ISSUE Oct 17 www.pcr-online.biz
THE BIG INTERVIEW
AUDIO ISSUE #169
Sennheiserâ€™s Edwin Weteling reveals the next evolution of personal audio
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No. 169 October 2017
Sounds good to me BUYING, AND subsequently selling, audio is an entirely unique and far more personal proposition than anything else I have experienced in my time reporting on the Channel. In the situation of buying a new TV, laptop, or pretty much any bit of tech, you can more or less make a decision based on specs, with the help of a review or two. When it comes down to audio though specs are, from my experience, only a small consideration before making any sort of purchase. And that’s because sound, unlike the quantifiable facts and figures of a TV’s brightness or a PC’s power, is almost wholly down to personal preference. The spec sheet for a pair of speakers or headphones only tells part of the story. How they sound will vary from user to user, making demonstration an essential in any purchase. For example, I own a pair of headphones that I absolutely adore and deliver what I consider to be an absolutely immersive sound, but others have been critical that their clarity is almost a fault. On the other hand, I have tried out headphones that make your bones rattle from an excess of bass that I hated, but I saw them fly off the shelf. To each their own is really the ethos of audio, and retailers can really do a lot to capitalise on that in a way unlike selling almost anything else. I feel like there’s probably more in common between selling audio and selling a car than there is between selling audio and selling a TV. And that is why audio retail – in particular high-end audio retail – is still prevalent in the physical retail world.
“Specs are, from my experience, only a small consideration before making any sort of audio purchase”
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October 2017 | 3
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THE BIG INTERVIEW SENNHEISER
Contents October 2017 The ÂŁ1k phone
Will consumers be willing to spend a small fortune on a phone?
The Smart suspects
Asking the Channel how smart our speakers can get
Cutting the cord
We examine the growing market of wireless headphones
The jack-of-all-trades firm talks about its history and future plans
At a glance 30 IFA ROUNDUP Fridges on wheels, plywood planes and lightsaber duels at the annual Berlin event 46 WINTER GAMING From Call of Duty to South Park and everything in between. We take a glance at the top games hitting shelves this holiday season
Regulars 10 Life in the Channel 12 Industry opinion 36 Products 49 Logging off
October 2017 | 5
The X-Factor With product prices going through the roof, Rob Horgan asks the question on everyone’s lips: Will consumers spend £1,000 on a phone?
THE LAUNCH OF the iPhone X was without a doubt the most hotly anticipated product unveiling of 2017. With it marking the 10-year anniversary of the iconic smartphone’s debut, everyone was expecting something spectacular from Apple. In the end, the biggest announcement to come out of the launch was the smartphone’s price tag. Coming in at £999 (or $999 across the pond), the 10th anniversary edition of the iPhone is by far the most expensive to date. Launched at the same time, the iPhone 8 comes in at £300 less with the only (notable) difference being the lack of facial recognition technology which allows X users to unlock their phone and create rather creepy personalised emojis. Apple is not alone in setting sky-high costs for its flagship devices though. When Samsung unveiled its Galaxy Note 8 at the end of the summer, the £869 price tag barely got a mention. It appears that consumers have already got used to the fact that they are going to have to fork out a small fortune if they want to have the latest devices. Despite the cheaper alternative and the eye-watering cost, the X is largely expected to be a hit with consumers. “It will still sell in enormous volumes
because Apple has repeatedly demonstrated its ability to persuade consumers to shift their overall spending to place a greater share of their disposable income towards a smartphone purchase,” industry analyst Ian Fogg, from IHS Markit, said. “Apple is hoping the later availability date for iPhone X will not affect iPhone 8 sales this quarter. Apple’s lower iPhone 8 pricing should limit the impact, but it remains a risk.” To put it into context, for around the same amount of money as the iPhone X costs you could buy yourself a MacBook Air. The thought of paying the same amount for a phone as a laptop was previously unthinkable and there are plenty of other decent laptops on the market that retail at a lesser price than top-end phones. With the cost of phones rising and manufacturers testing the limits of consumer tolerance, it begs the question of whether people will continue paying the high prices and what is the glass ceiling for the cost of a mobile phone? Well, for now at least, it appears that consumers are happy to hand over the cash. According to data from Censuswide, 69 per cent of iPhone owners in the UK plan to upgrade, despite the anticipated higher cost.
“[iPhone X] will still sell in enormous volumes” Ian Fogg, IHS Markit
October 2017 | 7
“Distributors and resellers should see market opportunities for these higher priced devices from the likes of Apple and Samsung” Nick Beer, Dynamode
That said, a 10th of iPhone owners said they would abandon the Apple smartphone in search of a cheaper alternative. While 30 per cent of British smartphone users are considering upgrading to the iPhone X, more than a third were planning to opt for Samsung for their next upgrade. Either way, consumers are likely to be paying more and more for years to come. While consumers look willing to keep paying high prices for upgrading their smartphones, another factor could hit the market with retailers potentially bearing the brunt of an emerging trend. Dixons Carphone has warned that the market is suffering as people are holding on to their devices for longer due to higher costs. Chief executive Seb James said that the more expensive costs mean that customers are not upgrading their phones as frequently. As a result the company has had to adjust its business plan to make up for the likely losses. “Currency fluctuations have meant that handsets have become more expensive while technical innovation has been more incremental,” James said. “As a consequence, we have seen an increased number of people hold on to their phones for longer and while it is too early to say whether important upcoming handset launches or the natural lifecycle of phones will reverse this trend, we now believe it is 8
prudent to plan on the basis that the overall market demand will not correct itself this year.” He added: “Historically these items have mostly been net positive to the business, but, largely caused by changes in EU roaming legislation and higher prices, we now believe that the outcome is likely to be net negative this year.” But as they say, when one door closes, a window opens. And as people hold on to their phones for longer, the door to the peripherals market opens wider. Technical director at Dynamode Nick Beer believes that disties and resellers should capitalise on market opportunities as a result of higher device costs. “Distributors and resellers should see market opportunities for these higher priced devices from the likes of Apple and Samsung,” Beer said. “Protecting these expensive devices with screen protection, armoured cases and even battery life extenders should become more relevant as time goes on. Accessories will continue to expand for these devices and thus should be good for the sector.” With prices showing no signs of slowing down, the market will inevitably be decided by consumers willingness to meet the asking prices for the latest tech. If that means that the lifespan of a user’s phone is extended then the Channel must get smart about selling in peripheral markets. The glass ceiling – at least for now – looks like it is still a fair way off. www.pcr-online.biz
“I don’t think I have worked in a faster paced and more evolving industry than tech”
LIFE IN THE CHANNEL
Rebecca Williams The 2016 PCR Women of the Year Rising Star talks about the shock of winning and the perks of the job What is your role and how long have you been doing the job for your current employer? I’m the junior buyer for our Windows Computing and Gaming categories within John Lewis, and have been in the role for two years. I cover everything from planning our Windows assortment for the coming year to incorporating emerging trends into the range. I also plan our promotional periods such as Black Friday and Clearance, as well as working closely with our marketing team to create inspirational marketing linking to our wider business priorities and trends. All of course underpinned by actually trading the product alongside my fabulous team on a daily basis. What does an average day look like for you? Literally no two days are the same, which to be honest is why I enjoy my job so much. You never know what the next day will hold. New opportunities come through all the time, especially working in a department store. It’s always interesting to see how we can incorporate our department within our Fashion and Home categories as well. Having said that, a lot of my day does involve planning and strategising our department, working closely with our brands to maximum the John Lewis offering, and to make sure that (sorry, cheesy line) we are never standing still. What is the best/worst part of your role? Without doubt the best part of my job is working with my team. I know that is a bit of a cliché, but we probably spend more time together than with our family or friends, so it’s actually quite refreshing being in a team in which we all get along (most of the time). The worst part... now that’s a tricky one. I think, on the one hand, it’s always a bit of a blow when something doesn’t deliver as you had expected, especially when you put so much thought, time and commitment into it. However, on the other hand, I
really enjoy a challenge, so I just look at it as another obstacle to overcome. How does working as a buyer in tech compare with other areas? I don’t think I have ever worked in a faster paced and more evolving industry than tech. I have learnt more in the last three years being in computing than any other department. The industry is developing so much, and targeting the next generation of customers along with seeing what trends are going to hit our stores next is exciting – whether that be smart home, or virtual reality, both of which probably seemed farfetched only a couple of years ago. Plus, the trips aren’t half bad. I mean, who would complain about going to Vegas? What is the most unexpected thing that’s happened to you at work? Probably winning Rising Star at the PCR WOTY awards last year. I had only been in computing for a year, so it was such a shock, but a humbling experience. It was so nice having the team out in full force and we definitely went and celebrated afterwards, however the hangover the next day was not so fun! How important are events such as the PCR Women of the Year awards? I think what was great about the awards last year, was that it elevated the awareness of women in this industry, and celebrated the successes that those individuals have achieved through their own merit. However, it is still a widely competitive industry, regardless of gender, and therefore you have to continue to prove yourself just like everyone else. How can people get in touch with you? Probably LinkedIn is the best way.
October 2017 | 11
Simon Buckingham - retail marketing manager, TP-Link
The interactive experience Having a visual presence in retail is a vital way to ensure that bricks-and-mortar stores stay relevant in the digital world of online retail and in-store automation I suppose one of my main tasks at TP-Link since I IN THE EVER-CHANGING retail world, coupled with joined was to help the brand adapt to this modern way of the challenges of the growing popularity of online interacting with the customer, with the ultimate goal of purchasing, it is now more important than ever to bring course being to help sell the products off the shelf. Mark your brand to life and the products within stores as much my words, you will struggle to sell products if they are as possible. When I worked in retail (I like to call this my just sat on a shelf with no education or soft sell materials grassroots period now), it became harder for myself and to support it. colleagues to deal with the influx of customers towards I spend a good amount of my time, around once or the end of my tenure. It become more difficult as general twice a month, doing store visits. This is not just to retail staff numbers were cut, but customers of check our brand and products, but also to see course demanded the same level of service and “You will what competitors are up to, or even general waiting times as before. So the question brands not associated with our industry. I arose: how do you keep customers in stores struggle to sell longer and be influenced to purchase products if they are think it is really important in today’s retail world to step up otherwise you can see without potential human interaction? just sat on a shelf yourselves slipping behind others very Today’s retail environment is still this with no education quickly. One key result also from this will way, particularly in peak seasonal be that retail shops will still be around and periods and weekends. The silent materials to needed, keeping as many jobs running for as salesman is actually really important today, support it” long as possible. and just looking around typical consumer In the future I would expect to see technology electronic related stores you can see that brands, being used more in the retail space, so that even fashion including ours, our taking the next steps in almost retailers will potentially delve into an interactive bringing a ‘digital’ feel to the retail shop environments. experience. This will perhaps incorporate walking up to a One great example I have seen is in the Oxford Street digital mirror and seeing store items on you digitally to John Lewis store, within the Smart Home section. The decide what it might look like before you go to look for it interactivity is brilliant and with the store staff being properly. I for one love retail and am excited about busy with other customers, I can happily play with the playing my part in helping to keep it going and growing products and learn about them through the educational alongside online shopping platforms. POS and video loops.
14 | October 2017
Jane Craven - sales director of Enterprise Solutions - UK & Ireland at Sennheiser
Change management: catering for the ultra-mobile workforce A company’s digital technology is no longer just the concern of IT staff – it has become an integral part of the employee experience loyalty to a company. In what feels like a flash, a strategic DESPITE THE FACT that this is an article in a print and flexible digital workplace has moved from being a magazine, there is every chance that you are reading this simple perk for employees to an expectation that has a via a smartphone, perhaps on your way to work, or even direct impact on the level of engagement in their roles. To hooked up to the local coffee shop’s Wi-Fi. There is an understand their needs requires a solid understanding of equally strong likelihood that the majority of people the company’s tech and an audit into how employees prefer sitting around you are also on their smartphone or tablet. to collaborate. We are all well aware of the impact mobile technology has Enter the rise of the ‘huddle meetings’. Today’s employees had on the way people interact but it’s the adoption in the are now more agile in their working styles than ever workplace which is more of an enigma, before, preferring to get the job done quicker, particularly as it becomes common place for rather than sticking to formal and often the modern day employee. “Today’s slower processes. Needs differ – whether In the past, it could be argued that tech connecting mobile devices to a solitary wasn’t the highest priority in the office employees are now mobile speaker unit for a conference call on environment, and that you would just make more agile in their the move, or to take a call from the other do. That was until advancements in tech working styles than side of the building via a Bluetooth headset outside of the office walls grew expediently. ever before” – and it’s all dependent on the needs of the Smartphones made collaboration between individual. Understanding these needs are users easier than ever with the use of apps crucial and the ground work of IT departments such as WhatsApp and Slack, alongside the rise is the key link to cater for this ‘always available, in sound quality from headsets and speakers anywhere’ mentality. manufactures, making calls possible even in nosiest of By combining the ability to work remotely in the office, environments. As a result, running in tandem with these technological innovations, is the employee’s expectation of a with the ability to collaborate internally via mobile apps or hardware, you are streamlining efficiencies, and increasing flexible working environment. the output of your business. Creating an infrastructure Research shows that giving staff the ability to be flexible where employees are more responsive to the outside world, in the workplace via mobile technology is becoming as well as having the ability to collaborate more efficiently paramount to keeping them productive and satisfied. The internally, creating a knock on effect to productivity, job ability to work in any location and at any time while satisfaction and ultimately ROI. collaborating effectively is the most crucial factor behind
October 2017 | 13
Daniel Todaro - group managing director, Gekko
Retailers can’t afford to ignore the smart audio revolution As smart speaker sales start to take over, retailers must get on board or they risk missing out on a golden opportunity might not necessarily invest in a smart speaker, but desire a AS OF December 2016, about 10 per cent of the UK premium audio product. population has a Spotify account, in addition around 2.6 All these new audio announcements at IFA have one million UK citizens have an Apple or Google Music thing in common: they prioritise high quality audio. When account. The UK streams over a billion audio tracks each displaying premium audio products in store, retailers may week, growing 68 per cent year on year. Moreover, 45 not be able to sell the content, but they can create the user billion tracks were streamed in 2016 – that’s around 1,500 experience of quality audio. per household per year – and streaming revenues grew 65 To maximise sales of these products, retailers should set per cent for the top providers last year. Overall, total up an area in store dedicated to premium speakers music revenues are up 4.6 per cent despite falling and headphones. Investing in a Spotify or physical music sales. The evidence is clear that Google Play Music subscription is also key to audio streaming is a huge category that is allow the display speakers to stream experiencing a meteoric rise; which is good “Smart audio high-quality audio at the touch of a button. news for retailers stocking top of the range represents a golden Likewise with smart speakers, they need to premium audio products. opportunity for be connected to the store Wi-Fi to access Likewise, this year we’ve seen further retailers to appeal to the personal assistant and connect to a development in the smart speaker market, music streaming service. Central to which is taking the technology found in new audiences” demonstrating premium audio is allowing smartphones to the next level. Combined shoppers to imagine the product in their own with a high-quality speaker, these smart home – creating an immersive experience which speakers, including Amazon’s Alexa and Google allows the shopper to fully utilise the speaker as they Home, are fast becoming a staple in the audio market. As personal assistant technology continues to develop, I expect would at home is by far the best way to create an emotional and real life connection. the popularity of smart speakers to increase. Although a Retailers who have yet to invest in smart audio and AI fairly specialist product at the moment, as different brands are already behind the curve. A growing industry, globally continue to integrate their services with AI, consumers will expected to be worth $5.5 billion by 2020, smart audio begin to take notice of the real life benefits of owning a represents a golden opportunity for retailers to appeal to smart speaker. Take recent product announcements from new audiences, and also up-sell existing customers to a IFA in Berlin such as Yamaha’s range of Alexa-enabled premium audio product. sound bars, bringing AI technology to a new audience who
14 | October 2017
Glenn McClelland - commercial director, Exertis
Attach! Attach! Attach! Retailers are missing a clear profit opportunity by not maximising attachment sales product. Our SoundXtra brand does the same for other AS A RETAILER would you rather sell a customer one audio manufacturers – most notably our recently launched product, two or three, in the process enjoying a tasty slice range of accessories for every product in the Bose of extra profit? I’m pretty sure that 99 per cent of retailers SoundTouch range. would chose the latter, and yet far too few are maximising We see huge regional variations across the world and exactly that opportunity with audio attachment sales. across retailers. For example, we see some Scandinavian If you’re an audio retailer and you’re not behind retailers with 40 per cent attachment rate for accessories attachment sales, you’re hugely losing out on a potentially – the vast majority of them wall mounts, as from my massive cash cow. Instead of selling one product, sell three experience, Scandinavians tend to be more – it’s not a huge amount of extra time or effort for minimalist. If you look at the US, it’s more a retailer, but the rewards for those that put about big homes and speaker stands. that effort in can be great. And it’s simple “Retailers that Meanwhile the UK is a great blend of all stuff, really. When you’re selling a speaker, consistently use sorts of accessories including cables: many why not sell a speaker stand? Or a wall attachment sales older-build homes have limited mains mount, or a desk mount. Or even cables power points, for example, so our range of – oh yes, even in a wireless world there are techniques enjoy seamless extension power cables for new cable opportunities to be made the healthy sales Flexson and Bose are popular for users most of with almost every sale (of which, I rates” struggling to put their speakers in the right will go into more detail later). place in their homes. As a distributor of a wide array of premium Our retail customers that consistently use audio brands, we recognised the opportunity to attachment sales techniques, in store and online, enjoy offer users accessories that would help them get more healthy sales rates. The ones that half-heartedly give it a go from their specific audio products: high-quality designs get low rates and miss a massive profit opportunity. We’re that added functionality, usability and style to their set-up. such crusaders for the attach cause that we’ll offer to train We added custom install options, too – helping installers any customer either at our Harlow centre of excellence, or create a more seamless set-up. It benefits both the via our in-store field trainers. We’ve got POS and many consumer and the seller. Five years ago we launched Flexson for SONOS and the range now includes more than other marketing assets to back up that training, too. Don’t miss out, get attaching today! 75 accessories, with innovative solutions for every SONOS
October 2017 | 15
The complete digital environment Jonathan Easton speaks to Edwin Weteling vice president of sales for North and South Europe at Sennheiser about the company’s history, its legacy of innovation and its vision for the future of sound How has 2017 been for Sennheiser so far? We have had a challenging year in a challenging business environment. Sennheiser is split into three business divisions. We have the pro side of the business, we have the consumer side and the telecoms side, or as we call it the ‘enterprise solutions’. The latter in particular is in serious growth. It’s the area that has shown the strongest growth for the company which makes sense if you link it to the change of people moving from communications into soft home division, so that has become a vital part of communication these days. We benefit from that
growth and we have a proper portfolio to serve that market effectively. On the pro side of the business there’s just been IBC tradeshow in Amsterdam, where we presented audio solutions for all levels of media production, including mobile journalism. In our experience, the media base has significantly broadened, and various forms of streaming services as well as YouTube are now on equal footing with conventional television. Therefore, it is absolutely essential to serve all platforms with the best possible solutions and to support innovative formats with equally creative products.
October 2017 | 17
On the retail side we’re in a challenging business environment. The market is rapidly developing towards wireless, and we are trying to catch up with that trend. That’s not always easy because we have a broad portfolio of products, and changing the whole portfolio from wired products to wireless products takes time because we want to do it at the right quality level. That’s what’s important for Sennheiser products. Having a mission statement in mind of being at the forefront of audio innovation means that we’re really looking at what the market will bring us in the coming years when you look at connected home and also the audiophile side of the business people expect more and better sound quality so that’s what we’re aiming for. What is Sennheiser doing in the gaming space? Gaming is, as you know, a very big industry. It’s bigger than the movie industry! We moved into gaming over the last year, so it’s actually quite a new range for us to focus on. If you look at the product development we’re talking to people who are part of gaming communities and we are participating in some of the big gaming events. As we don’t have such a history in gaming and it’s such a new segment we’re learning on a day-to-day basis. And it has to do with not only the audio experience, it has a lot to do with the wearing comfort, because these guys spend days (and nights) sitting behind their PC or console. When it comes to audio quality in gaming headsets, Sennheiser product portfolio really stands out amongst competitor brands. It delivers an ultra immersive experience thanks to Sennheiser high-end acoustic technology and incredible 7.1 Dolby Surround Sound, which lets gamers advance to the next level in gaming realism. We all know that when you’re playing you want to know where your teammates are in the world. You want to know if
“The market is rapidly developing towards wireless, and we are trying to catch up with that trend” 18
they’re in front of you or behind you or if there’s someone above or below you. Sennheiser is a brand that has products ranging from the cheaper side of things to the very top of the high-end. How do you effectively market to all of these groups of consumers and professionals? We’ve made deliberate choices not to sell £5 in-ear headphones, because that’s not the place where we want to be. We’re a premium brand that wants to have a premium brand experience. This is what we offer with a range starting at around £30, going all the way up to £44,000. That’s the HE 1 which is really the flagship model and it is for that reason why the industry calls them the best headphones there are. Covering that whole range is, to a certain extent, a challenge. If you look at how our trade partners are structured they have their own segmentation. So we do business with the likes of Dixons, John Lewis, HMV and more traditional retailers who are also online and they cover a range of products from entry level all the way to the top. We also have specialists that are a part of our exclusive Club Orpheus network in the UK. There are 32 high end dealers that Sennheiser is working with currently. They aren’t so much interest in selling headphones for £30 or £50, they go from £300 upwards because they are the specialists that provide the audio experience when people come to their showroom and spend hours and hours listening to different high-end setups. The third aspect is the online Channel. There’s no need to ignore Amazon, so we partnered up with them to ensure that people can go online and get the right shopping experience for our brand then it’s up to the consumer in the end if they want the product. You earlier mentioned your business in wireless headphones. How big a part of the business is that and how big do you think that will become? When we talk about these things we look at the Gfk data. What Gfk, our trade partners and consumers tell us is that at the moment around 40 per cent of the market is interested in wireless products. We have the expectation that in 2018 this will flip to the other side and that 60 per cent of units on the market will be sold in wireless headphones. So we are following that trend, and we will have to admit that we are not leading that right now. We stick to audio quality and that means that we take time to develop the right products, to have the right technologies available, to give the consumers the same experience that they have with the wired product. So it is extremely important and it is our
October 2017 | 19
“We stick to audio quality and that means that we take time to develop the right products”
High-end Momentum headphones
sole focus on the moment to focus on a wireless product range. At IFA we launched wireless in-ear models which we have two variations of. One is the necklace which a range that is particularly popular in the APEC region and we’re seeing now that people are accepting that wearing style and are starting to buy into it. The second style is what we call the semi-wireless. That’s earbuds that are still connected from left to right with a cable, but there’s no cable to the source. The last part is true wireless, which works with a master-slave communication so one ear is the master function that sends the source to the other ear. That, combined with battery life, are the two biggest challenges in true wireless, and that’s why Sennheiser hasn’t come up with true wireless products yet. We’ll only bring a product to the market that has solid audio quality, expected from Sennheiser. I’m not saying that our competitors are not perfect, maybe they take different risks or do different analysis on that situation 20
because some of them have launched. True wireless products in the meantime, we think, are not ready. Are you going to come back to it in the coming years? We are looking into it right now. We were looking into it 10 years ago, and we had the MXW1 which were the first true wireless headphones on the market. The product was launched and it was brought to market, but we were struggling with battery life (I think at that time battery life was maximum two hours) and this master-slave communication is an extremely tricky thing. Our R&D teams are looking into it, it just takes a while before we find the perfect solution that meets the Sennheiser brand quality. Talk to us about the Momentum product range. The first Momentum product was launched four years ago. Over the past years, the range has expanded with the on-ear, in-ear and wireless models. The Momentum range is basically a winning combination www.pcr-online.biz
thebiginterview Ambeo Smart Headset to launch in early 2018
of uncompromised performance, pure minimalistic style and luxurious high-quality materials, such as genuine leather and Alcantara. The wireless version of Momentum headphones features hybrid active NoiseGard which attenuates ambient noise, while the high definition aptX codec carves out every aural nuance in finest detail. Furthermore, the built-in VoiceMax microphone enables you to conduct crystal clear conversations. We are very proud of the success of our Momentum range and will be sure to add to it in 2018 and even beyond that. Were you expecting Momentum to be as big a success as it has been? Yeah, absolutely. I’ve been with the company for eight and a half years and this was definitely, when we launched four years ago, the biggest launch event we had. We had high expectations from the beginning. We had high marketing support to bring the product to market and we had, from day one, great support from the dealers because this was launched at a moment when the market had turned to ‘colourful’ products. Some of the brands were very successful in introducing these colourful models, but we didn’t just add colour. We added colour combined with the whole lifestyle experience. It’s the use of material, the images that we use, it’s the complete experience of Momentum that offers a lifestyle. You can see it in people wearing it when you’re on a train or on a plane. People wearing Momentum are in a certain lifestyle in a certain environment. What can we expect from Sennheiser going forward? The beginning of 2018 is going to be really exciting as we bring out a new product: the Ambeo Smart Headset. Early last year, we announced a strategic focus on 3D immersive audio, a groundbreaking technology that promises the ultimate in audio capture and www.pcr-online.biz
reproduction. Since then, all Sennheiser 3D immersive audio products and activities have borne the Ambeo trademark. Basically what it does is create an immersive sound experience. It creates a total sound experience. The best way to describe it is if you listen to a concert or watch a video from a concert, with Ambeo 3D audio technology you have the feeling that you are in the crowd experiencing the complete concert as if you’re there. The first product for the consumer market is going to be the Ambeo Smart Headset. There was already a sneak preview of it at CES 2017, and after CES 2018 it will be available in the market. We’re in the middle of a process of informing our customers about it. The priority is about showing that it has two functions. First of all it’s a pair of in-ears with a lightning connector. At this moment it is an Apple version only, and most likely in the future we will have an Android version as well. The earbuds have the expected functions, such as noise cancellation. But the trick with the Ambeo Smart Headset is that it’s intuitive, compact, and mobile 3D sound recording headset. Its earpieces are fitted with omnidirectional microphones that capture the sounds in the environment just like human ears would. This makes it an ideal tool for vloggers and content creators that are looking to create videos with stunning 3D sound on their mobile device. It’s not only producing hardware, it’s going to be a digital, industry-wide trend with software development as we ask how we can tap into the connected home, how we can work together with Google and Amazon systems and be a part of that complete digital environment. We are constantly looking at ways of expanding the limits of what’s possible through our products. The future of audio – this is our mission, and this is what drives us to develop and deliver innovative audio solutions. Watch out for our exciting new developments in 2018, we have some exciting announcements up our sleeve! October 2017 | 21
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It’s been a year since Apple made the ‘brave’ decision to ditch the 3.5mm headphone jack. Now in late 2017, Jonathan Easton takes a look at whether that gamble has paid off, and what’s next for headphones THE COLUMN INCHES became feet last September when Apple boldly announced that the new iPhone would be the first to abandon headphone conventions and force wired headphone users to dongle up or go wireless. Conveniently, Apple launched its own pair of wireless ‘AirPods’ on the same day. And that strategy seems to have been a success. Sales of the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus were solid, and – according to research firm NPD – 85 per cent of all ‘true’ wireless headphones (no cables whatsoever) sold in the US this year were Airpods. That, combined with the company’s ownership of Beats, puts Apple in a commanding position in the market. The big question facing the industry right now is whether wireless headphones and earphones will ever
entirely replace their wired counterparts. Apple, Samsung and other smartphone vendors seem to think so, but key figures in the Channel aren’t so convinced that the change will come quite as soon as the hype might suggest. “Wired models still account for over 80 per cent of the units sold in the last 12 months,” notes Toby Jarvis, UK and Ireland account manager for Consumer Electronics at Gfk. “The story is a little different from a value-perspective, with Bluetooth conversion largely coming from high-spec models in the higher price bands. Price, as well as issues surrounding build, sound and Bluetooth connection quality, may explain the relatively limited adoption in the lower price points so far. For now, at least, the wired headphone is not dead.”
October 2017 | 23
Dynamode boss Nick Beer however thinks that the headphone market is really split into three types of shopper. “One is the casual listener (general music, books, sports etc.), the next is the gamer and third is the audiophile perfectionist. The latter always strive for maximum sound resolution and I can see that even into the future wireless will never be good enough for them. High purity metal conduction (in their mind at least) will also beat the wireless which to them can be seen as a ‘compromise’ on performance for the headphones.” And that compromise is certainly a consideration for a lot of consumers. While wireless headphones
“In western markets, the majority of headphones sold in 2017 will be wireless” Kishan Mistry, Optoma
offer, as Optoma senior product manager Kishan Mistry puts it, ‘the beauty of freedom and convenience’, there are also setbacks. Mistry continues: “wired headphones, in the main, deliver better audio quality than their Bluetooth counterparts and you don’t have to worry about battery life.” However, these are problems that in iterations will be evolved out of being issues. It just takes looking at the differences between the 2016 and 2017 AirPods in terms of battery life and practicablity. The 2016 buds had ‘up to five hours’ of juice but had to be plugged in to be charged. The 2017 edition, unveiled in September, can now be topped up on the go, via the new wireless charging case. As previously mentioned, Apple is in many ways running away with the market as others scramble to catch up with the obscenely popular earbuds taking most people by surprise. Even CEO Tim Cook admitted in August that Apple is ‘still not able to meet the strong level of demand’ for AirPods. The first like-for-like cheaper alternative to the AirPods – the $30 HBQ i7 Twins – have only recently been released, with Google’s own versions (codenamed Bisto) set to launch soon.
At the other end of the scale, the more high-end brands such as Bose, Bowers and Wilkins and Sennheiser also have their own wireless solutions, albeit at a heftier price tag than the AirPods. The market is moving wireless, and it seems like only a matter of when, rather than if, the majority of headphones do invariably end up wireless. “Wireless already dominate wired in western markets,” says Mistry. “It is estimated that the majority of headphones sold in 2017 will be wireless and within the next few years the same will happen globally. The shift is slower in some parts of Asia, mainly due to lower income levels, strong presence or physical music (CDs etc) and overall slower adaption of new technology and streaming services.” The audiophiles of the world may prefer wired headphones for a long while to come, but for the majority of consumers, to whom portability, convenience and style outweigh sound quality, wireless is an increasingly tempting option that they cannot ignore. And with an ever increasing number of flagship phones opting for no headphone port, those consumers aren’t left with much choice.
October 2017 | 25
â€œI want voice assistants to anticipate which activities should be executed and do them proactivelyâ€? Bret Kinsella, Voice Bot
From Amazon’s various incarnations of the Echo to the upcoming Apple HomePod, smart speakers have captured the imagination of consumers across the globe in 2017. In the midst of the hype Rob Horgan takes a step back and asks how smart actually are smart speakers? THEY SAID IT was a gimmick, played it down as a flash in the pan, but here we are in 2017 and one of the year’s most hotly anticipated products is the HomePod – Apple’s answer to the Amazon Echo and Google Home. It may have taken a few years for consumers to buy into the idea of talking to their speakers, but now they have the sky is the limit. Amazon’s Alexa led the way, Google’s Assistant followed suit and now Apple is ready to throw Siri in the mix. Samsung’s Bixby and Microsoft’s Cortana are not far behind and a host of manufacturers have announced that they plan to incorporate existing smart assistants into their products. Just as people point back to the Mosaic web browser in 1993 and the Apple iPhone in 2007 as corner stones of computing history, the Amazon Echo’s arrival in 2014 will be heralded as the dawn of a new age of technology. To give an idea of current and near-term market size, a snapshot forecast put out by Gartner suggests that VPA-enabled wireless speakers will generate around $3.52 billion in global revenue by 2021. The message is loud and clear: the smart speaker take over is in full swing. But how smart are the devices transforming living rooms across the globe? Voice recognition, natural language understanding (NLU) and response capabilities are becoming very good. Voice recognition is now north of 95 per cent accurate, according to Voice Bot, a website dedicated to tracking the growth of everything ‘smart’. The ability to interpret user intent is also becoming much better and there are over 20,000 third-party skills on Alexa (whereas two years ago there were fewer than 20). Voice assistants recognise human speech and intent better and can do more in response than they could do just a year ago. Amazon’s Alexa leads the way, while Google Assistant and Microsoft’s Cortana are very sophisticated in speech recognition and NLU. Siri – among others – is however playing catchup, but Apple isn’t too fussed about building the smartest smart assistant. Instead, CEO Tim Cook wants to ‘revolutionise home listening’, positioning the
October 2017 | 27
upcoming HomePod as first and foremost a high end audio device, and secondly as a smart speaker. Consumers can already play music, make phone calls, add information to calendars and receive daily news briefings from their smart speakers. So what can the likes of Amazon and Google do to make them smarter? As Rod Slater, head of Smart Tech at Exertis explains ‘conversation skills are hard to implement’ and still have a way to go. “Context tasks become a lot more complex to explain,” he says. “It’s the difference between ‘switch the lounge lights on’ and ‘switch the lights on’. Associating devices with rooms where the request originated seems an obvious thing to do, but early smart speakers still need very specific phrasing to get the desired result. To create anything beyond the basic interaction model needs work.” Singing very much from the same hymn sheet, Bret Kinsella from Voice Bot adds: “Where they still come up short today is maintaining context both from the interaction and for the individual. And, they don’t have agency to do things on your behalf. I want AI engineers to focus on context and agency so that the voice assistants become more effective and can even anticipate which activities should be executed and do them proactively.
“Removing stilted command language and having context sensitive commands is a big step” Dave Sobel, Solarwinds
“I’d also like to see more AI-driven response capabilities. All of the voice assistant applications today use AI for speech recognition and NLU, but then return structured information stored in databases. These are programmatic responses similar to what we have in mobile apps today. We should start seeing more dynamic responses where AI also assembles the best answer based on collecting information and executing tasks from interacting with multiple web services that each have deep domain expertise.” Meanwhile Dave Sobel, senior director of Community at Solarwinds (and keen Alexa user) would like to see smart speakers remove the ‘stilted command language’ that is currently needed to operate them. “The biggest problem with smart assistants is that they still require a specific series of commands to instruct them, and they don’t always understand context,” he says. “You can’t stack commands, where the next command builds on what you did previously, and they need their commands in the specific phrasing they require. Removing the stilted command language and having commands be more natural and context sensitive is a big step.” One way in which smart speaker manufacturers are attempting to get smarter is by joining forces and sharing skills. At IFA, Microsoft announced a partnership between its smart assistant Cortana and Alexa, whereby users can take advantage of Alexa’s features on Cortanapowered devices and vice versa. On paper, at least, the partnership makes sense, and does fill in some gaps for both companies. Microsoft for example has no shopping component but brings a deep familiarity with user scheduling thanks to its Office 365 suite of products. But the issue remains that collaboration is just another way of adding skills to devices rather than making them smarter. Now the onus should be not on adding complexities but making them simpler and therefore smarter.
Berlin breakdown PCR casts an eye over Berlin to examine the highlights and top trends from IFA 2017
Into the mixer The battle between VR and AR may be over, if the hype surrounding mixed reality (MR) at IFA is anything to go by. With the Dell Visor, Lenovo Explorer and Asus Windows Mixed Reality Headset all announced during the show, Microsoftâ€™s mixed reality ecosystem looks like being a real winner. And the plus side of MR, is that it is a whole lot cheaper than VR headsets, with Acer announcing that its own MR device will come in at around $200 dollars cheaper than the Oculus Rift VR headset.
iPhone anticipation Despite Sony, LG, Blackberry and Samsung all launching new flagship smartphones at IFA 2017, it was the spectre of Apple’s 10th anniversary edition of the iPhone that launched later in the month that dominated the phone-related conversation coming out of the show.
Alexa’s aggressive expansion The name on everyone’s lips was Alexa. A host of new Alexa-powered devices were unveiled, with the likes of Motorola putting it into its new smartphone, Lenovo using it in its latest tablet and Bragi Dash incorporating Alexa into its smart headphones. Alexa was also rolled out across the smart home market, with everything
from Alexa-powered smart fridges to smart pianos signalling the smart assistant’s rapid growth spurt. Meanwhile Microsoft used the event to announce a collaboration between its smart assistant Cortana and Alexa, whereby users can take advantage of Alexa’s features on Cortana-powered devices and vice versa.
Plane sound Sony had quite an unusual strategy for showing off its latest noise-cancelling headphones: sticking everyone on a plane. Well, not exactly. Among a bevy of new headphones, the WH-1000XM2 were Sony’s standouts for blocking out the outside world, with the PlayStation-maker piling attendees into a plywood plane to show off their sound-shutting prowess. www.pcr-online.biz
October 2017 | 31
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Rafi Razzak and Jeremy Nash, at Ci’s HQ
All bases covered After a strong financial year for Centerprise International, Rob Horgan paid a visit to the company’s HQ to see what lies ahead for the IT solutions provider that keeps on giving IS IT A manufacturer, a managed services provider or a distie? A system integrator or a value-added reseller? Centerprise International is in fact all and none of the above. Instead, the company sees itself as a ‘flexible and agile IT solutions provider’, able to adapt to a client’s wants and needs. As CEO Jeremy Nash says: “We do everything from manufacturing and reselling to providing integrated solutions and managed services at Centerprise International. We can do the full package. There are
very few companies of our size that offer the scope of services that we can.” The premise is to streamline what was previously an ‘unnecessarily complex’ process. As its iconic chairman Rafi Razzak explains: “When I first got involved with the Channel 30 or so years ago I noticed that a client would go to a company for its IT solutions. That company would then need to outsource to a number of subcontractors that just adds cost to the customer. It follows the British
October 2017 | 33
“It is not about just having the latest products but explaining to clients how IoT can be used as part of a solution” Rafi Razzak, chairman
builders’ model of starting at one price and then adding extras on to that, until the end price is nowhere near the starting point. It made sense to me to try and do as much as possible under one roof to keep the amount of outsourcing to a minimum.” And that thinking has been integral to Centerprise’s success for three decades and will continue being key moving forwards. Despite generating a 26 per cent year-on-year revenue increase for the last financial year, Centerprise is not resting on its laurels. Busy investing in everything from a new cafeteria at its Basingstoke HQ to acquiring a number of new companies, Centerprise has been expanding and improving its services over the last year. In the last 12 months, the company has completed mergers with SAMcraft and 23 Technology. It also plans to more than double the size of its operations facility in Wales. As group commercial director Jon Atherton observes ‘big changes are afoot’. “I have seen a huge change from top to bottom in all areas of the company,” Atherton adds. “The company has been investing in so many more people and has opened up 35 or so new positions in the last six months alone. It is certainly going from strength to strength. Rafi’s appetite and drive to grow Centerprise is a strong as I have ever seen it. A lot of money has been invested over the past 18 months and that is already starting to prove successful.” And Razzak has big plans for the 12 months ahead. “In the next financial year, we are hoping to see 35 per cent growth, and we believe that is achievable,” he says. “There are several emerging markets that we are already in the process of gaining a foothold in. VR and IoT are two big areas that we are hoping to get involved with. In IoT we would be focusing on the B2B side of things. It is not about just having the latest products but explaining to clients how IoT can be used as part of a solution to help improve their business. We are already in talks with a number of
companies that have developed IoT solutions, but perhaps don’t have the same presence in the market as we do. Hopefully this is something we can finalise adding another string to our bow.” In terms of VR, Razzak sees Centerprise deploying the new technology as an ‘educational or training’ tool for existing and new clients, as well as a way to expand its presence within the gaming arena. In particular, Centerprise is looking to bring VR to the MoD. An RAF commissioned engineering officer for 23 years, Nash believes that VR would be a ‘fantastic tool’ for training exercises across the armed forces. Contracted to provide the MoD with a number of IT solutions, Nash says that the public sector has become more accessible to smaller companies. “Winning more sizeable contracts in the public sector has become much more realistic for us,” Nash claims. “It is a good time to be involved in the public sector and it is helping to drive our revenue up.” And Nash’s ties to the Armed Forces have also allowed Centerprise to become involved in a number of extra initiatives outside of the business world. Most recently, Centerprise sponsors Wales rugby international Sian Williams following her award of RAF Elite Athlete status. The company also takes part in a number of fundraisers for Help for Heroes as well as Cancer Research throughout the year. The most gruelling charity event on Centerprise’s calendar is the Dell Management Challenge, which sees competing teams run, hike and kayak in a 70 mile dash in the Brecon Beacons. And the charitable feeling runs throughout the company, with finance director Sharon Allen having recently shaved her head to raise funds for the ARK Centre appeal. Be it in terms of business or charitable endeavours, Centerprise’s enthusiasm is clear to see. After a strong financial year, the coming year is already looking exciting as the team keep their foot firmly on the accelerator.
Rafi Razzak, chairman
October 2017 | 35
iPhone X SRP: £999. OUT: October 27
The 10th anniversary iPhone introduces facial recognition technology into Apple’s range of products. Used to unlock the phone, the facial recognition system has also been deployed to create personalised emojis. Following the year’s main trend, the X (pronounced 10) is the first iPhone to lose its bezels and has a 5.8-inch super retina OLED screen. Dubbed the most durable glass ever in an iPhone, the X includes surgical-grade stainless steel. Wireless charging is also included and the X is water and dust resistant. The iconic home button has been given the boot and instead of pressing a button, a single swipe takes you home from anywhere.
Fitbit Ionic SRP: £299.95 Out: October 2 Fitbit is taking on the likes of the Apple Watch as it moves into the smart watch arena. With a price tag of £299.95, the Fitbit Ionic comes in at the higher end of the market, priced above the Apple Watch’s starting price of £249. The Ionic smart watch comes with features including a fitness tracking and contactless payment. The Ionic will also feature GPS, heart rate tracking, water resistance up to 50 meters, Fitbit Pay, on-board music, multiple clock faces and a battery that will last more than four days, the company said in a statement. Other features also include a new sensor technology for estimating oxygen levels in the blood.
Acer Nitro 5 Spin
SRP: £999 Out: October 2
SRP: £349 Out: October 3
The Nitro 5 Spin is being marketed as a ‘casual gaming convertible’, with a 15.6-inch 1920 x 1080 IPS display that rotates 360 degrees. It features an LED-backlit keyboard, up to 10 hours of battery life and will run on the Core i7-8550U processor. The new notebook will also feature up to a 512GB PCIe SSD and Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 graphics.
Dell’s first mixed reality headset has been designed to be more practical than most headsets on the market. The Visor adjusts easily using a thumbwheel that expands and contracts the sides. With no external sensors needed, it’s also easier to set up. It has 1440x1440 panels for each eye and comes with controllers for inside-out tracking.
Bang & Olufsen Beoplay E8
SRP: TBA OUT: October 5
SRP: £259 Out: October 12
The Pixel 2 will feature a Snapdragon 836 SoC. Such a chipset would be a new addition to Qualcomm’s Snapdragon line-up, representing a minor upgrade on current top-of-the-line processor the Snapdragon 835. The Googlemade phone will ship with the latest version of Google’s mobile operating system, Android Oreo, and will feature smaller bezels in keeping with the year’s most prevalent mobile trend.
Bang & Olufsen has launched its first ever true wireless earphones. The Beoplay E8 has a 5.7mm dynamic speaker, a small electromagnetic transducer, NFMI technology and a Bluetooth 4.2 chip with Digital Sound Processing. The Beoplay E8 also feature B&O’s new Transparency Mode, a feature that uses an external microphone to pipe in sound from the outside world.
October 2017 | 37
Loud and clear
With smart and Bluetooth devices transforming the market, PCR rounds up the latest speakers making a stir 38 | October 2017
Edifier Luna e25
Edifier S2000 Pro
Distributor: Digitek SRP: £129.99 Specs: 122 x 212 x 222mm, weight: 3.6Kg
Distributor: Digitek SRP: £429.99 Specs: Tweeter unit: plana diaphragm tweeters, mid-range and bass driver: 5.5 inch
The Luna Bluetooth speaker features smooth curves. Each of the Lunas satellites is equipped with a three-quarter inch silk domed tweeter and a three inch full base driver together producing an impressive 74 watts RMS. This Bluetooth speaker also contains a pair of three inch passive bass radiators, maximising the bass performance.
Edifier’s S2000Pro pays tribute to speakers from the past with elegant wood side panelling, but the components inside are state-of-the-art high-end audio. From new electro-acoustic technology to a specialty tweeter and woofer the listening experience caters for all genres of music.
Jivo Infinity Pulse
Distributor: Digitek SRP: £129.99 Specs: Dynamic range control, Bluetooth, digital signal processing
Distributor: CMS Distribution SRP: £69.99 Specs: Rechargeable wireless speaker, Bluetooth, Li-Ion battery, mirrored LED display
Cutting edge sound technology, the Edifier R1700BT comes with digital signal processing and dynamic range control to stamp-out distortion and deliver quality sound. The R1700BT speaker system offers simple Bluetooth pairing capability to stream music right from a laptop, tablet or smartphone.
The Infinity Pulse Speaker is ideal for home parties with its built in light show feature and top sound. With the portable design, the speaker can be taken anywhere and has extended battery life. Using Bluetooth connectivity it can be synced with any Bluetoothenabled device.
October 2017 | 39
Urbanears Baggan & Stammen
40 | October 2017
Distributor: Exertis SRP: £299/ £399 Specs: Built-in Google Chromecast, Apple AirPlay, Bluetooth, Spotify Connect, Wi-Fi Certified Baggen (pictured) and Stammen are connected speakers that complement any home. They offer generous sound, endless audio possibilities, and the flexibility to stream, connect, or plug into a user’s music. Combine two or more to create a multiroom system that suits all spaces. They also come in a range of colours and sizes to suit individual tastes.
Geneva Touring S Distributor: Exertis SRP: £170.00 Specs: Bluetooth 2.1 A2DP, rechargeable lithium battery, LED display From award-winning Swiss audio brand Geneva Lab, the Touring S packs both radio and wireless Bluetooth functionality into a premium portable casing, with a 20-hour battery life and class-leading sound quality. The speaker is precision-engineered from high-quality aluminum, and everything from the buttons to the base is finished with exacting attention to detail.
Sandberg Bluetooth Buddy
Bose SoundLink Revolve
Distributor: Spire SRP: £43.99 Specs: 3000mAh powerbank, selfie remote and torch
Distributor: Exertis SRP: £199.99 Specs: Water resistant, 12 hours playtime, can be paired with Siri and Google Assistant
Sandberg Bluetooth Buddy is ideal for smartphones or tablets. Buddy is connected wirelessly via Bluetooth, and provides wonderful sound via the built-in speaker with an aluminium front. Users can control the volume and playlist remotely with Buddy’s buttons and a selfie remote is included to take pictures from a distance.
The latest in the acclaimed Bose SoundLink Bluetooth-enabled portable speakers, the Revolve takes on a horizontal design. Deep, loud and immersive sound, with true 360-degree coverage the speaker can also be paired with another for Stereo or Party mode. It can also be paired with Siri or Google Now.
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High-end headphones 42 | October 2017
Audeze iSine 10
Distributor: CMS Distribution SRP: £129.99 Specs: Three hours playback time, 10m Bluetooth range
Distributor: Exertis SRP: £349.00 Specs: 3.5mm connection plus optional Apple Lightning connection cable, includes microphone
The Elyxr Air wireless earphones deliver highfidelity stereo sound with absolutely no wires in sight, giving users incredible audio sound with stunningly beautiful design and ultimate freedom while listening to music and taking calls. With three hours playback time, the earphones work with a Bluetooth range of 10 metres.
The Audeze iSine 10 the first in-ear headphone design to use full-range planar magnetic technology to deliver precise control and fast response times without distortion. The unique design – by BMW Designworks – weighs under 20g, and comes with the option of direct Apple Lightning connection.
GAMDIAS HEBE M1
Bowers & Wilkins P7
Distributor: Spire SRP: £59.90 Specs: 7.1 sound, RGB lighting, vibration USB
Distributor: Exertis SRP: £279.95 Specs: Weight: 1.1 kg, height 192mm folded out, 130mm folded in
The HEBE M1 is powered by oversized 50mm neodymium drivers for optimum sound. The RGB headset wraps relentless audio in comfort and style with oversized ear cup design, this guarantees exceptional comfort and isolation from external noises. It also comes equipped with the latest 7.1 premium virtual surround sound technology to offer the most immersive 3D sound experience.
Bowers & Wilkins first over-the-ear headphones are designed to allow users to become fully immersed. The P7 headphone driver works more like the drive unit in a hi-fi speaker, built from stainless steel, brushed aluminium and luxuriously soft New Zealand sheep’s leather. Truly portable, the P7 folds up to be carried around.
Sennheiser HD 600
Distributor: CPC, Westcon SRP: £279.00 Specs: Kevlar reinforced, weight: 259g, detachable OFC copper cable
Distributor: Westcoast SRP: £169.99 Specs: 45mm ‘true motion’ hi-res audio driver, dual-layer air-control technology, triple-venting acoustic airflow design
Sophisticated design, elegantly finished in black and grey, the Sennheiser HD 600 comes with high-quality, open metal mesh earpiece covers for an extremely transparent sound. Computeroptimised magnet systems minimise distortion, while lightweight aluminium voice coils ensure excellent fast and transient response for accuracy.
Stax SR-009 Distributor: Symmetry SRP: £3,495.00 Specs: Frequency response: 5 - 42,000Hz, electrostatic capacitance: 110pF, maximum sound pressure level: 118dB / 400Hz The Stax SR-009 headphones generate sound between two parallel-arranged fixed electrodes between which is suspended a low-mass, highpolymer film. This is basically a push-pull driver system which produces unparalleled sound.
The Audio-Technica ATH-MSR7 are designed primarily for portable use. Positioned as being the perfect accompaniment for Hi-Res audio files, large ear pads, good foam and mid-level headband firmness make the Audio-Technica ATH-MSR7 extremely comfortable.
Sony MDR-1000X Distributor: AF Supply Chain, EET Europarts SRP: £300.00 Specs: Ambient sound mode, touch sensor operation, quick attention mode Noise cancelling with reduced ambient noise for perfect silence, the Sony MDR-1000X is a mid-range pair of headphones. With 20 hour battery life, the headphones include ambient sound mode, touch sensor operation, quick attention mode. They are also the first ever DSEE HX headphones to upscale existing music to near high-resolution audio quality.
October 2017 | 43
Mics and webcams 44 | October 2017
Microsoft LifeCam HD-3000
Distributor: Westcoast SRP: £39.99 Specs: Length: 109mm, width: 44.5mm, true 720p HD video, 16:9 widescreen, TrueColor Technology, noise cancelling microphone
Distributor: Meroncourt SRP: £4.49 Specs: Connection: 3.5mm jack plug, cable: 1.6m
This true HD camera gives you bright and colourful video, and makes it easy to post to your favourite social sites. With widescreen settings, the camera is perfect for using with PCs or Macs and is ideal for messaging sites such as Skype or Facebook Live.
Crystal-clear recording, distortion-free sound transmission, the Pure desktop microphone delivers an impressive performance with its high sound quality and always ensures the best possible sound reproduction. Adjustable on two axes, the flexible microphone adjusts to suit any scenario, plus it detaches in a flash for easier transportation.
Distributor: Meroncourt SRP: £14.99 Specs: Adjustable axis, 3.5mm jack plug, 2 metre cable
Distributor: Meroncourt SRP: £7.99 Specs: Compact clip-on microphone, noise suppression technology
This handheld microphone is perfect for both speech and singing thanks to its excellent recording quality. What’s more, for voice input on the PC the microphone can also be mounted on the supplied stand and the angle of the microphone adjusted for the best sound reproduction.
With its robust metal clip, users can wear the compact Spes clip-on microphone almost invisibly on a lapel, making it ideal for delivering presentations and for video conferencing. It may be compact, but the Spes also delivers clear speech in the highest quality.
Blue Microphones Yeti USB Microphone Distributor: CMS Distribution SRP: £119.99 Specs: Frequency response: 20Hz – 20kHz, max recording resolution: 48 kHz/16-bit, max SPL: 120dB The Yeti is the most advanced and versatile multipattern USB microphone on the planet. Combining three capsules and four different pattern settings, the Yeti by Blue Microphones is the ultimate tool for creating amazing recordings, directly to your computer.
Logitech BCC950 Conference Cam Distributor: Exertis, Ingram Micro, Spire, Tech Data SRP: £129.99 Specs: USB 2.0 compatibility, Carl Zeiss optics, Skype compatible, digital video format: H.264, 1920 x 1080 at 30 fps The BCC950 video conferencing system, with its high-definition, plug-and-play webcam and speakerphone, is ideal for small rooms or small groups. Set it up quickly and easily at an office desk or on a conference table. HD video and crystal-clear audio combine high quality with affordability.
Asus ROG Strix Magnus Condenser Gaming Microphone Distributor: Spire SRP: £169.99 Specs: USB condenser, AURA RGB lighting ROG Strix Magnus USB condenser gaming microphone with AURA RGB lighting and environmental noise cancellation (ENC) is designed for gaming and streaming. Three studio-grade condenser capsules are included for enhanced clarity and sensitivity, while an external USB hub allows for additional devices to be connected.
HP Webcam HD2300 Distributor: Virtual Distribution SRP: £39.99 Specs: 720P HD produces images in 16x9 widescreen format Instantly connect and communicate with this user-friendly high-definition webcam. Compatible with most popular video calling services, this camera features widescreen 720P HD so users can chat and record videos with good image quality.
October 2017 | 45
‘Tis the season to be gaming
Middle Earth: Shadow of War
South Park: The Fractured but Whole
Platform: PS4, Xbox One, PC Release date: October 10
Platform: PS4, Xbox One, PC Release date: October 17
You’d be hard-pressed to find a more suprising game in 2014 than Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor. What most expected to be just another movie tie-in actually turned out to be one of the best games of the year. The nemesis system (that saw you pitting orcs against one another on a chess-like board) has been refined for Middle Earth: Shadow of War, and much more has been thrown into the mix to make Lord of the Rings fans giddy.
The follow-up to 2014’s South Park: The Stick of Truth, sees players again thrown into the titular Colorado town. While both games have the distinct humour of series creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker, South Park: The Fractured but Whole turns its satirical gaze to the phenomenon of superhero movie franchises. Expect a fun RPG with a surprising level of depth, easter eggs a-plenty, and lots (I mean lots) of swearing.
Super Mario Odyssey
Platform: PS4, Xbox One, PC Release date: Out now (console), October 24 (PC)
Platform: Nintendo Switch Release date: October 27
The original Destiny had a rocky start when it launched in 2014, but over time developed into one of the most loved console games of the generation. Despite its September release on console, many gamers are holding out for the PC version of Destiny 2, with Nvidia promoting the game through giveaways. Made by Halo-makers Bungie, the game continues the original’s addictive gameplay with refined classes and combat.
A new Assassin’s Creed game will be released on the same day, but the title everyone’s really excited for is the latest 3D outing for the Italian (no longer a) plumber, and his first on Nintendo’s new console. Winning many awards at Gamescom and E3, Super Mario Odyssey sees the Mario return to the free-roaming worlds (that made Super Mario 64 and Super Mario Sunshine hits) to again save Princess Peach from the nefarious Bowser.
With Christmas getting closer, PCR takes a look at the biggest games of the season headed to PC and console
Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus Platform: PS4, Xbox One Release date: October 27
Call of Duty: WWII Platform: PS4, Xbox One, PC Release date: November 3
The classic Nazi shooter received a complete overhaul in 2014 with Wolfenstein: The New Order boldly combining the horror of a concentration camp with the silliness of Nazis in space. Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus continues that tone, as lead character William BJ Blazkowicz attempts to set up a Second American Revolution. While it isn’t the highest-profile shooter on this list, it is one of the most interesting.
Returning to the series roots, the latest entry into the Call of Duty franchise (the 14th game in the main series for those of you keeping count) throws away the frills of jetpacks and lasers in favour of getting stuck down in the mud of World War II. Following on from the success of Battlefield 1 last year, Call of Duty: WWII promises typically gritty battles on the Western Front.
Star Wars Battlefront II
Platform: PS4, Xbox One Release date: November 17
Platform: PC, Xbox One Release date: Out now (PC), TBC 2017 (Xbox One)
Tying into the release of The Last Jedi, Star Wars Battlefront II gives players the chance to dive into all three eras of the Star Wars franchise and, unlike its 2015 predecessor, offers a fully-fledged single-player campaign that focuses on the events between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens. That’s on top of the multiplayer which has been expanded to include epic space battles.
This ‘little game that could’ shocked the world, selling over one million units on PC, despite still being in Early Access. Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds is already one of the biggest games in the world, and it’s about to launch on Xbox One. Thrown into a Battle Royale-like setting, players go against 100 combatants as a lethal electric perimeter closes in. An enthralling game to catapult the new Xbox One X into homes.
October 2017 | 47
THE EUROPEAN DESTINATION FOR THE GLOBAL AV INDUSTRY Discover the latest products and solutions at ISE 2018 Connecting markets and people
<Logging off>\\| Out and about in the industry
<Making a racket> Swapping the distribution centre for the tennis court, GNR Tech boss Dave Stevinson led his team to victory at the 2016/2017 Manchester Real Tennis Pennant. Alongside Dave, the team included, Oli Williams from GNR Tech and guest player Henry Stevinson under the watchful eye of coach Peter Barnes.
<Iron Man meets lady> Michelle Cross, senior account manager at The PR Room, Technology PR specialists, took part in the Weymouth 70.3 (half Iron Man) on Sunday September 17. Taking place on the gruelling terrain along the Jurassic coast of Weymouth, Michelle and her team raised £732.73 for local charity Abby’s Heroes who raise money to support children and their families who are suffering from cancer.
<Joining forces> BT and Scan Computers came together to raise funds for Macmillan Cancer Support, in celebration of the last chemo treatment of BT’s vendor account manager Alan Matthews, who has battled pancreatic cancer since it was diagnosed last year. After his last treatment, Philips and AOC approached two resellers to carry out a joint promo day to raise money for Macmillan. On the day of the event, £5,000 was raised by both BT’s sales event and Scan’s FIFA intercompany tournament, which also included raffle prizes donated by the staff and vendors.
October 2017 | 49
<Back to school> Taking time out of the gaming industry, Jacob Harrison, product manager at ESL, went to Uganda for 3 weeks to teach deprived children as part of the Africa Greater Life Mission. Teaching English, Maths and Geography, Jacob heard about the scheme through his girlfriend who joined him on the trip.
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<Power to the people>
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For the last three years, Howard and Wendy Kirkman of Giakonda IT have been extending their IT support service to Siavonga in Southern Zambia. “To date we have brought solar power to eight of 26 schools identified by the District Education Board Secretary.” said Howard. “It makes a great difference to them to have power to charge phones and laptops.” So far they have made five trips to the area.
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NEXT MONTH The Wearables Issue
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ISSN: 1742-8440 Copyright 2017
From smart watches, to fitness trackers and heart monitors, the wearables market has well and truly exploded over the last 18 months. And it is showing no signs of slowing down. Keeping an eye on the trends past, present and future, PCR will ask the Channel how to make the most of the wearables market, as well as keeping a close eye on the latest movers and shakers in the smartwatch and fitness tracking arenas.
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Published on Oct 19, 2017