“The true center of the smart home? I don’t think that’s something we need to debate. What unlocks all of it is voice.”
Daniel Rausch, Vice President, Smart Home, at Amazon is confident speaking to TechRadar before his recent big keynote at IFA 2018. Rausch has been chosen by Europe’s big tech show to talk about all things smart home and it’s something that Amazon knows all about.
Since Alexa’s arrival - Amazon’s voice assistant - we have seen homes turn from dumb to smart, at a low cost, to the point where some 50 million people have access to voice control (whichever your OS preference) in the US.
This has happened in just “three and change” years, according to Rausch, who remembers not-so-long ago when the smart home was very different.
“The so-called smart home was a segment that was taking off for decades. Starting in the 1980s with the X10 [home automation protocol],” notes Rausch.
"The sea change of the simplicity of voice control with Alexa means a faster pace of adoption."Daniel Rausch, VP, Smart Home
“More recently, before the simplicity of voice control, it was your phone. But that turned out to be for just one person in the house.
“You would have to unlock your phone, go through the mess of apps, find the right one, open it, find the right device and then you would turn on the light bulb. You could have just walked across the room and tapped the switch.
- The best Alexa Skills and commands: the ultimate Amazon Echo tips and tricks
“It wasn’t easy for customers,” he admits. “The sea change of the simplicity of voice control with Alexa means a faster pace of adoption because it is actually easier. It is the same across the whole heterogeneous range of devices and it is just that easy. That was the key pivot that unlocked the smart home.”20,000 Alexa products
That range of devices has proliferated in the last year. According to Rausch, over 50 products were announced at IFA - either with Alexa built in (Alexa-enabled products) or products Alexa can control - and the diverse spread was telling. There were Alexa-integrated PCs, lights, fridges... and even some speakers.
“It took us three years to get to 4,000 Alexa-compatible devices,” said Rausch. “Within the last nine months that number has gone from 9,000 to 20,000.”
The sheer amount of new product has meant that Amazon has had to have a robust system for getting manufacturers on board, and fast.
Daniel Rausch, Vice President, Smart Home at Amazon.
“We’ve created software development kits, hardware development kits, microphone arrays, give different options for supply chain partners, ODMs, different tiers in the supply chain,” reveals Rausch.
“There’s an equal amount of effort going into making it easier for Alexa to control products, too.
“We have got technology like our smart home APIs that allow Alexa to interface with many products for our customers. That’s experience huge growth as well.”
The speed of concept to product was highlighted recently and the fruits of this was showcased at IFA.
“There is a great story about an Anker product that was accelerated to seven months’ delivery [Anker announced a number of Alexa-integrated devices at IFA 2018]. That’s from the first concept, the first phone call, to being available for market.
“We have built up a lot of technology to make it easier for companies to build it into the product.”
Rausch makes a good point, but the mass adoption of Alexa has spurred many to question the security implications of this and whether the voice technology works perfectly for every device - particularly those where Alexa isn’t baked in. (Last year's Amazon speaker hack being a great example.)Language no barrier
This speed of release and breadth of products is something Amazon’s biggest rival in the voice space, Google, is also pushing at the moment.
It chose IFA to announces that Google Assistant was now bilingual, understanding two languages at once without having to flip between these languages in the settings.
"The so-called smart home was a segment that was taking off for decades."Daniel Rausch, VP, Smart Home
While this particular feature isn’t available yet through Alexa, Rausch was keen to explain just how much work Amazon is doing in this space.
“Alexa has been ‘multilingual’ for some time,” notes Rausch. “Customers can pick a language - we have all different dialects of English, German, French... we have announced Spanish is coming and Italian. Stay tuned for more - we aren’t here to speculate on future features but we love seeing the product in all these places.”
Having Alexa in all these places does bring us to the question of: where does Amazon and - more pertinently Alexa - go next?
“The sky’s the limit - your vacuum cleaner, door, security system, your lawn. Everything you can imagine inside the home. You will also see that Alexa will just be embedded in more devices and customers will stop thinking about talking to a device per se. It will become more about speaking at large.”
It’s already out and about, beyond the home, too. There’s Alexa in the car (Ford, Toyota, SEAT have all made announcements about this), there’s Alexa for hospitality where in certain hotels guests can get room service and towels through Alexa.
Alexa for business is looking to do away with voice calling systems of old - more than 700 of these are used in Amazon’s own conference rooms already.
“We knew right away, from the response, that customers would want to connect with Alexa anywhere,” says Rausch. “We knew early on that we would want any developer to use Alexa and wanted Alexa to be able to do anything. So we built the skills kits and APIs so devs could extend capabilities.
“We soon won’t be just talking about the smart home but a world of smarts.”
IFA 2018 Audio round up: The best headphones, smart speakers and cinema sound from Sony, Sonos, JBL and more
In a show dominated by smart sound systems and headphones, there was also some standout design and genuine breakthroughs to get the real audiophiles excited at this year’s IFA tech expo. Below we pick out the sonic highlights that found a way to be heard above the bedlam in Berlin.1. Bang & Olufsen Beosound Edge
It came as no surprise to find Danish design guru B&O provided the show’s most eye-catching example of audio gear at IFA 2018.
Drawing inspiration from the venerable British pound coin (yes, really), the waist-height spherical smart speaker is designed to be positioned in two ways - like a standing coin on its edge or hanging from a wall like a railway clock via a set of brackets. The brainchild of London-based designer Michael Anastassiades, the Beosound Edge also has a pretty unique control system, requiring you to rock the speaker back or forth to controls its output.
It’s not all about the aesthetics however, with the speaker boasting a huge, full-bodied sound that dazzled during its demo. This is thanks in large part to its ingenious, patented active bass design – with a mechanically controlled recess at the top of the speaker that contracts and widens to match changes in volume.
Able to pump out audio on demand from either side via Bluetooth, Chromecast or Apple AirPlay 2, it sports two 3-quarter inch tweeters, two 4-inch midrange drivers and 10-inch woofer, coupled with six Class D amplifiers. While we’ve got reservations about its quirky controls, it was easily one of the more powerful audio experiences at the show. Priced at £2900 (around $3,765 or AU$5,225), it hits stores in November 2018.2. Sonos Amp
With the re-emergence of record players in recent years, it’s a mystery why it’s taken so long for Sonos to update its Sonos Connect Amp. A decade after its launch, the connected speaker company has finally replaced the model, with the Sonos Amp, packing double the power of its predecessor. Now able to pump out 125 Watts per channel, it can also power up to four speakers instead of two.
Primarily aimed at the custom install market and those who want to bring their own high-end, wired speakers to the multi-room party, the compact, black box-shaped device carries over the touch buttons and vertical light design cues of the recently released Beam and new Play:5 from Sonos.
New features include AirPlay 2, voice support and HDMI ARC alongside the previously available analogue inputs and it can also be used to add wireless rears to a Sonos home-theatre setup or two Amps can combine for surround sound. Initially only available to the custom install market at the end of the year, it’ll go on sale to the public in February for $599 (around £460 / AU$830).3. Sony WH-1000XM3
We were big fans of Sony’s Bose-beating noise cancelling cans from earlier this year. the WH-1000XM2, and the Japanese firm hasn't hung around in updating them. Sony claim the new over ears offer a four-times improvement in blocking out outside sounds, thanks to their new built-in Q1 processor.
A three-way switch flicks between no noise cancelling, ambient noise cancelling – which will be ideal for commuting when you need some awareness of your surroundings – and a final full noise cancelling mode, which places an eerie blanket over all outside noise and worked incredibly well on IFA’s noisy show floor.
The sound quality seems similarly tuned to its predecessor, but the headband design has been slimmed down, and there’s also a new Quick Charging function that delivers 5 hours of playback after only 10 minutes of juicing up. The WH-1000XM3 are due out later this month and will retail for approximately $350 (£300 / AU$485).4. Beyerdynamic Blue Byrd
German audio expert Beyerdynamic were on home turf to unveil its new flagship wireless in-ears. While they may not look hugely different than the raft of linked wireless that have recently flooded the market, their Mosayc sound personalization system goes some way to setting them apart.
The tech allows fine-tuning of the sound to your hearing via an app-based hearing test conducted via your smartphone. Offer up to six hours of playtime from a USB-C charger, the Blue Byrd’s will go sale for around $150 (£115 / AU$205) toward the end of the year.5. Harman Kardon Citation range
Fresh from their recent takeover by Samsung, Harmon appear to be taking the battle to the likes of Sonos with an impressive range of new smart multi-room speakers.
Coming in a multitude of shapes, sizes and colors, the Google Assistant powered speakers, the range starts with the $199 Citation One – pitched perfectly as an alternative to Sonos One, boasting Google Assistant and Chromecast support and able to handle 24bit/96kHz sources.
While we’ll reserve full judgement for when we can put the range through its paces in our test rooms rather than the show floor, our early experience impressed enough to suggest the range looks capable of upsetting the old guard in the multi-room wars.
6. RHA CL2 Planar
Home cinema options include the $1,000 Harman Kardon Bar – a three channel soundbar system that boasts 4K HDR support from its three HDMI inputs. It can also act as a single centre channel when paired with the Harman Kardon Citation Tower speakers, which come as a pair for $2,500, each with a dedicated subwoofer and one with a touchscreen panel.
Announced just ahead of the show, the CL2’s were one of the more eagerly awaited headphones to be put through their paces for the first time at IFA. Having the honor of being the first wireless earbuds to feature planar magnetic drivers, something that thus far we’ve only found in high-end open-backed cans, RHA have pulled off a breakthrough that audiophiles have long wished for.
For a premium set of in-ears there’s unsurprisingly a full range of foam and silicone ear tips offered in the box, along with a host of wires provided for purists who still don’t feel Bluetooth quite cuts it for pure fidelity.
For those that do go wireless, RHA claims a creditable 12-hour battery life. On first listen the CL2’s sound incredibly balanced and clear and and appear to offer a genuine first for this form factor. Hold tight for our full review to find out if they sound good enough to justify the meaty $900 (£800 / AU$1250) price tag.JBL Everest 710GA Google Assistant headphones
As handy as Google Assistant is, having to whip out your handset each time you want to converse with your digital servant can be a bit of a faff. So JBL’s new line of smart headphones are a welcome addition to their roster. For those who like things a bit more discreet, there’s the wireless in-ear Everest 110GA’s, but our favored pair are the new Everest 710GA’s, a gorgeously cushioned pair of wireless cans with an impressively long battery life.
The right-hand can has a set of hardware controls for power, play, pause, volume and track skipping, but the key feature comes with a tap on the left can. A deft touch activates Google Assistant from your connected phone giving you quick info on notifications and the weather. Holding your finger on the sensor for a bit longer gives you the ability to throw a question or command, such as asking for local info or playing a particular playlist.
Slick, with brushed bronze detailing, while not as overt as a set of Beats, the heavy branding on the cans nevertheless may be a bit OTT for more refined listeners, and while it may be something you get used to, the Google Assistant sensor could be a little too easy to accidentally trigger. We’ll be sure to let you know in a full review later in the year.
Also offering ShareMe 2.0 connectivity which allows you to broadcast your tunes to owners of any other Bluetooth headset nearby, and an echo-cancelling mic for improved call audio, the 710GA is set to cost around $300 (around £230 / AU$400).
- IFA 2018 is Europe's biggest tech show. The TechRadar team is in Berlin to bring you all the breaking news and hands-on first impressions of new phones, watches and other tech as they're announced.
The Google Chromecast is not only one of the most useful and innovative gadgets of the last few years, it's also dazzlingly cheap. And if you're looking to pick one up for the cheapest possible price, you've come to the right place!
Chromecast is a Wi-Fi HDMI dongle that you plug directly into your TV. From there you can use your smartphone or tablet to 'throw' video at your TV over Wi-Fii, whether it be Netflix movies, live football matches from the major broadcasters or simply just a funny YouTube video. On this page we'll find you the best prices for the Chromecast Ultra, Chromecast 2 (or just Chromecast now) and Chromecast Audio and explain how they differ.
With prices already incredibly cheap, there's no need to hang on for the sales. If you're in the UK or US and would prefer to stream content from a standalone box, you should take a look at the latest Roku deals. Or maybe hold on for a better deal around Amazon Prime Day?What is a good Chromecast deal?
This one's easy. The standard price for a Chromecast 2 is $35 in the USA, £30 in the UK and $58 in Australia. You should never, ever pay more than that because you can always find one for that price.Chromecast 2 deals
The Chromecast 2, or 'new Chromecast' as it's also known, is very similar to the now discontinued 2013 Chromecast. Sure, it looks a little different. And it's got slightly faster network performance and a few other tweaks such as coming with a dangly cable instead of as a rigid stick. But essentially the same product in a different shape - that's why the prices were basically the same. If you can find one for the same price, get this new one.Chromecast Audio deals
While it doesn't offer true multi-room streaming at the moment (fingers crossed that comes soon), this easy-to-use and affordable device modernizes any trusty set of wired speakers you already own with wireless capabilities. In doing so, it also opens them up to features that will grow and get even better over time. Got an old set of speakers or an ancient iPod dock? Turn it into a wireless speaker with Chromecast Audio!Chromecast Ultra deals
The 4K Chromecast Ultra is the newest member of the Chromecast family. If you have a 4K TV or are planning on getting one, it's certainly worth picking one of these up. The Chromecast Ultra is a cheaper alternative to Amazon's Fire TV or the US-only Roku 4 for getting 4K content on your TV. Chromecast Ultra deals are usually around £69/US$69/AU$95, so anything cheaper is an added bonus.
The IFA 2018 show in Berlin is bursting at the seams with smart speakers. But with its new Citation speaker range, Harman Kardon has enough Google Assistant-enabled speakers to do an entire show of its own.
Set to compete with Sonos systems thanks to their multi-room capabilities, the Citation range is a bit of a jack of all trades, with speaker sizes and colors to fit all tastes, voice control smarts, LCD touch controls and the ability to be paired up as a wireless 5.1 channel home theatre system.
So, deep breath – let’s break down the range.Options, options, options
First up, the Harman Kardon Citation One. Sharing a name and a price with Sonos’s speaker at $199, it’s your entry point into the range. It has Google Assistant and Chromecast built in for smart streaming and easy multi-room set up, and supports 24bit/96kHz sources.
Increasing in size, price, output power and functionality as their model numbers go up, you’ve then got the Citation 100 at $300, the Citation 300 at $400 and the Citation 500 at $600. All feature Google Assistant and Chromecast, but the Citation 300 and Citation 500 also include an LCD touch control strip along their top edges, letting you swipe through tracks, control sources and see artwork among other uses.
You then jump up to what you’d consider the more traditional home cinema elements – the Harman Kardon Bar costs $1,000 and is a three channel system, packing in 4K HDR support from its three HDMI inputs. It however can also act as a single centre channel when paired with the Harman Kardon Citation Tower speakers, which come and a pair for $2,500, each with a dedicated subwoofer and one with a touchscreen panel.
It’s all finished off with a Citation wireless subwoofer, for a potential complete 5.1 set when setting up other models in the range as wireless rear channels.Style and sound
It’s an attractive looking range – each is finished in a high-quality, dust-resistant fabric, giving them a softer look than the sometimes–industrial stylings of other home theatre kits. While the soundbar and towers come only in grey and black colors, the smaller speakers in the range can come in a wide variety of shades, from rich burgundy to coral pink. It’s clearly a range where Harmon Kardon is doing it’s all to please all comers.
As for the sound, it’s always difficult to discern at a noisy trade show. But, having sat through a scene of the recent Jumanji film with the speakers set up in a 5.1 sat up using the tower speakers as left and right channels, we can certainly attest to its power.
Seeing The Rock (sorry, Dwayne Johnson) traverse the jungle pursued by leopards and a ring of fire, the roars and big cats and big motorbikes travelled around us well. An earlier listen to the tower speakers in a simpler stereo set up, with a selection of tracks ranging from Jamiroquai to Fleetwood Mac, showed them to be wonderfully warm and rich, with an astonishingly powerful bass response.
It’s a wide range, and a trade show floor isn’t the best place to discover the nuance in so many products at once. But it’s an incredibly promising, attractively designed line up. We’re looking forward to hearing more from them.
- IFA 2018 is Europe's biggest tech show. The TechRadar team is in Berlin to bring you all the breaking news and hands-on first impressions of new phones, watches and other tech as they're announced.
Heading to the beach, or the pool, or the shower? You'll be wanting to know what the best waterproof speakers are then, and we've got just the buying guide for you.
We're still waiting for flying cars and near-sentient robot house cleaners, but waterproof and wireless Bluetooth speakers are one device that technology has already delivered on.
And while no one ever really intends to get their portable speakers wet, accidents and bad weather can happen. If kids are any part of your life you'll know mishaps can be very difficult to avoid.
So even if you're not planning on taking a swim with a Bluetooth speaker strapped to your back, you're still going to love the peace of mind that a waterproof speaker can bring, which is why we've gathered up the best ones for you.
Our aim here is to help you get the most for your money. We've tested a not-so-insignificant amount of portable speakers in our time, and have found a handful that can resist the wonders (and terrors) of the great outdoors.
Stick with us and we'll be sure to find a waterproof speaker that works for your budget and requirements.What is a waterproof (or water-resistant) speaker?
While waterproof and water-resistant aren't synonymous, they roughly translate to "water won't ruin it".
Waterproof is the better of the two, as it usually carries an IP67 rating that means it can withstand to float in around a meter of water for a half-hour before it bites the dust. Water-resistant, on the other hand, means it could survive a splash or two, but it's not the kind of thing you'd just want to casually throw in the pool.
When hunting for the best waterproof speaker for the great outdoors, look for its IP rating. This is how water resistance gadgets are categorized. You'll see that IP mark, followed by two numbers – IP67 is one of the most common, and means the speaker can be submerged in water for up to 30 minutes. This is the one you want.
Of course waterproofing isn't the only thing we looked for when picking out this list of top portable speakers. We also considered factors such as sound quality, price and feature set, all of which helped establish a set of criteria that we could measure all speakers against.
What you see below is the result of that effort – our definitive list of the 10 best wireless portable waterproof speakers.
Best waterproof speaker: Denon Envaya DSB-250BT
If you want a waterproof speaker that doesn't look like a waterproof speaker, get the Denon Envaya DSB-250BT.
It'll fit into a classy living room but has IP67 water resistance, letting it withstand a full-on dunk. This is also the best-sounding speaker of its size, with meaty bass and audio balance you might expect from a hifi master like Denon. There's an Envaya Mini if you want something smaller, too.
Any complaints? To make the water resistance work, the speaker has rubbery panels instead of clicky buttons, and they aren't half hard to depress sometimes. But if that isn't a minor quibble, what is?
Read the full review: Denon Envaya
Best waterproof speaker: UE Wonderboom
No speaker begs for the pool as much as the UE Wonderboom, because this waterproof unit comes with a little inflatable ring in the box to let it bob around in the swimming pool on your holiday.
It also stands well above its weight class, with weighty bass for a speaker so small, and music that sounds balanced and rich. You can even pair the Wonderboom with two devices simultaneously.
It may not have the largest soundstage and doesn’t have a speakerphone option, but the Wonderboom still ticks a lot of the right waterproof speaker boxes.
Read the full review: UE Wonderboom
Best waterproof speaker: JBL Charge 3
The JBL Charge 3 presents an incredibly attractive package. This speaker features a battery that can last more than 20 hours – and can even charge your phone in a pinch – and it also features the meatiest bass out of all the waterproof Bluetooth speakers in this list.
The JBL Charge isn’t exactly the most lightweight speaker in the world, but if you’re a bass head and you don’t mind adding a bit of weight to your bag, the Charge 3 might just be for you.
Read the full review: JBL Charge 3
Best waterproof speaker: UE Boom 2
The UE Boom 2 is the UE Wonderboom’s big brother, offering even more precious decibels and finer detail.
This waterproof speaker also lasts about 25% longer than the Wonderboom and has useful features, like NFC and aux-in, for older devices. It’s a little bigger and heavier, but with that added bulk it does offer longer battery life.
Oh, and if you want even more umph, the Megaboom – again from Ultimate Ears – is a pretty great choice, as well.
Read the full review: UE Boom 2
Best waterproof speaker: Fugoo Style
If you still don’t know about Fugoo, you’re certainly missing out on some of the best waterproof speakers in the world. The Fugoo Style not only offers the longest battery life of any speaker on this list (40 hours!), but it also comes in at a tiny one pound.
Fugoo’s design philosophy is to offer different ‘jackets’ (Style, Tough or Sport) to fit around its ‘core’ speaker to fit different styles. The Fugoo Style waterproof speaker offers a great blend of size, sound fidelity and battery life for an affordable price.
Read the full review: Fugoo Style
- 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 UE Wonderboom
Best waterproof speaker: JBL Pulse 3
In terms of sheer audio prowess, the JBL Pulse 3 was a pleasant surprise. While it’s light show may lead you to believe that it’s all a gimmick, the Pulse 3 actually offers a very well balanced tonal balance: Highs have good extension but are a little rolled off. Bass offers good slam and texture, but bleeds into the mids a little.
If you’re not an audiophile, none of this matters – it sounds darn good and gets loud, making it the perfect companion for your next pool party. If you want a great sounding Bluetooth speaker that’s both waterproof and a conversation piece, the JBL Pulse 3 is the speaker to get.
Read the full review: JBL Pulse 3
Best waterproof speaker: UE Megaboom
The UE Megaboom is at the very peak of Ultimate Ears’ line of waterproof Bluetooth speakers. Its larger size means that the Megaboom can get loud and can last up to 20 hours at a sensible volume.
Bass is stronger and richer than its smaller UE Boom 2 and Wonderboom brothers, and this is the speaker for anybody who wants to really blare their music at a party. For people who want to save some cash, however, the JBL Charge 3 is half the price and performs similarly.
Read the full review: UE Megaboom
Best waterproof speaker: Bose SoundLink Color II
Bose is well known for making fantastic sounding audio equipment, and the SoundLink Color II is no different. This small speaker packs a stealthy punch, providing deep bass with a nice impact, but it obviously can’t match the sound of the larger waterproof speakers in this list.
Now, while the SoundLink Color II sounds great, you should note that it’s not entirely waterproof. It’ll survive splashes and rain, but you don’t want to drop it in the bath, so be aware of that before buying.
Read the full review: Bose SoundLink Color II
Best waterproof speaker: UE Roll 2
The UE Roll 2 offers a unique disk form factor that’s perfect for taking to the pool. The waterproof speaker comes with its own float, which lets you listen to and control your tunes in the pool, something no other speaker on this list can do.
It might not sound quite as good as the UE Wonderboom, as it’s lacking in the bass department, but it’s still a solid sounding speaker. If you don’t care about the form factor and float, however, the UE Wonderboom is the better buy.
Read the full review: UE Roll 2
Best waterproof speaker: Fugoo Go
The Fugoo Go is a unique waterproof Bluetooth speaker that comes with a built-in bungee cord, like the UE Roll 2, to help you mount it to different things. The Go can also pair with another Go speaker to play in stereo, something that other speakers on this list can’t do.
Sure, UE allows you to pair up multiple speakers for more volume, but you won’t get true stereo playback. While we recommend the Fugoo Style for its class-leading battery life and excellent sound, the Fugoo Go is a good alternative for a lower price if you need a waterproof speaker.
Read the full review: Fugoo Go
- 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 UE Roll 2
AirPlay is the wireless streaming standard you're going to be using if you prefer Apple kit, but to go with that standard you need some actual speakers: and have we got some fantastic AirPlay speakers for you.
AirPlay (and AirPlay speakers) are back in the headlines, with the protocol appearing on more devices, and AirPlay 2 – the next generation of Apple's own cutting-edge proprietary wireless platform – now on the scene.
AirPlay 2 turns the streaming standard into a proper multi-room platform, and even adds Siri integration into speakers that never would've had it before.
To prepare you for this imminent renaissance of Apple-friendly wireless speakers, here are the best Apple AirPlay speakers on the market.The best AirPlay speakers in 2018:
Best AirPlay speakers: Sonos Beam
If you're looking for an AirPlay speaker that can not only stream music but tackle TV audio as well, the Sonos Beam is the best option money can buy.
It's a fantastic soundbar for its price, one that takes full advantage of the Sonos ecosystem as well as Apple's, and is a joy to use (and set up, if your television has HDMI ARC). Its smaller form factor means it’s a device that will sit comfortably next to a 32-inch TV, but it’s got enough of a footprint to not be dwarfed by a much bigger set either.
If you're an Apple enthusiast who is also after additional functionality (like Amazon Alexa support and the possibility of multi-room audio via Sonos products), then you can't do any better than this for an AirPlay speaker.
Read the full review: Sonos Beam
Best AirPlay speakers: Naim Mu-so Qb
Naim makes some of the most stylish wireless speakers available and the Naim Mu-so Qb, a smaller version of the Mu-so soundbar released in 2014, is no exception.
In simplest terms, it’s an AirPlay-ready speaker cube that adds style to just about any room. And yes, these are our words, not Naim’s. The fabric grille on its sides is curved and a glass-like acrylic block at its bottom makes the Qb look like it’s floating. (Sort of.)
It also has a striking control wheel up top, and lit touch buttons that control playback away from your phone.
The Naim Muso Qb sound is lively, with great bass for its size, and good soundstage separation for a wireless speaker. It uses tilted drivers to make dispersal as wide and stereo-like as possible. This isn’t just an AirPlay speaker, either: It has Bluetooth, multi-room using the Naim app, a USB port for direct playback and a digital connector that lets you plug in your TV or AV receiver.
Performance, portability and versatility? It doesn't get much better than this.
Read the full review: Naim Mu-so Qb
Best AirPlay speakers: Orbitsound Dock E30
The Orbitsound Dock E30 has a lot going for it: This is an AirPlay speaker with quite a few extra features, and while it might not match everyone's home decor, it certainly tries its best to avoid looking like a plain plastic speaker.
Some highlights of the design are the groove in which you can rest your tablet or phone, and the way you can also wirelessly charge your phone using a Qi panel on the top. Check online to see if your phone supports this standard: if it doesn’t, there’s also a USB port on the front to let you plug-in your charging cable.
The Orbitsound Dock E30 has a different approach to sound too. It uses clever side-firing speakers that separate out the ambient parts of a song’s mix to increase the width of the sound. This occasionally gets confused with some songs, but for the most part the sound is great for a fairly low-profile speaker.
Read the full review: Orbitsound Dock E30
Best AirPlay speaker: Riva Arena
The Riva Arena is about as close as you can get to a Sonos One with AirPlay on-board. To that point, sound quality is the best feature here.
Like other Riva speakers, the Arena has carefully crafted mids that make vocals sound well-textured and warm. It doesn’t throw out as wide a soundstage as some, but you can pair two Arenas together, like smart bookshelf speakers.
This is also a speaker that wants to let you connect anything. It has Bluetooth as well as Wi-Fi/AirPlay, and Spotify Connect too. A 3.5mm aux input on the back lets other devices get involved.
There’s no battery in the Arena as standard, but you can buy a battery pack that slots onto the bottom for 20 hours of adapter-free use. It’s not cheap, though. And that’s the issue with the Arena: no part of it screams value.
It’s more expensive than the Sonos One, which may be less flexible without Apple AirPlay, but makes up for it with voice assistant support.
Read the full review: Riva Arena
Best AirPlay speaker: Apple HomePod
Apple’s official AirPlay and Siri speaker is the HomePod.
As you might expect from Apple, it’s one of the most impressively engineered wireless speakers ever. It’s only 142mm in diameter and 170mm tall, but is home to seven tweeters and one 4-inch woofer/bass driver.
This array delivers not just 360-degree sound but incredibly deep bass for its size, reaching down to the kind of frequencies many wireless speakers don’t touch. It is almost certainly the best-sounding wireless speaker of its size.
It looks good, too. A seamless fabric grille covers most of its exterior, and there’s a neat little display on the top that animates as you interact with Siri.
On the debit side, the HomePod doesn’t have Bluetooth and doesn’t work with Android phones. And while it has the voice control most other speakers here lack, it only works with Apple Music, not Spotify. If you don't mind being locked in to Apple's ecosystem for the rest of time, consider the HomePod the best option out there.
Read the full review: Apple HomePod
Best AirPlay speaker: Libratone Zipp
The Libratone Zipp is one of the few good battery-powered AirPlay speakers, in part because Wi-Fi (which powers AirPlay) sucks more battery than Bluetooth. It lasts for up to 10 hours between charges, making it a decent pick if you're looking to take your AirPlay powered show on the road.
And the Zipp part isn’t just a cute design gag – unzip the zipper and you can remove the wool cover and replace it with a different one.
Sound is great for a relatively small, battery powered speaker, too. It has enough bass power to make nearby objects rattle, and goes very loud without tilting the sound toward one end of the audio spectrum or the other.
You might not initially think you need a portable AirPlay speaker, but being able to move the Zipp from the living room to the kitchen is a big plus. And stops you from having to buy a full multi-room setup. Libratone does offer multi-room control through the less-than-stellar app, if you feel up to the challenge.
Read the full review: Libratone Zipp
- Looking for the best Bluetooth speakers? We have you covered
More and more companies are getting into the smart speaker market and Huawei is the latest to join, as it has just announced the Huawei AI Cube.
This white speaker has Amazon’s Alexa assistant built-in, giving it similar skills to an Amazon Echo device, including the ability to answer questions, control smart home devices, play music and access a library of over 50,000 skills.
The speaker aspect uses an aluminum diaphragm and a 400ml sound cavity, which Huawei claims allows for high quality audio, rounded bass and clear midrange and highs.
It’s also boosted by Huawei’s Histen tech, which adds virtual bass, far-field voice recognition, adaptive gain control and more.
But the Huawei AI Cube has an extra trick up its sleeve that other smart speakers don’t, as it’s also a 4G router, meaning it can be used to get devices online.
Paired with a 4G SIM card it can reach download speeds of up to 300Mbps, but it also supports 2.4GHz and 5GHz Wi-Fi channels for speeds of up to 1,200Mbps.From the home to the wilderness
The new Huawei Tracker
But the AI Cube isn’t all the company has announced, as it’s also launching the Huawei Locator.
This is a rather different product with more niche appeal, but it could literally be a lifesaver for certain people, as it’s a compact location beacon – so you can take it into the wilderness and make it easier to be found in an emergency.
It’s designed to have long operational and standby times, so it won’t die on you, and it supports GPS, GLONASS, Galileo and Beidou, offering near-real-time location reporting.
Other tools offered by the Locator include an SOS button and a feature that will activate a buzzer alarm on it when a paired smartphone is within 10 meters. It’s also IP68 rated, so it can survive the rain or a brief dunk in water.
Huawei hasn’t yet announced the price or availability of either product, but we’d expect to see them in some markets soon.
AKG has revealed four new sets of wireless headphones over at IFA, complete with some smart tech that allows you to balance both listening to your music and keep tabs on sounds from the environment around you.
If you’re in the market for a pair of premium over-ear headphones then the AKG N700NC could be right up your street, featuring adaptive noise cancelling that can be turned on or off at the simple push of a button.
AKG promises these headphones boast top-notch sound – naturally – and ‘perfect calls’ and ‘talk thru’ features to enable you to take phone calls with an impressive level of clarity and no pesky echoes.
The headphones weigh in at 270g, and AKG says they'll let you enjoy 23 hours of music-listening on a single charge.Magnetic marvels
Then there’s the AKG N200 – a set of in-ear headphones that benefit from magnetic earbuds and a quality fabric cable that (hopefully) shouldn’t be tangle-happy. On the audio front, it promises bolstered sound chops with Apt-x and AAC audio support, and it delivers eight hours of music playback time via Bluetooth.
Another in-ear pair, the AKG Y100 (pictured above) is to be offered alongside the Y500 (below), the latter of which is an on-ear affair. Both are built for durability and benefit from ‘ambient aware’ technology, which can increase your level of environmental awareness at the touch of a button, allowing you to hear real world sounds around you.
The Y100 give you eight hours of Bluetooth wireless playback, and AKG claims that the Y500 musters an impressive 33 hours.
A further nifty touch for the Y500 is that it automatically pauses playback when the headphones are taken off, and when you don them again, the music continues from where you left off.
How much are these going to set you back? AKG isn’t saying at this stage, and there’s no timeframe for a release date yet either, but these details should be announced before long.
- IFA 2018 is Europe's biggest tech show. The TechRadar team is in Berlin to bring you all the breaking news and hands-on first impressions of new phones, watches and other tech as they're announced.
Marshall Headphones has announced the Kilburn II, an update of its bestselling Kilburn speaker. Marshall claims the Kilburn II is the “loudest speaker in its class with a clear midrange, deep bass and extended high”.
Designed for music lovers on the move, the Kilburn II offers 20 hours of listening on a single charge, and has a quick-charge option that allows users to fully recharge the battery in just 2.5 hours.
Multi-directional sound with back-firing tweeters ensures the sound quality is solid and balanced even if you're in the middle of a festival campsite.Life on the road
The Kilburn II is more durable than its predecessor, with rugged corner caps, a microphone-style grille, and an IPX2 Rating, which means it’s resistant to dripping water. The new speaker also comes with a guitar-inspired handle for easy transportation – a nod to Marshall’s live music heritage.
The Bluetooth APTX enabled speaker has a 30ft wireless range and an option for multiple hosts – this means that two people can connect to it at the same time (no more fighting over the AUX cable at parties).
Best known for its guitar amps, Marshall has spent the last few years experimenting with headphones and speakers, holding its own against more established audio companies. Recent products include the Marshall Major III Bluetooth Headphones, the multi room Marshall Acton, and the Marshall Stockwell.
The Marshall Kilburn II will be available to buy from August 30, priced at $299 (£269 / 406 AUD).
Harman Kardon has revealed the full line up of its new Citation speaker series, at Berlin’s IFA 2018 conference today.
Like the Citation 500 smart speaker introduced a couple of weeks ago, the full range has a uniformly sophisticated and sleek design, with the aim of blending seamlessly into any home or decor style.
The new speakers are smart too - featuring Google Assistant, meaning that you can ask your Citation speaker questions, set it tasks, and much more. They also come with a high-resolution LCD touchscreen and Chromecast built-in, Google’s dedicated digital media player, which can connect to a number of audio streaming platforms including Spotify and Google Play.Sophisticated design
The Citation range includes countertop speakers, a soundbar, a subwoofer, and a pair of tower speakers all available in gray or black wool fabric.
The speakers can either be used individually, set up to build a powerful 5:1 sound system, or used around your home, with each speaker capable of playing different tracks in different rooms.
All of the speakers in the Citation series will be available to pre-order from the Harman Kardon website from October. Although exact conversions are yet to be confirmed, rough prices are as follows; the Citation One will cost around $230 (£180 / AU$315), the Citation 100 at $360 (£280 / AU$490), the Citation 300 at $450 (£350 / AU$615), the Citation 500 at $750 (£580 / AU$1020) and the Citation Bar at $1030 (£780 / AU$1400).
The Citation Sub comes in at approximately $900 (£700 / AU$1250), the Citation Tower at $2700 (£2200 / AU$3700) and the Citation Surround at $520 (£400 / AU$700).
- Harman Kardon’s new Citation 500 Google Assistant speaker is sleek, smart and punchy
Have a lush hi-fi set up, and a bunch of sticky-fingered, music loving kids to go with it? If you want to let your children enjoy their tunes without damaging your pristine speakers, JBL has just the device for you at IFA 2018.
The JBL JR Pop is a portable Bluetooth speaker aimed directly at little ones. Colorful, portable and robust, it's designed to take the beating that kids can throw at their gadgetry, without sounding too bad at the same time.
So while it's not an audiophile grade device by any measure, it's got lots of features that'll satisfy the younger members of your family: sticker sheets to customise it with, a carry handle and multicolor lights built in to give a little dazzle to the pre-school party.Splish splash
It's also perfect for bath time too, being both portable with its 5 hour battery life and waterproof up to an IPX7 rating.
Four color options will be available for the JBL JR Pop – pink, red, teal and purple – so your budding fashionista can indulge in its developing tastes.
Priced at just £29.99 (around about $40 / AU$50) it's not too big a dent in your wallet should your little tykes lose it in a park too. No word yet on release date, but here's hoping it's ready in time for Christmas.
If you’re on the market for new home cinema gear, the IFA 2018 isn’t disappointing. The Berlin event is always a great stop for AV equipment, and Harman Kardon is pulling out the stops this year with its new Enchant soundbar range.
Offering “high-quality sound without compromising on space or design,” it’s packing the company’s proprietary MultiBeam technology, which uses a digital signal processor alongside the soundbar’s side firing transducers to bounce audio off the walls for a surround sound experience.
It removes the hassle of a wired surround sound system, which delivers true surround sound from discrete speakers in favor of a single box. To achieve this, it uses what Harman Kardon is calling an Automatic MultiBeam Calibration system to map the dimensions of your room and match the bouncing audio pattern appropriately.Chromecast built-in
The Enchant soundbars will be available in two different sizes.
The 1300 will measure in at 44 x 2.6 x 4.9 inches, and uses 13 channels to deliver a max output of 240W. It has Wi-Fi and Bluetooth with three HDMI inputs, and costs £899.99 (about $1,160 / AU$1,580).
As you could guess, the 800 has 8 channels of sound with 180W output. It’s smaller at 33.8 x 2.6 x 4.9 inches, and also has Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, but just the one HDMI input. It costs £619.99 (about $800 / AU$ 1,090). There’s also a wireless subwoofer to accompany the range, with 400W output for £619.99 again.
Regardless of which model you go for, Chromecast is built into each of the Enchant soundbars, letting you stream shows from your mobile device or PC to your living room, and also allowing the soundbars to become part of a Chromecast multi-room audio system. The Harman Kardon Enchant range will be available before the end of the year.
You can't turn a corner at IFA 2018 in Berlin without stumbling across a pair of true-wireless earbuds, the sort that comprise two individual pieces, connected only by the magical power of Bluetooth, one for each of your ears.
JBL is doubling down on the format this year with two new models: the JBL Endurance Peak and the JBL Free.
First up, the JBL Endurance Peak, pictured at the top. They're aimed at sporty types, and are well suited to swimmers with their IPX7 waterproof rating.
Designed to comfortably fit most ear types without falling out, they feature "PowerHook" technology that allows them to intelligently turn on or off when you put them on or take them out.
Complete with a charging case that offers a speed charge mode that gets you an hour's worth of playback from ten minutes charge time, you get 28 hours of battery life overall, with 4 stored in the earbuds themselves and 24 in the portable case.
They'll go on sale in November for £129.99 (roughly $170, or AU$230).JBL Free
The JBL Free are up next, and are more focussed on pleasing commuters.
They're again truly wireless, with a charging case that can provide 24 hours of playback when combined with the buds themselves.
Though they're not as rugged, but they're splashproof too thanks to an IPX5 rating. Both the JBL Free and JBL Endurance Peak offer hands-free calling with an integrated mic, though the more discreet oval design of the JBL Free might make them better suited to everyday use.
Available in black or white, the set is available now, priced £119.99 (around $155, AU$210).
JBL has announced the launch of its new Everest GA wireless headphones range, all of which is optimized for Google Assistant. In other words, you can have easy access to the world’s biggest search engine without so much as lifting a finger.
Announced at IFA 2018, the range includes the new 710GA over-ear headphones, combining JBL’s long audio heritage with intuitive voice activation technology from Google, which can be activated by using touch sensors on the earcup. This means you can send texts, make calls, and most importantly, control your music without missing a beat.Sharing is caring
According to JBL, two hours of charging time will provide you with over 24 hours of music, making the 710GAs a great choice for busy commuters, long distance travelers, and those of us who are a little forgetful when it comes to charging our devices.
They also come with JBL’s ShareMe 2.0 feature, which allows you to pair with any other compatible Bluetooth headphones, meaning you can share your music with your friends wirelessly and listen together without cumbersome wires.
Also in the Everest GA range are the 110GA in-ear wireless headphones, which come in three different sizes for a snug fit and improved comfort. The 110GA’s come with eight hours of playback from a two hour charge, and are also optimized for Google Assistant.
JBL are yet to confirm the availability of the new range, however prices have been released, with the 710GAs coming in at around $300 (£230 / $400) and the 110GAs priced at around $120 (£90 / AU$160).
It’s hard to stand out in the Bluetooth speaker market at IFA 2018. With so many smart models on display, simple sonics just won't cut it. So the new JBL Charge 4, announced at the Berlin show, is a bit of a jack of all trades.
For starters, it’s a Bluetooth speaker, capable of connecting to two devices at once. That means you can share your tunes with a buddy without both having to keep swapping connectivity to the speaker first.
It can also play as part of a giant, 100 speaker soundsystem, with JBL Connect+ tech letting the Charge 4 hook up to dozens of other speakers of the same kind for simultaneous playback.
And, it’s also a portable battery pack, too. With 20 hours of audio playback per full charge of the Charge 4, you can hook up a smartphone to give it a bit of juice when on the go.Wet and wild
Designed for pool parties, the JBL Charge 4 also has IPX7 waterproofing, letting it take a dunking without doing any damage to the electronics inside.
There are plenty of color options to choose from too, with “Desert Sand, Mustard Yellow, Dusty Pink, Grey Stone, River Teal, Fiesta Red, Ocean Blue, Midnight Black, Steel White, and Forest Green” shades all set to be available.
Launching in October, it’ll cost £159.99, which is around $205 or AU$280 when directly converted.
Over at IFA 2018, Beyerdynamic has introduced a new range of Byrd wireless and wired in-ear headphones, with three flavors on offer to suit different budgets and tastes.
All of these headphones benefit from an ‘ultra-flat’ design, meaning they won’t press on your ear even if you’ve got them in while listening to music while lying on your side.
The entry-level model is the Beat Byrd, which are wired headphones that offer what Beyerdynamic promises is clear sound backed with a powerful level of bass. This model will only be sold via the company’s online store, and will be available by the end of September costing €24.90 (around £22, $29, AU$40).
Stepping up to the Soul Byrd, this is again a wired model, with a premium build quality, promising to deliver a balanced sound with considerable clarity, Beyerdynamic observes.
You also get five pairs of silicone ear-tips in a range of different sizes, and an in-line three-button remote with integrated microphone. Soul Byrd headphones will go on sale mid-October priced at €79 (around £71, $92, AU$126).Blue Byrd
Finally, at the top of the range we have the wireless Blue Byrd headphones, which do away with the cable in favor of a Bluetooth connection (although the earbuds themselves are still linked as you can see in the above image).
The built-in battery gives you up to six hours of listening, and the headphones can be recharged via USB-C. This flagship model also come with Mosayc sound personalization, which fine-tunes the sound to your own hearing (following an app-based hearing test conducted via your Android or iOS device).
If that system works as promised, you’ll get a sound fully tailored to your own ears, which is an exciting prospect.
Beyerdynamic’s Blue Byrd wireless headphones will be available before 2018 is out, with a recommended price of €129 (around £115, $150, AU$205).
In a show dominated by 8K TVs from the likes of LG and Samsung, Sony has a slightly different announcement for its IFA 2018 appearance – one that will be hard to keep quiet once the cans are out of the bag.
Earlier today, Sony unveiled its new WH-1000XM3 noise-cancelling headphones, the sequel to the Sony WH-1000XM2, and the heir apparent to the highest seat in the noise-cancelling headphone kingdom.
The reason Sony stole the hearts and ears with the 1000XM3’s predecessor was its excellent noise-cancellation modes, Quick Attention Mode and aptX/aptX HD support, all of which will be available again in the 1000XM3.
Like last year, you can expect a 30-hour battery that should easily get you across the Atlantic and back.
What’s improving this year, according to Sony, is the introduction of multiple microphones that will help calls come through cleaner and a switch from a microUSB port to a USB Type-C port along the earcup of the headphone. Along with that a Quick Charging function that provides up to 5 hours of wireless playback after just 10 minutes of being connected to a power source.The sound of silence
In a brief demo with the 1000XM3 headphones ahead of IFA, we noticed a substantial improvement on noise-cancellation from last year’s 1000XM2 to this year’s 1000XM3 – even if the audio sounded relatively similar year-over-year.
If you look at the bridge of the headphones, you’ll also notice a change in the padding which, along with the reduced weight, should make them more comfortable to wear during extended flights. (Hong Kong here we come!)
Powering the 1000XM3’s noise-cancellation prowess is Sony’s new QN1 processor that’s faster than last year and offers more powerful processing, too – things we couldn't tell from our time with the headphones but a neat upgrade all the same.
The Sony WH-1000XM3 will be available starting in September for $349.99 (around £270, AU$479).
Google Home Max has officially launched in the UK. The smart speaker, which we feel is much more clever and better designed than its competitors, has been available in the US and Australia for a while, but finally UK customers have the chance to get their hands on one.How much will it cost me?
Now, here's the thing: the Google Home Max is now available to buy both in store and online exclusively from the Google Store and John Lewis, but it's coming for the rather high price of £399.
This is a little more than we were expensive than we were expecting, given you've been able to get the same product in the US for $399 for a while now, and apart from Apple most brands aren't matching pounds to dollars any more in international pricing.
That said, you can get the new speaker in chalk and charcoal colouring, so at least you've got some options to meld it into your home decor.So what’s so special about it?
The Google Home Max is a much larger version of the Google Home - but it’s 20 times louder due to the 4.5 inch high-excursion woofers installed.
Like it’s smaller sibling, the Max also makes use of the Google Assistant AI, which you can use to control your home, answer questions and even set reminders.
In addition, the Google Home Max is the first Google speaker with smart sound - a feature which allows the Max to adapt its audio to you and your environment by adjusting the sound to wherever you place it in a room.
The Max supports Bluetooth and has an auxiliary port (see, it can be done, Apple), but also works with a wide range of music services such as YouTube Music, Google Play Music, Deezer and Spotify. There’s also the option to listen to old-fashioned radio channels, which will please many.
- Catch up on all the latest news from IFA 2018
Jaybird has announced the latest addition to its X-series at IFA 2018 - Jaybird X4 Wireless Sport Headphones.
Designed for outdoor athletes, these headphones have been upgraded to now be water-resistant, rather than just sweat-proof, although there's no recommendation to take these things swimming, despite being able to submerge them for up to a meter for half an hour.
In addition, Jaybird claim they have a more comfortable fit than previous headphones in the series due to new silicon fins, ultra-soft silicon tips and exclusive-to-Jaybird Comply Ultra foam tips, which feature unique thermo-reactive foam that conforms to your ear canals for a more comfortable and secure fit.
If that’s not enough to tempt, the Jaybird X4 headphones also have eight hours' battery life, a new Speed Cinch cord management system - which allows you to adjust the length of the cable - and the sound can be fully customized using the Jaybird app.Jaybird X4 price... talk to me.
The Jaybird X4 Wireless Sport Headphones will be available to pre-order from the Jaybird website staring August 30 and will release globally in September 2018. The headphones retail at $129.99 (£109.99 or around AU$180).
It's interesting that these water-resistant headphones haven't been tipped for swimming as well, but that protection doesn't sound like it can stand being slapped in and out of water - it's often the pressure of the water that will cause seals to corrupt, rather than just being submerged.
The headphones will also be coming in Black Metallic/Flash, Alpha Metallic/Jade for the general public, and a third color, Storm Metallic/Glacier, will be found at Best Buy and jaybirdsport.com
- Check out our Jaybird X3 review
The Ultimate Ears Boom 2 is currently spearheading our list of the best Bluetooth speakers available, and for a good reason, but now we know it'll be getting a sequel along with its bigger brother, the Megaboom.
The Boom 3 and Megaboom 3 offer a fresh take on the familiar cylindrical aesthetic, with a new lineup of vibrant colors that match the playfulness of the previous iterations.
While the Boom 3 and Megaboom 3 retain the water-resistance of their predecessors, they’re now officially dustproof as well, bumping the rating up from IPX7 to IP67.
This is thanks, in part, to the durability of the swanky new material that encompasses most of the units – “high performance fabric, engineered for applications like motorcycle jackets and fire equipment”, according to Ultimate Ears.
This fabric also gives off a neat iridescent sheen, changing hue with shifts in light or viewing angle due to its two-toned color design.Magic and music
Ultimate Ears has added what it calls a Magic Button on the top of the Boom 3 and Megaboom 3. This lets you quickly play, pause, or skip your tunes akin to the way some in-line remotes behave for headphones.
At launch, there will also be support to long-press the button to bring up favorite playlists from Apple Music and Deezer, although there’s currently no word on whether this will be compatible with other streaming services down the line.
The same 360-degree sound projection returns with the pair, but this time Ultimate Ears promises that the Megaboom 3 comes with a “deeper bass and improved clarity over the original Megaboom”, offering an overall warmer sound signature.
As for power, both units will be compatible with the Ultimate Ears Power Up charging dock (sold separately for $40/£35/AU$50) which was introduced alongside the company's Blast and Megablast smart speakers.
Thankfully, the relocation of the new speakers' USB ports from the bottom to the side of the units means they can now be charged while standing up.
The Boom 3 and Megaboom 3 are due for release in September with the smaller of the pair costing $149/AU$199, while its larger sibling will set you back $199/AU$299. UK pricing yet to be confirmed.