If you see a Sony audio product with “XB” in the model number this year, it’s part of the colourful, bold new Sony Extra Bass range. At the moment the key models include the XB650 headphones and three speakers – the portable XB2 and XB3, and the big XB7 floor standing power house. I want to focus on the XB3 because, in my opinion, it’s the coolest.
But first, here is what you need to know about its siblings. The SRS-XB2 is a battery power bluetooth speaker that packs a punch for something that’s a mere 19cm in length. It replaces the SRS-X2 from 2015 and has a similar spec line-up on paper. It will give you up to 12 hours of playback via bluetooth and you can also plug in via 3.5mm jack. You can pair two together for a wide stereo experience and like its big brother, the XB3, it’s water resistant (IPX5 rated) so you can fear not when taking it outside by the pool or… in the shower?
The GTK-XB7 is a new ‘party speaker’, in the same vain as Sony’s previous Muteki ranges. It has a lot of bass and it’s loud – there’s a bunch of processing applied to make it sound pretty decent. You can link two (or more) together if you really don’t like your neighbours. It’ has bluetooth and NFC built-in. I think that’s pretty much all you need to know. It’s loud and bassy.
The Extra Bass MDR-BX650BT headphones are characterised by many of the previous points. They’re bluetooth headphones with excellent bass response. Again, NFC is available and they have a built-in microphone so you can take calls. They’re very comfy, with swivelling ear cups, self-adjusting headband and very soft, cushioned pads so you can listen for extended periods of time.
Now for the SRS-XB3. It replaces the SRS-X33 from 2015 but unlike the XB2, the feature line-up is quite a bit different from its predecessor. The battery life is most notable and certainly impressive. You’ll get up to 24 hours of playback at a ‘medium’ volume or around 12 hours at high volumes. The X33 could charge via USB – that’s not the case with this model, however with such great battery life it’s not a major issue (charging is via included power adapter only). This speaker can charge your phone/tablet via USB too.
This new speaker looks great, feels great to handle and naturally you then expect it to sound great. It does. Two 48mm drivers and two bass radiators produce rich, crisp audio that, when you close your eyes and listen, sounds like it’s coming from a much larger speaker. To be super critical, at higher volumes the signal can start to sound over compressed but this is typical for small, high powered bluetooth speakers.
Similarly to the XB2, IPX5 water-resistance is featured as is the audio input and again you can pair two together in stereo. Additionally you can take calls from your bluetooth connected smart phone. Due to the slanted design, the XB3 can either be placed on its base on on the end to save space.
With unparalleled battery life and a stellar audio performance, the new Sony Extra Bass SRS-XB3 is a sure winner.
Without a doubt, the Sony A6000 has been the most popular mirrorless camera in its class and now, they’ve one-upped it with the brand new A6300. To avoid any confusion, it doesn’t replace the A6000 but sits above it in the line-up and the list of feature upgrades is certainly impressive. We’re yet to get hands on but have very high expectations. Here are some of the key differences and things I’m most excited about.
While the sensor keeps the 24 megapixel resolution, we’re told it’s a brand new beast with faster readout thanks to copper wiring (rather than aluminium), and a shallower sensor stack meaning better light gathering capabilities. This, paired with a higher maximum ISO of 51,200, is a desirable combination coming from a camera that already performed very well in low light.
4K is all the rage and mostly for good reason. With the slick new sensor comes the ability to record 4K video at up to 30fps in camera, and that’s not even the best part. The A6300, unlike many other cameras, performs ZERO pixel binning when in 4K mode, but down-converts a 20MP image to the standard 4K resolution. This means the resulting image is ultra sharp and retains a great amount of detail. Full HD mode gets a boost as well, with an increased maximum frame rate to 120fps – 4 times slow-mo. In the highest quality video settings for both 4K and Full HD, the camera uses the XAVC-S codec at 100mbps; and thankfully, Sony have added an external mic input!
The video improvements don’t stop there, believe it or not. For the filmmakers, S-Log3 is available as well as several other colour profiles and this gives a reported 14 stops of dynamic range. Amazing! Also amazing is the number of focus points lined up on the sensor. There are a total of 425 phase detect focus points and 169 contrast detect points covering about 85% of the sensor surface – Sony have dubbed it ‘4D Focus’. The outcome is the world’s fastest autofocus in this type of camera and also really fantastic subject tracking for both photos and video.
These are really just some of the highlights and we can’t wait to really put it through its paces and have a closer look at some real world images. It’s now in stock available to order online.
B&W have cut the cords with the new Zeppelin Wireless speaker. While it retains the same ‘blimp’ form factor as its predecessors (minus the dock), we’re told it’s been completely redesigned on the inside for better sound quality and functionality than ever before.
The silver arm that the iPod dock has previously had is gone and has been replaced by a slim Bowers & Wilkins logo along the base. This makes the design incredibly minimalistic and really quite timeless to me. While the new model is slightly larger, you’d need to have them side by side to notice the size difference. The chassis has also been completely redesigned to ensure minimal vibrations, and a new digital processor handles high volumes better than ever, ensuring distortion free listening.
The sound quality overall from the Zeppelin family has historically been amazing. The new Wireless model is no different, delivering beautifully well rounded, room filling sound. One of my personal gripes (and a minor one at that) has been that the highs never seem to be quite as crisp as they should – like you’ve got a plastic bag over your head and can tell they’re there somewhere, but it’s just not quite right. Not so with the new model. There are 5 drivers – two tweeters on the outside, two mid range drivers in from those and a low frequency driver smack bang in the middle. The audio signature is very lively and musical and there’s definitely no lack of clarity in the high end. The bass is punchy but balanced and the mid range is nicely controled as well. It really is a joy to listen to.
An update to the B&W Control App makes the set up a little easier, assisting with the initial WiFi connection and facilitating any future firmware updates to the speaker. Connecting to the Zeppelin via Bluetooth requires no additional setup apart from the standard pairing, and is a long overdue feature that android users will be very happy about. Airplay continues as the WiFi connection as does a 3.5mm audio input as the cabled option.
It’s on the upper end of the spectrum price-wise and audio is a very subjective thing, but I really love this speaker – both its striking style and beautiful sound quality. As always, we’re happy to help so call us on 1300 VIDEOPRO, email us or jump on LiveChat if you have any questions
The Ninja Assassin is a portable HDMI external recorder. Following the huge success of the Shogun, the Assassin drops the SDI connectivity and keeps basically everything else. At around two thirds of the price, it’s a bargain for anyone with a GH4, A7S, A7Rii, XC10 or any other 4K capable camera with an HDMI output.
Aside from HDMI in and out, there’s an audio line in and out via 3.5mm jacks and a USB port for unloading your beautiful, huge files. The Assassin records to 2.5” drives or CFAST 2.0 cards, and for the highest frame rates and resolutions, you’ll need an SSD. HDD’s are only good for Full HD recordings up to 30p. For those wanting the highest quality possible, signals up to 10-bit 4:2:2 are supported, depending on your camera.
If you’ve used a DSLR or mirrorless photo camera for video in any capacity, you’ll know how little colour and exposure latitude you have in post-production. The Assassin is the recorder you want to step up your project to the next level.
Sonos don’t release new products very often, so when they do it’s a big deal! The first Play:5 was released in 2009 and now 6 years later, they’ve updated it with a newer, younger, hotter model. The Generation 2 Play:5 has an all new design both on the inside and out and from what we’ve seen and heard, it’s a very impressive upgrade.
The new all-in-one speaker now has 6 drivers and 6 discreet amplifiers in the enclosure – three woofers along the bottom and three tweeters along the top, with the left and right tweeters angled outwards to give a wider sound stage. Honestly, it sounds fantastic. I’m scared to try and describe it in case I don’t do it justice! On paper it’s rated to give a frequency response down to 28Hz and I’d believe that without question. You can feel it in your guts, even in a large area. We tested it in what would’ve been around a 70m2+ open plan apartment and it filled it with ease. The rest of the frequency range is silky smooth as well and it reproduced all the different music genre’s we threw at it as well as a speaker with double the price tag.
TruePlay is their new calibration tech and will also be available on all speakers, excluding the PlayBar and Sub, from later this year. Put simply, it’s a way to make any Play:1, Play:3 or Play:5 reproduce your favourite music as accurately as possible, regardless of where you place it. Now, they all sound great to start with, so if you’ve got lots of flexibility around where you can place the speaker, TruePlay won’t need to do a whole lot. If however you’re restricted as to where you can place it and the surrounding walls and furniture aren’t helping your listening experience, TruePlay will apply some EQ adjustments to combat that.
Setup is simple – it’s all done from within the control app and currently only available if you have an iPhone, iPad or iPod touch. It takes 45 seconds of walking around the room, waving your smart device up and down in front of you. The speaker will produce test tones and use the microphone in your Apple device to calibrate the speaker. We tested it in a very challenging situation (tucked among appliances on a kitchen bench) and it worked incredibly well!
Two things to note:You can TruePlay stereo pairs of any of the compatible speakers. Though, at this point in time, there’s no ability to save a TruePlay calibration; so if you move the speaker, you’ll need to spend another 45 seconds setting it up – not really a huge issue but we hope they’ll add some provision or this in the future.
The new DJI Osmo is a relatively new concept for a consumer electronics product, but one, I thinkhas a long-term place in the market. You could be forgiven for thinking it’s a GoPro on a selfie stick, and while it has a selfie mode, it’s a whole lot more powerful than that.
The wide range of applications for the Osmo give it huge potential. It is essentially the first all-in-one product of its kind and as such, all the parts work seamlessly together. The camera and 3-axis gimbal are actually the same as what’s found on the DJI Inspire 1 drone, and the handle has been made specifically for it. If you have an Inspire 1 already, the handle is expected to be available separately as well. You can expect the same very impressive image quality, with resolutions up to 4K and frame rates of up to 100fps in 1080p. The fixed lens is a 20mm equivalent, so it’s very wide. Even still, previewing is important, so with the included smart phone attachment, you can use the free ‘DJI GO’ app as a live viewfinder as well as control the camera settings and modes.
The build quality is very good and overall it is a pretty fantastic first attempt. Assuming the only way is up, the future of this ‘handheld steadycam’ category is very exciting.
Panasonic have historically had very strong imaging products, so it’s somewhat surprising that we’re only seeing this new HXA1 Action camera come to the market now. It’s a curious little beast, with some really great features and also some head-scratchers that I’d love to see addressed in the next model.
One of the really unique and exciting features is night vision! Simply screw on the night vision lens (supplied) in place of the regular one and illuminate your subject with an infrared torch for pitch-black video recording – it works well and a welcome feature for this type of camera.
The battery life is not fantastic at around an hour and a quarter, however there will be an extended battery available to bring the max record time out closer to the 3 hour mark. There’s also an adapter in the box to ensure compatibility with any existing GoPro mounts you may already have. Wifi is built-in so you can control the camera and transfer your images from it wirelessly.
While the battery life is a bit of an issue and it lacks some of the other high-end features found in the other big POV camera brands, it represents incredible value for money and remains a strong option for those wanting a high quality, entry level action camera that won’t break the bank.
The GX8 is the newest addition to the Panasonic interchangeable lens camera, micro four-thirds sensor line up. If you’ve used any other G Series cameras in the past, this one should be very familiar straight off the bat. The menu system is the same and customisability is as good as it gets. The touch screen gets you where you need to go quickly and one of my personal favourites, the AFS-AFC-MF switch is included for lightning changes between focus modes.
As in the G7, 4K video and 4K photo modes are a big selling point for the GX8, giving you the highest consumer resolution video available internally (100mbps) and awesome flexibility with the three 4K photo modes.
It features a new 20 megapixel sensor which is higher res than most of their line up, along with image stabilisation built-in. It’s dubbed ‘Dual I.S.’ and is designed to work with the image stabilisation in the lens attached if it has it, and it does indeed work very well.
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Drones are, quite simply, very cool. I don’t know about you and I don’t want to get too deep, but personally a big part of the attraction is that it feeds my dream of being able to fly. It gets you eyes in the sky; a perspective that you’ve never had before.
The 3DR Solo is a very, VERY cool drone indeed. It’s ultra easy to use while still giving you a lot of fine control – they call it a ‘smart’ drone. While you can go fully manual and set out exploring all on your own, the various programmed modes are very powerful and free you to enjoy the moment even more.
- Follow mode does just that, follows you so you can set, forget and let the Solo capture you wherever you go.
- Selfie mode takes off, up and out to record your surroundings with you front and centre, then returns back to you.
- Cable Cam mode lets you set a flight path so you can focus on the camera angle and direction (with 3-axis gimbal – sold separately)
- Orbit mode will circle any object you lock it onto.
With a GoPro mounted, the 3DR Solo will give you 20 minutes flight time before needing a recharge, which may not seem like much but you can get a lot done in 20 minutes. The 3-axis gimbal (sold separately) that hangs below the body of the drone ensures smooth, controlled camera movement and the HDMI connection means that you preview exactly what your attached POV camera is seeing.
Panasonic have launched a new line-up of Home Networking products designed to work together to monitor and control your home. The system as a whole seems very well thought out and well featured. It’s completely modular so you can add to, take away and modify the setup as your needs change, making it suitable for every home.
Security and home automation are at the heart of the lineup, with a range of different monitoring products: indoor and outdoor cameras, motion detectors, door and window sensors, a siren and even a water leak sensor. There’s a ‘Smart Plug’, which is essentially a Wi-Fi controlled power switch so you can turn on and off lights and appliances remotely. A central hub links all devices together and records camera video and audio to an SD card for easy reviewing.
It’s easy to see how all these devices give you great flexibility to cover all angles of your home security and networking needs. Panasonic promise reliability and minimal to no upkeep at all, so it’s a very appealing solution all round. You can view more info on all packs and components on the Videopro and Panasonic websites.