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Tech To Pamper Your Senses
From fabulously priced sleepbuds and truly wireless earbuds to the smartest speaker yet, Tushar Kanwar checks out four new launches that will leave you amused
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These are not an ordinary pair of earbuds which wireless stream music from your phone when you’re out and about. If you’re the sort who sleeps light and gets woken by the smallest of disruptions, the Bose sleepbuds may be for you. As the name suggests, the buds are designed to help you fall asleep…if the not-insignificant price doesn’t keep you awake at night, that is!
It starts with the comfortable design of the sleepbuds which, through a combination of multiple size ear tips and the lightweight design of the buds, keeps these firmly in place in your ears no matter how much you toss and turn at night. Switch on the Bose Sleep app and the sleepbuds stream soft soothing sounds into your ears to help you fall asleep sooner…while blocking out the ambient noise quite effectively. You can set it up to play for a little while to simply fall asleep or play all night. The alarm capability nudges you awake without disturbing the significant other sleeping on the same bed. Keeping them going is the strong battery life, with the buds lasting more than 15 hours of use on a single charge, and you drop them into the charging case to rejuvenate when they run out.
Net net, this is a niche product for those with the money to spare for a good night’s sleep, but one would have liked some amount of sleep tracking functionality built in to the buds as well, to round out the sleep quality discussion.
Amazon Echo Show
Amazon’s stolen a march on the smart speaker space, but there’s been a missing visual element that its diminutive yet exceedingly charging Echo Spot speaker just couldn’t fill. Like the Spot and all the Echos that came before it, the Show is a voice-first Alexa speaker, with the screen and touch interactivity as an extra layer, instead of replacing the core voice experience.
For the price, what you get is a large 10.1-inch 720p display which takes up almost all of the front façade and cleverly hides the speakers in the tapering rear of the casing. The bright, high quality screen allows you to consume Amazon Prime Video content directly on the device, but you can take a slightly complicated route to watch other video services by launching the Amazon Silk or Mozilla Firefox web browsers. Just bear in mind, the voice control works best for Prime Video, and you very much have to drop into touchscreen mode to do anything else. Of course, as with the Spot, the ever-growing list of Alexa Skills optimized for the screen can perform a bevy of tasks, like booking an Ola ride, bringing up a kitchen recipe from a celebrity chef and show you the latest news. The Show also integrates a smart home hub, which means you can use it to connect to smart bulbs, switches and other gear that uses the Zigbee wireless protocol, even setting up routines to perform a bunch of actions with one phrase of tap on the screen.
Yet, the biggest leap forward (for the Echo family, at least) comes by way of the audio capabilities of the Show. This is by far the best sounding smart display on the global market, bar none – the two 2-inch speakers and passive bass radiator can easily fill a mid-sized room, with a great soundstage and stereo separation. Audio is clean, bassy tracks don’t overpower the vocals and as long as you’re listening at normal volumes, there’s no distortion.
Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless
Apple’s AirPods kicked off the craze for truly wireless earbuds, though the extra premium they typically command over regular Bluetooth earbuds is enough to give consumers pause. Sennheiser’s Momentum True Wireless doesn’t shy away from commanding a hefty premium - it’s significantly pricier than anything we’ve tested in this segment – but does it justify the additional outlay? In the ear, the two earbuds are discernibly larger and are quite visible as they stick out of your ears, but they form a comfortable fit in the ear and can be used for short to medium durations without any fatigue. The touch panels on the buds allow for playback/call control and can be used to trigger your phone’s voice assistant, but they’re fiddly and take some time to master. The buds auto-pause playback when you remove the buds from the ears. When not in use, the buds charge off a storage case (for a total runtime of around 14 hours).
Yet, without a shadow of a doubt, the True Wireless excels when it comes to quality of sound reproduction, and they’re far better than any other truly wireless earphone around. They sound excellent across a wide range of audio genres and go plenty loud if you need. Punchy bass, lively vocals, an excellent sound stage and clean levels of detail all throughout. Yet, while these are the best wireless headphones money can buy, the cost may be prohibitive for most, especially when you consider how much more you get in sound quality and added features if you look at the around-the-ear variety.