When the Grace EcoBoulder arrived, I was afraid it was broken -- its single carton (no double boxing) had been greatly damaged in shipping. But inside, sturdy pieces of Styrofoam top and bottom still held the EcoBoulder in position, safe and unharmed. When I’d removed these, I stared in admiration.
These wireless headphones seem to have been designed at the same time as the wired UR42i model, reviewed in January. They’re lightweight, with simple-to-use controls and very good sound, and their price of $99.99 USD makes them an attractive choice for those seeking wireless cans that can also be used wired.
This little outdoor speaker supplants JBL’s popular Charge 2 and sells at the same price: $149.95 USD. It’s available in black, gray, blue, teal, or red, and has a waterproof rating of IPX7, which means you can briefly but fully immerse it in water. It also plays loud, which makes it great for outdoor or poolside parties, and several Charge 3s can be paired for even greater SPLs. A free JBL app lets a pair of Charge 3s play in true stereo.
After my discovery last month of quality headphones from Koss for $49.99 USD, I decided to investigate Altec’s MZX300 Bluetooth headphones, which retail for only $39.99.
Koss Corporation’s UR42i over-ear headphones cost $49.99 USD. That price is unbelievably low for a set of serious cans, but the veteran headphone maker has often proved that inexpensive ’phones don’t have to sound inexpensive. I was curious to hear if the UR42i’s would be more proof.
Altec Lansing has a long and distinguished history -- the company was founded in 1936, before I was born, and I remember their speakers from my college days. The subject of this review, the Mini Lifejacket 2 ($99.99 USD), is only the tip of an iceberg -- Altec Lansing makes eight models of Jacket Bluetooth speakers, from the Mini H20 ($39.99) to the Omni Jacket Ultra and the Super Life Jacket (both $299.99).
Expect the unexpected from Grace Digital and you’ll never be disappointed. Hot on the heels of their EcoPebble Bluetooth speaker-powerbank-flashlight, which I reviewed last month, comes another waterproof powerbank combo -- but this one’s solar powered.
I remember when 10 to 12 hours of battery charge time was considered a lot -- and that was only two or three years ago. Now we’re seeing mind-boggling charge times, even for small devices. The EcoPebble Powerbank can easily be held in the hand, yet boasts a 50-hour charge time -- a helpful thing, because it’s designed to charge your other devices. It’s also a Bluetooth speaker and a 200-lumen LED flashlight.
Thanks largely to Google’s Cast system, Wi-Fi speakers are rapidly replacing Bluetooth models. Wi-Fi units use your wireless network to transmit sound, and since they’re not subject to the data-transfer limitations of Bluetooth transmission, they have the capability to provide better performance. The Grace Digital CastDock X2 is rated to handle music files up to 24-bit/192kHz resolution.
Lately, it seems, I’ve reviewed nothing but over-ear headphones, which have become lightweight enough to be serious contenders in the portable-headphone market. Still, on-ear cans have some features that appeal more to people on the go; because they block out fewer external sounds, they let you have birds with your Bach -- and they’re safer to wear when you’re out and about. Wearing over-ear ’phones, you can get so wrapped up in the music that you can’t hear that quiet car approaching from the rear. On-ear models can also be cooler and more comfortable to wear over long periods.