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.
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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.
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.
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.
No, don't snigger at the back. Far from being a geek case, this has the potential to make you think differently about what you carry around. For example, I carry a fairly fat wallet (not all money, I should add!) and a cased smartphone around all day, every day. What if the two could be fully combined? And not just with a couple of token card slots, as with most 'folio' cases, but a full wallet complement?
Apple's AirPods have proved very popular in the iPhone world, despite the high price and likelihood of losing one of the earbuds. Principally because of the sheer convenience of having no wires at all. And so we shouldn't be surprised that third parties have stepped in to copy the idea for the Android and (here) Windows phone worlds. Blitzwolf's attempt at this category succeeds on the power front but fails in actually supplying decent audio, sadly.
Bluetooth headphones have existed for years, of course, though anyone who really cared about audio quality usually stuck to the traditional wired headphones and a phone's 3.5mm jack (this being AAWP, the DAC and output in the Alcatel IDOL 4 Pro is exceptional). But over the years, with new codecs (e.g. aptX HD at the high end) and faster and more capable chipsets in both phone and accessory, quality has been rising, prompting me to experiment with the mass market 'state of the art', exemplified here in the Tribit XFree Color.