Bluetooth speakers have come on a way in the last couple of years, with some serious speaker cones being fitted to modest enclosures and for modest (sub £50) prices too. A couple of months I reviewed the state of the art, the Tronsmart Element Force, but audio specialists Tribit now have the MaxSound Plus, matching the Element Force in price, dimensions, ambitions, and (almost) sound output, but with a caveat over legacy charging.
It's all very well me going on about great headphones to use with your 3.5mm-jack-equipped smartphones, it's also great to chat about using a Type C super-DAC for even louder and clearer music. But what if you want to go wireless*? Regular readers will know that I've been experimenting a lot with Bluetooth options and - I think - we have a winner. Conjoined? Check. Long battery life? Check. Type C recharging? Check. Sweat and shower proof? Check. Sound great? Check. The ROCKJAW T5 'Ultra Connect' isn't perfect, but it's an awful lot of wireless headphone capability for £70.
Now here's an interesting accessory that, at first glance, isn't needed at all. At least by most smartphones owned by AAWP readers. Audio comes out of your phone via a 3.5mm jack, right? Powered by an internal DAC and amplifier, and all should be well - it certainly is with the IDOL 4 Pro, with a pro-rated DAC. But what if, for example, you have a Lumia with average output and you want to take your music to the next level? Or, perhaps more topically, what if you want to move to a new Android-powered smartphone that doesn't have (boo!) a 3.5mm jack at all? Enter this well thought of and intriguingly customisable USB Type C accessory, which takes digital output from your phone and provides a high resolution audio power amplifier.
As a change after a week of imaging features, let's go to something completely different. Even away from smartphones, but staying within the Windows world. Now, the most recent Surface hybrids have had Windows Hello cameras in their top bezels and compatible fingerprint scanners in their optional Type covers. But what if you wanted fingerprint access to your older Surface device?
Don't worry about the 'XXX' bit, these headphones aren't at all 'adult'(!) Except that it takes someone with a bit of experience to really appreciate what these smartphone headphones offer. Away from my Bluetooth adventures (here, here, here and here), I'm also still striving for unobtrusive headphone nirvana from my wired smartphones. After all, every single Windows-powered phone has a 3.5mm audio jack. So why the heck not use it? Despite the unassuming name and packaging, this smartphone headset is top-notch when it comes to audio quality.
With most of us taking two things everywhere we go - our smartphones and our wallets - an obvious question to ask at some point is "Why not put the two together?" Now, while there have been 'folio' cases for many smartphones for years, usually with a few token card slots inside the front flap, this brand new Noreve accessory takes the concept and dials it up to 11. With understandable caveats for bulk and (here) price!
My quest to find some decent value Bluetooth headphones which actually deliver good audio continues. I rejected Samsung's new Galaxy buds after five minutes, but these lasted a full day. Ultimately, they fell short, but there's lots to say along the way in the full review, tested with both Windows 10 Mobile and Android.
The latest in a series of web-scraping super-apps from developer Fetisenko, GNews - Google News Reader UWP presents (as it sounds) the might of Google's news gathering abilities from around the globe, but presented in full dark-themed, carded, glossy form for Windows 10, especially on the AMOLED-screened phones, where the dark theme can save a lot of battery power. It's free, though you do have to skip over the occasional in-line advertorial headlines. A price worth paying, I think...?
Bizarrely, the FYE-3 featured here is actually a development of the FYE-4 reviewed previously. Perhaps Blitzwolf is working down the numbers, not up?! Regardless, it's an Apple Airpods competitor for the rest of the smartphone world - and, unlike the FYE-4, it does a lot of things right (including acting as a part time power bank), even though it too ultimately falls down when considering audio fidelity.
What would you say to a Bluetooth speaker that really delivers in 2019? 40W of music power, USB Type C fast charging, NFC Tap-to-pair, IPX7 water andand sh proofing, microSD and Aux input, all for less than £50? That sounds a lot like the Tronsmart (slightly pretentiously named) 'Element Force'. Yes, it's a Bluetooth speaker, but on steroids.