to thunderous volumes from even weak sources, and it sounds excellent considering that you can build a bare-bones CMoy ampfor just US$20, and a pretty nice amp for under $50. Considering that the cheapest of the worthy commercial amps is $100 and most of them are in the $200+ range, this is a very worthwhile cost difference.

For a full, in-depth tutorial, see the
CMoy Tutorial

These amps can be customized into your own personal favorite casing...

More Next-Gen Ipod Nano Rumours

The Nano has been incredibly popular, but it hasn’t had a new look or updated features since last September, which is an eternity in iPod time. The rumors that have been leaked this time indicate that the refreshed Nano will be introduced at the Worldwide Developer’s Conference(where, incidentally, the iTunes video rental service is also rumored to be appearing). It’s expected that the device will be increased to either 6GB or 8GB, and that they will be available in several colors, including an industrial looking metal alloy case.

Other iPod rumors are abound. Word is the video iPod has been delayed until at least January because of continuing technical glitches. Also, the 5G iPods could be getting a memory boost – perhaps to as much as 80GB.

Meizu M6 Video Preview - Knocks off the Nano?

Ipod has ruled both small and large capacity, flash and hard-drive players, until now. Touted as the next greatest DAP, the Meizu M6 comes over from China this year, sporting video playback as well. The prices don't seem too horrific. $219 for the 4GB, $159 for the 2GB and $139 for the 1GB.

The screen is the same size as that of an iPod video, it has a ridiculous assortment of EQ/SRS functions, comes with a built in FM radio, voice/radio recorder, syncs with Windows Media Player, and the scroll interface is very intuitive. Build quality is good and it doesn't feel cheap. Move over, Mr. Nano.

Rockbox Your Ipod - 3rd Party Firmware

Rockbox developers have come up with a new firmware for most ipods. Rockbox replaces your current ipod firmware, and most evryone considers it to be better. It improves upon the sound - greatly increases sound quality, especially with the included custom EQ. It supports lossles, high quality audio, such as flac, something any audiophile would want. Perhaps the biggest benefit comes to the average user, who can now customize those boring white and blue ipod screens, and add completely new themes and background pictures, truly an amazing feature.

Rockbox is compatible with the following ipods: 5G (Video), 4G (Color/Photo/Grayscale), 3G, Nano 1G, Mini 1G/2G. It is also compatible with the iaudio X5, as well as many Archos mp3 players.

Here's their site:

Koss KSC-75 - Worth 5X the Price.

You could rummage forever through piles of cheap headphones, and even worse find that a dissapointing %95 of those headphones are just that - cheap. The sound is mediocre, probably on par with stock earbuds. Every once in a while, however, a gem comes along. This, my friends, is the Koss KSC75 ($11.00 at amazon) clip-on heaphone.

The KSC75 looks cheap, but it stops there. These suckers can rock! They deliver a full sound, surprising for the size and price. They absolutely destroy the Apple earbuds. The bass is impressive, and commendably tight. The midrange has real body to it. And the highs sound pleasing too. They also improve with a headphone amp, so they even have a little room to grow. I seriously doubt that anything short of $50+ will beat these phones. The have a Grado-like sound, and assuming you aren't the most sound-critical listener, i doubt the average head-bopper will notice any difference. The downside is, like the Grados, they leak out sound - not as much, but still a noticeable amount.

The bottom line is these things are absolutely amazing for the price, buy a couple pairs while they're still cheap on amazon or your local radioshack, there have been some rumours of the KSC75s being disconntinued..NO!

DIY Easy Quarter Mod: Increase the highs of this headphone, many people say this considerably increases the sound quality. Remove the pads, place a quarter in the centre of each one. Grab an exacto-knife (careful!) and cut around the quarter. You now have a quarter-sized hole in the pads, put them back on, and you will see some of the driver screen exposed. Have a listen, they sound even better, in my humble opinion of course!

Grado SR-60: The Best Open Portable Can

The grados simply offer incredibly accurate sound with clear highs and sufficient, but not overpowering, lows. The detail in sound is phenomenal. The listener will enjoy very subtle differences in tone color and dynamic level, and the sound always comes across naturally.

The SR-60s (and SR-80s) are perfect for portable listening devices, such as iPods, because the headphones present the best sound possible for players that lack an amplifier or a powerful driver. More expensive headphones with more power, detail, and precision are just wasted (and in some cases, don't even sounds as good) on portable devices.

Just a word of caution: Grado headphones are "open air." While this contributes to their fantastic sound, be aware that people sitting near you will hear your music. These may not be the best headphones for people on the go. Besides, they are not the most portable headphones anyway, although they do fold flat to fit nicely in a briefcase.

The bottom line: If you are an audiophile who primarily listens to your music on a portable device, these headphones, or perhaps the SR-80s, are the best on the market.

DIY Easy Pad Mod: If you feel uncomfortable wearing these phones for extended periods, go out and buy the yellow (yes yellow) Sennheiser HD414 pads. These plush babies fit right over you SR-60 driver casing, and increase the comfort dramatically for most. The also impact the sound, for the better. The highs sound "right." No sibilance, no shrill highs, just good sounding top end. The sound is slightly muffed but not as much as when the stock comfies are used. To futher the sound quality, perform the Quarter-mod as described above - the sound expands out more, correcting the flaw in the soundstage. The bass is less boomy, and the highs are sweet and well extended.

Iriver Clix: Battling for Flash Supremecy over the Ipod nano, Sansa e200 series.

The iriver Clix is a rebranded version of last year'sirover U10, which offered a groundbreaking new design in an overpriced package. The Clix is physically identical to its predecessor, but its interface has been overhauled, its performance improved, its capacity increased, and its price has dropped substantially. The 2GB model costs $199.99 (list), which is in line with Apple's 2GB Ipod Nano. The player's preloaded Macromedia Flash-based video game set now includes Sudoku. Goodbye, sweet productivity!

At 2.7 by 1.8 by 0.6 inches and 2.5 ounces, the U10 seems a bit bulky, but it's really not any bigger than ultrathin players such as the Samsung Yepp YP-Z5 and the SanDisk Sansa e260—it's just shorter and stockier. There are also a pair of volume buttons along the top and a Smart button (somewhat cryptically labeled with a star) and power button on the right side. The Smart button is customizable from within the Settings menu. You can set it to take you to the main menu, toggle the display orientation between portrait and landscape, play/pause music, shuffle music, or start/stop recording.

Pros: Cool-looking design. Very good sound quality. Lots of extras, including Flash video games. Long battery life.

Click screen can be annoying to use. Nonremovable battery. No lossless compression or support. No included video-conversion software. Video frame rate is only 15 fps.

Bottom Line:
The Clix is a nice player that offers very good audio and photo quality, long battery life, and a host of extras.

Zen Vision W Leaked!

The folks at have posted a pic and details about the rumored Zen Vision:W; this information was actually published in the latest Popular Mechanics magazine. Yes, print media still lives!

Anyway, the W in Zen Vision:W stands for wide screen, as in 4.3 inches and 16:9, compared to the plain old vision's 4:3 3.7-inch screen. Popular Mechanics apparently loves the portable video player ("plays every format we've thrown at it..."), which comes in 30GB ($399) and 60GB ($499) capacities. That's kind of pricey, actually, for a device that doesn't record video (the 30GB Archos 604 costs $350). Still, we're excited to check out the screen and new features, if any. Stay tuned; we're waiting to hear back from Creative.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Synergy and Your Energy - The Best Workout Player / Headphone Combo

Total: $80 - $130, depending on the capacity of the player you choose.

I may as well let you know that I am an avid runner, cyclist, and gym rat. Being such, I have tried out many, and I mean many, different mp3 players and headphones that best suit the average-pro athlete.

Firstly, everyone should know by now that you should NOT use a hard-drive or micro hard-drive player for physical activity (i.e. ipod, zen vision, iaudio X5 etc.), simply because they all have moving parts that are extremely sensitive to movement, and you will break or significantly shorten the life of your player if you exercise with it, not to mention the fact that hard-drive based players are already quite large to workout with.

Player Recommendation: So we come to flash players, but which one? There are literally hundreds in the U.S. and Canada right now, and thousands internationally. After rigorous research and extensive testing, I have come to this conclusion: The Creative Muvo N200 (a.k.a. Zen Nano for 2006) is the perfect exercise player.

Let's examine why. Firstly, it has a simple, extremely easy to navigate, blue backlight, LCD screen that easily allows one-handed operation while not even looking at the player, a must for any athlete. Plus, why pay for colour when the screen is so small, and you will rarely be looking down at it while exercising: leave that for a bigger hard-drive player.

Secondly, it is incredibly small, even with the included belt buckle AND arm strap. That's right, out of the box you have everything you need, assuming you are buying the Muvo N200 (don't quote me on the new Zen Nano). The belt clip and silicone case work incredibly well, and stick on one's shorts very securely, for worry-free exercising. The armband is secure as well, a nice option for those who prefer it to the belt clip. With the silicon case on, I seriously doubt that anything short of someone stomping and jumping on this thing will break it, the case is that rugged. That being said, be careful without the case, these things are not that drop-proof, I dropped a test model and the battery door broke off (Darn! Should've had the case on!).

Lastly, This player has incredible features and battery life, including up to 1gig of storage. Add up an FM tuner, FM recorder, Voice Recorder, Custom and Preset EQ, convenient AAA battery that lasts 15hrs, 22g weight, and excellent sound and you got a hard to beat flash player. Not to mention, it comes in an array of colours sure to please everyone.

Headphone Recommendation: No need to say, the included creative ear buds don't produce the greatest sound, and are uncomfortable to smaller ears. In the exercise realm, there’s pretty much only one headphone that does exercise like non-other, and that is the Sony MDR-A35g S2. Ok, so we see Sony, perhaps not the greatest sound, but indeed very, very good for the sub $20 price tag. And let's face it, no one needs audiophile quality sound when running and exercising where other noises, be it form an annoying guy at the gym, get in the way.

These phones have a unique sweat-resistant design, and it does work. No sweat penetrated my ears during testing, and these are now my number one workout phones. Sound is excellent for the price. It folds up with a 3-hinged design very compactly, but a carrying case would've been nice!.

The unique over-the-head style combined with ear-bud like, but secure, driver casing makes for a very comfortable headphone, one that never fell off during all tests. A nice feature is that these phones have a semi-open design, so you will hear loud horns and people screaming at you to get out of the way of an oncoming car if you decide to cycle with these (Not recommended!).

Where to buy:
So how much will the ultimate workout rig set you back? Not much at all. You can snag the 512mb Muvo N200 up from Amazon for $111, and better yet, the Zen Nano 1gb for $66.00!. Canadians and worldwide, got to your local Best Buy, the N200 ranges from $39.99 to $115.00 - these players are truly a steal at these prices! Ebay is also a good bet.

Get the MDR-A35g S2 headphones for only $11.00 on! Canada and worldwide, get them for around $25.00 at Best Buy, or cheaper at various online shops.

Total: $80 - $130, depending on the capacity of the player you choose.

Zen Vision M - Beyond Music, and the Ipod

The ZVM is arguably the best 30GB DAP on the market today, although the new generation of ipods and Microsoft's "ZUNE", as well as the ZVM 60GB are due this fall, but I won't hold my breath. With a vivid 2.5" 262k color LCD, it’s not only an mp3 player, rather a legitimate video player, unlike the ipod with its less than stellar screen and battery life. I won't list the specs here, because I don't just want to write reviews such as the objective ones other sites write, rather give my own in-depth opinions on why this audio player is the best bang for the buck around.

First, a bummer, no removable battery, although the ZVM's 14 hour long battery life more than makes up for that shortcoming. The colour screen is absolutely mesmerizing, even on just 10% brightness. The ability to customize your wallpaper and menus are a real plus, as the old blue and white ipod menus are getting old, fast.

Newer ZVMs (in the smaller packaging without AC adapter) come with an updated scratch resistant coating. Yes, it's true! Finally a manufacturer takes note that people don't want to be carrying around their DAPs that are all scratched up, although I give credit to Cowen and its I-audio X5, a highly scratch resistant player.

Case and Scratch Protection Recommendations: While they may be scratch resistant, they are not scratch-proof. Your ZVM will get scratched - that is unless you buy a little clear, sticker like film called "Best Skins Ever". It will protect you player, and keep it looking like the day you got it, nice and shiny. Amazing stuff, works beautifully on my player, see picture. It’s very cheap (about $5.00), and should be used at the bare minimum, with no case.
As far as cases go, there are basically two options - silicon and leather / book-style. I won’t bore you with all the filler, so here are the best brands:

Silicon : If silicon is your thing, get the Capdase silicon case, seen right. Although not the most aesthetically pleasing, it is of very high quality, makes the touch-pad considerably easier to use, has a 360 degree rotating belt clip (removable), stylish cutouts. Of course, like all silicon cases, it attracts a bit of dust.

Leather Bookstyle: The clear winner here is the Podsplus Leather Stand case, and yes, the stand is removable. It is of high quality, and has great protection, the only drawback being that it adds a bit of bulk to an already chubby player.

Headphone recommendation (no amp): For a player to be truly portable, it can't encompass the use of a headphone amp (a small ipod-sized device delivering extra power to the headphones. If you don't know, don't worry, it's irrelevant). My personal Favorite is the AKG K81DJ, a closed can. It can be found for about $55-$65 dollars online, and is a very good closed phone for the price. If you want the best sub-$100 open phone, meaning sound will leak out and in (not good for subway, etc., check out the Grado SR-60 for home listening, $69.00). The AKG K81 DJ folds up nicely for traveling, and has tight, accurate bass as well as excellent lows and liquid-like mids. If your used to the crappy stock earphones that come with players these days, you will be pleasently blown away.

Overall: 9/10

Links to buy discussed products (please be sure to bookmark this site as well!)

Where to Buy:
Zen Vision M (30GB)($269.00):
Best Skins Ever ($4.99):
Capdase Silicon Case :
Podsplus Leather Case ($29.99):
AKG K81DJ Headphones ($59.99):
Canada -

Digital Audio Player Review is Here!

Finally! The long awaited, Digital Audio Player (DAP) Review site is here! All first hand info from a real audiophile, letting everyone know the best mp3 players out there today, along with the best headphones, both in sound and value. Grado, Sony, AKG, Sennheiser, Koss, Audio-Technica, we have all the info, as well as where the Cheapest prices for the best equipment online are in The U.S., Canada, and Worldwide. Bookmark this site now, it will have the most useful information regarding the latest mp3 players and audio on the web!. Thanks!