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Apple and Balmain unveil Beats Special Edition Headphones

Apple has released a new high-end collection of Beats headphones in partnership with French design house Balmain. Providing a new fashion-forward take on both Beats Studio and Powerbeats 3 headphones, the new models are priced at $250 for the Balmain Special Edition Powerbeats 3 — a $50 premium over the normal selling price — and $600 for the Balmain Special Edition Beats Studio — a markup of $220 over the standard Beats Studio headphones. The new style is available in two different color options: a neutral pinkish “Safari” version that is available exclusively through Apple and a green-tinted “Khaki” version which is exclusive to Balmain. Both versions have gold accents and feature Balmain logos and include suede, Balmain-branded carrying cases.

IK Multimedia announces iRig Pro I/O

IK Multimedia has announced the release of the iRig Pro I/O, a new pocket-sized mobile audio/MIDI interface for iPhone/iPad and Mac users. The successor to the company’s highly rated 2013 iRig Pro, iRig Pro I/O raises the bar with a plethora of new features as well as bundled software and apps to enhance the digital musician’s experience. iRig Pro I/O provides a wide range of connectivity options, with inputs for guitars, basses, studio mics, vocal mics, keyboard, and more, with a combo XLR and 1/4” input as well as MIDI inputs for digital instruments. Built-in 24-bit analog-to-digital and digital-to-analog converters with a 96KHz sampling rate provides for professional audio quality in a device that can fit into your pocket and be ready to go with your iPhone or iPad for spontaneous jam sessions. A high-quality 1/8” headphone/line out is included with level control to provide pass-through audio for connecting to headphones, mixers, and powered monitor speakers — particularly applicable for iPhone 7 users — and built-in device charging is supported with an external power adapter for extended playing sessions. iRig Pro I/O retails for $150 and is available now from the IK Multimedia online store and other IK authorized retailers. We’ll be publishing a full review in the coming weeks.

Audeze iSine now available in Apple-exclusive Colorway

Back in January, we reviewed the innovative Audeze iSine 10 in-ear planar magnetic headphones and thought they were pretty amazing. In fact, we think Audeze’s Sine and iSine headphones are still the best expression of what can be done with headphones and the Lightning jack.

For those still on the fence, Audeze just announced a new colorway for the iSine10 which will be exclusive to Apple’s online store and retail locations. The new Black/Steel version has a silver grille which we think complements the design nicely. Like the original iSine10, the new version comes with Audeze’s CIPHER Lightning cable with inline DAC & amplifier, works with any iOS device with a Lightning Port, and is upgradeable and tuneable using the free Audeze iOS app. The price remains the same at $399.

Anki announces global launch of Cozmo

Anki has announced that its robotic sidekick, Cozmo, will be launching in Canada this July, followed by a broader rollout in the U.K., France, Germany, and Nordic countries later this year. Best known for its Anki Drive that took the stage at WWDC 2013 four years ago, Anki is a robotics and AI company that aims to bring cutting-edge technology to consumer experiences. Released in the U.S. last fall, Aniki’s newest product, Cozmo, is a sophisticated consumer robot that was built by a world-class team of roboticists, animators, and game developers to create an interactive experience powered by advanced AI. Cozmo not only responds to interactive commands, but uses learning algorithms to adapt its behaviour to its experiences and interactions with its owner, exhibiting an endearing personality in the process through complex facial expressions displayed on its OLED face, as well as face detection algorithms that allow Cozmo to recognize people and pets and respond to them in different ways.

Report provides new insights into Apple’s upcoming Siri smart speaker

Apple’s long-rumoured Siri smart speaker is already in production, according to a new report by Mark Gurman at Bloomberg. Citing people familiar with the matter, Gurman lends his weight to recent rumours that Apple may in fact debut the speaker next week at WWDC, although he stops short of declaring that a sure thing, and notes that sources suggest the device will still not be ready to ship until later in the year.

Gurman’s report also provides a few additional insights into Apple’s plans for differentiating the new device from competing Google and Amazon offerings, noting that Apple will naturally offer “deep integration” with its product lineup, as well as focusing more heavily on audio fidelity by offering virtual surround sound technology, providing better sound quality, and possibly even sporting advanced features such as integrated sensors to measure a room’s acoustics and adjust audio settings accordingly. However, the speaker will not feature any kind of touchscreen, according to sources who have seen the actual product.

Urbanears launches new lineup of Wi-Fi Connected Speakers

Urbanears has announced its entry into the Wi-Fi speaker market with a new lineup of Connected Speakers supporting Bluetooth, AirPlay, ChromeCast, and Spotify Connect for wireless music streaming. The first speakers to be released in the company’s new lineup are Stammen ($350) and Baggen ($450), featuring a minimalistic design in two different sizes; Stammen incorporates two 3/4” neodymium dome tweeters and a 4” woofer, and is intended for small to mid-sized spaces like bedrooms and studio apartments, while its larger sibling, Baggen is suited to larger spaces like patios and open-floor-plan homes, with its two 2.5” full-range drivers and a 5.25” woofer. Both models are individually wrapped in acoustically transparent fabric, available in six different colors, and also include multi-room and solo room capabilities, allowing them to be combined into a multi-room system with a different mood set to each room, or grouped together for synchronized listening. The on-speaker controls also reflect the minimalist design, with two knobs that can be pushed or turned to pause and resume playback, change modes, adjust volume, or select from up to seven Spotify or Internet Radio presets. An Urbanears Connected companion app will also be available to take users through the set up process and manage presets, speaker groupings, and equalizer settings. Urbanears’ new Connected Speakers will be available on Mar. 30 from Urbanears.com.

Fabricate announces Nearbuds for AirPods

Fabricate has announced an upcoming Kickstarter campaign for Nearbuds for AirPods, a new product the company is developing on the heels of its earlier Nearpods for EarPods accessory for managing Apple’s wired earphones. Nearbuds for AirPods is a magnetic clip system with an adjustable strap that will help users protect and secure their AirPods. Each clip includes a neodymium magnet, allowing AirPods to be held together or attached to any metallic surface for easy access, including the AirPods case, while an adjustable strap between the clips helps to prevent AirPods from falling out or allows them to be hung around the user’s neck when not in use. The company is planning to launch its Kickstarter campaign in the near future, with hopes to be able to produce and delivery the new product by November.

Delayed BeatsX headphones to hit stores Feb. 10

The delayed BeatsX will be available at Apple stores in the U.S. and on the company’s website starting February 10, CNET reports. The $150 neckband-style headphones will feature Apple’s new power-efficient W1 chip already seen in AirPods, and will come in white or black. Beats has also announced gray and blue colors will be added, but there’s no official timeline for when those will appear or when international stores will be getting the headphones.

Apple releases firmware 3.5.1 update for AirPods

Apple has released firmware 3.5.1 for its AirPods, which will be downloaded automatically to an iOS device that syncs with AirPods and will be installed when the AirPods are put into their plugged in charging case near the device while it’s connected to WiFi. The update fixes previously undisclosed bugs. [via Apple Insider]

Spigen AirPods Stand coming in mid-February

Spigen has created the first AirPods-specific charging stand, designed to hold the AirPods charging case upright while plugged in to charge. At $12, the stand could provide users looking to plug in the case without futzing with a cord each time a cheaper option than another Lightning dock. The dock’s opening requires an original Apple Lightning cable to fit through the dock opening. The AirPods Stand isn’t showing up on Spigen’s site yet, but is available for pre-order now on Amazon, promising to be in stock February 15. [via iPhone in Canada]

Energous CEO says long-range wireless charging coming by end of 2017

In a recent interview with The Verge, Energous CEO Steve Rizzone stated that his wireless charging startup is on track to begin shipping its long-range wireless charging solutions by the end of 2017, likely in tandem with the key partner that Energous signed a deal with two years ago. While Rizzone has repeatedly declined to state the name of this partner, he did note that the partnership is with “one of the largest consumer electronic companies in the world,” with most speculation pointing in Apple’s direction.

I cannot tell you who it is, but I can virtual guarantee that you have products from this company on your person, sitting on your desk, or at home.

Energous first unveiled its long-range wireless charging solutions at CES two years ago, with promises to begin shipping by the end of 2015. However, those plans changed after the company signed a deal with a “key strategic partner” just a month after the 2015 show ended. The partnership deal gave Energous’ new partner exclusive rights to be the first to ship its charging technology, as well as leading to a renewed focus on miniaturizing the technology. Many initially speculated then that Apple was the “key partner” that Energous was working with, and a new report last month noted that Energous was teaming up with Dialog Semiconductor, one of the largest suppliers of power management chips for Apple’s iOS devices.

New Griffin Home lineup includes app-enabled Connected Mirror, Coffee Maker, Toaster

Griffin Technology has unveiled Griffin Home, a new lineup of smart, app-powered appliances designed to simplify everyday routines. The new collection includes a Connected Toaster, Connected Coffee Maker, and Connected Mirror, as well as two new charging devices, the PowerBlock Beacon and PowerJolt Beacon. Griffin’s new Connected Toaster ($100) is a Bluetooth-enabled smart toaster that can be controlled by a companion iOS app to allow users to set personalized settings. The two-slot toaster features digital temperature adjustment and settings for bread type, darkness, and even gluten-free breads. The Connected Coffee Maker ($100) is a Bluetooth-enabled 12-cup drip coffee machine that allows users to adjust coffee strength and save their preferences using the companion iOS app. Griffin’s Connected Mirror ($1000) displays time, weather, and status messages from other Griffin Home products, and users can customize the smart mirror with the companion iOS app to choose which information is displayed on the mirror.

Kanex reveals GoPlay Sidekick wireless game controller for iOS devices, Apple TV

Kanex has introduced its new GoPlay Sidekick wireless controller for iOS and Apple TV. The $60 Bluetooth controller is compatible with most controller-supported games on the App Store and claims to provide up to 20 hours of gameplay with its rechargeable battery. The pocket-sized controller’s clamshell case doubles as a stand for your device while playing a game. The controller features a standard four-button layout and includes a D-pad, two analog joysticks and left and right trigger buttons. The controller is specifically designed for Apple devices, even going so far as to use a Lightning cable to charge. The GoPlay Sidekick will be available starting in February.

Incipio’s OX case adds headphone jack to iPhone 7, 7 Plus

Incipio’s new OX case for iPhone 7 and 7 Plus brings back the headphone jack, allowing users to once again listen to music while charging their device. The case features forward-facing speaker vents, while providing both a 3.5mm headphone jack and a Lightning port for charging along the bottom. The $60 OX case will be available in black, green, and purple in the first quarter of this year.

Apple giving away Beats Solo3 headphones with some purchases for Chinese New Year

Apple has announced it will give away a pair of Beats Solo3 headphones to customers in Hong Kong, China, Taiwan and Singapore who buy certain Mac or iPhone devices, in honor of Chinese New Year. The promotion starts at 8 a.m. on January 6 and will run as long as supplies of the special (PRODUCT)Red Beats headphones last. Most Apple computers qualify for the deal, but the new MackBook Pro with Touch Bar and Mac Mini are excluded. On the iPhone side, customers will need to buy a 6s, 6s Plus, 7, or 7 Plus to get the deal.

AirPods coming to Apple retail stores Monday Dec. 19

Apple is planning to begin selling AirPods in its retail stores this coming Monday, Dec. 19, according to a new report by MacRumors. While Apple previously announced that AirPods would be in stores sometime next week, more specific information has surfaced that product is already in transit to retail locations and is expected to go on sale Monday morning. Shipments are also en route to Apple Authorized Resellers and carrier stores, so AirPods should be available at most retail locations come Monday morning, although initial stock will likely be limited; Apple has noted that its retail locations will continue to receive regular shipments, however.

Apple reveals service pricing for lost AirPods, battery replacements

Apple has updated its iPhone Service Pricing page with a section detailing the service prices related to its new AirPods. The update reveals that Apple will replace a single lost AirPod or AirPod battery case for a fee of $69, while out-of-warranty replacements for battery issues will cost $49 per AirPod, as well as $49 for the AirPod charging case. The full $69 replacement fee also applies to replacing AirPods that are accidentally damaged, and therefore not covered under Apple’s standard one-year warranty. [via TechCrunch]

Report: Apple’s BeatsX earphones could be delayed 2-3 months (Update: Coming in February)

AirPods won’t be the only Apple headphones suffering from lengthy delays this holiday season, if a recent report proves true. The release of its BeatsX wireless earphones may be delayed another two to three months, according to MacRumors. The report claims that authorized reseller B&H Photo Video emailed a customer this weekend regarding the earphones, and the reseller wrote that “the manufacturer has informed us that they still do not know when they will begin shipping this item but they do know that it will take at least 2-3 months.” This timeline would put the BeatsX release into February or March. Apple’s AirPods still have yet to see a release, though there’s been speculation that a pre-holiday launch is forthcoming.

Update: Apple’s website now lists the BeatsX headphones as “Coming February.”

AirPods now available on Apple’s website, deliver by Dec. 21 (Update: Shipping slips to two weeks)

After being pushed back from an October release, AirPods are now available on Apple’s website. They’ll deliver to some U.S. locations as early as Dec. 21, with some international locations seeing earlier delivery dates. People familiar with the development process said the release was delayed due to problems ensuring that one of the AirPods is able to properly transmit a synchronized audio signal to the other. The W1-equipped earbuds will be Apple’s first wireless offering under its own brand, and our full review will follow shortly after the release.

Update: As expected, after a flood of online purchases the shipping estimates for new AirPod orders in the U.S. has already slipped to two weeks.

Study finds half of kids headphones exceed safe volume limits

An investigation has found that nearly half of headphones intended for children don’t reliably keep volume down to safe levels to prevent hearing damage, The New York Times reports. Many headphones marketed as “safe for young ears” and promising to provide “100 percent safe listening” had “design flaws that could allow a child to bypass their volume-reduction features easily,” proving that volume-limiting headphones are not the perfect solution many parents had hoped. The worst among the 30 pairs tested “produced sound so loud that it could be hazardous to ears in minutes,” with some relying on resistors within the cord to limit volume, which sometimes failed to work at all. The full results of The Wirecutter’s investigation are available on its website.

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