Picture a remote in your mind. What did you see? A long, rectangular black box with some rubbery buttons on it? Because that's what 99% of audio systems ship with, despite the fact that the iPod proved long ago that's not a good interface for controlling your music. The Bang & Olufsen Beosound Essence ($1,000) is closer to what it should be. This Nest-sized remote can sit or hang nearly anywhere, controlling a hideaway box that offers power for a set of stereo speakers, as well as Wi-Fi for AirPlay and DLNA streaming, and direct connection to Spotify, QPlay, and other Internet radio sources. An ideal companion for B&O speakers.
The most impressive thing about the JBL Authentics Speakers ($600-$1,000) isn't their looks, though they are gorgeous in walnut or gloss black finishes — and it's not their sound, though they do sound great with either four or six speakers and 30-50 watts of power. The most impressive thing isn't even hardware, it's software: Signal Doctor by Harman software. This tech allows the speakers to instantly repair the audio signal from digital music in real time, letting your MP3s and other compressed media sound their absolute best. Additional features include wireless connectivity over WiFI, DLNA, AirPlay, and Bluetooth, USB charging ports, and the JBL MusicFlow app that lets you easily control playback on iOS or Android.
Representing the latest innovation in home audio technology, the ClearView Clio Speaker features a nearly-invisible acrylic glass stereo transducer. Its unique curving shape, and its ability to emit sound through its edges (rather than from the rear like normal cones) lets it fill any space with sound in multiple directions. It uses Bluetooth connectivity to interface with a range of devices, including your mobile phone, letting you play music from whatever source is at hand. Available in silver, dark bronze, and charcoal, this speaker looks great in any space, while providing an engaging centerpiece for any room.