With plans of taking a shot across Sonos' bow at the upcoming International CES, Samsung has added another weapon to their multi room wireless audio arsenal, the Samsung Shape Speaker System ($50-$400). Combined with the already-existing Shape M7 Speaker, the smaller and less-expensive Shape M5 gives you a flexible solution for audio across your home or apartment. With the optional wireless connectivity hub and Samsung's iOS or Android app, you can play music through these speakers from a range of services, including Amazon Cloud Player, Pandora, Rhapsody, and TuneIn Radio, as well as connectivity over NFC and Bluetooth.
Free your space of wires and clunky, unattractive audio systems with the Polk Woodbourne Speaker ($600), a wireless, wood-enclosed, all-in-one speaker system. Made to sound as great as it looks, this speaker system features two one-inch 20-watt silk polymer dome tweeters and two 5.25-inch 70-watt polypropylene mid woofers. With an on-board power amplifier and processing by Dolby-Digital, as well as a range of connectivity options (including Airplay, Bluetooth, USB, optical, stereo, and ethernet), you can listen to music from nearly any device, while enjoying it exactly how the artist intended. And with a half-inch-think MDF enclosure finished in wood veneer, as well as a curved front lattice grill, it looks just as good as it sounds.
You've spent years carefully cultivating your record collection — scouring the racks at music stores everywhere you can find one for classic, meaningful vinyl recordings. So isn't it time you had a record player that reflected your passion for listening? The McIntosh MT5 Turntable ($6,500) is the pinnacle of musical performance, with perfectly-engineered components that let you hear your albums, not the player. It features the distinct neon green display that has come to represent McIntosh, while a luminous platter invites attention every time you place a record on it. The precise belt-drive motor operates at three speeds, spinning the platter quietly, while a magnetic tone arm is completely stable, and resists skips and scratches.
If you care at all about music, you know there's nothing quite like the sound of your favorite album playing on vinyl — and if you haven't made the plunge and bought a record player, it's about time you thought about picking up the Orbit Turntable ($180-$280). With a fully-manual belt drive, a two-speed pulley, a 24-volt synchronous motor, and vibration damping feet, you'd be hard-pressed to find a better one on the market. Choose between the basic and the plus for either an MDF platter, or an acrylic platter, with either an Ortofon or Audio-Technica cartridge in the basic, or an Audio-Technica AT95E cartridge in the plus. Either way, it's the perfect option to upgrade your listening experience.
The next time you're out traveling, don't settle for the mediocre speakers on your smartphone or laptop — upgrade your mobile audio with the Soundmatters Dash7 Speaker ($250). One of the slimmest, lightest high fidelity Bluetooth speakers available, this little unit measures three-quarters of an inch high and weighs less than half a pound, while still packing plenty of sound. It features Bluetooth connectivity for wireless listening, or an auxiliary input if you don't mind being connected. With 12 hours of Bluetooth battery life, and as much as 20 hours if you use the auxiliary cord, you won't have to worry about it dying on you. Available in range of colors, this speaker also includes an international charging kit, cables, and a carrying case.
Fill your favorite space with sound — whether it's your living room, bedroom, or your home office — without sacrificing style using the Harman Kardon Aura ($645). Its small size belies the massive sound (produced by six 1.5-inch high- and mid-range drivers and a 4.5-inch subwoofer) this speaker system is capable of producing. With a transparent enclosure that lets you view the sub, illuminating LED lights, and a cloth grill, it truly looks as good as it sounds. With AirPlay, Bluetooth, DLNA, and WiFi connectivity, compatibility with iOS and Android devices, and a 3.5mm stereo input, you can play music from nearly any source, while controlling it with their remote app.
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.