Rolling Stone Audio Awards 2023
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Today’s retail landscape is an audiophile’s dream — just take one look online and you’ll find super-sleek Bluetooth headphones, ultra-nice speakers, wireless earbuds and all kinds of hype.
But which new releases are worth the price, and which ones measure up to use in real life? Our team of product editors have spent the past year testing hundreds of earbuds, headphones, speakers, and sound systems to find the answer.
The result is our 2023 Rolling Stone Audio Awards list — a roundup of the best audio devices to buy online right now, based on performance, innovative technology, and distinctive design.
Best Headphones: Master & Dynamic MW75
Master & Dynamic has long produced some of the most elegant audio products on the market, but they truly outdid themselves on the MW75 Active Noise-Cancelling Wireless Headphones.
Luxe and sophisticated, every inch of the lambskin and aluminum-draped headphones is carefully considered, from the plush memory foam earcups down to the felted travel case.
But any pair of headphones worth its weight has to deliver on the audio front, and the MW75 delivers in spades, thanks to finely-tuned 40mm Beryllium-coated drivers that pick up on every nuance and beat of your music. The resonant acoustic housing offers incredibly well-balanced audio that sounds richer and more true to life than anything else we’ve tested.
Putting these headphones on was truly like stepping into a concert hall every single time, with the performers seemingly right next to you. If you love music, these are the headphones to get.
Best Over-Ear Headphones: Edifier Stax Spirit S3
Edifier delivers an audiophile-like experience in a pair of premium, high-fidelity headphones that prove this brand is one to watch.
Advanced planar magnetic drivers create purer, cleaner sound than regular dynamic drivers, and in our testing, music sounded more detailed and finely-turned. Like a fine bottle of wine, songs open up into wide-ranging shades, with little to no distortion.
The Stax Spirit S3 deliver on design too, with a durable carbon-fiber construction paired with a lamb leather headband and ultralight earpads that stay comfortable even for long periods of wear.
Battery life is similarly excellent — up to 80 hours all in, with a quick ten-minute charge getting you 11 hours of playtime.
Best Wired Headphones: Shure SRH840A
Wireless headphones might be the best-sellers, but, as any audiophile knows, wired headphones still do it better. And Shure’s new SRH840A headphones do it best — whether you’re mixing and mastering, listening critically, or casually enjoying an album. The headphones’ flat tonality delivers music as it was produced, while powerful components like 40mm neodymium dynamic drivers ensure a full range. The build quality is also excellent — ideal for long studio days and comfortable listening sessions.
Best Wireless Headphones: Bowers & Wilkins Px8
When you pick up the Bowers & Wilkins Px8s, you get the sense that they’re a cut above other wireless noise cancelling headphones. Put them on, and your intuition is confirmed. Inside the headphones’ sleek steel and leather exterior is one of the best wearable audio systems on the market, replete with 24-bit high-resolution processing, angled carbon cones, and other top-notch features.
Best Noise-Cancelling Headphones: Sony WH-1000XM5
Designing excellent over-ear headphones is a tall order for any brand, but with the WH-1000XM5, Sony delivers the best noise-cancelling headphones in the game. These noise-blocking cans blow the competition away with their crystal clear sound, thanks in part to eight built-in mics that optimize what you hear based on where you’re listening, from a commute to the plane. Muting outside noise is a breeze with the push of a button on the left ear cup, and soon it’s just you and your tunes or uninterrupted work calls that sound like you’re in your office (even when you’re outdoors). On top of their balanced, enveloping tone, they produce deep bass, and boast a 30-hour battery life per charge. Better yet, in our tests, we found them lightweight and comfortable enough to wear all day long.
Best Headphones for Travel: Focal Bathys
Plenty of noise-cancelling headphones make claims about their superior ability to block out the whir of an airplane’s turbine or the sounds of a screaming baby. But Focal Bathys truly delivers on a travel experience where you’re surrounded by expertly-crafted sound and nothing else.
The Bathys wireless headphones offer two levels of Active Noise Cancellation for total immersion: a “Soft” mode to help you focus at home, in the office, etc, and a “Silent” mode optimised for journeys with high background noise (planes, trains, automobiles — you get the picture).
Focal’s special aluminum/magnesium “M”-dome drivers made in France also deliver detailed, dynamic sound, with an integrated USB-DAC mode that offers a resolution of up to 24 bits and 192 kHz, making it some of the most impressive sound quality we’ve heard out of portable headphones.
With refined looks and even more refined sound, the Focal Bathys are a luxe travel companion that’ll make you feel like you’re jetsetting in style (while you’re in peace and quiet).
Best Workout Headphones: adidas RPT-02 SOL
Who says earbuds are your only option for workouts? Adidas knocked it out of the park with these workout-friendly headphones. Unlike other so-called “workout” cans, this pair features a sweat-proof design that lives up to the hype. Case in point: They feature washable ear cushions and an interior headband that you can remove and clean off grime after your sweatiest day in the gym. These headphones can carry you through endless reps and sets with ease, and are a contender for the longest-lasting workout cans we’ve ever heard thanks to their 80-hour stored runtime. Oh, and they can charge up when exposed to natural and artificial light. The bottom line: The RPT-02 SOLs redefine what workout headphones can achieve.
Best Audiophile Headphones: Meze 109 PRO
At the intersection of timeless design and exceptional sound you’ll find the Meze 109 Pros, the luxury audio brand’s first dynamic open-back headphones — and an audiophile’s dream.
Elegant and impeccably-crafted, we appreciate that Meze sprang for responsibly-sourced materials here, from the black walnut wood to the vegan leather used for the headband. This makes them not only comfortably lightweight, but also highly durable. The grille inside the ear cup also exposes the driver from both sides, giving the 109 Pros an incredibly open soundscape, while the velour ear cups themselves ensure the best seal for that wide, natural sound.
This kind of deliberate design quality also extends to the audio components housed within — specifically the 109 Pro’s aforementioned 50mm dynamic driver, and a W-shaped dome that reproduces high frequencies well, so vocals in particular have astonishing clarity.
Hands-down, these are the best-sounding headphones you can get for under $1000 — and they look as premium as they sound.
Best Gaming Headphones: SteelSeries Arctis Nova Pro Wireless
This gamer-approved headset is fully wireless and is compatible with both PlayStation and Xbox consoles, depending on which version you choose.
The active noise cancellation is the best we’ve ever tested, to the point where you won’t even hear keyboard and mouse clicks during your most intense gaming sessions.
Vocals sound balanced and the bidirectional microphone also automatically reduces background noise during those cutthroat co-op moments.
If you’re looking for an intuitive gaming headset that delivers high-quality sound and features multi-device compatibility the SteelSeries Arctis Nova Pro Wireless is it.
Best Designed Headphones: Kef Mu7 Noise Cancelling Headphones
Kef took a mighty swing at Sony, Bose, and other audio giants with their wireless over-ear headphone offering, and won big by teaming up with designer Ross Lovegrove to produce a bold, visually stunning (and sounding) pair.
The headphones have a refined quality about them, with the liquid metal-looking veneer of their aluminum casework and teardrop-shaped cups feeling elegant. The leatherette ear cups fit comfortably and perhaps a little more snugly than rival Sony’s headphones, but you’ll hear every note out of the 40mm full-range drivers with no sound leakage here. Under the hood, Kef’s Smart Active Noise Cancellation is the crowning jewel, with an algorithm that keeps track of external noise and cancels out certain frequencies based on your environment, so you won’t have to keep switching modes when you go from a noisy train to a quiet office space.
A visual knock-out, Kef’s Mu7 Headphones are a statement piece that look incredible and sound amazing.
Best DJ Headphones: V-Moda Crossfade 3 Wireless Headphones
If you ever find yourself in a DJ booth at a festival or club, chances are you’ll spot a pair of V-Moda headphones behind the deck.
The Crossfade 3 are the brand’s latest release and they’ve already become one of the most in-demand pickups for DJs and producers alike, thanks to their impeccable audio tuning, wide frequency range and durable design.
The Crossfade 3 delivers punchy bass, ultra-smooth midrange and crisp highs with the ability to further adjust the EQ and customize your settings through the V-Moda app.
Designed in Milan and engineered in Japan, the high-end audio technology is matched only by the high-end aesthetics, with a robust construction and immersive, stay-put pads.
The ability to connect both wired and wirelessly further add to the versatility of these cans, which are equally as good for listening to music as they are for creating it.
Innovation Award: Dyson Zone Headphones
Dyson’s Zone headphones were a major leap, but the British brand stuck the landing. The headphones’ main attraction is of course the contactless personal air purifier, which channels clean air into your nose and mouth when pollution is bad. But audio quality wasn’t lost in the process of adding the air purifier; quite the opposite, in fact. The Dyson Zone headphones go toe-to-toe with the other high-end noise cancelling headphones that we’ve tested, meaning you don’t have to give up great sound for great air quality.
Best Earbuds: NuraTrue Pro
Innovative, customizable, and personalized — even in the face of steep competition, the NuraTrue Pro makes sure no two listening experiences are alike.
Unlike most earbuds that have fixed EQ settings, or force you to manually adjust sound elements (like heavy bass) in a companion app, the NuraTrue Pros tailor to your unique hearing levels. After a 60-second hearing test, the in-ear buds will automatically adapt the EQ to your hearing levels, so your music sounds the best it can possibly sound for you.
These are also some of the first earbuds to offer that lossless, CD-quality sound that audiophiles seek out. With Qualcomm aptX Lossless streaming, your songs can be transmitted and reproduced just like if you were sitting right there in the recording studio (the 1.2 Mbps bit rate is higher than what the Apple AirPods Pro, or even what the Sony WF-1000XM4s can reproduce).
Along with personalized sound, the NuraTrue Pros also bring adaptive active noise cancellation, multipoint connectivity with Bluetooth 5.3, and spatial audio powered by Dirac Virtuo to the table for some of the most high-tech buds we’ve seen to date.
Best Sounding Earbuds: Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II
Bose already produced one of our editors’ favorite earbuds on the market with the first QuietComforts. To take things up a notch, the audio company launched the QuietComfort Earbuds II, a sequel that’s better than the original in every way. Bose chopped 30 percent off the size of the former model with the IIs, but you wouldn’t know it by stellar sound. The QuietComfort IIs deliver an immersive soundscape music fans will love, with bass and treble levels you can customize in the Bose app. And thanks to what the company calls “CustomTune tech,” the Bose buds fine-tune their noise cancellation and how your music sounds based on the shape of your ear canals, resulting in a truly custom, one-of-a-kind listening experience that tower over the competition.
Best Running Earbuds: Jabra Elite 5
Runners rely on a few key features when it comes to their earbuds: a secure, comfortable fit, easy control, and, of course, a great sound. Jabra’s Elite 5s lead the pack for running earbuds, delivering everything you could want when you’re on the move — whether you’re in the middle of a race or rushing to catch your flight connection. On top of their ergonomic design, we love that they come with three EarGels, or tips, so you can find the perfect fit for your ears, ensuring they won’t move around when you’re on the go. They’re equally equipped to handle the sweatiest of miles, thanks to their IP55 waterproof rating. Other features we love include their 28-hour battery life, their adjustable active noise cancellation for when you’re moving through heavy traffic, and their wind-resistant design that makes it easier to hear your music outdoors. Simply put, run — don’t walk — to buy these buds.
Best Noise-Cancelling Earbuds: 1MORE Aero True Wireless ANC Headphones
1MORE’s Aero True Wireless Earbuds top our list of the best noise-cancelling buds this year, thanks to an incredibly immersive sound-dampening experience that’s more powerful and noticable than anything else we’ve tested.
The company says it’s thanks to their proprietary “QuietMax” technology, which delivers up to 42dB of noise-canceling depth at a wider frequency range of 40Hz-4000Hz. In layman’s terms: the earbuds can block out a wider spectrum of ambiant noise, from the roar of an airplane engine to minute chatter and nature sounds.
The ANC means you’re better immersed in your music too, and 1MORE doesn’t skimp on audio technology, with real-time Spatial Audio combined with head-tracking technology to create a surround sound-style experience.
For a pair of noise-cancelling earbuds that truly delivers, add 1MORE to your cart.
Best Workout Earbuds: Sennheiser Sport True Wireless Earbuds
You don’t have to compromise on sound quality at the gym — just choose the Sennheiser Sport True Wireless Earbuds.
These earbuds have a built-in equalizer, 7mm drivers and noise cancellation features, for no interruptions while you lift weights or hit the treadmill — it’ll be just you and your beats. They’ve also got 27 hours of battery life, IP54 water resistance and a secure fit, so they won’t fall out of your ears.
There really is no better workout audi gear than the Sennheiser Sport True Wireless Earbuds, thanks to their extended battery life and durable, sweat-resistant design.
Best Earbuds for Travel: Soundcore by Anker Liberty 4
We look for three things in travel headphones: battery life, comfort, and the ability to effectively block out noise. These Liberty 4 earbuds from Soundcore nail all three. You get a total battery life of 28 hours with the included charging case, but what’s more impressive is that you get nine hours of straight listening time (almost double what you get with the Airpods Pros).
The eartips are also very comfortable, so the earbuds won’t get uncomfortable over long plane rides or work sessions. And, thanks to quality audio and noise cancellation, you’ll want to keep these in for the whole nine hours.
Best Value Earbuds: SoundPEATS Mini Pro HS Wireless Earbuds
Our pick for best value earbuds are also the best commuter earbuds too, thanks to their slim profile, hybrid Active Noise Cancellation features and whopping 28 hours of battery life (with the included charging case).
But the SoundPEATS Mini Pro HS also deliver on sound quality, with hi-res audio through a pair of well-turned 10mm drivers. Support for LDAC technology (an audio codec developed by Sony that lets you transfer three times the data over Bluetooth) results in richer, more finely-tuned sound.
Whether you’re listening to music on your commute, taking calls at work or gaming at home, SoundPEATS’ Mini Pro HS Earbuds deliver a ton of bang for your buck.
Best-Designed Earbuds: JBL Tour Pro 2
JBL’s upcoming Tour Pro 2 features more than the typical noise cancellation and extra-long battery life we’ve come to expect from the brand — these revolutionary earbuds feature a smart case that lets you control audio, take calls and manage battery life, without ever touching your phone.
There are other features too, including adaptive ambient sound and quick charging features. Plus, with the JBl headphones app, you can fully personalize your sound with customizable EQ.
With a comfortable rounded design and a smart case that can do everything from adjusting your audio to taking calls, it was incredibly easy to give the new JBL Tour Pro 2 our best design award of the year.
Best Earbuds for Sleep: QuietOn 3.1
These QuietOn earbuds are built for better sleep, but they’re really a tool for finding quiet respite anytime. Snoring, busy streets, humming fans, TVs, and any other noisy sleep inhibitors are blocked out by the earbuds’ active noise cancelling technology, which does far more than foam earplugs can. The physical design is also optimized for sleep, as the QuietOns are small enough for side sleepers and secure enough to stay in through any movement throughout the night.
Best Open Earbuds: GravaStar Sirius P5
Are these wireless earbuds or a pocket-sized mecha? You decide, thanks to Sirius P5’s nostalgic, sci-fi-inspired earbuds that impressed us even more with what’s under the hood.
The Sirius P5s comes with three interchangeable, custom cases (Defense Armor, Defense Mecha and Defense Crystal), that serve a purpose beyond their industrial design. The Lego-like and zinc alloy materials are super strong and rigid, and will protect the Sirius P5 from drops and scratches more than your average case (and look even cooler doing so).
As durable as the case is, the Sirius P5 are surprisingly lightweight, weighing in at just 5g. That’s why we love these for long gaming sessions, since they’re especially comfortable to wear for hours on end (and boy do they last, with 8 hours battery life and 40 total with the case). Speaking of gaming: the sound is tailored to your activity, with a Gaming Mode with 48ms low latency for pinpoint movements. Music Mode takes full advantage of the 12mm dynamic drivers and Qualcomm aptX high-definition to deliver powerful bass and clear, natural-sounding stereo quality.
While the unique, futuristic design might be the first thing that caught our eye, the sound is what really drew us in to the GavaStar Sirius P5s.
Most Comfortable Earbuds: Phiaton Oddict Twig Pro
With a look and feel that’s just as premium as some of the higher-end buds you’ll see out there, you won’t need to break the bank to get a luxe listening experience with Phiaton’s Oddict Twig Pro.
They’ve got a sleek, aluminum body (and a cylindrical case of the same material that’s, dare I say, sexy?) and a half in-ear shape that ensures comfort and durability. Just like their design contemporaries, the AirPod Pros, the soft silicone ear tips not only enhance sound insulation, but provide a snug fit that we never felt discomfort with during our hours of wear during testing.
Besides easily being as durable as they are comfy, they’re also packed with features, from their “Snapdragon” hi-res sound quality (using Qualcomm aptx Adaptive audio so you get CD-quality sound up to 24-bit, 96kHz resolution), to the pretty solid Hybrid ANC, which uses four mics that the brand says blocks up to 98% ambient noise.
For their price range, the Phiaton Oddict Twig Pros punch far above their weight in style and sound.
Best Portable Earbuds: JLab JBuds Mini Earbuds
Portable earbuds don’t mean anything if they’re packed inside a bulky case that sticks out of your pockets or bags, but JLab’s new JBuds Mini Earbuds are actually portable, with a coin-sized design and a case that’s no bigger than a keychain.
First introduced at CES 2023, the JBuds Mini are 30% smaller than
JLab’s GO Air POP and get more than 20 hours of playtime, making them great for commuting or travel. These are earbuds that are easy to take with you on the go, packed with features that are easy to love.
JLab says the JBuds Mini will be out this fall. In the meantime, their GO Air POP earbuds are currently on sale on Amazon.
Best Earbuds for Battery Life: SoundForm Play
These Bluetooth-enabled earbuds feature 38 hours of battery life and IPX5 water resistance, allowing you to wear them to the gym and beyond.
The 6mm dynamic drivers deliver clear, booming bass and the added benefit of quick charging means these headphones will be good to go with just 10 minutes of recharging.
When it comes to battery life, high-res sound and usability, the Soundform Play win every time
Best Speakers: Marshall Woburn III
Marshall’s amp-inspired speakers have always been eye-catching, but their re-engineered Home Line now boasts updated audio features to match.
Nowhere is that better represented that on the handsome Woburn III speaker, which features angled tweeters that bounce music around the room rather than directly at you.
A new “Placement Compensation” feature, meantime, automatically adjusts for any reflective surfaces nearby that may affect the sound, while next-generation Bluetooth technology ensures quick and easy pairing.
This being a rock and roll-inspired speaker, things can get loud… really loud. But Marshall’s sensitive tuning knobs let you adjust your sound (and settings) to precisely how you like it.
A ton of speakers come across our desk each year but when it comes to solid design and performance, the Woburn III is best in class.
Best Surround Sound System: Platin Monaco 5.1.2
If you’re building a surround sound system from the ground up, skip the leg work and pick up Platin’s new Monaco 5.1.2 system. With five powerful speakers, a rumbling subwoofer, and Dolby Atmos, the system creates an immersive space that makes movies and TV better. It’s also wireless (so you only need to plug each speaker into an outlet), and Platin has solved the issue of lag that often comes up with this type of system. Better yet, each speaker is very small, so even compact living rooms can become home theaters.
Best Soundbar: Samsung-Q990C
Samsung’s HW-Q990C Q-Series Soundbar is the latest in the game which delivers cinematic sound, thanks to its stellar surround sound system.
It’s got Dolby Atmos and SpaceFit Sound Pro, which customizes both bass and sound to your environment. There’s voice amplification too, so you’ll never miss your favorite dialogue and the whole setup can be paired with your chosen voice assistant for a hands-free experience.
The HDMI eARC connection also makes it easy to pair this soundbar with your gaming console or TV, without any connectivity issues,
If you are in need of a soundbar that delivers room-filling cinema-quality sound, the HW-Q990C is for you.
Best Designed Speaker: Devialet Mania
Parisian audio brand Devialet designs speakers that are meant to be seen and heard, with the Mania being their latest luxe crown jewel. Most audio gear looks either boring or over-complicated, but with a fascinating orb-like, crystal ball shape, you won’t find yourself wishing for any other speaker.
The Devialet Mania may look like sleek room decor, but is all business under the hood, packing in legit audiophile hi-fidelity quality and booming power into the footprint of a small handbag. The speaker uses four full-range divers and two sub-bass drivers working with real-time acoustic technology and four microphones to adapt to its surroundings. This elicits an expansive 360 stereo sound wherever you position it in any space, you don’t have to position the Devialet Mania in a particular way to find its “sweet spot.” For its size, we were especially blown away by the power in its booming bass.
There’s also no cables attached here, with Bluetooth 5.0 capabilities, and Wi-Fi, AirPlay 2 and Spotify Connect streaming capabilities (Amazon Alexa is also built in). Where most portable speakers focus on utility alone, Devialet Mania is a stunning speaker you’ll actually want to take with you anywhere.
Best Smart Speaker: Sonos Era 300 Speaker
Here it is: the planet’s best-sounding smart speaker. With the Era 300, Sonos steps into a new audio world and reimagines the connected speaker category, giving listeners immersive, spatial audio, Bluetooth connectivity, and all the controls you could want in one sleek, connected unit.
Simply say “Hey Sonos” or “Hey Alexa” to control tunes with just your voice and a virtual assistant, from the Sonos app to Amazon’s virtual assistant. Soon you’ll even be able to use the Apple Home app to control the Era 300 and your smart home using your voice and Siri too. Of course, you can also pair it with all your other Sonos gear for a home theater setup upgrade.
You can call it a smart speaker, sure, but “brilliant” might be closer to the truth if you look at what other plug-and-play speakers can do — and can’t.
With its voice-enabled tech, spatial audio-ready sound, and compact size, the Sonos Era 300 is the future of wireless audio in a smarter package.
Best HiFi Speakers: KEF R Series Speaker Collection
Whether you’re listening to an album or playing a game, KEF hits all the right notes with its latest R Series collection, the most innovative HiFi sound system for gamers, music fans, and movie lovers alike. The reason? Including seven different models — from floorstanding speakers to soundbars — the R Series features what’s called “Metamaterial Absorption Technology,” a term that’s used across the speaker line and results in less distortion, fewer vibrations, and a hell of a lot more of the natural sounds you deserve in a high-fidelity system. In short, it’s the best HiFi setup for immersive sound at home.
Best WiFi Speaker: Braun Audio LE01
If you’re looking to build the hi-fi audio system of your dreams, then Braun LE01 aims to be one Wi-Fi speaker to rule them all.
This slick, one-box smart speaker boasts a lot of detail in its warm sound and packs powerful bass, thanks to two custom-designed 5.25-inch woofers, three 2.5-inch balanced drivers, along with a 32-bit ARM digital signal processor. We love that it also features EQ audio optimisation depending on where you place it in a room, so you have a lot of freedom in where you orient the sound (although its size prohibits this a little).
Building on the previous smart speaker generations, the LE01 comes with dual band Wi-Fi streaming and Bluetooth 4.2, and is also compatible with both Apple’s AirPlay 2, Google Chromecast, and Google Assistant (not Alexa or Siri, though). Another feature we love? The minimalist design puts all the controls at the top of the unit, with white lights that blink in front to indicate volume changes. Braun proves here that less is more, and this sleek, solid-sounding smart speaker is a great choice if you want to dip your toes into the world of digital hi-fi.
Best Bookshelf Speakers: Q Acoustics Concept 30
Great bookshelf speakers should be able to provide low-key ambiance on quiet mornings, room-filling sound during house parties, and everything in between. And that’s why we love Q Acoustics’ new Concept 30 bookshelf speakers. We could go on about the speakers’ tech — much of which comes directly from the company’s more expensive 300 and 500 lines — but the end product is more important: These things sound crisp, loud, and punchy, no matter what you’re listening to. Plus, they’re clean enough to blend in with just about any decor style.
Best Eco-Friendly Speaker: House of Marley Get Together 2
Sustainability meets powerful sound in House of Marley’s Get Together 2, the coolest eco-friendly speaker you can buy.
“Sustainable” is a word that gets used a lot these days, but the brand delivers big by using natural bamboo, Rewind fabric (a mix of reclaimed organic cotton and hemp, plus recycled plastic), and Regrind silicone (upcycled post-consumer scraps) — all shipped in recyclable packaging.
An added bonus: It plays up to 20 hours per charge and features a water- and dust-resistant design, so you can enjoy your music outdoors all year long.
Best Smart Dolby Atmos Sound Bar: Polk MagniFI Max AX Sound Bar
Packing cinematic sound into any living space has never been easier with Polk’s MagniFI Max AX Sound Bar.
You’ll get the most immersive audio possible thanks to an 11-speaker array with a dedicated center channel, two up-firing speakers for height effects, and Polk’s Stereo Dimensional Array (SDA) technology that can fill entire rooms with sound.
Dolby Atmos and DTS:X sound is synonymous with a true home theater experience, and the MagniFI Max AX will really bring out the best in your TV shows, films, and music. The depth and width of sound here is insane, with digital signal processing that broadens the soundstage so you’ll feel like you’re in every scene (there’s also Polk’s VoiceAdjust, so you can more clearly hear quiet dialogue on-screen).
Wirelessly stream music through Bluetooth or WiFi from your favorite apps, including Spotify and Tidal, and if you have a Google Home speaker, you can set it up to control that music with voice commands. Overall, the MagniFI Max AX Sound Bar does Dolby Atmos sound justice.
Best Value Soundbar: Yamaha-SR-C30A
This compact soundbar comes with a subwoofer and delivers heavy bass and clear vocals on all your favorite movies and TV shows.
It’s got adaptive low volume, meaning you can continue to watch your entertainment even at the faintest volumes. Plus, it’s super compact so it will work well for your game room or even your home office.
We think the Yamaha SR-C30A is the best value soundbar currently available, thanks to its ability to deliver high-quality audio, in a relatively compact design.
Best Portable Soundbar: LG SPM2 Sound Bar
LG continues their tradition of making thoughtfully-crafted audio gear that fits perfectly into the landscape of any living space with the LG SPM2 soundbar. While you won’t be able to toss it in your bag, this compact soundbar delivers room-filling sound you can place anywhere for an immersive listening experience.
As LG themselves put it, the difference is in the details — stylish wood-tone side panels, elevated controls, and premium fabric makes the SPM2 look as good as it sounds. Plus, it only weights about 4.7 pounds, which means you can pick it up and easily position it for any TV or streaming setup.
Along with Dolby Atmos sound, it’s got a built-in subwoofer and dual passive radiators to deliver rich and consistent bass no matter what you’re watching. Even if you strain to hear quiet or muffled dialogue on screen, the SPM2 has you covered with TV Sound Mode Share, which allows the soundbar to use the TV’s processing power and AI Sound Pro to make everything you hear clearer and more consistent.
With Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity, you can create the home theater you want without the wires, or you can use optical or HDMI cables to connect to your TV setup in a matter of minutes. The LG SMP2 delivers on all fronts — style, sound, and portability.
Best Portable Bluetooth Speaker: Acer Halo Swing
The Bluetooth speaker market has been somewhat stagnant for the last few years, but Acer just gave it new life with this Halo Swing. And you’ll notice the Halo Swing’s freshness with one glance: boot it up and an LED display appears on the fabric, showing things like time, weather, notifications, and even custom messages via a companion app. It also has always-on Google Assistant voice activation, which comes in very handy while say, lounging by the pool or at the beach when your phone is tucked out of reach. Add the Halo Swing’s powerful sound and you’ve got the best portable Bluetooth speaker of the year.
The Halo Swing has yet to be made available for purchase, but, in the meantime, you can check out the Acer Halo Smart Speaker for your home.
Best Gaming Speakers: SteelSeries Arena 7
These gaming speakers pack a punch, thanks to their multi-platform compatibility and ability to deliver thumping bass.
The audio from these speakers is incredibly immersive, and the RGB color customization makes them an easy fit into any gaming room. Bluetooth connectivity also allows for a fast setup and the convenient volume dial lest you to modify most settings with ease.
The 6.5-inch subwoofer delivers balanced mids, and the tweeters in turn deliver surprisingly clear highs. If you’re in the market for a pair of well-rounded, immersive gaming speakers, the SteelSeries Arena 7 are for you.
Best Outdoor Speaker: Sonus Faber Aster
Sonus Faber’s new Aster speaker was designed to look both elegant and understated but built to deliver smooth acoustics and big bass all night long.
It’s got IP65 water resistance, meaning it can withstand both rain and dust. Plus, the position of the speaker can easily be adjusted, thanks to its tilting mechanism.
The setup is simple and to the point, and the brand says the speaker’s unique design should also eliminate distortion, even at loud volumes.
If you’re looking for an outdoor speaker that doesn’t just fit in your space, but also delivers crisp and clear audio, you’ll love the Sonus Faber.
Best Standing Speaker: Vestia N°3 Floorstanding Speakers
Focal’s stunning, stylish speakers feel as high-end in their audio quality as they are in their appearance. Vestia, their new series are designed for music and home cinema use, include four stereo speakers and a center channel.
Improving upon their Slatefiber speaker driver tech, they feature a new aluminum/magnesium “M”-shaped dome TAM tweeter, which fine-tunes the treble reproduction significantly. Of the five additions, we think the standout is the Vestia N°3, a three-way floorstanding speaker that offers balanced, bright sound and an incredibly deep soundstage.
Focal’s design expertise is on display here, with thoughtfully-crafted profiles inspired by the goddesses of the hearth and home. From a variety of gloss-y finishes, to wood tones and leather effect front panels to choose from, the Focal Vestia N°3 Floorstanding Speakers are sure to be the centerpiece of any home — not just your audio setup.
Best Karaoke Machine: Sing Cast Max
Few karaoke machines deliver on the fun and on the features quite like the Sing Cast Max. An all-in-one setup for any at-home karaoke night, the system includes a microphone, mic stand, 20+ voice effects, lighting effects, and a booming 35-watt speaker.
But where the Sing Cast Max really outperforms its competitors is on its new features, like the ability to cast karaoke videos to your TV for easy sing-along, or the ability to remove lead vocals from a track so your voice gets the shine. Want to really impress your guests? Pitch correction adjusts the mic to fine-tune your voice, while a record function lets you save a performance to the included internal memory drive.
Consider the Sing Cast Max your karaoke night upgrade.
Best Karaoke Mic: Singing Machine Move Mic
Take your karaoke night on the go with the Move Mic from Singing Machine. The portable, handheld microphone comes with 22 fun vocal effects and built-in lights that sync to your music.
The rechargeable battery, meantime, gets you up to four hours of singing time before needing to be plugged in.
Unlike other karaoke mics, which feel cheap and flimsy, the Move Mic feels as premium as it sounds, deliver clear, crisp vocals from a sleek and sophisticated package. The mic pairs easily via Bluetooth to any device and the speaker is surprisingly loud too.
Best Party Speaker: Ultimate Ears Hyperboom
The key to every successful soirée: a booming speaker that lets you play your playlist on full blast. No other unit can compete with the Ultimate Ears Hyperboom, the world’s ultimate party speaker that can produce massive sound, ground-shaking bass, and play HiFi tracks for 24 hours per charge. Multiple guests can play their tunes from the speaker at the same time using Bluetooth or the aux and optical inputs, and its adaptive EQ tech will automatically shift the way the playlist sounds depending on the room it’s in. Your friends can even spill their drinks on it — after all, it’s totally splash-proof.
Best Home Speaker: BALMUDA The Speaker
This portable speaker turned heads every time we had someone over, thanks its refined acoustic housing and lantern-like design. But audio quality is where the BALMUDA speaker really shines, with enveloping 360-degree sound that creates a concert-like experience.
The wide-ranging projection is surprisingly powerful from a portable device and we like
Want something that’ll really impress your guests? Built-in LED lights can pair to your tunes and create a musically-synced light show. A speaker that sounds as good as it looks? Now that’s something to talk about.
Best Record Player: Electrohome Montrose
It’s no secret that vinyl is here to stay: Last year alone LPs outsold CDs for the first time since the late Eighties. But if you’re just starting out, choosing the right record player setup to enjoy your growing collection can get seriously overwhelming. That’s why we love Electrohome’s new Montrose record player — the best all-in-one wireless turntable that gets the job done right out of the box. With its built-in preamp, you can quickly connect the player to your favorite pair of speakers (like the included powered McKinley bookshelf speakers) and start spinning your records in an instant. Its retro handcrafted wood exterior lends a stunning, timeless style, and it comes with a durable Audio-Technica diamond-tipped stylus, plus Bluetooth connectivity to listen to your vinyl wirelessly.
Best Wireless Record Player: Victrola Stream Onyx
Victrola has once again made it easier to enjoy vinyl in the 21st century with this Stream Onyx record player. The turntable features full Sonos integration, taking just seconds to connect to your existing sound system. You get all the high-quality components needed for crisp, balanced sound, from an Audio-Technica VM95E cartridge to die-cast aluminum platter. The Stream Onyx also looks as clean and modern as it sounds, fitting in well with Sonos’ beloved design language.
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- STRAP IN BEFORE YOU TAKE OFF