The Best Audio Equipment of 2019
With the advent of new technologies such as smart assistants, Wi-Fi speakers and more advanced Bluetooth headsets, the audio landscape has gotten much more interesting in recent years.
It seems everyone is looking to jump into the space, offering an exciting and diverse series of products all looking to snag your holiday dollars. From Sonos, to Amazon, there are countless devices that look to play your music while at home, or even on the go. With so many options, it’s challenging to decide which devices are the right ones to suit your needs.
This is where CGM comes into the picture. We have taken the time to sort through all the products currently on the market and find the best and most powerful ones to suit your audio listening needs. As always, CGMagazine only endorses products we have tested, so there always can be a piece of gear that while amazing, has not made it into our office for review.
The Sonos Move carries forward years of technology and refinement and packages it into a relatively convenient, easy to understand device. The addition of a 10-hour battery, Bluetooth, and easy charging makes the Move one of the most exciting and most versatile devices Sonos has released in a long while.
Sonos has spent years developing the Move, and from the sound quality to the design, this effort and attention to detail is seen throughout the device. It sounds good and can take the punishment needed to be a speaker on the go. From drops of rain to general wear and tear, the Sonos Move is built to last.
Sonos set out to make the ideal Wi-Fi portable speaker, and they succeeded with the Move. This is a testament to the quality and time Sonos spends on their products, building devices that both last and sound great. While not for everyone, if you are already a part of the Sonos ecosystem and are in the market for a new speaker, look no further than the Sonos Move.
You can purchase the Sonos Move for $499.99 at Bestbuy or directly from Sonos.
With the Echo Studio, Amazon is finally admitting “good enough” no longer cuts it within smart speakers. Amazon was one of the first on the smart speaker scene with the original Amazon Echo. Now, years and countless Echo based products later, Amazon is finally offering an option that competes against the likes of Sonos or the higher end range of Google and Apple smart speaker entries. While it is a more costly option, the Echo Studio offers tremendous value for the price, ushering in a truly fantastic sounding speaker, that also happens to be equipped with Alexa.
Sitting at the top of the Echo Studio is a 55mm mid-range speaker, that utilizes the cut-out to maximize bass output while playing heavier songs. There are three 55mm mid-range speakers in the Echo Studio, one faces up, while the other two act as left and right. To push the audio forward, Amazon has a single 25mm tweeter. If that were not enough, the Echo Studio also features a 133mm downward-facing woofer to ensure all the songs have the impact the original creators intended.
Amazon has done a fantastic job building a high end for its echo line, and the Studio stands as one of the best speakers you can get for sub $300 CAD. While I hope Amazon improves on the inputs if they iterate on the Studio next year, as it stands now, the Echo Studio is a great value and an all-around fantastic sounding speaker.
You can buy the Echo Studio from Amazon for $259.99.
Lucid Sound LS41 Headset
Times have changed since then as headsets have entered the luxury sphere, with pricier entry points and more features cropping up on the regular. Enter Lucid Sound, an emerging headset maker whose goal is to fit right into this luxury sphere. While they haven’t been around for very long, their new LS41 flagship headset is a triumph that very much puts them on the map with crisp sound quality, comfortable design, and intuitive features.
The LS41s sport 7.1 DTS Headphone:X Surround Sound that manages to bring an impressive layer of immersion to gaming. While playing, I regularly noticed sound cues that I don’t normally hear on my standard headset. As a result, I felt even more immersed in the world of the game, and it made for a truly cinematic sound experience.
The LS41s are rather pricey, clocking in at $200.00 USD, and are no doubt out of many gamers’ peripheral budgets. That being said, if you do have the money and are interested in a great wireless headset that packs impressive sound quality and comfort then the LS41s are a great choice.
You can buy the Lucid Sound LS41 from Amazon for $259.99.
Sonos Ikea Symfonisk
When you think of high-end wifi audio, you don’t tend to think of Ikea, yet in a recent partnership with Sonos, they are looking to change that. The Symfonisk is a result of that partnership, a simple, yet exciting bookshelf speaker that sounds good, and brings with it all the power of Sonos, only a bit cheaper, and with that special Ikea style.
At first glance, it may be hard to imagine this speaker holds the power of Sonos behind it. It looks very Ikea, with simple lines, and all fabric covering. But once you plug it in, and set it up, things change. The IKEA Symfonisk sounds fantastic — far better than the $149.00 CAD pricetag would suggest it should. It would be hard to compare it to the Sonos One, although for most people it has a similar sound profile. It is powerful and elegant in design, making it an ideal addition, especially if you want to avoid the tech, smart home house look.
Sound-wise, the IKEA Symfonisk has a bold, full-bodied sound that will more than fill most rooms. And while the balance may be a bit heavy on the treble, overall, the IKEA Symfonisk sounds good and strikes a good balance for most audio setups, especially with some basic tweaking to the EQ.
For the price, the IKEA Symfonisk makes a fantastic addition to the Sonos family of products. It looks good, sounds fantastic, and will fit into most living spaces with ease. While it may not have the sound profile of some of the higher-end Sonos range, it more than makes up for that in price and style. It is a great speaker and a great gift for anyone looking to jump into wifi audio this holiday.
You can purchase the IKEA Symfonisk at Ikea starting at $149.00 CAD.
Astro A50 Headset + Base Station
For those unfamiliar, the Astro A50 are a pair of premium $399.99 CAD headphones that are equipped with a flip-down microphone and a base charging station. There are two models: PlayStation 4/PC and Xbox One/PC, with a switch on the headphones themselves that determines which of the available two the headset will interface with. Built by ASTRO Gaming, these are meant to be top-quality gaming headphones.
The charging station serves as the A50’s anchor and link to your device of choice. It can smoothly hook up to a PC with a USB cable, and can be attached to either a PlayStation 4 or Xbox One (we are reviewing the PS4 model) with a slightly more involved, but well explained and quick setup process using an optical cable. The base must be plugged into a device, otherwise the headphones will not work. You have to commit to a location.
The Astro A50 headphones are a perfect fit for gaming. These headphones have good sound, a convenient wireless design, and a comfortable fit you can wear for long gaming sessions without any fatigue. They have a clear and reliable microphone, a good battery life with power saving features (annoying as they are), and an excellent sound for both gaming and listening to music. For gaming, and for stationary activities like watching shows or movies, these headphones are worth their asking price.
You can by the Astro A50 at Bestbuy or Amazon for $299.99 CAD.
Creative Outlier Air
Ever since the 3.5mm headphone jack became a rare commodity, the race to build the best possible Bluetooth headset has been on. Everyone from Razer, Samsung to Apple have thrown their hat into the ring, offering a wide range of options, all with advantages and disadvantages. Now Creative Labs, the company behind some of the best sound cards of the ’90s is stepping in, with their new Outlier Air. This small sport wireless headset promises sweat-resistance, in-ear controls, and hours’ worth of battery while on the go, all for $69.99 USD. While not the best available, for the price, the Outlier Air is hard to resist.
Built for consumers looking to be free of wires, the Outlier Air offers an easy design and concept. They manage a fantastic battery, in headphones and with the case, meaning you will have little to worry about while on the go or working out. The IPX5 certification means sweat, minor water spillage, or even the sporadic downpour should be no issue, at least were the headphones are concerned.
While the Outlier Air may not be the best headphones on the market, they offer an amazing value for money proposition. The Outlier Air are comfortable, affordable and is packed with features that should satisfy even the most discerning buyers. While they don’t have the polish or isolation seen in other brands, for the cost, the Outlier Air is a must-buy for anyone looking to go wireless.
You can buy the Creative Outlier Air on Creative for 74.99 USD.
Jaybird Tarah Pro Bluetooth Headphones
The Jaybird Tarah Pro are headphones built for the runners, athletes and fitness nuts out there. They are solidly built, corded headphones that feel good and sound great. While not true wireless headphones, for the people these headphones are built for, that is a bonus there is little chance of dropping and losing a headphone while on the go.
The Jaybird Tarah Pro are a good balance between utility and craftsmanship. They feel comfortable when worn and look good up close. There was clearly a lot of time and effort to build a Bluetooth headset that can withstand an active lifestyle and still look stylish while doing so. They fit comfortably even when using them over long periods or while working out or being active.
The Jaybird Tarah Pro charge quickly, are easy to get setup, and most importantly, sound great. Often sport headphones put so much attention into making them rugged or able to withstand water that audio is an afterthought. Thankfully, that’s not the case here. Audio feels natural, allowing the music or spoken audio to shine even though Bluetooth audio compression. From electronic, vocal, to instrumental, everything sounded good, with no aspect of the audio greatly overpowering a piece of music.
The Jaybird Tarah Pro are not the highest end bluetooth headphones you can buy, but they are some of the most well rounded, most well equipped sports headphones we have ever tested. They sound good, are comfortable to use, and are just plain nice to look at. If you are looking to a gift for the indoor or outdoor athlete in your life, look no further than The Jaybird Tarah Pro. They will make any fitness enthusiasts very happy.
You can buy the Jaybird Tarah Pro for $199.99 at Bestbuy or Amazon
Amazon Echo Dot with Clock
In a modern world where we are constantly surrounded by smart speakers and devices, the concept to use that power to ask the time seems silly. According to Amazon, one of the most asked questions of Alexa is the time, so it makes sense that at least one of their devices would come with a clock built-in. Enter the Amazon Echo Dot with Clock, a simple addition to an already great device that somehow makes it infinitely more useful to people.
This new $59.99 USD smart speaker, places an LED digital clock in front of the already fantastic design of the Echo Dot. It seems like a no brainer for the little device, and it works wonderfully. With this new addition of a digital display, the Amazon Echo Dot with Clock also has a few other tricks under its sleeve to use this new readout.
Ultimately, Amazon has added a great new feature to an already great device. Do I feel it is a game-changer for the echo range of products? No, but what it does do is give a quality of life improvement that was much needed. If you are looking to pick up a gift, or want to enter the world of smart speakers, the Amazon Echo Dot with Clock is a great starting point. It is simple, inexpensive, and a great addition to the range and a must-buy for anyone looking for an inexpensive smart speaker.
You can buy the Amazon Echo Dot with Clock from Amazon for $59.99.
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