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The best cheap Sonos deals and sales for Black Friday 2018

Wed, 21/11/2018 - 15:02

Sonos's speakers are fantastic. They sound great and use reliable, intuitive software that makes flinging  tunes around your house a cinch. Here’s the problem: Sonos speakers can be expensive, unless you find a good deal. That’s what we're here for. We’ve put together the ultimate guide to the best cheap Sonos deals so you don’t have to roam the internet looking for them. 

We have hot deals for the whole line-up, including not just the Sonos One, Play:3 and Play:5 – but also the Sonos Playbar, Sub and Connect as well. 

Are you here for a deal on the brand-new Sonos Playbase? Don't worry, we didn't forget about the latest addition to the Sonos family either. 

Here are some prices in the US we've found, but if you're in the UK or Australia, keep scrolling down for more deals.

So what’s a good deal?

Good deals are subjective, obviously. But if we were in your shoes, we’d wait for at least a $50/£35/AU$75-off sale. These happen around the holidays, mostly, but do happen sporadically  throughout the year as well. 

If you’re looking for a recommendation, your best bet is to start your Sonos system with a Play:5, the big brother of the bunch, and work your way down. We also have a soft spot in our heart for the Playbar (it’s on our best soundbar list, after all) and a Play One is a great pick for kitchens, bedrooms and studies.

 If you want the latest and greatest from Sonos, check out the brand-new Sonos Playbase – it's a speaker and TV stand all in one package. 

OK, without further ado, here are the best Sonos deals we’ve found this month. And there are some cracking discounts to celebrate the Black Friday deals season.

Sonos and Alexa, Amazon's smart personal assistant, are a perfect match for one another - it's almost a wonder it's taken this long for the two of them to meet. Regardless, the Sonos One is here now and it combines the best of both worlds. The One is able to call upon Alexa to answer basic inquiries, adjust appointments on your calendar and, for Amazon Prime members, voice access to Amazon's expansive Music Unlimited library. It's already an excellent sounding speaker but, with Google Assistant support expected in 2018 and many more updated to Alexa sure to come over the years, the Sonos One is only going to get better over time.  

Read our full review: Sonos One

The Sonos Play:1 is the alpha in Sonos' alphabet. It's not the most powerful of the bunch, but it definitely knows how to get the job done. It's 6.36 x 4.69 x 4.69 inches (161.45 x 119.7 x 119.7 mm) and 4.08 lbs (1.85 kg) but it can really kick. It comes in two colors – white with light metallic grille and black with graphite grille – and works with standard wall mounts and speaker stands. We love how easy it is to setup and its awesome sound quality, but thought that its low end could use a bit of oomph. Still, if you're looking to start a Sonos system without spending a lot, the Sonos Play:1 is the place to start.

Read our review: Sonos Play:1 

The Sonos Play:3 is the middle child of the bunch. It's more powerful than the puny Play:1, but doesn't have the same room-filling audio that you get from the Play:5. For some people, though, it's just right. So how big is it? The Play:3 is 5.2 x 10.6 x 6.3 inches (132 x 268 x 160 mm) and weighs 5.71 lbs. (2.6 kg). It comes in two colors – white with light metallic grille and black with graphite grille – and works with standard wall mounts and speaker stands. It has three Class-D amplifiers, one tweeter, two mid-woofers and a bass radiator. Again, here you'll find great audio quality and a pretty easy setup.

Read our review: Sonos Play: 3

Here it is, the grand kahuna of the Sonos systems. The Sonos Play:5 is everything you can want in a network speaker. It gets loud, but also sounds crystal clear at top volumes. It's obviously a bigger than its brethren, however, so keep that in mind before you try stuffing one into a one-room apartment. So how big is it? It's 8.03 x 14.33 x 6.06 inches (203 x 364 x 154 mm) and weighs 14 lbs. (6.36 kg). It comes in two colors – white or black matte enclosure with graphite grille – and contains two built-in microphones that can tune it for your space. Unlike the Play:3 it has five Class-D amplifiers, three tweeters, three mid-woofers and a phased speaker array that separates sound into its three channels – left, right and center. Good sound doesn't come cheap, but once you hear a Sonos Play:5 speaker you won't want anything else.

Read our review: Sonos Play:5

TVs might look great, but most of them definitely don't sound all that good. That's why Sonos made the Playbar, a soundbar that can produce top-tier audio quality while simultaneously syncing up to your other multi-room speakers. It's definitely expensive, no doubt about it, but there's no other soundbar this well-connected. Here are some specs: First off, it's 3.35 x 35.43 x 5.51 inches (85 x 900 x 140 mm) and weighs 11.9 lbs. (5.4kg). It only comes in one color and requires a separate mounting kit if you want to mount it beneath your screen. Unlike the Play:5, it has nine Class-D amplifiers, three tweeters and six mid-woofers – that can put out a ton of noise. 

Read our review: Sonos Playbar

Three years after the company released its first ever soundbar, the Playbar, Sonos has created the Playbase, a unique form factor sound system that combines a stable pedestal for your TV with an audio cabinet. 

Why did Sonos create a second home entertainment device? The team did extensive research into how people used their Playbar at home and found that most people didn’t wall mount their televisions or Playbars. To that end, the Playbase was created to allow people to set their televisions right on top of the speaker, allowing for a compact home theater solution. 

Overall, the Sonos Playbase is a good-sounding speaker for those who don’t want to fumble with a surround sound system or simply don’t have the room for one. There’s no need for a receiver, making it truly plug-and-play. Sonos’ philosophy of making music enjoyment as frictionless as possible continues with the Playbase – the Sonos app is easy to use and the integrated universal search across music services is something we wished every speaker had. 

Read our review: Sonos Playbase

Sonos systems are great. Like seriously great. We want to call them perfect, and yet without some sort of low-end support they just aren't. For that you need the Sonos Sub, the additional audio piece that adds a hefty amount of bass to your favorite music genres. The design here is a bit funky, we'll admit, but hey, if you were looking for a conversation starter (and ender) at your next house party, this is it. That said, it's 15.3 x 15.8 x 6.2 inches (389 x 402 x 158 mm) and weighs 36.3 lbs (16 kg). It's available in two colors – premium white gloss and premium black gloss – that can match either your Playbar or Play:5 speaker. Inside you'll find two Class-D amplifiers, two force-cancelling speaker drivers and dual acoustic ports that help the Sub reach a low frequency of about 25Hz. 

Read our hands on review: Sonos Sub

There's nothing wrong with your old audio equipment. You've invested years in setting up and tuning your system, and there's no reason to let any of that go to waste. For anyone interested in keeping the equipment they already own but add on a streaming or mutil-room audio component, Sonos Connect is your solution. While it's not exactly a player in its own right, Sonos Connect allows you to send or receive audio streams. That means you can hook it up to your receiver to send out your favorite CD over the airwaves in your home, or set it up with your old floor speakers to bring them into the 21st century. 

Categories: General Technology

The best cheap Bluetooth speaker deals and sales for Black Friday 2018

Wed, 21/11/2018 - 02:58

Looking for the best Bluetooth speakers deals? You're in luck. This is the best place to find them. Read on for our top picks of cheap Bluetooth speakers, with our guides offering discounts on the best ones.

These wireless speakers are the best way to upgrade the sound of your phone, without spending a fortune. It's hard to beat the sound-to-cost some of the best budget wireless speakers offer. 

Why would you want a Bluetooth speaker in the first place? These awesomely convenient and extremely portable powerhouses get you the sound of a small hifi and you can take them anywhere. It's perfect for BBQs, days in the park or just carrying around the house.

Use one and you'll immediately see why they are so popular. Instead of the mess of cables and docks that you normally need to get music playing out of a set of speakers, with a Bluetooth speaker it’s as easy as pairing up your phone, opening your music app of choice, and getting your favorite songs playing. 

The best also sound many times larger than they actually are, ready to blast out tunes at party levels.

Unlike our guide to the best Bluetooth speakers (which are ranked on quality), these have been ranked in order of price from cheapest to most expensive. Pay more and you’ll get features like better battery life and more complete water-proofing. However, every speaker in this list is a winner, offering great sound for the money and size.

Looking for a super cheap waterproof Bluetooth speaker? Look no further. The JBL Clip 2 may be petite, but it has powerful sound and a long-lasting battery. It's completely waterproof – which makes it a perfect companion for a pool or a day at the beach – and it can be hooked up to a second JBL Clip speaker for some sweet stereo sound. Cheap and convenient all in one package.

If you want a budget waterpprof Bluetooth speaker, then the Creative Muvo Mini is the one to buy. It takes all the features you could want in a Bluetooth speaker such as weather-proofing and a decent battery, and combines them into a surprisingly affordable package. 

A good Bluetooth speaker is something we all deserve, but it's also something we can't all afford. Thankfully, Dell stuck this stellar option in the budget Bluetooth speaker category. The Dell AD211 won't win awards for design, but that's a compromise we can stomach considering this speaker's staggeringly low price point. Taking value into consideration, you'll have a hard time finding an affordable speaker with good battery life, NFC compatibility and a built-in microphone. But the AD211 has it all, and for a bargain. Get this if you're ballin' on a budget and you need the most feature-packed speaker for your money.

As far as deals go, there are few better than the ones you can find on last year's JBL Flip 3. This awesome-sounding Bluetooth speaker has great bass response, its mids are rich and highs are crisp. This speaker offers a 3,000mAh internal battery that's capable of about 10 hours of life and an internal microphone that allows you to pick up calls by pressing the phone button. On its back, there's a microUSB port for charging the Flip 3 and a 3.5mm input for wired listening.

Planning on taking your speaker beach-side? Be sure to pack a UE Roll 2, a speaker that's waterproof, compact and fits great in a bag. It boasts a 50-foot wireless range, exceptional clarity around the mids and highs and won't malfunction after a little splash. There are plenty of other great Bluetooth speaker deals out there but, if you want a speaker with a wild design, this level of sound performance and an unbeatable, 50-foot wireless range, Ultimate Ears's Roll 2 is the epitome of water-resilient audio equipment.

Another option from Ultimate Ears is the brand-new UE Wonderboom. Unlike the Roll 2, it's capable of 360-degree sound, which is perfect for parties where people are a bit more dispersed, and amps up the bass. All that said, the UE Wonderboom is one of the best waterproof Bluetooth speakers you can buy. It’s completely waterproof, offers true 360-degree sound, features a 100-foot range and can pair two devices simultaneously. 

Read the full review: UE Wonderboom

If you're looking to liven up your living room, one viable party route to go down is Sony's SRS-X11 Bluetooth speaker. This little cube packs 12 hours of battery life in a 2.4 x 2.4 x 2.4 inch (W x H x D) shell and outputs 10w of power. It has a decent frequency response of 20–20,000 Hz (with 44.1 kHz sampling) and only weighs around 7 ounces. Cheap, light and moderately powerful? Win. 

Need something a bit bigger for your next party? Check out the Ultimate Ears Boom 2, the reigning champ of our Best Bluetooth Speaker guide. The UE Boom is ultra-powerful and, like the UE Roll and UE Wonderboom, is 100% splashproof, making it the perfect companion for any outdoor adventuring on your agenda. If you're deep in the search for your next – or first – Bluetooth speaker, you can stop looking now. You've found it.

Read the full review: UE Boom 2

Razer might be comparatively new to the Bluetooth speaker game, but the Leviathan Mini does a lot right. When we originally reviewed it we thought that the speaker was a little pricey for what it offered, but now that it's been on the market for a while its price has come down substantially, making it a much easier product to recommend. 

Read the full review: Razer Leviathan Mini

Bose is a brand more commonly associated with high-end audio gear, but the company is also more than capable of putting out decent budget offerings, and nothing shows that off more than the SoundLink Color, which sounds great for the price. 

Read the full review: Bose SoundLink Color

Categories: General Technology

Best cheap headphones: your guide to the best budget headphones in 2018

Tue, 20/11/2018 - 12:00

Headphones are like art: they're semi-subjective and while the real connoisseurs can spend a fortune on them, for most folks, budget models work just as well. That being said, while there's a big difference between finger painting and Picasso with a happy medium somewhere in between, the same is true for headphones. 

Here at TechRadar, we’ve sort of built a reputation for covering all of the latest, greatest and priciest technology in the world. However, even in the face of all of that high-end equipment, we still have a passion for finding great tech items that anyone can afford, and the best cheap headphones are a great place to start. 

It’s this passion for affordability that inspired us to create this list of the best cheap headphones on the market in 2018 – we’ve put our bargain-hunting prowess to great use and found a great deal of cheap headphones that you can buy without thinking twice about it.

By their very nature, the headphones you prefer will ultimately boil down to your own personal taste. However, seeing as the headphone market is extremely saturated, it is genuinely hard to figure out what the best headphones for your tastes actually are. That’s where we come in. 

Now, bear with us – it’s impossible to get our hands on every affordable pair of headphones, but we won’t recommend anything we haven’t used ourselves. So if we missed your favorite pair of headphones, it wasn’t on purpose, we assure you.

With this guide, we went through a process – exhaustively testing a huge amount of cheap headphones from all over the internet in every style under the sun. In-ear, over-ear, wireless – everything you can think of. 

We then took the results of all of this exhaustive testing, and measured each headphone against each other until we could confidently pick a few to proudly wear the ‘best cheap headphones’ badge. So rest assured, even if we didn’t pick your favorite headphone, there isn’t a single pair in this list that will disappoint.

[Update: You might be able to save even more money on these cheap headphones if you wait until Black Friday to buy them. To make sure you don't miss out on any amazing deals, bookmark our Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals page, which we will be updating constantly.]

What are the best cheap headphones?

While wired headphones may be way of the dodo with disappearing headphone jacks, there are still plenty of reasons to go wired. Two of the biggest reasons is sound quality and price. While there are cheap wireless headphones out there, they sound much worse than wired headphones for the same price. 

In the budget in-ear headphone category, you usually sacrifice sound and build quality for price. However, there are rare gems that are affordable, sound great, and are built well. The RHA MA390 is one of those headphones. 

While the RHA MA390 is the cheapest headphone the company makes, it doesn’t sacrifice on build quality, design, or sound: These headphones are beautifully crafted out of aluminum, feature a braided cable, and a universal remote that works with Android and iOS. While not perfect, the RHA M390 are an excellent value in the budget in-ear category. 

The OnePlus Bullets Wireless are an excellent pair of wireless headphones, especially considering that you can get them for $70 (£70, about AU$124). At this price, no other neckbud comes close. 

The OnePlus Bullets Wireless are so good, in fact, that they’ve unseated the NuForce BE6i and Beats X in our list of the best wireless earbuds. This is a pair of wireless earbuds that we have no hesitation recommending to anyone.

It was love at first listen with the Skullcandy Grind. These bass-heavy headphones bring a built-in microphone to the mix and offer amazing sound quality at a bargain basement price.

They do everything we want in a pair of on-ear headphones – they’re light, but not fragile. They’re powerful, but are directional enough that sound doesn’t spew out everywhere, alerting your neighbors that you’re listening to Taylor Swift again. 

If Skullcandy’s low-end-heavy tone and teenager-esque style aren’t for you, there’s always the equally good Urbanears Plattan II – a more balanced pair of on-ears that cost almost exactly the same amount as the Skullcandy Grind. 

As great as wired headphones can be, being constantly tethered to your phone, MP3 Player or PC can be downright irritating. If you find yourself ready to tear the cord out of the jack once and for all, you need a pair of wireless cans.

For those looking to cut the cord on the cheap, the Creative Sound Blaster JAM is the way to go. It's lightweight, sounds great and is dirt cheap. What makes it on-ear headphones? Well, the foam earpads sit directly on top of your ears instead of encompassing them entirely, something some folks find more comfortable. 

Our only real complaint about the Creative Sound Blaster JAM is that, because they're on-ear headphones, they let in ambient noise like no one's business. This is totally fine for the dull roar of an office (and might even be helpful if someone needs to grab your attention real quick) but, for commuters or anyone who can't stand to hear the outside world while listening to their tunes, you're best served looking at one of the over-ear options coming up on the list. 

  •  This product is only available in the US and UK at the time of this writing. Australian readers: check out a fine alternative in the Skullcandy Grind 

It’s easy to spend an arm and a leg on good over-ear headphones. Barring the exception of noise-cancelling and planar magnetic cans, they are the top dogs of the audio world. Really good over-ears should be the most comfortable, most versatile headphones in your audio arsenal. They should be just as adept with Hi-Def audio sources of 16-bit/44.1KHz as they are streaming from Spotify, and they should do so without sacrificing either end of the audio spectrum. 

In our testing we found a half-dozen that can do the job (the Status Audio CB-1 come to mind, as do the Sennheiser HD201 and Audio-Technica ATH-M20X) but, of them all, the Monoprice 8323 Hi-FI DJ Style Headphones are the cream of the crop. They’re a bit cheaper constructed than the others, but for their price they sound outrageously clear. Balanced and powerful, the Monoprice 8323 is the epitome of what the best cheap headphones should be.

  •  This product is only available in the US and UK at the time of this writing. Australian readers: check out a fine alternative in the Skullcandy Grind 

If you’re not wedded to the idea of owning full-size headphones, there’s quite a lot of competition worth considering around this price. However, you can’t argue with the Taotronics TT-BH040s' value: While not packed with character, they carry themselves with a premium look above the affordable price tag, with aluminium touches and a generally pleasant design. From a distance, and even close up, few would guess they are so affordable ... just don’t buy them expecting the same performance as the most desirable pairs from Beats, Sennheiser or Bose.

Beyerdynamic makes loads of equipment for both audiophiles and audio professionals, and some of it comes at a high price. But, the Beyerdynamic DT 240 Pro headphones find a sweet spot offering professional audio and a high standard in design for a lower price point.

The DT 240 Pro headphones cost $99 (£89, AU$139), making them more affordable than heaps of other studio monitor headphones. This price puts them in close competition with some of Audio-Technica’s cans, like the widely praised ATH-M40X or the wireless ATH-SR5BT, which can be found on sale in the same ballpark as the DT 240 Pro.

Beyerdynamic shines in performance with the DT 240 Pro. As studio monitor headphones, the sound produced is not very colorful, but that’s exactly as it should be. All the sound comes through clean and incredibly well balanced.

The bass is easy to pick up on without being thumpy, though with a subtle punch at higher volumes. From the bass on up to the high end, all the sounds mesh clearly, with the DT 240 Pros not boosting one register over the other.

They're neutral, perfect for recording and best of all, cheap.

Read the full review: Beyerdynamic DT 240 PRO

 What to look for in cheap headphones 

 

In order to create this guide, we’ve tested, listened to and compared over 25 headphones in every category, shape and size. When we found a great pair, we then put it against the rest back-to-back-to-back to make sure they still really deserved the title of ‘best cheap headphones’. 

You might be wondering what we were looking for through all this expansive testing? Sound fidelity was clearly the most essential detail – but we also made sure to consider comfort, design and other features also.

Like most people, we prefer our music detail-rich and well-balanced. We can live with our music sounding a bit warm with an emphasis on the mids and highs, but we still like to be able to feel the bass. Also, it’s important to look for headphones with reasonable battery life if they’re wireless, a robust, durable build that will stand up to the trials of everyday commute and comfortable padding to help make longer listening sittings nice and comfortable. 

Keep in mind though, that testing headphones will be, at least on some level, subjective, and our taste in tonal balance might not match yours (neither will the size of our head or the shape of our ears). Still, we’ve done our best to take subjectivity out of the equation and can present, through our expertise, the best cheap headphones that won’t hurt your wallet.

Categories: General Technology

Best MP3 Player 2018: TechRadar's guide to the best portable music players

Tue, 20/11/2018 - 11:10

If you're on the look-out for the best MP3 player that money can buy in 2018, you've come to the perfect place: Here we'll run down all the top choices, and tell you everything you need to know to make a sensible buying decision.

And, by the way, well done on sticking with the classic MP3 device. A decade or so ago, MP3 players were the center of the music world, and everyone carried one in their pockets to play their favorite songs from iTunes. But, in the words of the inimitable Bob Dylan though: “the times, they are a-changin’.” 

While most folks are more than happy to use their phones as portable music players, you're here because you're looking for a separate music player – one that not only stores your music, but makes it sound its best.

The best MP3 players, due to their sound fidelity and durability, are the ultimate devices if you love listening to music – and new innovations in sound are making them even better with each passing year.

That said, remember that the device (in this case an MP3 player) is only one link in a long audio chain. You’ll also need to think about what audio codec your library is in, and you will obviously also need an great pair of headphones, (high-fidelity DACs are meaningless if you’re using a cheap pair of earbuds).

If you need a little help, check out the best headphones for 2018

Best MP3 player: Onkyo DP-X1A

Onkyo has been a well-known and esteemed name in audio for years, and for good reason. The Onkyo DP-X1A may not be the most compact player on this list, but it is the best all-around, offering huge customizability, an intuitive interface, and fantastic sound quality.

Let’s start with the design, which is pretty nice. In general, the DP-X1A looks a little bit like a phone, but much thicker, and is completely optimized for audio use. How so? Well, for starters, it has two audio ports – one headphone jack and one balanced output for those interested in a cleaner and overall better quality sound. Additionally, the device has an easy-to-use volume wheel, as well as physical playback buttons and two microSD card slots for those with a sizable collection of music. 

The player is built with a full version of Android 5.1, complete with features like Wi-Fi connectivity and the Google Play Store. Which results in an MP3 Player that is to Android what the iPod Touch is to iOS. Unlike the iPod, however, the Onkyo DP-X1A is built for super-high-quality audio.

Speaking of the sound quality, it's an absolute dream. It supports a range of music formats, including FLAC, OGG, WAV, MP3, ALAC, and more. In terms of hardware, the device has two chipsets, one to power the overall device, and one to handle the DAC and amplifier – resulting in a noise-free experience. 

We tested the player with multiple pairs of headphones across multiple price ranges, and were stunned with the clarity and exceptional quality of the audio. There’s a reason the Onkyo DP-X1A sits atop this list – it’s a beast in the portable audio world. 

Read our full review: Onkyo DP-X1A Digital Audio Player

Best MP3 player: HiFiMan SuperMini

HiFiMan is perhaps best known for its headphones, but it makes some pretty great MP3 players, too. For an example, look no further than the SuperMini. 

The SuperMini, as the name suggests, is a little smaller than most of the other players on this list, but that doesn’t seem to come at a huge cost – it’ll still deliver excellent audio quality and it’s pretty easy to use, too.

The device, which has a price tag of $399 (£400, AU$399), doesn’t have any onboard storage – you’ll have to buy a microSD card separately. It does, however, support a pretty huge range of audio formats, including FLAC, DSD, WAV, MP3, and AIFF, and audio with a sample rate of up to 192kHz.

The user interface may not be as flashy as some others on this list, but it’s still pretty easy to use. It’s a monochrome display, and is controlled via three buttons located under the screen. The tradeoff to using a monochrome display, however, is that the battery life is decent, sitting in at a hefty 22 hours. 

In terms of sound, the high-end on this player is nice and crisp, without being too aggressive by any means. On top of that, there are plenty of mids to go around, without the player at all straying into inaccurate territory. We were a little skeptical of the idea of a player from a company that offers players well into the multi-thousands of dollars range, but the SuperMini holds its own, and at a decent price.

Read the full review: HiFiMan SuperMini

  • This product is only available in the US and UK at the time of this writing. Australian readers: check out a fine alternative in the Onkyo DP-X1A 

Best MP3 player: Astell & Kern AK Jr

Astell & Kern is known for building top-notch audio devices at reasonable prices, and for that reason we think the Astell & Kern AK Jr is the best mid-range MP3 player out of the ones we've seen (and heard). In fact, after spending some time using it, we would argue that it’s a pretty serious contender against even much more expensive players.

Before diving into the player’s capabilities, you’ll notice how well-designed it is. The sleek, metallic look is very classy, and using it gives you a similar “status symbol” feel as you’ll get with the iPhone.

The AK Jr comes in at $259 (£250, AU$399), which is a very reasonable price for a device of this calibre. For that price, you’ll get 64GB of onboard storage, though there is a microSD card slot in case you want to expand upon that storage. On top of that, it supports all major audio formats, including FLAC, WAV, MP3, AAC, AIFF, and more – and it’s able to play at sample rates of up to 192kHz.

The interface of the device is relatively easy to control, too. The home screen simply gives you options for songs, albums, artists, and so on. 

Tap through using the touchscreen, and you’ll be able to select the music you want to listen to. It would be nice if that touchscreen was a little more responsive, but you get used to it. Battery life sits in at around nine hours, which isn't amazing, but not terrible either. 

So how does it sound? In one word: beautiful. 

Music is dynamic and crisp, with a nice and powerful sound in every aspect. The soundstage on these, when paired with a great pair of headphones, is huge – that’s to say the left and right are clearly defined, while instruments placed at the center of a mix are given plenty of room to breathe. We particularly enjoyed the guitar solo on AC/DC’s Back in Black, while Eminem’s rap on Lose Yourself cut straight through the mix – exactly the way it was supposed to.

Best MP3 player: Apple iPod Touch

We all know the name “iPod”... which is probably due to the fact that it changed the game when it came to consumer audio in the early aughts. All these years later, though, they're still some of the easiest to use, most versatile and best-looking players on the market – especially the iPod Touch. 

Why's that? Well, it’s practically an iPhone that’s not a phone. The device is able to run most apps on the app store, making it much more than an MP3 player. 

It’s not as audiophile-targeted as most other MP3 players – it doesn’t support FLAC or DSD formats, for example – but it does support WAV, MP3, AAC, and so on. It also tops out at 44.1kHz (CD-level audio), though for most people that will be more than enough.

The iPod Touch is probably the easiest MP3 player on the market to use. It’s controlled using a touchscreen, which is ultra-responsive, and boasts a colorful look and bright display. Of course, you probably didn’t need us to tell you that. The device starts at $199 (£209, AU$299) for the 32GB version, or $299 (£299, AU$449) for the 128GB version.

As mentioned, the iPod Touch does cap out at 44.1kHz audio, but it still sounds pretty good – and if you really want it to it can provide an audiophile experience through an external DAC connected to the Lightning port. Of course, if you’re going to go to all that trouble, why not just buy an audiophile player? 

Best MP3 player: SanDisk Clip Sport Plus

Looking for an MP3 player to take running with you? If so, you probably want something small and light – it probably doesn’t need to hold day’s worth of music, and it probably doesn’t need to offer the highest audio quality out there. Most of all, you probably don’t want to fork out a ton of cash for it.

If that’s you, in our view, the SanDisk Clip Sport Plus is the best option. 

For starters, the device offers 16GB of storage, and while that may not be much for your phone, 16GB can hold a ton of songs. On top of that, despite being built for sport, it actually supports a pretty wide range of audio formats – including MP3, AAC, FLAC, WAV, and WMA.

Perhaps most important for a device like this is the battery life, and it’ll last you a good 20 hours. You’ll even get Bluetooth, which is a huge deal for many who will be using this while running or performing other activities and don’t want cables to get in the way.

The interface is relatively easy to use too. Sure, it’s a little dated, and isn’t as powerful as what you’ll find on your smartphone, but it’s still capable as a music player. It’s not touch-sensitive, though: instead, you navigate through hardware buttons that also serve as playback controls when music is playing, but we didn’t have any issues.

As for the sound, as long as you don’t expect full audiophile-level quality here (you won’t get it), we think you'll find the sound very capable. Overall it's slightly muddy with a small dip in clarity, but for most that won’t matter – especially when you're out on a run or hitting the weights at the gym.

Best MP3 player: Sony NW-A45 Walkman

If the idea of using iTunes freaks you out and spending more than $200 on an MP3 player just isn't plausible, then your best MP3 player is probably the Sony NW-A45 Walkman.

Packed with 16GB of built-in storage and a slick touchscreen UI, the NW-A45 starts at around  $149 and comes in multiple colors that will suit any taste. For audiophiles, the NW-A45 supports Hi-Res playback, plus DSEE H can help restore lossy files back to a near lossless state. Unlike your phone, Sony's Walkman comes with an S-Master HX digital amp that's powerful enough to drive some relatively high-impedance headphones while still accommodating low-impedance cans, too.

Versatile and easy to use, the Sony NW-A45 gets the nod as our MP3 player pick for the first-time buyer.

 What MP3 players does TechRadar recommend? 

So, what do you need to look for in an MP3 player? Well, the most important thing you need to think about is the audio codec your music library is in.

Anyone who uses iTunes will probably have a music library completely filled with Apple’s proprietary AAC codec, and luckily most MP3 players will support that codec. However, if you consider yourself an audiophile, you’ll need support for lossless codecs like FLAC, WAV and ALAC, as these codecs don’t use the compression methods used on lossy codecs like AAC or MP3. However, they will take up more space.

You’ll also need to consider how much music is in your, well, music collection and then how much storage you’ll need. This is especially the case when you’re using codecs like FLAC, which just devour space. Often MP3 players also have an included microSD card slot, which allows you to expand upon the included storage as your library expands – but normally only up to a certain size, normally around 512GB.

Here's the best part though: unlike smartphones, MP3 players are built to last, so there’s no need to go on an endless two-year upgrade-cycle like you might with a smartphone. This means it’s probably in your best interests to take some time and find the one that’s right for you, as you will probably be using it for a few years to come.

  • Looking for a something to listen to on your new MP3 player? Check out our list of the best podcasts around.
Categories: General Technology

The future of headphones: touchscreen displays and integrated streaming

Tue, 20/11/2018 - 02:00

What’s next for headphones? It may seem like a moot question. Surely we just want better audio, comfier cans, and better value across the board. Is there anything a pair of headphones could do that could actually change the way we listen to music?

At the premium end of the headphones market, often what distinguishes models comes down to styling or brand loyalty – anyone can spot your Beats Studio 3 headphones at about 50 paces – as much as slight variations in what frequencies are drawn out of your tracks.

It’s rare that you find a line of headphones offering a fundamentally different user experience, but that’s exactly what Funky Sound is aiming to do. The French audio startup, founded by its CEO Arnaud Perret, has rethought the relationship between audio hardware and the inputs played through it. So what is Funky Sound’s Debussy range going to do differently?

A prélude to something different

The products in the Debussy audio range are described as ‘smart autonomous headphones’, without the tyranny of either cables or the lossy Bluetooth connection robbing your music of audio detail. The range comprises the primary over-ear Prélude model, a premium Prélude X model, and a third on-ear 'mini' option.

The design itself is clearly towards the luxury end of the scale – cue gold or platinum coloring, premium leather padding, musical notations running along the band, and light red, white and blue detailing to display the colors of the company’s French homeland.

But it’s the touchscreen display that will really catch your eye. Set on the left-side can, this doubles up as a navigational menu and a visual synthesizer for your music, with the option of displaying your own images and videos to personalize what you want your headphones to show off.

What also stands out is each pair’s on-board computer, one that’s able to run streaming apps like Tidal, Spotify and Deezer – over 4G or Wi-Fi – without outsourcing the processing to an external device. You can still link it with your smartphone or smartwatch for playback controls, but the music itself begins and ends in the headphones themselves. You’ll even be able to use an eSim to make calls without a handset.

It’s hard to stress how novel an idea that feels. Audiophiles so often have to choose between the convenience of wireless Bluetooth and the assured sound quality of a cabled connection (although some more serious offerings like the RHA CL2 Planars offer both options out of the box). 

While the success of Funky Sounds' headphones will come down to how well these systems and services are integrated, the vision on paper bodes well for the consumer.

That all includes on-board storage too: the Prélude headphones will come with 32GB for audio files, while the Prélude X pack in a larger 64GB. The Prélude model alone could hold more than 10,000 MP3 tracks, and still have room for thousands of high-grade audio files (formats such as FLAC or Apple Lossless).

Voice assistants like Alexa and Google Assistant are already starting to make their way into mainstream pairs of headphones, and Funky Sound plans to build in that sort of integration down the line – although with a basic own-brand AI assistant built in by default.

Star backing

As the name Debussy – after the French composer Claude Debussy – suggests, Funky Sounds is an audio brand focused on its heritage.

Speaking to TechRadar, Arnaut Perret managed to name-drop everyone from Stevie Wonder to Kavinsky (the composer for Ryan Gosling vehicle Drive) as collaborators on the project, with assurances that there were even more “big names to come”. Funky Sound is making much of its connections as an assurance of quality, with the headphones’ built-in EQ mastered by regular Daft Punk collaborator Antoine Chabert.

While we did have the chance to test out the headphones ourselves, there’s only so much we can infer from a prototype model – one without any of the smart features or touchscreen capability that Funky Sound promises will make the Préludes stand out from the crowd.

The hardware and design we’ve seen are finalized, while the next nine months or so will be spend fully developing the software needed to make all these lofty promises, including an integrated DAC and real-time audio translation, a reality – that is, if someone with deeper cash reserves doesn’t get there first.

“All the manufacturers will copy, for sure,” says Perret. “But all we’re building, with all the artists and branding, that experience we’re creating... that cannot be mimicked.”

As of today, the audio brand has launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund its range of Debussy headphones, and the next few months could either establish the range or consign it to the pile of nice-sounding tech ideas that didn't quite make it.

Funky Sound says its Prélude headphones are aimed at “people for whom music is at the center of their life”. But if the technology moves within reach of more casual listeners, the convenience and reliability of a fully integrated system – one that can host all the various streaming services, apps, and storage you’d need to input audio into your ears – could well impact the way we all consume our music.

Categories: General Technology

Tidal has arrived on Amazon Echo speakers

Fri, 16/11/2018 - 22:45

If you have an Amazon Echo speaker you can now stream music directly from Tidal, giving you more listening options than ever before. 

The streaming service, which is owned by Jay-Z, is designed to provide listeners with hi-fidelity audio, promising a level of sound quality equivalent to CDs. 

It's now the first streaming platform to take advantage of Amazon's Music Skills API, an initiative that makes it possible for services to add in support for Alexa themselves – in the past, companies like Spotify and Deezer had to rely on Amazon to enable Alexa support. 

No FLACs given

To use Tidal on your Echo, Echo Dot, or Echo Plus you'll need to enable the dedicated Alexa skill – you will of course need a Tidal subscription as well.

If you were hoping to play hi-fidelity audio through your Amazon Echo, you'll be disappointed, as hardware limitations mean that the Echo can't support Tidal's high quality FLAC 'Masters' tracks.

Still, you'll be able to stream the platform's curated playlists in lower-resolution AAC files, which is what you'll be used to if you're a Tidal Premium subscriber – only Tidal Hi-Fi subscribers have access to those super hi-fi FLAC files.

Via The Verge

Categories: General Technology

The best business headphones and earphones in 2018

Thu, 15/11/2018 - 23:35

The best business headphones or earphones can make a major difference to your working environment, whether you need to make and receive calls during the day or you just want to drown out your noisy colleagues.

Clearer audio, better noise-cancelling... the best business headphones can really be revolutionary for your working day. However, when you're looking to buy business headphones and earphones, you'll want to look out for a number of features that you may not necessarily think about when buying headphones for listening to music or podcasts on.

Microphone quality is just as important as sound quality, for example – after all, you want the people you're speaking to to be able to hear you as clearly as possible, and vice versa. Good noise cancelling features are a must too, especially if you work in a noisy environment: ambient noise (such as office chatter) is detected and removed while your voice is broadcast to the caller. You'll also want to make sure the headphones are comfortable to wear, of course, if you're wearing them all day.

We've assembled a list of the best business headphones and earphones, making it easier than ever for you to make the right choice – a choice which isn't always easy, considering the huge range of headphones and earphones out there.

So which headphones are the best for business users? Read on to find out what our picks are, and don't forget to use our price comparison tool to help you get the best deals for these amazing business headphones and earphones.

[Update: If you're thinking of buying some new business headphones in the near future, you're better off waiting until Black Friday on November 23 as you may find some fantastic deals on the headphones from this list. Make sure you bookmark our Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals page, which we will keep updated with the best new deals we find.]

The Oppo PM-3's are a truly stunning pair of headphones, and are an excellent choice if you're looking for some over-ear headphones for your business.

They're equally comfortable being plugged into your desktop PC for video conferencing as they are commuting through the hustle and bustle of a big city, and they stand head and shoulders above rival products from bigger brands. We really can't recommend them highly enough, they're just amazing.

Read the full review: Oppo PM-3

The Philips Fidelio X2s are a superb pair of headphones offering premium comfort and build quality with a sound that rivals even the most vaunted audiophile cans.

Their comfortable design means they can be worn for long periods of time while working thanks to the memory foam construction of the earpads.

Read the full review: Philips Fidelio X2

Bose has finally brought its fantastic noise-cancelling technology to a pair of wireless headphones, and it's done so without any of the traditional drawbacks of wireless headphones – they sound great, and their battery life is long enough for even the longest video meeting. Going wireless with your business headphones means you have less clutter on your desk, freeing you up for more important things when on an important call.

At $349.95 (£289.95) the QC35s sit firmly at the premium end of the spectrum, but if you want the best noise-cancelling headphones available right now then you can't get any better.

Read the full review: Bose QuietComfort 35

The Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2 offer insane battery life, great sound quality and good active noise cancellation for the business man or woman in your life. They may not offer the best noise cancellation – especially compared to the Bose QuietComfort 35s or the Fidelio NC1 – but at only $200 (£230, AU$250) it’s hard to think of a better travel headphone for the price.

Ultimately, with the BackBeat Pro 2, you’re getting a travel headphone with incredible battery life, supreme comfort, the ability to pair two device as one and, most importantly, good sound quality for the cost.

Read our full review: Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2

These no-holds-barred wireless headphones are oozing with positive qualities, but for many, they're almost prohibitively expensive. However, if you're an audio lover that can spare the expense, do not hesitate on this comfortable, hard-working set of headphones that will likely last for years.

Read the full review: Sennheiser Momentum Wireless

If you'd rather some in-ear earphones for your business dealings, then the RHA T10i is the first set you should consider for one simple reason: the sound quality is incredible, thanks to the snug seal created when the headphones are stuck in your ear. Plus the bass is also robust for such small earphones.

The RHA T10i look slick with a metal finish around the drivers and around the cable as well. They also come with several replacement tips if the defaults don't fit your ear canal. They're more expensive than other earbuds on the list, but there's good reason they feautre at the top of our business earphones selection.

Read the full review: RHA T10i

If you're in the market for the best in-ear headphones, you should really be looking at Shure's entire catalog of truly excellent in-ear options. Of them all, however, our current favorites are the Shure SE215s – they're not the top-tier performers from the audio company, but we think they offer the best performance-to-price ratio of any of Shure's headsets.

Sure, the headphones look great in their futuristic-looking translucent, space grey color, but the best bit is that you can snag the Shure SE215s for ~$100.

Read the full review: Shure SE215

Life is full of trade-offs, and it's the same with the Bose QuietControl 30s. On the plus side you get a level of noise cancellation that’s on a par with the brand's over-ear headphones, but the compromise here is on sound quality, which is simply not as good as that of other in-ear or over-ear headphones we’ve tried.

However, if you're going to be using these on video or voice calls in a noisy office, then these are definitely worth considering.

Read the full review: Bose QuietControl 30

The V-Moda Forza offer a lot – they sound good, are built to last, and have an innovative modular design that we really like is like nothing we’ve seen before on an earbud. The Forza, therefore, are perfect for anyone who wants headphones that can do it all, from working out to taking these with you on the morning commute to the office. 

Sure, they're not the most balanced sounding or highest resolution, but the water resistance and modular design of the Forza make them a pretty compelling option.

Read the full review: V-Moda Forza

Categories: General Technology

Dolby's new headphones put a home theater between your ears

Thu, 15/11/2018 - 07:14

Dolby’s days of being an audio tuning company are over – today, the company introduced its first pair of consumer-facing headphones, the Dolby Dimension. 

These new over-ear headphones are designed to enhance your TV viewing experience and, according to Dolby, bring the cinema home to you.

What Dolby’s doing to make that happen is that these wireless headphones feature active noise-cancellation and support up to eight Bluetooth connections at a time. This means you can connect them to your phone, your smart TV, your computer and your tablet, and cycle between them. They also let you call up your personal assistant of choice with a long press of the side button and feature Dolby’s Cinematic Sound that keeps the sound in front of you when you turn your head.

The feature Dolby is most excited about, however, is the ability to pipe-in audio from the outside world. It’s a feature we’ve seen before on the Sony WH-1000XM3 and other noise-cancellation headphones, but Dolby is allowing you to customize just how much sound gets let in via an accompanying app.


Not your grandpa's TV headphones

From the sounds of it, Dolby is really ramping up the quality of wireless TV headphones - you know, those things your grandparents used to wear so they could listen to the TV at max volume. There hasn't been a huge improvement in this area for years, but now it looks like Dolby is trying to bring higher quality audio to that under-served audience. 

That said, while these could be fantastic home cinema headphones, they’re not going to replace any of the mobile noise-cancelling headphones on the market as they don’t fold up or offer a 3.5mm auxiliary jack for in-seat entertainment on airplanes - so don't toss out your Bose or Sony headphones just yet.

According to Dolby, the headphones will last 10 hours on a single charge and feature a Quick Charge mode that enable two hours of playback with a 15- to 20-minute charge. In terms of specs, the 40mm driver headphones weigh around 330 grams, use a Snapdragon Quad-Core Arm Processor for audio processing with aptX support and have a 20 to 20,000 Hz frequency response.

So how much will Dolby's headphones set you back? The Dolby Dimension are available today for $599 (around  £460, AU$830). 

Categories: General Technology

Should I buy the Sennheiser GSP 600 gaming headset?

Thu, 15/11/2018 - 03:35

If you like a bit of variety when it comes to gaming, you may be struggling to find a headset that suits your consoles, handheld devices, and PC. Sennheiser is one brand that comes up frequently when you search online for gaming headsets, and its $249.95 (£219.99 / AU$399.95) GSP 600 model is designed to work with PC, Mac, and any console with a 3.5mm jack input. 

Why do you need a gaming headset in the first place? One reason is that they can provide a more immersive gaming experience than your TV or laptop’s built in speakers, which don’t always do games justice in terms of audio quality.

They are also great for playing online games like Fortnite, allowing you to speak to your friends (and foes) via an attached microphone. 

Is the GSP 600 right for me?

The Sennheiser GSP 600 is marketed for “professional gamers”, but it should be suitable for just about anybody who wants to fully lose themselves in the  gaming experience, thanks to the warm, well balanced sound Sennheiser says this headset will deliver. Unlike the Sennheiser GSP 350, it doesn’t offer virtual Dolby Surround Sound, which is disappointing considering the price.

It’s also designed to be comfortable to wear for long periods of time, with soft leatherette ear cups, and an ergonomic, adjustable headband. If you’ve found the fit of other headsets to be uncomfortable in the past, this feature could be make the difference between a good gaming experience and a great one, whether you opt for the GSP 600 or another adjustable model like the SteelSeries Arctis 5.

In terms of design it looks rather clunky, much like the GSP 350 - if you’re looking for something subtle you’re better off looking elsewhere. 

Better together

If being able to communicate with your teammates while gaming is a big concern for you, the Sennheiser GSP 600 should have you covered with its “broadcast quality microphone” - one cool feature of this is that you can lift the boom arm up to mute the microphone, meaning you don’t need to lose focus on your game when switching the mic on and off. 

You can't remove the microphone however - while quite a few cheaper models feature a detachable microphone, the GSP 600’s microphone remains firmly stuck to the headset. This means you won't be able to use this headset out and about like a regular pair of headphones (unless you really don't mind looking like an air traffic controller on your commute.)

Switching between different consoles should be easy enough, as the headset comes with a PC cable with two audio and microphone jacks, and an all-in-one 3.5mm jack for consoles like the PS4. However, it’s worth noting that some Xbox One controllers may require a separate adapter to work. 

Nothing special

For nearly $250 you may expect that the GSP 600 can be used wirelessly via Bluetooth, but unfortunately this is not the case - so if you’re not a fan of cables, this probably isn’t the right headset for you.

In fact, the GSP 600 doesn’t seem to have many exceptional features considering how expensive it is - so we’re not entirely sure how the price is justified, particularly when you compare it to the GSP 350, which retails at $139.95 (£119.99 / AU$188). 

That being said, with Black Friday coming up on November 23, you may be able to find a great deal from retailers like Amazon or Dell, - stick with TechRadar for real time deals updates in the lead up to Black Friday and Cyber Monday. 

Categories: General Technology

Apple's selling refurbished HomePods at a discount

Wed, 14/11/2018 - 20:59

If you love the Apple HomePod but not its $349 price tag, you'll be pleased to know that you can now get your hands on a refurbished model through the Apple website with $50 off.

Now selling for $299 on the refurbished section of the store, the pre-owned HomePod is available in space gray or white to US customers, with a limited quantity available to purchase. 

Apple's Certified Refurbished products have been used and returned to the store, after which they are put through a "rigorous refurbishment process" to ensure they meet the company's "high standards".

The HomePod is Apple's first smart speaker, and offers fantastic audio quality combined with the smarts of Apple's voice assistant Siri - although, when we reviewed the speaker, we found that Siri just doesn't quite measure up to the likes of Amazon's Alexa or Google Assistant.

Are there any risks?

If you're planning on buying one of the refurbished HomePods, you may be wondering whether it will work and look the same as a brand new model. 

Apple says that each refurbished product is put through full functionality testing, thoroughly cleaned, and put through a detailed inspection, which means you shouldn't be able to tell the difference between a new and refurbished model. 

One downside to buying refurbished Apple products is that they come with the standard one-year warranty that you get with new products. Many companies that resell repaired stock will offer an extended warranty just in case there is anything wrong with the product as a result of the refurbishment process. Worth thinking about if you're buying a big ticket item.

Furthermore, $50 isn't exactly a huge discount on the HomePod, considering the retail price is nearly $350 - particularly as you're essentially buying second hand. Still, if you have a budget of $300 for your next smart speaker, this discounted price may be just what you were looking for. Alternatively, you might prefer to hold fire until Black Friday, in case the price of new devices comes down even further.

Via MacRumors

Categories: General Technology

JBL launches its premium PartyBox Bluetooth speakers in India

Wed, 14/11/2018 - 01:49

JBL unveiled its newest musical accompaniments, the PartyBox 200 and the PartyBox 300 speakers, at a high-profile launch party in Bangalore on Tuesday.

The speakers feature Bluetooth connectivity to play music wirelessly using smartphones and tablets, a USB input option for thumb drives and a 3.5mm audio jack. 

Both speakers come with two 6.5-inch woofers and three 2.5-inch tweeters and are compatible with mics and guitars. Using the built-in light feature users can also choose one of three lighting options- Meter, Pulse and Party. 

Users can also wirelessly connect up to two PartyBox speakers using True Wireless Stereo via Bluetooth, or wired via one RCA port to another.

The PartyBox 200 and PartyBox 300 are powered by a 12V DC power source while in use. They are also portable, and the Partybox 300 comes with a rechargeable 10000mAh battery which provides up to 18 hours playback.


“I love that my JBL PartyBox combines JBL Signature Sound with stylish lighting, and the speaker’s bass brings my personal parties to life.’’

Priyanka Chopra Pricing and availability

The JBL PartyBox 200 is priced at INR 32,499, while the PartyBox 300 is priced at INR 35,999. Both are available at JBL.com, and at other online and offline retail stores, including 350 Samsung brand stores across the country.

Categories: General Technology

The best Bluetooth headsets 2018: top hands-free kit

Wed, 14/11/2018 - 01:28

To many people hands-free Bluetooth headsets seem a little over the top and unnecessary. But for many others who rely on their phone and make lots of calls each and everyday, they're a game-changer. 

Sure if you only had one or two calls to make per day you could pick up your phone each time, but if you need to make more than ten calls or thereabouts, it's going to be a hassle. Meaning you can say hello to hand strain and goodbye to multi-tasking.

That's why we've collected together the best of the best hands-free headsets that are comfortable to be worn for most of the day, are convenient to be used in a hurry and serve up good audio quality throughout. 

But although a good Bluetooth headset can make your constant calling life infinitely easier, once you go out searching for a great headset you’ll find that choosing the best Bluetooth headsets among the myriad knockoffs and imitations can be a pain. And even if there are some devices that look similar, the actual features and functionality can vary wildly.

But don’t worry, below you'll find the very best Bluetooth headsets currently available, and we've used our price comparison tool to help you find the top deals as well.

The Plantronics Voyager 5200 is one of the very best Bluetooth headsets around, from a brand name that is well respected when it comes to headsets. It's designed with comfort in mind, so you can wear it for extended periods without it bothering you and it sits securely in place too, so it won't fall off. It's also completely hands free, as caller ID will announce the name of whoever is calling you and you can simply say "answer" to take the call. Its noise-cancelling is effective even in busy environments and multiple microphones ensure strong voice quality, for a great all-round Bluetooth headset. Its also coated in sweat proof material which gives it a robustness that other Bluetooth headsets lack.

The Sony MBH20 headset used to sit at this point in our list. It was a simple, easy-to-use headset with good battery life, but it's since been replaced by the MBH22. Although they both have a similar, simple design, this latest model is packing some newer features. 

There are the same minimal buttons, but now there's a USB Type-C connector instead of an older microUSB port. It's still a good, comfortable fit although there is only one earpiece, which means that might not be the case for everyone. 

You can connect two phones at the same time to switch between calls if you're that in demand, as well as smart access to Google Assistant and Siri.

Plantronics simply makes phenomenal Bluetooth headsets, which is why it should come as no surprise that this isn’t the first Plantronics headset to make it on the list of the best Bluetooth headsets, and it certainly won’t be the last. The Plantronics  Explorer 500 is built to be compact and discreet, but there is a huge amount of tech built into this tiny package, including three microphones and a boom arm for stellar voice quality. Its small size does mean its battery life isn't exactly on the same level as some competitors, but at seven hours of talk time it's still very passable. 

The Jabra Stealth is one of the nicest designed Bluetooth headsets in our roundup, and not only does it look good, it also feels comfortable to wear. It's not quite as small and unnoticeable as its name suggests, but with such a nice design, you won't really mind that much. Perhaps most importantly, sound quality on this headset is excellent, and it does a good job of limiting background noise picked up by its mic as well. This is definitely a Bluetooth headset worth investing in if you rely on voice-free calls. 

The Sennheiser Presence UC is a brilliant Bluetooth headset if you work in a fast-paced environment where you need to multitask, as it has a multi-connectivity feature that connects to both your phone and computer, so you can quickly switch between the two. It has very good sound and recording quality, and talk time is also very impressive. It's not the most comfortable headset, however, so if you need something that you're going to wear all day, then something like the Jabra Motion will be better suited to your needs. 

If you work outside in noisy environments, and need a robust Bluetooth headset that can eliminate background sounds, then the Jabra Steel is the best Bluetooth headset for you. Resistant to dust, dirt and water, it can also survive high drops, making it an excellent headset for outdoor use - and it comes with a 5 year warranty as well. It also features aggressive noise cancellation which will make your voice calls nice and clear, even if you work somewhere where there is a lot of background noise. Sadly, though, there's no physical volume control buttons on the actual headset, which makes it a bit annoying if you need to adjust loudness.

The Plantronics M70 is the successor to the popular M55, and like its forbear, it is a budget headset, but you get a lot for your money. While it doesn't have a premium build it's perfectly comfortable to wear, it supports voice commands for truly hands-free use and the sound quality is good, especially when aided by the built in noise-cancelling tech. The M70 also has a DeepSleep mode which activates when it's separated from a paired smartphone for 90 minutes and leaves it with up to five months of battery life, but simply bring your phone within range and it will quickly wake up again.

  • This product is only available in the US and UK at the time of writing. Australian readers: check out a fine alternative in the Plantronics Voyager Edge 

With a talk time of over eight hours the Jabra Wave is a Bluetooth headset which just keeps going and going, making it a great choice if you're going to be away from a charger for an extended period. Its fairly large size means it's not the most discreet of headsets, but it's a worthwhile trade-off for all that battery life. It also features strong audio quality and is good at suppressing noise, especially wind. Add to that easy pairing and the ability to connect it to two devices at once and the Jabra Wave is a good option.

  • This product is only available in the US and UK at the time of writing. Australian readers: check out a fine alternative in the Plantronics Voyager Edge 
Categories: General Technology

Best on-ear headphones 2018: our pick of the best supra-aural cans

Tue, 13/11/2018 - 03:07

Best On-Ear (Supra-aural) Headphones: Welcome to TechRadar's guide to the best on-ear headphones you can buy in 2018. 

Remember the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears? Our favorite part, and the one that's most applicable here, is the part about the beds being too small, too big and finally, after a lot of trial and error, the one that was just right.

In the world of headphones, on-ear headphones (also called supra-aural headphones) are the middle child between bulky over-ear headphones and diminutive in-ear earphones. For most folks, they're just right. 

Their name comes from the fact that their cushions sit on, rather than over, your ears. This means they're more compact and can travel with you without taking up a ton of room in your bag. Conversely, they're bigger and more comfortable to wear for long periods than in-ear headphones. 

The reason you'd pick this form factor over the other two is that you're a traveler, a commuter or a home listener who needs a bit of noise-cancellation without the bulk of over-ears. It's a winning combination, honestly, and a form factor that we've tested extensively over the years.

To that end, and to help you pick out a great pair of on-ear headphones, we've corralled our top-rated on-ear headphone reviews, so that you can do all your research and make a purchase in one place.

[Update: Black Friday is coming up very soon, so if you're thinking of buying a new pair of over-ear headphones, we recommend that you hold off until November 23. To stay up to date with all the latest deals news, make sure you bookmark our Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals page.]

What are the best on-ear headphones?

For your money, you can't do any better than Grado's SR60e. The third-generation of the Brooklyn, NY-based company's Prestige Series is its best and most refined yet. 

The SR60e in particular is a smart choice if you're looking for an entry-level set of headphones that sounds like it should cost you way more than it does. 

Their open-backed ear cup design makes them a more breathable experience than what most on-ear headphones can deliver, although this does mean that they're not ideal for use in loud environments where sound can 'leak' in and disrupt your listening. 

That said, in terms of pure sound quality, they're our gold-standard when it comes to on-ears.

(Our review is for the SR60i, but the newer SR60e headphones are largely similar in design and performance)

Read the full review: Grado SR60e

There is a lot to love about the Philips Fidelio NC1 headphones: Not only are they a joy to wear and offer up great sound reproduction, but they're also one of the lightest and most compact ANC headphones around. They're best suited for frequent travellers who don't want to lug massive cans around with them all of the time but also don't want to compromise on sound quality. To that end, they offer superb sound that's balanced and warm and while I would love to see a wireless range, the cable offered in the mix is dextrous enough to not worry about it. 

Read the full review: Philips Fidelio NC1

In recent years AKG has dominated the budget and mid-range headphone space. While most other headphones at these price points chase after the bass-addicts, AKG has been content to stick to what it knows best; namely headphones that offer a balanced, refined sound you'd normally find in more expensive cans. With the AKG N60NC Wireless headphones the company appears to be stepping out of its comfort zone a little. The aluminium accented design is more flashy than AKG’s usual fare, and the noise-cancellation combined with wireless operation pushes the N60NCs to the upper end of the company’s normal price points. 

Read the full review: AKG N60NC Wireless

The V-Moda XS are the perfect travel buddy for audiophiles. It’s balanced and detail-rich sound is a pleasure to listen to, plus, it’s built like a tank. While the bass could use a little more impact, we had little complain about the sound. However, that said, the XS has a loose fit on the head and barely blocks out any sound, which isn’t ideal for working out or for commuters. If you're a sedentary listener, however, these are great. In terms of competition, the Klipsch Reference On-Ear II are an excellent alternative that can block out more external sound. However, the trade off is the extended and exciting highs of the V-Moda XS as the Klipsch has more high frequency roll-off.  

Read the full review: V-Moda XS

If you can afford the steep price, the Master & Dynamic MW50 will not disappoint. These headphones are a simply work of art and feel every bit as expensive as their price commands. They sound great with all types of music and are one of the most comfortable on-ear headphones we’ve ever tested. Those looking for value, however, will want to look elsewhere.

Read the full review: Master & Dynamic MW50

The Klipsch Reference On-Ear II is the follow up to the previous year’s excellent Reference On-Ear model, a previous resident of this list. Admittedly, this year's model doesn’t change much in terms of design or sound – but why fix something that’s not broken? 

That said, Klipsch kept it simple with the Reference On-Ear II, concentrating on sound, comfort and portability that will please audiophiles. Only diehard audiophiles will even consider this wired-only headphone after looking at the price tag, but those who value sound and comfort above all else will be happy with the Klipsch Reference On Ear II.

Read the full review: Klipsch Reference On-Ear II

The Samsung Level On Pro Wireless are one of the few headphones we've tested that feel like they're meant as a package deal for another device. Yes they'll work with every Bluetooth and 3.5mm jack-equipped device on the market, but you're better off sticking to a Samsung device in order to squeeze every ounce of aural goodness from the UHQ audio codec.

But it's one of the comfiest pair of cans on the market, and one of the best noise-canceling, too. If it had a better sound quality for the vast majority of cell phone users it would be an easy recommendation but it really makes the most sense at checkout when purchased alongside Samsung's Next Big Thing.

Read the full review: Samsung Level On Pro Wireless Headphones

The Bowers and Wilkins P5 Series 2 aren't the most feature-rich option, but in terms of sheer sound and build quality, they easily raise the bar for the competition to follow. 

They look fantastically stylish, and sound just as good. So long as you have the money, there's not much else in the on-ear market that can match this package.

Read the full review: Bowers and Wilkins P5 Series 2

You, like everyone else, probably wants a set of headphones that nails the tricky blend of design, useful features and incredible sound. You might think that you need to flush your savings to enjoy such a pair of cans. Protip: you don't.

The Audio-Technica ATH-S200BT are a well-built, great-sounding, long-lasting pair of headphones. Their features constantly outweigh their modest price and we can’t get enough of that 40-hour battery life. While technological advancements usually mean a premium price, that's just not the case with the Audio-Technica ATH-S200BT. 

Read the full review: Audio-Technica ATH-S200BT

While the Samsung Level On Pro Wireless are best paired with a Samsung Phone, the Beats Solo 3 Wireless come into their own when paired with an iOS device thanks to its W1 chip that makes for excellent wireless connectivity. 

At first glance, the Solo 3 Wireless appear almost identical to the Solo 2 headphones that proceeded them. The majority of the changes Apple made to its class-leading cans come internally, baking its mobile phone know-how into these headphones to ramp-up their wireless skills and maximise battery life. 

In terms of wireless performance, these $299 (£249/AU$399.95) headphones are as reliable as any out there. However, you can get significantly better sound quality at the price. (See: entries one through nine.)

Read the full review: Beats Solo 3 Wireless

Categories: General Technology

Should I buy the Samsung HW-K450 2.1 Wireless Sound Bar?

Tue, 13/11/2018 - 02:20

The bottom line: Is your TV's audio sounding a bit weak? Want to beef up that bass? Fill your living room with sound by picking up the Samsung HW-K450 2.1 Wireless Sound Bar, which can blast out tracks with 160W of power – and an additional 140W from its wireless subwoofer.

Enhancing vocal frequencies, it provides an exceptionally crisp and clear sound when tuning in to your favourite streaming service. You can choose from six preset sound modes to enhance your viewing experience, whether you're watching the football, listening to music, or putting on your favourite film.

Pros: Optimised for vocal clarity, wireless subwoofer for easy placement

Cons: A soundbar will never replace full 5.1 sound

SAMSUNG HW-K450 2.1 Sound Bar: Everything you need to know

Sound quality 

The Samsung HW-K450 2.1 Sound Bar and subwoofer, like all in its range, produces the illusion of surround sound. The subwoofer elevates sound elements and changes them up to match the mode that you’ve set. For example, switch on movie mode and dialogue has said to have been made clearer while additional bass has been added to enhance dramatic scenes. 

With three advanced audio features including Crystal Sound Pro and Surround sound expansion, you are free to work the system until you find your personal sound preferences. 

The Sound Bar

The sound bar forms the hub of the system and is, contrary to the product name, wired up to your TV/DVD player via HDMI to enhance your favourite shows and films. When Samsung refer to the wireless sound bar, they are referring to its bluetooth capabilities, which means you can connect your phone or handheld device for some background music. 

The Subwoofer

The subwoofer is the other wireless element of this speaker set, which means it can be conveniently placed anywhere within your lounge. It's worth noting that many people who are hard of hearing choose to purchase a system that can separate speech from other sounds to make deciphering favourite films much easier. 

If you want to make a true feature out of your entertainment system, Samsung have also designed a rear speaker system that works alongside the sound bar and the subwoofer to enhance the cinematic experience. 

What else do you need to know?

If you have an Android phone, you can download an app which allows you to manage your sound system. From waking up the required devices to easily playing your favourite tunes, this is a great bonus for anyone who buys the set. Included in the box, you’ll receive a sound bar, a wall mounting kit, cables and a manual so you can design your own sound system as you wish. 

If you like the idea of this sound system, check out the latest deals further up this page.

Categories: General Technology

Best turntables 2018: the best record players for any budget

Tue, 13/11/2018 - 01:18

Best Turntables Buying Guide: Welcome to TechRadar's round-up of the best turntables (also known as record players) you can buy in 2018. 

Turntables can be a fantastic investment. Not only is the vinyl revival movement here to stay, but the players themselves last for ages. 

While the idea of a turntable might call images of the '60s and '70s to mind, you'll find that most modern turntables are pretty well-equipped with the latest tech – i.e. Bluetooth built-in or USB output that allows output records straight to your PC, meaning you can listen to your vinyls anywhere. 

One downside it that, as a result of all of these new products and tricky naming conventions, the market for the best turntables can be more confusing than a college cover band (we're looking in your direction AB/CD), but stick with us and we’ll find the best turntable for you.

To start, we'll walk you through all the little details that go into choosing the best turntable for your listening needs and budget. Do you want to go on the high end with a belt drive? Or how about a more user-friendly direct drive turntable? What about phono preamps? Do you need one? 

All of these questions will be answered right here, so don’t worry, you’ll be absorbed in all of your favorite albums before you know it.

[Update: Black Friday 2018 is fast approaching, so if you're thinking of buying a new turntable, it's definitely worth waiting until November 23 incase you can get yourself a better deal. Make sure you bookmark our Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals pages for real-time deals news and you might just save yourself a lot of money.]

What is a good turntable to buy?

On of the most vital components to look for when you’re shopping for the best turntable is how well damped it is. 

Damping is essentially the method by which manufacturers combat vibrations – whether internal or external. They do this through the use of different motor configurations, and through the use of various components. 

Most of the time, belt-driven turntables are going to be a lot quieter and offer higher fidelity than their direct drive brethren – as direct drive turntables have a motor that is directly connected to the platter. However, there are some great direct drive turntables out there, so don’t write them off quite yet. 

Your own personal needs are important too, though, so don’t forget about them. If you’re just starting out, you probably don’t need to be fooling around with a complex turntable with an adjustable vertical tracking angle, anti-skate and azimuth. Do you want to rip your vinyl to your digital library? If so, look for a turntable with a USB output and reliable software to get the job done.

What's the best turntable?

The Audio-Technica AT-LP120-USB is the best introductory turntable for aspiring vinyl enthusiasts. Out of the box, it features the ability to play 33 ⅓, 45 and 78 RPM, this means there will never be an album you can’t play. There’s also a built-in phono preamp so you never have to worry about finding one on your own.

New record collectors will love the easy setup and features while more vetted users will love the option to dial in the vertical tracking angle, tracking force and easily replaceable headshell. Sure, it looks like a Technics SL-1200 ripoff but at a fraction of the price, it’s entirely worth it. 

The AT-LP120-USB also comes with a USB output that allows you to record your record collection if you want. To put it simply, this deck strikes the perfect balance of ease of use for beginners while still including some more advanced features for you to grow into.

If you’re not looking to drop a fortune on the best turntable in the world and don’t necessarily care about squeezing every last drop of fidelity from your LPs, the Audio-Technica AT-LP60 is a perfect starting point. It’s portable, can play most vinyl and is by far the most inexpensive turntable we have on this list. It’s also totally automatic, meaning it’ll queue a record and return the arm to resting position without requiring a manual lever. 

The only caveat with a turntable this cheap is that it won’t grow with you as your vinyl collection expands. The built-in phono preamp means you’re stuck with it, however you can replace the needle once it wears out.

While there are cheaper, poorly engineered turntables on the market, it’s not worth it, as you risk damaging your precious records with poorly aligned and improperly weighted tonearms. Vinyl is expensive so we recommend the AT-LP60 for beginners just looking to get started. 

The Denon DP-300F is a gorgeous turntable that sounds just as good as it looks. The included DSN-85 cartridge isn’t the most accurate but it nevertheless manages to make your music sound airy and reasonably detailed, especially for it’s price.You’ll need  to spend a lot more cash to hear more detail.

While the DP-300F lacks the USB outputs of some of the turntables listed here, it’s still a great starting turntable for anyone who doesn’t want to manually queue their albums or have a habit of falling asleep while listening to music. The Denon’s automatic start/stop feature means your needle won’t be worn down at the end of the record as the arm immediately returns when an album is done. 

Build quality is decent for an all-plastic turntable, but its buttons feel cheap – a minor problem but shouldn't be a deal-breaker for you. If the Audio-Technica AT-LP120-USB doesn’t fit your aesthetic, consider the Denon DP-300F instead.

Read the full review: Denon DP-300F

The Fluance RT81 is an excellent starter turntable for the enthusiast. It’s simple to set up and use for newbies but you can switch out the cartridge to squeeze out more performance later on. Newbies also won’t have to worry about getting a separate phono preamp, as one is built in. However, you can turn it off if you want to use a better external preamp. 

The only downside is that Fluance’s advertised “auto-off” feature simply turns off the platter, preventing excessive needle wear but you’ll still have to return the arm to its resting place yourself. You’ll also have to manually queue records, which isn’t a deal breaker by any means but is something to consider for those looking for a fully automatic turntable. The Denon DP-300F is a great choice for those looking for a fully automated record listening experience. 

Read the full review: Fluance RT81

From here on out things start to get a little bit more ‘real’: The Pro-Ject Debut Carbon is in the runnings to be the best entry-level hi-fi turntables you can buy. 

While vinyl newcomers may cringe at the price, the Debut Carbon is really an incredible bargain. For the money, you get an very well made deck that’s damped properly for fantastic sound quality. The carbon fiber tonearm is lightweight and stiff, and is usually reserved for turntables costing much more.

The Pro-Ject Debut Carbon is for the budding enthusiast that’s committed to the record collecting hobby and because of that commitment, it doesn’t feature niceties like an auto-returning tonearm, buttons for changing speed or an included phono preamp. Newbies may be turned off by the manual changing of the belt position to change speeds and the lack of an included preamp. However, if you want to extract more detail and resolution from your records than the cheaper options on this list, or if you want to get started on the path of being a true vinyl collector, the Debut Carbon is probably your best bet.

Read the full review: Pro-Ject Debut Carbon

There’s a lot of debate whether the Rega Planar 1 or the Pro-Ject Debut Carbon is the best entry-level hi-fi turntable. It’s a close match and there are no clear winners, each providing an excellent starting place for audiophiles on a budget. 

While the Rega may lack the fancy carbon tone arm of the Pro-Ject, the Planar 1 still sounds excellent and is well damped with its phenolic resin platter. And for newbies, the Rega Planar 1 is still easy to setup, though you’ll have to provide your own phono preamp. 

Ultimately, the Rega Planar 1 just sounds so good that it’s hard to fault it too much. Vocals are revealing and you can hear the texture from instruments like the violin. The included Rega Carbon cartridge isn’t anything special but manages to be a great match for the turntable. It’s a tough choice between the Planar 1 and the Debut Carbon but you can’t go wrong with either.

The Marantz TT-15S1 costs a serious bit of change, but you’re actually getting a killer bargain. The Clearaudio Virtuoso included with the turntable is $1000 when purchased separately. Additionally, you get a killer tonearm and gorgeous turntable at a price that’s definitely an investment, but not unreasonable. 

So what does the Marantz TT-15S1 get you over the competition? Attention to detail. Just about every part of the turntable has been poured over to be the best it can be for the price. The fit and finish are excellent and it’s a pleasure to handle the high-quality components. This is a turntable you’ll find yourself admiring its visual and audible qualities. 

Newbies should not get this turntable as it requires more knowledge to set up properly than the entry-level turntables on this list. But if you’re ready to take your record collecting and listening to the next level, the Marantz TT-15S1 is the perfect place to start.

Read the full review: Marantz TT-15S1

If the Clearaudio Concept and Marantz TT-15S1 seem familiar, that’s because the Marantz was built by Clearaudio to Marantz’s specifications. This means everything about the excellent build quality of the Marantz carries over to the Clearaudio Concept (i.e. this is a turntable that is as gorgeous as it sounds). 

One small but notable difference between the Marantz and the Clearaudio is the ability to play 78 rpm records. While most people will never come across 78s, it’s nice to know that the Clearaudio Concept is capable of playing them. The Concept also has a handy speed dial on the plinth, meaning you don’t have to swap the belt position manually.

As for negatives, the Clearaudio Concept has no notable flaws. Yes, it’s expensive but you’re still getting a bargain in this price range. The included Clearaudio Concept moving-coil cartridge costs $1,000 by itself. Yep! 

Read the review: Clearaudio Concept

The Sony PS-HX500 is a great entry-level turntable for those just getting started with record collecting. Its standout feature is its ability to record Hi-Res audio from its USB output in 96kHz/24bit resolution. This is an excellent feature for those looking to digitize their records. 

In terms of sound quality, the Sony PS-HX500 sound spacious and provides good detail. However, the included needle sounds a bit harsh and sibilant at times and lacks the resolution of more expensive cartridges. 

While some may like the minimalist design of the Sony, it’s utterly forgettable and its plastic build leaves a lot to be desired. Handling the turntable on a daily basis leaves us wanting more premium materials that don’t rattle. 

  • Want to listen to digital music instead? Check out our list of the best MP3 players.
Categories: General Technology

Should I buy the RHA S500u / RHA S500i headphones?

Fri, 09/11/2018 - 03:14

If you’re looking for a pair of budget wired earphones, then you may have already come across British audio company RHA - and in particular, the RHA S500u and S500i in-ear headphones. 

Although wireless and true wireless headphones are all the rage at the moment, there are some instances where wired simply works better. Without the annoyance of dodgy Bluetooth connections, it’s easy to see why many of us haven’t cut the cord quite yet. 

Not only that, but wired headphones have historically delivered a better standard of audio quality than their wireless counterparts, as it’s more difficult to deliver hi-res sound over a Bluetooth connection. 

That’s not to say wired headphones will always give you a better listening experience; in fact, as technology advances, wireless headphones are beginning to compete with and even outperform them in terms of quality - but not yet in terms of price. 

So, if you’re looking for a budget-friendly, no-nonsense pair of in-ear headphones, wireless may just be the way to go, and the RHA S500u and S500i models could be a great place to start. But which one is right for you?

RHA S500u features and performance

Let’s start with the S550us. When we reviewed them, we were blown away by the audio quality they provide, especially when you consider the price - $40 (£30 / AU$52) is an absolute steal. 

Granted, they aren’t the highest quality headphones money can buy, but we were impressed with the neutral presentation and warm, pleasing timbres - this means they provide a pretty accurate representation of how your music was originally mixed in the studio. 

They are also noise isolating, so you won’t disturb people around you with your music leaking from the earbuds.

We found the overall sound to be well-balanced, although you may find a little sibilance (sharp ‘sss’ sounds) in the highest frequencies, which can make your ears feel fatigued after long listening sessions. 

We also felt the soundstage was slightly narrow, so you can’t particularly pick out where instruments are coming from or the acoustics of the recording room.

They might not be high-spec enough for true audiophiles, but if you’re a casual listener, it’s unlikely that this will bother you very much. 

On to that all important wire: made with aluminum and braided nylon, you should find that it’s pretty sturdy, but the addition of nylon can create cable noise (this is when the wire rubs against your clothing creating an annoying crackling sound.)

The cable features an inline remote with a microphone and universal button which can be used to stop or start your music whether you use an iPhone or Android phone - so you’ll still have to reach into your pocket to change the volume. 

They come with three different silicone eartips, so they should be pretty comfortable to wear for long periods of time.

How do the S500is differ?

Although the S500i headphones are very similar to the S500us, there are a few key differences that are worth considering. Firstly, the price: the S500is retail for $88 in the US, but are far cheaper in the UK at just under £28. In Australia, you can get them for around AU$80 - it’s not clear why they are so much more expensive outside of the UK.

The main difference between the S500us and the S500is, is that, while the former is compatible with all smartphones, the latter is specifically designed to be used with iPhones. This is reflected in its three button inline remote, which can change the volume unlike its predecessor... but only on iPhones. Pressing these buttons while connected to an Android phone will have no effect.

It’s the same story for the microphone, although some Android users will find the stop/start button on the inline remote still works. To be clear, we haven’t reviewed the RHA S500i headphones, but having tested the very similar S500u model, we’ve got a good point for comparison.

A matter of taste

If you’re in the UK, the question of which model to buy depends mainly on whether you have an iPhone or Android smartphone, as they are roughly the same price - the S500is work best with Apple devices and the S500us work equally well with iPhones and Androids (although the inline remote doesn’t have as much functionality.) 

In the US and Australia however, the cost of the S500i headphones is significantly higher than the S500us, so which one you pick depends on how important that extra remote functionality is to you. Either way, both sets should provide a decent level of audio quality, as well as the convenience of not having to pair via Bluetooth every time you listen.

If you’re thinking of buying either model, it’s worth bearing in mind that Black Friday is coming up soon - so if you wait until November 23, you could bag yourself a sizable discount. 

Make sure you bookmark our Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals page for the latest deals news and our tips and tricks for where to find the biggest discounts on November 23.

Categories: General Technology

Best stereo speakers: the best bookshelf, floor and Hi-Fi speakers in 2018

Thu, 08/11/2018 - 22:00

As technology continues to progress, we audiophiles haven’t changed a bit - at the end of the day, we want our sound clear, full, and true to the original source. Although the principle of stereo sound is decades old and single unit smart speakers are beginning to dominate the audio market, for audiophiles, two speakers really are better than one. 

Finding a set of speakers that checks our laundry list of requirements, however, is much easier said than done. 

To find the best stereo speakers on the market, we reached out to some of the best audio companies on Earth to review and test a wide variety of stereo speaker setups, ranging from compact bookshelf speakers to room-dominating towers with built-in subs. We will be reviewing more units in the future and adding them to this list, so keep your eyes (and ears) peeled for that. 

[Update: It's worth bearing in mind that Black Friday is just around the corner, so if you're looking to buy a new stereo setup it's a good idea to wait until November 23 in case you can bag yourself a big discount. Make sure you follow our Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals page for breaking deals news and updates.]

The testing process

In testing these speakers, we compared each stereo set at a comparable power level and tested the same tunes, plucked a variety of music genres. 

Our test songs spanned the dynamic range of music and artists, from John Mayer to Tom Petty, and from U.K. prog-metal band TesseracT to the likes of John Williams and Hans Zimmer. Each song was chosen to test the dynamics offered by each set of speakers with some speakers reacting better to certain genre’s than others, depending on their design.

Of course, not all speakers are created equal in function. The Definitive Technology BP9080x towers, for example, are obviously made to cover a more broad frequency range than say the Edifier bookshelf speakers with a 4 inch woofer. We used to our best judgement in testing these speakers according to their individual purpose and affordability, and graded them with that in mind. 

Since comparing bookshelf speakers to high performance towers is an obvious case of apples and oranges, we’ll at least try to make it clear which speaker is an apple and which is an orange. Sound good? Good.

Without further ado, these are the best stereo speakers we have tested so far. 

What are the best stereo speakers?

In life, money isn’t everything. In sound, however, it’s pretty important.

Case in point: the Definitive Technology BP9080x speakers. Right off the bat we want to make it clear that this stereo pair is a luxury item that is made only for the most avid audiophile on the market. 

If that’s you, then let us tell you just how amazing these speakers are. 

From beginning to end of the covered frequency range, the BP9080x speakers are crystal clear, articulate, and genuinely moving. The passive design is aided by an active subwoofer, giving the user independent control of the subwoofer volume on each tower, meaning it can be adjusted to fit any room with any standing waves. 

The midrange is as full and clear as any speakers we’ve ever heard, never getting overworked or muddy no matter what songs and sounds we threw at it. The pitch-perfect mid range blends perfectly into the gorgeous treble frequencies that never got harsh, even when the windows were shaking from the volume. The clarity from the top of the frequency range to the bottom can’t be overstated. 

On top of it all (literally) there are two “height channel” speakers that make this a perfect centerpiece in your Dolby Atmos or DTS:X home theater. 

All of this audio goodness is wrapped in a tall and slender package made from premium materials that is impossibly discreet, especially considering the amount of volume it can pump out. All we can say is that if you’re looking to spend the money (and it is a lot of money), we can’t recommend Definitive Technology’s BP9080x speakers enough. 

Since 1985, the Forte floorstanding speakers from Klipsch have been the gold standard for home entertainment. Now, the Forte III speakers are on the market and hope to build on the success of their forebearers. 

Of course, as you might expect, these speakers sound fantastic. Klipsch’s attention to detail on the fine tuning of the speakers is second to none, making way for a clear and intricate mid-high range. They’re also phenomenally designed and built, making a great addition to basically any living room. They are also very heavy, which can be a blessing and a curse. Once you figure out their place in the living room, these speakers aren’t going anywhere.

These speakers are built for bass, with a 12 inch subwoofer and a massive 15 inch passive radiator in the back of the speaker to help disperse the low frequencies. To get the most out of the bass speakers on these towers, you need to run two separate amps, or a single amp with multiple outs that is strong enough to get the subwoofer moving. Having separated or bi-amp control allows the user to control the power sent to the high and low channels, allowing them to get the exact balance they want. 

The downside to these speakers is that they are even more expensive than the Definitive Technology BP9080x speakers and don’t have the powered subs or high-firing speakers that our number one pick has. Part of that premium is paying for the Klipsch name, but there is quality to back it up - just not enough value or pure sound power to topple the Definitive Technology BP9080x.

If you’re not in the market for full-on entertainment behemoths like the Definitive Technology towers, the Klipsch RP-150M speakers are a surprisingly affordable bookshelf speaker option with a mid-range and high frequency clarity that rivals our top pick. 

These light and passive reference speakers are beautifully designed and are a continuation of what Klipsch does best: honest and clear replication without over-coloring the sound. While the 5-inch woofer doesn’t do much in the way of bass, not coming audibly close to the 48 Hz promise on the frequency response, these speakers have a surprising amount of low-mid thump. 

The mid range in these Klipsch speakers is completely clear and open, allowing for subtle articulation to come through that would be lost on lesser systems. The upper range never gets shrill and has a natural air under it that seems to be a signature in Klipsch products. 

Overall, if you’re looking for a solid pair of stereo speakers for casual listening, studio work, or piecing together an entertainment system, these Klipsch RP-150M speakers are just about as good as they come, especially for the price. 

If you’re starting to take your music listening experience more seriously, it’s natural to look into getting a speaker setup. That is until you realize that you’ll have to pick a preamp, amp, and DAC to get your dream speaker setup. That’s a lot research and setup, which is quite intimidating to a hi-fi newbie. 

But what if there was a speaker system that just worked out of the box? What if all you had to do was plug the speakers into the wall and turn on some music?

Thankfully, this dream system is real and it’s made by the folks at KEF. 

After spending several months with the KEF LS50 Wireless, we were blown away by the package that the company was able to engineer. The speakers offer mind-blowing sound quality with absolute neutrality, hologram-like imaging, and an expansive soundstage. Plus, it was dead simple to set up and use from any of its sources. While not cheap, the LS50 Wireless is actually quite a bargain when taken as a complete package. 

[Update: KEF recently launched its new LSX Wireless Music System - we'll be sure to update this article once we get our hands on the speakers, so watch this space.]

Read the full review: KEF LS50 Wireless Speakers

If you’re an audiophile who’s in the market for compact bookshelf speakers but doesn’t want to sacrifice on sound quality, it’s time to look at the Q Acoustics Concept 20 speakers. 

These extremely low-profile bookshelf speakers are rich in sound from the low-mids to the crispy highs. Even with the amplifier cranked (to safe power levels) the sound never broke up into distortion and remained clear, not shrill. Of course, with any speakers this size, there wasn’t much bass below the low-mid range to speak of, but what was there was full without being muddy. 

What could be seen as a pro for some and a con for others, the Q Acoustics Concept 20 speakers are passive and require an external amplifier. 

For audiophiles, this is a great excuse to drop even more coin on a high fidelity amplifier to get the best possible sound out these already great speakers. For casual listeners, however, it can be an inconvenience to worry about amplification with what should be small and discreet bookshelf speakers. 

After testing songs of every conceivable genre, it’s clear that the Q Acoustics Concept 20 speakers are up to just about any challenge. For those looking to fill out the living room with clear, crisp, hi-fi sound, these bookshelf speakers from Q Acoustics are a no-brainer. 

The beauty of Polk Audio is in its ability to make quality speakers that compete with the biggest name brands while keeping a lower price tag. Do these beautiful full range Polk Signature S60 towers stand up to the prowess of the Definite Technology BP9060x towers? Well, not exactly, but these are stellar speakers in their own right. 

Polk’s passive signature series speakers for home entertainment are designed to provide full and immersive sound, and for the most part, they hit the mark. The mid-range, which is the easiest to muddy up, is crystal clear and articulate no matter what sound is blasting through these almost four-foot tall towers. 

The high frequency range is certainly lively, occasionally to the point of shrillness when the volume is really pushed, but never gets too harsh for comfort. As for bass frequencies, the packaging advertises a unique porting system that allows more low frequencies to travel more easily. However, to hear the bass really cutting through, the volume needs to be cranked quite a bit. Still, overall the sound quality is excellent in these Polk Audio speakers, the frequencies might could just use a little tweak with an external equaliser. 

If you’re looking for a more affordable alternative to the Definite Technology towers, the Polk Audio Signature S60 speakers are a solid option that will likely outshine just about any other run-of-the-mill home entertainment system you’ll encounter. While they don’t handle the highs or the lows as well as our premium pick, we have no doubts that even the most critical ears will be happy with the signal these bad boys pump out.

These stylish and compact Q Acoustic BT3 speakers are the most digitally integrated speakers on our list, featuring Bluetooth capability, a remote control, a 3.5mm input, a digital optical input, and active speakers. But how does the sound quality compare to the rest?

The sound that came out of these little speakers was shockingly full. 

Q Acoustics designed these speakers primarily as a convenient bookshelf speaker, but also as a stereo alternative to the soundbar, and it was clear why. The BT3 speakers covered virtually the entire frequency range very evenly, with the exception of the sub bass. Still, the bass that was produced was thick and full and didn’t cause the signal to overly distort. The high range was also surprisingly manageable, though a bit more shrill than the pricier Concept 20 speakers or the Klipsch RP-150Ms. 

While the BT3 speakers from Q Acoustics won’t replace your favorite reference monitors any time soon, they weren’t really designed to. These speakers have a lot of technological integrations that make them a perfect replacement to a traditional soundbar or a simple solution to bookshelf speakers. With Bluetooth integration and remote control, the BT3 speakers are perfect in the corner of the living room when you want to quickly blast your song through the house, and sound good doing it.

The Edifier R1280T speakers are a popular choice on Amazon, and for good reason. These compact desk/bookshelf style speakers back an impressive sonic punch and look good doing it, all while keeping the price tag under $100 for the pair. Ok, it’s $99.99, but that penny really does count!

The standout features here include its active design, rich mid-range response, and surprisingly competent bass. Because of the small woofer size, these guys obviously don’t push much low-end, and because of the tweeter design, the highs aren’t as clear as the competition we tested. But other than that, the frequency response and clarity holds its own pretty well.

While they don’t compare to the encompassing power of the Definitive Technology BP9080x or even the clarity of the Klipsch RT-150Ms, these compact speakers certainly serve a purpose. If you’re looking for an affordable set of computer speakers, or better yet a warm stereo set up for your turntable, the Edifier R1280T speakers are a fantastic option for the money.

Categories: General Technology

Best running headphones 2018: our top 10 choices to soundtrack your workouts

Thu, 08/11/2018 - 03:06

You might assume that the only thing that separates the best running headphones from that cheap pair you saw at Wal-Mart (or wherever you do your shopping) the other day is the fact that they don’t fall out while running. That isn’t exactly far from the truth, but the best running headphones go a lot further than that. 

Over the last few years there have been plenty of radical innovations and improvements in headphone technology, and there are a ton of manufacturers who are busy transforming those innovations into the best headphones for working out that have ever existed.

Thanks to improved technology, the best wireless headphones are giving their wired counterparts a run for their money, so you no longer have to worry about tripping on your headphone wire while running. The best workout headphones will take the latest and greatest wireless technology and implement it in new ways by boasting high battery life so you don’t have to worry about your charge running out halfway through your run. 

  • [Update: Don't forget Black Friday is coming up very soon - and you could bag yourself a fantastic deal if you hold off buying your new running headphones until November 23. Make sure you bookmark our Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals page for real time deals news, and you could save yourself a lot of money.]


The best running headphones will also go one step further to include features like heart rate monitors and AI personal trainers that make the best running headphones the best running gadgets on the market in 2018.

Plus, to top off all of this awesome tech, there is actually plenty of research that proves that music can make you run better. So, with that all out of the way, let’s get started on our list of the best running headphones for every budget.

There are a ton of headphone manufacturers who are competing for that coveted spot in your running kit, and it can get difficult to discern which are the best at the things you need them to do. That’s why the TechRadar editorial team has put together this list of the best workout headphones you can buy today – each pair here has been tested and ranked with our own seal of approval, so you can be confident that you’ll get your money’s worth.

While lacking some of the newest running headphone technology, these earbuds more than make up for it in comfort, durability and their inexpensive asking price.

One of the most annoying issues when you’re running is when your earphones come loose or, worse still, fall out. The iSport Victory stay securely snug in your ear throughout your run, thanks to the rubber ‘wings’ and a surprisingly wide variety of ear tip options. Naturally, they’re sweat resistant and, at only 15g, they’re the most lightweight headphones on this list.

And, with 10-hours of Bluetooth battery life, they could feasibly get you through your workday and your post-work run. Sound quality doesn’t quite cut it for regular use and it’s lacking a heart rate monitor but, for the price, they’re still a great simple option for most runners.

Our sole on-ear entry hails from the relatively obscure start-up 66 Audio and stands out in several key facets. Firstly, the BTS Pro earphones offer a ludicrous 40+ hours of continuous playback from a single charge along with an stunning wireless range of 100-feet.

Most Bluetooth headphones give you about 30-feet of leeway, but thanks to the aptX 3D antenna tech you can wander much further away from your mobile device, which is especially handy for track sessions.

For runners who like as much control over sound equalization as they do their fitness levels, the Motion Control app allows effortless control of the sound output.

The native apps (there’s also one for Apple Watch) also have a useful ‘Find My Headphones’ feature too. But most importantly, the sound is phenomenal for the relatively low price and they offer noise-cancelling microphones. 

  •  This product is only available in the US at the time of writing. UK and Australian readers: check out a fine alternative in the Aftershokz Trekz Titanium Headphones 

Replacing the AfterShokz Trek Titanium is the newer Air model. These are a touch more expensive, but they're lighter and we've found the sound quality has improved as well.

AfterShokz specialize in making wireless options designed in a way that particularly suits urban runners. Sound is delivered through your cheekbones, thanks to bone conducting tech which leaves your ears open, free to hear the traffic around you.

You can keep chatting with those around you easily and if you're in a race you'll be able to hear the cheering from the sidelines too.

What really sets these headphones apart is they're one of the few sets that are 'race-legal' in some countries, as they allow you to hear the commands of marshalls and traffic on open-road courses. If you want to run with music in smaller races, these are really your only option.

We found the Air to be more comfortable than previous AfterShokz models so if you don't mind shelling out a little extra money these will be one of the best for you. Plus they're sweat-proof, have a good secure fit and they can't fall out when you're jogging either as there aren't any earbuds.

The compact, durable and affordable Jaybird X2 in-ear buds proved mighty popular among runners. The new Jaybird X3 neckband offers improvements across the board with an even more favorable price point.

Despite being slightly smaller, they’ve retained the sweat-proof design and surprisingly great sound. Greater control over the audio is also possible due to a new companion MySound app, while the abundance of fitting options means they stay secure in your lugholes.

They’ve also been updated to Bluetooth 4.1, which means longer battery life, although we struggled a little with intermittent Bluetooth dropouts.

Whoever came up with the expression ‘jack of all trades, master of none,’ never used the KuaiFit Sport headphones. With 8GB of storage they’re a music player, fitness tracker, heart rate monitor, real-time running coach and a pair of wireless headphones all in one.

KuaiFit sells fitness plans created by Olympic athletes and verified coaches as part of its offering, and its headphones will store and deliver voice notifications based on your progress towards goals – all while leaving your phone at home.

The KuaiFit app for iOS and Android will store all your data and, if you want to link up to your phone, play music from Spotify too - although we do wish that was supported offline too...

  • This product is only available in the US at the time of this writing. UK and Australian readers: check out a fine alternative in the Bose SoundSport Wireless Headphones 

If you need your power song to give even more umph, then the Bose SoundSport might give you exactly that extra push you’re looking for. With the unmistakable sound signature of the US audio heavyweight, these lightweight earbuds feature a comfortable and secure fit thanks to the StayHear+ tips.

For runners with NFC-enabled smartphones and music players, the SoundSport buds can be paired in the blink of an eye. The Bose Connect app also allows music sharing with more than one pair of earbuds, ideal if you’re out running with a buddy (and we love that they name which device is connected, something that's great if you're carrying around a phone, media player and tablet).

The SoundSport range comes in two flavors. For an extra $50 you can pick up the Pulse edition which features a built-in heart rate monitor. Depending on your training method, this could be a worthwhile investment as we've found their heart rate monitor to generally be fairly precise from the ears with these.

Under Armour’s first foray into headphones entrusts the audio tech to a worthy partner: JBL. With a built-in heart rate monitor you can finally ditch the chest strap, while also summoning voice updates on your progress with a simple tap on the right bud.

When paired with the UA Record app you can even configure these updates to be read out at predetermined intervals, so you know whether you’re hitting your zones. The over-the-ear buds also feature 5.8mm dynamic drivers and JBL’s PureBass Performance tech on board.

Combined with JBL’s TwistLock tech, the firm is guaranteeing you a custom and secure fit, meaning you’ll never have to deal with the faff of them falling out mid-run.

Leading the way in a new generation of ‘hearable’ tech, the LifeBEAM Vi combines a voice-powered personal running coach with top-class Harman Kardon audio. The on-board AI uses your heart rate and body temperature to adapt to your fitness level and goals.

If it knows if you’re near a personal best, Vi will spur you on to get you over the line. It will challenge you to match your running cadence with a beat, and will learn your effort levels to offer feedback on your pace.

It can also use your running history to suggest how hard you should push. If you’ve been running the same pace and distance over time, it will suggest ways to shake things up. It even provides contextual advice based on your location and weather conditions.

Voice controls are two-way and you can request things like your heart rate. The buds pull out from a flexible, comfortable neckband that can be worn all day and used for handling calls. It has an iOS and Android Vi Fitness companion app and will sync with Spotify to ensure your power playlist is seamlessly integrated.

  •  This product is only available in the US and UK at the time of this writing. Australian readers: check out a fine alternative in the Bose SoundSport Wireless Headphones 

There’s wireless, and then there’s true wireless. The top-end Jabra Elite Sport are the latter. Beyond the cordless design, the headline feature is the Hear Through tech that allows you to alter the way the buds filter out ambient noise.

If your run takes you from a park to a busy road, a quick button press enables you to pick up your surroundings as well as your tunes. They’re also designed for calls, allowing you to wear one at a time if you desire. Each bud offers two microphones, which help to filter out background noise for the person on the other end of the line.

The on-the-go charging case provides 13.5 hours of battery life in total (similar to Apple’s AirPods), but with just 4.5 hours available from a single charge slower marathoner and ultra runners will probably want to jog on - although for 99% of your training this won't be an issue.

Although not marketed for swimming, they’re also IP67 certified water resistant. The companion app also utilizes the built-in heart rate monitor to enhance your workouts, along with the internal accelerometer to monitor your reps of squats, lunges and the like.

These are expensive buds, but the amount they can do is incredible - for many, they'll be your go-to choice.

The PowerBeats 3 running headphones are yet another pair for of headphones from Beats that aim to keep your tunes pumping while you keep your legs pumping. They may come with the high price that is a signature of the Beats and Apple brands, but they offer a lot for runners, and especially for Apple users.

With a 12-hour battery life and quick charging that can add an hour of battery life in a few minutes, the PowerBeats 3 should rarely run out of juice in the middle of anything short of an insane ultra-marathon. They’re also ready for all the sweat from your brow, and can even handle a run in the rain.

While they may not top some of the other wireless headphones on this list for features, the PowerBeats 3 headphones will truly shine for major Apple lovers. They feature Apple’s W1 chip, which makes the Bluetooth pairing process with multiple iCloud-linked devices incredibly easy in addition to boosting wireless range.

Read the full review: Beats PowerBeats 3

Check out our videos below for a roundup of the best headphones available.

Categories: General Technology

Xiaomi launches AirPod rivals for those on a super-tight budget

Wed, 07/11/2018 - 21:00

Are you desperate for some Apple AirPods but don't have a spare $159 (£159 / AU$229) lying around? Today could be your lucky day, with the news that Chinese tech company Xiaomi has launched a pair of AirPod clones that cost just $29 (£22 / AU$40). 

Named the 'AirDots', the true wireless in-ears look to share many of the same features with the AirPods, including support for Bluetooth 5.0, tappable controls on the casing, and a portable charging case.

Although they don't feature the long stem you find on Apple's earbuds, the design is relatively similar, with that white minimalist aesthetic that Apple accessories are so well known for.

They are currently available to preorder in China, but there's no word on when they will become available in other regions.

Should I buy the AirDots?

Without the chance to test them ourselves, we can't speak to whether the AirDots are a truly convincing clone of the AirPods - but at that extremely low price, we'd be very surprised if they measure up in terms of audio quality and connectivity. 

More and more companies are creating their own clones for the Apple AirPods, with varying levels of success - but so far we haven't come across any which give the originals a run for their money. 

That being said, we recently reviewed the TicPods Free, and we were pleasantly surprised by powerful bass frequencies and how comfortable they were to wear for long periods of time - even so, these cheaper dupes are still going to cost you $129 (£119 / AU$199).  

Unfortunately, it looks like the technology is still too new for headphones under $50 to compete with the larger brands in terms of quality, but hopefully we aren't too far off affordable true wireless in-ears - and who knows? The Xiaomi AirDots could well be the first to do it. 

Via The Verge

Categories: General Technology

Spotify Connect speakers to get free tier streaming – if developers get on board

Wed, 07/11/2018 - 03:29

In a boon to those of us without Spotify Premium accounts, the globally popular music streaming service has made it possible to access free tier streaming through compatible Spotify Connect speakers – even if nobody is planning to implement it.

Spotify Connect refers to speakers that can link up to the Spotify app on your smartphone, through Wi-Fi rather than a less reliable (and proximity-dependent) Bluetooth connection.

Those who pay £9.99 / $9.99 / AU$11.99 for a Spotify Premium account can already stream music through Spotify Connect speakers. A newly-released SDK (Software Development Kit), however, will allow hardware devs to open this up to Spotify Free subscribers too.

So the feature isn't actually available yet, but it's likely we'll see hardware developers start working on patch updates for Spotify Connect speakers soon.

If you can't beat 'em

Spotify is largely credited with shifting the music landscape, away from the previous pay-per-track business model and toward the convenience of subscription-based streaming.

To ensure the long-term health of the service, though, Spotify has naturally been looking for ways to integrate with other services and hardware. A Spotify app is now being tested on the Apple Watch, while the company is even shipping out free Google Home Minis to Premium Family subscribers.

We're yet to see a dedicated Spotify smart speaker, but the new SDK is sure to strengthen the case for Spotify Connect, as the service faces renewed competition from the likes of Apple Music, Tidal, and Deezer.

Categories: General Technology

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