It seems like everywhere you look, someone is sporting some sort of Beats device — whether it's a pair of headphones, earbuds, or portable speakers — but none of them look quite like the Beats by Alexander Wang Collection ($150-$450). This very limited edition takes three of these devices and coats them in matte black with pale gold accents, making them truly stand out. They include the Beats Pill portable speakers, Ur Beats ear buds, and Beats Studio headphones, and each comes in an Alexander Wang embossed glossy stingray case with a zipper and clip. Each one is available in limited amounts in a pre-sale event, but won't be for long.
It may be more common than you think, connoisseurs of fine scotch also being audiophiles. To mark their 40th anniversary, Linn teamed up with Highland Park, makers of fine single malt scotch whiskey for the exclusive, and amazing Sondek LP12 Turntable ($40,000). Linn took their highest performance turntables and encased them in a remarkable whisky wood plinth, made from the actual solid oak casks that matured Highland Park whisky. If that sounds exclusive, it is, and there are only 40 of these that were made. But hey, at least they are throwing in a 40-year-old bottle of Highland Park, valued at nearly $1,500, to boot.
While most of the available portable speaker systems out there project sound in just one direction, the Ultimate Ears Boom Speaker ($180) projects sound 360 degrees, filling any space with immersive audio. At a weight of just above one pound, and just over a half-foot long, these speakers are also made to go anywhere, easily slipping into most bags. It's coated in an acoustic skin (available in a range of colors) that makes it resistant to water and stains, so you don't have to worry about ruining it if the weather turns sour. Wireless connectivity with a 50 foot range, 15 hours of battery life, and the ability to chain multiple speakers together gives it plenty of versatility and reliability.
Ever have one of those toy tape recorders as a kid? If so, the iRecorder Speaker ($50) should immediately spawn memories of packed lunches and horrible, thankfully-lost recordings of you singing along to Bon Jovi records. This novelty system features a built-in speaker, a pull-out handle for childlike ghetto blasting, working buttons, the ability to run off micro USB or 3AA battery power, and a "tape compartment" for your iPhone. The only thing that's missing? A built-in mic and a record button — although that might be a good thing.
Whether you're on the hunt for a beautiful set of wireless speakers to sit on top of your desk, or you're just looking to add to your existing home audio set up, the Harman Kardon Nova Sound System ($270) is a strong solution combining a great listening experience with striking design. Each speaker produces 40 watts of power played through two-and-a-half-inch drivers and one-and-a-quarter inch tweeters, while passive radiators provide powerful bass response. They're compatible with just about any device you could think of, thanks to wired analog and optical inputs, as well as Bluetooth connectivity with near field communication.
Forget about all of those lightweight, plastic audio boxes out there that feel like they would crumble with their first fall, and embrace the Grain Audio Packable Wireless Speaker ($250). Its solid walnut construction gives it some heft and durability, while lending the natural beauty and acoustic properties of a hardwood cabinet. Dual two-inch drivers, a passive radiator, and the technical proficiency Grammy Award-winning Waves MaxAudio Suite deliver music the way it was meant to sound — without all the gimmicky enhancements found in lots of portable speaker systems. Combine all that with powerful Bluetooth connectivity, eight hours of battery life, and a carrying pouch, and what you get is one of the best (and best looking) small speakers available.
Sponsored by our friends at Grain Audio.
If you're the kind of guy whose deep pockets are matched only by his desire to listen to music exactly as the artist intended, then these Bang & Olufsen Beolab 18 Speakers ($6,600) are an obvious necessity. As is typical of products from the Danish speaker company, these towers are a work of modern art, with stunning curves, gorgeous woodwork, and an unbelievable attention to detail evident in every inch. They operate on a 24-bit wireless frequency even an audiophile would approve of, letting you say goodbye to those unsightly speaker wires. Twin four-inch midrange drivers powered by separate 160-watt amplifiers and acoustic lens tweeters complete the package.
You spend enough time at your desk that you care about what everything on it looks like, or you at least should care. That's why you need a set of Timbre Speakers ($125) — they're the ideal combination of attractive design and fantastic sound to please audiophiles and design freaks alike. Machined from a single piece of solid alder wood and stainless steel, they have a long-lasting construction that actually contributes to the sound. The stainless steel sheet along the front acts as the diaphragm and suspension of the speaker, thanks to an attached voice coil. This results in a full sound across the entire range that's perfect for whatever music helps you make you tackle that to-do list.
Fortunately for the masses of music lovers out there who don't know a tweeter from a hole in the wall, it's easier than ever to set up a wireless speaker system in your place without audiophile expertise or dropping a month's pay. Case in point, the Bose SoundTouch ($400-$700) line of wireless speakers. Choose from three available options in the line: the SoundTouch 30, great for large spaces; the SoundTouch 20, perfect for bedrooms or kitchens; and the SoundTouch Portable, with a rechargeable battery for when you're on the move. All three are easy to set up on your existing WiFi, have preset buttons for a range of audio sources, and come with an iOS app that cues up any music source instantly.
By now the market for high-fidelity wireless speaker systems is pretty flooded, but it's still tough to find a solution that looks great in your space, while still filling it with great sound. The Libratone Loop Speaker ($500) has a unique, circular design, and can be fitted with a range of wool covers that match with the look of your room, while a wall-mount and bipod stand let you set it up just about anywhere. Inside, two ribbon tweeters and a passive bass radiator give it all the sound of larger speaker systems, while also projecting sound all around, giving it a more three-dimensional sound. Couple all that with Airplay, DLNA, WiFi, and wired connectivity, and you have one great-sounding, good-looking speaker system that will connect to just about anything.
Get the classic look and sound of a Marshall amplifier and the connectivity of a modern speaker system with the Marshall Stanmore Speaker ($400). These retro jam boxes feature Bluetooth connectivity, a gold coiled 3.5 millimeter cable, an RCA input, and an optical input — so you can play just about any device through them, including your record player, smartphone, or Apple TV. Two 3/4 inch dome tweeters, a five and a quarter inch woofer, controls for bass, treble, and volume give you some of the best sound you've heard from a speaker set of this size.
Your music doesn't live on just one device anymore, so you need an audio solution that takes the portability of your media library seriously — something like the Harman Kardon Onyx Speaker ($500). This wireless speaker system was made with connectivity in mind, including Bluetooth with NFC, Airplay for Mac and iOS, DLNA for Android, Windows, and other Harman Kardon devices, as well as an auxiliary input for less capable devices. With two three-inch woofers and two three-quarter-inch tweeters, wireless audio doesn't mean you end up with sub-par sound.