I will never change my opinion when it comes to the headphone jack: Taking it away was a terrible, consumer-unfriendly decision. Thanks to Google, Essential, OnePlus, and other OEMs, that means I have to work a bit harder to accommodate new devices into my firmly, happily tangled life, and one of the most annoying sacrifices up until now was using my phone in the car. The standalone Android Auto app actually works great just on your phone's screen, but having to choose between charging and audio was a major bummer.
Thanks to Moshi's power/3.5mm splitter dongle, that's not an issue for me anymore. Read More
In the Samsung-owned Harman audio empire, consisting of JBL, AKG, and others, Harman Kardon is the original brand and it still has a fairly decent reputation for making products with relative audiophile appeal. The group is no stranger to Google Assistant-equipped devices, but the Citation/Enchant range of speakers, subs, towers, and soundbars really caught our attention when it was announced last summer. This could be the versatile Sonos competitor we've been waiting for.
The range went on sale last month, and I've been able to test the cheapest speaker in the lineup, the Citation One. At $200, it's competing with the Sonos One (I wonder where it got the name from), as well as other Assistant speakers from Sony, LG, JBL, and many more. Read More
You are no longer stuck with a few Google-branded speaker options if you want to invite Assistant into your home. There are speakers from JBL, Sony, and many others—including Marshall. The updated Marshall Stanmore II speaker launched recently, and it looks like a feasible alternative to Google's best-in-class Home Max. It combines classic Marshall styling with modern voice assistant features, but it comes with a steep $400 asking price. Read More
It's a bummer, but wireless audio gadget manufacturers seem reluctant to adopt the USB-C charging port found on most new phones, tablets, and even laptops. Otherwise exciting earbuds like the Soundcore Liberty Air and Jaybird Tarah Pro are still shipping with increasingly outdated microUSB ports — or worse, proprietary charging solutions. So it's great to see that Aukey's affordable B60 buds — significantly cheaper than both former sets — feature the one port to rule them all, especially since so many other things about them are so darn good. Read More
Like it or not, headphone jacks are getting harder to find on smartphones, and that makes your wireless headphones more crucial than ever. There are some compelling true wireless options out there, but you have to spend big to get features like low-latency, Type-C charging, and long battery life. As the technology improves, we're finally starting to see some compelling budget options in true wireless—for example, the Anker Soundcore Liberty Air. For a mere $80, these earbuds offer an experience that's almost a match for products that cost twice as much. If you can make a few small compromises, they're an incredible deal. Read More
In today's $350 wireless, ANC-equipped over-ear headphones space, there are two primary competitors: Bose's QuietComfort 35 II and Sony's WH-1000XM3. Bose has long been championed as the king of the segment by many, but it seems impossible to talk about the QC35 II these days without someone butting in about how the identically-priced 1000XM3 is superior. After some time with the 1000XM3, I understand why everyone has been talking about it. Read More
Everyone is trying to make true wireless earbuds these days, but most of these products aren't very good. The technology has gotten cheap enough that any white label OEM can throw together a true wireless setup that does the bare minimum. Unless you simply refuse to have wires under any circumstances, these cheap options aren't worth the tradeoffs like sync issues, poor sound quality, and A/V lag. At the high-end, there are true wireless systems that can almost match a nice set of regular Bluetooth earbuds, but there's a lot of variation. The RHA TrueConnect earbuds look like an able competitor, but the USB Type-C port can't make up for the missing features and so-so sound quality. Read More
Anker's Soundcore sub-brand sells all kinds of wireless audio gear, from earbuds to soundbars. They generally target a pretty midrange market; they're not chintzy by any means, but historically, they haven't been expensive, either. Starting at $200, though, Anker's new Soundcore Model Zero and Model Zero+ speakers are decidedly more premium than the company's previous offerings. And while they're not quite a home run, there's a lot to like here. Read More
German company Sennheiser has a sterling reputation for creating high-quality audio products, so I was understandably enthused when I learned they were making a pair of true wireless earbuds. These products have improved a great deal since they first burst onto the scene, but they still tend to lag behind wired equivalents in terms of sound and can’t compete with bulkier Bluetooth sets in battery life.
Since Sennheiser is pretty late to the true wireless game, you would hope its engineers have taken their time to craft something superior to the many rival products already on the market. As it turns out, that’s not far from the truth. Read More
Jaybird has had a busy few months. Following September's release of both the flagship X4 and budget Tarah, the company released last month the Tarah Pro, a second high-end headset that evidently shares enough in common with Jaybird's entry-level offering to share its name.
Tarah, it seems, is Jaybird's name for these devices' particular form factor, rather than an indicator of budget-friendliness. While the Pro take a number of design cues from the vanilla Tarah, they certainly don't take inspiration from their price: at $160, the Tarah Pro are Jaybird's most expensive earbuds. They're also the company's best. Read More