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Published on June 15th, 2011 | by Greg


Personal Audio From NuForce and Plantronics

There are plen­ty of ways to add mu­sic to your life. We reg­u­lar­ly check out the lat­est songs and al­bums on Trul­yArts, and have looked at many dif­fer­ent speak­er sys­tems and home au­dio se­tups. But three of the fastest ways are more per­son­al in na­ture- im­prov­ing your wired ear­buds, adding a small portable speak­er for times when ear­phones won’t do the trick, and maybe even up­grad­ing to a wire­less head­set. To­day, we’re look­ing at all three.

If you have a smarth­phone or per­son­al me­dia play­er, you prob­a­bly al­ready have pass­able ear­buds. But they get worn out, and of­ten aren’t stylish, not to men­tion their sound qual­i­ty is of­ten less than stel­lar. If you are are need of a new pair, take a look at the per­haps less­er-known Nu­Force NE-700Ms. Not on­ly are they a pret­ty sexy smoky cop­per col­or, but come with three dif­fer­ent sizes of ear tips. The built-in mic was pret­ty good- bet­ter than the de­fault Ap­ple white pair, but of­fer­ing min­i­mal can­cel­la­tion of wind noise.

They were com­fort­able, if a tad bit heavy. We tried them jog­ging and found that they came out a bit too eas­i­ly, even with some ad­just­ments, and need­ed a fair bit of read­just­ment dur­ing wear- which hurt a bit, as the ex­ter­nal edges are a bit rough. But for nor­mal use, we were im­pressed by the sound qual­i­ty more than any­thing- these sound­ed amaz­ing­ly crisp and clear. It’s hard to do a blind test with non-ear­buds- these have a dis­tinc­tive feel- but ev­ery tester liked these bet­ter than the stock mod­els and of­ten bet­ter than any­thing else sub-$100. There are down­sides though, even be­yond the weight and mere­ly OK mi­cro­phone. For starters, the ca­bles were noth­ing spe­cial, and the con­trols don’t work on our iPhones. And then there is the price- at $75, they out­per­form on sound (8mm ti­ta­ni­um drivers cre­ate ster­ling bass) and win points for style but lack a bit in oth­er ar­eas.

Portable speak­ers, though, re­quire a lit­tle less- au­dio qual­i­ty and size and style mat­ter more than some oth­er things. The on­ly oth­er ma­jor fac­tor is bat­tery life- and so we’re hap­py to say that the Po­dio PS-106 wins points in ev­ery ma­jor area of con­cern. For starters, it’s tiny- weigh­ing on­ly 120 grams. It looks pret­ty cool, avail­able in sev­er­al col­ors, in­clud­ing blue and black. They are mono-on­ly, as are many small speak­ers in this price point, but are pow­ered by an in­ter­nal recharge­able lithi­um bat­tery that al­lows them to put out a fair bit of vol­ume. Bat­tery life was quite good- up to ten hours or so at mid to high-vol­ume- plen­ty long enough for a fair bit of use, and eas­i­ly recharges via USB. We dropped the Po­dio with no ill ef­fects, and it felt pret­ty sol­id.

Au­dio qual­i­ty was ac­tu­al­ly sur­pris­ing- ev­ery­one who was lis­ten­ing had about the same pos­i­tive re­ac­tion of grudg­ing re­spect at the sound. It cer­tain­ly won’t win awards com­pared to larg­er sets- bass is muf­fled, highs are a bit mud­dled, and the over­all ef­fect is more FM than HD. But for a speak­er of this size, it rocked, and sound­ed best with rock and pop (more than warmer jazz or clas­si­cal). Our on­ly ma­jor com­plaint was the lack of an easy stand- the tubu­lar de­vice tends to roll around and you can’t stand it up on edge. At $40, the Po­dio is a good bar­gain for a cute, small, sim­ple speak­er.

Fi­nal­ly, we’d be re­miss not to men­tion a sol­id Blue­tooth head­set op­tion- this time, the Plantron­ics Sa­vor m1100. Last time we checked in with Plantron­ics, it was to re­view a gam­ing head­set. But we’ve al­so test­ed a va­ri­ety of oth­er Plantron­ics gear, and were hap­py to see the m1100 live up to their past rep­u­ta­tion. In fact, it’s the best of the bunch.

It isn’t the sex­i­est head­set we’ve seen, nor the light­est. It doesn’t boast any su­per-pre­mi­um fea­tures. But what it does, in spades, is de­liv­er ex­cel­lent call qual­i­ty on both ends, with de­cent bat­tery life, and al­so man­ages to be quite com­fort­able. We kept it in our ear for a few hours, some­thing rarely pos­si­ble. And the three mi­cro­phones ap­pear to make a dif­fer­ence, as this one even beat out a cou­ple of cord­ed head­sets, and eas­i­ly won in nois­i­er or windi­er con­di­tions. A2DP-en­abled, you can al­so lis­ten to mu­sic, and there are some in­ter­est­ing ex­tras like the abil­i­ty to have your emails read to you- we didn’t try all of these fea­tures, which a bit odd­ly re­quire a sub­scrip­tion (one year is in­clud­ed).

The three sizes of tips were var­ied, but the added ear­loop meant that even folks with small­er ears were able to use the Sa­vor. Four hours of talk time is de­cent- we usu­al­ly wish for five or more to get us through more than a day with­out re­quir­ing charg­ing, but it was suf­fi­cient. Set­up and pair­ing are sim­ple, as with most new­er Blue­tooth de­vices, and the light weight of this one was nice. Our on­ly pri­ma­ry is­sue is the but­tons and place­ment- they were a bit dif­fi­cult to use. Over­all, though, it’s a strong con­tender in it’s class, and at $67 or so a pret­ty good bar­gain.

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About the Author

Greg dreamed up the idea for the Truly Network while living in Hawaii, which began with a single site called TrulyObscure. In 2010, when advertisers and readers were requesting coverage beyond the scope of that site, TrulyNet was launched, reaching a broader audience over a variety of niche sites. Formerly the head technology correspondent for the Des Moines Register at age 16, he has since lived and worked in five states and two countries, helping a list of organizations and companies that includes the United States Census Bureau, TripAdvisor, Events Photo Group, Berlitz, and Computer Geeks. He also served as the Content Strategy Manager for HearPlanet, a multi-platform app that has reached over a million users and has been featured in the New York Times, Hemispheres Magazine, National Geographic Adventure, Fox Business News, PC Magazine, and even Apple’s own iPhone ads. Greg has written as a restaurant critic and feature journalist for a number of national and international publications, including City Weekend Magazine, Red Egg Magazine, the Newton Daily News, Capital Change Magazine, and an arm of China Daily, Beijing Weekend. In addition, he has served as a consulting editor for the Foreign Language Press of Beijing, as well as a writer and editor for the George Washington University Hatchet, the school newspaper of his alma mater. Originally from Iowa, Greg is currently living in the West Village of Manhattan.

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