Turn any space into your own personal audio haven with these go-anywhere sound machines.
Michael Frank 1 / 5
The arrival of Bluetooth was one of our first real glimpses into a wire-free future. But ask anyone who really cares about music and they’ll explain its limitations: Beaming those big, complex music files across Bluetooth airwaves is like sucking a thick milkshake through a skinny straw.
Well, that’s all changing. With killer new streaming services, more affordable listening options from top-of-the-line audio firms, and the new high-resolution Bluetooth 4.1 with aptX technology (which essentially sends music through a fatter pipe without compression) the promise of great wireless tunes is being realized.
From the best wireless speakers to the coolest earbuds, here are your must-have audio toys.
Most portable speakers still use old-school Bluetooth tech, and the music really suffers (see sidebar). But the Libratone Zipp Mini accesses wi-fi while at home, and—when out of range—switches to the higher-bandwidth Bluetooth 4.0 with aptX, which means much more musical detail. The football-size unit sends sound out in a circle, so you get the best room-filling output if you center the speakers rather than hiding them in the corner. $249, libratone.com
Until the launch of this silver-dollar-size widget, you had to spend hundreds of bucks to wirelessly link all your home’s speakers to one audio source—and you were stuck with one brand of speaker. Now, with Chromecast, you can link any speaker you want—be it a portable backyard unit or an old-school hi-fi setup—through wi-fi and use the Chromecast app to stream from any source you want, from Spotify to Pandora to your iTunes library. $35, store.google.com
The superiority of the new ME05’s over other earbuds has to do with their solid-brass housing. Yes, brass is heavier than plastic, but it doesn’t distort sound waves, so the 8mm titanium-coated drivers deliver crisp treble and deep bass. Master & Dynamic went for clarity over ground-shaking bottom end. While they’re not workout specific, the choice of silicone ear tips makes the fit easy to customize for the gym. $199, masterdynamic.com
Bowers & Wilkins sells $22,000 speakers—so you know these guys are serious about audio. B&W’s two-foot-long Zeppelin is compact but easily good enough to serve as your main home speaker. It’s an audiophile’s answer to home streaming: It uses wi-fi, Apple AirPlay, and superior Bluetooth 4.1 with aptX, and every streamed source is upsampled to 24bit/192kHz resolution, which is actually higher than CD quality. $699, bowers-wilkins.com