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Obsessed with sound

Philips is obsessed with sound.
They're launching a whole new range of audio consumer products with their new technologies.

I had the pleasure of attending a product launch to hear it with my own ears.
Ok -  first things first: they sound pretty good AND they look pretty good too :-)

image image  image 

Could be a cyborg big brother of  image no? 
 
Audiophiles may twinch at their audio-altering technologies as SoundSphere and Fullsound but to my humble ears, they do provide richer experience.

I can't help but feel their frustration though: they have to squeeze in their products in an almost impossible position:
One the one hand there are the mainstream media consumers that are so spoiled these days: they want everything in an impossible small gorgeous looking package for a low price - and on the other hand there are the media geeks with there zillion connected devices that want cool looking gadgets with al the new media features that change so rapidly these days.

For example: product lines like Philips Streamium wants to address both audiences but fall somewhere in the middle: a little overkill for the first and not too much for the latter.
Non-tech people have no need for streaming features and Tech-people already have a gigantic media library on their computer or laptop and don't want to spend €1000 on a device that tries to do the same.
Their niche must be incredibly small, IMHO, but you have to admire Philips for trying to keep on innovating.

So in that light: here are some new ideas for Philips to integrate in their next product line,
Just some thoughs that would swing over my vote:

  • the Steaming now has an nice little touchscreen attached on top of it for the controls. that's nice but 2 words are important there: it's little and it's attached.
    You can also control the device with the remote but the screen is so little that you end up standing 2 feets away with the remote just to be able to read what's on the screen.
    Why not make the screen detachable as little touchscreen remote control that you can take with you in the sofa or in the kitchen? Or even better: the device is already connected to Wifi, so why can't i use my mobile phone to control it? Sonos has scored a major hit with their iPhone app to control their devices and for a reason.
  • Whatever you do as remote: PLEASE STOP USING THOSE STUPID INFRARED REMOTES ! they are a relic from the past. they are an inadequate one-way dumb control system. expecially for a media device, I want feedback what song is playing, I want to browse the currentplaylist from my remote, select another album ...
    Please provide some other form of interface, ideally some media network protocol so it integrates with all the devices one already has instead of just adding another and another and another remote control.
    Again: it's a safe bet the the kind of people thet buy these things, especially the streamium, already has a decent mobile phone, so provide a way they can use that as remote.
  • Speaking of mobile: it's great to provide a great sounding iPhone dock like the Fidelio dockingspeakers, really sounds good, but doesn't it strike you as a bit weird that you have to put 1 pocket sized device in the dock, and then take another pocket sized device to act as remote? why can't i just stream my music from the iPhone, or any other phone to the dock? And if you produce your own portable media player like the GoGear muse, why on earth isn't it compatible with your dockingspeakers? would it be so much trouble to also provide the proper connector on the GoGear Muse - seems to me a win-win for both devices.
  • the Immersive Sound home theater with 360 sound does sound truly great, and Philips is planning to offer a set with 2 wireless speakers on the back. Why only 2? I would pay a good deal of money extra if all 4 speakers would be wireless. Ideally, provide some battery capacity so I can detach the speakers for a few hours to put them in the garden or kitchen e.g.

 

image I got to take the GoGear Muse player with me to test. Thanks!
Portable media player are an extremely crowded market these days and I must say I was very skeptical about the player: "Why even bother?"

I was wrong and pleasantly surprised: it's actually a very decent media player.


Plus points:

 

  • very solid with it's brushed aluminum case
  • plays all kinds of media formats, including e.g. Flac and Ape Audio and Divx/Xvid video - a HUGE plus for me as most of my (rather big) video library is in Xvid - Eat that iPod! (no AC3 decoder though)
  • Micro SD slot. Yay! - again: YAY!  Eat that iPod!
  • HDMI out. Whoa! -  again: WHAO! I didn't expect that of a small device like this. works really well too. plays 720p video on a big screen.
  • Touch interface is pretty snappy. I kind of missing a hardware back button as the onscreen one is a bit smallish.
  • Pops up as external drive on your Mac or PC for easy file transfer. Eat that iPod
  • FM radio: an oldie but a goodie and often overlooked.
  • the "Sound-Isolation" ear phones are really good. Even I can hear the difference :-)
  • Integrated Microphone for audio-notes. Nice touch.

Less good points

  • The 3.2 HVGA screen is a bit small for video, especially as there is a lot of unes space at the front of the device left. a bigger widescreen would be nice.
  • Battery life is more then enough for audio but "only" 4 hours for video. standard values but I expected a bit more.
  • The songbird software is PC only and a bit ... euhm ... crap. Luckely you don't need as you can manage it with any other Media organiser.

Verdict

All in all a good looking, good sounding small media player - certainly way better then the original (non touch) iPods.
If you're still in the market for a portable mediaplayer - this a good choice.
I know it was a godsend for the "kids-during-long-car-session" as I didn't had to convert a single media file and could swap music, audio books and movies straight from my mobile phone using the Micro SD card.

Thanks Philips for the product demos, and it must be said it was a GREAT location.