Powered by Blackfire: the HTC U11 Life and the HTC U11+

Powered by Blackfire: the HTC U11 Life and the HTC U11+

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This past year, consumer electronics company, HTC, began shipping the HTC Bolt, the HTC U Ultra, and the HTC U11 smartphones with built-in HTC Connect powered by Blackfire’s wireless multi room technology. Now, HTC has added two more smartphones to the mix: the HTC U11 Life and the HTC U11+, both with HTC Connect, powered by Blackfire.

 

The HTC U11 Life is a more compact, less expensive version of the company’s widely popular HTC U11 smartphone, while the HTC U11+ is a larger, updated version of it with higher-end finishes, a 6-inch screen, and bigger battery. The U11+ is one of the first smartphones to ship with the Android 8.0 Oreo operating system out of the box, while the U11 Life runs on the Android Nougat with HTC Sense in the US. Both phones feature the Edge Sense, which was first introduced in the HTC U11, allowing users to trigger an action, such as summoning Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa, by squeezing the sides of the phone. Neither the U11 Life nor the U11+ have a headphone jack (RIP), which seems to be the trend on most smartphones nowadays. But HTC is giving audio quality a huge boost on the U11+, with 30% more volume than the flagship U11, better dynamic range and less distortion.

 

And of course, both the HTC U11 Life and the U11+ both feature HTC Connect, powered by Blackfire, which can stream any local or web-based music or video via Wifi from an HTC smartphone to any Blackfire powered stereo device, wireless multi room speakers, or entertainment system by swiping up the home screen with three fingers. With HTC Connect, users can create a wireless 5.1 surround sound system or stream different music to multiple speakers at the same time. (Check out this easy guide to help you wirelessly stream music from an HTC U11 smartphone to Blackfire compliant speakers.) Setting up your wireless home entertainment system has never been easier.

The HTC U11 Life is available in the US and can be purchased here.

The Harman Kardon Invoke Smart Speaker

The Harman Kardon Invoke Smart Speaker

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Premium home audio manufacturer and Blackfire Research partner, Harman Kardon, has teamed up with Microsoft to take on Amazon, Google, and Apple in the smart speaker realm. The Harman Kardon Invoke is the newest smart speaker on the market. While Amazon’s Echo line of smart speakers have Alexa as it’s voice assistant, the Invoke’s voice AI is powered by Microsoft’s Cortana, which makes this an excellent smart speaker for Windows lovers. This is the first smart speaker to feature the Cortana voice assistant, which in the past has lived in Microsoft’s Xbox One and Windows 10 PCs.

 

The beautifully designed Invoke smart speaker is cylindrical in shape, with a narrow top and wide base (107 x 242mm), and comes in either pearl silver or graphite. The Invoke features 360-degree audio with three 45mm woofers, three 13mm dome tweeters, dual-band (2.4GHz/5Ghz) wireless connectivity, Bluetooth, and seven far-field microphones (which can be muted). Through voice commands, you can ask the Cortana powered smart speaker to stream music, set reminders, control paired smart devices, manage your Office 365 and/or Outlook calendar, ask questions, get the news, and make/receive hands-free calls via Skype to mobile phones, landlines and Skype-enabled devices. At the moment, the Invoke only works with three streaming services: Spotify, iHeartRadio, and TuneIn, but Microsoft has promised that Cortana will support Pandora sometime in the future.

 

And because the Invoke smart speaker is by Harman Kardon, you know the audio will sound great. In fact, according to Digital Trends, the Invoke’s audio performance beat out the Amazon Echo and The Google Home.

For more information on The Invoke, check out the Harman Kardon website, and the Microsoft website. The Harman Kardon Invoke retails for $199.00.

Powered by Blackfire: Pioneer Fayola FS-W50 Wireless Home Theatre System

Powered by Blackfire: Pioneer Fayola FS-W50 Wireless Home Theatre System

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Blackfire Research is proud to have their FireConnect Multi-room Technology in the new Pioneer Fayola FS-W50 Wireless Home Theatre System.

 

The Pioneer Fayola FS-W50 Wireless Home Theatre System is comprised of two wireless front speakers, a wireless subwoofer, and a main controller unit. The system is “wireless, elegant and extremely versatile.” Besides a power cord, no other physical connections are required, since the system is wireless. With built-in dual-band Wi-Fi, you can access your entire music library, wirelessly, through streaming services like Tidal, Spotify and Deezer, internet radio stations and locally stored music. The FS-W50 also features Chromecast built-in, Airplay, and Bluetooth to accommodate all streaming needs.

 

The Pioneer Fayola FS-W50 Wireless Home Theatre System is perfect for watching movies or television in surround sound. All you need is a second pair of wireless satellites – the streaming receiver of the FS-W50 is able to decode all current sound formats and automatically adapts to the available speakers. Your television and any existing A/V players can be integrated with the FS-W50 via the ultra-HD-capable HDMI connector panel.

 

If you’re looking to “kick it up a notch” and want to supply additional rooms with music, you can easily expand the FS-W50 into a multi-room system. With compatible WiFi speakers from Pioneer and other manufacturers, you can share your music to any and all rooms of your house via FireConnect Multi-room Technology by Blackfire Research.

 

For a full review of The Pioneer Fayola FS-W50 Wireless Home Theatre System, as well as more information on FireConnect Multi-room Technology, check out the review below from AV Hub.

 

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PDF Download: https://i.nextmedia.com.au/Assets/Pioneer_Fayola_FS-W50.pdf

Meet Google Home Mini and Google Home Max

Meet Google Home Mini and Google Home Max

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At their recent hardware event, Google announced two new additions to their smart speaker agenda, both of which are ready to take on the ever-increasing number of competitors in the field. Say hello to the Google Home Mini and the Google Home Max.

 

The Google Home Mini has the same functionality as the original Google Home, but at a fraction of the size (and cost). With voice command, you can ask Google Assistant to stream music, control your smart home, check your calendar, and search the internet. The Mini is nearly 4 inches in diameter (roughly the size of a hockey puck), with the top portion covered in fabric, which is available in three colors: chalk, charcoal, and coral. The fabric hides the speaker (1.5-inches) and a far-field voice-recognition microphone. The design is pretty simple and sleek (although as a cat-parent, I wonder how much hair that fabric covering will collect over time). The Mini is a direct response (and a direct competitor) to the Amazon Echo Dot, the cheaper, more popular version of Amazon’s flagship Echo smart speaker. Will The Mini overtake Echo Dot as the most popular pint-sized smart speaker? According to some reviews, The Google Home Mini certainly sounds better than the Echo Dot (it boast 360 degree sound with a 40mm driver), but in overall functionality, there isn’t much of a difference between the two. At $49, the Mini is the cheapest smart speaker option currently on the market.

 

The biggest announcement of the day, however, belonged to the introduction of Google Home Max, a premium version of the Google Home smart speaker designed to compete against Apple’s HomePod and Sonos. The Home Max is a stereo speaker that runs Google Assitant and looks quite similar to the Sonos Play:5 speaker. The speaker is designed to intelligently adjust audio depending on a user’s surroundings using AI (or what Google calls “Smart Sound”), similar to what Apple’s HomePod speaker does. The Max has two tweeters and two 4.5-inch woofers and the company has emphasized the speaker’s powerful bass. The Max supports multi-room audio via Chromecast Audio only, but supports many streaming services including Pandora, Spotify, and iHeartRadio. In terms of connectivity, the Home Max supports Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and Chromecast. At roughly 12 pounds, this is by far the largest smart speaker on the market, and the priciest as well. The Google Home Max will set you back almost $400, but Google is giving away 12 months free of YouTube Music with every Home Max purchase. The speaker will be available in two colors: chalk and charcoal, and can be displayed both vertically or horizontally via an adjustable silicon base.

 

The real question is: will the Google Home Max sound as good as the company claims? The answer is, most likely, no. Smart speakers don’t have a very good track record when it comes to audio quality. That’s why many smart speaker owners look for alternative ways to playback their music, especially for multi-room. To achieve excellent wireless multi-room, or multi-device set ups, entertainment systems need greater reliability over standard Wi-Fi, more precise synchronization, and multichannel capabilities, which smart speakers like Google Home, and the Echo, lack.

 

The good news: Blackfire Research offers the most synchronous, reliable, and cost effective wireless solution on the market. We call it the Blackfire RED framework, and it can be embedded into premium wireless speakers and voice-activated smart speakers, creating a truly connected home smart entertainment system. Voice service solutions require a high performance, multi-room solution like the Blackfire RED framework, allowing for multiple devices to respond to voice commands simultaneously.

 

Combining individual entertainment systems to work together to create a truly connected smart home is non trivial – but with Blackfire RED, it can be done, and with stunning results. Blackfire RED can be integrated into a broad spectrum of high quality voice service applications, so the Blackfire connected smart home ecosystem has no limits.  

 

Harman Kardon, Pioneer, and Onkyo are leveraging Blackfire’s technology in over 100 new products this year alone. Join the Blackfire Revolution today!

Amazon Unveils Next Gen Echo Products

Amazon Unveils Next Gen Echo Products

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Recently, Amazon unveiled a plethora of new Echo products. From a true smart home hub to buttons that will come in handy during your next family game night, here is everything that Amazon unveiled at their September 27th event, and what it means for the future of the smart home.

 

Amazon has officially retired their original Echo smart speaker (RIP: 2014-2017) and replaced it with a second generation version at $99. The first update to the world’s most popular smart speaker sees a shorter, more compact design and a dedicated bass tweeter. The new Echo will come in six different styles: Charcoal, Heather, and Sandstone fabric or Walnut, Oak, and Silver finish. More importantly, Amazon is promoting an Echo “three-pack” for multi-room audio. The company first announced multi-room audio capabilities back in August, but have only started to heavily promote the feature with the unveiling of the new Echo smart speaker. There hasn’t been much testing yet of the new multi-room feature, so the jury is still out on whether or not Echo provides a synchronous, reliable performance across all devices throughout the home. Unlike Blackfire RED framework enabled smart devices, the Echo can not support multi-channel or low-latency for audio/video lip sync.

 

Additionally, the Echo is now able to make calls throughout North America. Amazon clearly wants the Echo to replace your home phone, and to help push the idea, they’ve also introduced the Echo Connect – a device that is tied to your existing home phone number that allows you to make landline calls through Alexa.

 

Amazon also rolled out the Echo Plus, which looks more like the original Echo than the Echo 2.0. The Echo Plus is the first one specifically designed to be used as a true smart home hub. With it, you can control compatible smart lights, locks, and thermostats. The Echo Plus also uses Zigbee so it’s compatible with more smart devices on the market. The Echo Plus has updated voice-recognition so you can talk to it from further away or in noisy settings, and more advanced speakers. Price-wise, the Echo Plus is comparable to the original Echo, at $149.

 

Amazon also introduced the Echo Spot, a sort of smart alarm clock with a 2.5-inch screen, that can be placed anywhere in the house and can be used for more than just an alarm in the mornings. The Echo Spot can make video calls and can play music through it’s own speakers or connect to external ones via cable or Bluetooth. The Echo Spot can do pretty much anything the Echo can do, but it’s much more compact and it has a screen. But this isn’t the first (and only) Echo product with a screen: Amazon released the Echo Show earlier this year to not overly positive reviews. Now, it seems that they’ve simplified and improved their interface for the Echo Spot. And at $130 for this little gadget, they needed to.

 

Lastly, Amazon introduced Echo Buttons: little discs that connect to your Echo device that you can use to play trivia games with your friends and family (with Alexa as the game-show host). The Echo Buttons light up in cool colors and can be purchased in pairs for $20.

 

So what does this mean for the the smart home of the future? Well, for one thing, Amazon has, once again, positioned itself to be the leader of smart home technology. However, they’ve got some serious competition. Google has also unveiled a whole new suite of products (which we will discuss in a later blog post) that may give Amazon a run for their money. As more and more smart home devices are gaining in popularity, it’ll be interesting to watch how manufacturers choose to align their brands and products with either Alexa or Google Assistant (or perhaps both). The war rages on!