I do love a new tech toy/gadget/life organiser (delete as applicable). I’m always convinced that the new object of desire will change my life or, at the very least, enhance it enormously. In the case of these two objects we are looking at life enhancement: they are simply beautiful things that do their job extremely well.
I’ve only been using proper headphones for year or two, always preferring those lightweight ones that hook over the ears, and under the hair (cannot abide earbuds, they hurt). I used to gaze longingly at the photos of Bose or other noise-cancelling headphones in Skymall brochures on planes. What bliss, I would think, to have the din of the world around me muted at my whim but, as I am far from musical, it never really occurred to me to think about how the quality of the music I listed to would be affected by my headphones.
Reader, I have seen the light (or heard the song).
B&O’s BeoPlay H6 Headphones really do make my music sound better – the blurb says that they focus on a clear midrange with a balanced bass and treble performance, but I can’t discern the specifics. All I know is that everything sounds clearer, purer almost, and every genre from choral to musicals, techno to audio books just sounds wonderful.
One of the clever things about these is that the audio cable is detachable so you can replace it if needed, and that there is a second port meaning a friend can daisy chain to your headphones to listen to your music. I also like that the H6 headphones allow the audio cable to be plugged into either the left or right for added ease of use. They also have an inline microphone and three button remote for when you are on the hoof.
Not only do they look gorgeous with their leather and aluminium styling (they come in other colours too, plus black), the padding on the cups is great. It’s memory foam topped with leather, so they are extremely comfortable to wear, nothing presses hard on the ears, and the band feels secure. (When I was chasing after Lettice in the park they didn’t slip at all.)
Whilst they aren’t intended to be noise-cancelling, they are extremely effective at removing surrounding noise. In my home office I can barely hear a thing, and I am looking forward to seeing how they work at cancelling out the sounds of the inevitable poor crying child on the Virgin Atlantic flight to Hong Kong in December.
B&O BeoPlay H6 Headphones RRP £329 in Black, Bronze, Green or natural (as above). Black & Natural available for £294.80 & free delivery in the UK at Amazon There’s also a blue version for an amazing £172 here.
I first heard about the Aether Cone when I was on a trip last month with one of the world’s foremost gadget reviewers. Because I like to ask the bleeding obvious, I pressed him for the gadget he most recently admired: oh it’s this very clever fun wireless music player he told me.
I thought little more until I received an invitation to test one out for myself and I promptly Tweeted said journalist: is this IT? Yes, he replied, and so off I trotted to collect this review model to see if I agreed.
“The world is filled with new devices that do amazing things, yet the more you own, the harder you have to work to connect, manage and troubleshoot them,” said Duncan Lamb, co-founder and Chief Product Officer at Aether. That’s why they developed the Aether Cone (above, sitting neatly and stylishly on my office desk.)
Put simply, the Cone is a standalone wireless music player, that takes about two minutes to set up out of the box. I was very concerned that I would find it tricky but it is an absolute doddle: connect it to your wifi network, when prompted, sign in to start.aether.com, then sign up to the music app Rdio and you’re on your way.)
But it is so, so much more than a standalone wireless music player.
You’ll need a free or premium subscription to streaming service Rdio for music (on-demand access to over 30 million songs) but, unlike Spotify or Pandora, the Cone, by dint of a complex algorithm, learns what you like to listen to, when and where you like to listen to it, as well as helping you find new music based on your personal taste.
Turn the integral front dial and it instantly plays music that it believes you love, as well as podcasts and Internet radio (it plays NPR, for example. Heaven). If you don’t like what it plays, simply turn the dial a full half turn and it will pick a new genre. If you like it, but want a different song or programme, simply turn the dial one click and it will choose something similar.
It also plays on request: simply hold down the button in the middle of the dial and say ‘Play artist Taylor Swift“, or ‘Play the radio station BBC Radio 4”, and lo and behold it does. You can specify a genre, an artist or a specific song, depending on your Rdio subscription (more info here). (We’ve been working our way through The Smiths back catalogue in the office).
It’s controlled through an iPhone app, which works very well. (An Android version of the app will be available in early 2015.) It tells you what is playing and, more importantly, what it has played recently. You can control volume, play, pause and skip songs in addition to searching for specific content and viewing artist information and, if you are using the premium version of Rdio, access playlists you’ve made previously. It also allows you to stream your own music using AirPlay via your phone, laptop or desktop.
The sound quality is excellent – far superior to my current external computer speakers, or any of the portable ones I use. Of course it also looks ravishing too. It’s satisfyingly solid to hold, yet lightweight enough that you would absolutely consider taking it on holiday, especially as it holds a battery charge for around eight hours.
(I am very, very tempted to take it to Thailand this Christmas, as my Unlimited Rdio subscription is licensed there, and in 6o other countries. Even if it wasn’t I could still use the Cone as a wireless speaker for my iTunes.)
Dom Goor cashmere & shearling poncho (gift)
Fountain pen: the beautiful Cross Torero, now sadly discontinued.
Notebook: from Merci, in Paris.
Phone: The Vertu Aster (on permanent loan)
Clutch: The Knomo Powered Portable Organiser. Also available at John Lewis here
I bought my beautiful office desk on eBay
Thank you to Aether and to Bang & Olufsen for the review models.