There are a lot of smart speakers available these days. Some of them are cheap and not great for music, like the Nest Mini and Echo Dot. And then, there are devices at the other end of the spectrum like the Sony RA5000. Despite the uninspiring name, the RA5000 is the big debut for Sony's high-end 360 Reality Audio speakers. The sound you get from this speaker is fantastic across the board, but it's extremely expensive like most Sony products, and there isn't much 360 audio out there. Still, if you're looking for a new way to experience music at home, this could be it.
When a product is priced significantly higher than its competition, there are two potential reasons: either A) it's a legitimately superior option, or B) the company that makes it knows its target demographic will pony up regardless of how much it costs. Most luxury goods are some combination of the two (think Apple or Tesla). Bang & Olufsen's second-generation Beosound A1 also fits that bill: at $250, the Bluetooth speaker hardly reinvents portable audio — but it does everything it does so well, I'm inclined to put it more in column A than column B. I love this thing.
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Just six months after the excellent Galaxy Buds+, Samsung has a new set of true wireless buds, and they're probably its most anticipated product in this space. The Galaxy Buds Live may look like beans, but they sound a lot better than a pinto in your ear canal. With an unsealed design, they're pretty clearly aimed squarely at Apple's AirPods, and undercut the wireless charging version of Apple's beloved earbuds by thirty bucks, at $170. Like AirPods, they also don't block out much external noise, and that's something many people want. The active noise canceling also does little to quiet the world, and really doesn't make sense in an unsealed design.
Headphone jacks have become a relic of a bygone era, at least in flagship phones. That means that cheap earbud options are fewer and farther between than ever before, too. But as the true wireless market continue to mature, we've seen a lot more budget-friendly options — among them, the EarFun Free. These earbuds pack some traditionally high-end features including IPX7 water resistance and USB-C charging, but their best quality has to be their price: you can pick up a pair for just 35 bucks during this week's sale.
With their first attempt at the end of 2018, ever-reliable German audio brand Sennheiser produced the best pair of true wireless earbuds I had used up to that point. So I was understandably excited to try the second generation when they were announced earlier this year. The hefty price point of $300 remains the same, but battery life has been doubled and active noise cancellation has been added. There’s also a white model this time around if that’s more your style. Comparisons to Sony’s excellent WH-1000XM3 and Master & Dynamic’s MW07 Plus — not to mention Apple’s AirPods Pro — are inevitable given the price and feature set, but Sennheiser’s latest buds do more than hold their own in this company.
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Long associated with compelling personal audio products from the Walkman to studio headphones, Sony's made something of a reputation on the back of its sound credentials. The same has quickly become true of its wireless headphone and earbuds portfolio, being well-known for their great sound (and terrible naming conventions) in premium products like the WH-1000XM3 and WF-1000XM3. With its $130 WF-XB700 true wireless buds, the company takes aim at a more budget-conscious product segment. I really like them — but stiff competition and a pronounced dearth of bells and whistles makes them tricky to recommend.
True wireless earbuds used to be a luxury, and one that came with a hefty price tag. That's no longer the case with uncountable no-name companies selling mediocre true wireless earbuds on Amazon. The best audio experiences cost more, but that doesn't mean every expensive set of true wireless earbuds are worth it. Sony's $230 WF-1000XM3 earbuds are definitely worth the price, but I can't say the same for the new LG Tone Free earbuds. At $200, I would expect excellent sound quality, design, and features. These earbuds check precisely zero of those boxes.
When the TicPods Free came out in 2018, they were one of my favorite true wireless sets, especially given the relatively low price of $130. Cheaper models were few and far between at that point, and you’d have to pay significantly more to get anything that sounded truly excellent. The market has been flooded with half-decent affordable options in the time since then, however, and the original TicPods didn’t stand up to the test of time all that well.
Mpow isn't exactly a household name when it comes to audio, but its commitment to competitive pricing has earned it some fans. The M20 wireless earbuds manage to maintain that affordability while packing in a decent array of features. Of course, some compromises must be made to keep costs low, and the M20s are no exception. If you can see past a few issues, these Bluetooth earbuds may be worth your consideration.
Until Sony's excellent WF-1000XM3 launched earlier this year, there was no viable true wireless earbud option with active noise cancellation. This is partly because in-ear audio products already isolate far better than on or over-ear headphones, negating the need for ANC, and partly because it's difficult to squeeze the necessary tech into such a small form factor.
This space has come on leaps and bounds in a few short years, however, and we can now expect even more noise-canceling earbuds to hit the market. Danish brand Libratone recently entered the fray with its Track Air+ model, and they boast an impressive feature set while managing to undercut the competing Sony model by some margin — £179 vs £229 in the UK.