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Siemens hybrid electric aircraft debuts in Paris

Siemens introduced the world this week to the first serial hybrid electric aircraft at the 2011 Paris Air Show in Le Bourget, France.

The DA36 E-Star, a two-seater composite glider, was a partnership project among Siemens, aircraft manufacturer Diamond Aircraft Industries, and aerospace giant EADS. The plane is based on Diamond Aircraft's HK36 Super Dimona.

Similar to General Motors' Chevy Volt drive train, the DA36 E-Star uses a serial hybrid electric drive train in which a main engine is powered alternately by a gasoline-powered generator and batteries.

A 70-kilowatt Siemens engine runs the aircraft's propeller. That engine is powered alternately between a small Wankel combustion engine made by Austro Engine that runs on gasoline and acts as a generator, and EADS batteries. Additional EADS batteries are used during takeoff and ascent.

While it's in early development, Siemens claims its drive train can be scaled up for use on a large passenger plane, and under further development hopes to create a drive train that can save 25 percent in fuel consumption.

Of course, even more so than with electric cars, battery weight is still an issue. The plane's range is limited by the number of batteries and the amount of fuel it can carry.… Read more

World's priciest iPad costs $1.2 million

My iPad 2 is looking a little pale and shabby in comparison to the $1.2 million diamond-encrusted iPad from Camael Diamonds. The company calls it the world's most expensive iPad, and I'm not going to argue with that.

For do-it-yourselfers who want to bedazzle their own iPads, this only requires 1 kilo of 18 carat gold and 300 carats worth of perfect diamonds. Black diamonds grace the home button and Apple logo on the back. Just pop down to your local jeweler to pick up all the supplies you need.

Camael will happily customize your gazillion-dollar iPad with the gems of your choice. This is a smart way to go, as it would be horribly embarrassing to accidentally pick up someone else's look-alike diamond-slathered iPad at Starbucks.… Read more

Wharfedale Diamond: The best-sounding $350 speaker on the planet?

The Wharfedale Diamond 10.1 is easily the best speaker I've heard for $350 per pair. Wharfedale started making loudspeakers in 1932, which makes it the second-oldest still-surviving speaker manufacturer in the world (Tannoy is the oldest). The entry-level Diamond Series speakers debuted some 49 years later; the Diamond 10.1 we're reviewing today is from the latest incarnation of the line.

Wharfedale not only designs and builds all of its own woofers and tweeters in-house, it also designs and manufactures nearly every part of its speakers, including the crossover networks' resistors and capacitors. Even the bolts that … Read more

Hercules diamond speakers: A girl's best friend?

I get it. Chicks are supposed to like diamonds. Diamonds make us fall in love and turn into cooing mushes of appreciation. If only they weren't so darn expensive and politically incorrect. Cheer up, gals! There is hope. Hercules is attempting to solve all of our problems with its new $40 XPS Diamond 2.0 USB Speakers.

These black beauties are "designed with female users in mind," but they could also become a big hit with the cross-dressing crowd. Each speaker is a slim 3.5 inches wide. That's way bigger than the rock on the ring that snooty lady in the next cubicle is sporting. She'll be full of envy when she sees your matching diamond speakers glinting in the fluorescent light.

The XPS Diamond speakers are powered through USB, have magnetic shielding to prevent interference, and come with a wired mini remote control for changing the volume. But who cares about the specs? Did you notice that they look like big diamonds?!… Read more

Diamond earphone covers cost $9,971 more than Apple earbuds

We assumed everyone knew that Apple's stock earphones give only slightly better sound quality than holding a speakerphone up to your ear, but nobody tipped off the buyers at the OC Concept Store, a new luxury boutique in New York selling diamond Apple headphone covers for $10,000.

Manufactured by a New York-based company called DEOS (Defining Expression of Sound), the DEOS-604-WB set polishes your low-end Apple buds with 604 diamonds that weigh 9.5 carats, or 1.9 grams of lavish excessiveness.

Someone tell those "ORGY OF THE RICH" protesters that we have their next target.… Read more

Cadillac CTS-V Black Diamond Edition unveiled

"Black Diamond Edition" sounds more like ski equipment than a car, but the Cadillac CTS-V Black Diamond Edition is one hot-looking automobile.

The CTS-V Black Diamond Edition is available in the CTS-V Sedan, Coupe, and Wagon models for about $4,850 over the CTS-V base price.

What sets the Black Diamond Edition apart is specialized tri-coat paint from California-based JDSU. A look of diamonds in the SpectraFlair pigment in the paint is created by using aluminum flakes encapsulated in a glass-like substance called magnesium fluoride, GM said.

The exterior of the Black Diamond Edition also includes satin graphite … Read more

VibroGym Swarovski thingie makes us shudder

Vibrating platform exercise machines claim to give you a workout without the work. The VibroGym Diamond VG Evolution does just that, giving you the feeling of exercising so hard that you throw up--without the exercise. In fact, all you have to do is look at the thing and you go straight to being sick in your mouth.

It's covered in thousands of our old nemesis, the Swarovski crystal. Fresh from assaulting the Olympus Pen E-P1 and a host of other gadgets, the Swarovski crystal has swarmed over the Diamond VG Evolution in an unspeakable nexus of utter pointlessness.

Read … Read more

Listening to B&W's $15,000 diamond speaker

I first wrote about Bowers & Wilkins updated diamond speakers in January, but I finally got to hear them a few weeks ago at Innovative Audio & Video, one of B&W's New York City dealers.

Specifically, I listened to the 802 Diamond speaker that sells for $15,000 a pair. The speaker has a big and beautiful, carefully honed design.  The 159-pound speaker stands 44-inches high by 14.5-inches wide by 22-inches deep. It has a 1-inch synthetic diamond dome tweeter, 6-inch woven Kevlar midrange driver, and two 8-inch Rohacell woofers. Rohacell is a super lightweight, yet highly rigid material that is ideal for woofers that need to move a lot of air without flexing.

The 6-inch midrange driver is housed in a teardrop shaped "head" that is crafted from inert Marlan composite material, a synthetic, mineral-filled resin. This granite-hard enclosure is sprayed with seven coats of hand-polished black lacquer. The head's internal cavity--a sphere closely coupled to a short tube--absorbs most of the sound from the back of the driver. On the outside, the teardrop shape smoothly disperses the sound around the speaker, creating a solid, three-dimensional stereo image.

The diamond tweeter is fitted to a tapering tube that is filled with absorbent wadding to control the energy that radiates off the tweeter's backside. The diamond tweeter doesn't look like a diamond at all, it's a dull gray dome, so it wasn't just used for show. B&W favored aluminum tweeters for its top models for years, but now uses  diamond domes because of their higher stiffness-to-density ratio. According to B&W, diamond gets closest to the sound of a hypothetically perfect tweeter.

I've heard my share of high-end speakers, but the thing that struck me first about the 802 Diamond's sound was its purity. It's the second-generation diamond model, the original version was the 802 D--the company changes it models every five to seven years. B&W offers a complete range of 800 Diamond Series speakers for hi-fi and home theater systems. … Read more

A $25 speaker an audiophile can love

One of my audiophile pals, Dave King, e-mailed me the other day about his latest find, the Dayton B652 ($25 per pair). It didn't arrive in time for my Top 10 audio bargains blog the other day, or it would have surely been included.

I've known Dave for 20 years, and we've listened to a lot of hi-fis together, so I know he's got great ears. And he knows how to get my attention: "I'm certain I recently discovered the absolute diminishing returns point in hi-fi loudspeakers. They remind me a lot of Wharfedale Diamond speakers of yore, but the B652 has a 6.5-inch midwoofer instead of the Diamonds' 4.5-inch." The original Diamonds were a really big deal in the 1980s; they were easily the best budget speaker of the era, but even then they were more like $60 or $70 a pair. They were probably made in England, the Dayton B652 is built in China.

It's a mid-size, black vinyl-covered monitor speaker, 11.7 inches high, 7.1 inches wide, and 6.5 inches deep. The front baffle hosts a 6.5-inch polypropylene woofer and a 0.6-inch polycarbonate ferrofluid-cooled tweeter. Dave liked the fit and finish well enough, but he wasn't too happy with the Dayton B652's spring-clip wire connectors. I agree, clip connectors never have much grip on the wires, so they can fall out when you move the speakers. I've seen those things on $100 speakers, but on a $25 speaker you can't really complain about spring clips.

One of the Dayton B652's more interesting design features is its acoustic suspension (nonported woofer. I like that because acoustic suspension woofers tend to sound better than ported ones, and Dave was impressed by the Dayton B652's bass definition. The downside to acoustic suspension designs is the bass doesn't go as deep as ported woofers do. The Dayton B652's bass is reasonably flat to 70 hertz, and Dave likes to use subwoofers with most speakers anyway. When I pressed him on the matter he said he thought most folks would be well-satisfied with the Dayton B652's bass on its own. … Read more

Nothing says 'I love you' like a $20,000 iPad

The iPad might be an expensive device, but Mervis Diamond Importers has done its part to ensure Apple's pricing will always look cheap. The company announced on its site recently that it will offer a Diamond iPad for $19,999.

According to the site, the Diamond iPad boasts 11.43 carats worth of diamonds displayed in a "micro-pave styling." Mervis states that the diamonds are graded highly in color and clarity.

That's great and all, but I find the device a bit ugly with all those diamonds.

Unfortunately, Mervis didn't say which version of the … Read more