Since Édouard-Léon Scott de Martinville recorded an almost incomprehensible version of the French song “Au Clair de la Lune” in the mid-19th century, it has become clear that the technology you use to produce and listen to sounds can affect your experience. . Even now, about 150 years later, the quality of your equipment can mean the difference between tin, almost unrecognizable noise or a fully conscious auditory experience.
As you can imagine, the people here at On the edge they spend a lot of time listening to a variety of digital sounds – whether it̵
Plantronics Explorer 500 Bluetooth headset
About six years ago, I reviewed a mid-range Bluetooth headset from Plantronics (now Poly) called the Explorer 500. These were small, well-built one-ear headphones and came with a short USB cable with ends that magnetically clicked into a loop. At the time, I thought it was a pretty good technology, so I bought one – and I’m still using it. Of course, it’s not great for music (it ultimately uses only one ear), but it’s incredibly convenient to loop it in your bag so I can pick it up for a quick phone call or if I want to listen to a podcast. And surprisingly, the battery still supports a reasonable charge. One of these days I’ll have to invest in a completely wireless headset to be able to have fully mobile music – but until then, my Explorer 500 serves me well. – Barbara Krasnoff, review editor
USB DAC AudioQuest Dragonfly
AudioQuest Dragonfly’s Portable Digital-to-Analog Converter (DAC) delivers higher quality audio to your devices. Most laptops, tablets, and smartphones don’t have great DACs or don’t initially support high-resolution files like FLAC (or tell you when they don’t), but with Dragonfly you’ll be able to listen to uncompressed audio up to 24 bits / 96kHz. The device also has an LED light that changes colors to indicate which sampling rate is currently supported. AudioQuest makes three separate models: the basic Dragonfly Black; Dragonfly Red, which uses a DAC chip with higher performance; and Dragonfly Cobalt, its top-of-the-line model.
To take full advantage of Dragonfly, you’ll also need an adapter for your phone with a Lightning-to-USB-A adapter for iPhone or a USB-C-to-USB-A adapter for an Android device. Portability is the biggest feature here – the switch between my phone and laptop is the reason I recommend this to anyone who wants a gadget that will allow you to listen to high definition audio on any device. – Andrew Marino, audio engineer
Audio-Technica ATH-M50 headphones
Okay, yes, I’m aware that these are almost the favorite pairs of cable headphones on the Internet. But seriously: I’ve had mine for six years now and they’re doing great. Of course, the headband plaid started to flake off and I had to change the ear cups a while back, but they sound just as good as the day I got them. I find that the music just sounds fun with them – it’s not too analytical, as my DT-770 pros can sometimes be. Audio-Technicas are certainly not reference headphones, but this is probably not what most people are actually looking for.
They were also at a great price, especially compared to their Bluetooth counterparts. And honestly, I fall in love with wireless headphones for something other than training, although that’s probably a problem for me, not them. Anyway, the newer version, the ATH-M50x (ATH-M50 discontinued), has a replaceable cable, so you don’t have to worry about being stuck with the ridiculously long cables that sometimes come with fancy headphones. (Another version, the ATH-M50xBT, features the cable entirely.) “Mitchell Clark, news writer.”
USB microphone Antlion Audio ModMic
Everyone seems to be getting big stand-alone microphones for their desks during a pandemic, but I don’t want to give up precious real estate. A solution that works better for my needs is the ModMic USB microphone from Antlion Audio. It is cleverly designed. First, stick a small round base (the size of a large chocolate chip) on the side of your headphones, after which the microphone itself can be attached and separated as desired. I like being able to quickly turn my headphones into gaming headphones or prepare for an appointment, then return to regular headphones by unplugging the microphone. I use one of my Beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro open back headphones and it helps me get more out of the kit I already have.
This particular microphone has two modes that you can switch between: one-way (made for broadcasts) or one-way, which helps you capture only your voice if you’re in a noisy environment. The sound quality of the voice recording made with ModMic is very good – far better than most gaming headphones I’ve tried. The microphone is compatible with Windows, macOS, Linux, PS4 and PS5.
The downside is that this model costs about $ 70. Also, if your headphones are wired, inserting the wire of this microphone into the battle may become a little difficult to control. For me, the price is worth the effort. Antlion also makes a fully cordless cordless microphone for $ 120 if you want to go that route, which also has dual microphone modes and can stick to your headphones with glue. “Cameron Faulkner, writer.”
I love my AirPods and have from my first pair. They’re lightweight, load quickly in their case, and sound good enough for what I need, which is mostly listening to notifications, listening to podcasts, and watching videos on YouTube. It helps that I am an iPhone and Mac user, as they work very well with both devices.
I think I like the original AirPods more than the pros. Although the professionals offer some welcome improvements such as active noise cancellation and water and sweat resistance, they just don’t fit my ears. The original AirPods never dropped, but the AirPods Pro will slowly slip away if I talk or eat, and sometimes when I run. This means that I constantly readjust them if I do anything but sit still. (To be honest, I’ve been sitting still for a long time right now.)
Here I hope that the next version of the pros will fit my ears a little better. If they do, they will probably become one of my favorite Apple products someday. “Jay Peters, a news writer.”
Rode RodeCaster Pro podcast production
This four-microphone audio interface from Rode makes it much easier to create a complete podcasting session with a design that mimics a live mix board. You can record multitracks on your computer or internally on a microSD using a USB-C connection.
As someone who mixes mostly podcasts once they’ve been recorded, this setting is more appealing to me for live streaming on Twitch or YouTube. You also get built-in customizable sound banks, compression and EQ settings, multiple monitoring outputs and an intuitive design for traditional live mixing.
Fun tip: this is also a great way to record phone call interviews by pairing the RodeCaster Pro with your smartphone via Bluetooth. “Andrew Marino.”
HyperX QuadCast microphone
I’ve been trying to upgrade my mic for a long time, but I wasn’t sure which product to use. Several friends recommended HyperX QuadCast and I eventually bought it.
I used a Blue Yeti microphone before, but I felt that the sound quality was unsatisfactory in my area. I wanted to make sure I was buying a microphone that wasn’t too cheap and not too expensive, and most importantly, I had a nice long cable so I didn’t have to rearrange my desk. Compared to the Blue Yeti, I found the HyperX QuadCast to be very clear and took the fine details from my audio output.
I’m really happy with the slightly unusual design of QuadCast; it comes with direct controls, a stand and an impact mount for the boom arms if you want to mount the microphone closer to you. I also find it convenient that the mute button is at the top of the microphone. Makes it easy to quickly mute yourself while using Zoom or Discord. “Taylor Lyles, writer.”
Sonos Five speaker
I’ve never found a smart speaker that sounds better and I like that there are no microphones inside. These are the main points that make me have Sonos Play: 5 – recently updated as Sonos Five – on my desk for several years. For a speaker that doesn’t have a 360-degree design, the five still produces a very satisfying sound stage that can fill most rooms. It can fire enough bass without exceeding the high and medium values of your music. It takes two from most other smart speakers paired together to get closer to what the Sonos Five can deliver. (Of course, it would have sounded damn good for $ 500.)
Almost every audio app under the sun is supported through the Sonos app, including hi-fi options like Tidal and Amazon Music HD. Sonos Five works with Apple AirPlay and has a 3.5 mm aux input for cable playback. (You can also use this to hook up a turntable to your Sonos system.)
No, a voice assistant such as Alexa or Google Assistant is not included here. But some people will appreciate the lack of ever-listening microphones. And adding an assistant to the mix after the fact is easy, either through another Sonos speaker like One, or simply by connecting an Echo Dot or Nest Mini.
It is a pity that white and black combined Play: 5 colorway is no longer available; I think it was the best looking speaker ever made by Sonos. “Chris Welch, news editor.”