The New Soundboks is a massive, pro-level, battery-powered Bluetooth speaker

The new Soundboks is impressive. It has everything: a sturdy housing, Bluetooth, large battery, XLR-inputs, and several methods to connect multiple Soundboks. Indoor or out, the new Soundboks sounds great.

The Soundboks isn’t shy. It’s an extrovert. This speaker will stand tall among strangers and be the loudest in the room. It doesn’t try to compensate for lackluster sound with a quirky design, either. There’s nothing fancy to the style of the Soundboks 2, and to me, that’s part of its appeal. This speaker is here to party.

Quick note: This product is called the new Soundboks. It’s the third speaker from the company and it doesn’t follow the current naming scheme. The last previous version was called the Soundboks 2 yet this one is called the new Soundboks. The naming is a touch confusing.

Click the speaker on and the new Soundboks comes alive. There are two 10-inch woofers and one compression driver tweeter. Together the company says it they produce 126 dB of noise, which I found is mostly free of distortion at high volumes. This speaker sounds great at moderate volumes. When cranked up, it still sounds good enough as the dual woofers pound and rattle windows.

Three 72W class D amplifiers live inside the plywood cabinet. That’s key and explains the endless power. Forgive the cliche: this speaker goes to 11 and does so on a battery
A large removable 12.8V, 7.8Ah battery lives on the side of the speaker. The company says it’s good for 40 hours of listening. I cannot confirm it lasts that long but I know it’s good for at least 10 hours at moderate volume.

This battery is what makes the Soundboks stand apart from other speakers. It opens up opportunities. This is portable loudspeaker. The company knows this, too, and sells accessories such as a backpack and cart to assist in getting the 34 lbs speaker to the party no matter the location.

This latest version of the speaker packs a couple upgrades from previous models. First, it sports Bluetooth 5.0 for improved audio quality and connectivity. The new speaker can also be daisy chained to five other Soundboks speakers either through wires or Bluetooth.

Connecting several together is silly easy. I was sure I did something wrong and reset all the settings to test it again. But no: It just works. First, connect one of the speakers to Bluetooth. On the side of the speakers is a large red button to put the speaker in solo or multi-speaker mode. Select host on the speaker connected over Bluetooth and join on the other speaker. Bam. Two loud speakers. Or the speakers can be connected with 3.5mm or XLR cables.

Soundboks was founded in 2014 and participated in Y Combinator’s Winter 2016 program. The company saw $ 13.5 million in revenue in 2018 and sold over 50,000 of its first two products. 

In the end, not everyone needs a speaker the size of a Coleman cooler. This is a big speaker with a big $ 999 price. It’s a party speaker. It’s for sports teams and house parties and tailgates. And in those situations, the Soundboks excels because of its power, portability and ability to link more speakers together. It’s a party in a box and I love it.

Gadgets – TechCrunch

‘World’s first Bluetooth hair straighteners’ can be easily hacked

Here’s a thing that should have never been a thing: Bluetooth-connected hair straighteners.

Glamoriser, a U.K. firm that bills itself as the maker of the “world’s first Bluetooth hair straighteners,” allows users to link the device to an app, which lets the owner set certain heat and style settings. The app can also be used to remotely switch off the straighteners within Bluetooth range.

Big problem, though. These straighteners can be hacked.

Security researchers at Pen Test Partners bought a pair and tested them out. They found that it was easy to send malicious Bluetooth commands within range to remotely control an owner’s straighteners.

The researchers demonstrated that they could send one of several commands over Bluetooth, such as the upper and lower temperature limit of the device — 122°F and 455°F respectively — as well as the shut-down time. Because the straighteners have no authentication, an attacker can remotely alter and override the temperature of the straighteners and how long they stay on — up to a limit of 20 minutes.

“As there is no pairing or bonding established over [Bluetooth] when connecting a phone, anyone in range with the app can take control of the straighteners,” said Stuart Kennedy in his blog post, shared first with TechCrunch.

There is a caveat, said Kennedy. The straighteners only allow one concurrent connection. If the owner hasn’t connected their phone or they go out of range, only then can an attacker target the device.

Here at TechCrunch we’re all for setting things on fire “for journalism,” but in this case the numbers speak for themselves. If, per the researchers’ findings, the straighteners could be overridden to the maximum temperature of 455°F at the timeout of 20 minutes, that’s setting up a prime condition for a fire — or at very least burn damage.

It’s estimated that as many as 650,000 house fires in the U.K. are caused by hair straighteners and curling irons left on. In some cases it can take more than a half-hour for these heated devices to cool down to safe levels. U.K. fire and rescue services have called on owners to physically pull the plug on their devices to prevent fires and damage.

Glamoriser did not respond to a request for comment prior to publication. The app hasn’t been updated since June 2018, suggesting a fix has yet to be put in place.

Gadgets – TechCrunch

Hands-on with Ledger’s Bluetooth crypto hardware wallet

French startup Ledger unveiled a new hardware wallet at CES this week. While the device isn’t going to ship until March, the company let me play with a prototype version of the device. The Ledger Nano X feels just like using the Nano S, but on mobile.

When the company’s previous hardware wallet first came out, that was before the cryptocurrency boom, before Ledger raised $ 75 million. And the user experience wasn’t great.

You had to install multiple Chrome apps to manage multiple cryptocurrencies, switch between each app when you wanted to access your balance and manage your crypto assets. But things got much better when the company released Ledger Live on macOS, Windows and Linux.

With this new app, you could finally view your portfolio balance and manage multiple crypto assets from the same desktop app. The logical next step was mobile. And you have to get a new hardware wallet for that.

The Ledger Nano X looks more or less like the Ledger Nano S, but slightly bigger. It’s shaped like a USB key and it has a tiny screen to confirm transactions on the device. There’s a tiny 100 mAh battery in it and a slightly bigger screen. Battery should last a couple of months when you’re not using the wallet, and around 8 hours of active use. The microUSB port has been replaced by a USB-C port. The buttons are now on each side of the screen instead of on the side of the device.

After you pair the device with your phone, you can control everything from your iOS or Android phone. You can install apps on the Ledger Nano X, access your wallets and send cryptocurrencies. On iOS, you can lock the app using a password and optionally Face ID or Touch ID.

When you need to validate a transaction on your Ledger Nano X, your phone will pair with your Ledger device over Bluetooth. You can then view transaction information on your Ledger device and approve the transaction on the device itself.

What makes Ledger so secure is that your private keys never leave your Ledger device. Transactions are signed directly on the device. Your private keys are never sent over Bluetooth and your cryptocurrencies remain safe even if your smartphone is compromised.

Ledger now uses an ST33 secure element, which is slightly more secure than the previous version ST31. Now, there’s only a single chip and it is connected directly to the screen and buttons, which reduces the risk of having someone compromise the information on your screen.

The screen is now twice as tall, which lets you view full public addresses without a scrolling view. You can now install up to 100 different cryptocurrency apps. You can still plug the device to a computer and use the desktop app as well. And the device costs €120 ($ 138).

Disclosure: I own small amounts of various cryptocurrencies.

CES 2019 coverage - TechCrunch

Gadgets – TechCrunch

Tempow’s new Bluetooth profile lets you create AirPods clones more easily

French startup Tempow has been working on software solutions to improve the Bluetooth protocol. The company just unveiled the Tempow True Wireless Bluetooth profile so that anybody can create AirPods clones.

Many companies have tried creating a pair of earbuds with absolutely no wire. But none of them are as good as Apple’s AirPods. Manufacturers can’t quite recreate the same experience because Apple has developed its own chip and software solution.

Putting aside the magical Bluetooth pairing process, AirPods leverage normal Bluetooth audio (A2DP) to communicate with your device. That’s why they work with iPhones, Android phones, old Windows laptops, etc.

But A2DP normally only lets you connect one device with one headphone. And that’s also what’s happening with AirPods. Your phone establishes a link with one of the earbuds. The second earbud then sniffs the first link.

Other manufacturers have tried to create wireless earbuds by establishing a second connection between the second earbud and the main earbud. They often use Near Field Magnetic Induction. This uses a lot of battery and creates latency issues.

Tempow has been rewriting the Bluetooth stack so that manufacturers can use normal Bluetooth chipsets and pair a single device with multiple speakers. Using this solution for wireless earbuds seems like a natural fit.

Gadgets – TechCrunch

These Bluetooth earbuds double as a charging cord

As I write this, I’m somewhere in Asia, with a bag full of assorted cables and devices. I’ve gotten better at packing light, but I’ve still got a ways to go. Certainly there’s something to be said for those products that can pull double duty — take the new Huawei phone or most recent iPad Pro update, all of which double as device chargers.

The Changer looks to be a clever take on the concept for the perpetually low on battery. The $ 89 yolked Bluetooth earbuds double as a charging cable. Snap the headphone bits off and you’ll find USB-C, microUSB and Lightning connectors.

The headphones sport a 12-hour battery, according to the company, and can be plugged directly into the wall. The cable can also be used to plug a mobile device into a battery pack or plugged into two different devices to share a charge.

I’ll admit I’m a bit skeptical about the efficacy of all this at this point, and the fact that its manufacturer, 49101, is opening up pre-orders through Indiegogo. The headphones are set to start shipping early next year.

Gadgets – TechCrunch