AV Quick Takes: TCL, KEF, and… Cow Dung?
TCL North America has launched new versions of its popular 4K miniLED 6-Series TVs. The 6-Series TVs have been big sellers since their 2018 launch, thanks to a combination of high-end features and lower-end pricing. These new 2022 “Roku R6” TVs now offer up to 360 local dimming zones, and refresh rates up to 144 Hz. The series includes 55-inch ($700), 65-inch ($1,000) and 75-inch ($1,500) models. These new TVs replace the 2020 Roku 6-Series TVs in the TCL lineup. In 2021, TCL also launched other 6-Series TVs running on Google TV (rather than the Roku OS), as well as more expensive in the 6-Series. So far, those 2021 models have not been updated and remain available. The 2022 6-Series uses 4K VA LCD panels with miniLED (Full Array Local Dimming) back-lighting. The 75-inch model boasts 360 dimming zones, compared to 240 zones on the 2020 75-incher. Two of the HDMI ports offer enough bandwidth for the supported HDMI 2.1 features, including VRR and AMD FreeSync. Dolby Vision and Atmos are both supported. Also new this year is a height-adjustable center stand that makes it easier to accommodate a sound bar under the screen.
The 6-Series has been our most highly-lauded model for delivering advanced features that TVs costing two or three times more would have, and our new 2022 version is no different — innovative technology at incomparable value, thanks to the many advantages of being a vertically integrated company.
— Chris Hamdorf, Senior VP, TCL
The British loudspeaker specialists at KEF have launched their first wireless noise-cancelling headphones, the Mu7 ($400). Taking aim at industry leaders Sony and Bose, as well as fellow UK speaker manufacturer Bowers & Wilkins, KEF turned to industrial designer Ross Lovegrove to design the Mu7. Known for curvy sculptural designs, like KEF’s own $225,000 Muon loudspeakers, Lovegrove created a unique shape, realized in precision-engineered aluminum. The headphones are available from KEF’s website in Silver Grey and Charcoal Grey finishes. KEF put significant effort into perfecting the Mu7’s ergonomics, building a lightweight yet durable headband that reportedly minimizes ear pressure while maintaining a good acoustic seal. The breathable, faux-leather memory foam ear cushions are designed to mold to the shape of the user’s head, enhancing bass response while also improving passive noise isolation. There is also active noise cancellation on board, which uses multiple filters to capture environmental sound before targeting individual frequencies via a specialized algorithm, according to KEF. The company’s Clear Voice Capture (cVc) technology is said to isolate the user’s voice and minimize other noise picked up by the microphone, improving the audio quality of phone calls. Unusually for a headphone of this type and price, there doesn’t appear to be a “transparency mode” for those situations in which you want to be aware of your environment or speak to a flight attendant. You do get a 40mm dynamic driver, Bluetooth 5.1, and support for Qualcomm’s aptX HD codec. Touch gestures on the side of the ear cup control volume, play/pause, and so on. Battery life is rated at 40 hours, with a 15-minute fast charge yielding 8 hours of juice. A 3.5mm analogue audio connection is available, but there’s no USB “Dac Mode,” which you get from some competitors.
Cow Dung Speakers?
The recent Singapore Design Week had a focus on themes of recycling, reusing, and repurposing. The young designers featured at the event’s Find Design Fair offered up some innovative examples of upcycling, including unusual ways of using cow dung, which pollutes water and emits harmful gases, such as methane and ammonia. Designer Adhi Nugraha, looking for ways to reduce the environmental impact of farming in Indonesia, developed a method to reprocess the feces into a durable material that could be used to make various household objects, including lamps, stools (no pun intended), and even loudspeakers. In addition to being a designer, Nugraha is a teacher and researcher at the Bandung Institute of Technology, where he led a team to develop a process to repurpose dung. The waste is washed to remove odor, then combined with scrap plastic and wood glue in a mold. Finally, the material is dried at low heat until hard. We’ve all heard speakers that sound like sh*t, but never quite like this. The good news is that the process is reportedly simple and doesn’t require much energy, so it’s possible that local villagers could profit from this type of production.
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