Monthly Archives: October 2017

Australia’s best cheap headphones, discounts and deals

With headphones of all types, colours and styles flooding the market, it’s hard knowing which ones to pick – do you go for the premium model you’ve always wanted, or are you better off just grabbing a cheap set from the discount bin?

Well, it’s worth remembering that cheap headphones are cheap for a reason, so even if saving money is priority we can’t recommend those $2 discount-bin variety that you find all over the world. And, as you’ll find out below, you don’t always have spend a lot of dosh to snag a great set of headphones either.

To save you the time and effort, we’ve put together this dedicated guide to the best bargains on great-sounding headphone. We constantly monitor major Aussie retailers and go a-huntin’ to bring you the most worthwhile deals on a variety of sets – from in-ear buds to noise-cancelling cans – so check out our continually updated list below to discover the best current headphones deals in Australia.

Best over-ear headphone deals this week

Bose QuietComfort QC35 II ($380, down from $499): The second iteration of the ever-popular noise-cancelling headphones from Bose is an improvement on near-perfection. With Google Assistant now integrated into the headphones, these will be the only cans you need, whether it be for long flights, train rides or just everyday listening. You can get the silver Bose QC35 II for only $380 with the code P20MYER. The same code applies for the black QC35 II on Myer’s eBay store as well. Sale ends October 30.

Bose SoundLink Around-Ear II wireless headphones ($263.20; usually $379): With an impressive 15 hours of battery life, NFC and Bluetooth pairing, Bose’s second-generation SoundLink Around-Ear II cans are on sale on eBay for just over $263, saving you a cool $115 on the usual RRP of $379. Just be sure use the code P20MYER at checkout to avail the 20% discount off the listed price. This offer ends October 30.

Beats Solo3 wireless on-ear headphones ($319.20; usually $399): There aren’t too many wireless cans that can match Beats’ promise of up to 40 hours of battery life for the Solo3. Plus, a quick five-minute fast charge gives you three extra hours of playback. So save yourself some money and carry on listening with the Rose Gold Solo3 that will cost you just over $319, saving you 20% on the RRP. Just be sure to use the code P20MYER at checkout, with the offer ending October 30. If, however, you’re after the black set of Solo3, you can use the same code at checkout.

B&O BeoPlay H7 over-ear headphones ($480; usually $699.95): Luxury brand Bang & Olufsen have some great premium audio gear in the market, but they do cost a pretty penny. But now is your chance to grab the BeoPlay H7 for less, and get the power of touch to control your favourite tunes. The H7 promises up to 20 hours of playback, besides having swappable batteries if you want to party on. In fact, it will even save battery life if you’ve stopped listening for 15 minutes by automatically shutting off. To save nearly $230 on these premium cans, head to Addicted To Audio and get yourself a pair of the B&O BeoPlay H7 for just $480.

Sennheiser PXC550 noise-cancelling wireless headphones ($388; usually $629): If you’re keen to shut the world out when out and about so you can enjoy your favourite tunes in joyous harmony, the Sennheiser PXC550 on-ear wireless headphones give you total control of how much ambient sound you’d like to allow in. Touch-sensitive ear cups keep you in control of your environment and promise comfort and great sound. Heck, you can even let the world in by switching off the noise cancellation whenever you want. These premium cans retail for $629, but the Sennheiser PXC550 headphones can be yours for just $388 when purchased from Addicted To Audio, saving you a whopping $291.

Best in-ear headphone deals this week

Bose QuietControl 30 noise-cancelling wireless headphones ($359.20; usually $449): For a pair of in-ear headphones, the QC 30 has a level of noise cancellation that matches any of Bose’s over-ear cans, and that’s very impressive given its size. In fact, the level of noise cancellation can be adjusted to suit your environment via the in-line remote. These are a pretty good set of headphones to get, especially for those who don’t particularly enjoy the feel of cans on their ears. The QC30 buds are available for just $359.20 on eBay by using the code P20MYER at checkout until October 30.

Bose QuietComfort 20 noise-cancelling headphones (from $256; usually $369): For a pair of tethered in-ear headphones that cost you $369, you’d expect only the best from Bose, and the QC20 does not disappoint. If you have the spare change and want incredible acoustic noise-cancelling combined with comfort and amazing sound quality, you really ought to get a pair. You can even save some dosh on these amazing headphones by heading to eBay and getting them for 20% off by using the code P20MYER at checkout, bringing the price down to $256 for a set of QC20s for Android only. Offer ends October 30.

Bose SoundSport wireless headphones ($190.40; usually $249): You don’t have to spend a lot of money to lay your hands on a darn good set of sports in-ear headphones. Bose’s entry level SoundSport wireless buds promise the signature Bose sound along with a steadfast and comfortable fit. And the Bose SoundSport can be yours for just $190.40 when you apply the code P20MYER at checkout on eBay until October 30.

Beats Powerbeats 3 wireless earphones ($207.20; usually $259): Featuring a five-minute fast charge to give you an extra hour’s worth of playback, the Powerbeats 3 buds gives you the freedom of movement during any workout. This set is sweat- and water resistant, plus there’s 20% off a pair on eBay until October 30, provided you use the code P20MYER at checkout. This brings the price of the Powerbeats 3 down to a cool $207.20.

The best deals on our favourite headphones

To help you decide which headphones work best for you, we’ve decided to put together a little buying guide with a list of our favourite recommendations.

The headphones you’ll find here have tons of features to help you to get the most out of your music, or any other form of audio-visual entertainment you prefer, however you like to listen to it.

Bose QuietComfort 35

Bose has brought its fantastic noise-cancelling technology to a pair of wireless headphones and it’s done so without any of the traditional drawbacks of wireless headphones. They sound great, and their battery life is long enough for all but the longest of flights. They’re super comfortable, and despite the fact that they don’t use the AptX Bluetooth standard, the wireless doesn’t harm their sound quality one bit.

Priced at AU$499 a pop, the QC35s sit firmly at the premium end of the spectrum, but if you want the best noise-cancelling headphones available right now, then you can’t get any better. And they can be bought at a great price, too.

Read our review of the Bose QC 35.

Bose QuietControl 30

For a pair of in-ear headphones, the QC 30 has a level of noise cancellation that matches any of Bose’s over-ear cans, and that’s very impressive given its size. In fact, the level of noise cancellation can be adjusted to suit your environment via the in-line remote.

But the effective noise-cancelling comes at the cost of sound quality. The QC 30 isn’t the best-sounding headphones in the world, but if you’re not an audio connoisseur, these are still a pretty good set of headphones to get, especially for those who don’t particularly enjoy the feel of cans on their ears.

Read our review of the Bose QC 30.

Bose QuietComfort 25

The QC 25 are just as good as Bose’s premium cans, but without the premium price tag. They’re still expensive at $399 a piece, but they achieve top performance per dollar and definitely worth your hard-earned dosh.

With exemplary sound quality and equally excellent ambient noise cancellation, the QC 25 will suit the serious or the casual listener, providing a wonderfully immersive experience when watching movies or TV shows, playing games or just listening to your favourite beats.

Read our review of the Bose QC 25.

Bose QuietComfort 20

For a pair of tethered in-ear headphones that cost you $369, you’d expect only the best from Bose, and the QC 20 does not disappoint. If you have the spare change and want incredible noise-cancelling combined with comfort and amazing sound quality, you really ought to get the QuietComfort 20.

The silicone ear tips are designed for a perfect fit while sealing the ear canal and the power for noise-cancellation comes from a lithium-ion battery. This makes the battery pack a tad unwieldy, but you’ll figure out how best to stow it as you go along. But all in all, these are one of the best headphones we’ve put through the paces.

Read our review of the Bose QC 20.

Sennheiser Momentum Wireless on-ear headphones

These no-holds-barred wireless headphones are oozing with positive qualities, but the cans don’t come cheap. However, if you’re an audio lover that can spare the expense, do not hesitate on this comfortable, hard-working set of headphones that will likely last for years.

Stainless-steel arms and leather finishes gives the headphones a rugged look, while the ball-jointed swivelling earcups provide ample movement and comfort. Battery-savers will find the wired option to be convenient, but you can also turn the headphones on to activate active noise cancellation.

Read our review of the Sennheiser Momentum Wireless over-ear headphones.

Oppo PM-3

The Oppo PM-3 is a truly stunning pair of headphones. Make no mistake, we’ve reviewed a lot of headphones over the years but none have we become more fond of than the PM-3.

They’re equally comfortable being plugged into a headphone amp at home as they are commuting through the hustle and bustle of the big smoke, and they stand head and shoulders above rival products from bigger brands. We really can’t recommend them highly enough, they’re just amazing.

Read our review of the Oppo PM-3.

Sennheiser Momentum In-ear headphones

With the appealing candy apple detailing, Sennheiser gets you in the door. But once you’re in, you’ll stay for the killer sound quality that comes from the Momentum In-Ear earphones. And you won’t have a problem that it’s tethered.

Capable of providing booming, tight bass straight to your ear canal, the Momentum In-ear buds will have you foot-tapping to practically every tune you listen to.  And for a low-cost set of in-ears, they’re as fine as they come.

Read our review of the Sennheiser Momentum In-ear headphones.

If you’re after more information on headphones in different form factors, take a look at some of our other dedicated audio articles:

Xperia XZ Premium gets its first bite of Oreo as Sony begins rollout of new Android OS

Google’s new Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL handsets may have been the first to receive the new Android Oreo operating system, but Sony isn’t far behind, with the new OS update rolling out now to Xperia XZ Premium handsets.

Ausdroid reports that the rollout is already under way across Hong Kong, Taiwan, the Middle East and Africa, with other markets set to follow in the not-too-distant future. 

Thanks to the Oreo update, the Xperia XZ will receive a number of new features, including Sony’s new 3D scanning application which will allow users to take three-dimensional scans of faces and objects that can be sent to a 3D printer or uploaded to social media.

Sony has also worked closely with Google in the development of a new LDAC codec that will see Android Oreo bring improved audio quality over Bluetooth.

Along with the Xperia XZ Premium, Sony plans to bring the Oreo update to its Sony Xperia X, Sony Xperia X Performance, Sony Xperia XZ, Sony Xperia X Compact, Sony Xperia XZs, Sony Xperia XA1, Sony Xperia XA1 Ultra and Sony Xperia XA1 Plus handsets.

To find out when the latest OS update will be coming to your phone, keep an eye on our Android Oreo release date, compatibility and features hub. 

As flames fade, wine country grapples with emotional scars of devastating fires

In the days since fires ravaged towns here, people have pulled together. Strangers at coffee shops share their trauma, talking of homes destroyed and loved ones lost.

Almost everyone seems to know a neighbor who knocked on a door or lifted someone into a car, and saved a life.

The phrase “The love in the air is thicker than the smoke” is on signs in shop windows, in Facebook posts and on people’s lips.

The community solidarity has buoyed people’s spirits, experts say. But when it fades, the trauma will stay.

“That’s when the cracks start to show,” said Jennifer MacLeamy, a therapist in Petaluma, which neighbors Santa Rosa, the city hardest hit by the fires. “People’s lives are still devastated.”

The wildfires that ripped through the region killed more than 40 people and displaced tens of thousands from their homes. Those who evacuated had only minutes to do so, leaving them with few, if any, possessions.

Other natural disasters, including previous wildfires in California, have left scars in the minds of survivors, studies have shown. Already, therapists in the Bay Area report hearing from patients who say they’re having trouble sleeping or feel scared when they hear heavy winds or sirens.

Health workers say North Bay residents require psychological attention to head off serious problems. Those mental health needs, however, are often neglected after disasters as communities focus on repairing the damage that can be seen.

Anxiety, flashbacks and tantrums

Talking to therapists at the Petaluma Health Center recently, a woman described her 4-year-old son as extra needy and energetic since they evacuated their home.

“I told my mom he’s a Stage 5 clinger right now,” the woman told MacLeamy, who is the center’s director of behavioral health.

Children might have separation anxiety, be unusually irritable or complain of headaches or stomachaches after traumatic events, MacLeamy said. Some might regress and begin sucking their thumbs, throwing tantrums and wetting the bed even though they had grown out of those behaviors.

MacLeamy created a Parenting Through Crisis class last week after co-workers told her they were struggling to talk to their children about the fire. She said the cashier at the grocery store started crying when MacLeamy asked how she was doing.

“People are just barely stitched together,” she said.

Julayne Smithson, 55, was working as a nurse at Kaiser Santa Rosa hospital while her mobile home burned across the street. She had purchased the home and moved to Santa Rosa just three weeks before.

Smithson and her Chihuahua, Tiki, found a place to live temporarily, but are still searching for permanent housing.

“It’s just amazing how stressful this all is. You don’t realize it, you don’t realize you’re in stress, but you’re just exhausted,” said Smithson, 55.

Anxiety, flashbacks, sleep disruptions, and hypervigilance are normal, and what therapists call an acute stress reaction. The strain may reopen old emotional wounds, or lead alcoholics to begin drinking again. Not everyone experiences these problems immediately.

“We’re really anticipating the reality of this to hit people in the next couple of weeks — the reality of what they lost,” said Maryellen Curran, who oversees behavioral health services for the Santa Rosa Community Health centers.

PTSD after natural disasters

The feelings could develop into post-traumatic stress disorder if they continue for more than a month and interfere with relationships or work, experts say.

A study of Californians evacuated from their homes during the 2003 wildfires showed that 33% were depressed and 24% were experiencing PTSD three months later. People whose property was damaged and who were injured or had a loved one injured were the most likely to be affected.

Lawrence Palinkas, USC professor of social policy and health, said people trained in mental health should be triaging survivors of the fires and referring those who are particularly stressed or not coping well into treatment.

Some experts say there’s a 30-day window after a traumatic event, a “golden month,” in which even small interventions can make a difference.

“It should be happening right now,” Palinkas said. “Simply because you’ve provided food and shelter, it doesn’t mean the job is completed.”

Sonoma County health workers have been administering psychological first aid to evacuated people for days, county health department spokesman Scott Alonso said.

“As long as those shelters are open and there’s a need, our folks will be out there,” Alonso said.

Some questioned whether the region has the capacity to provide more mental health care. The healthcare system took a major hit in the fires, with hospitals and clinics damaged and hundreds of medical professionals losing their homes.

When community solidarity fades

Even for those who didn’t lose homes or loved ones, seeing a hometown dotted with trucks from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and people wearing masks can be painful. The air still smells of smoke.

Cyndi Evans, 49, couldn’t sleep through the night for days last week because the winds were changing so quickly that a new neighborhood could be at risk within minutes.

“I felt very vulnerable, very raw,” said Evans, who lives south of downtown Santa Rosa.

Evans said she’s grateful her home was spared and her family is safe. She began volunteering at a shelter last week.

“I still feel weepy for our town,” she said. “This isn’t over yet.”

Many people, some of whom are experiencing survivor’s guilt, welcomed those displaced into their homes. Shelters in the region reported having too many volunteers and donations.

The sense of unity and support that swells after a crisis is one of the best ways to ward off PTSD and depression, but it often wanes when rebuilding starts, Palinkas said.

Some groups will feel slighted because they won’t get as many resources as others, he said. Social networks also fray after disasters because loved ones have died, people scatter to find new housing, and survivors tend to withdraw because they feel isolated, he said.

“The disruption of the social fabric of the community is as much a victim of a disaster like this as the disruption of individual health and well-being,” Palinkas said.

Andrea Williams-Epting, 30, started a Facebook group to share mental health resources for people affected by the fire. She said she’s heard people in Guerneville — about 20 miles west of Santa Rosa and close to a redwood park — say they’ve become sensitive to certain triggers: the sound of the wind, helicopters, people smoking or candles.

NBN Co has finally switched on the first Fibre to the Curb connection

The NBN rollout has reached a major proving point as the first Fibre to the Curb (FTTC) connection has been switched on, giving the company a chance to test its latest format in the Multi-Technology Mix (MTM) approach.

NBN Co announced in a blog post that the first FTTC connection (also known as Fibre to the Distribution Point, FTTdP) has been activated at a single property on a trial basis, revealed in a post from June, 2017 to be in Coburg, Melbourne. 

Designed as a compromise between the relatively expensive fibre to the premises (FTTP) and the unreliable fibre to the node (FTTN), this method can “reach the exact same 100/40Mbps top-speeds” as FTTP, according to the company’s post, and is “around $1,500 cheaper”.

While FTTN could result in having to run copper cabling from the premises to the end of its street, FTTC connections will ideally only have to run to an existing nearby telecom pit, thus shortening the distance that the signal has to travel via copper and also reducing the impact of the installation on the premises itself.

Need for speed

According to statements made to News.com by NBN Co, the trial premises “has achieved speeds of 109Mbps downstream and 44Mbps upstream using VDSL technology over a 70 metre copper line”. 

VDSL (Very-high-bit-rate Digital Subscriber Line) is the same technology being employed in FTTN connections and uses the same copper infrastructure as ADSL. Although it still suffers from the same susceptibility to degradation and longer cable lengths, this technology allows for download speeds up to five times greater than traditional ADSL lines. 

While the speeds mentioned are certainly decent, we don’t know at this stage if it’s an accurate reflection of the average FTTC connection for future activations. As the numbers are quite close to the top-tier 100Mbps/40Mbps NBN plan, it could even be possible that these are capped speeds and that the technology is capable of even more impressive down- and upstream results.

FTTC technology will be made available to over 1 million Australian homes and businesses by 2020, according to the NBN. You can find out which connection type your home or business is due to receive, an estimate of when it’ll happen, and an explanation of the different connection types on our Connecting to the NBN: What to expect page.

‘Walking Dead’ actor Tom Payne talks training — for the zombie apocalypse

If the dead do rise, will you be ready?

Actor Tom Payne, who plays the role of Paul “Jesus” Rovia on AMC’s megahit “The Walking Dead,” which has its Season 8 premiere Sunday night, believes he may have a fighting chance.

Training to slay zombies for the camera has real-world application.

“If you want to survive the zombie apocalypse,” Payne said, “you need to focus on increasing your stamina.” If you’ve ever seen a show about zombies, there are lot of them, and they just keep coming.

Sure, it’s fictional, but the idea of zombie fighting can be motivating for increasing one’s fitness. Case in point: the popularity of the “Zombies, Run!” app some runners use for motivation. Payne’s motivation is: “I want to do the character justice for his fighting ability.”

Payne explained that most “Walking Dead” characters, both on the show and in the comic book it’s based on, have “scrappy fights. They brawl. It’s really messy.” But “Jesus” is different. “The character is more dynamic and thoughtful about his fighting.”

This partially relates to Payne’s smaller stature. Standing 5 feet 7, , he endeavors to be less brawler, more Bruce Lee.

“I’ve been learning some high kicking and other martial arts stuff because that’s the basis of the character,” Payne said. “I have a new appreciation for how fit martial artists are. There is so much energy being exerted when you fight.”

But one of the things focused on is conservation of energy.

“When you don’t know how to fight you tend to put all your energy into one punch. That will tire you out quickly. You learn to keep energy in reserve and use your body in an efficient manner.”

And the training was important, he said. “It’s a real cardiovascular workout doing the filming. You sweat so much.” Payne said. “I was surprised how much they have us do our own stunts. I kept waiting for the stunt double to come in, and they almost never did.”

Payne did gymnastics when he was younger and had the size and experience for the tumbling the role demands. But he didn’t have a fighting background and needed to learn.

“It was a challenge to see if I could do it. I didn’t want them using a stunt double because it looks better if you can do the fighting moves yourself.”

To learn to fight for the camera, he had to learn to actually fight.

“When learning boxing and martial arts, there wasn’t any fakery in my training. When teaching you the basics of fighting, even though it’s faked for the camera, they teach you to do it for real.”

Payne enjoys having the new skill, but also refers to it as “weird.”

“There was a moment when I felt like it was creeping into my personal life. I’m not an aggressive person in any way, but there have been situations at night with alcohol involved where people are being obnoxious and you feel more capable and it’s very strange. It gives me a different kind of confidence. Learning this skill changes you.”

Perhaps Armageddon is around the corner, and perhaps it isn’t. If the apocalypse is nigh, Payne says, “I feel a little more capable now. I might be able to survive.”

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Is this what the OnePlus 5T is going to look like?

Right now there’s a lot of uncertainty about what OnePlus has planned for a successor to the OnePlus 5 – stocks of that phone are very low, so does that mean we’re going to see a OnePlus 5T soon? After all, OnePlus has done the minor upgrade trick before, with the OnePlus 3T bump last year.

Well, here’s another little clue that the OnePlus 5T is on the way: renders of the phone leaked to Chinese social network Weibo and posted by GizmoChina, an outlet that seems convinced that we are indeed going to see another OnePlus flagship this year.

As the images show, the update would enable OnePlus to join the thin bezel, 18:9 aspect ratio crowd along with the likes of LG, Samsung, Google and Apple. To make room for the massive new display, the fingerprint sensor gets pushed around the back – you can see it just above the OnePlus logo.

The waiting game

Apart from the new super-sized screen and the shifted fingerprint sensor, these new pictures don’t tell us too much. It looks like the dual-camera system used on the back of the OnePlus 5 is again used here, and it’s likely that the innards are going to be the same as well, led by the Snapdragon 835 CPU.

We haven’t heard too much in the way of speculation and rumors so far about whether the OnePlus 5T is going to happen, and that makes us think that the Chinese manufacturer might wait until 2018 and jump straight to the OnePlus 6 – it’s possible that these are pictures of next year’s phone.

If you’re thinking about buying a smartphone in the next few months though, it might be worth waiting to see if OnePlus has anything up its sleeve. The phone is likely to be launched in November, if it’s coming at all.