Category: Computer Accessories

Why should I prefer a charger or power supply to use IEC-standard AC connections

Standard IEC AC cord connectors

IEC-standard AC cord equipment-side connectors on AC power cords

In the 1970s, the IEC defined a number of standard equipment-side connections as part of connecting appliances and equipment to the general AC power supply used at home and in the office using a detachable AC cord. The common types are the C5/C6 “cloverleaf“ three-pin connection used primarily on laptop chargers, the C7/C8  “figure-8” two-pin type commonly used with portable radios, the larger C13/C14 three-pin connector used on most desktop computers, office equipment or guitar amplifiers and the C15/C16 notched three-pin connector used on a significant number of electric kettles and similar appliances.

These standards have benefited appliance designers, manufacturers and users through the life-cycle of the equipment concerned. It has mad it easier to design something that will work worldwide and simply package the appropriate cord that has a nation’s particular AC plug on one end and the appliance’s IEC-standard equipment-side plug on the other with that appliance.

IEC C7/C8 figure-8 AC socket on a camera battery charger

IEC C7/C8 “figure 8” AC socket on a camera battery charger

This idea has been helped along by equipment designs that use multi-voltage power-supply approaches like switch-mode power supplies or user-switchable input voltages. Here, the equipment manufacturer would be encouraged to make devices that they can sell or the end-user can take anywhere in the world.

For example, a portable radio that receives the standard 540-1600 kHz medium-wave AM band and the 88-108 MHz FM band and equipped with a switchable AC input voltage and IEC-compliant AC power inlet would have world-wide utility value. That is because nearly all countries have their broadcast stations on these bands and the set could be used from AC power anywhere around the world. Even in the days when Europe didn’t have access to all of the standard FM band or countries didn’t open up the FM band for radio broadcasting, these radios still were of useful value in those affected territories.

Then if the user loses the AC cord for that appliance or that cord is damaged, they can cost-effectively replace that cord with a similar one. People who travel or migrate to other countries also benefit because they replace the appliance’s AC cord with one that has the same IEC-standard equipment-side connection on one end and their destination’s AC plug on the other. There is also that likelihood of one coming across a spare AC cord with an IEC-standard equipment-side connection fitting that appliance in their home or workplace and it continues to earn its keep.

IEC C5/C6 cloverleaf socket on laptop power supply

IEC C5/C6 “cloverleaf: AC input socket on a laptop charger

It has opened up ideas for AC cords that suit a particular user’s needs. Firstly, there are longer or shorter cords with these kinds of connection at the equipment side that may end up as the right length for the usage scenario.

Secondly there even have been the C15/C16 notched three-pin AC cords that are coiled like a traditional telephone cord and are offered as a safe approach to keeping kettles and their cords away from the edge of the bench to avoid the risk of accidental hot-water scalding.

Or some AC cords that are sold through computer retailers have two C13/C14 plugs on one end and the national AC plug on the other, typically in order to power a desktop computer and a monitor from the one power outlet. This came in to play as computer hardware designers did away with IEC C13/C14 power outlet sockets on their desktop computers that were typically used to connect display monitors to power.

But the problem I do see is that a lot of USB chargers and similar power supplies are being offered as “wall-wart” devices that plug in to the wall rather than a small power brick with an IEC-compliant equipment-side AC connector. To the same extent, some multiport USB “charging bars” use a captive AC cable with the nation’s AC plug on them for their AC connection rather than an equipment-side IEC-compliant AC socket.

This can be an annoyance in some ways for some people. For example, these “wall-wart” devices, once plugged in to a power outlet including a power board, can take up too much space on the power outlet. Then if a user decides to go overseas, they have to purchase a travel adaptor which can become too large for a single power outlet in a powerboard or double power outlet and the setup can become very unwieldy.

Having USB chargers and similar power supplies use IEC-compliant equipment-side AC connections like what is commonly done with laptop chargers can be a real boon.

Overseas travel

One could purchase an AC cord from a local electronics or computer store, or in some cases, a local supermarket for their device that has the appropriate equipment-side plug on one end and the national AC plug on other end. These cables are often sold for pennies’ worth so it is not a case of worrying about how much these will cost.

For example the C7/C8 “figure-8” cable is sold as a replacement AC cable for portable radios, the C5/C6 “cloverleaf” cable sold as a replacement cable for laptops or the larger C13/C14 three-pin cable sold as a computer, office-equipment or musical-equipment cable. In the first two cases, they are sold this way because of people losing AC cables that belong to portable equipment or such cables ending up damaged or faulty.

Rydges Melbourne

It doesn’t hurt to ask the reception desk or Housekeeping at the hotel you are staying at if they have a spare AC cable for your laptop’s charger.

It doesn’t hurt to ask the place you are staying at whether they have a spare AC cord with the right equipment-side connection type for your device. This may be due to someone leaving behind the AC cord for their equipment or an appliance associated with that cord had failed but the cord is still serviceable.

Here, you are not worrying about if you have the travel adaptor with you or whether you are “tying it up” with a particular appliance. Rather you can use any power outlet within where you are staying to power your equipment using that cord.

This is infact more of value for those of us who are staying in holiday-rental houses or apartments including serviced apartments; or who are staying at relatives’ or friends’ homes. Here, you are able to take your laptop or charger in to the kitchen, living room or other common spaces and plug it in anywhere.

It also comes in to its own where your travels are primarily within geographic areas that use the same AC plug type. Here, you can rationalise down the number of AC plug types you need to cater towards when you pack accessory cables for your electronics.

Migration and long-term travel

Migrants and long-term travellers will also benefit very well because it is easier to move equipment between countries. Here, they reduce the number of travel adaptors they need to buy for all of their equipment. But they buy the AC cords compatible with their destination country’s mains sockets for their equipment when they arrive and settle down.

Migrants may even be able to leave behind their appliance’s AC cord that they used in their country of origin and pick up an AC cord in their destination country if their journey is primarily a one-way affair. That may help with cutting down on accessories that they need to worry about when they pack.

Choice of cables

You may find that the AC cable that came with your equipment may not be right for your needs.

This is more so with a charger you are using for your laptop, tablet or smartphone and it may be found that having a longer mains-voltage AC cable run means you aren’t losing low-voltage DC current at your device. In this case, an electronics store or online retailer may offer a longer AC cable, usually up to 1.8m, with the appropriate equipment side connection.

Similarly, you may find that you can purchase an AC cord of a particular colour or is designed in a particular way. For example, you may find that you want to have the cable blend in with or stand out against the interior design of the room you are using your equipment in. Or, as I have mentioned before, you may find a particular IEC-compliant AC cable that suits your situation like the aforementioned C13/C14 Y-cable that can power a desktop computer and a monitor from the same outlet.

Also be aware that some online sources do offer adaptors that have a C13/C14 power socket on one end and a C5/C6 plug or C7/C8 plug on the other end. This is typically used with a power cord that has a C13/C14 equipment-side connection to power equipment that uses the “cloverleaf” or “figure-8” AC connections, something commonly done with advanced computer setups where some low-profile equipment is being used.

Conclusion

A charger or power supply that uses IEC-standard AC-input connections does allow for increased device and AC-cable utility along with adaptability to different usage scenarios.

Sony to offer game-grade peripherals under the INZONE brand

Articles

Sony INZONE logo monitor and headsets image courtesy of Sony Electronics

Sony INZONE monitor and headsets

Sony announces INZONE line of monitors and headsets for PC and PS5 gaming | ZDNet

Sony’s new hardware brand will launch with gaming headsets and PS5-optimized monitors | Engadget

From the horse’s mouth

Sony

INZONE Product Page (USA)

INZONE Press Release

My Comments

Sony is creating the INZONE sub-brand that is pitched towards young gamers. This will be primarily used to market monitors, headsets and other peripherals that are optimised for video gaming on consoles or regular computers.

At the moment, there are two 27” monitors that are optimised for gaming on computers or video games consoles like the PlayStation 5 or the XBox X. These are designed on a “horses for courses” basis to suit the kind of video games a particular gamer wants to play. The INZONE M9, which has 4K UHD resolution and 144Hz screen refresh will come in to its own with “massive multiplayer online” and strategy games that excel on visuals but are slow-paced. Then the INZONE M3, which has Full HD resolution and 240Hz screen refresh is optimised for fast-paced games like first-person shooters where it is critical that you can detect the enemies in the game. These screens automatically adapt themselves towards gaming-focused behaviour or movie-focused behaviour depending on what is played through them, allowing them to become entertainment screens for that bedroom or dorm room.

There are two wireless headsets along with a wired headset in the INZONE gaming product range. The H9 and H7 wireless headsets can work with Bluetooth or a dedicated 2.4GHz low-latency wireless link to the host. The H9 is based on Sony’s successful WH1000XM active-noise-cancelling headset platform which allowed Sony to answer Bose with high-quality value-for-money noise-cancelling headsets and kick off the “Headset Wars”. The H3 wired headset connects to the host device via a USB connection or an analogue 3.5mm audio connection. But they all support Tempest 3D AudioTech virtual surround as implemented in the PS5 console thus allowing for spatial sound.

I see the INZONE effort as being very similar to Sony’s XPLOD car-stereo branding. This is the creation of a sub-brand of products that are pitched towards today’s teenagers and young adults who don’t have children and put their money towards leisure pursuits. In the XPLOD case, this was about high-performance car stereo equipment that is installed in those cars that they like to trick out. INZONE would be about marketing a range of gaming-optimised peripheral devices so those young people out there who want to get the most out of video games.

But could I see this as Sony offering more INZONE-branded computer-peripheral hardware pitched towards gamers? An obvious case could be something like speakers or soundbars that have sound qualities that go well for video games. Or I would see something like a range of TVs with screen sizes of between 32” to 40” that have screen refresh rates and image responsiveness desired for “core” video gaming.

Bluetooth LE Audio–how I see this coming about

Bluetooth LE Audio

Sony WH-1000XM4 Bluetooth noise-cancelling headset press image courtesy of Sony

Bluetooth LE Audio and its multicast audio abilities will still have to factor in headphones like the Sony WH-1000XM4 to be considered worthwhile

As covered previously, Bluetooth LE Audio is considered as the next evolution of Bluetooth wireless audio for smartphones, tablets and computers.

It encompasses the LC3 audio codec that is more efficient than the traditional Bluetooth Classic SBC audio codec. This provides for increased power efficiency and battery runtime for portable setups thus leading to the design of very small hearable devices like earbuds or hearing aids, thanks to the ability to use a very small battery. There is also the ability to realise increased sound fidelity for Bluetooth audio links, something as good as at least CD-quality stereo audio.

Add to this reduced latency for Bluetooth-based audio links, which means that this mode of transmission can be seen as relevant for video-game sound or audio sent to multiple endpoint devices.

This codec is not bound to a particular device or chipset manufacturer which means that more devices can be legitimately built with Bluetooth LE Audio support without the need for a particular chipset for example. As well, Android 13 is expected to have this functionality built in to it if your Android phone can be updated to this newer version. I would also expect iOS and other operating systems to have support for Bluetooth LE Audio through an upcoming feature-level update.

Here I am talking about two features being introduced with Bluetooth LE Audio that will increase its market acceptance.

Audio sharing and broadcast audio

A potential killer feature for Bluetooth LE Audio is the ability to broadcast audio content to other devices. This could be in the form of you and a friend listening to the same audio playlist through your own headphones with the ability to have the sound level how you like it as well as hearing it in stereo. Or it could be multiple people hearing a common program source on their devices at their preferred sound levels.

Some of the use cases include providing assisted hearing arrangements in public areas without the need to use an induction-based loop that only works with telecoil-equipped hearing aids or proprietary stereo headsets. Or it could be about the “silent disco” where you can bring your own headsets to participate in the dancing. As well, it is also being seen as a way to, for example, provide audio from a particular TV set installed in a bar or cafe without needing to have a set of speakers associated with the venue’s audio system switched between the background music or the TV audio.

Even at home, it could be about enhanced audio setups for TV viewing where particular viewers could benefit from increased audio volume or access to audio description or dubbed foreign-language soundtracks. This is without impacting on what everyone else wants to benefit from and also facilitates access to stereo or “virtual surround’ sound for the same content.

The preferred Bluetooth LE Audio approach for establishing these setups is to use a control app or physical controller to “point” compatible audio devices to the shared audio content or audio stream. Typically such apps will be required to discover Bluetooth LE Audio broadcast streams and allow users to select their desired audio stream.

Use with legacy Bluetooth devices

This can’t be achieved with the large number of Bluetooth Classic Audio devices that are currently in use. It would be more of concern where there isn’t the possibility of manufacturers providing firmware updates to enable these legacy devices for Bluetooth LE Audio.

An example of this is the “headset wars” taking place between Bose, Sony, B&O and Apple where these manufacturers are outpacing each other with the best-value over-ear noise-cancelling Bluetooth headsets. You may find that the you bought that Bose QuietComfort 35 II or Sony WH-1000XM4 headset but they won’t be compatible with Bluetooth LE Audio unless Bose or Sony offer a firmware update to fully support Bluetooth LE Audio.

Here, you don’t necessarily want to get rid of a set of perfectly good headphones just to benefit from Bluetooth LE Audio and its broadcast features. After I was reading material on the Bluetooth SIG site about this standard, I came across a suggested path for integrating this technology with wired headphones.

This was in the form of a Bluetooth LE Audio controller app or operating-system function which worked as a “sink” device for the audio-sharing / broadcast-audio features and stream what was received to the wired headphones. But this approach would also be about repackaging the incoming selected broadcast audio stream as a Bluetooth Classic (A2DP) audio stream for something like a Bose QuietComfort 35 II or Sony WH-1000XM4 noise-cancelling headset. That is although they reckoned that this approach may not be efficient due to “repackaging” the Bluetooth audio stream but would need to be achieved to allow the use of Bluetooth Classic Audio devices in this context.

This same app may also be required to provide software support for audio sharing especially where the device doesn’t have inherent support for Bluetooth LE Audio. It would be in the form of being a Bluetooth LE Audio source or target for audio-sharing setups.

Bluetooth speakers and car audio

Braven BRV-X outdoor Bluetooth speaker

Bluetooth LE Audio apps may also be required to bring Bluetooth LE Audio broadcasts to Bluetooth speakers like this Braven BRV-X outdoor Bluetooth speaker

The COVID-19 coronavirus plague gave drive-in movies a renaissance in some areas. This was because households could go out and watch the movies from the safety of their cars and reduce the spread of the virus. This had been extended to “drive-in” live entertainment like concerts except a stage for the live entertainment was used rather than a screen for showing films.

Even before, there has been some interest in drive-in movies as a form of “cinema al fresco” in countries that had balmy summers. This was about enjoying watching films in a cinematic experience while in an outdoor setting rather than going in to an air-conditioned cinema to watch films as a community.

But these setups would distribute the sound via FM radio so each household can hear the entertainment’s soundtrack through their car’s car radio or a portable radio tuned to a particular FM frequency. This was able to use the many-decades-old FM technology to deliver the sound in stereo to each vehicle. Bluetooth LE Audio could easily be seen as a logical successor to FM radio for this kind of use case.

As for Bluetooth speakers and Bluetooth audio-receive adaptors, these could be part of the Bluetooth LE Audio broadcast-audio concept. For example, Bluetooth SIG often suggested the TV, whether at home, in a hotel room or in a public place as a key use case for the broadcast-audio feature that Bluetooth LE Audio offers. This is in the form of assisted hearing or access to an alternate soundtrack at home, reduced volume for hotel-room TVs or the ability to hear the soundtrack for a show playing on a bar’s TV via headphones.

Here, a Bluetooth speaker could be about a group of people at a particular table in a bar hearing the call of a sports event shown on one of the TVs in that bar through one of these speakers. Or it could be about someone hearing the audio-described soundtrack for a show that everyone is watching through a small Bluetooth speaker while everyone else hears the standard soundtrack through the main sound system.

Firstly this could mean that there could be an incentive to support Bluetooth LE Audio functionality within newer speaker-equipped Bluetooth audio equipment or Bluetooth audio-receive adaptor devices. As for as legacy equipment is concerned, it may be about the previously-mentioned Bluetooth LE Audio controller app that repackages broadcast audio content delivered via this new standard as the legacy Bluetooth Classic Audio standards.

Announcement priority

A feature that will be wanted for Bluetooth LE Audio’s broadcast-audio feature is some form of “announcement priority” feature. Such a feature would be called for in relationship to emergency messaging but would also be desired for the transport sector.

Here, that would be akin to the traffic-announcement priority feature instigated with ARI and implemented primarily with RDS, where, with a suitably-equipped car radio tuned to a broadcaster supporting this feature, you can turn it down or have something else playing but you don’t miss out on the latest road reports. This is due to out-of-band subcarrier-based signalling that causes the radio to increase the volume to a particular level or pause the other program you were listening to while a traffic report is being broadcast.

If this was implemented in Bluetooth LE Audio, it could be set up to allow a transport-service announcement or building emergency announcement to override whatever you are listening to on your phone, but not override a phone call. Such a facility would have to have some form of “relevance filter” with metadata relating to the platform that you are waiting at or the vehicle you are riding on in a public transport system, or the language the announcement comes in. Like with the car-radio application, there would be a requirement to cancel the currently-playing announcement but be ready to hear the next one for further updates.

Multichannel audio

Another killer use case for Bluetooth LE Audio is to allow a single source device to deliver two or more audio streams relating to the same content as a multichannel audio stream to multiple output devices. This is with the sound in phase and in sync across all of the audio channels.

Here, it would be operated in a manner that doesn’t require vendors to reinvent the wheel when it comes to designing multichannel-audio equipment that exploits Bluetooth LE Audio technology.

The obvious use case is to have standards-based true wireless earbuds and hearing aids without manufacturers reinventing the wheel every time they design these setups. As well, the requirement would be to have the source device effectively stream each channel to each output device so that there is no retransmission involved thus assuring power efficiency for earbuds and hearing aids.

Bluetooth speakers

I would see the multichannel audio feature also benefit Bluetooth speakers. Here, a manufacturer could design their Bluetooth speakers so that if you buy two or more of these speakers, you could set up a pair for proper stereo-sound reproduction with increased separation.

There may even be a requirement to support multiple multichannel speaker clusters. This could be multiple pairs of speakers used to reproduce a stereo soundmix in different areas.

Use of subwoofers to pump up the bass

Some device manufacturers would be taking this further by having speaker setups involving speakers that have different frequency-response characteristics. The classic example is a pair of highly-compact speakers reproducing the stereo sound but not having much bass response while another larger speaker with a larger driver and housing like a subwoofer yields the bass notes. Such setups are desired as a way to have compact speakers yet be able to have that bit of bass “kick”.

This would require support within the standard for passing audio frequencies above or below a certain threshold to particular speakers that can handle particular audio frequency ranges. Most likely it may be facilitated through each speaker taking an audio stream that represents the full frequency range and passing it through low-pass or high-pass filter circuitry or its acoustic design doing the filtering.

Surround sound

Then there is the idea of using Bluetooth LE for multi-channel surround sound applications, typically associated with video content. This may be about a soundbar that represents the front and centre channels of a surround soundmix, a subwoofer representing low-frequency effects and two speakers representing the “surround” channels.

Most likely the source device will decode the Dolby or DTS surround-sound formats and allocate particular channels to particular speakers.

Speakers with own audio inputs or sources

There will be problems with this kind of setup where Bluetooth speakers typically have another audio input beyond the Bluetooth audio stream delivered by a smartphone or other device. This represents at least a stereo line-level analogue input with better setups offering one or more wired digital inputs of some form.

It may also extend to where a Bluetooth LE Audio speaker in a multichannel setup has its own programme source. Such sources can range from a traditional radio or TV broadcast source or packaged content medium like vinyl, CD or Blu-Ray. Or it could be file-based media on something like a USB device or simply receiving online audio or video content via the Internet. I would even encompass devices that are part of a network-based multiroom audio setup or smart speakers that have their own microphone and work with a voice-driven home assistant.

The common use case involving speakers and multichannel sound from a connected source would be a soundbar that is connected to a TV set via HDMI-ARC. This soundbar, expected to reproduce the sound from the connected TV, would typically work alongside a subwoofer that reproduces the bass frequencies, while it reproduces the midrange frequencies for the left, right and centre channels in an audio mix. Some setups may support additional front speakers for increased stereo separation or a set of rear speakers for full-on surround sound. Or it could be about extra speakers required to properly reproduce a Dolby Atmos soundmix.

Here, it will be about wanting to have one speaker that has the input or content source work as a Bluetooth LE Audio source device for these setups. This speaker will then be required to yield a multichannel Bluetooth LE audio stream to the other speakers as if it is a Bluetooth audio-transmitter adaptor. The other speakers would then pick up and reproduce the audio channel that they are assigned to.

This use case involving a Bluetooth speaker of some sort having its own audio input or source and working with a multichannel audio setup would be seen as the exception when it comes to having a Bluetooth source device stream each channel of a multichannel soundmix to different output devices.

In this case, it would be about streaming a stereo or multichannel Bluetooth LE audio stream from the connected or integrated audio source around multiple Bluetooth LE speakers. You would then have to set each speaker to receive the appropriate audio channel, most likely through the manufacturer’s app.

Conclusion

The broadcast audio and audio-sharing abilities of Bluetooth LE Audio will most likely appear in the form of mobile-platform “controller” apps that discover Bluetooth LE Audio broadcast / multicast streams and share them with audio devices associated with the mobile device. Here, there will be a reliance on these apps to “bridge” Bluetooth LE Audio multicast streams to the Bluetooth Classic Audio devices currently in circulation.

Most likely I would see the Bluetooth LE Audio multichannel support manifest in manufacturers who encourage us to buy two or more of a particular speaker product and set them up for stereo sound. As well, it could encourage in the short  term the supply of subwoofers and three-piece speaker kits that implement this technology to give that bit of extra bass kick.

USB microphones or traditional mics for content creation?

Blue Yeti Nano USB microphone product image courtesy of Logitech

Blue HYeti Nano – an example of a USB microphone pitched at podcasters

Increasingly as we create and post content online, we are realising that microphones are becoming a valuable computer accessory for recording or broadcasting our voices or other live sound. This is more so where we are making podcasts or videos or even streaming video games with our own commentary, with this kind of content creation becoming a viable cottage industry in its own right.

Even videoconferencing with Zoom and similar software has had us want to use better microphones so we can be heard clearly during these videocalls. This was important while stringent public health measures were in place to limit the spread of the COVID coronavirus plague but is now coming in to play with hybrid (online and face-to-face) work and education settings that we are taking advantage of.

What we are realising is that the integrated condenser microphone in your laptop computer or Webcam isn’t really all that up-to-scratch for this kind of content creation. This is similar to the days of the cassette recorder where people who aspired to make better live recordings stopped using their tape recorder’s built-in microphone and used a better quality external microphone.

But there are two ways of connecting an external microphone to your computer – USB port or a traditional microphone input.

USB microphone

Lenovo Yoga 2 Pro convertible notebook Right-hand side - Power switch, Volume buttons, 3.5mm audio jack, USB 2.0 port

The USB port on most regular computers is what you would plug a USB microphone into for plug-and-play recording

The USB microphone has at least one microphone element directly connected to an integrated audio interface. This converts the sound picked up by the microphone into a digital form useable by the host computer.

Some of these microphones have an audio-output function which feeds a headphone jack so you can monitor what you are recording or broadcasting with a set of headphones. You may even find that some USB microphones have a microphone-level analogue audio output so you can connect them to a traditional audio device rather than just a computer.

All of the USB microphones present to the host computing device as a standard USB Audio input device with those with headphone outputs also presenting the headphone jack as a standard USB Audio output device. This means that the USB Audio class drivers supplied with your computer’s operating system are used to enable these microphones without the need for extra software to be installed on the computer.

An increasing number of manufacturers will often supply audio-processing software that performs equalisation, level control or dynamic-range control on the host computer. Or the digital-audio recording software that you use on your computer will be able to do this function for you. All of this audio processing happens in the digital domain using your computer’s CPU or GPU.

The integrated audio interface allows designers of these USB microphones to set up a sophisticated array of multiple microphone elements in these microphones. This would allow for them to work as one-point stereo microphones or use microphone-array techniques to determine their sensitivity or pickup pattern. You may find that you determine how these sophisticated microphones operate through manufacturer-supplied software or perhaps a hardware switch on the microphone.

Traditional microphone

Behringer UlltraVoice XM8500 microphone product image courtesy of Behringer

The Behringer UltraVoice XM8500 microphone – an example of a traditional microphone

The common traditional microphone makes the sound that it picks up available as a low-level analogue signal. They are designed to be connected to an amplifier, recording device, mixing desk or other audio device that has an integrated microphone amplifier circuit.

This would be either a balanced or unbalanced signal depending on whether the microphone is for professional or consumer use. It is although most value-priced professional-grade mono dynamic microphones typically pitched for PA and basic recording use can work as balanced or unbalanced mics. That is thanks to the mic’s cable connected to the mic itself via an XLR plug even though the cable would plug in to the equipment using a 6.35mm mono phone plug.

There are electret-condenser microphones that work in a different way to the common dynamic microphone but these are dependent on a power source. This is typically provided by a battery that is installed in the microphone or through the associated equipment offering “phantom power” or “plug-in power” to these microphones via their cable.

If you use a traditional microphone with your computer, you would need to use an audio interface of some sort. The traditional sound card installed in a desktop computer or some basic USB audio interfaces that you use with your laptop computer would offer a 3.5mm phone-jack microphone input which would be mono (2-conductor) at least or may be stereo (3-conductor) so you can use a one-point stereo mic. These could work well with a wide range of microphones that have this connection type, typically those pitched at portable-recorder or home-video use.

Then the better USB audio interfaces would offer either at least one microphone input in either a 6.35mm phone jack or three-pin XLR socket, most likely offering a balanced wiring approach. You can still use a mic that has a 3.5mm phone plug if you use an adaptor that you can buy from an electronics store.

Shure X2U USB audio interface product image courtesy of Shure

Shure X2U USB audio interface that plugs in to the XLR socket on a common traditional microphone

Let’s not forget that a significant number of microphone manufacturers offer USB audio interfaces that plug in to their microphone’s XLR socket. These adaptors such as the Shure X2U are powered by the host computer USB interface and, in a lot of cases, provide the “phantom power” needed by electret-condenser microphones.

It is also worth noting that the better quality USB audio interfaces will do a better job at the sound-handling process and will yield a high-quality signal. This is compared to the audio interface in your laptop computer or Webcam, or baseline soundcards and USB audio modules which may not make the mark for sound quality.

For a long time there have been traditional one-point stereo microphones but most of them have been pitched at hobbyist or consumer use with stereo tape recorders. Most such microphones use a hardwired cable with a 3.5mm stereo phone plug or a 5-pin standard DIN plug if the recorder has a stereo microphone socket, or two 6.35mm or 3.5mm mono phone plugs if it has a pair of mono microphone sockets. But some professional stereo microphones have a 5-pin XLR or Neutrik connection and come with a breakout cable that has two XLR plugs to connect to a pair of microphone inputs.

What microphone type suits your application better

A USB microphone is valuable for laptops or small desktop computers and is only intended where you are using the software on your computing device to record or broadcast.

You may end up getting more “bang for your buck” out of a USB microphone purchase due to the integrated audio-interface design that they have. This may be of value to people starting out in podcasting or similar audio-recording and broadcasting tasks and want a low-risk approach. As well, you may find them easy to set up and use with your computer especially where the microphone relies on class drivers supplied by the operating system rather than proprietary driver software.

USB microphones are considered to be more portable because you don’t need to carry a USB audio interface with you when you intend to record “on the road” with your computer.

Another advantage is that you have a very short low-level unbalanced analogue audio link between the microphone elements and the signal-processing electronics, This means that you end up without the risk of AC hum or other undesirable noise getting in to your recording due to a long unbalanced low=level audio link.

You may find it difficult to use a USB microphone with a digital camera or camcorder. This is because not many of them provide USB Audio device support for microphones and similar devices and they may not eve have a host-level USB connection for any peripherals. Similarly, you may find it difficult to use them with most mobile-platform devices because of the way some versions of iOS or Android handle them.

A traditional microphone with a common connection type excels when it comes to versatility. This is more important where you intend to use them with a wide range of audio devices like recording equipment or mixing consoles. Similarly they excel when it comes to microphones that have particular sensitivity and audio characteristics out of the box.

It also comes in to its own when you want to record with a tape recorder or other standalone recording device to assure recording reliability. This use case includes the use of external microphones with your video equipment to have better sound on your video recordings.

Some users may find that connecting traditional mics to their computer via a mixing console of some sort may give them better hands-on control over how their recordings or broadcasts will sound. Here, you may find that some of the newer mixing consoles are likely to have their own USB audio interface to connect to a computer especially if they are more sophisticated. As well, some users who have used mixing desks or standalone recording devices frequently will find themselves at ease with this kind of setup. This is because these devices offer the ability to adjust the sound “on the fly” or mix multiple microphones and audio sources for a polished recording or broadcast.

Conclusion

A cardinal rule to remember is that you will end up having to spend a good amount of money on a good-quality microphone if you are wanting to make good-quality recordings or online broadcasts. No digital processing can make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear when it comes to audio recording.

Here, the USB microphone will come in to its own if you are just using a computer. On the other hand, a good-quality traditional microphone used with a USB audio interface could answer your needs better if you want pure flexibility.

A highly compact Bluetooth audio transmit-receive adaptor from TaoTronics

Article – From the horse’s mouth

TaoTronics

TaoTronics Bluetooth Transmitter for TV 2-in-1 Wireless 3.5mm Adapter (Product Page)

My Comments

Another highly-portable Bluetooth audio adaptor worth mentioning is the TaoTronic Bluetooth Transmitter for TV. This device sells for USD$21.99 in the USA direct from TaoTronics through the product link above but Kogan are selling this in Australia for AUD$55.00 with tax and shipping included to Australia.

Bose QuietComfort QC35 II noise-cancelling headset optimised for Google Assistant - Press picture courtesy of Bose Corporation

Can be used to stream TV audio to a pair of good headphones like these Bose QuietComfort headphones for private late-night listening

Like the Twelve South AirFly that I covered previously, this battery-operated device can stream audio content from a headphone jack that it is plugged in to to a pair of Bluetooth headphones. The obviously comes in to its own when using your Bluetooth headphones on the plane to watch a movie via the in-flight entertainment setup; working out at a fitness centre which implements an audio distribution setup for TV sound or workout music fed to headphones; or watching TV late at night with the sound via headphones.

But this device also is about being a Bluetooth receiver adaptor where you send audio content from your smartphone, tablet or laptop computer to a sound system so you can use its speakers for that music. Here, the TaoTronics adaptor has a 3.5mm stereo phone jack and comes with a patch cord with a 3.5mm stereo phone plug at each end as well as an adaptor cord that has a 3.5mm stereo phone jack at one end and two RCA plugs at the other end.

Cassette adaptor in use with a smartphone

A cassette adaptor being used to play a smartphone’s audio through a car cassette player – the TaoTronics Bluetooth transmit-receive adaptor can even be about a wireless link between the phone and the adaptor

But you can use other connection devices like longer or better cables to achieve the same goal in a better way. You could even plug a cassette adaptor in to this TaoTronics adaptor and effectively stream your smartphone’s multimedia audio through that cassette player installed in your 1970s-1990s classic car. As well, for newer cars, this would be about using the car stereo’s AUX input to stream multimedia audio from your phone to the car stereo even if the Bluetooth setup is only about communications audio.

This is powered by a battery that is quoted to have a 10-hour battery runtime or via a USB power source fitted with a USB micro-B plug. Product pictures even illustrate you powering the device from one of the USB sockets on your TV that will typically be used for a Wi-Fi adaptor to to play video from a USB memory key. You can even have the device’s battery charging while you are using it to transmit sound to your headphones or play a Bluetooth audio stream through your favourite audio system.

It is user-friendly in the context that you don’t have to perform a special rigmarole with the pairing button to switch between transmit or receive modes. Rather you just flick a mode switch between “transmit” and “receive” modes. There is still a button to instigate device pairing where necessary.

The size of this device is smaller than the typical smartphone which, along with battery / USB operation, incentivises you to take it on the road more frequently. A good travel scenario that may come about is to use the adaptor with your Sony WH-1000XM4 or Bose QuietComfort 35 Bluetooth active-noise-cancelling headphones to hear a movie on the inflight entertainment system during the flight. Then, when you are at the hotel, you plug this device in to the “audio input” jack on your hotel room’s TV to play Spotify music through that TV’s speakers.

In-room AV connection panel

The TaoTronics Bluetooth transmit-receive adaptor can even work well with your hotel-room TV if it has an AV connection panel like this with a 3.5mm stereo mini phone jack for audio input

The TaoTronics Bluetooth audio transmit-receive adaptor supports Qualcomm aptX operation but only for one device at a time. Otherwise, it can stream audio to two headsets which can come in handy where two people are listening to the same audio source like a TV programme. It also works according to the latest Bluetooth 5.0 standard thus allowing for increased audio stability and battery efficiency along with the ability to run two headsets.

TaoTronics could have a variant of this device that works in a “communications and multimedia” mode like the Sony SBH-52 headphone adaptor that I used previously. This could earn its keep with wired headphones or automotive setups where you need to have full-on handsfree communication and audio playback with the same device.

But this is an example of a highly-compact easy-to-use device that can be about either streaming audio from your phone via Bluetooth to an existing sound system or using your favourite Bluetooth headphones to hear TV sound in private.

Super Bowl 2021 ad for Logitech’s latest products

Article

Logitech made so much money during the pandemic it could afford this Super Bowl ad – The Verge

Video

Logitech Super Bowl ad – Click or tap to play in YouTube

My Comments

In North America, the NFL Super Bowl is the penultimate final match for American “Gridiron” football. This also has the half-time entertainment with some big-time stars performing but it is also seen by the TV stations as the most valuable TV show there. It is thanks to many people watching it wherever they can on their TVs and this same football show ends up as a showcase of the best TV commercials that Americans have seen.

Most years I have highlighted and commented on consumer-technology ads that have appeared in this advertising showcase, incase you were overseas or were at a Super Bowl viewing party but missed that ad while reaching for that chicken wing or dipping those chips in that special dip. For example I had cited an ad for Microsoft’s Xbox Adaptive Controller with its focus on inclusive gaming.

This year, Logitech had joined the Super Bowl advertising showcase with an ad highlighting their current computer-peripheral product range in a creative context. Logitech is one of those brands I value due to their consistent use of Bluetooth as a wireless-connection option for all of their wireless input devices rather than just the dongle-based wireless approach. As well, the development of Darkfield technology has impressed me due to the ability to use suitably-equipped optical mice on glass surfaces.

Logitech had made so much money during 2020 thanks to the COVID-19 coronavirus plague. This is due to them selling computer peripherals like mice like the MX Anywhere 3 Bluetooth mouse I have reviewed, keyboards and Webcams for us to equip our home offices with. For example, a lot of these devices would have been used to build out a desktop workspace for that laptop as mentioned in this HomeNetworking01.info article. Some of the pundits were evens saying that Logitech could even produce and run a Super Bowl ad on the back of their profits of these sales.

The Super Bowl ad carved out a message about determination in the face of what may be perceived as logic. This may be due to Lil Nas X (Wikipedia article) and his life including coming out as gay and hitting out against homophobia in hip-hop music, or fusing country-and-western music with elements of the hip-hop style especially rapping.

The vision in the ad underscored the use of a wide range of Logitech input devices like mice, styluses and keyboards with differing computing devices for creative purposes. There wasn’t any highlighting of certain products within their latest product lineup but it was about showing the whole lineup working together.

It is showing a distinctive direction for tech-focused advertising where the technology is for use by everybody no matter who they are, along with the idea of running these campaigns during key sports events where everyone would be watching.

A business Thunderbolt 3 dock that is also an external graphics module

Article

Lenovo Thunderbolt 3 Graphics Dock product photo (UK package) courtesy of Lenovo

Lenovo Thunderbolt 3 Graphics dock – a Thunderbolt 3 business docking station that has external graphics module functionality

Lenovo Thunderbolt 3 Graphics Dock review: Glorious external NVIDIA GTX 1050 graphics | Windows Central

My Comments

In the average business context, Thunderbolt 3 is seen primarily as a powerful “connection pipe” for port-replication docks. The external-graphics-module benefit isn’t considered an advantage in this use case unless the user is doing multimedia editing, computer programming or number-crunching workloads involving large data sets.

But in 2018, Lenovo issued to the US market and some other markets their Thunderbolt 3 Graphics Dock (model: G0A10170UL) that has external-graphics-module functionality as well as port-replication dock functionality which includes RJ45 Gigabit Ethernet connectivity. This uses a soldered-in NVIDIA GTX 1050 graphics processor and 4Gb display memory, with this GPU considered as the economy model in NVIDIA’s desktop-class dedicated graphics processor lineup.at the time of release.

The Lenovo Thunderbolt 3 Graphics Dock is not just seen as being fit for a desktop workspace but also being fit for travel. This is due to its relatively small size compared to the typical “card-cage” external graphics module. It is because the device has the same size and weight as the typical business-class port-replicator dock with the power supply unit being of a similar size to those that accompany this class of product.

The article mentioned that, at the time of review, there were issues with software bugs including not cooperating with onboard dedicated graphics setups in some laptops. Usually this will have been rectified through firmware, BIOS and driver updates that should have taken place by now.

But, like a lot of small external graphics modules that have soldered-in graphics silicon, the capability may be enough to give your laptop a bit of extra “pep” for some non-demanding graphics-based tasks. This may be about lightweight photo and video editing or people who aren’t really “core” gamers.

The Windows Central article also raised the prospect of number-crunching activities with large data sets. But the problem that shows up here is that regular office productivity software, especially spreadsheet software like Microsoft Excel, doesn’t offer the ability to take advantage of high-performance computing setups like discrete graphics processors.

As I have mentioned before, the combination of Intel integrated graphics and Thunderbolt 3 connectivity for a laptop computer can encourage the use of external graphics modules as a fit-for-purpose upgrade path. This is being underscored with Intel Tiger Lake silicon that comes with Intel Xe integrated-graphics silicon that is highly capable compared to before along with Thunderbolt 4 connectivity compatible with Thunderbolt 3 hosts and peripherals.

It is also another example where Lenovo thought outside the box when it came to offering external graphics modules. Here, the Lenovo Legion BoostStation “card-cage” external graphics module didn’t just come with the space to install a graphics card, but it also came with space to install a 2/5” or 3.5” SATA-connected hard disk or solid-state drive. This is compared to a lot of “card-cage” types that only have capacity to install a graphics card and can woo those of us moving away from desktops to laptops.

By seeing the idea of external-graphics-module products pitched towards everyday business users and their cost-conscious IT departments, it could legitimise this product class towards mainstream computer users. But further work needs to take place to see a wider range of business-class eGPU docks with differing peripheral-connection and graphics-silicon options, including whatever offers mid-tier multimedia-creation abilities, and to see multiple vendors offer these docks to the market.

Mainstreaming these external-graphics-module devices can also make them appeal to user classes who don’t necessarily have the disposable income to spend on high-performance computing. This is due to downward pressure on these devices’ prices and can be facilitated by Intel becoming a third force when it comes to performance-level graphics silicon.

Trying to reduce the number of USB chargers around the house. What can you do?

Belkin BOOST Charge 68W GaN Dual USB-C Wall Charger (Australasia) product picture courtesy of Belkin

You may need to end up rationalising the number of USB chargers you have in your home

You can easily end up with too many USB wall chargers in your home. This can happen as you purchase more devices that come with these chargers or you find and use better chargers like multi-outlet “charging bars”.

Then you think of rationalising the number of chargers you have on hand in your home as you find you have too many of them. But how can you go about this effectively without sacrificing convenience?

Here, the idea is to keep enough chargers on hand and in appropriate locations that assures you of convenience. No-one wants to find that they can’t power or charge their devices because there aren’t enough of these chargers available near to them for their needs.

Which chargers do you keep.

Firstly, you need to retain chargers that have at least one USB Type-A socket and/or USB Type-C socket on the charger unit itself. That means you don’t really need chargers that have a USB micro-B or Apple MFi Lightning plug on the end of a cable wired to the charger itself.

This will mean that you can use them to charge any device as long as you have a connection cable with the appropriate connectors on each end. You can even consider the use of longer cables for more flexible connectivity setups.

As well, prefer to keep powerful chargers or those that implement USB Power Delivery for USB Type-C units or Qualcomm fast-charge standards (for USB Type-A units. This will mean that you can quickly charge up your phone or tablet or allow them to work in a high-performance setting while connected to AC power.

Keeping one or more USB-C chargers that use USB Power Delivery and can put up at least 60 watts to at least one USB-C port is a good direction to go. This is important when you are using or intend to purchase an ultraportable laptop or 2-in-1 that has this kind of power needs, something that will be very common in the near future. Sometimes the more power output the charger can make available the better.

Chargers that have two or more outlets, including the many-outlet “charging bars” should be kept for the long haul. It is preferable to have them in the kitchen or the home office especially where you are likely to be charging multiple devices in the same location.

You will be finding that there will be more of the powerful multiple-outlet chargers on the market thanks to power-supply designers, manufacturers and vendors investing in Gallium Nitride technology that allows for compact powerful power-supply devices.

Here, you are factoring in many realities when you use mobile technology. Here, as your portable devices get older, the batteries don’t run for the same long time that they used to when they were new. As well, most of us like to run our portable devices on external power as much as possible to conserve battery runtime.

It is something we used to do with portable audio equipment and some pocket calculators since these devices came around in the 1960s.  We even did things like minimise any battery-draining activities like fast-winding of tapes with our portable tape players unless the equipment was connected to AC power. Or most portable devices that had dial or display lighting had this lighting come on when they were powered from external power but have a button to activate it as needed when on batteries. This was driven by the fact that batteries for these devices that ran for a long time were at a price premium then.

There are also the accessories that support our mobile devices like Bluetooth headsets or powerbanks and these use a USB-based cable for charging their integrated batteries. It is also underscoring that the USB Type-A plug or USB Type-C plug is being seen as the “universal DC power plug” for many devices thus simplifying what we use to power these devices with. For example, some LED-based decorative lighting is appearing that is powered by a USB charger rather than a specially-designed power supply.

As you find that you acquire more powerful USB chargers, you may find that it is high time to send the least-powerful ones away for e-waste recycling. That is unless you are using a device that uses the USB charger purely as a power supply and can work with a low-power USB charger.

You may also find yourself migrating to the newer USB Type-C connection for your devices and then find that it may be a better time to move towards chargers that use at least one of these connection according to the Power Delivery specification.

If you find that your charger uses an IEC-standard “figure-8” or “cloverleaf” AC input socket, this opens up a pathway of flexibility which may give you more reason to keep it. Here, you could use a longer AC cord that has the appropriate connection if you want it further away from the power outlet.

For travel purposes, you may find it simpler to purchase an AC cord with the destination country’s national AC plug to use it in countries using that kind of AC power outlet. Typically you would buy these cables from a local electrical retailer or office-supplies store as an AC cord for a radio or laptop. You then end up with some form of flexibility about where you locate it in your travel accommodation. This situation is more advantageous where you end up frequently visiting countries using that same AC power outlet.

Where should we keep USB chargers?

At least one of these chargers should be kept in each of the main living areas in the house.

If you find that you don’t like the idea of these chargers strewn around the house, it may be a good idea to keep them in a drawer in the appropriate room while they aren’t actually in use. But make sure everyone is aware of the chargers existing in those storage locations when you store them. This is where the ultra-compact chargers really earn their keep because they don’t take up much storage space.

In the lounge areas like the living room or rumpus room, it may be a good idea to keep a powerful USB charger of some form near one or more of the armchairs or couches. This is because most of us would be using a smartphone or, more likely, a tablet there in order to interact with online resources like Wikipedia, search engines or social media when we watch TV for example.

You may find that plugging a charger in to a standard extension cord may work if you are wanting one to serve someone sitting in a chair or sofa that is located away from a wall. Similarly using a powerboard to plug your table or floor lamp and a charger in to may work wonders here. The use of longer AC-current cords may benefit these applications better due to keeping the power conversion process closer to the device using the power and reducing voltage drop where it matters.

The kitchen area may be a good location for a multiple-outlet “charging bar” due to people charging their devices in that area. On the other hand a small two-outlet powerful wall charger may earn its keep here if you are trying to avoid excess clutter.

Dell WD19TB Thunderbolt dock

It is best to focus USB-C and Thunderbolt 3 docks like the Dell WD19TB Thunderbolt 3 dock towards peripherals that are being used with the dock’s host computer

The same goes too for the home office at least. Here, you may be using this as the “go to” place to charge powerbanks and mobile accessories in a location where they can be found. You may think of using that USB-C or Thunderbolt dock that you are using to connect your laptop to the big screen and keyboard for this purpose. But you may find that having a charger, like a “charging bar” may earn its keep here when you are simply charging devices that aren’t necessarily peripherals for your computer so that all USB sockets on that dock serve those peripherals.

You may want to keep a charger or two in the bedrooms if you do charge your smartphone or tablet there. It is also important to make sure the guestroom has one or two of these chargers so that guests who stay overnight have somewhere to charge their devices.

If you do keep accessories on hand for travel, one or more small USB chargers can come in handy here. You could even consider a multi-outlet “charging bar” again for packing when you travel.

At least, making sure you are keeping the powerful capable chargers that work to current standards and keeping them in areas where they are useful can work out as a convenient and effective way to rationalise these devices.

Are noise-cancelling headphones relevant during the COVID-19 lockdowns

Sony WH-1000XM4 Bluetooth noise-cancelling headset press image courtesy of Sony

Sony WH-1000XM4 Bluetooth active-noise-cancelling headset – still relevant as we stay at home

When we see the likes of Bose and Sony launch new active-noise-cancelling headphones during the time of coronavirus-driven isolation, we may think that headphones like these are totally irrelevant now.

Such thoughts will come across our mind when it comes to portable technology like laptop computers where it is seen as an unnecessary expense. It is as we see these COVID-19 stay-at-home requirements as a time of slowing down and contemplating the need for any perceived flamboyance.

This is because we aren’t travelling at all or travelling very infrequently as a measu re to reduce virus infection. But these headphones are still very relevant nowadays in some way even during the short term.

If you have heating or air-conditioning at home that becomes noisy during active operation, they can come in very handy.This may also apply to those of us with older desktop computers that have noisy fans as well.

Here, the operating noise associated with these devices can become annoying and distracting and these headphones can mask it out just like they can when it comes to transport noise. If you find that your equipment changes its operating noise level during use, usually in order to answer actual heating or cooling needs, you may find that change of noise level distracting. Again, the noise-cancelling headsets can come in to play here.

Even though the cities are quieter now, you may find that there is some excess noise from remnant vehicles moving around the streets past your place. Add to this people using tools powered by small engines such as during the weekends when most households are maintaining their lawns and gardens. Here, these noises can be very distracting especially if you are listening to podcasts or engaging in videocalls.

Zoom (MacOS) multi-party video conference screenshot

They can come in very handy with those Zoom calls

Let’s not forget that most of these headsets excel as communications headsets which will be of benefit for those Zoom, Skype, or Microsoft Teams videoconferences. Here, the newer headsets are about improved intelligibility during these calls. The newer better noise-cancelling headsets even use microphone arrays to capture your voice more easily even while there is background noise around you.

Over-the-head-type noise-cancelling headsets do perform well with music thanks to larger drivers that allow for improved bass. This may also be of benefit with other content like video content you watch through Netflix or similar video-on-demand services, or whenever you play games and you want that bit of extra punch on those sound effects.

There is also the fact that the COVID-19 plague will be tamed through the use of vaccines and medical treatments that are proven to be effective. It is in addition to better knowledge gained through experience on how to deal with particular outbreaks.  Here, we may be then in a position to travel longer distances whether by land, sea or air. The noise-cancelling headphones will then come in to their own while you get back to travelling.

I would still consider active-noise-cancelling headphones very relevant for most people even through these uncertain times where we are at home more.

Belkin joins the GaN bus with two highly-compact USB PD wall chargers

Article Belkin BOOST Charge 68W GaN Dual USB-C Wall Charger (Australasia) product picture courtesy of Belkin

Belkin GaN charging is ready to power your day | Ausdroid

From the horse’s mouth

Belkin

BOOST-CHARGE GaN USB-C PD 30W Wall Charger (Product Page)

BOOST-CHARGE GaN Dual USB-C PD 68W Wall Charger (Product Page)

My Comments

A significant trend over the last few years is to see the use of gallium nitride as the new electronics semiconductor. It is being seen as the “new silicon” – a new highly-impressive highly-capable semiconductor material that opens up new doors.

At the moment, the application that impresses is highly-compact highly-efficient power supply circuits. Here, such power supplies run very cool and a USB-C PD “wall-wart” AC charger based on this technology occupies the same space on a power outlet as an ordinary AC plug yet able to yield at least 30 watts.That is due to it wasting less energy as heat therefore not needing much in the way of cooling space.

Belkin, a household name associated with computer accessories, has now joined the party with their own gallium-nitride-based USB-C Power Delivery wall chargers.

One of these can support a 30-watt load which would answer use cases like smartphones or tablets. The other is a 68-watt unit that has two USB-C outlets and a dynamic load-balancing circuit. This can mean that one of the outlets can be used to power something like a Dell XPS 13 Ultrabook while the other is used to charge that smartphone or battery pack.

The idea of combining USB-C PD and the GaN power-supply technology is appealing towards having these devices that can work with laptops, smartphones and tablets yet not take up much room on that powerboard.

What Belkin and other respected accessory vendors need to work on are multi-outlet USB-C PD charging stations that can support at least two or three USB-C PD devices with a draw of at least 45 watts each. This would be important for situations where multiple tablets or ultraportable laptops are likely to be used in the same space.