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Silence is golden: Sanyo and NS-ELEX have unveiled their new earphone microphone, e-Mimi-kun. Using bone-conduction audio technology, it is designed to cut out background noise, the bane of modern life, and boost the quality of your sound transmission. If you are talking on your cell phone, for example, you simply plug the unit into your ear and transmit your voice, with no background noise, to the person you are talking to, and listen to their voice too. Beyond cell phones, the gadget can be used with any device into which a microphone can be plugged. Silence comes at a price, with the wired version due in April at ¥40,000 and a wireless version, using Bluetooth, to cost ¥60,000.

Organic sound: JVC is not afraid to be different either. Its new HP-FX500 high-end earphones are made mainly from wood, and apparently improved audio quality was the motivation for the unusual choice of materials. The unit boasts a pretty good frequency range, at 8 Hz to 25 kHz, at 100 dB/1 mW, with an impedance of 16 ohms. The earphones are out now, priced ¥15,000.

Smarter idiot box: Fujitsu is set to release an upgraded version of its TEO desktop PC, first released in January last year. The computer is designed to be plugged straight into a television, and Fujitsu has upped the ante by adding a Blu-ray high-definition disc drive to its top-drawer version (the TEO90Y/D). Unfortunately, Fujitsu didn’t redesign the TEO, which at best can be described as looking “functional.” The specs of the new TEO include a 500-GB hard-disk drive, 1.6-GB Core 2 Duo chipset, 2 gigabytes of RAM and an ATI Radeon Xpress 1250 graphics engine. No word on pricing or release date as yet, but expect to see it in the coming weeks.

Get the picture: Aimed at the younger end of the market, Takara Tomy’s VideoClip is a multimedia hand-held “toy” that allows you to record video or audio from a TV or hi-fi and play it back on the device. The gadget supports a 1-GB SD card for eight hours of video or 60 hours of audio, and in a concession to juniors it comes in baby pink and baby blue, priced at ¥12,600. Details can be found at www.takaratomy.co.jp.

Bonsai time: Although stylish design has virtually displaced accurate timekeeping as the main prerequisite of a timepiece, the Bonsai Gear Clock is still something else indeed. The clock sits on a wooden pedestal (albeit one with a silvery metal finish) and is shaped roughly like a small bonsai tree upon which somebody clever has incorporated the inner workings of a mechanical clock. The clock’s face comprises two simple black hands on an exposed gear sitting at the end of one of the main “branches,” with the rest of the limbs sporting the rest of the clock gears. The fetchingly original-looking contraption runs on two R20-size (known as D-size abroad) batteries and costs ¥9,975, with more information at www.visionscoax.jp.

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