Retro Tech: Gadget Gifts Go Back to the Future

VTech Cordless Answering System LS6195

VTech Cordless Answering System LS6195

Back when all phones were wired and controlled by the old AT&T, the standing joke was that you could get a phone in any color you wanted
—as long as you chose black.

Today the seemingly clunky handsets attached to those old phones have made a comeback as colorful cell phone accessories and other retro-looking gadgets are making significant inroads onto holiday gift-shopping lists.

Native Union Pop Phone wired handset.

Native Union Pop Phone wired handset.

For example, Native Union’s Pop Phone handsets resemble the ones that graced grandpa’s rotary-dial phone but Pop Phones come in an assortment of colors—including black. The $30 wired handsets plug into any cell phone or tablet with a standard 3.5mm headset/microphone jack.

Unlike today’s skinny cell phones, the Pop Phone handsets fit comfortably between the chin and shoulder. A single button picks up and drops cell phone calls or pauses and plays music on MP3 players. The Pop Phone is also available in special editions and wireless versions.

Everything ION Tourmaline Infused Silicone Retro Bluetooth Handset

Everything ION Tourmaline Infused Silicone Retro Bluetooth Handset

The Everything ION Tourmaline Infused Silicone Retro Bluetooth Handset ditches the wire, but easily links with most Bluetooth-enabled smartphones and tablets. In addition to a call pickup/end button, the $50 handset has a volume control rocker button and an LED to confirm the Bluetooth connection. According to the company, the use of a wireless handset keeps potentially harmful radiation away from your head and the tourmaline-infused silicone can “stimulate the healthy flow of vital energy throughout your body.”

The VTech Cordless Answering System LS6195 (pictured at top, starts at $60) is a modern landline phone with a distinctively retro feature: The keypad is arranged in a circle like an old-style rotary dial. The slim cordless handset, which uses DECT 6.0 digital wireless technology, has its own display and backlit keypad and can be used as a speakerphone.

The base, which can also be used a speakerphone, has a small display inside the circular keypad. The unit’s digital answering system can save up to 14 minutes of voice mail and the Caller ID memory can store up to 50 numbers.


Tivoli Audio PAL BT Bluetooth portable radio

Tivoli Audio, best known for its venerable Model One table radio with its huge analog tuning wheel, now offers the $300 PAL BT, an innocent-looking, digital-display-free portable AM/FM radio with a modern feature: Bluetooth connectivity. The PAL BT can wirelessly stream music from the many cell phones and other mobile devices compatible with the Bluetooth 2.1+EDR standard.

The Tivoli Audio PAL BT has a single 2.5-inch speaker, three analog knobs, including the trademark large analog tuning wheel, a preinstalled rechargeable nickel metal hydride battery pack, a headphone jack and an audio-in jack for wired devices. Pairing the unit with a mobile device is no different that pairing a Bluetooth headset with a cell phone—it only has to be done once. A $260 Bluetooth version of the Model One (pictured below) is also available.

Tivoli Audio Model One Bluetooth Table Radio

Tivoli Audio Model One Bluetooth Table Radio

Radio Silenz cherry

Tivoli Audio Radio Silenz noise-cancelling headphones

Tivoli Audio also offers the $160 Radio Silenz noise-canceling headset, which exudes a retro look through its liberal use of wood. The 2.6-ounce headset uses two 40mm drivers with housings made of solid wood in walnut, cherry or black ash finishes.

According to Tivoli Audio, the unit’s noise-cancelling technology reduces extraneous noise by up to 85 per cent. A “defeat” button turns off the noise cancellation and reduces the volume so users can have conversations without taking the headset off.

So what will tomorrow’s hot gadgets look like? Look around your home and get a preview.

Text  Copyright 2012
Robert S. Anthony, Stadium Circle Features

Denon’s New Headsets: A Little Traveling Music

Denon AH-NCW500 Bluetooth Noise-Canceling Headset.

Denon is hardly a stranger to the audio market, but you’re more likely to see its logo on audiophile-class bookshelf receivers than on the heads of commuter train or airline travelers. Denon’s new line of premium headsets aims to change that.

At a recent press preview in New York, Denon showcased stylish headsets with high-end electronics that it hopes offer the right combination of audio quality and good looks to make them holiday-season favorites. For example, Denon’s Globe Cruiser line of over-the-ear and in-ear headsets are aimed at travelers who want a luxury-class listening experience but need to remain productive and answer a phone call now and then.

At $500 the Globe Cruiser AH-NCW500 over-the-ear, noise-canceling Bluetooth 3.0 wireless headset is clearly meant for travelers willing to pay extra for an audiophile-class experience while in the air or on a couch. The unit, which comes in black and silver, runs for ten hours on a charge of its lithium-ion battery but can be used with a cord in a no-power “passive” mode even when the battery is depleted.

Denon AH-NCW500 Bluetooth Noise-Canceling Headset with case and audio cables.

Denon’s noise-canceling technology works with the unit’s built-in amplifier to provide ample power with minimal interference from ambient noise. The 9.5-ounce headset has two 40mm drivers, dual microphones and supports the AAC and apt-X audio-compression standards.

The headset is designed to fold flat into its carrying case and comes with an audio cord so it can be connected to mobile devices that don’t offer Bluetooth and an airline adapter to connect with airline seat audio jacks. The headset comes with black or brown leather and the pentagonal shape of the foam earpieces are unique to Denon.

A common feature across Denon’s headset lines is the Denon Control Wheel, which lets you wirelessly control a Bluetooth-enabled mobile device like an Apple iPod or iPhone from the side of the headset. A twist of the wheel adjusts the volume while a tap of a button starts or stops music playback. Separate buttons on the headset connect and end phone calls button and enable or turn off the noise-canceling circuitry.

Globe Cruiser AH-W200 In-Ear Bluetooth wireless headset.

The much smaller Globe Cruiser AH-W200 In-Ear Bluetooth wireless headset ($180) has two earpieces linked by a short cord but still has room for a smaller version of Denon’s Control Wheel. The 0.8-ounce unit is packaged with four sets of ear gels in different sizes as well as a case, an audio cable with an airplane adapter and a USB cord for charging its battery, which lasts up to five hours. Like its larger sibling, the AH-W200 supports the Bluetooth 3.0, AAC and apt-X standards and can be used with a cord even when its battery is dead.

The fit of the ear gels minimizes outside noises while integrated in-ear amplifiers provide more audio power than lower-cost headsets, according to Denon.

Denon also offers Denon Travel, a free smartphone app which lets users access and fine-tune their music, listen to Internet radio stations and access their travel apps without leaving the Denon app. The app is available in Apple iOS and Android versions.

Plantronics Launches GameCom 780 Surround Sound Stereo USB Gaming Headset at CES 2012

Headset offers Dolby 7.1 surround sound, 40mm drivers, a noise-canceling microphone and a volume control right on the headset.

The Plantronics GameCom 780 Surround Sound Stereo USB Gaming Headset which launched at the 2012 CES aims to please gamers who want to hear as much of the thunder, rock and roll of their gaming experience without the weight of a hefty headset.

The $80 GameCom 780 has Dolby 7.1 surround sound support as well as 40mm drivers which enhance bass and provide for an immersive experience hardcore gaming experience, according to Plantronics. The swing-away noise-canceling microphone minimizes extraneous sounds while maximizing the ability to trash talk clearly with online foes.

Plantronics GameCom 780 Surround Sound Stereo USB Gaming Headset

When tested, the GameCom 780 felt very light for its size yet delivered ample bass and clear sound. Gunshots reverberated and whistled clearly while the crackle of a fire rose and fell as the virtual player approached and moved away. The ear pads did an admirable job of muting the noise from the cacophonous 2012 CES show floor.

The speakers swivel, allowing the unit to store flat so that it can slip into a briefcase. The volume, Dolby and mute controls are on the left speaker and the unit has a 6.5-foot, heavy-duty USB cord. The headset has a 20Hz to 20kHz frequency response range while the microphone has a 100Hz to 8kHz frequency response range.

While users with PCs or laptops with top-shelf audio cards might opt for a headset with standard audio plugs such as the $50 Plantronics GameCom 380, the GameCom 780 is aimed at those who want a simple connection which still provides superior audio, said a Plantronics representative. He also noted that the headset is also aimed for use with Internet telephony and videoconferencing services such as Skype.

The unit is on sale now at Best Buy and will be on sale at Amazon and the Plantronics website.

Text and video Copyright 2012, Robert S. Anthony, Stadium Circle Features
Photo courtesy of Plantronics