If you’re like us, you have a long list of gear you’d love to own. But reality (almost) always steps in, along with bank accounts and eagle-eyed spouses, leaving your gadget desires unfulfilled. Gear Patrol’s series “Want This, Get This” presents a lust-worthy piece of gear along with a more affordable alternative that scratches the same itch. In this installment, we put the Sharp Elite PRO-60X5FD and the Panasonic TC-PST60 head to head.
The screen of your dreams
What's that, now?
A respite from noise might seem thin on paper, but spend a few hours on an inescapable airplane with crying babies, heaving green-faced passengers or even a chatty cathy neighbor and get back to us on what you’re willing to pay for a little peace and music. What’s more, NC options have some of the best sound profiles available, making them true gems for audiophiles and the easily distracted alike. Considering the vastly small market for noise-canceling headsets available at the moment, the problem isn’t necessarily narrowing down the field — it’s choosing the best one for your audio needs. From pioneering audio staples to buzzing newcomers, these are the noise cancelers worth turning your ears to.
Speakers that speak for themselves
Pursue perfection. Some people — people at the top of their games — consider it a personal mantra. That theory holds for the design world, too, and it’s why industrial designer Joey Roth recently released a third version of his celebrated speaker system. Apparently, he just wasn’t satisfied yet.
The term “noise canceling headphones” almost always summons images of big puffy over-the-ear numbers. As wonderful as those can be, they’re bulky to pack if you’re traveling light, and during workouts, they suck — providing a feeling akin to sweating with scones strapped to your head. Austrian headphone maker AKG’s K391 NC offer up noise canceling features in a compact package. We tried out a pair.
There’s no shortage of speakers vying for your computer’s affections. The trouble is, most have land grab aspirations that put Ted Turner’s to shame. Nocs NS2 Air Monitors ($450) are precisely designed to suit even the “coziest” of desktop environments, but like any child of the information age, prefer not to be pigeonholed by any single role.
Free your TV
Ever since Sonos entered the streaming audio biz, couch potatoes with money to blow have wondered when they’d get some wireless TLC of their own. The Sonos Playbar ($699) is their long-awaited answer, boasting nine total drivers (six mid woofers and three tweeters), each powered by their own Class D amplifier.
Terms like all-metal enclosure, analog, and hand-made may conjure up thoughts of exorbitant price tags — most often you’d be right — but Meridian proves that occasionally pigs do fly. The British audio stalwart, known for stratospheric priced speakers and components, has unveiled the Meridian Explorer ($299), a pocket-sized USB DAC and headphone amplifier, and we got to try it out.
Take it outside
Music lovers don’t want to be tethered to an indoor system — loud enough to be heard outside is too loud for inside — but even “outdoor” systems rarely last long out in the wet and cold. Bowers & Wilkins AM-1 exposes your music to the elements with impunity, thanks to a durable, weather-resistance speaker enclosure.
Turn on the tube(s)
Looking more like a miniature robot monolith than audio componentry, the WOO Audio WA7 Fireflies ($999) is a convenient (ideal) solution to poor desktop sound. As both a high-grade vacuum tube headphone/speaker amplifier and a state-of-the-art USB digital to analog converter, the Fireflies puts everything serious audiophiles crave in a 5-inch cube.
Soup up for the Superbowl
Properly calibrating your TV and sound system is essential for getting the best picture and sound out of your gear — but few do it. Short of hiring a professional to take the work off of your plate, DIY solutions are grim: buying special discs and wading through various complex menus to get the job done. The THX Tune-Up App (Free, for now, $2 later) is a welcomed update to the process in a smartphone-dominated world.
To each their own
The world may not be in black or white, but a glance at today’s most popular gadgets would make you think otherwise. Wouldn’t it be grand if technology could mirror your tastes and preferences (Swarovski crystal crusts excluded) — and not cost a bloody fortune? Beyerdynamic Custom One Pro headphones ($195) are just that. Even in their stock form, a metal frame, metal ear cups, metal y-forks and a removable 2.5mm connector give the made-in-Deutschland set a premium feel.
Originally designed to play music on only their own products, Apple’s AirPlay technology now allows users to stream multimedia from iPhones, iPads and computers to any enabled HDTV or speaker system via wi-fi. Because Apple now allows third parties to use their tech, myriad standalone speaker systems designed specifically for AirPlay are on the market: some are better than others, and they all span the price and design spectra. Here are our 10 picks for some of the best AirPlay speakers available.
Look nice for twice the price
The Symbol Audio Tabletop Hi-fi ($1,800) speaker is positioned as an attractive and space-saving solution for discerning listeners in search of better home audio. The console includes two 4-inch full-range drivers, which boast titanium cones, paired with a down-firing 1/4-inch sub, and is powered by a 2.1 channel class D amp; this is capable of pushing 8 watts to the stereo drivers and 15.5 to the sub.
The shortest of stacks
Leave it to those face-melting Brits over at Marshall to create something like the Hanwell ($800). Styled after the famed amps that have stuffed arenas with sound for half a century, the company’s first foray into home audio packs 200 watts of pure rock into one 25-pound body. Made of the same wooden construction and…
Great sound, bar none
The soundbar is increasingly gaining traction as the audio setup of choice for aesthetically minded sound junkies. It’s no wonder: discrete designs and all-in-one efficiency keep minimalist media centers clutter free while trumping the tinny transmitters of any TV. Their only shortcoming is a one-dimensional soundfield, often the result of simulated surround. To buck that…
Set your stage right
Luxo DJ furniture maker Hoerboard has announced their latest shrine for decks and mixers, and like their previous works, you’ll need a record deal in hand to afford it. Hoerboard Spin Age Dj Stand (~$2,952) flaunts a laser-cut metal frame made from two equal parts and includes three inlaid compartments.
It’s widely known that swimmers and rainy weather joggers (and really all audiophiles hindered by humidity) are more than a little jealous of the ease with which their fellow athletes can take in tunes while exercising. Sony’s whipped up the next in their line of wet-weather answers: the Sports W Series Waterproof MP3 Player, a…
Cloudy with a chance of tunes
The damn Cloud. Everything’s going there. Pretty soon, you’ll have to go to the Cloud to change your underwear. But for now, you’ll have to settle for the OD-11, the world’s first Cloud speaker — just introduced at CES 2013 — by the incredible folks at Teenage Engineering. If the nomenclature and design look familiar,…
Cut the cord
Available with either 500GB or 1TB of storage, the Corsair Voyager Air ($199-$229) is a wi-fi wonder for media maniacs not content with cloudy reception. Dubbed the first all-in-one to combine the conveniences of being a USB drive, a wireless network drive and a hub, the Voyager Air is a potent portable of note. USB…
That's one hot (home media) librarian
Hard drives are about as exciting as, well, hard drives. Seagate Central ($190-$260) aims to change all that as the world’s first shared storage device with a Smart TV app, enabling you to access files on your flatscreen and just about every other device in your home. In short, the Seagate Central allows access to…
Streaming music to the four corners of your house might still be considered a luxury, but a new face in the hi-fi streaming game, Pure, claims to undercut the competition in price and ease of use with its Jongo speaker series. The line provides multi-speaker streaming for radio, podcasts, Pure Music subscriptions and more via…
Your Picasso might be jealous
If four times the number of pixels of the current Full HD standard can’t satisfy your lust for the bleeding edge, then the “unprecedented design” of the Samsung S9 UHD 4K TV should do the trick. The so-called “Timeless Gallery” frame mimics the look of an easel and allows the monstrous screen to rotate up…
Tubes for your tube
Samsung’s crush on vacuum tube amplification started with the DA E750 Vacuum Tube AirPlay Dock announced at last year’s CES. Now it’s a full blown love affair — complete with rewards club memberships at the local Shag-a-Day Inn. According to the tech giant, the newly announced HW-F750 Vacuum Tube Soundbar and paired wireless subwoofer is…
Plays well with others
While the rest of the Blu-ray player market races to the bottom of a Dollar Store dumpster, Oppo remains resolute in serving those who demand the highest possible audio and video quality out of their home theater. The company’s latest OPPO BDP-103 Universal 3D Blu-ray Player ($500) includes Marvell’s Kyoto-G2h video processor for True 24p…
Big bass, little package
Home theater buffs and audiophiles alike know that to achieve harmonic balance a quality low range is essential. For those who also seek balance in all things feng and shui, that usually means burying oversized towers under foliage of some sort or trying to stuff a subwoofer under a settee. To quell the dissonance, Seattle-based…
AirPlay for grown ups
Forget the Bose — throw the AirPlay enabled TEAC CR-H700 ($700) onto a bookshelf or console and you’ve got the perfect mid-sized room system. If you’re not familiar with TEAC, all the better; if you knew about the company’s bargain basement offerings of yore, forget them. It is worth noting they’re one of the oldest…
Good Morning, Vietnam... and Canada... and Brazil...
It’s fitting that the radio has always had geographic limitations. Think of it as Mother Earth’s little joke: as media has made the world a smaller place, she still reminds you that she’s large enough to be an inconvenience — radio waves can only travel so far, after all. Which is why we imagine she’s…
Most people are perfectly content to store and experience their music collection on a computer (we do it everyday at the office). The convenience of accessing massive amounts of music and rich metadata on a whim with just a click or a search is simply unparalleled. For audiophiles, though, this ease of use comes at…
Music and snow sports go together like Rick Ross and cheese covered honeybuns, but squeezing your favorite cans inside a helmet is rarely a formula for comfort. The POC Receptor BUG Communication Helmet (~$330) skirts this dilemma by integrating Beats by Dr. Dre headphones into the helmet neck roll, which combines bass-heavy tunes with a…