Monitor Audio WS100 Speakers

January 10, 2013 by  
Filed under Reviews

The English audio specialist reinvents the desktop speaker. 

Score 8/10
Review Price £249.95

Pros
Detailed, balanced audio performance
High quality, seamless wireless audio
Expandable to four pairs via wireless
Smart, subtle styling

Cons
Bass may underwhelm some
Price competitive, but cheaper alternatives
Wireless streaming requires dongles

Key Features: 2x 30W speakers; SKAA wireless, losses audio streaming; 3.5mm auxilliary input; Class D amplifiers ; 80Hz – 25Hz Frequency Response; Remote control

Introduction
Are speakers the new docks? Certainly a combination of Apple’s new Lighting connector, emphasis on AirPlay and the failure of Android docks to gain momentum has seen speaker manufacturers return to more traditional designs – but happily they’re coming with new tricks. Monitor Audio’s ‘WS100’ desktop speakers are a perfect example of this. The British audio specialist wooed us with the superlative i-deck 200 dock at the start of last year and now it is starting off 2013 in similarly fine fashion.

ws100-8 (1)

Monitor Audio WS100 – Design
None of this is particularly evident when you first take the WS100s out the box. At first glance they are subtle and fairly unassuming. Like the i-deck 200 they retain the same mix of black and grey colouring, but depart from the curved (and frankly, controversial) styling of the dock and are instead fashioned into squat cubes with tilting bases that each measure 120 x 120 x 125mm. At 1.8Kg each speaker is surprisingly weighty, but build materials are a significant part of this with a heavyset construction that bodes well for durability and a beautiful (if fingerprint attracting) mirrored glass top. Needless to say the weight also keeps the speakers dutifully in place and hints at the density of technological wizardry inside (more of later).

Monitor Audio WS100 – Connectivity
Where things get interesting is at the back of the right speaker. Both speakers are amplified, but right is dominant with the main power connector along with an auxiliary-in 3.5mm jack plus the more mysterious ‘SKAA’ button and corresponding LED – this is where the new tricks begin.

Monitor-Audio-airstream-ws100-back

SKAA is a new wireless audio standard which transmits at lossless quality over the 2.4GHz radio frequency with no detectable lag. It employs ‘Walk Frequency Diversity’ (WFD) to avoid conflicts with other wireless devices and allows a single music source to stream to up to four pairs of WS100 speakers simultaneously. The upside is the potential of full home audio coverage, the downside is it inevitably requires a dongle at source.

To this end Monitor Audio supplies a SKAA USB dongle with the WS100 which is plug and play in the best sense of the world, automatically setting up without drivers. It is small and smartly angled upwards to minimise the chance of it being snagged and improve reception which we found to be roughly 10 metres – even with a wall in-between. Meanwhile dock connector, Lighting and microUSB dongles will be released at a later date. SKAA doesn’t quite match the flexibility of a Sonos system which needs no dongle and can toggle each speaker level at source, but it is highly appealing nonetheless.

ws100-9

A further rarity for a set of desktop speakers is the inclusion of a remote control. This is identical to the remote supplied with the i-deck 200 and i-deck 100 and features an appealing curved design that sits nicely in hand, though wobbles irritatingly when placed on a flat surface. The usual power, play/pause and skip functionality is included along with a source button to switch between wired and wireless connections.

Interestingly when we say the remote is ‘identical’ to the one supplied with the i-deck range we mean it as we found we were able to control all these products with a single remote. This is a potentially useful quirk for owners of both products, but makes you focus on pointing at the right one. For times when the remote isn’t handy, the WS100 right speaker has volume controls on its side and pressing them both simultaneously will switch sources. This is a sample, to read about who the WS100 performs, whether it is good value for money and who is a very surprising rival read the full review @ TrustedReviews


Copyright for all reviews, editorials and features on this site belong to their respective publishers. All samples published on this website are via prior agreement with those publishers and serve to act as a portfolio and centralised location for all my work. Contact me at gordon@gordonkelly.com should you wish to commission me or supply review samples, press releases or arrange meetings. 

 

 

Guide: Software to Break Free of Ecosystems

January 10, 2013 by  
Filed under Features & Editorials

Stuck in Apple, Google or Microsoft hell? Break free with these independent solutions. 

Contrary to what marketing tells us ecosystems are not always good things. The promise of picking a platform and gaining all the interoperability benefits is great on paper, but should future changes to hardware, software or – as we saw with Instagram this week – terms of service not meet our approval it can be incredibly hard to get out.

An alternative is simply not to commit to one specific ecosystem in the first place. We look at some of the best services which will offer you complete platform independence.

94_000025b84_4413_install-graphic-vflx6Z89X

Storage and backup: Dropbox
Arguably the buzz word of 2012 is ‘the Cloud’. Services like Apple’s iCloud and Google Drive offer smart, integrated Cloud storage and protection of your files, but both require creation of company accounts and work best on iOS and Android respectively. By contrast Dropbox works on just about every platform with its own independent registration and will backup files of any kind dropped into its folder as well as automatically synchronise them across any device where Dropbox is installed. Dropbox pricing carries a slight premium compared to others, but it remains the best service for the job.
Honourable Mentions: Microsoft SkyDrive (no Hotmail/Outlook address required), SugarSync, Amazon Cloud Drive, Trend Micro Safe Sync, Mozy, Carbonite and JustCloud

94_000025b88_eaf5_orh616w616_openoffice01.jpg

Productivity: OpenOffice
While Microsoft Office continues to dominate the market, Apple’s iWork is exclusive to Mac and Google Docs again ties you into other Google services the crown goes to the accurately named: OpenOffice. Around since 1999, its simple design offers word processing, spreadsheet, presentation tools and more with greater functionality than the majority of users will require. All work can be saved in open formats as well as those of Microsoft Office and OpenOffice is completely free and requires no user sign up.
Honourable Mentions: LibreOffice, KOffice

94_000025b89_f30a_orh616w616_Rdio

Music: Rdio
Spotify grabs all the headlines these days and is available on a vast number of platforms, but its requirement now to have a Facebook account has alienated many. Stepping into the breach is Rdio, a US streaming rival which offers the same circa 20 million licensed tracks, wide platform availability, identical pricing and no requirement to sign up with anyone other than Rdio itself. Rdio also automatically sorts your favourite artists and bands alphabetically, by year or genre though it isn’t as useful as Spotify for finding new music. Needless to say, Apple, Google and Microsoft’s players are tied to their respective platforms.
Honourable Mentions: Deezer, Grooveshark, LastFM

94_000025b87_392f_orh616w616_Netflix

Video: Netflix
Lovefilm’s purchase by Amazon in 2011 tied yet another independent company to an industry giant. As such Netflix, while now a giant in its own right, remains the primary service neutral to the increasingly divided factions of technology ecosystems. Netflix has support for most mobile and desktop platforms, though there is a frustrating reliance on Microsoft’s stagnating Silverlight platform on Windows. On the plus side integrated Netflix support is virtually ubiquitous in settop boxes, including the Apple TV, D-Link Boxee Box, Roku, games consoles and smart TVs. On-demand video is set to be one of the breakthrough services in 2013 and we expect Netflix to be at the forefront.
Honourable Mentions: BBC iPlayer, Hulu, YouTube

94_000025b8c_4e7d_orh616w616_firefox

Web browsing: Firefox
After years of stagnation the browser wars are fiercer than ever. It is a battle Google Chrome seems to be winning with Internet Explorer its dominant rival, but if you want true independence plucky Firefox should remain your weapon of choice. Creator Mozilla is an independent, non-profit organisation and Firefox is open source and available on virtually every operating system. It is also looking to create an open source operating system of its own, Firefox OS.
Honourable Mention: Opera

94_000025b86_c616_Mint
Desktop platform: Mint Linux
It may seem an endless Windows/Mac war but there is a very classy alternative: Mint Linux… This is a sample to read about independent mobile platforms and free alternatives for all most used programs, read the full guide @ TrustedReviews


Copyright for all reviews, editorials and features on this site belong to their respective publishers. All samples published on this website are via prior agreement with those publishers and serve to act as a portfolio and centralised location for all my work. Contact me at gordon@gordonkelly.com should you wish to commission me or supply review samples, press releases or arrange meetings. 

« Previous Page

 © 2009-2018 GordonKelly.com All Rights Reserved -- Copyright notice by Blog Copyright