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Sennheiser’s ultimate ‘ear bud’ – CNET

I was a big fan of Sennheiser’s original IE800 in-ear headphone when it debuted — I can hardly believe it — five years ago! It was a super comfy, extremely open, natural sounding ‘phone. Sennheiser’s newly revised model, the IE800 S looks similar, but sounds different.

It’s designed and hand-made in Germany.

The Sennheiser IE 800 S in-ear headphones.

Steve Guttenberg/CNET

The IE800 S features a single 7mm driver mounted in each ceramic ear piece; impedance is rated at 16 ohms. It comes with a rather deluxe looking real leather travel case. I like the silicone and Comply ear tips that securely snap in place on the ear pieces, that’s good, but their non-standard fitting means you can’t use other brands off-the-shelf replacement tips with the IE800 S.

I found it a little trickier than average to achieve a good, air tight seal with these in-ears. The original IE800’s injection-molded ceramic ear pieces looked snazzy in high gloss metallic grey, the IE800 S’ are finished in a more subdued satin grey. Sennheiser isn’t making any great claims about sonic differences between the two models, other than to say the IE800 S’ 7mm drivers are redesigned.

The IE800 S retails for £1,000, GBP870, AU£1,600; the original IE800 is still listed on Sennheiser’s Web sites, it’s £800, GBP560, AU£1,200.

The IE800 S’ “Y” splitter and tail cable.

Steve Guttenberg/CNET

The user replaceable cables are configured in a different way than what you get with other in-ears; with the IE800 S you can change the cable after the “Y” splitter (see photo). The “Y” cable is permanently attached to the ear pieces. Also the new cables are more flexible and supple than original IE800’s cables.

The IE800 S comes with three cables, the standard one’s terminated with a 3.5 mm plug, another one with a 4.4mm Pentaconn plug for some of the latest Sony high-end portable players, and 2.5 mm balanced connector featured on Astell & Kern and other high-end music players. My first impressions about the IE800 S’ sound was that it was very clear, without even a hint of exaggerated treble “detail,” it sounded like it wasn’t doing anything at all. It was also extremely open, so the sound wasn’t stuck inside my head.

Pianist Nils Frahm’s “Felt” album features him playing a “treated” piano, with felt damping the piano strings, muffling their sound. It’s an ambient sounding recording, and it was very atmospheric over the IE800 S. I split my IE800 S listening time between my iPhone 6S and an Astell & Kern Kann portable hi-res music player.

The Kann had superior control of bass, so definition tightened up, and the IE 800 S’ overall clarity improved. That was with the standard cable with the 3.5mm jack. Stepping up to the cable with the 2.5mm “balanced” plug yielded further improvements in those areas with the Kann player.

Comparing the original IE800 with this new IE800 S was fascinating. The IE800 is brighter and bassier, the IE800 S sounds smoother and more spacious. The midrange is more natural, so voices, strings, and guitars sound more inviting.

I’ve always liked the IE800, but the IE800 S sounds like a more refined device.

Then I pulled out a set of Shure SE846 in-ear headphones (£899) that feature four balanced armature drivers in each ear piece. Right away the SE846 was nowhere as transparent as the IE800 S, but the SE846’s bass was more muscular and better defined. The IE800 S’ bass prowess was very decent, but the SE846 more viscerally potent.

It’s more rock and roll, the IE800 S fares better with acoustic music. So it’s a tie, I like both for different reasons and they will appeal to different tastes. The Sennheiser IE800 has been one of my long term reference in-ear headphones, and the IE800 S ups the ante.

That said, the IE800 stood the test of time, and I’m expecting the IE800 S will still sound great five years down the road, in 2023.

Apple’s latest patents hint at sleep tracker and continued work on AR

Apple often files patents for new tech, even if in the end it doesn’t end up using those patents. The company has filed for a series of five new patents this week alone, making for some very interesting speculation about the future of some of its biggest and most important products. The patents could relate to Apple’s future endeavors in augmented reality, as well as its attempts to keep the iPhone’s camera relevant in the face of increased competition from the likes of Google.

Here’s a quick rundown of the patents we’ve seen from Apple this week.

Accessory lenses for the iPhone

One of the more interesting patents seems to be related to developing accessory lenses for the iPhone. The patent is titled “Adapting Camera Systems to Accessory Lenses,” and it seems to show Apple is considering small lenses that could attach or mount to the camera lens on devices like the iPhone, helping give them better zooming capabilities, among other things. Of course, the overall system could be pretty complex.

In order to get the best image quality, the optical axis of the phone’s camera has to be lined up with the optical axis of the accessory lens. That could be difficult, unless Apple adopts some kind of standard for attaching lenses to the camera.

Apple continues work on AR

Apple has been developing quite an interest in Augmented Reality, and its latest patent confirms that isn’t going to change anytime soon. The patent, called “Transparent Electronic Device,” is slightly different from a patent that was filed back in November. Most notably, the new patent, which describes an electronic device with a transparent display, places a heavier emphasis on an adjustable opacity layer, along with a dedicated processor arranged to specifically configure an opaque portion and transparent portion.

It’s not immediately clear what this device will be used for, but a report from Patently Apple notes that Apple has been working on an AR display specifically for the Mac.

Different refresh rates for different portions of the display

The third new patent discusses a new display technology that Apple seems to be developing related to display refresh rates. Notably, it seems that Apple wants to develop a display that can refresh at different rates in different parts of the display. It’s an interesting proposition, and basically means that when a portion of the display is static, it doesn’t need to be refreshed as often — which could ultimately save on battery life, depending on how the technology works.

Apple seems to be specifically developing the tech for its mobile devices, though if it continues to pursue it we could see it showing up on its computers, too.

Setting an alarm based on when you get to sleep

The final two patents relate to sleep tracking, with the first specifically designed to set an alarm and change that alarm depending on when you get to sleep. Now, that may not work if you have to get up to go to work, for example, but in some situations that could be pretty handy — especially for those who find they have trouble getting to sleep at night. The systems seems to go a step further too by predicting when the user goes to sleep, based on previous sleep rituals.

Those rituals can include any number of tasks one might perform before going to bed, like brushing your teeth.

Vital signs monitoring

Last but not least is a vital signs monitoring system, which seems to work through sensors placed in the user’s bed. It would make sense — Apple acquired sleep tracking company Beddit last year, and hasn’t really released any sleep-tracking technology since then. According to the patent, the technology would be used to track sleep and then give feedback on ways to improve sleep — all without having to attach any devices to the users themselves.

Despite the fact that it makes sense that Apple would be developing a sleep tracker after the Beddit acquisition, according to a report from Patently Apple, the two inventors listed on the patent have no history with Beddit — so it’s possible that Apple was working on this tech before the Beddit acquisition.

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Whoa! Reaction.cam is designed to capture those epic response videos

Reaction.cam

Reaction videos watching anything from new music artists to cooking tutorials have been on the rise, with some even achieving viral status — and now a new app is aiming to make those videos easier to record. Reaction.cam is an iOS app that allows music artists to easily request and record reactions from fans, officially launching on Thursday, February 15. Designed by former Spotify employees under developer 47 Center Inc., Reaction.cam allows users to request a reaction video — a video of a viewer reacting to another video — and then view the resulting shots.

Users paste a video link inside Reaction.cam. The software then generates a new unique URL to share with fans. Using that link inside the iOS app, fans can use their smartphone camera to record the reaction to the video and share the results.

The original user requesting the reaction video can see the shared reactions. And in some cases, the developers say, those reaction videos can even wind up in a new music video. “Up until now, it hasn’t been easy for new or unsigned artists to request reactions from their fans, or for the fans to create and share these reaction videos online with their friends,” Reaction.cam co-founder and CEO Ricardo Vice Santos said in a press release. “We see ourselves as a launchpad for new artists to take off and for fans to become music influencers themselves through reaction videos.”

Along with simplifying the process of creating the reaction videos, the developers are working to integrate a social element into the type of video. “We wanted to create a social layer for fans to discuss and share music as they do in person, and it turns out that reaction videos are the perfect medium for it,” Vice Santos said. During the app’s beta testing, Reaction.cam recorded over 80,000 hours of reaction videos while getting a 5-star average from early reviewers, according to developers. During testing, the most popular reaction video was for 98KB’s Lit NDA music video, which generated 200 reactions over two days.

Reaction.cam is now available from the App Store for iPhone and iPad as a free download.

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Some HomePod users are reporting the device leaves ring stains on wooden furniture

Rich Shibley/Digital Trends

Warning: if you buy an Apple HomePod, do not put it on a wood table. According to Wirecutter and Twitter reports, the device’s ringed bottom is leaving ring stains – yes, actual rings – ranging from very faint to very obvious on wooden tables. The complaints have largely pertained to the white version of the device and not the black one.

“Apple’s HomePod sounds excellent, but its <sic> can feel limited next to other smart speakers — Oh, and also it leaves white rings on wood surfaces,” Wirecutter tweeted Wednesday morning, along with a picture of a wooden table with a distinct, HomePod-sized ring that resembled a large ring water stain you get from leaving a damp water glass on a table. Apple apparently acknowledged the problem and told Wirecutter that “the marks can improve over several days after the speaker is removed from the wood surface.” If the rings don’t go away, Wirecutter noted that Apple suggested that you refinish the furniture or “try cleaning the surface with the manufacturer’s suggested oiling method.” “Ring Gate” is just the latest issue regarding the HomePod, which was released with much anticipation on February 9, but has been the subject of complaints after users have been upset about its lack of Bluetooth connectivity, lack of multi-room audio, and inability to stream from platforms such as Spotify.

The device also locks out anyone who uses an Android phone or an older iPhone, as the HomePod isn’t compatible with either. Digital Trends review writer Caleb Denison touted the smart speaker’s impressive sound quality but complained about it’s lack of smarts and ability to play nice with other devices. Refinishing or oiling furniture seems like a lot of work to undertake for a device that shouldn’t be leaving any marks on anything. No word on whether Apple plans to reimburse any customers who might have had expensive furniture ruined by the device.

The HomePod is a cylinder-shaped speaker with mesh fabric wiring and a rubbery bottom.

We should note that we have had the HomePod sitting on a plastic table at our DT testing lab and have not seen any evidence of residue.

We’ve moved the speaker to a wooden table to see if any problems develop and will update this article if we do.

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