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VIVANCO CYBERWAVE FMH 3000 CORDLESS HEADPHONES  £80   ****

 

Why’s it here? Cordless phones have been around for a while but until now they’ve been sold on convenience, rather than sound quality. They’re getting better, and a couple of models we’ve tried recently were actually quite good. However, until now they’ve all been infra-red types, which send audio signals on beams of invisible light. The trouble is they only work in the same room as the transmitter. Cyberwave FMH 3000 from Vivanco are different. They’re RF cordless headphones, that use FM radio signals instead of light. Radio waves pass through walls, into the garden and beyond.

 

Any unique features? Cyberwave looks almost identical to the Vivanco IR6500s, the most noticeable difference is the bendy aerials, on the phones and base unit. The phones are powered by a pair of rechargeable AAA cells, one per side, they last for around 16 hours, between charges. The headset clips onto the base unit for charging. As a matter of interest the headphones operate on the 49MHz band, also used by a variety of other  products, including radio controlled toys and walkie talkies, burglar alarms and cordless phones, so there is the potential for interference, to and from Cyberwave. The range is quoted at 30 metres indoors or 50 metres within line of sight of the base unit.

 

How does it perform?

Vivanco have gone to a lot of trouble to get their RF technology past the UK regulatory authorities. The specs are very tight, and the allocated frequency band is quite narrow, nevertheless, they have somehow managed to squeeze in most of the audio spectrum. Bass response is a wee bit shallow, compared with similarly-priced IR phones from Philips, but treble is crisp and very detailed, and there’s nothing like the amount of background hiss -- within the reception area. Noise levels increase quickly the further you get from the base unit, our sample continued to work well, up to 20 metres and three brick walls from the base unit. Interference was not a problems during our trials, TVs had no effect at all, only computer monitors seem to bother them,  producing a strange ‘whooshing’ noise, when used within a metre or so of the screen. Volume levels are fine, clean sounds from soft to uncomfortably loud. They’re light and comfortable, with a moderately springy headband, that keeps the ear cups in place, even if you feel the urge to bop...   

 

Our Verdict

Cordless headphones still have a little way to go before they’re on a par with the wired variety but the gap is narrowing. Cyberwave is up there with the best that mid-range IR has to offer, with the added bonus of extra freedom to listen to your favourites sounds, anywhere in the house. Good value, worth considering.

 

Cyberwave FMH 3000

Features            RF Cordless phones, re-chargeable batteries supplied, built-in stand on transmitter/charger unit

 

Sockets                       DC input, stereo line-audio in (minijack plug)

Weight (phones)            250 grams (inc. batteries)

 

Comfort                      ****

Sound Quality            ****

Build Quality              ****

Features                     ****

Ease of use                 ****

Overall value              ****

 

Competitors


Philips SBC-HC520, £80             HE41

Sennheiser IS-360,            £70            HE38

Vivanco IR6500            £90            HE38

Vivanco UK Ltd., telephone (01442) 231616

 

HEAD

ONE-FOR-ALL 5 AND SONY RM-V30 UNIVERSAL REMOTE CONTROLS

£30/£30 ***/****

 

Why are they here? You shouldn’t need to ask, if you’ve got dogs, kids or a multi-component home cinema system. As we acquire more remote control handsets, so the chances of one or more of them getting lost or broken increases proportionately. As they proliferate it’s also useful to be able to replace two or more handsets with one multi-function model. The Sony V30 is a two-device remote, for TVs and VCRs; the One For All 5 can handle up to five products, including a TV, VCR, satellite receiver, cable box, CD players and OFA’s own home security system

 

Any unique features? The Sony V30 is a bit like a wobble toy, the base is weighted, so it always stands upright. It’s powered by lithium battery, which is supplied. The pre-programmed library of commands is quite modest, though it covers most popular brands sold in the UK. The OFA 5 has a much larger command library, and it can also be updated over the phone, so in theory at least, it should be able to operate just about anything. Commands can be sequenced  -- to turn the TV and VCR on together, for example -- and it has an auto scan facility, that steps quickly through TV and VCR channels.

 

How do they perform? The function switch on the Sony V30 slows things down quite a lot, but it’s easy to use one handed, and comfy to hold. It has a useful range of standard functions, including fastext, but the tiny buttons and skimpy labelling take some getting used to. The OFA5, on the other hand, is a fairly traditional design, button layout is good, operation and function-switching is intuitive. The curvy case and shaped keys are a good idea, it’s simple to program and use. Range in both cases was around 25% better than the manufacturers supplied handsets.   

 

Our Verdict. It’s a toss-up between cuteness and practicality. If you’re looking for a simple combi TV/VCR remote, and your equipment is covered by the modest command library, the V30 does the job and it’s fun, though anything more ambitious than on/standby switching, volume and channel changing can be hard work. The OFA5 is a serious multi-role remote, that can easily replace three or four handsets, it’s fair value too and well made.   

 

Features ONE-FOR-ALL 5 AND SONY RM-V30 UNIVERSAL REMOTE CONTROLS

£30/£30

 

Sockets            none

Weights            150 grams (OFA5), 200 grams (RM-V30)   

 

OFA5/RM-V30

Range                         *****/*****

Build Quality              ****/*****

Features                     ****/**

Ease of use                 ****/***

Overall value              ****/***

 

Competitors

Hama 40068               £50            HE42

Maxview URC4  £25            HE42

Philips RU410            £18            HE42

 

One For All, telephone (03153) 488 8000

Sony UK, telephone 0181-784 1144

 

 

MITSUBISHI HS-621VCR, £250, ****

 

Why’s it here? NICAM stereo VCRs are now so cheap it’s tempting to suggest that it is hardly worth bothering with mono machines anymore. However, from our lofty perch it’s sometimes easy to forget that not everyone wants or needs a stereo VCR, and loose sight of the fact that there’s still a very healthy market for mono models. Mono VCRs by their nature tend to be easier to use, which reminds us that there’s still a lot of people who find VCRs annoyingly complicated. That’s something Mitsubishi have clearly taken to heart, and the HS-621 has to be one of the simplest and most user-friendly machines we’ve seen for a long time.

 

Any unique features? The 123 Menu system gives the user one-button control over the three most frequently used functions, namely playback, on-the-spot recording, and time-shifting. After selecting the required function the various options are presented on the on-screen display, with extremely simple to follow instructions. It’s about as foolproof as it gets. It’s also unusual to find so many convenience features on an entry-level machine. VideoPlus+ and PDC timers have begun to appear on the cheapest VCRs, but the 621 goes a lot further, with auto set-up, daily clock check, menu-driven on-screen displays, tape optimisation, unified TV/VCR remote and a parental lock.

 

How does it perform? We’d guess the 621 shares the same deck mechanism and key video processing circuitry with other, more expensive VCRs in the range. Resolution is hovering just below 250-lines, which is good for any VCR, let alone a budget model. There’s only a small reduction in resolution at LP speeds, down to just under 240 lines. That’s almost certainly thanks to an effective tape optimisation system. Picture noise levels are a little below average, in fact the only indication that this is a budget 2-head machine is the break-up on fast picture search, and rather wobbly still frame. The mono soundtrack is fine, background hiss is unobtrusive, treble response is a little above average and it sounds reasonably detailed.   

 

Our Verdict. Mono VCRs still have their uses as second machines, in the bedroom, for the kids, or for copying and editing tapes. The 621 can do all that, and more, with ease, but it’s the elegantly simple control system that will get it noticed, and the machine to recommended to your old granny.

 

Mitsubishi HS-621, £250

Features            Video Plus+  auto installation and clock set, multi-speed replay, parental lock, tape optimiser, unified TV/VCR remote, rental tape playback, NTSC replay (monochrome only)

Sockets            2 x SCART AV, RF bypass (coaxial)

Dimensions            380 x 92 x 340mm

 

Picture Quality            ****

Sound Quality            ***

Build Quality              ****

Features                     ***

Ease of use                 ****

Overall value              ****

 

Competitors

Akai VS-G245               £200   

Ferguson FV101             £230

Philips VR268                        £230

 

Mitsubishi Electric UK, telephone (01707) 276100

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Ó R. Maybury 1996 0611

 

 

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