Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

ALTEC LANSING EXPRESSIONS ULTRA 2.1 SPEAKER SYSTEM

November 25, 2011

The following review was sent to a mailing list, felt it good enough for me to quote in my own blog since I wrote the review myself in the first place <smile>.

 

Hi folks!

About a fortnight ago I wrote to the list discussing the new Altec Lansing Expressions Plus speaker system I’d bought then, I’m extremely happy with it.

I had thought when I bought this system that the Expressions Plus was the top of the line 2.1 speaker system model Altec Lansing manufactured but I was wrong.

Yep, I could have taken the speakers back from where I bought them but as my one of my other sets was wearing out anyway it made sense for me to replace that with the expressions Plus and buy the new Altec Lansing Expressions Ultra system for my main computer system in the back room.

The Expressions Ultra is the top of the line 2.1 speaker system Altec Lansing make at the moment and boy! what a monster we’re talking about here.

The system consists of 4 components, 2 2-way speakers that can sit on a desk, a small control panel that sits on the desk beside you and a monster sub-woofer that looks more like a PC tower case, you can sit this in a shelf, on the floor etc.

5 separate digital amplifiers drive this system with 200 wats total power, most of which is used by the sub-woofer to shake the floor or whatever.

If considering this system then you’ll need to devote a little time to the unpacking, Altec Lansing in my view ought to win an ward for environmental vandals, I’ve never seen so much plastic tape, bag, foam and other rubbish in a box.

Once everything was unpacked and accounted for it was time to wire and then power up.

Wiring up is simple enough, each of the speakers and control panel plug into sockets via cables on the sub-woofer, it appears that all the plugs are different so their’s no chance of plugging the wrong speaker into the wrong socket, plugging the control panel into one of the speaker sockets etc.

So upon turning the system on I heard sweet sweet sound so time to control the system with the control panel to hear just what the system offered my ears.

The panel has 3 buttons and a rotary know, when this is turned as a volume knob it increases or decreases the volume and here’s where things become interesting.  If you turn the knob slightly then volume increases or decreases gradually, turn the knob a little more then the rate of volume adjustment increases so be prepared for a few shocks.

1 button on the panel changes the knob for volume adjustment to bass adjustment, another changes from volume to treble adjustment and the small button in the middle of the panel turns the system on and off – there’s a main power switch on the back of the sub-woofer which turns everything off.

There are 2 sockets on the side of the panel, one for line in and the other for headphones which I’ve found terribly convenient.

I have the 2 speaker units on my desktop shelf and their they stand proudly, Altec Lansing have done a good job with the design of these units, many speakers I’ve seen are extremely flimsy and can easily be knocked over but not these, they stand on an angle held by 2 rubber feet at the front and the protrusion at the rear.

No doubt about it, these are the absolute best I’ve heard in the class of a 2.1 channel system and I wonder what a better 2.1 channel system could give the ears that this one couldn’t.  As far as I’ve been able to determine most of the spectrum is easily heard, crisp highs, very nice mid range and earth shattering low.

I did wonder why 200 watts for a speaker package which you’re pretty much sitting right in front of? Well I don’t wonder any more, when I’m playing games with things exploding all around me I just sit and enjoy the noise or when listening to my favourite music I sit and listen for as long as I can, these speakers give total enjoyment to my ears.

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More radio Talk

September 15, 2011

Back after a rather long absence.

 

I did promise to talk about 3 Tabletop radio sets from Sangean some time ago and I hereby keep my word and actually go somewhat further.

 

4 sets to review in all including the new version of the Sangean ATS-909 mid-sized portable shortwave receiver but.. well one thing at a time.

 

So to the baby of the 3 tabletop receivers from Sangean and we’re talking FM/AM tabletop or mantle radios here.

 

Nothing special about the WR11 in its controls, just a plain selector knob to select band and power on/off, a volume knob and a large tuning dial which feels very smooth when turned so as you can guess we’re talking good  old fashioned analogue tuning radio here.

 

The WR11 is in a wooden cabinet with a glossy finish and you know the cabinet is wood instantly! by the sound of the radio, remember those wooden radios that perhaps your Mum or Grand Parents had? This sounds very similar and in fact all the radios var the last I’m going to talk about are all in wooden cabinets.

 

The WR11 boasts a 3 inch speaker and a bass port at the rear.

 

Several connections enhance the radio, a stereo headphone out, line out, line in, AM and ext FM antenna jacks.  As well as the AC mains connection you’ll find a DC input jack which will take a range of voltages from 9-14V to power the radio so this makes the set versatile for quite a range of different power environments.

 

As one would expect this radio is incredibly sensitive and more so because it uses an analogue tuning circuit.  Performance of FM is good particularly on an external antenna.

 

The radio comes with an external indoor antenna for FM or you can switch to the built-in FM antenna and if you’re looking to receive stations quite some distance away from you then the built-in FM antenna is not recommended.

 

I paid $200.00 for this radio about 6 months ago but check with your local Sangean dealer as prices have changed.

 

The next model I’ll be reviewing is the WR2, the slightly bigger Brother to the wr11, similar in looks but very different in functionality.

 

 

Shopping with your Iphone/Ipad at Woolworths in Australia

August 17, 2011

The below is extract of a message I sent to an email list regarding the new Woolworths Supermarket app for iPhone, will work with iPad too!

 

So you do your grocery shopping every week and you want to be absolutely organised? Then here’s the best app I’ve seen to help you “organise” your shopping and its free!

Note that the Woolworths app is only available in Australia as far as I know.

This app does everything you’d expect a shoppers helper to do and far more.  Firstly, it can locate your nearest store and thus will display the local stores product catalogue and appropriate weekly specials if any, you can then browse all of these and add what you want to your shopping list where you can edit, manipulate by increasing or decreasing the amount of an item or items required, email your list to someone or an address in your contacts list etc.

The app is fully accessible with Voiceover with plenty of help screens and tips available should you find yourself lost in the software.

The app tells in where to find items, for example if you add a kilo of apples to your shopping list of a particular type, the Woolworths app will tell you in what row to look and this is displayed in your shopping list so you can send someone down to the supermarket and they’ll know exactly where to find an item.

Have some products in your pan tree you wish to order again but can’t remember what the label says so you’ve no idea what to search for? No problem, the Woolworths app has an in-built bar code scanner, take the product from the pan tree, scan the bar code and the app will identify the product where upon you can add it to your shopping list.

I see wonderful potential for this app and full marks to the developers for what they’ve achieved with the app thus far, pity you can’t order a delivery but perhaps that will come in the future.

In short 2 words sum up my feelings regarding the Woolworths App, “Most Impressive”.

SANGEAN WOODEN CABINET TABLETOP RADIOS

July 27, 2011

I recently purchased 2 Sangean tabletop AM/FM radios and I will outline the differences between the 2 in a future post. I’ve delayed writing about these sets for some time as I intend to get another Tabletop set in the near future which I wish to put into the mix when I write about these sets, the third set I’ll be getting contains a CD player and has 2 speakers but essentially it is the same design as the other 2 sets I’ll be writing about.

One of these sets has a very nice analogue tuner whilst the other has a digital tuner with a remote control, still working out how to use this set as I’ve only head it a week.

If you’re looking for a great sounding radio then I’d certainly recommend you at least have a look at the Sangean tabletop or mantle radio sets, they’re a world apart in sound quality compared to most portable radio sets on the market today and this difference is noticeable the minute you turn one on and tune to your favorite station, listen to your favorite music source etc.

I have commented on another tabletop set in the past that being the Yamaha TSX-130 clock radio as Yamaha described it at the time on their web site though since the end of last year Yamaha have seen fit to rename these tabletop sets “Desktop Audio Systems”, an accurate description for these brilliant sounding tabletop audio beasts.

MY NEW TV

July 26, 2011

The below is part of an email I sent to an email list dealing with matters concerning technology.

 

Hi!

Meant to write about my new television a couple of weeks ago.

I wanted a new television for my lunge and with LCD TV’s becoming so cheap these days I decided that the time was right to take the plunge.

Now I’m not going to go into the technical details about my TV suffice to say that those with vision who come to my house on our Movie nights are sufficiently impressed to stay in order that they watch the whole movie so it must be pretty good visually <smile>.

Its nothing to flash, just a 19 inch – 47CM – in size but built-in audio given the sets size is quite remarkable.

I have a toslink digital cable linking the set to my surround-sound and a HDMI cable linking the Apple TV to the set, there are other connections at the back but the manual is extremely graphical so its going to take me a while to find out what all do but I do know that the USB socket allows the connection of a memory stick or hard drive for the recording and playback of video and I’ve got as far as trying this facility with the television.

So why did I choose Samsung? Main reason being that Samsung television consistently get good reviews in the technology columns over here.  I also bought the Samsung because as the set was far more accessible than others around and I’m not exaggerating this point either.

Take a similar set from G, whilst it may boast more features than the Samsung it was next to useless for me.  Firstly it had a touch control panel on the front of the set and worst of all, the remote control was a touch screen so a total waste of time.

The Samsung does indeed have touch buttons on the front control panel however they have ridges around them and require some pressure before they are activated.

The remote controller for the Samsung is your typical rubber membrane type remote controller however it does have some nice touches which make the buttons clearly identifiable.

For example the on/off button is marked by a unique series of raised dots not unlike Braille dots, the volume up and down marked with a completely different set of dots and channel up an down is marked in a similar way.

Then the buttons themselves are nice and large so they’re easily distinguishable from each other, you only have to touch a button on the controller to know where you are in relation to all the other buttons.

Yep, controller is large but this is due mainly to the size of the buttons, they’re big and well spaced and – in my opinion – very well laid out, for example the most important controls such as the numeric keypad, up/down controls, power and source control are right at the top whereas the les important of the controls such as play, stop, pause and so on are at the bottom with their unique shape thus their unique identification.

Only one thing annoyed me about this purchase, the space in my TV cabinet can fit a far bigger set and given the price of a bigger set? Well perhaps I should have saved a little longer but not to worry, I’ll eventually buy a bigger one and put the existing Samsung into my den where it will fit perfectly and yep! I’ll buy the bigger Samsung given my thoughts above.

cc radio ii, making the weak signals strong!

July 18, 2011

Hello again!

 

I’ve had a CC Radio II  for nearly as long as the CC SW, — CC Stands for CCrane Company -.

 

I can say much about this radio and I will do in future posts however I’d like to focus on a key point of this radio and that’s sensitivity.

 

Yep, the set is very sensitive – too much so for the area I live in where a 50KW transmitter 10 mile away interferes with the set so its a pity the radio doesn’t have some sort of RF gain or antenna tuner but that aside the radio is still quite usable.

 

I like the computer control which optimises the signal when tuned.  For example I tuned to a weak distant station in Tasmania, I could barely hear the audio but once I’d tuned to the frequency of the station the radio took over, in less than 10 seconds the signal was optimised  and I could hear the audio extremely clearly.  The radio won’t perform miracles, that is to say that signals of weak distance stations cannot be turned into the booming strength of a local transmission but at least they can be made audible or at least the set can try to do its best.

 

I live in Australia and for those in my country who wish to order this set please bare in mind that the CC Radio II  is made for the American market so the set steps up and down the AM broadcast band in 10KHZ steps rather than 9KHZ which is the world wide standard – trust the U.S. to be out of step with the rest of us.  The way round this problem is to use the tuning knob on the side of the radio which steps in 1KHZ so you’re affectively “fine tuning” your radio, you’ll also have to be pretty good at your frequency calculations.

 

So what’s different about the CC Radio II over the previous CC Radio models? Improved sensitivity obviously and the replacement of the U.S. Analogue TV band with the 2M Amateur Radio band, very handy for emergency situations when you may need to keep abreast of developments as Amateur Radio operators are usually the first on the seen passing on vital information to others.

 

You can find out more about the CC Radio II here.

 

More about the CC Radio II and its features coming up in future posts.

 

 

SQUEEZING ACCESSIBILITY OUT OF SQUEEZEBOX AUDIO SYSTEM II

June 12, 2011

This is part II of a series of articles to do with the Squeezebox Audio system from Logitech, in the first part I discussed the Squeezebox Boom and mentioned various ways one could control this handy – for want of a better description – Internet radio though its far more than that so perhaps let’s just leave it at audio system.

I find myself using the Ipad app called Ipeng HD to control the system as everything you could possibly need here in the way of controls, settings and functions is grouped in a logical and straight forward order. I’m told that a person with vision working on an Ipad can totally rearrange the order of all these controls and so on to suit the users needs.

The first handy control worth nothing in Ipeng HD is the ability to switch between “My Squeezebox” and the “Squeezebox Sender” server software if it exists on a computer connected to your network. “My Squeezebox” is the service your Squeezebox Player connects to on the Internet and this is what you would use if you wanted to use your player independent of your computer. The “Squeezebox Sender” software is the server which can control your Squeezebox players from your computer.

Both these control options have advantages and disadvantages depending on what you want to do, for example if you want to stream your music collection to your squeezebox player then you’re probably better off using the “Squeezebox Sender” software on your computer, this software detects music on your system including Itunes libraries.

Ipeng HD will usually detect if the “Squeezebox Sender” software is running on a computer connected to your network and the name of the computer with the software will appear on the screen.

When connected to the sender software the user sees additional options such as “Music Folder”, “Playlists” and so on, you can navigate these and select according to your preference.

All the usual other goodies are there like “Favorites”, “Radio”, “My Apps” and so forth as you’d see if you used the “My Squeezebox” option.

The only way to stream music from “My Squeezebox” is to use an app called “MP3 Tunes” but to my knowledge the MP3 Tunes facility is not accessible which is a great shame.

You can find Ipeng HD in the Itunes store, you’ll also find Ipeng, that’s the baby Brother. Ipeng runs on the Iphone.

There is a Squeezebox controller app for the Iphone/Ipad which allows remote control of your Squeezebox players from your account on the “MY Squeezebox” server.

In part III I’ll look at how you can control your Squeezebox Audio system from your “My Squeezebox” account using a web interface from your favorite web browser such as Safari for Mac and Firefox for Windows, you can obviously control the system from anywhere with an Internet connection.

Siemens SL375 Cordless Phone

June 10, 2011

The following is a modified version an email sent to the pc-audio list by me which describes the Siemens SL375 Cordless Phone system, I’ll be following this mini review up with further comments and observations as I become more familiar with the phone and its features.

 

The first thing which sets this phone apart from most other cordless phones is its size and looks, one could be forgiven for mistaking the handset as a mobile phone its that small and yet the base is just a big black box with a single button on it.

I bought this phone not because of the size so much but because it can be used with a Bluetooth headset, actually it can be used with many bluetooth devices including your mobile phone so this alone makes the system very flexible as you can transfer items from your mobile to the Siemens phone such as contacts, calendar entries, ring tones  etc.

You can purchase an optional  data cable accessary  which allows synchronisation of your contacts and such from your computer to the phone, you can also use the phone’s bluetooth to do this.

So back to the phone itself, hands free is amongst the best I’ve heard, its not harsh sounding but yet is quite loud. Those who have heard the hands free from the Siemens report that it sounds crisp and clear.

The model I have has an answering service built-in, again the answering service itself seems to be in the handset. When calls arrive and the answering machine is triggered you can hear the caller leaving a message through the loudspeaker on the handset, “Call Screening”, I suspect that this feature can be disabled should you wish to do so, haven’t fully read the manual yet and believe me its going to take quite a bit of time to read as its damn thick.

There’s a “Record” button on the handset so I suspect that you can record voice memos, maybe even record phone calls in some countries which allow that sort of thing.

We’re all familiar with the control one has over just about every aspect of a mobile phone? The same applies to this cordless phone system, custom ring tones, distinctive ringing, SMS tones, alarm tones, calendar tones and even a vibrating alert.

I was first made aware of the Siemens cordless phone range thanks to a tipoff from some friends of mine in the U.K. who recently bought themselves one.  The model range over there is different to what it is in Australia and may be different again in the U.S.

I have a fondness for bluetooth devices as they can connect through the Tek Controller which I’ve mentioned previously to my hearing aids. I had a Uniden cordless phone which had bluetooth audio and it wasn’t too bad at all.

There don’t seem to be too many places in Australia who stock the Siemens range so you may have to do a little searching.

Siemens in Australia have a web site for their cordless phones which contains much information including downloads of owners manuals.

Be warned however that some of the models featured have touch screens and thus would be next to useless I would think to totally blind people though if you have someone set up the Bluetooth facility then you may get around it that way.

 

Squeezing Accessibility out of Stand-Alone Internet Radio

April 26, 2011

Hello again and a Happy Easter to you all!

 

Sorry for not updating my own Blog for quite some time and yep, there’s plenty to write about.

 

I trust the Easter Bunny brought you some good cheer, in my case he – with my approval and with my money – purchased a Logitech Squeezebox Boom on my behalf, I’ll explain more about the unit later but first I think it important to relate the background of me wanting this item.

 

I had been looking for a “Stand-Alone” Internet radio solution and I think my reasoning would be fairly obvious, who wants to be working in their kitchen with a computer near them, who wants their computers on just to listen to Internet radio and so on.  I was prepared to take a unit even if it meant that I could just press preset buttons or scroll through preset channels, this may have meant that I’d need a lot of help from someone with vision to set such a device up so I thought I’d write about my needs to the pc-audio mailing list and see what sort of reaction I got or hear from others on their experience in this field and I have to admit that my hopes weren’t high.

 

A few members got back to me including a couple which were using the Logitech Squeezebox system, they both had Squeezebox Boom players.  The Squeezebox system allows for the streaming of audio to a compatible player but not just that, you can control much of the way your Squeezebox player behaves from a Squeezebox Account which you create on the Squeezebox web site.

 

You set up your favourite radio stations, apps and so on and you can even remote control your player through the “Remote Controller” page in your account, customise the menu system for your player or players etc.

 

There are to my knowledge 3 players available, the Boom looks like an 80’s mini boombox hence its name.  The Duet is designed for connection to a hi-fi or powered speaker system and I intend to get one of these devices in the future so I’ll reserve further explanation of the Duet until I have the system at my fingertips.

 

The Squeezebox Boom player has a 15 watt digital amp so the signal – given that its all digital – is distortion free.  I can tell you that the volume is loud! and the sound has plenty of character reflecting high, midrange and low frequencies extremely well for such a small device.

 

You will need visual assistance to set up the Squeezebox Boom, it needs to be connected to your Squeezebox account on the Internet or through a Squeezebox server running on your computer but once that’s done then you’re free to let your imagination roam.

 

Naturally the Boom can be connected to either a LAN or wi-fi network though as far as I know only G Wireless protocol and below is supported, I suppose it doesn’t matter much really as this device is not used for playing video content.

 

All the usual security protocols are supported including WPA, WEP etc and you can configure a manual IP address if you prefer.

 

Setup took a little while as you have to use a jog-dial to select the choices, letters and numbers.

 

So now I have the Boom playing my favourite radio stations at the touch of one of the preset buttons on the front, the presets are nifty in that you can easily set them by holding a preset down for a few seconds, the station you’re listening to will be stored in that preset until you reset it, 6 presets in all and if you want to play more radio stations then you can just use your Squeezebox account to search for them or browse through your favourites.

 

Favourites can be entered in a variety of ways, you can enter an URL manually or search for the station you want and add it to your favourites that way.

 

The Boom comes with a remote controller which is interesting in itself, its a very heavy controller and I wondered about its weight when I first saw it, perhaps its the rather strong magnet which attaches it to the top of the Boom player when the controller is not in use.

 

The Boom can be used as an alarm clock and the alarms can be set from your Squeezebox account, quite a few options here when it comes to configuring your alarm exactly how you want it to sound, once again it seems that there are no limits to the alarms you can set, wake up to preset sounds or your favourite radio stations and be rest assured! should the power go off or should you move the Boom player from one room to another that your alarm settings will be kept in memory thanks to the battery backup.

 

I think I’ll leave my writing on Squeezebox here for now and as you can see I’m going to have plenty to write about in the coming weeks.

 

I managed to purchase my Squeezebox Boom for $209.00 delivered to my door, prices range all over the place as I’ve seen the Boom for $399.00 at some shops.

 

 

CC SW Radio Part 2: The FM Experience

March 17, 2011

Hello again!

 

First an apology, I did intend to talk about the clock, alarms and timers of this radio but I haven’t had a chance to try them so those particular topics will have to be set aside for another day.

 

What I have tried is the FM band, I discussed how good performance was on the Medium and Short Wave bands in my last installment and Fm is very good too!

 

FM on the CC SW Radio is both sensitive and selective, it will easily distinguish between stations which are 200KHZ apart from each other on the band and I have seen very few radios that do that, I can’t even think of one that I have in my collection with such selectivity except perhaps for the old Sony ICF-2001 which is now a little worse for wear at 31 years of age <smile>.

 

With FM you can use either the internal whip or an external antenna, for these tests I used the internal whip antenna.

 

The whip antenna of the CC SW is rather long so for good reception on the FM band one is advised in the CC SW Radio manual to collapse the 2 bottom sections, this gives a length of around 90CM which is about the length of antenna required for the FM broadcast band, works well.

 

Both RF gain and DX/Local switches are disabled on the FM band which is a pity and a problem if you’re living close to FM transmitters which can cause overloading to radio sets.

 

The radio will output a stereo FM signal when connected to headphones through the headphones jack or to a line in source connected to the 2 RCA jacks on the side of the radio, line-out level for the radio is rather lower than I expected but not too low as to present any major problems.

 

To Be Continued.