October 2019

The Ottava SC-C30 wireless speaker system from Technics. Right: Skullcandy’s Crusher headphones


black or white Dali iO-4 keep going for a mighty 60 hours while the Dali iO-6 manage just 30 hours, but also pack active noise-cancelling technology. Indeed, there were several other active noise cancelling options in Berlin, from the latest incarnation of Sennheiser’s Momentum Wireless and PXC 550-II wireless Bluetooth headphones, to a new pair of cut-price Philips PH805 wireless, and Skullcandy’s Crusher ANC headphones. The latter has a 24-hour battery and – like some Sennheiser headphones – a built-in Tile tracker for finding them using the Tile app on any smartphone. That’s a trend to watch for all mobile electronics. The earphones sector continues to flourish, particularly in the AirPod-style ‘true wireless’ earbuds niche where active noise cancelling appears to be the new thing. Huawei announced FreeBuds 3 and claimed active noise-cancelling technology that works up to 15 decibels. Since airplane cabins rate at around 90 decibels, it’s probably best for travellers to head over to Sony, whose WF-H800 earbuds and WI-1000XM2 neckband headphones both featuring much more powerful active noise cancelling. Jabra previewed its new smaller, longer-lasting Elite 75t true wireless earbuds that keep going for to 7.5 hours on a single charge, while Audio- Technica upped both the bass and the battery life on its true wireless ATH-CKS5TW earbuds, which now last for 45 hours. More specialist personal audio gadgets were also on show at IFA, notably the IP68-rated Aftershokz Xtrainerz bone-conducting headphones that work underwater – even seawater – and have a 4GB internal memory to fill-up on MP3s. Does anyone under 30 still have any MP3s? Undecided on that is the new hi-res-capable Sony Walkman NW-ZX507, which as well as 64GB of storage can also stream music over Wi-Fi via any Android app.

Portable wireless devices The speaker category continues to be dominated by portable wireless devices. Even whole-house audio brand Sonos, for so long married to the

concept of Wi-Fi speakers, used Berlin to debut a Bluetooth speaker. Its first-ever portable speaker, the Sonos Move, recharges using a base station and has a battery life of 10 hours. It plays nicely with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, and if Sonos Move is for a family, the Harman Kardon- owned JBL’s new Bluetooth speaker is targeted at young teenagers. The Pulse 4 glows in a variety of colours while it streams music, and units can be stereo-paired to each other just by shaking them. JBL also launched the IPX7 waterproof rated Link Portable, and Link Music, which both feature Wi-Fi, as well as Bluetooth, Chromecast, Apple AirPlay 2 and Google Assistant. They also sport JBL’s 360 Signature Sound for 360-degree sound. A new and colourful Dutch brand entering the UK market, Fresh ‘n Rebel, debuted its Rockbox Bold X portable Bluetooth speaker made for the outdoors. Completely waterproof, the Rockbox Bold X is being aimed at skiers as well as kids playing around in swimming pools. They come in grey, pink, green, burgundy, blue and dark grey.

Retro speakers Traditional speakers have taken something of a backseat in Berlin for many years, but 2019 saw a comeback. After a 28-year hiatus, German brand Braun Audio announced its return with the launch of its LE range. Based on a speaker from 1959, the minimalist-styled LE range comprises three speakers – the LE01, LE02 and LE03 – each available in black or white. Elsewhere, France-Based Focal previewed its Chora 806 bookshelf speakers, and Chora 816 and Chora 826 floorstanders, while Technics showed- off its Ottava SC-C30 wireless speaker system with Chromecast built-in. Vinyl enthusiasts got the AT-LP5x USB turntable from Audio Technica, while another niche ageing format was served by Pioneer’s new-in-Berlin PD-50AE SACD player. IFA 2019 brought proof, if any was needed, that behind the wireless and portable trend the modern audio industry has something for every kind of ear.

Above: Braun Audio announced its return with the launch of its LE range

Above: Pioneer’s PD-50AE SACD player. Below: Fresh ‘n Rebel debuted its Rockbox Bold X portable Bluetooth speaker

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