Garmin’s new Fenix 7 smartwatches get a touchscreen and a flashlight

If you want a Garmin that screams "adventure" the Fenix line is the one to go for. The premium range of multi-sport GPS watches has come a long way over the last 10 years, and the new 7-series adds a few new tricks. 

Most notably, Fenix 7 line will now include touchscreens. It might seem something of an odd omission thus far, but the great outdoors tends to mean gloves, sweat, motion and the elements — all of which can play havoc with a touchscreen. As such, it'll be interesting to see how responsive it is under active conditions. Although other Garmin watches, like the Venu and vivoactive lines, have had touchscreens for a while so this isn't a first for the company by any stretch, but a new addition to the Fenix line.

Another addition includes a new multi-LED flashlight. Handy for those camping trips or early morning/late night runs. Not only is it a general-purpose light, but it can also alternate between red and white as you run, matching your personal cadence, so traffic or cyclists can be alerted to your presence (and direction).

As usual, the Fenix comes in three models/sizes: the 7S/7 and premium 7X which measure 42, 47 and 51 mm across respectively. All have solar-charging options and Garmin claims the new casing includes a larger screen surface area which could see solar gains doubling over the Fenix 6 line. This potentially puts the total time between charges (without using GPS) at up to five weeks, which is pretty impressive for a smartwatch of this size.

Beyond the hardware changes on the Fenix, there are some new advanced training modes too. These include Real-Time Stamina, Visual Race Predictor, Recovery Time Advison and Daily Workout Suggestions. These features join the already extensive offering of topo-maps, golf courses and surf/snow features that lie hidden within the Fenix's extensive sporting options.

All the models and varieties in the Fenix 7 line are available as of today, starting at $700

Garmin’s new Fenix 7 smartwatches get a touchscreen and a flashlight

If you want a Garmin that screams "adventure" the Fenix line is the one to go for. The premium range of multi-sport GPS watches has come a long way over the last 10 years, and the new 7-series adds a few new tricks. 

Most notably, Fenix 7 line will now include touchscreens. It might seem something of an odd omission thus far, but the great outdoors tends to mean gloves, sweat, motion and the elements — all of which can play havoc with a touchscreen. As such, it'll be interesting to see how responsive it is under active conditions. Although other Garmin watches, like the Venu and vivoactive lines, have had touchscreens for a while so this isn't a first for the company by any stretch, but a new addition to the Fenix line.

Another addition includes a new multi-LED flashlight. Handy for those camping trips or early morning/late night runs. Not only is it a general-purpose light, but it can also alternate between red and white as you run, matching your personal cadence, so traffic or cyclists can be alerted to your presence (and direction).

As usual, the Fenix comes in three models/sizes: the 7S/7 and premium 7X which measure 42, 47 and 51 mm across respectively. All have solar-charging options and Garmin claims the new casing includes a larger screen surface area which could see solar gains doubling over the Fenix 6 line. This potentially puts the total time between charges (without using GPS) at up to five weeks, which is pretty impressive for a smartwatch of this size.

Beyond the hardware changes on the Fenix, there are some new advanced training modes too. These include Real-Time Stamina, Visual Race Predictor, Recovery Time Advison and Daily Workout Suggestions. These features join the already extensive offering of topo-maps, golf courses and surf/snow features that lie hidden within the Fenix's extensive sporting options.

All the models and varieties in the Fenix 7 line are available as of today, starting at $700

Khadas’ Tea DAC is a compelling MagSafe accessory

As more music streaming services introduce lossless or high-definition audio to their offerings, interest in DACs (digital-to-analog converters, or “headphone amplifiers”) has picked up pace — so much so we created this guide. What was once the reserve of audiophiles is slowly becoming a go-to gadget for those who want more than what their phone and AirPods can deliver. But they’re not without caveats. For one, they’re often expensive, and sometimes they aren’t much smaller than the phone you’re attaching them to. Enter the Tea DAC by Khadas.

Khadas started out making media-friendly single board computers (SBC - think… media-specific Raspberry Pi type things) before moving on to desktop DACs. Tea is the company’s first mobile DAC and it appears to be primarily targeted at iPhone users – though it’s also compatible with Android. The reason I suggest it’s more apt for Apple’s phones is that it’s MagSafe compatible. Combine that with the slim, iPhone-esque all-metal design and it solves one of the main problems with mobile DACs: Having something heavy hanging out the back of your phone.

With the Tea, it sticks to the back of your phone and the low profile makes it only a little more noticeable than Apple’s own MagSafe wallets. You can, of course, find MagSafe capable cases for Android, but your phone and budget will be a factor.

Beyond the slick form factor, the Tea doesn’t scrimp on its codec support. Over USB/Lightning, the Tea can handle audio right up to 32bit/384kHz. Given that most mainstream music services don’t offer anything above 192kHz, streamers will be more than covered. Similarly, the Tea can decode MQA (Tidal) along with DSD, AAC, FLAC, APE, OGG and all the standard formats (WAV/MP3 etc.). If you prefer to go wireless, the Tea also supports LDAC and AptX HD over Bluetooth.

Tea is a mobile DAC for streaming lossless audio to your phone.
James Trew / Engadget

Here I should mention that, for all its iPhone friendliness, Apple doesn’t offer either LDAC or AptX HD support in its flagship phones. You can still use the Bluetooth functionality in Tea, but you won’t be able to enjoy the higher-quality formats. Though it does at least mean you can charge your phone while still using the DAC or you can wander around with the smaller Tea connected to your headphones rather than your mobile. There are plenty of Android phones that do support LDAC/AptX HD, but you’ll need to check the manufacturer website to confirm (most Pixels, Samsung flagships and OnePlus phones offer LDAC/AptX HD decoding).

There are a few things you won’t find here, but most of those fall into the higher end of audio. For example, there’s only a regular 3.5mm headphone jack – no option for 2.5 or 4.4mm balanced cans at this point (though rumor has it that a “Pro” version with that might be on the way). There’s also limited feedback about what codec/audio quality you’re currently receiving, with just a simple color-changing LED indicating the format, which you can’t see unless the phone is face down. Inputs are limited to USB-C, so it’ll work with your phone and PC, but no line in.

This puts the Tea in an interesting category. It’s perfectly capable for people that want the most out of their streaming service and even should appeal to audiophiles looking for a discreet option that covers most bases. But at $199 it’s a reasonable spend. Perhaps its most obvious competitor is the BTR5 from Fiio. That’s also a portable DAC with high-res Bluetooth support along with a similar selection of cabled formats (also up to 32bit/384kHz with MQA support). Oh, and the Fiio offers a balanced headphone option, too (2.5mm). When you factor in that the BTR5 also typically retails for $159, you have to really want that slim, MagSafe design.

That’s not to undersell it though. I tested the BTR5 and the Tea side by side, and the sheer convenience of the Tea was obvious. With the Fiio, your phone feels tethered, almost weighed down by the DAC. With the Tea, it’s similar to using one of those iPhone cases with a battery in it – a little more thickness, but you can still operate the phone as you normally would.

The Tea also has a much bigger battery capacity – 1,160 mAh compared to the Fiio’s 550 mAh. This obviously isn’t an audio benefit, but it soon becomes one if you plan on listening for extended periods or being away from a charging option for more than a few hours. Which, given the mobile nature of these devices feels like a reasonable possibility.

Tea mobile DAC connected to an iPhone.
James Trew / Engadget

I am, however, not a huge fan of the user interface. The Tea has three buttons: One on the left and two on the right. The single button works as a power switch or to summon your virtual assistant. The two buttons on the other side will either control volume or skip tracks. You toggle between volume and skip mode with a dual press of the power button and the top button on the other side. It works… fine, but it’s not very elegant. Also, if you leave it in track skip mode and go to adjust the volume, you’re going to be on the next track before you know it. A minor, but frustrating thing.

In wired mode, the Tea pumps out robust, loud, clear audio. It’s maybe not quite as loud as some other DACs. Even the diminutive Firefly gives the Tea a run for its money there. But, the sound you do get is clean and full of gain, and that’s the goal here: Take a good signal and let it be heard without colorization.

Beyond its primary function as a DAC, it also won’t get in the way of taking calls. A pair of mics on the base of the Tea allow you to talk without having to fall back to the mic on your phone. What’s more, the mics on the Tea are several leagues better than the one on the iPhone, especially when speaking to it while it’s resting on the desk. You can also set the Tea to charge via your phone if you’re running low on juice, or disable this feature to not tax the battery on your handset if you prefer.

All in all, the Tea is a welcome addition to a growing category. At $199 it’s not the cheapest for the feature set, but its well-thought-out design and aesthetic also make it pretty convenient and discreet. Unfortunately, if this all sounds up your alley, then you’ll have to wait a little longer. While Khadas clearly is production-ready, the company is choosing to go the Indiegogo route, with the campaign slated to go live in the coming weeks.

Khadas’ Tea DAC is a compelling MagSafe accessory

As more music streaming services introduce lossless or high-definition audio to their offerings, interest in DACs (digital-to-analog converters, or “headphone amplifiers”) has picked up pace — so much so we created this guide. What was once the reserve of audiophiles is slowly becoming a go-to gadget for those who want more than what their phone and AirPods can deliver. But they’re not without caveats. For one, they’re often expensive, and sometimes they aren’t much smaller than the phone you’re attaching them to. Enter the Tea DAC by Khadas.

Khadas started out making media-friendly single board computers (SBC - think… media-specific Raspberry Pi type things) before moving on to desktop DACs. Tea is the company’s first mobile DAC and it appears to be primarily targeted at iPhone users – though it’s also compatible with Android. The reason I suggest it’s more apt for Apple’s phones is that it’s MagSafe compatible. Combine that with the slim, iPhone-esque all-metal design and it solves one of the main problems with mobile DACs: Having something heavy hanging out the back of your phone.

With the Tea, it sticks to the back of your phone and the low profile makes it only a little more noticeable than Apple’s own MagSafe wallets. You can, of course, find MagSafe capable cases for Android, but your phone and budget will be a factor.

Beyond the slick form factor, the Tea doesn’t scrimp on its codec support. Over USB/Lightning, the Tea can handle audio right up to 32bit/384kHz. Given that most mainstream music services don’t offer anything above 192kHz, streamers will be more than covered. Similarly, the Tea can decode MQA (Tidal) along with DSD, AAC, FLAC, APE, OGG and all the standard formats (WAV/MP3 etc.). If you prefer to go wireless, the Tea also supports LDAC and AptX HD over Bluetooth.

Tea is a mobile DAC for streaming lossless audio to your phone.
James Trew / Engadget

Here I should mention that, for all its iPhone friendliness, Apple doesn’t offer either LDAC or AptX HD support in its flagship phones. You can still use the Bluetooth functionality in Tea, but you won’t be able to enjoy the higher-quality formats. Though it does at least mean you can charge your phone while still using the DAC or you can wander around with the smaller Tea connected to your headphones rather than your mobile. There are plenty of Android phones that do support LDAC/AptX HD, but you’ll need to check the manufacturer website to confirm (most Pixels, Samsung flagships and OnePlus phones offer LDAC/AptX HD decoding).

There are a few things you won’t find here, but most of those fall into the higher end of audio. For example, there’s only a regular 3.5mm headphone jack – no option for 2.5 or 4.4mm balanced cans at this point (though rumor has it that a “Pro” version with that might be on the way). There’s also limited feedback about what codec/audio quality you’re currently receiving, with just a simple color-changing LED indicating the format, which you can’t see unless the phone is face down. Inputs are limited to USB-C, so it’ll work with your phone and PC, but no line in.

This puts the Tea in an interesting category. It’s perfectly capable for people that want the most out of their streaming service and even should appeal to audiophiles looking for a discreet option that covers most bases. But at $199 it’s a reasonable spend. Perhaps its most obvious competitor is the BTR5 from Fiio. That’s also a portable DAC with high-res Bluetooth support along with a similar selection of cabled formats (also up to 32bit/384kHz with MQA support). Oh, and the Fiio offers a balanced headphone option, too (2.5mm). When you factor in that the BTR5 also typically retails for $159, you have to really want that slim, MagSafe design.

That’s not to undersell it though. I tested the BTR5 and the Tea side by side, and the sheer convenience of the Tea was obvious. With the Fiio, your phone feels tethered, almost weighed down by the DAC. With the Tea, it’s similar to using one of those iPhone cases with a battery in it – a little more thickness, but you can still operate the phone as you normally would.

The Tea also has a much bigger battery capacity – 1,160 mAh compared to the Fiio’s 550 mAh. This obviously isn’t an audio benefit, but it soon becomes one if you plan on listening for extended periods or being away from a charging option for more than a few hours. Which, given the mobile nature of these devices feels like a reasonable possibility.

Tea mobile DAC connected to an iPhone.
James Trew / Engadget

I am, however, not a huge fan of the user interface. The Tea has three buttons: One on the left and two on the right. The single button works as a power switch or to summon your virtual assistant. The two buttons on the other side will either control volume or skip tracks. You toggle between volume and skip mode with a dual press of the power button and the top button on the other side. It works… fine, but it’s not very elegant. Also, if you leave it in track skip mode and go to adjust the volume, you’re going to be on the next track before you know it. A minor, but frustrating thing.

In wired mode, the Tea pumps out robust, loud, clear audio. It’s maybe not quite as loud as some other DACs. Even the diminutive Firefly gives the Tea a run for its money there. But, the sound you do get is clean and full of gain, and that’s the goal here: Take a good signal and let it be heard without colorization.

Beyond its primary function as a DAC, it also won’t get in the way of taking calls. A pair of mics on the base of the Tea allow you to talk without having to fall back to the mic on your phone. What’s more, the mics on the Tea are several leagues better than the one on the iPhone, especially when speaking to it while it’s resting on the desk. You can also set the Tea to charge via your phone if you’re running low on juice, or disable this feature to not tax the battery on your handset if you prefer.

All in all, the Tea is a welcome addition to a growing category. At $199 it’s not the cheapest for the feature set, but its well-thought-out design and aesthetic also make it pretty convenient and discreet. Unfortunately, if this all sounds up your alley, then you’ll have to wait a little longer. While Khadas clearly is production-ready, the company is choosing to go the Indiegogo route, with the campaign slated to go live in the coming weeks.

Keychron’s Q2 is a compact take on its popular customizable keyboard

Keychron pleasantly surprised mechanical keyboard fans when it announced the Q1. It was the company’s first foray into fully customizable keyboards, and we liked it a lot. Today it’s the turn of the Q2, which is a smaller (65% or no “function key”) version of the Q1. Despite the reduced footprint, it retails for the same price, starting at $149 for the barebone or $169 if you want it fully assembled – cheaper than much of the competition.

When we tested the Q1 we liked it a lot. It offered the same level of configuration as the much-loved GMMK Pro for about $100 less. That said, the selling point of the GMMK Pro (in this author’s opinion) is all about those luxurious “Lubed Panda” switches and the firm, responsive typing experience. The “Panda” is GMMK’s own “switch” which for those that don’t hang out at Drop and/or use a “mech” are the mechanical part of the key – the important bit, really, as that’s mostly what will define how the keyboard “feels.”

As with the Q1, the Q2 is compatible with VIA configuration software (and thus QMK) which easily allows you to remap keys to almost anything, create macros and more. Also like the Q1 (and the GMMK Pro and increasingly others) there’s the option to replace the top-right-most key (Insert) with a clickable rotary for volume and media control.

I’ll admit, after using the GMMK Pro for a while now, I find the Gateron Reds that came with the Q2 a little flacid by comparison, but that’s the joy of a customizable keyboard, you can use whatever switches you like (or change out more or less any other part). You could even load it with the Pandas if you wish, though that would require a (lot of) extra spend.

The Q2 remains USB only (no wireless) but is still compatible with either Windows or Mac and the corresponding OS-specific keycaps are included in the box. It’s also just as rugged and well built as the Q1 with the all-metal casing. You can choose between three colors thereof: Black, gray and navy blue.

Ultimately, the selling point of the Q2 boils down to whether you prefer a compact keyboard or to have access to physical function keys (they’re still accessible here with shortcuts obviously).

The Q2 is also joined by some other relatively new additions. Keychron is prolific if nothing else. In particular, there’s the lightweight/70% K14 which is both wireless and has hot-swappable switches for a more affordable on-the-go option that retails for a modest $59. The company also recently unveiled its first mouse wired the M1. It’s visually quite similar to the Razer Viper ($39) but also bears more than a passing resemblance to the Glorious O (also from the same people behind the GMMK Pro).

Orders for the Keychron Q2 are open as of today.

Keychron’s Q2 is a compact take on its popular customizable keyboard

Keychron pleasantly surprised mechanical keyboard fans when it announced the Q1. It was the company’s first foray into fully customizable keyboards, and we liked it a lot. Today it’s the turn of the Q2, which is a smaller (65% or no “function key”) version of the Q1. Despite the reduced footprint, it retails for the same price, starting at $149 for the barebone or $169 if you want it fully assembled – cheaper than much of the competition.

When we tested the Q1 we liked it a lot. It offered the same level of configuration as the much-loved GMMK Pro for about $100 less. That said, the selling point of the GMMK Pro (in this author’s opinion) is all about those luxurious “Lubed Panda” switches and the firm, responsive typing experience. The “Panda” is GMMK’s own “switch” which for those that don’t hang out at Drop and/or use a “mech” are the mechanical part of the key – the important bit, really, as that’s mostly what will define how the keyboard “feels.”

As with the Q1, the Q2 is compatible with VIA configuration software (and thus QMK) which easily allows you to remap keys to almost anything, create macros and more. Also like the Q1 (and the GMMK Pro and increasingly others) there’s the option to replace the top-right-most key (Insert) with a clickable rotary for volume and media control.

I’ll admit, after using the GMMK Pro for a while now, I find the Gateron Reds that came with the Q2 a little flacid by comparison, but that’s the joy of a customizable keyboard, you can use whatever switches you like (or change out more or less any other part). You could even load it with the Pandas if you wish, though that would require a (lot of) extra spend.

The Q2 remains USB only (no wireless) but is still compatible with either Windows or Mac and the corresponding OS-specific keycaps are included in the box. It’s also just as rugged and well built as the Q1 with the all-metal casing. You can choose between three colors thereof: Black, gray and navy blue.

Ultimately, the selling point of the Q2 boils down to whether you prefer a compact keyboard or to have access to physical function keys (they’re still accessible here with shortcuts obviously).

The Q2 is also joined by some other relatively new additions. Keychron is prolific if nothing else. In particular, there’s the lightweight/70% K14 which is both wireless and has hot-swappable switches for a more affordable on-the-go option that retails for a modest $59. The company also recently unveiled its first mouse wired the M1. It’s visually quite similar to the Razer Viper ($39) but also bears more than a passing resemblance to the Glorious O (also from the same people behind the GMMK Pro).

Orders for the Keychron Q2 are open as of today.

Rode’s VideoMic Go II changed my opinion on what a shotgun mic can do

Whenever someone asks “what’s the best microphone” the response is usually “well it depends what you’re recording.” Rode’s new VideoMic Go II, as the name suggests, wouldn’t be suitable for podcasting. Would it?

Very clearly, the VideoMic Go II was designed to sit atop a camera. That’s just a fact, but with USB and 3.5mm outputs and compatibility with Rode Connect – the company’s USB-friendly podcasting app – it turns out this lightweight, $99 mic could be more versatile than it first seems.

If you are looking for a mic for your DSLR, know that the VideoMic Go II has a cold shoe mount, the aforementioned 3.5mm out (which can also be used for monitoring) and it comes bundled with a Rycote shock mount and a windscreen in the box. There’s no secondary/safety/stereo recording here or on-mic gain control, but that’s normal for something in this price range.

Performance-wise, the sound is surprisingly rich for a mic of this size without sounding too “dead.” There’s no notable difference between the audio you get out of the USB port compared to the 3.5mm port bar a little variation in gain. When comparing it against Rode’s VideoMic Me and VideoMic NTG, the VideoMic Go II might well be my favorite of the bunch. It’s natural, focused with just the right amount of ambiance/sense of space.

Where the VideoMic Go II gets more interesting is how it performs in other use cases. When plugged into a computer and placed on a desk the VideoMic Go II sounds just as robust as far more expensive dynamic microphones. So much so it threw me for a moment.

Perhaps the best illustration of this is when I tested it against the $400 Shure SM7B and Rode’s own $99 NT USB Mini. Given that both of the Rodes in this test are condenser microphones and cost about the same, you might think those two would be the nearer match, but it turns out that the VideoMic Go II sounded much closer to the SM7B. This isn’t to say it’s as good as the SM7B (there’s a little more depth in the Shure and a touch more dynamic range perhaps) but given the disparity in price, it definitely wasn’t expected.

This similarity is further compounded when you consider that the different type of capsule – Rode’s condenser versus Shure’s dynamic – alone would typically give them a very different sound. You can hear all three microphones in the sample below. It starts with the Shure, then the VideoMic Go II and then the NT Mini. The transition between the first two is subtle, yet the last one is obvious. Oh, and the VideoMic Go II was about two inches further away from my mouth than the SM7B was.

Of course, this is just one test, in one scenario in one specific room. But for a quick comparison of what a $400 mic can do off the cuff compared to a $99 one, it’s a good starting point. Despite the lack of on-device controls, there are some configurable options via Rode Central. When connected to the app (mobile or desktop) you’ll have the option to tweak the gain level, apply a high pass filter / high-frequency boost and adjust the monitoring volume. It’s less convenient than physical on-mic controls, but still allows you some control over how it sounds or responds to different inputs. (If you're wondering, the audio above starts with the SM7B and switches to the VideoMic Go II at "two condenser microphones").

Given that Rode added compatibility for Connect, and the USB option makes it phone and tablet-friendly, suddenly the VideoMic Go II could very well be a good all-rounder for the price. A mic that has video chops but can also do double duty as a podcast mic (and, therefore an all-purpose computer mic) there appears to be a lot of bang for the veritable buck.

Of course, if you really do need something that records a safety channel, has physical variable gain controls or if XLR connectivity is a must, this isn’t the one to go for. But for most general creator uses? It finally might not entirely “depend on what you’re recording.”

Rode’s VideoMic Go II changed my opinion on what a shotgun mic can do

Whenever someone asks “what’s the best microphone” the response is usually “well it depends what you’re recording.” Rode’s new VideoMic Go II, as the name suggests, wouldn’t be suitable for podcasting. Would it?

Very clearly, the VideoMic Go II was designed to sit atop a camera. That’s just a fact, but with USB and 3.5mm outputs and compatibility with Rode Connect – the company’s USB-friendly podcasting app – it turns out this lightweight, $99 mic could be more versatile than it first seems.

If you are looking for a mic for your DSLR, know that the VideoMic Go II has a cold shoe mount, the aforementioned 3.5mm out (which can also be used for monitoring) and it comes bundled with a Rycote shock mount and a windscreen in the box. There’s no secondary/safety/stereo recording here or on-mic gain control, but that’s normal for something in this price range.

Performance-wise, the sound is surprisingly rich for a mic of this size without sounding too “dead.” There’s no notable difference between the audio you get out of the USB port compared to the 3.5mm port bar a little variation in gain. When comparing it against Rode’s VideoMic Me and VideoMic NTG, the VideoMic Go II might well be my favorite of the bunch. It’s natural, focused with just the right amount of ambiance/sense of space.

Where the VideoMic Go II gets more interesting is how it performs in other use cases. When plugged into a computer and placed on a desk the VideoMic Go II sounds just as robust as far more expensive dynamic microphones. So much so it threw me for a moment.

Perhaps the best illustration of this is when I tested it against the $400Shure SM7B and Rode’s own $99 NT USB Mini. Given that both of the Rodes in this test are condenser microphones and cost about the same, you might think those two would be the nearer match, but it turns out that the VideoMic Go II sounded much closer to the SM7B. This isn’t to say it’s as good as the SM7B (there’s a little more depth in the Shure and a touch more dynamic range perhaps) but given the disparity in price, it definitely wasn’t expected.

This similarity is further compounded when you consider that the different type of capsule – Rode’s condenser versus Shure’s dynamic – alone would typically give them a very different sound. You can hear all three microphones in the sample below. It starts with the Shure, then the VideoMic Go II and then the NT Mini. The transition between the first two is subtle, yet the last one is obvious. Oh, and the VideoMic Go II was about two inches further away from my mouth than the SM7B was.

Of course, this is just one test, in one scenario in one specific room. But for a quick comparison of what a $400 mic can do off the cuff compared to a $99 one, it’s a good starting point. Despite the lack of on-device controls, there are some configurable options via Rode Central. When connected to the app (mobile or desktop) you’ll have the option to tweak the gain level, apply a high pass filter / high-frequency boost and adjust the monitoring volume. It’s less convenient than physical on-mic controls, but still allows you some control over how it sounds or responds to different inputs. (If you're wondering, the audio above starts with the SM7B and switches to the VideoMic Go II at "two condenser microphones").

Given that Rode added compatibility for Connect, and the USB option makes it phone and tablet-friendly, suddenly the VideoMic Go II could very well be a good all-rounder for the price. A mic that has video chops but can also do double duty as a podcast mic (and, therefore an all-purpose computer mic) there appears to be a lot of bang for the veritable buck.

Of course, if you really do need something that records a safety channel, has physical variable gain controls or if XLR connectivity is a must, this isn’t the one to go for. But for most general creator uses? It finally might not entirely “depend on what you’re recording.”

512 Audio debuts its first ‘studio-inspired’ USB mics for creators

Another year of restrictions means the excuses for not starting that podcast are surely drying up. If your last one was “I can’t find a USB mic I like,” then 512 Audio might be about to ruin your (procrastinator’s) day. The company is unveiling two USB microphones at CES this year along with a podcast-friendly audio interface.

If you do (or plan on doing) a lot of vocal work, the $119 Script microphone might be the one to consider. The vintage styling is based on Warm Audio’s WA-14 studio condenser microphone (512 Audio is a subsidiary of Warm). The Script is dual-pattern (Cardioid/Omni) and the dual 14mm capsules are tuned to vocal work, so the company claims. Thanks to its USB connection, the Script offers zero-latency monitoring via a headphone jack and onboard gain/mute controls.

Should you want a microphone that’s a little more versatile, then the $160 Tempest might be a better fit. Like the Script, there are onboard monitoring and volume controls. The Tempest also offers a larger, 34mm capsule, for those that want a more responsive sound. This model, too, is based on one of Warm’s existing microphones – specifically the WA 47Jr. Though we don’t know if these microphones are just USB versions of the ones they mimic or are simply visually inspired by them (at the very least, the WA14 offers more polar patterns than its 512 counterpart).

512 Audio announces a new podcast-friendly audio interface.
512 Audio

With both of the new microphones offering USB connectivity, you won’t need an interface to connect them to your PC, but 512 Audio is unveiling one of their own for those that already have XLR microphones and want to plug them into something a little more podcast friendly than a generic interface.

While there’s no pricing information at this time, the audio interface has two combo ports for the aforementioned XLR mics and or ¼-inch instruments. There’s also a 3.5mm input for phones and other compatible devices. Perfect for introducing a “caller” onto your show or simply for feeding in other audio sources as you see fit. There are two headphone outputs on the front, which is a definite perk for podcasters and even a mute button for the mics which is less common than you might think, and handy in a podcast scenario for talking off-air or avoiding coughs and other unwanted sounds.

Of all the above, the Tempest will be launching first, slated for March this year. The Script will be available in “spring” and the audio interface will come later this year.

Follow all of the latest news from CES 2022 right here!

Eargo’s latest smart hearing aid adapts to your environment

Eargo has been reliably announcing a new model of its smart, near-invisible hearing aids at CES for the last few years now and 2022 is no exception with the introduction of the Eargo 6. As usual, the small black buds take the same completely in canal (CIC) form factor which is what allows them to remain almost entirely out of sight. The "new" stuff is on the inside.

The flagship feature with the Eargo 6 is called "Sound Adjust." No prizes for guessing what this does, but the company claims its proprietary algorithm can automatically sense your surroundings and the hearing aids will automatically optimize themselves to give you the best settings for it. Profiles are a fairly standard feature on most hearing aids, but automatic switching is usually something reserved for the pricier models, and they all do it with different levels of success, in my experience at least.

The difference here is that the Eargo 6 is much smaller than most of the other products that offer similar technologies. Being tiny is great, and the main selling point here, but it also means there's much less real estate to fill with sensors and chips. Regardless, Eargo seems to be figuring out clever ways to bring their offerings up to feature parity with their (physically and metaphorically) larger competition.

Of course, it wouldn't be CES 2022 without a few COVID-related influences. For the last two years, those with hearing loss have faced a new challenge: Conversing with people who are wearing a mask. Not only does this remove any visual feedback, it also muffles sound — a double blow for those struggling to understand you. As such, the company has introduced a "mask mode" that aims to resolve some of the changes in sound that face coverings create.

Other tweaks this time around include revised noise reduction with the company claims further reduces background noise allowing the voice to punch through. The Eargo 6 is also rated IPX7 for water resistance. This means they can be submerged for 30 minutes at a depth of one meter without water damage. In practical terms, this means you can probably leave them in while you shower or go for a quick swim. Or, more logically, you can get them a bit when while cleaning them.

As we're not physically at CES this year, we haven't been able to test them like we normally do, but if previous years are anything to go by the plucky little hearing aid is only getting smarter and more useful. As usual, the Eargo 6 is being sold direct to consumers and will retail for $2,950. In hearing aid terms that's about the going rate for higher-end models, though the company does offer financing options too.

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