This story was originally published and last updated .
Whether you're in a white boy summer or hot girl summer mindset, having a good quality Bluetooth speaker is a must. Sonos, as one of the biggest names in premium audio, has thrown its hat into the portable speaker ring with the Sonos Roam. This compact Bluetooth speaker brings all the great aspects of a Sonos audio system to a portable and fantastic-sounding form factor. It's close to being the ideal portable speaker, but a couple of shortcomings keep it from true greatness.
Apple has become a big name in wireless headphones with AirPods, which are easily the most popular and recognizable earbuds worldwide. AirPods provide reliable connectivity and an all-around great wireless earbud experience, but the sound quality can't compete with a nice set of over-ear headphones. That's what the AirPods Max are about.
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.
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.
If you peruse our Winter 2018 Most Wanted audio guide (and you should — good stuff in there), you'll notice an unfortunate trend. With few exceptions, manufacturers of wireless audio gear seem timid about adopting USB Type-C charging. So I was excited to get my hands on the Rowkin Ascent Charge: they're fully wireless earbuds whose case is decked out with not only the increasingly standard USB-C, but also Qi wireless charging. And after using the buds for a couple of weeks, I like them a lot, but a few grating flaws are stopping me from loving them.
Fitness-focused audio is a very saturated market, filled with options both good and bad. Wicked Audio, a manufacturer that focuses on providing good style and bang for your buck, recently sent me the Shred Wireless to try out. This pair of neckband earbuds packs quite a decent punch, especially for the price. The magnetic, metal housing on the buds themselves is nice, too.
In the personal assistance arms race, the two real options for Android users are Google's Assistant and Amazon's Alexa, and both companies have realized that victory will require ubiquity—not as the final result, but as the means. To that end, each has opened its platform up for third-party hardware, and Sony's (un)imaginatively named LF-S50G takes advantage of Google's Assistant in the same way the first party Google Home does, seasoned with a few unique features like gesture controls and a clock.
Taking a step away from fitness-oriented audio, I have recently spent some time with Phiaton's BT 150 NC noise canceling earphones. This is aimed at traveling professionals who want to have great noise canceling without breaking the bank. Phiaton manages that with the $150 BT 150 NC, all while providing very good sound quality and comfort.
The thought of having a personal assistant right in your ears is an exciting prospect, which is why many of us were so hopeful for the Pixel Buds and even Bose's QC 35 II. Ahead of both of those, however, was the OnVocal OV, a pair of neckbuds that came equipped with Alexa. If you're tied into the Amazon ecosystem, then this would be quite appealing.
Bluetooth headphones are everywhere these days. Most of them – many of which sit in the affordable range – provide passable, mediocre sound and varying degrees of battery life. Both are oftentimes better than the earphone counterparts, but it is difficult to get excited about these products in general anymore. The last time I enjoyed a pair of wireless headphones was when I reviewed the Phiaton BT 390, which continues to be one of my top recommendations for anyone needing something under $100, thanks to its impressive battery life and solid sound quality.