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Review: Sony SRSX55/BLK Powerful Portable Bluetooth Speaker

The following is a review of the Sony SRSX55/BLK Powerful Portable Bluetooth Speaker, received as part of the Amazon Vine program.

Sounds great to me

First, I feel as though any review about audio equipment requires a disclaimer if you're not an audiophile. So, "I'm not an audiophile."

That said, after almost a month of using the Sony SRSX55 I can honestly say that it sounds great to me.

Thus far I've used the device for playback of music over Bluetooth from an Android device, as well as audio from an Xbox One (plugged via HDMI to a monitor, which output over the speaker connection).

Starting with the audio playback, I found the Bluetooth pairing to be extremely easy to setup on the two Android devices I tried. I didn't test the limits of the connection, but for normal usage in my apartment I had no connectivity issues. I tried a large range of music genres, like pop, rock, EDM, etcetera (I think everything but country) and didn't notice any issues with the sound.

I did have a slight issue with the volume initially, until I realized the proper way to set the volume on the speaker and what the Android devices were setting via Bluetooth. Before figuring this out my jump from nothing to something was too far.

As for the wired audio connection, it was easy enough to switch between it and the Bluetooth connection, as to be expected. As with music, I noticed no sound issues; it too sounded great. And, since the monitor I was using doesn't have speakers, replaced two bulky speakers with this slim beast.

So, for me, sound is great on this. But what about the hardware itself?

Honestly I had no issues with the actual speakers. They're a pretty nice size and they look sleek. I did have slight issues with the volume buttons, as it seemed like the volume was going down instead of up when I'd press the volume up button. This was usually only the first time I touched the device after some amount of time (I had turned it on and was listening to something) and wasn't consistent enough for me to blame it on the speakers instead of my hands.

There is an annoying tone when you turn off the speakers, the volume of which doesn't appear to be consistent with the set volume. Given that there are lights when the device is on, I'm not sure why the tone was necessary.

Being able to power another device via the USB connection is nice, but I have not yet used it enough to say how well it works. But I like the idea and personally know people who could benefit from something like this.

However, the power plug is massive. I'm not sure why it needs to be so large, but it does block off connections on a power cord (technically UPS, with plugs a standard distance apart) due to the width of the block. It would have been nice if this was a standard size.

The weight of the speaker is also a little odd, with one end being heavier than the other. This results in a slight imbalance when holding it, but doesn't impact the stability of the speakers when set down.

Now the question of cost. Digging into it, it appears that most publications call this a fair alternative to nicer Bose speakers. This leads me to strongly believe that a non-audiophile such as myself is probably not the demographic they're marketing to. If, like me, you're looking for some nice speakers with an audio in, Bluetooth connectivity, and possibly portability, you can probably get something cheaper. But if you do go with these, know that you'll be getting something even audiophiles might enjoy.

The negatives mentioned above are minor enough that I give the Sony SRSX55/BLK Powerful Portable Bluetooth Speaker a full five of five stars.

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(All original content on this site is licensed under the Creative Commons License Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0.)

Review: BLU Studio C 5.0-Inch Android Smartphone

The following is a review of the BLU Studio C 5.0-Inch Android Smartphone, received as part of the Amazon Vine program.

Very decent entry-level phone

First off, as I appear to be unable to use my existing SIM card from my provider with this phone I was unable to use it to make standard calls. However, I did use it for playing music, browsing the web, and Google Hangouts.

That said, I was pretty impressed with the BLU Studio C immediately after opening the package as it included both a screen protector as well as clear back case cover. Normally these two items would set you back $20 to $30, so it was completely unexpected and welcome.

Unfortunately I did run into issues getting the screen protector on the phone itself (crooked the first time and then specs had gotten onto the sticky side when trying to put it on straight. It also feels very slippery compared to what I've used in the past (Tech Armor on my Galaxy S4, and I forget what on my tablets). Honestly, with the specs under the protector and the smoothness, if I had the option to remove the protector I think I would. But your mileage my vary.

The back case is pretty nice. It snapped on easily, but is such that it won't accidentally slip off. It has a little bit of a texture to it, so it's not too slippery. It's clearly built for the phone as the case has all the right holes in all the right places.

Next we have the hardware itself, which is actually on the heavier side. This might be due to the battery, or the materials it's made of. It's also slightly larger than a Galaxy S4, although the actual screen size is the same. The buttons for the Android OS are software buttons, so the extra size is not to account for that. But the heft isn't bad. But combined, as a guy that puts his phone in his pocket, I certainly know when I have it on me.

Speaker quality sounds fine to me, although I wouldn't consider myself an audiophile, and I kept it at a reasonable volume. Streaming music to a Bluetooth device was just fine.

In regards to the battery, again, since I wasn't able to use this as a phone your mileage my vary, but I had excellent time per charge with this. With it checking for email and playing music and some videos I was able to get far per charge. But even with my standard phone I'm able to get pretty far with my devices, so ...

One quasi-major knock is that this can't connect to 5GHz wifi channels. It's odd for something like this to not have that capability at this point in time. But I suppose you get what you pay for.

On the plus side, it does support up to 64 GB of expandable storage, making it easy to throw audio and video files onto a MicroSD card, or take photos and video with the nice camera.

Now comes the tricky bit, which is Android. This ships with Android 5.x, which is the current version of the Android software. Androids runs extremely well on the device, with no real hiccups. Well, outside of some odd issues with responsiveness. Initially this was focused on the back button, which I'd have to press a number of times for it to respond. This wasn't an issue with the other software buttons like home or 'apps'/windows (third button). There is a tiny bit of something in the far upper right of the button which might be causing issues with this. I'll probably have to pull the protector off to verify, but pressing to the far left of the button doesn't work so I don't think that's completely it.

Otherwise it definitely has Android, and is an extremely clean install. Opera is the only application that was installed that I didn't expect to see, but that's definitely not a big deal.

It's also Windows and developer friendly. I was able to connect the phone via a USB cable to my computer and connect almost immediately, as well as enable developer mode and push Android apps to it without issue.

Thus far I haven't received any update notifications for Android, so I can't say how upgrade friendly this is, but being unlocked is a positive.

So overall this is a decent device. Since I can't talk to the phone's capabilities on wireless phone networks I can't give it the full five stars, but I can give the BLU Studio C 5.0-Inch Android Smartphone a very full four of five stars. Even if you were to use it as a cheap Android device / potential backup phone you'd get a good deal with this. The heft might turn away some people, but it feels like it's a quality product.

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(All original content on this site is licensed under the Creative Commons License Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0.)

Review: Bang Gang's The Wolves Are Whispering (2015)

The following is a review of Bang Gang's 2015 album The Wolves Are Whispering.

Another beautiful album

Warning: I find music to be very subjective and find it hard to explain why it is that I might like a song in words and without being able to sit someone down and let them listen with me. So the number of music reviews I do is very low. However, this album has been out for three days and has no reviews on Amazon. That's just not right.

I was browing around Google Play Music this evening and one of the recommendations was Bang Gang's The Wolves Are Whispering.

After double checking that it was in fact the Bang Gang I knew of, and have enjoyed for a number of years, I started listening. After two songs I opened Amazon in my browser and purchased the MP3 album.

As usual Bang Gang has created another beautiful album. It starts off strong with The Sin is Near and continues all the way through.

Having listened to and enjoyed all three previous albums, as well as his work with Keren Ann as part of Lady & Bird, I think he has a stronger voice in this one. That is, Keren Ann takes a slight edge in Lady & Bird, and in his previous albums sometimes the guest vocals would define (for me) the strongest songs. However, here he takes the center stage on his album in regards to vocals from beginning to end.

Now, should you purchase this album? If you've enjoyed his previous three releases as Bang Gang, absolutely. If, like me, you found out about Bang Gang because of Keren Ann's work with him, then probably. You'll find a bit of her here, but much more in the background. If this is your first experience with Bang Gang, then give them a listen online and then come back. It's a great sound, with melodies you'll find yourself humming along with, even if you don't (yet) know the words.

Bang Gang's The Wolves Are Whispering gets a full five of five stars.

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