CES 2018 Wrap Up

CES 2018 Wrap Up


Blackfire Research is back from Las Vegas, where we spent the entire second week of January at the annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES). This year was packed with productive meetings in our official CES Suite at The Venetian Hotel and Casino. However, we did manage to get down to the Sands Expo and Las Vegas Convention Center to check out all the cool, new tech for 2018 – here’s what we saw at CES this year and our takeaways from the show:


Hey Google

If last year’s CES was dubbed “The Amazon Home Takeover,” this year could be summarized by one simple greeting: “Hey Google.” The search engine giant was everywhere this year: literally. They had a massive 3-story booth right outside the convention center, and at every booth that featured products touting Google Home smart speaker/Google Assistant functionality, a Google representative was there, donning a white jumpsuit fresh out of George Orwell’s dystopian vision of 1984. But Google’s overwhelming presence at the show paid off: this year, all eyes were on them. From Whirlpool appliances to smart speakers with video displays, you couldn’t escape the latest “Google Home Takeover.” Amazon was present at CES of course (Whirlpool also featured appliances with Amazon’s Dash Buttons built-in, which is pretty neat and useful) but if a winner had to be chosen for CES 2018, Google would be voted “Best in Show.” Speaking of which…


All (Robot) Dogs Go to Heaven

Sony has brought back their popular Aibo robot dog and everyone at the show couldn’t have been happier. This very good boy is new and improved for the AI age with a camera on his nose so he can recognize members of his family (awww) and find his bone (awww). He also features a camera on his back to help him navigate the house to find his charging station. With touch sensors on his head, back, and chin, he can respond to touch like any ‘ol dog would: by wagging his tail, moving his head, and stomping his widdle feeties. With his adorable LED-lit eyes, this is by far the best, and most realistic, pet robot on the market. Unfortunately, Sony hasn’t announced plans to sell Aibo in the US anytime soon. Doggonit!


A Picture’s Worth A Thousand Words…

This year, we’ve officially stepped into the world of 8K. But since 4K is barely a thing yet (because there’s hardly any 4K content available still) Samsung has gone around the issue of total lack of 8K content by unveiling it’s Q9S 8K TV with AI Upscaling, meaning, that this TV can convert any content into 8K resolution. And from firsthand experience, we can tell you that 8K resolution is pretty darn good. The picture was so incredibly clear that jaws dropped during the demo. Another Samsung showstopper this year was their enormous, bezel-less The Wall: a 146-inch modular MicroLED TV.


Honorable Mentions & Takeaways

5G cellular technology, the latest and greatest approved standard, wasn’t on display much at CES this year, mainly because the hardware needed for it isn’t quite ready yet. There were a few booths demonstrating it’s super-fast capabilities, but overall, it was all quiet on the 5G front at CES. But don’t expect that to last long: with 5G technology coming to the main service providers fast, it’s sure to be all the rage at next year’s event.


Once again, this year’s CES felt more like a car show than anything, with a plethora of smart, autonomous vehicles on display (some of which seemed to be taken straight from an episode of Black Mirror). Also, Wireless charging was big this year, especially since Apple announced their commitment to the Qi Wireless Charging standard last September.

Overall, between the rain and loss of power, this year’s CES was a bit chaotic. But we still managed to see some pretty neat tech that was useful, inspiring and – we hope – becomes available soon (we’re looking at you, Aibo!)

Powered by Blackfire: Pioneer Fayola FS-W50 Wireless Home Theatre System

Powered by Blackfire: Pioneer Fayola FS-W50 Wireless Home Theatre System


Blackfire Research is proud to have their FireConnect Multi-room Technology in the new Pioneer Fayola FS-W50 Wireless Home Theatre System.


The Pioneer Fayola FS-W50 Wireless Home Theatre System is comprised of two wireless front speakers, a wireless subwoofer, and a main controller unit. The system is “wireless, elegant and extremely versatile.” Besides a power cord, no other physical connections are required, since the system is wireless. With built-in dual-band Wi-Fi, you can access your entire music library, wirelessly, through streaming services like Tidal, Spotify and Deezer, internet radio stations and locally stored music. The FS-W50 also features Chromecast built-in, Airplay, and Bluetooth to accommodate all streaming needs.


The Pioneer Fayola FS-W50 Wireless Home Theatre System is perfect for watching movies or television in surround sound. All you need is a second pair of wireless satellites – the streaming receiver of the FS-W50 is able to decode all current sound formats and automatically adapts to the available speakers. Your television and any existing A/V players can be integrated with the FS-W50 via the ultra-HD-capable HDMI connector panel.


If you’re looking to “kick it up a notch” and want to supply additional rooms with music, you can easily expand the FS-W50 into a multi-room system. With compatible WiFi speakers from Pioneer and other manufacturers, you can share your music to any and all rooms of your house via FireConnect Multi-room Technology by Blackfire Research.


For a full review of The Pioneer Fayola FS-W50 Wireless Home Theatre System, as well as more information on FireConnect Multi-room Technology, check out the review below from AV Hub.




PDF Download: https://i.nextmedia.com.au/Assets/Pioneer_Fayola_FS-W50.pdf

Top 5 Films to Watch on Thanksgiving

Top 5 Films to Watch on Thanksgiving


Thanksgiving is finally here! After the parade, the feast, the big game, and perhaps a match of touch football in the yard is over, what’s there left to do? Why, watch a Thanksgiving-themed movie of course! Thanksgiving is the only holiday where it’s acceptable to wear sweatpants at the table, stuff your face with a colossal amount of food, and gather ‘round the TV – so take advantage of it! Here is our list of the top 5 films to watch on Thanksgiving with your whole family!


5) Free Birds (2013)

It may feel a bit strange watching this film about lovable turkeys after devouring the feathered creature that same day, but Free Birds is a fun, animated film everyone in your family will love. Owen Wilson voices Reggie, a Turkey who finds himself the lucky spared fowl at the annual Presidential Pardon of the Turkey. He then meets Jake (Woody Harrelson), who takes him on an adventure back in time to exclude turkeys from the first Thanksgiving, thus saving their kind from mass slaughter each year.


4) Miracle on 34th Street (1947)

Although technically a Christmas film, Miracle on 34th Street begins at The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, where Kris Kringle (Edmund Gwenn) notices that the man hired to play Santa Claus in the parade is intoxicated. After that, Kringle finds himself playing Old Saint Nick at Macy’s flagship New York store – but soon, he starts claiming he truly is Santa Claus, and his sanity comes into question. Miracle on 34th Street is a classic family film to kick off the holiday season!


3) Addams Family Values (1993)

The story of the first Thanksgiving has been fictionalized throughout the centuries to be a fairytale gathering of Pilgrim settlers and Native Americans breaking bread together for one glorious, peaceful evening. The real story about what happened before, during, and after that first “Thanksgiving” is nothing like the myth we tell ourselves as a nation, and Wednesday Addams in Addams Family Values is here to remind us that in true Addams Family fashion.


2) A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving (1973)

This short, animated classic is sure to put a smile on everyone’s face this Turkey Day! Join Charlie Brown, Peppermint Patty, Snoopy, and the rest of the Peanuts gang as they celebrate Thanksgiving with ice cream sundaes, buttered toast, and jelly beans. Good grief!


1) Planes, Trains & Automobiles (1987)

Nothing is worse than traveling during the holidays. In this film, Neal Page (Steve Martin) struggles to get home to Chicago to spend Thanksgiving with his family. Along his 3-day journey, he (reluctantly) teams up with Del Griffith (the late John Candy), an annoying, messy, shower curtain ring salesman. Martin and Candy are a legendary comedic-duo in this hilarious Thanksgiving classic, arguably the best Thanksgiving film to date!


We hope you enjoyed our top 5 films to watch on Thanksgiving. From Blackfire Research, have a wonderful, restful Thanksgiving and start to the holiday season!

Meet Google Home Mini and Google Home Max

Meet Google Home Mini and Google Home Max


At their recent hardware event, Google announced two new additions to their smart speaker agenda, both of which are ready to take on the ever-increasing number of competitors in the field. Say hello to the Google Home Mini and the Google Home Max.


The Google Home Mini has the same functionality as the original Google Home, but at a fraction of the size (and cost). With voice command, you can ask Google Assistant to stream music, control your smart home, check your calendar, and search the internet. The Mini is nearly 4 inches in diameter (roughly the size of a hockey puck), with the top portion covered in fabric, which is available in three colors: chalk, charcoal, and coral. The fabric hides the speaker (1.5-inches) and a far-field voice-recognition microphone. The design is pretty simple and sleek (although as a cat-parent, I wonder how much hair that fabric covering will collect over time). The Mini is a direct response (and a direct competitor) to the Amazon Echo Dot, the cheaper, more popular version of Amazon’s flagship Echo smart speaker. Will The Mini overtake Echo Dot as the most popular pint-sized smart speaker? According to some reviews, The Google Home Mini certainly sounds better than the Echo Dot (it boast 360 degree sound with a 40mm driver), but in overall functionality, there isn’t much of a difference between the two. At $49, the Mini is the cheapest smart speaker option currently on the market.


The biggest announcement of the day, however, belonged to the introduction of Google Home Max, a premium version of the Google Home smart speaker designed to compete against Apple’s HomePod and Sonos. The Home Max is a stereo speaker that runs Google Assitant and looks quite similar to the Sonos Play:5 speaker. The speaker is designed to intelligently adjust audio depending on a user’s surroundings using AI (or what Google calls “Smart Sound”), similar to what Apple’s HomePod speaker does. The Max has two tweeters and two 4.5-inch woofers and the company has emphasized the speaker’s powerful bass. The Max supports multi-room audio via Chromecast Audio only, but supports many streaming services including Pandora, Spotify, and iHeartRadio. In terms of connectivity, the Home Max supports Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and Chromecast. At roughly 12 pounds, this is by far the largest smart speaker on the market, and the priciest as well. The Google Home Max will set you back almost $400, but Google is giving away 12 months free of YouTube Music with every Home Max purchase. The speaker will be available in two colors: chalk and charcoal, and can be displayed both vertically or horizontally via an adjustable silicon base.


The real question is: will the Google Home Max sound as good as the company claims? The answer is, most likely, no. Smart speakers don’t have a very good track record when it comes to audio quality. That’s why many smart speaker owners look for alternative ways to playback their music, especially for multi-room. To achieve excellent wireless multi-room, or multi-device set ups, entertainment systems need greater reliability over standard Wi-Fi, more precise synchronization, and multichannel capabilities, which smart speakers like Google Home, and the Echo, lack.


The good news: Blackfire Research offers the most synchronous, reliable, and cost effective wireless solution on the market. We call it the Blackfire RED framework, and it can be embedded into premium wireless speakers and voice-activated smart speakers, creating a truly connected home smart entertainment system. Voice service solutions require a high performance, multi-room solution like the Blackfire RED framework, allowing for multiple devices to respond to voice commands simultaneously.


Combining individual entertainment systems to work together to create a truly connected smart home is non trivial – but with Blackfire RED, it can be done, and with stunning results. Blackfire RED can be integrated into a broad spectrum of high quality voice service applications, so the Blackfire connected smart home ecosystem has no limits.  


Harman Kardon, Pioneer, and Onkyo are leveraging Blackfire’s technology in over 100 new products this year alone. Join the Blackfire Revolution today!

Powered by Blackfire: The Onkyo TX-RZ920 Network Receiver

Powered by Blackfire: The Onkyo TX-RZ920 Network Receiver


At CEDIA 2017, premium audio manufacturer and Blackfire Research partner, Onkyo, announced the impressive TX-RZ920. The TX-RZ920 is a 9.2 channel A/V network receiver that boasts 135 watts of sound per channel. Part of Onkyo’s flagship RZ Series of A/V receivers, the TX-RZ920 features top-quality components, a massive custom transformer, and is THX Certified for movie theater quality sound right in your living room. The TX-RZ920 also features Chromecast built-in, so you can stream any music from your smartphone, laptop, or PC to the TX-RZ920 with ease. With the Onkyo Controller app, you can browse and play music from your favorite online streaming services, including Spotify, TIDAL, Deezer, Pandora, and TuneIn. The TX-RZ920 is designed for both a full home theater and smaller listening setups and supports both 2.4 and 5GHz Wi-Fi connectivity.


But the best part? The Onkyo TX-RZ920 features Blackfire Research’s own FireConnect Multi-room Wireless Audio. FireConnect mirrors network audio and external analog sources connected to a master component (from streaming services to vinyl records) to any Blackfire-compatible speaker (like the Onkyo NCP-302 Network Speaker) in any room, all over standard Wi-Fi. Now, your favorite music can follow you from room to room.


Learn more about purchasing options for the Onkyo TX-RZ920 here.