Because they make it so much easier to hear hushed dialogue in movies or the pianissimo finale of a favorite symphony, active noise canceling headphones have become standard items to pack for any serious traveler (especially anyone with a window seat next to the plane’s engine). They’ve also become popular with office workers who want to eliminate the chatter of colleagues and other workplace noise. We tried out more than 15 different pairs of ANC headsets on planes, trains, buses, noisy subway cars and riding mowers across the U.S. and Europe to settle on seven models that lead the pack.
Aspiring podcasters and DIY rockstars in training, take note: you don’t need to go whole hog on a home studio to get your feet wet with home recording. All you need to get started is the right digital microphone.
Is a dedicated TV streaming device irrelevant? It depends
It’s easy to think that the ground made up by “TV Anywhere” streaming services from television providers as well as on demand resources like Netflix, Hulu Plus and HBO GO have made owning a dedicated device like the Slingbox M1 irrelevant. But is that really the case? After spending a few days testing the newest member of the Slingbox family, the realistic answer is: it depends.
Playing Muddy Waters from the Mud
All-weather bluetooth speakers make sure that you have listening options in any climate, on the edge of any pool or in your pack on any adventure. No plug, no jacks, no need to check the weather report. Just durable music wherever you need it. These are the eight best.
No relation to one Katy Perry
Creative’s new Sound Blaster Roar SR20 boasts improved Bluetooth pairing, a sound-boosting “Roar” mode, and half the price of its Bose competitor.
Bounding and Booming
We put dozens of headphones through their paces on long runs, bike rides and bodyweight exercises to find the ten best sports headphones.
Why 3D Ruined The World Cup Experience For Everyone
In 2010 ESPN banked big on 3D as the new way to watch the World Cup. It didn’t work out well. Now the most notable advancement in high-definition television, 4K, is being left out of coverage of 2014’s tournament — and it’s a damn shame.
Listening to Meridian's Special Edition DSP8000 Speakers
Meridian’s new 25th Anniversary Special Edition DSP8000 loudspeakers cost $80,000. We learned why.
The Right Type, For Some
The Harmony Smart Keyboard ($150) is a new product aimed at set-top box users tired of searching for content one letter at a time, and Home Theater PC users sick of switching between a remote and keyboard. But does it work as advertised?
Lots of light, and a little smoke
Amazon’s Fire TV provides the best experience of any streaming device for consumers who’ve spent more than a few paychecks on the company’s media ecosystem. No question about it: if you live and die by Amazon Prime Instant Video, buy the Fire TV and rejoice. But what if you aren’t a card-carrying member of the Bezos fan club? We found a comfy couch and tested it out.
Small size, big sound
The typical beef with earbuds is that they sound worse than similarly priced over- or on-ear headphones. That’s not to say audio engineers haven’t figured out how to squeeze spectacular sound out of a diminutive package, there’s just usually a hefty premium for having your cake and eating it too. Klipsch’s X11i are the company’s top of the line offering in-ear offering. We spent the last few weeks with a pair to see if they were capable of producing the high-end sound worthy of their high-end price.
Two Very Talented Spin Doctors
Today music lovers are finding more and more of their friends have returned to a beloved 1960s listening form: spinning vinyl. Unfortunately, buying a turntable is daunting. The segment tends to idolize incredibly expensive hi-fi gear, which is all well and good, except that few newcomers or even seasoned vinyl listeners can afford the tippity top of the quality pyramid. Truth is, for the price of an iPod you can be the proud owner of a turntable with great sound and the chops to convey every form of jammery until you yourself are a vinyl aficionado.
A Thorough Guide to Listening the Right Way
Our obsession with hardware is here to stay — don’t expect an apology for it anytime soon. We’ll be the first to admit, though, that even the right headphones, speakers and amps are only as good as the source material you play through them. Garbage in, garbage out. The solution? Get more out of the tunes you love by upgrading your music library.
Nip your audio in the bud
Earbuds, rather than full-size headphones, are essential to many a man mostly because they are so very compact. If you’re a commuter or jogger or some other type of person who can’t balance one-pound earmuffs on your head all day, and you don’t want to spend a pretty penny on something that you’re likely to lose or break, these are for you. They’re the best budget earbuds we’ve heard of, so listen up.
Nowadays media streaming devices offer dramatically improved user experiences, access to a wide range of content at 1080p, and price tags easily within anyone’s budget, making it easier than ever to cut the cable company’s iron umbilical cord. We’ve selected the top five that should satiate any media user, aficionado to amateur.
Anyone who followed CES this year saw the amount of new wireless Bluetooth speakers — an avalanche eclipsed only by the utter horde of new fitness trackers. Still, it’s clear when a winner emerges from the pack. While the fight for the best portable Bluetooth speaker continues, one high-end contender threatens to end the competition: the foxL DASH 7 ($219), produced by Soundmatters, the same company that originally provided components for the best-selling Jambox.
The best gets better
Audioengine’s original A2 speakers launched in 2008 and were immediately showered with praise. They were sized to feel right at home on a desk but also boasted smart design decisions and spectacular sound quality, both of which were more in line with traditional bookshelf speakers or studio monitors. The newly updated Audioengine A2+ ($249) retains its predecessor’s baseline of quality but builds upon that wide range of usefulness with notable improvements for a variety of audio setups.
Premier audiophile brands owe Doctors Amar Bose and Dre a begrudging thanks for opening the eyes of the public to the value of investing in a set of headphones. Thanks to their savvy marketing and branding, the luxury hi-fi headphone market is exploding as an entire generation of consumers look to replace their bass-blasting, noise-canceling sets with something more refined. Perhaps the most ready to profit is KEF, the British hi-fi manufacturer best known for selling six-figure sound systems. Their flagship M500 headphones ($300) capture the luxury bent of potential buyers and hold up their end of the elite audio bargain, all at a price well below the company’s mortgage-your-house standard fare.
The Meridian Audio Explorer ($299) is a portable USB DAC designed for the Jony Ive age that transforms traditional computer listening into a hi-fi experience with minimal fuss. It’s small, incredibly easy to set up, and designed to blend seamlessly with other high-end electronics you already own. It also retails for a reasonable $299, despite being made in England using the same exacting standards Meridian applies to gear with price points that make car dealers blush.
Abbey Road, to Go
It’s 2013. Zoom has held an iron grip on the portable recording industry for seven years and needs to improve on an excellent product. What do they do? They release the H6 ($400), a new recorder that takes everything that mobile maestros loved about the previous H4 and H4n models and adds versatility and power.
It used to be that if you wanted superb audio, you’d have to shell out top dollar for a pair of clunky over-ear headphones. That’s all well and good when you’re sitting at home on Sunday night, quietly enjoying a glass of Scotch and listening to Schwarzkopf and Ackermann’s 1953 recording of Strauss’s “Vier letzte Lieder”, but what happens when you’re on the go? After all, if you’re going to pay $1,000 or more for something, shouldn’t you be able to show it off? Sennheiser’s IE 800 ($1,000) in-ear headphones have been heralded by many audiophiles as the best combination of sound and portability on the market.
Music to His Ears
Thought purchasing a Christmas gift for your in-laws was tough? Try shopping for someone who knows everything about media gadgetry and can’t abide anything but the best. The Mediaphile’s affinity for films, games, music, and yes, eBooks, goes beyond the bounds of reason and continues to expand as the consumer market welcomes the latest tech innovations daily. Best believe he’s on top of everything from next-gen gaming consoles to popular subscription-based apps. This presents a problem, because you think HDMI, DSLR, DAC and WAV are medical tests and/or prerequisite exams for grad school applications. Don’t run to the Geek Squad yet. We’ve pulled together some awesome media-primed options worth your coin this holiday. He’ll thank you — and then you won’t see him for a couple months, save for Doritos runs and the rare bathroom break.
See the Difference
February of 2009 was a sad month for videophiles: Pioneer, maker of the critically acclaimed Kuro (“Black” in Japanese) line of premium HDTVs with best-in-class blacks, announced that it was throwing in the towel. Carrying the torch for the ailing plasma market fell to Panasonic, who dutifully purchased many of Pioneer’s patents. While consumers saw plenty of bells and whistles grafted onto TVs launched in the following years, no set managed to best the Kuro’s picture quality — until now. Panasonic’s flagship ZT60 series ($3,000) has finally dethroned the king.
While anything bearing the McIntosh signature blue meters is guaranteed to catch our eyes faster than Brooklyn Decker at the pool, the MT5 Turntable ($6,500) deserves special attention. That’s partly because its 5-pound, 1.5-inch thick silicon acrylic platter glows greener than the envy of all who gaze upon it. But this beautiful piece of audio machinery has much, much more than just some literal flash.
Talk about shopping in advance
Oddly enough, the proliferation of electronic gadgetry, computer stuff and other digital goodies has made buying for the discerning sparkhead (we just coined that — please enjoy and proliferate at will) tougher. With this list, we aim to make the shopping a little simpler by covering suggestions for readers, photogs, movie buffs and gamers. Take a gander and start clicking; your techie giftee will thank you, probably with an email or holographic video message or something.
This one goes to 29
Smart folks in Cambridge, Massachusetts have estimated that the average American will spend a little under five and a half years driving during their lifetime. Meridian Audio and Land Rover have teamed up to make those years a bit more enjoyable. Drop 135,995 of your bucks on the Autobiography edition of the 2014 Range Rover and you’ll get the honor of experiencing the Meridian Signature Reference System: a 1700-watt, 29-speaker goliath of a system. And it’s even better than those numbers suggest. We break it down for you.
Home Theater, Redifined
Buying a projector can be deceptive: the thrill of viewing on a much larger screen often blinds shoppers to the installation migraines ahead. The high starts to fall away at home when the need to run power and signal cables to the back of the living room becomes apparent. Where do you find HDMI cables longer than six feet in length? How do you discreetly get them to the projector? The BenQ W1500 ($1599) hopes to finally break the cycle. It’s the first projector to include a wireless HD transmission technology called WHDI, which broadcasts uncompressed, full HD video and audio signals (including 3D) over a 5GHz channel up to 65 feet away from the transmitter.
Bump the bass -- and finish that report
The majority of us have become extremely comfortable with the mediocre phonics that ooze through the speakers of our laptops and PCs or the less-than-stellar resonance produced from our headphones. This is sad, seeing as how providing a significant audio boost can transform your desk into the ultimate home entertainment console.
For those seeking a more potent and louder alternative to their built-in receivers or noise-canceling cans, we assembled this collection of awesome stereo monitors sure to have your ears ringing. No, they don’t have to break the bank (though they certainly can, if you’re the splurging type). From portable blasters to music studio amplifiers, each is Bona fide audio hardware powerful enough to enliven any Netflix, Spotify, or Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 sessions at the computer counter. Now get jammin’.
You've never seen anything like this
Laser beams. Why aren’t laser beams everywhere? It’s 2013 — we’re supposed to be living in yesteryear’s science fiction by now, right? Leave it to the not-so-mad scientists at LG to second that notion. This 100-inch Smart TV (but one of many Smart TVs from LG) has a laser diode-based light source, which means more displayable colors with richer saturation, and since lasers are, well, lasers, the picture is fast enough to practically eliminate motion blur.
Luxury to Go
The recent rise in popularity of luxury headphones has created a large pocket of those who want high-quality audio, integration with their phone and portability but don’t want to look like they’re DJing a set at The Tunnel. The KEF M500 ($300) sits at the top of the heap for top-tier, portable headphones.