Music can be said to be the universal language: while our tastes in tunes may differ, there are few people who don’t have their own favorite songs to listen to. New technologies have increased the quality of that music — however, we can’t all afford the types of speakers and headphones that offer the most superior sound.
But if you’re a music fan with a strict budget, don’t despair. There are audio devices out there that offer good or even excellent sound without forcing you to take out a loan. The following are reviews of various speakers and headsets (both headphones and earbuds) that will allow you to really enjoy your playlist. Read on, and see if you can’t find something that will fit your needs perfectly.
Headphones and earbuds
For the money, Razer’s new $200 Opus noise-canceling, wireless headphones come with almost everything I want in a set of headphones: comfort, good sound quality, and long battery life — with a few extra features as a bonus. For instance, the ear cups can swivel 90 degrees to rest on my chest, then into an even more compact form to fold up into the included hard case. These headphones can automatically pause when you remove them from your ears, as well.
Sony’s entry-level earbuds were released without much fanfare, but I think they’re a real standout. They’ve already seen sale prices of below $100, and for that, you get a pair of earbuds that can kick out powerful bass and latch into your ears with remarkable stability — no support fins or hooks required. The WF-XB700 earbuds sound downright terrific for the price, the connection stability is rock solid (with no audio sync issues when watching videos), and their ingenious charging case always makes clear that everything is charging as it should, thanks to a slightly transparent lid.
The aggressively priced $79 OnePlus Buds have an AirPod-like rigid design that’s all hard plastic — marking a shift away from the Bullets, Bullets Wireless 2, and other OnePlus earbuds that used silicone tips for a sealed-off, in-ear fit. The OnePlus Buds require a OnePlus phone if you want to get the most from them, so these really won’t appeal to owners of other Android devices. You won’t get features like wireless charging or noise cancellation at a price this low, but if you’ve found yourself envious of Apple’s AirPods and don’t like how in-ear earbuds feel, it’s hard to beat the value factor here.
The new $50 Beats Flex are a very smart play from Apple’s Beats division. One reason why is obvious: with the iPhone 12 lineup no longer shipping with included earbuds, this neckband-style option could prove to be a popular substitute. The Beats Flex earbuds are significantly less expensive than the Beats X they’re replacing — not to mention AirPods. They offer a lengthy 12 hours of battery life, have a comfortable fit, and eliminate the anxiety of losing a truly wireless earbud.
Sonos and Ikea kicked off what has the makings of a long-term partnership in August 2019. You can now purchase the Symfonisk table lamp speaker ($179) or Symfonisk bookshelf speaker ($99) from your local Ikea or from the home furnishing store’s website; these devices aren’t available from third-party retailers like Best Buy or even directly from Sonos. They look Ikea on the outside, but both are very much Sonos speakers on the inside and seamlessly integrate with other products in the company’s lineup like the Sonos One, Beam, Play:5, Play:1, and more.
Marshall’s new $149 Emberton Bluetooth speaker gives the beloved Logitech Ultimate Ears Boom a run for its money. For starters, it charges over USB-C for quick, no-fuss charging, and it borrows the excellent joystick-like controls from Marshall’s recent lineup of headphones. Instead of having to learn a few combinations of buttons to change the song or check the battery’s level, everything is dead simple here. As some companies try to find clever ways to let you control your devices, such as swipes or gestures, there’s something to be said for physical buttons being easy, accessible, and fun.
It’s no surprise that alongside the big redesign to the 4th Gen Echo, Amazon has also redesigned the Echo Dot. The new 4th Gen Dot shares the new spherical design of its larger sibling, just on a smaller scale. It’s immediately available in three different variations: the standard model for $49.99, a version with a built-in LED clock for $59.99, and a Kids Edition that comes in a cute tiger or panda design for $59.99.