I am also satisfied, with the Tone And Talk app.

Together with my new LG Tone Pro HBS-750 Bluetooth Headphones, there is a recommended app on Google Play, named “Tone & Talk”. It is not strictly necessary to use this app, when using the headphones, but it provides an advantage. This app will only activate, if it detects that one of the LG Headphones is BT- connected, that the app has on its supported devices list. The HBS-750 Headphones are on that list, and work in my case.

What this app does today, is somewhat different from what earlier versions of it used to do. The name of the original app was “LG BT Reader”, but when people download BT Reader, the latest version of it only tells them, that their membership has been migrated to the Tone & Talk app, which we should now install instead. There is a subtle difference in what these apps did.

LG BT Reader, had app-specific support, which enabled it not only to read out the text of notifications, but which also allowed it to read out the body of Facebook, Twitter, SMS and certain other messaging apps. Some users were interested in that, because people today do a lot of social networking – on their computers and phones.

In order to be able to do this, LG BT Reader needed to be enabled as an ‘Accessibility Aid’, which gave the app the ability, effectively, to observe how we tap, and then to tap in our place, on buttons within each app.

Tone & Talk has a slightly different approach. It supports a wider variety of apps, but only reads out the text part of notifications displayed by those apps. Just as with LG BT Reader, the user gets to enable specific apps which we want served. But with Tone & Talk, the list of supported apps is longer. As a trade-off, Tone & Talk will no longer go into each app, and read the screen of each app to us, which the earlier app used to do, to convey the body of the SMS or the Twitter announcement… Therefore, at least with Android Lollipop, Tone & Talk also no longer requires to be enabled as an Accessibility Aid, but only to have permission, to ‘Read Notifications’, as can be granted from the settings panel of our phone.

I had set up Tone & Talk as an Accessibility Aid, before launching it, and once it had detected the connection to my headset, it politely told me to unset this. It no longer needed this.

Now, there are some users who are upset about this change, because while they do a lot of SNS reading, they can no longer get the full messages of their Social Networking (Service) apps.

I, personally, am not even used to getting a lot of SMS messages, or other types of IM messages, and so the fact that Tone & Talk will not read those out, is no loss to me. I do receive a lot of email, to the 3rd-party app “Kaiten Mail”, and have this app enabled in Tone & Talk. What this means, is that Tone & Talk does factually read the subject line of any emails I receive, but not their body, and the former, only because the Kaiten Mail app makes the subject-line of received emails, a part of the notification text it displays.

I can actually appreciate that every time I receive a regular email, Tone & Talk will only announce the subject line to me, and that it will not attempt to read out the text of the entire email. I have Kaiten Mail set, to receive all the regular emails which I would also receive to my PCs and laptop.

Also, with the new app, I can set sundry other apps, so that Tone & Talk will read the notifications of each one. I already know which of my apps send me notifications which I am interested in receiving, possibly without taking the phone out of my shirt pocket, so that I can make this selection pretty much according to my taste.

What this means, is that some users have an understandable disappointment in the ‘Tone & Talk’ app, and have also not been given the option, to stay with the ‘LG BT Reader’ app. But I, for one, am not among the disappointed users, because I was never intending to use my headphones, the way those users were doing.

Dirk

Note: There is one app, which the Tone & Talk app has specific support for, and that is the Phone app. These headphones, and / or their software, have a complex system in place, such that if we receive a phone call – which was the primary purpose in having BT Headphones not long ago – and if the caller-ID of the person phoning us was in our Contacts List, the headphones will play the name of the person who is trying to call us.

Well, because the Phone app is also an app, it appears in the long list of them, which we can check off, to have notifications read to us. To check off the Phone app here constitutes an error. It might lead, to a primitive series of digits being read to us, that the Phone app displays as part of its notification text, while the more-specialized software is also trying to read the name of the caller to us.

I have discovered that If I do check the Phone app, as one of those, from which I am to receive regular notifications, the Tone & Talk app recognizes this as an error, and un-checks the other app again.

 

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Beware of LEDs that stay constantly-lit.

Today we have many portable devices, which attempt to run off battery power for a long time. At the same time, these devices can have LEDs, which indicate their status for the convenience of the user. There is an aspect to that, which some users might not fully realize, but which I think is important nonetheless.

If the LED is to stay constantly lit and bright, then the amount of current / power it consumes will be high, and will therefore be a strong drain on the battery as well. Additionally, our human eyes are less sensitive to blue light than they are to red, and less so to red light, than they are to green. Therefore, a blue LED which is to seem bright, is consuming an additional penalty of power, to appear as bright to our eyes, as a red LED is supposed to seem.

My new LG Tone Pro HBS-750 Bluetooth Headphones have all the correct behavior, in that during normal use, their Blue LED only flashes very briefly, in a code that restates the battery level, but with a duration of much less than 10%. They also have the correct behavior, in that their LED stays Blue continuously, when they are in pairing mode, which is only supposed to be a brief operation compared to their normal mode. And, when they are charging, some combination of their Red and Blue LED stays fully lit, because power is assumed to be in abundance when charging.

Now, the supposed HBS-730 headphones which I had before, would have a much brighter Blue LED, which was supposed to stay solidly Blue when pairing. Mine alternated between Red and Blue when pairing. And mine stayed fully lit 100% of the time, when in Standby, a mode in which the headphones are supposed to be drawing less current, than when actually playing music. And the LED on mine, would flash in Blue with 50% duration, when I was listening to music.

This was a design failure, and was also inconsistent, with what the LG manual for the HBS-730 explicitly states. According to that manual, their LED was also to stay fully Blue only when pairing, and was supposed to flash briefly, not 50% of the time, while playing music. This correct behavior would have been very similar to what my present HBS-750 Headphones do, but did not correspond to the real behavior of what I had been sold.

Dirk

 

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HBS-750 Equalizer Function Actually Useful

The shape of my ears has generally been a problem, for ear-pieces to fit, in my past. Mine are narrow, so that I need the most narrow inserts already. But then it can happen to me, that my facial muscles tense differently, at different times of day, which I believe causes a subtle change in the shape of my ears. Do not laugh. And so simply because I may be cracking a smile, I will also be cracking a non-airtight gap between ear-pieces that just fit, and my ears, which results in a sudden loss of deep bass.

The LG HBS-750 Headphones have an equalizer function, that switches between three modes:

 

  1. Bass boost (the default),
  2. Flat,
  3. Treble boost.

 

When I try these settings indoors, at first the difference seems so slight, I tend to think, ‘What a waste of an equalizer.’ But when I am walking outdoors, I now find that switching from mode (2) above back to mode (1), gives me back exactly what I lost, because the ear-pieces are no longer airtight in my ears.

I tend to find that mode (3) is less useful, because it emphasizes the aspects of aptX -compressed sounds, that are more scratchy. But then again, maybe somebody else appreciates the treble boost feature of this headset.

Now, one way to tell whether a product is a forgery or not, is by the fact for example, that the equalizer on the HBS-730 I was playing with before, did not kick in. But in reality the logic is more confuted than that. The manual of the HBS-730 clearly states, that the equalizer settings cannot be changed, if that unit is in aptX mode.

The manual for the HBS-750, which I am using now, clearly states that its equalizer settings are available, when this unit is in aptX mode.

Further, today, when testing the HBS-750, I did listen to music for 7 hours straight. It was my initial intention, to run the batteries all the way down, just so that I could recharge them once, and allow them to live up to full capacity ‘in the field’, later. But after about 6 hours of my own music, I grew too sick of that. I could not force myself to listen to more than 7 hours of music, at which time the battery-level announcement still told me that the batteries were at “medium” level.

They then needed 70 minutes of charging time, to come back up to full.

With the HBS-730, I could not listen for more than 135 minutes, before they were dead. And to recharge the supposed HBS-730 only took 35 minutes, cycle after cycle.

Dirk

 

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aptX Handles Polyphonic Sound Surprisingly Well.

Right now, as I am typing this, I am listening to Beethovens 9th Symphony on my real “LG Tone Pro HBS-750″ Bluetooth Headphones. The quality of sound is dramatically better, than what the fake HBS-730s had produced, simply because those were fake.

This recording of Beethoven is stored on my phone, as a series of FLAC files, and Android Lollipop devices are well-able to play back FLAC files. I did this, in order to test the fake headphones at first, because I was not sure whether their poor performance then was due to some interaction of aptX, with MP3 or OGG compression, rather than due to the implementation of aptX I was getting. Playing back a FLAC file is equivalent to playing back a raw audio file.

From what I read, aptX not only splits the uncompressed spectrum into 4 sub-bands, but then quantizes each sub-band. The 4 sub-bands are approximately from 0 to 5.5 kHz, from 5.5 to 11 kHz, from 11 kHz to 16.5 kHz, and finally from 16.5 kHz to 22 kHz. These sub-bands are then compressed using ADPCM, which allocates 8,4,2,2 bits to each.

This implies, that the first sub-band contains the bass and the mid-range, and that what I would call ‘melodic treble’ sounds, do not extend beyond sub-band 2, since treble notes with fundamental frequencies higher than 11 kHz are not usually played. And sub-bands 3 and 4 simply add texture to the sound. This means, that to allocate fewer bits of precision to sub-bands 3 and 4 ‘makes sense’, since our natural way of interpreting sound, already sees less detail at those frequencies.

A question which I had raised earlier, was if the act of quantizing the sub-bands 3 and 4 greatly – down to 2 bits in fact – will damage the degree of polyphony that can be achieved.

And now that I possess true headphones I am finding, that the answer is No. The sub-bands 3 and 4, are still capable of being played back in a multi-spectral way, even though their differentials have been quantized that much.

(Edit 06/25/2016 : ) Instead of receiving a regular sequence of +1, 0 and -1 data-points, it is possible to receive an atactic sequence of them. The first thing that happens when decoding that, is an integration, which will already emphasize lower, original frequency components that have been deemphasized. After that, the degree with which the analog signal can be reconstructed is only as good, as the interpolation. And in practice, interpolation is often provided by means of a linear filter which has more than two coefficients. Having a longer sequence of coefficients, such as maybe 6 or 8, provides better interpolation, even in sub-bands 3 and 4, which we supposedly hear less-well.

 

I do find though, now that the entire signal is much more clear, that when I listen closely, the highest frequencies belonging to Beethovens 9th, seem to have slightly less resolution than they are truly supposed to have. But not as much less resolution, than I am used to hearing, due to poor headphones, or due to MP3 compression.

It is already a dramatic improvement over what my past told me, that today, Some Bluetooth Headphones can play back high-quality music, in addition to being usable for telephony.

Now, Beethoven died before he finished his 9th symphony, and later artists officially completed it, by adding the 5th movement, which is actually “Shiller’s Ode To Joy”. According to what I am hearing, that 5th movement is compromised more by the aptX compression than the first 4 were, that were actually written by Beethoven.

The reason seems to be the fact, that Shiller’s work is more operatic, and has choruses singing very high notes, which results in a lot of the signal energy being in the 2nd, 3rd and 4th sub-bands. So when I hear that movement, I can hear the quantization quite clearly.

It is usually not a preference of mine, to listen to this 5th movement, because I don’t find it to be authentic Beethoven. Right now I am listening to it, and observing this effect with some fascination.

Dirk

 

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