Wednesday 17 January 2024

SoundCore by Anker Motion 100 Bluetooth Speaker

I got this free with my SoundCore by Anker AeroFit Pro earphones and the RRP should have been £59.99 (though I do see it even now reduced down from that, so do shop around if you’re in the market for a Bluetooth Speaker). As I was buying the earphones anyway, it would have been looking a gift-horse in the mouth not to have grabbed it, even if I already have 127 other options with speakers!

It’s a dinky little thing with a kind of soft-rubber. speckled-colour exterior, slippery to the touch but a material that feels solid and like it’ll take some knocks. It’s about eight inches wide, two and a bit from front to back and similar, high. So that it doesn’t slide all over the place, it has four rubber feet on the bottom. There’s also a small cloth carry-tag on the left, which is thumb-sized, or would easily to attach to a bag/case/cycle or whatever.

On top there’s a series of slightly-raised buttons, left to right, on/off, Bluetooth, the stylised word SoundCore in the middle, then a circular-looking cluster with volume down/up (left/right), pause/play at the bottom and BassUp at the top. Again, it’s all nicely ‘rubbery’. On the back there’s a grille and on the right, a very tightly-fitting rubbery seal over a cavity which hosts the USB-C port.

On the front, the rubbery stuff makes way for an aluminium “ink splash design” grille which looks very classy, rugged - and SoundCore seems to be claiming to be “3D”. Perhaps we’ll come to that! There’s a giant SoundCore icon in the middle of it, of course! The unit is claimed to be IPX7, so water (but not dust/sand) proof, so can dunked in clean or salt water (but not orange juice!) 3ft deep for half an hour. There’s a grille on the back of the unit too, which seems to pump out the main part of the bass, should you take the challenge to test and put it to your ear!

The 2600mAh battery gives about 12 hours of playback, depending on settings, but based on about 50% volume and BassUp on. It seems about right in my (limited) tests here (not upsetting the neighbours)! It also doesn’t charge the battery very quickly - they claim 5 hours and that would seem to be about right. There’s a short USB-C to USB-C cable in the box, if needed. There’s no charge-out, by the way, to top up other devices from the internal battery.

Initially setting up the connection between my device and the speaker was a bit of a dead loss. I already had the SoundCore app installed on my device, it encouraged me to use it as it had detected the Motion 100 being turned on and in-range, then after much fiddling and failing, it offered to set up ‘manually’. On launching the app manually, it then reports that the app doesn’t support this model! So even though the app detected it and launched itself, it was a pointless gesture! Anyway, doing it the old-fashioned(!) way via the device’s Bluetooth settings worked and we’re set up and rolling.

I have now discovered that the app should indeed work with this model, so I started again from scratch, turned off, uninstalled the SoundCore app, reinstalled it, then found it and reported that the app does support it. What a fiddle, though! Got there in the end. (Bring back the 3.5mm audio cable, eh - plug in, done!) We can now see that there are a number of pre-sets and a custom one, where the user can play with 9 sliders to get the sound they want. All this, plus the BassUp button, does indeed produce a marked difference. In fact, so much so that with some files, it will end up distorted. 
If your device has its own onboard Dolby (or whatever) equalisers and sound profiles to use, you can, of course, not install their app and just use what you have.

Anyway, to the sound - and the first test proved that the speaker with its 20W output (or is it 40?) is capable of silly-loud volume and with equalisation in place, BassUp engaged, it’s more than capable of providing sound in a disproportionately large area, beach/BBQ or whatever. It’s more than a match for my Marshall Willen, more bass, more volume. But to be fair, the Willen is rated at 10W output, so perhaps that’s not a fair test. I shall move up to the Stockwell II, with one 10W (woofer) plus 2 x 5W (tweeters). 20W all-round? We shall see.

Before we get there. Just a note on the output power - as the specifications for the unit seem to suggest that it’s a 20W speaker, but diagrams on SoundCore’s website also suggest very strongly that each of the two forward-facing speakers are rated 20W, so making 40W? “Dual 20W full range drivers deliver dynamic stereo sound” it claims. So is it 20W total, or 20W x 2 - 40W total? As we shall see now, I could believe from the output that it’s actually the latter. I now read elsewhere that actually there’s also 2 x 15W drivers inside and 2 x bass radiators inside. Surely there must be some reliable information about this unit somewhere, SoundCore? Anker?

Amazingly, this little SoundCore speaker keeps up with the Stockwell II for volume, but the Marshall is significantly ahead on the richness, quality and bass. It’s that ‘signature’ Marshall sound coming through, I guess - and the difference you get from a speaker costing four times as much. That’s taking nothing away from the Motion 100 though, as maybe that was a tough test. The truth is that even the smallest, cheapest Bluetooth speaker these days seems to knock spots off the speakers in any phone. How about a tablet, then? I often say how good the sound is from my Samsung Galaxy Tab S8’s 4 speakers, so here we go - nowhere near, for volume or quality. The benchmark I have come to use to test how good any phone speakers these days - my tablet - which is always oodles ahead of any phone - nowhere near even this small, cheap Bluetooth speaker. So there!

You’ll have gathered by now that I’m no audiophile! All my observations are based on using my ears to tell you what I hear - not professional sound-testing equipment. I guess you’ll get that if you want it on YouTube. I just turned the Motion 100 back on and away from the tablet’s speakers and can reiterate what a huge difference there is. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised really, when comparing what space there is for speaker hardware and sound to move - even in a big tablet, let alone a mobile phone!

You have to be pretty close to the Motion 100 to get the stereo effect with any reasonable detection rate. I have been testing it in front of my face with some music which exploits the stereo effect hugely and 18” in front of my face, I can barely detect it being stereo, 12” and yes, it’s there - 3” in front of my nose and it’s significant and clearly working very well. So not much of a soundstage then really unless you strap it to your head! Bear in mind that my ears and hearing apparatus are all-but 61 years old, so a younger person’s perception could well be keener. Anyway, I don’t really think this unit needs to be stereo, but there it is.

Bluetooth 5.3 is here and TWS present, two bluetooth compliant devices pairable together and users can send left/right stereo channels to each and separate them. I have tried this using the Motion 100 but don’t have another one to test with. I do have other SoundCore speakers which are TWS compliant but try as I have done, I can’t get the two to channel the stereo one for each. Information about this is quite hard to come by on the internet and SoundCore’s pamphlet in the box only covers the very basics of getting it working. I have had this working with my two Motion+ speakers. I have now tracked down a statement in their website help pages that suggests very strongly that this only works with two Motion 100 units, none other in the mix.

I’ve had more success pairing two different speakers (Multi-speaker) with a source device, seemingly working well in my testing with only a short delay when switching the devices to sort themselves out from one to the other and back.

LDAC is available to be used via the app on supporting Android hardware, but not iOS. This does seem to make a difference to the overall quality of the sound, but my ears don’t consider it critical to the process!

The controls are fairly straight forward, though need a very firm press to operate through that thick rubbery stuff. Play/Pause, volume and BassUp in that cluster I mentioned do just those things and you press the pause/play button twice for track forward, thrice for back. There’s not any Smart Assistant or microphone but the speaker goes quiet when the user is engaging the Assistant on the paired phone. Similarly, there are no phone controls, except that when the user, again, is engaged in making/receiving phone calls on the phone - it goes quiet if it had been playing. This is in contradiction to what it says in the pamphlet that comes with it, where it clearly shows that there is telephone call (and Assistant) support with various button presses. No wonder people get confused!

I have probably been guilty here of going into far too much depth for what is really a cheap-as-chips Bluetooth speaker, but perhaps that reflects the terrific value it is for about fifty quid if one forgets about the missing higher-end features and focuses on the sound. It punches way above its weight in this respect and it really is a cracking device, with a very good battery and even some water-proofing. And so I recommend it. If I hadn't got it for free with my earphones and know what I know now, I would certainly buy it (if I didn't have a houseful of BT speakers already)!

Monday 15 January 2024

Autopsy (2008)

The Mad Scientist cliche is back and in good form with a side-splitting gore-fest, wrapped up in a thriller/chiller/horror from writer/director Adam Gierasch. It’s complete bonkers of course and clearly is not taking itself seriously as everyone involved sticks the knife in!

Robert Patrick (Dr Benway) as the doctor-in-charge of the chaos, side-kick nurse Jenette Goldstein (Nurse Marian), their two ‘attendants’ Robert LaSardo (Scott) and Michael Bowen (Travis) play about with the material gleefully. They’re running an operation out of an (as we find out later) closed-down hospital. That’s not really a spoiler as it’s obvious from the start that it’s not a proper hospital.

The storyline starts as we follow a bunch of university drop-outs having fun with life and not taking it too seriously. They are in a car and the car crashes. In fact, it drives into a bloke who, we later find out, was trying to escape from the make-shift medical building, Mercy Hospital.

There’s no cellphone coverage, of course, and a private-looking ambulance happens along to pick up the bloke who has been run over - and in the process encourage the teens to tag along and get checked out after their crash. They go, partly because they now have no car and it’s a way out of the tricky rural situation.

The ambulance then takes them all to Mercy Hospital and we start to find out piece-by-piece what’s going on there, who is madder than who, why the fruit-loop staff are so keen to make pate out of everyone and begin the cat-and-mouse game wondering who, if any of them, will survive - and how much blood, guts, organs and gore there can possibly be along the way! There is a logical reason for it all in the end. Just a mad one!

90210 Actress and singer Jessica Lowndes (Emily) is clearly the star of the show and lead of the group. She gets by far the most of the on-screen time and the story, pretty much centred around her and her path through the mayhem. The rest of the cast do a decent enough job, but I surprised we didn’t catch any of them at least grinning about their jobs on camera somewhere!

The film has been shot in a very colourful palette with bright, rich and saturated hues to make the most of the (particularly) red gore - but also brightly coloured fluids in pipes, which form a part of the plot. Travis and Scott are having specially good fun in all this, as they execute the back-room requirements of the scheme, directed by the doctor/nurse duo. And there some pretty inventive set-ups in operating theatres and treatment rooms, which take some working out. Travis, particularly, is a sadistic, heartless, torturing loonie of a character - once again, I’m guilty of finding the horror/gore stuff funny when I shouldn’t!

So in the end, we have Emily fighting everyone, against the odds, even though she’s kind of given up on anyone making it out alive apart from her. And maybe not even her! Anyway, there it is. As I say, complete bonkers, but rip-roaring fun and (for me at least) a wildly comic turn by all!

Saturday 13 January 2024

Crazy Eights (2006)

That was a bit lame, I thought, and a flop. A nice idea - the dead girl from beyond the grave getting all the ‘guilty’ friends to go back to the place where she’d died and then pick them off one by one - but it just didn’t carry for me.

The acting was lousy throughout, the audio soundtrack was poor (by design I think - rather like a Blair Witch thing), the script was worse, the handheld camera throughout was annoying and the ending abrupt and a complete anti-climax.

I guess it was pretty low budget - too low in fact to actually show any gore or even attacks! I’m OK with attacks on people not being shown if suspense and suggestion replaces it, injecting fear into the viewer, but here it doesn’t. It was lazy/cheap and only relies on a quick glimpse of a shadowy figure behind each victim, then edit/cut-away!

As I say, it had the makings of a really good horror/thriller as a notion, but it’s like the people making it got fed up halfway through, didn’t have enough money to make it good, so just threw in the towel.

Friday 12 January 2024

Mulberry St (2006)

A splendid-looking little indie horror/thriller/survival film about people in Manhattan being turned into (large, human-shaped) rats when they had been bitten by either an infected rat or a person who had been bitten! The infection’s source is never explained, nor did it need to be really - it just turned up in rats one day!

There was lots of handheld camera work throughout, which was a bit annoying, but the unknown-to-me leads played it pretty well, even injecting a little comedy here and there, and there was some money been thrown at gory special effects.

There was suspense at times and anxiety levels rose as we rooted for the ‘uninfected’ making it through, surviving the onslaught and killing anything that wasn’t. It’s kind of Zombie stuff without the dead coming back to life. Just turning into rats. Big ones! They start to take on the physical characteristics of rats as they devour any meat/flesh that they can find - and kill to create it if there’s none!

The pacing was good, just the right amount of time getting to know our main characters before the chaos, the plotline was off-the-wall bonkers of course, but great fun, dark and grizzly throughout. Clearly the team making this were having great fun, led by writer/director Jim Mickle. Super stuff!

Sunday 7 January 2024

High Tension (2003)

Now here's a neat little French thriller/horror/gore-fest, also known as Switchblade Romance elsewhere. 90 minutes of chaos as another fruit-loop goes on the rampage, killing and maiming everyone around them in different ways!

Prepare for plenty of blood, body-part removal, inventive termination methods and a neat twist at the end (you might want to watch it twice)!

Two girls go to stay with the family of one of them in a country cottage and as soon as they arrive, the mayhem begins. In the middle of the night, the action kicks off as the daughter of the family, the other girl's friend, is taken hostage in the back of a van, chained up, while almost everyone else is for the axe. Or some other tool. Or inventive use of furniture!

Cecile de France (Russian Dolls, The French Dispatch) is in pretty much every scene as the visiting friend and carries it off very well. Director Alexandre Aja keeps the titular tension high throughout giving the audience few opportunities to draw breath! There's actually not an awful lot of dialogue once the scene is set, so dubbed or subtitled, it doesn't get in the way.

Good fun, well paced (i.e. frantic!), neat thriller for those who can stomach the gore. Nice!

Saturday 6 January 2024

Society of the Snow (2023)

This is the retold true story of the aircraft disaster suffered by a Uruguayan rugby team whilst flying over Andes in South America in 1972. It is some years since I've seen the 1993 telling in the film Alive, starring Ethan Hawke and Josh Hamilton, but was very interested to see how this one presented the harrowing tale.

It's a Netflix production made in Spanish, so it's dubbing or subtitles for us, directed by J A Bayona, mostly famously for me doing the same job creating The Impossible (2012), another 'disaster' movie.

The rugby team are on their way to Chile from Uruguay when bad weather causes their aircraft to hit severe turbulence resulting in it hitting one of the mountains in the peaks of the Andes. The plane comes crashing down in a well-orchestrated for film sequence, most realistic, traumatic and believable as a reconstruction. There are 40 on board plus crew, many of whom die on impact or shortly after.

The rest of the people are now facing the winter months (between October and December) where night time temperatures plummet to life-threatening levels. They have part of the aircraft left to shelter in and eventually find a radio to hear about what the authorities are doing. After a few days, they know that the authorities are searching for them - and even see planes flying overhead but with no way of attracting their attention, near-invisible on snow and ice. More people are also dying of cold-related issues, regardless of their fitness as sportspeople, however they try to help each other - some doctors in training. Eventually they also hear on the radio that the search has been called off.

I'm sure that you know the famously uneasy dilemma the people faced as they start to starve to death and realise that the only source of food they have around them with which to stand a chance of survival, is the bodies of the dead. These scenes are handled with sensitivity, not gory exposure, showing how those who had a good idea how to do this went about it. I'm sure that you will also know that eventually they decide that nobody is coming to rescue them, so they have to make it to civilisation themselves somehow and a party is sent out to do so.

The people survived in the end for over two months, making do, facing various catastrophes as they came along to make things worse - and the aforementioned ultimate taboo which is the last thing anyone would want to face, crisis or not. Well, unless you're Hannibal Lektor I suppose! The acting by the whole cast is excellent, realistically portrayed to the last person, the storytelling is gripping, though often slow, the suspense and tension is loaded on, music significant and the scenery is simply gorgeous.

It really is an outstanding piece of work and well worth the viewing for the two and a half hours. It's incredibly moving in scene-upon-scene, but especially at the end when real photos and footage is used to show how those who survived did so. The human spirit prevailing is the theme of course, and challenges to one's self about how we'd cope (or not) given such an outlandish situation and need to consider survival. Do watch it. I'm off to watch Alive again after all these years and compare.

Cold Prey (2006)

Original title: Fritt vilt. 5 young Norwegians head up to the mountains to snowboard. One breaks his leg and it's getting dark soon, so they spend the night in a big, abandoned hotel, closed 30 years ago. They are not alone!

This is a great teen slasher thriller, thoughtfully presented and with not too many silly jump-scares. It's all pretty low-budget of course but for a bit of a grizzly hoot, it's just that. As per usual for the genre, the teens are getting bumped off one-by-one, but how many and/or which of them survive?!

It's not badly acted and some of the suspense is actually done quite well. Look out for the cheap nod to The Shining (aside from it being a big empty hotel in the snow, that is)! I quite enjoyed it.

Foe (2023)

Very slow sci-fi'ish drama set 40 years in the future with a couple of twists which I'm sure everyone will see coming.

Hen and Junior farm a secluded piece of land that has been in Junior's family for generations, but their quiet life is thrown into turmoil when an uninvited stranger shows up at their door telling them that he, and he alone, has been conscripted to do a 2 year tour of duty on earth’s space station thingie looking for a new planet for humans to colonise. Stars Saoirse Ronan, Paul Mescal, Aaron Pierre.

Spoiler Alert - but you’d really see it coming anyway! He's been a robot from the start nearly - headlights turned him on - they do show him going, but it’s all dreamily done so not obvious to the audience (well, the thick people in it). So they make a perfect copy of the person they are taking away (robot) and put them in place of the person they are taking so that even a wife can’t tell the difference. Except that… She falls in love with the robot because he's more like the real him when they first met, not the twot he is now. But then the real one comes back after his tour of duty and she's not happy because she preferred the robot. She then leaves him after getting them to clone her so when the real him comes back she clears off and he gets the robot of her. Spoiler Alert Over

It's an interesting sci-fi concept. It’s quite nicely shot with lots of atmosphere but terribly slow. The two leads do a good job, especially Saoirse.

Operation Napoleon (2023)

A half-decent Icelandic thriller which falls short of blowing one's socks off. But it's fine. A story about a woman who gets dragged into an adventure with her brother and some others because they stumble on a crashed aircraft with a secret in Iceland which has been buried since the end of WWII (but global warming has exposed it for the first time).

We then have a bit of a chase with nasty government agency bods pursuing the 'goodies' as our heroes try to do the right thing but the 'baddies' are doing their best to bump them off and cover up the secret stuff that would expose some dirty deeds being planned at the end of the war.

There's a little bit of suspense here and there, but it's quite tame as thrillers go really. The cast are generally watchable, do an acceptable job and it passes a couple of hours nicely enough. That's about it really.

Outpost (2022)

After a violent past, a woman seeks solitude and isolation by taking a voluntary position for 3 months in a 'watch tower' out in the wilds of America, keeping an eye on the dry landscape for fires. If she spots any, she radios it in and the emergency services deal with it.

Trouble is that the isolation and ghosts of her violent past start to play tricks with her mind and introduce the risk and danger that she might succumb to irrational behaviour due to her mental health problems.

Very slow to begin with but paced nicely so that in the last stages, it reaches a very satisfying climax and becomes worth the wait! At times, the isolation depicted is nicely reflected for the audience via tension and atmosphere as the story develops.

Beth Dover (Orange is the New Black) plays the part admirably, reflecting the anxiety from the character's past well. Becky Ann Baker (Girls) pops up in an interesting role and Ato Essandoh (Let the Right One In) supports very nicely.

Sometimes feeling like a low-budget outing, others, well-constructed and executed by director/producer/actor/writer Joe Lo Truglio. Certainly worth a watch and fairly short at under 90mins. Billed as 'horror', it's not really.

Deck the Halls (2006)

I'd never seen this and (as regular visitors here might know) I shy away from any light-end American comedy films. But I decided to watch this last night - I guess it was the festive spirit (hic!) in me. I'm rather glad I did.

I suppose I was primarily drawn to Danny DeVito, who can do no wrong for me, but actually was then surprised to see how many of the cast I knew from other things. Obviously Matthew Broderick, but also Kristin Chenoweth from Pushing Daisies, Kristin David from Sex and the City and Jorge Garcia from Lost among others. They all do a grand job and pull the film into chaos led by DeVito - and a tale of neighbourly confrontation worthy of The Simpsons, The Odd Couple (and Grumpy Old Men) ensues.

Danny DeVito moves into the neighbourhood, starts a rivalry about covering his house with so many lights that it could be seen from space with Broderick's stuffy, conservative character - you can imagine where it goes with everything that could get out of hand, getting out of hand!

Yeah, OK - it flagged a bit in the last quarter, the notion on which it was based running out of ideas and a sycophantic ending to make a person vomit, but en route it is full of funny comedy and I found myself laughing out loud. (Or maybe it was the Cointreau!)

So yes, it's certainly a 'time of the year' film to watch but I really surprised myself, watching it to the end and honestly enjoying. A hoot indeed.

Inside (2023)

Nemo, a high-end art thief, is trapped in a New York penthouse after his heist doesn't go as planned. Locked inside with nothing but priceless works of art, he must use all his cunning and ingenuity to survive.

Willem Dafoe is excellent in this all-but one-man-show where the whole story/film is set in the penthouse in which he's stuck. A bit like Tom Hanks in Cast Away, we stay with him throughout, suggesting that this could easily have been a stage-play (I haven't checked).

Timescale is not very clear, but it feels like this goes on for a few months whilst he tries to find ways to escape, eat and drink to stay alive. The penthouse has lots of security and technology, designed for the purpose here - though it is a bit strange that it didn't alert the police!

So yes, you can pick it apart, bit by bit, showing the flaws and problems with the notion, or you can forget that and just enjoy Dafoe's excellent performance as you live through the time with him trying to puzzle-solve. Really enjoyed this, if slow at times, but nice idea.

The Ruins (2008)

This is my kind of 'horror' film! Not silly jump-scares, but a nasty mystery/thriller with plenty of controlled gore and chills! It's about a group of youngsters who are in Mexico on holiday. They bump into a German bloke at the pool who offers them a trip the next day to an archaeological dig site, which they go along with. When they get there, it turns out that it’s some kind of spooky temple delivering a historic curse on anyone who touches it.

When our ignorant little group are floating around at the foot of the temple’s long staircase, a bunch of locals turn up with bows/arrows and guns, threatening. Nobody can understand each others’ language so our bods don’t know what’s going on until one of them touches the green vines and they get shot, dead, by the villagers. The rest of them scarper away and up the steps to escape the apparently fruit-loop villagers.

Once they’re up there they start making all sorts of nasty discoveries including remains and debris from people who had clearly been there before them and not survived. They discover a hole with a winch above it so they can lower themselves inside the temple, which they do because they hear a mobile phone ringing in there and, of course, none of their phones have signal! So they’re stuck with facing the murderous villagers or staying put at the top and trying to find some other escape.

As you’d expect, the temple with a life of its own starts to play tricks on them, accidents happen, some gory stuff results and as you’d expect, they start to have to fight to survive and save their lives, whilst they, and we, start to understand the extent of what’s going on with the temple, unfolding at a good pace. There’s some great suspense going on and the acting from the four leads in the engaging character roles is very good indeed.

The man who wrote the originating book and script here is Scott B Smith, who also wrote A Simple Plan (1998), one of my Top 100 films, so it’s no wonder I liked this too. So, it’s not really scary, as such, more tense and suspenseful about the unknown as we learn about what’s going on. It has a satisfying ending, too, not a daft, Hollywood one. I really enjoyed it and would recommend.

Wolf Creek (2005)

Here’s another teen slasher-flick that I’d not seen before, the creation of Greg McLean. Supposedly based on a true story, but actually when you dig further into that it’s not at all. More like Fargo’s “Based on a <True> Story” really. So now we’re free to consume it as simply a drama/thriller/horror!

It’s the story of three back-packers heading off across Australia to visit Wolf Creek (the site of a Meteor which hit the earth historically), two British girls (Liz and Kirsty) and one Australian bloke (Ben). We spend some time getting to know them at the outset, and are encouraged to like them, before their trip to the landmark. And for half the film, nothing much really happens as we tag along and enjoy their company. There’s a little side-story about two of them falling for each other which encourages the (unknowing) viewer to think that this is a simple road-trip/romcom almost!

They get to the landmark, then their car won’t start, so they get settled in to spend the night. Along comes a truck with a beefy Aussie bloke (Mick), headlights all over his ‘macho’ rig, offering to help them out in the dark and rain. He gives the grateful trio a tow to his compound, some miles away, where he sets about entertaining them with tales around the camp fire - and seemingly drugging them - as they wake up later bound and gagged and… well I won’t go into details, but it’s clear that our rescuing hero is a bit of a fruit-loop as violence and mayhem erupts!

When they wake up, the film radically changes from a nice little road-trip gone wrong into a dark and nasty thriller with little left to the imagination, in terms of what is done to whom and how. So buckle in! There are some ‘conveniences’ and plot-holes left to apparent chance and the odd unlikely outcome but generally these can be ignored in lieu of the thrill-ride.

The acting is generally very good from the three kids, more than convincing throughout, even (or especially) when they enter the arena of chaos and the Mick character is decently portrayed too. John Jarratt (Picnic at Hanging Rock, Django Unchained) he is, having great fun, unleashed by the director/writer. I don’t really know any of the actors well, I’m afraid - Nathan Phillips (Snakes on a Plane, Chernobyl Diaries) being Ben, Cassandra Magrath, Liz and Kestie Morassi as Kristy, but as I say, they all do a splendid job.

The film works really well overall with thrills aplenty and violence and dark deeds left, right and centre. It’s gory and grizzly at times but never unbelievable, given the starting point of the notion surrounding the tale. I really enjoyed it and look forward to seeing Wolf Creek 2 and the TV Series spin-off which, apparently, takes a similar theme throughout as our loonie picks off one tourist per episode! Eeek!

Friday 5 January 2024

SoundCore by Anker AeroFit Pro

I really liked the look of these new offerings from SoundCore. So much so that I decided to take the plunge. I hate in-ear-canal type earphones and have been using 'sit-outer' ones for years now, but although they sit well enough on the outer part of my ear, depending on brand, they sometimes (like when leaning forward) feel like they might flop out, so these looked more secure in that respect.

I’ve never had a pair of these loop-around earphones before, so it was a very new experiment - and my biggest concern was related to wearing glasses, which I seem to do now, most of the time. Having that big lump behind the ear could do nothing but good for battery life, compared to the average tiny buds, so I was optimistic.

They are £149 in the UK on release from AmazonUK and Anker/SoundCore, and as I got in early, I also got a free SoundCore Motion 100 Bluetooth Speaker (worth, on release, £49). More of that in another post. They come in a solid, sturdy-looking hard plastic case which has a USB-C charging port on the back and flips open with a button on the top/front to reveal the two units. There’s no wireless charging with this case, sadly.

It took me a while to work out how on earth these things fit back into the case once removed - it was like trying to plug in a microUSB charger back in the day - this way, that way, then the other, then back to the first way! Still, I have the hang of it now - I think!

It’s worth noting that this is the Pro version. There is a £99 non-Pro version which does have some differences. The Pro version has bigger 16.2mm drivers, bigger, better-performing battery life, physical control buttons instead of touch-control, support LDAC and Spatial Audio but strangely have a less robust water-proofing (presumably because of those physical buttons). Both units provide call and Assistant support, multipoint Bluetooth connection with v5.3, so two devices paired at a time, auto-power off, equaliser and volume controls via the App.

Focusing on the Pro model that I have here, then, and claimed endurance is 46 hours, which includes recharging via the box. Continuous use is supposed to be 14 hours before a return to mothership is needed, but when you do, you can get about 5 or 6 hours of play with a 5 minute bump. I reckon that the 14 hours is conservative on their part as I’ve had more from them than that at about 50% volume (though to be fair, not in one sitting). The 5 minute boost claim seems to be good as well. When plugging in the case with the earphones inside, it seems to take about 2 hours to charge if you want it all the way to full.

The range seems to be decent here, testing with a Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra and walking down the drive, good for the claimed 30 feet and significantly more (with line of sight). With the Pro version, you also get a neckband which connects to the bottom of each, behind the ear then sits behind the neck. I guess this is for people running or at the gym, as I can’t see that there’s any need for ordinary use.

In the middle of the pod that points towards your ear, there’s a sizeable-looking speaker on each, a very small physical button on the top side and a bendy middle-bit that allows the user to misshape it in order to get it around the top of the ear and the battery section to the back. It works really well and yes, even with glasses on (on when fitting as well) it sits outside the line of the glasses’ arm. I guess if you had really thick-armed glasses that might not be true, so your mileage may vary, as they say.

I’ve tried shaking my head around, upside down (people seeing that must have thought I was very odd), round and round - and they stay in place nicely. The button on each side is easy to find and the functions can be assigned in the app.

There is a time for ANC and ANC-equipped gear, but for general use when ANC is not needed these work fine. These are clearly not ‘closed’ for sound but open and someone sitting close enough to you will hear something. I like that - as I say, there’s a time and place for ANC, but for most of my time, living alone, it’s quite nice to be able to hear someone knocking on the front door! The sound pod bits do, of course, sit away from the entrance to your ear-canal by a millimetre or two, but the sound is nicely directed into it and works really well for me. Again, everyone’s ears are different, so I can’t guarantee anything.

The sound is really very good. You can whack up the bass in the app’s equaliser and I was surprised at how much I got from it. Of course, this is no isolated 'in-canal' bud, so you’re not going to get that level of bass if that’s your thing, but for me, for casual listening, it has enough bass (with equalisation), nice mids and decent highs. The main test I use for my listening is solo piano (not Motorhead!), and I find that more than decent enough to recommend.

For anyone who has used the SoundCore app before, all the usual suspects are there including turning LDAC (Android) on (with more battery use), custom equaliser or a bunch of pre-sets and spatial audio, the Head Tracking option of which is just spooky to experience for the first time. Put a film on (or music) in front of you, turn your head to the left or right and the audio comes from where the source is - so turn your head right and audio sounds like it’s coming from the left, where your film is playing. Nice. I think this is what Sony were after with 360RealityAudio but I never seemed to get it working quite as well as this. If you remove one and put it back in the case, the stereo audio channels route both into the one that’s still in use without having to fiddle with balance settings or Mono switches, which is nice too.

As usual with Anker/SoundCore, their gear seems to be really good value for money, great quality, well-designed and performs really well. This is no exception and for me, these AeroFit Pro units have become my go-to units for casual listening (when ANC is not needed). Love ‘em and I think (especially with the free speaker) a great purchase. Photos are SoundCore's, Links are my Affiliate Amazon ones.

Monday 1 January 2024

PodHubUK Podcasts for the month of December 2023

...a roundup of our month of podcasting. Links to the team, communities and podcast homes on the net at the foot, so scroll down!

Phones Show Chat
Episode 778 - LapDock SnapShot
Saturday 2nd December
This weekend Steve and I welcome back Juan Carlos Bagnell for a great chat about loads of stuff in mobile and beyond. Mobile solutions with desktop features figure heavily as well as Sony stuff, Pixel patois, Anker antics and much more!

Whatever Works
Episode 198 - Merry Quitmas!
Wednesday 6th December
Aidan and I are back again with our fortnightly roundup of all things chaotic from the Wonderful World of Whatever Works! Shaving and warming, lighting and trimming, even screwing and tinkling with a Fairybell!

Phones Sho
w Chat
Episode 779 - Introducing Qi-gate
Saturday 9th December
Steve and I are back again this weekend with Tim Evans as we chat about an innovative screen technology, next-to-paper, Schematic Wallpapers and the latest folding action - with still time for us to Zen Out and live with wirelessnessless!

Tech Addicts Podcast
The Podcast Before... Xmas
Sunday 10th December
Gareth and I get together for a Festive Epic as we chat about The Day Before, Samsung Galaxy Tab A8, ChatCPT, Windows 10 Support, Duracell Batteries, Logitech Astro, Yamaha CD-Changers, Rotor-U-Fly, Murena, Vivo, Final...and so much more in a bumper-length episode to tide you over 'til January!

Projector Room
Episode 152 - Nearly Normal Newark
Wednesday 13th December
Allan, Gareth and I are 
here again with another fortnightly catchup with all things film, TV and cinema. This time, The Bad Pack calls me a Wonka, the Y Cops Come Together, you can enjoy Coming Soon, the Boston Strangler plays the Still Game and oodles more.

Phones Show Chat
Episode 780 - iPhone Domination and Android Diversification
Saturday 16th December
Steve and I are back again this weekend with
 Dan Carter filling us in on what devices he's been using lately. Lots of folding talk again as Android OEMs keep pushing the envelope with exciting new hardware, Steve talks about iOS 17.2, I'm getting trapped into Samsungland again while Dan takes a sensible middle road!

Whatever Works
Episode 199 - Stone Cold Embers!
Tuesday 19th December
Aidan and I are back again with 
the very last show of 2023 - so thanks to all for your interest and support during the year - and especially those who have chipped in to help financially. Here, we bang on about stocking fillers, declare our best WW items of the year and even have time for a few visits from Santa. And offer him cold tea!

Phones Show Chat
Episode 781 - From iPhone 4 to a Folding Future
Saturday 23rd December
Steve and I welcome Samuel Ventimiglia from the Nomad Tech Project this xmas-week as we chat about his now-exclusive use of Android folding phones. Steve and I roll out our Top 5 phones of 2023 and we swip-and-swap between Pixel Betas!

Projector Room
Episode 153 - Christmas Special 2023
Wednesday 27th December
Allan, Gareth and I
 have snuck away from the drip-drip of Cointreau and Sherry to bring you one last slice of Film, Cinema and TV turkey! Yes, we do a roundup for the year, staking our claims for our best films and TV shows of the year each and some favourites thrown in for good measure, too. So get your shoes off, toes and chestnuts in front of the roaring fire and join us for a while.

Phones Show Chat
Episode 782 - Flipping Accessible
Saturday 30th December
This weekend Steve and I welcome back Steve Nutt who has been away testing folding phones with Accessibility features from Samsung and Google. We also chat about the TCL NxtPaper phone, a 10-year old Moto and how Google's Lookout App copes with Photo of the Week.

The Podcasts
PodHubUK - Phones Show Chat - The Phones Show - Whatever Works - Chewing Gum for the Ears - Projector Room - Tech Addicts

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