Sunday, March 15, 2015

The New Sound of Golf

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Review by Dave, mygolfspy.com

Golf is a game of silence, until it’s not. What do I mean by that? Come on, you don’t really need to ask that. We have all had our quiet walks spoiled by an errantly stroked F-Bomb. Walking on grass, and striking the ball really don’t make much noise. We need people for that. OK, so maybe airplanes and lawnmowers too, but I think that with the exception of drones and the soon to be released golf-Roomba, those machines rely on people for their noise as well.

Musical Interludes on the Course
In recent years, technological advances have made it possible for golfers to enjoy music on the practice range, as well as on the course itself. Not that this is a new concept. I don’t need to remind you that the second coolest thing in Al Czervik’s golf bag was the car stereo.
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Now we can bring that course-dancing dream to life through the magic of smartphones and Bluetooth audio devices. You can even do it without making your bag so heavy that only D’Annunzio could carry it. Today’s portable audio is small, light, and loud.
We will return to the question of how such audio devices could change the golf landscape in a bit, but first, let’s check out a couple of Bluetooth audio goodies from RedFox Wireless.

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On the Range: RedFox EDGE Wireless Headset
Personally, wearing headphones on the driving range or practice putting green has become almost a requirement. Nothing jacks up my range session more than hearing the guy in the next stall give swing advice to his buddy. The advice may even be of quality, but that doesn’t matter. As soon as I hear a “tip” my brain seems to zero in on that idea, especially if it’s something that I too have an issue with.

Since we live in a polite society, I don’t really feel comfortable about telling this pseudo-Haney to drop the volume. Thus headphones. The wired iPhone headphones work in a pinch, but running the cord under my shirt and keeping the phone in the pocket are a bit irritating. All hail wireless.

For the past year or so, I have used a pair of Motorola Bluetooth headphoneson the range. They are OK, but the charge seems to go in a hurry, and I frequently forget to charge them. Operator error. They are also a bit annoying to put on, as they need to individually loop over the ear and insert into the ear canal to hold in place. Plus, there is no microphone, so if a call comes in I need to un-pair them to answer the phone.

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For the past few weeks, I have been using the RedFox Wireless EDGE headphones instead. Here are the specs on the EDGE
·      Built-in microphone
·      Controls for music and phone
·      Bluetooth V2.1+EDR with AD2P & ACVRP
·      5-8 hours of continuous use - 1 hour re-charge time
·      Li-Ion 3.7V, 150mAH rechargeable battery
·      Use With: iPod, iPhones, Android, Smartphones, PC, Tablets and Bluetooth TVs
·      USB to mini-USB charger included
·      Limited One-year Warranty
·      Price: $119.99

My Takes on the EDGE
Ease of Use
Hold down the power button to turn these on or off. The lights flash to let you know that the headphones are on and also to indicate that pairing was successful. Simple.
 
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Audio controls are on the arms near the ears and are easy to access. Button pressing is a little stiffer than I expected, but not so stiff that you would need two hands for adjustment. The controls on the EDGE integrated immediately and perfectly with my iPhone 6.

Turn them on, and press play. That’s it. Easy.

Sound Quality
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I was surprised by a couple of things with these headphones. First, the sound is very clear, from the highs to the lows. Now I’m not typically looking for teeth-vibrating madness on the range, but there is nothing worse than a small speaker missing the lows. These sound complete.

The EDGE headphones do an excellent job of blocking out ambient noise as well. I was not expecting this. I thought that the design would be prone to lots of environmental leakage. Not so. You put these on, and you hear your music, even at relatively low volumes.

Speaking of volume, these headphones can go LOUD. Was totally surprised at just how much they could be pumped up. Turn these up to 11 and you’ll have nothing but your tunes, and eventual tinnitus, sharing the range with you. I’m only kind of joking about the tinnitus. You need to be careful with the volume of these, or any headphones. Trust the old guy with the ringing ears…

Comfort
These are so easy to take on and off. A huge improvement over my previous wireless headphones. If you do need to take them off, they will rest comfortably around your neck until you need them again.

The EDGE will fit your head in a hook-up, or hook-down orientation. Put them on, and then flip them over to see which position is more comfortable. I like the over-the-ear, hook-down orientation. They just fit a bit snugger that way.

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When I first put these on, I was concerned about the part that wraps around the neck interfering with the collar on my shirt. Groundless concern there. Never an issue, even when swinging the club. Flipped over, there is a bit more interaction, and the fit seems less snug on the head.

They are definitely comfortable enough to wear for a couple of hours on the range. After a long session, my ears did feel a bit sore, but that sensation vanished before I made it back to the car.

Battery
Super fast charging, and the charge holds when not in use. I have not timed the total play time on these, but I’ve used them for a few sessions between charges with no issues. Since I’ve only used them for a few weeks, I can’t really comment on overall battery longevity. So far though I’d definitely say that these hold the charge better than the Motorola wireless headphones that I have used for the past few years.


Sound to Share: The RedFox FoxBox
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This is where we get a bit more controversial on the sound front. Most golfers won’t even look twice at someone wearing headphones on the range, but playing music on the course is a whole different thing. Polarizing is one word that comes to mind.

I think that we are looking at one of the transition points for golf from the old model to the new model. A round in historical silence and one punctuated by Korn are two very different animals.

Let’s put aside the debate for a moment and assume that we are all in the pro-music camp. The question then turns from should we play music to how do we play music? Again, we turn to the magic of wireless audio.

When I was researching Bluetooth speakers, I quickly learned that the product pool was deep and wide. Pricing is all over the place, as are features. This caused me to come up with some key features that I really wanted to be present in any portable speaker that I was to use on the course.

Right after its tech specs, we’ll see how today’s speaker, RedFox’s FoxBoxanswers those questions.

Technical Specifications: RedFox FoxBox
·      FoxBox Specifications
Bluetooth Protocol Version 2.1 + EDR
·      Bluetooth Range 10m
·      Speaker Unit 40mm*2 anti-magnetism
·      Output Power 3W
·      Impedance 4Ω
·      Frequency 20Hz to 20kHz
·      Signal/noise ratio >80dB
·      THD <0.5%
·      Battery 2200mAh Re-chargeable Lithium
·      Dimensions 122*60*47mm
·      Weight 250g
·      Working Period up to 20 hours
Patented, CE,FCC,ROHS,BQBCertified
Built in Microphone, hands free phone calls, great for conference calls in the office, or partying with friends
·      Touch screen buttons on the speaker top
·      Volume + button: Volume up (long press)/previous song (short press)
·      Volume – button: Volume down (long press)/Next song (short press)
·      Phone button: When a call comes in, press to answer phone, when playing music, press to play/pause audio
Plenty of volume to enjoy outdoors, quality sound, great for hands free speaker phone at home or in the office.

Question 1: Is it small?
It’s an obvious question, but like in inseams, size really does matter. I don’t want to be trucking a big Cerwin Vega CS-150 around the golf course. The speaker needs to fit in the bag, and ideally somewhere on my cart.

The FoxBox size is right in the usable ballpark. Take a look at it compared to my iPhone 6. Not too large, not too small.
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The FoxBox fits within the console of my Clicgear 3.5+, though the audio was better when it was in the cargo net.

Question 2: Is it easy to use?
I have little patience for sloppy tech. Be it app or hardware, if the operation is clunky, I’m not going to use it. 

This is definitely a high point for the FoxBox. It works without a frustration in sight. Pairing is quick. Audio control from the phone, or from the unit itself is spot on. Charging is easy from any USB port.
I know I’m not really giving you much info here, but that’s really the highest praise for the unit I can give. Operation is so seamless that it’s not really worth discussing it. It just works.

Cool Feature Sidebar:
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One feature that is pretty unique to the FoxBox is the inclusion of a micro-SDslot. If you are worried about using your phone for music, just dump a bunch of songs on the SD card and the FoxBox becomes a solo act. You can probably store enough songs on the SD card to cover your whole season, let alone a single round.

Question 3: How does it sound?
This is probably the most subjective of the topics for any speaker. You think that golfers can get heated when they discuss gear? Take a stroll over to any audio equipment forum and you will find polarized camps full of speaker company homers. Ear of the beholder...
The FoxBox is not going to replace your home stereo system. It’s a small speaker and with that comes limitations. Typically, these limitations are at the low end of the sound range. There’s a reason that the woofers in the back of your car are 22” in diameter. You’ll not have the car that goes boom with tiny speakers.
I was actually surprised by the bass in the FoxBox when I fired it up for the first time. I picked up a different, and larger, Bluetooth speaker back in December and the FoxBox’s lows definitely sound better. You are not going to rattle the trunk box with it, but at least it doesn’t sound like something is missing in the song.
Volume is also somewhat limited, but again, it’s a small speaker. I’m not sure how loud you really need a speaker to be on the course anyway. For me, the ideal volume seemed to be relatively low. I liked hearing it when I pushed my cart between shots. When I stepped away from the cart in between shots, I didn’t really hear it at all. It was a nice balance.
It will get louder, and I am not sure that I am a loud music on the course guy. When I played with Tim last week, I fired up the FoxBox for our round. I turned it off on the second hole, not because the music was taking something away from golf, but rather because it was interrupting my time with Tim.
Again, the pro vs. con debate of on-course music has multiple components.

Anyway, the sound quality and the volume range of the FoxBox are both pretty good for a small speaker. Just keep that small speaker trait in mind as you turn it up. If you really need your golf cart turned into a house party, you may want to look into something more powerful/larger.

Music: Golf’s Next Frontier?
I get the feeling that music on the golf course is here to stay. Many courses already have speakers in the cart, and places like Top Golf may actually condition people to play with music in the background.

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If you are thinking about adding music to your game, the technology has never been better. No longer do you need a single wire to get that done. We have such great toys these days.
There are lots of headphone and speaker options out there; so many that buying anything can be overwhelming. I had never heard of RedFox before I got started with the EDGE and the FoxBox, but after using them, I’m impressed.

I’m still not sure how I feel about music on the course, but the EDGE headphones are now a part of every range session, and the FoxBox has supplied music for more than one kitchen family dance party. Good stuff.

1 comment:

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