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Which Amazon Echo is Best for Me?

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Which Amazon Each should you choose?

Amazon now has 3 versions of its popular Echo speaker, home automation, information hub, thingy. bluetooth speaker that does wi-fi streaming of Internet radio all on its own. But it also can hear your spoken commands to play songs or stations. Playing songs does require you have an Amazon Prime account however, and even that is a bit limited but still fulfilling considering the low cost and total return of an Prime account. But that is for another article, onto the choosing the best Echo for you.
Besides playing streaming music it can control your lights, thermostat, door locks, read you the news, tell you how your sports teams are doing, tell you the weather, and a lot more. Yeah, it's pretty difficult to classify this device. The original one is a

Here are three scenarios for consideration.

I listen to music and want the simplest solution for one room

This situation is easy. The original Amazon Echo is your best choice. It's a singular device that has touch-free (you can be across the room) interaction capability that lets you talk to it to chose a station on Pandora, iHeart Radio or Amazon music as well as others. It also will tell you the weather and do all the other cool Echo tricks.

I want to move around the house or yard or go to the beach

The Echo Tap would be your best choice here. With 9 hour battery life and all the normal Echo features you'll be free as a bird to listen and ask wherever you are. Be warned that the price of this freedom is you'll have to "tap" a button on the front of the Echo in order to get it to listen. This will be worth it given it's freedom to move and the neat charging station that comes with it. If you mostly listen to music and don't plan on a lot of interaction with the device, like obsessively asking Alexa questions, then this is your best choice.

You want the best music experience along with the power of Amazon Echo's Alexa

The only device of the three Echo's is the Amazon Echo Dot. This small, puck sized device has a speaker but it's not designed to play musics. But it does have something the other Amazon Echo's don't have, a 3.5mm audio out jack. This allows you to attach the Echo to any powered speaker or home audio system for a full stereo experience. Oh and it also has the 7 mic array as the original Echo so you can talk to it without touching it. Nice.

So that's it. Choose the Amazon Echo that's best for you and start your first experience into the world of intelligent devices. See below for a handy chart showing the key differences between the different Echo devices. If you found this helpful, please share, and thanks for reading!




Help, My Home Theater Speakers Don't Work

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Speakers don't often break, really, they don't. But when they do you're sitting there hurting without the music. Fortunately speakers are pretty simple things, there just isn't much to them. As often as not  if you're not hearing the music it's another link in the audio chain that's causing the problem. Let's examine the flow of the audio and music in a typical home theater system first.

 
Banana plugs

  1. We're going to assume that all the electronics are plugged in and receiving electricity. Right? Is your surge protector plugged in?
  2. In most cases the example above where the cable, blu ray player and TV all feed into (and out of in the case of the TV) AV Receiver via an HDMI port. Check these first.
  3. If any of your connections are via a RCA or Digital Optical Cable then you should check these next. 
  4. After securing all the cables check the to be sure all your speaker cables are plugged in, and not touching each other. If you wear glasses, use them please. It's easy to miss one strand of speaker wire hitting an adjacent terminal and shorting out you sound. Using banana plugs helps eliminate this problem. 
  5. If some of your speakers are working and others are not and the wires are correct then try swapping out the speaker from one side to the other to eliminate that it's the receiver that is malfunctioning. 
  6. If the speaker sounds muffled, or tinny then one of the drivers might be out. Here's where it gets tricky. It's generally easy to replace a speaker in a cabinet but unless you purchase it from the manufacturer you risk having distinctly different sound from that speaker.

This all assumes that we're looking at an all wired system. If your surround sound speakers are wireless surrounds or you're feeding the audio or audio and video via bluetooth from a phone or tablet, you'll need to check that source as well.

I know the check list above sounds basic but you cannot imagine the number of times someone has called me and one of the above was the culprit. 

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Wireless TV Speaker for Easier Listening

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If you are hearing impaired or just want to not disturb your partner while watching TV in bed at night a wireless TV speaker might be just the thing for you.

Although soundbars and sound bases sound great and can increase your ability to hear a TV from a distance, a Wireless TV speaker can sit next to you on your night stand or end table as you watch TV.

Best way to hear a TV in your bedroom at night

A portable, wireless TV speaker is often a better solution to hearing a television at night than a soundbar or even wireless headphones. Soundbars are too far away and the volume they need to be at may disturb your partner or other household members. Headphones can be uncomfortable and could wake you if you fall asleep with them on.

A portable, rechargeable TV speaker can sit in it's base by the TV and on your night stand at night offering clear, easier to hear sound without blasting out the entire house.

How do wireless TV speakers work?

Regardless of the technology used, the basic principal is a base unit takes the output from the television and sends it to the speaker across the room. If your TV is less than 30-40 feet from the speaker it will often be a bluetooth speaker, not that the technology matters that much.

Is my TV compatible with these speakers?

If your TV is less than 15 years old the answer is likely yes. You'll have either an audio in the form of a headphone jack or a pair of RCA plugs that can output the audio to the base unit.

What are the best TV wireless speakers I can get?

We could only find one pre-packaged TV audio solution we'd recommend if you're not technically inclined. That is the Serene Innovations TV portable speaker (pictured above). It does not require extra components and setup. If you have even a little savvy in the tech department you can hook up almost any bluetooth speaker using a bluetooth adapter like those shown below. It may also require some accessories.

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Soundbar vs Sound base, which is better?

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Sadly, not everyone has the money or space to have a more traditional 5.1 speaker system with surround receiver for their home theater setup. For that matter a lot of people likely don't care. Today you have choices of many ways to make your TV sound better.
Soundbar with sub and surround speakers

What is a soundbar or sound base?

Basically a soundbar is a powered speaker. In most cases they are 2.1 speaker systems, meaning they have a left and right channel with a possible external bass speaker. Therefore the 1 in the 2.1. Though they leave out the center channel speaker where dialog usually comes from they often do a decent job of faking out your ears by using electronics to hear the stereo in a broader pattern and the voices dead center.

What is the difference between a sound bar and a sound base?

Typical soundbar without subwoffer
A soundbar is simply a bar with 2 or 3 channels of speakers in it that sits either in front of or mounted on the wall under your TV. They sometimes will have a subwoofer wired or wireless to add bass. Most sound bars need the subwoofer to produce reasonable movie theater bass since they are relatively small.

A Sound base has a wider, deeper box that sits "under" your television. One advantage is that it allows for a much larger cavity for an integrated bass speaker, eliminating the need for a separate subwoofer. Sound base's were originally popularized by ZVox but are now made by just about everyone.

Take a trip to your local big box or warehouse store to listen to a few of the soundbars and sound bases. Newer models sound remarkably good for casual movie watching.
Typical Sound base

Features to look for:

  • 2.1 meaning they have integrated bass
  • 3.1 meaning they also have a center channel in addition to a bass speaker
  • Dolby
  • Surround (usually electornically produced so you don't need additional speakers)
  • Bluetooth to hook up your phone
Pricing usually runs between $70 and $400 an up depending on brand and overall quality. Caution on spending more than $400 on an item like this, the returns are diminishing. Once you get above this price point I'd steer you toward a full 5.2 or 7.1 speaker system with a receiver for a much better surround experience. 

Which is better? 

This depends on your specific needs and taste. If your TV is wall mounted a sound bar will almost always be the better choice. If your TV sits on a piece of furniture and you don't want something sitting in front of the TV than a sound base is an excellent choice and will offer great bass without the hassle of finding a home for a subwoofer. 

What's the difference between noise isolating and cancelling headphones

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If you want to stop noise from getting into your music there are a few options to consider. There are lots of options and lots of confusing terms to deal with to determine the best noise cancelling option for you.

How noise cancelling headphones work

Noise cancelling headphones reduce external noise by cancelling out certain consistent frequencies they "listen" to in your environment with a microphone. They use that to cancel that sound with an off-setting out before it reaches your ear. There are technical explanations here but in genearl they work very well for things like jet engines, air conditioning, tire noise, vacuum cleaners and anything else that has a constant droning sound. Unfortunately noise canceling will do nothing to keep you from hearing the person in the cube next to your or your kids.

What are noise isolating headphones?

Noise Isolating in ear
Noise isolating headphones reduce all external noise equally, no matter what the source is, even talking. How do they work? They accomplish this by physically blocking outside noise from reaching your ears. Over ear headphones with enclosed backs do this well as do in-ear headphones which fit snugly inside your ear canal. Open air headphones of any type will not be noise isolating.

Types of noise cancelling headphones and earbuds
Bose In ear buds

As mentioned there are closed back and in-ear noise cancelling. Both work equally as well. It depends on if which style you're more comfortable with. Personally over ear head phones with a few exceptions (higher end Sony headphones) will start hurting my ears after about an hour or two. If you have smaller ears this may not be a problem for you.
Bose Closed Back over ear


Closed back over ear headphones


Over ear noise cancelling headphones offer good isolation of external noise as well as comfort to those who prefer not to stick something in their ear canal. They also have the benefit of having the electronics that do the noise cancellation inside the headphone.

In ear, or ear bud noise cancelling headphones will fully block the ear canal offering some isolation in addition to electronic cancellation but have an small external box to house the electronics. For me this is worth it but you might find it annoying. Be very careful that what you're getting has active electronics and is not a noise isolating headphone purporting to have cancellation.

Which is better?

If you are trying to block out white noise type sounds like a jet engine then noise cancelling is the way to go. If you want to partially block our your coworkers than noise isolating works just as well. As for in ear or over ear it depends on which you're more comfortable with. If you usually wear over ear headphones then that's your best choice. If you prefer in ear headphones like I do, then that's the way to go.

Which do you perfer?

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