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The noise cancelling champ is back with new-look Sony WH-1000XM5

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When it comes to noise cancelling headphones – Sony’s 1000X series is King. I’ve got four of them and each one was a sensation at launch. Now the WH-1000XM5 version is coming our way, mid-June in Australia actually, for $549.95 AUD.

The WH-1000XM4s are already pretty amazing so it will be an interesting hands on review.

The WH-1000XM5s have a different look to the previous models but under the hood there’s more power to the shut the world out and improve audio reproduction. The M5’s use two processors controlling eight microphones that reduce noise especially in the mid-high frequency range. The Auto NC Optimiser automatically optimises noise cancellation, depending on the environment. Think of cafe, train or walking the city streets.

The 30mm driver unit with a light and rigid dome uses carbon fibre composite material that improves high frequency sensitivity for more natural sound quality. LDAC means High-Resolution Audio with and without the wires.

When it comes to phone calls, Sony’s precise Voice Pickup technology uses four beamforming microphones and an AI based noise reduction structure to isolate your voice. A new wind noise reduction structure minimises wind noise during calls.

Sony’s tweaked the look of the WH-1000XM5s and stepless slider. The new synthetic soft fit leather material should take pressure off your ears. 

The WH-1000XM5 unit integrates Quick Access so you can configure the headphones to resume Spotify playback with two or three taps without using your smartphone.

As expected the headphones can be paired with two devices at the same time. When you receive a call, your headphones know which device it’s coming from and instantly connect you to the right one. You can also quickly switch between devices with just the touch of a button.

The WH-1000XM5s support Google’s new Fast Pair feature, allowing you to effortlessly pair with your AndroidTM devices. You can also locate where you last left your headphones. Swift Pair makes it quick and easy to pair your headphones to your Windows 11 or Windows 10 laptop, desktop PC or tablet.

Sony says the WH-1000XM5 comes with 30 hours of battery life. If you need a quick top up, you’ll get 3 hours of listening from just 3 minutes using USB Power Delivery (PD).

There’s also a handy collapsible carrying case that can be made thinner for storage.

No Plastic!

Always happy to see this when a new product comes out. There’s no plastic in the WH-1000XM5 packaging. The product box is produced using recycled and sustainable materials developed specially for Sony. The WH-1000XM5s also use recycled plastic materials from car parts.

 

SPECS

Battery Life: NC on – Up to 30H

NC off – Up to 40H 

Processor: HD Noise Cancelling Processor QN1 x Integrated Processor V1 

Driver Unit: 30mm 

Noise Cancellation: Yes, Industry-Leading Noise Cancellation

Ambient Sound: Yes, Ambient Sound Control, Quick Attention, Speak-to-Chat 

Bluetooth: Version 5.2 

Sound Engine: DSEE Extreme 

Supported Codec: SBC, AAC, LDAC 

Supplied Accessories: Carrying case, Headphone cable, USB Type-C™ Cable

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First Impressions: The Return of Beats Pill

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The first new Beats Pill in around a decade looks to be a hit. The lightweight portable bluetooth speaker has been completely overhauled for the better. Here are my initial impressions – which I also shared on Sky News Weekend Edition with Tim Gilbert.

DJURO SEN WITH THE 2024 BEATS PILL ON SKY NEWS WEEKEND EDITION

First. It’s good to see the Pill return.

The original device first appeared back in 2012 with the upgraded Beats Pill+ released under Apple’s ownership in 2015.

Now we have the 2024 version simply called – Beats Pills.

It’s a streamlined device that features a 20-degree upward tilt for better sound projection. It also has re-engineered racetrack woofer with stronger magnets helps drive 28% more motor force and displaces 90% more air volume.

The redesigned tweeter really does deliver crisp highs and satisfying mid-range tones. Although a mono speaker, if you get a second model you can combine them as a stereo pair.

The new Beats Pill is IP67 dust and water resistant so you can take a quick plunge without worry.

You’ll get up to 24 hours of battery life per charge and two hours of music playback from a 10-minute charge. The USB-C port at the back is for charging and quality audio.

It works with iOS and Android phones but the experiences are slightly different. You can take calls and activate your voice assistant plus add it to Find My apps.

PRICE AND AVAILABILITY

Available now for A$249.95 in Red, Black and Gold.

In-depth review soon.

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Sonos Ace Headphones: First Impressions

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I’m currently testing a pair of Sonos Ace headphones and I’ll have an in-depth review video for you next week. In the meantime, I can tell you that my first impressions of the Sonos Ace were very positive.

As I explained to Tim Gilbert on Sky News Australia Weekend Edition in the above video, “they are incredibly comfortable” and “the most comfortable headphones, over the ear, I’ve ever used.” I don’t expect that to change when review embargoes lift next week.

I don’t claim this lightly as there are many headphones out there but Sonos has done a fantastic job in getting the look and feel right. Let’s face it, there’s not much point in having great sounding headphones if they don’t feel comfortable. This very aspect has been the deal breaker for many otherwise excellent headsets.

Sonos Ace uses lightweight materials for a ‘pillowy soft’ memory foam interior wrapped in vegan leather. A custom headband and ear cups hide the hinge without catching on hair. 

The Sonos Ace headphones are the most requested product in the company’s history. Now they are here. The over-the-ear Bluetooth headphones (not WI-FI) feature lossless and spatial audio, Active Noise Cancellation (ANC) and Aware Mode.

All this for for A$699 from 5 June 2024.

SONOS ACE FEATURES

  • Custom 40 mm dynamic drivers produce each frequency with impeccable precision and accuracy.
  • Beamforming microphones enable noise cancellation and target your voice for crystal clear calls.
  • The ported acoustic architecture enhances the bass response of each driver for greater depth.
  • Lightweight memory-foam-lined headband features stainless steel arms that extend for a bespoke fit.
  • Concealed hinges inside the ear cups create the perfect acoustic seal without catching on hair.
  • Ear cushions are wrapped in a vegan leather that is designed for softness and durability.

But wait, there’s more. Sonos’ new TrueCinema technology allows you to take in a surround sound home theatre experience without household background noise interrupting. You can swap the TV audio from a compatible Sonos soundbar to Sonos Ace by tapping a button on the app. Spatial audio with Dolby Atmos and dynamic head tracking keeps you centred in the action. This experience will improve later this year when TrueCinema technology precisely maps your room then renders a complete surround sound output that will make you forget you’re wearing the Ace. This is pretty wild but at launch Sonos told me it will only work with one pair of Sonos Ace headphones. .

Sonos says you can listen or talk for up to 30 hours before needing a recharge. If you do need quick power hit, you’ll get 3 hours of battery life with from a 3 minute recharge using the included USB-C cable. 

So the first impressions are good, we’ll know more next week.

If you can’t wait, you can preorder from Sonos right now.

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The Last Beatles Song is thanks to Good AI

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Peter Jackson is a gift to humanity.

Not only did he direct the greatest trilogy of all time ‘The Lord of the Rings‘ Jackson masterfully documented WWI in ‘They Shall Not Grow Old ‘ and The Beatles docuseries ‘Get Back‘ he’s also done the impossible; a new, original, Beatles music video.

Watch the music video here

The John Lennon song “Now and Then” – released last week by The Beatles – was made possible thanks to AI. Or more accurately, Machine Learning, which comes under the banner of Artificial Intelligence.

Peter Jackson’s team had developed a system to untangle voice and instruments into separate tracks when working on ‘Get Back’.

They were able to apply this technology to Lennon’s 1970s home recording of ‘Now and Then’ which had piano and voice mixed together on tape. And that recording was rough. It not only had Lennon’s voice meshed in with his piano playing, it had a horrible hum.

And as I told Tim Gilbert on Sky News Weekend Edition, this is not an AI recreation of Lennon’s voice. It is a cleaning up of the track to isolate Lennon’s real voice. Effectively saving it.

“There it was, John’s voice, crystal clear,” said Paul McCartney.

“It’s quite emotional. And we all play on it, it’s a genuine Beatles recording. In 2023 to still be working on Beatles music, and about to release a new song the public haven’t heard, I think it’s an exciting thing.”

The Beatles actually tried this in 1995 but did not have the technology to make it work.

“Back in 1995, after several days in the studio working on the track, George (Harrison) felt the technical issues with the demo were insurmountable and concluded that it was not possible to finish the track to a high enough standard,” said Olivia Harrison, George Harrison’s wife.

“If he were here today, Dhani (their son) and I know he would have whole-heartedly joined Paul and Ringo in completing the recording of ‘Now And Then.’”

Sadly, George Harrison died in 2001 but his guitar playing is on the track after laying it down in 1995.

“It was incredibly touching to hear them working together after all the years that Dad had been gone,” said Sean Ono Lennon, John Lennon’s son.

“It’s the last song my dad, Paul, George and Ringo got to make together. It’s like a time capsule and all feels very meant to be.”

It was Yoko Ono who passed John Lennon’s unfinished recordings onto The Beatles. It set in motion a decades-long journey to the final song from the Fab Four.

And that’s where Peter Jackson’s team came in.

“It was the closest we’ll ever come to having him (John Lennon) back in the room, so it was very emotional for all of us. It was like John was there, you know. It’s far out,” said Ringo Starr.

In the end, the extraction of Lennon’s voice from the original recording was the straight forward part. The technology was in place since ‘Get Back’ so it was a similar execution of the process used in that series.

But there was plenty of work to do on the song itself. New lines were written and sung, instruments laid down, strings added, backing vocals too.

Watch the behind-the-scenes FILM here

As accomplished and admired as Peter Jackson is, the director was overwhelmed by the request to produce the music video of ‘Now and Then’.

“To be honest, just thinking about the responsibility of having to make a music video worthy of the last song The Beatles will ever release produced a collection of anxieties almost too overwhelming to deal with,” said Jackson.

“My lifelong love of The Beatles collided into a wall of sheer terror at the thought of letting everyone down. This created intense insecurity in me because I’d never made a music video before, and was not able to imagine how I could even begin to create one for a band that broke up over 50 years ago, had never actually performed the song, and had half of its members no longer with us.”

But Jackson stepped up and delivered. As he pretty much always does.

(READ MORE FROM PETER JACKSON HERE – THE BEATLES WEBSITE)

Crucially, all four Beatles are on the song. The final song. So thank you Peter Jackson and AI. You’ve made millions of Beatles fans very happy.

“Now And Then” Credits:

  • Produced by Paul McCartney, Giles Martin
    Additional Production: Jeff Lynne
    Vocals: John Lennon, Paul McCartney
    Backing Vocals: John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Ringo Starr
    Guitars: George Harrison
    Guitars, Bass, Piano, Electric Harpsichord, Shaker: Paul McCartney
    Drums, Tambourine, Shaker: Ringo Starr
  • Additional Credits:
    String Arrangement: Paul McCartney, Giles Martin, Ben Foster
    Mixed by Spike Stent
    Engineered by Geoff Emerick, Steve Orchard, Greg McAllister, Jon Jacobs, Steve Genewick, Bruce Sugar, Keith Smith
    Source Separation / MAL Courtesy of WingNut Films Productions Ltd.
    Head of Machine Learning: Emile de la Rey
    Project Management: Adam Sharp
  • Recorded at Hog Hill Studio, Capitol Studios and Roccabella West
    Mastered by Miles Showell
  • Project Producers: Jonathan Clyde and Guy Hayden
    Executive Producer: Jeff Jones

MUSIC VIDEO

  • Video Director: Peter Jackson
  • Video Producers: Peter Jackson, Clare Olssen, Jonathan Clyde
  • Audio Producers: Paul McCartney and Giles Martin
  • Production Company: WingNut Films Productions Ltd
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