This story is a part of the GP100, our record of the 100 greatest new merchandise of the yr. Learn the introduction to the sequence right here, and keep tuned for extra lists prefer it all through the month.
We’re dwelling in a golden age of audio the place old-school analog codecs like vinyl (and even CDs) proceed to development upwards in recognition — in truth, the demand for vinyl skyrocketed through the pandemic — whereas the standard of new-age wi-fi streaming is getting higher, extra accessible and cheaper. What’s extra, many audio corporations entered new product classes, like Sonos with its first transportable Bluetooth speaker and a number of others within the now-popular realm of wi-fi earbuds. From futuristic, game-changing speaker designs to cutting-edge wi-fi streamers, these are one of the best merchandise of 2021.
Syng Cell Alpha
Drivers: 5 (three midrange-tweeters and two force-canceling woofers)
Connectivity: Apple AirPlay 2; Spotify Join; and two USB-C audio ports (for analog connections)
Weight: 12.8 kilos
Syng (pronounced “sing”) is a brand new California-based audio firm based by Chris Stringer, who had beforehand labored as Apple’s design workforce for over twenty years on every little thing from the primary iPhone to the HomePod, and Damon Manner, one of many cofounders of DC Footwear. The corporate’s nascent product is a first-of-its-kind multi-room wi-fi speaker referred to as the Cell Alpha. And sure, it appears just like the Loss of life Star.
The Cell Alpha usually works the identical as different wi-fi audio system. It plugs into the wall, has a companion app and helps AirPlay 2 and Spotify Join. It is totally different, nevertheless, due to its design and its sound. It is a 360-degree speaker with three beam-forming drivers positioned evenly round its equator, that are chargeable for the midrange and highs. The there are two force-canceling woofers on the highest and backside of the speaker for the distortion-free bass (which is fairly darn spectacular even at low volumes).
The speaker performs “triphonic” sound, an immersive spatial sound expertise invented by Syng to explain the impact brought on by Cell Alpha’s three midrange-tweeter drivers. With the assistance of superior digital sign processing (DSP) and help for immersive audio codecs, the Cell Alpha is ready to ship room-filling sound whereas additionally giving the phantasm that sure sounds (devices or vocals) are coming from particular areas of the room.
For one of the best illustration of this triphonic sound, Syng suggests getting three Cell Alpha audio system in a room. (Sure, it is an costly proposition.) Collectively they’re in a position to create an immersive expertise full with digital top channels that is much like a 7.1 encompass sound system. Not solely that, however you need to use the app to govern the sound in order that particular sounds come from totally different areas inside that bubble. It is actually the subsequent evolution of multi-room audio.
Bluesound Node (2021)
DAC (built-in): Texas Devices PCM 5242
Excessive-Decision Streaming: As much as 24-bit/192kHz and MQA tracks
Good Connectivity: Works with Alexa, Google Assistant and Siri
The latest Node is a third-generation multi-room wi-fi streamer that is designed for budding audiophiles. Like its predecessor, the Node 2i, the brand new mannequin connects to your hi-fi system — by way of an amplifier and passive loudspeakers or on to a powered speaker system — and provides a large number of analog and wi-fi connections. That mentioned, Bluesound made the brand new Node vastly higher. It gave it a quicker processor and a much-improved DAC so you possibly can stream a lot higher-resolution audio (as much as 32-bit/384kHz). It has an HDMI eARC enter to hook to your TV and residential theater system. And, coolest of all, it is new proximity sensor makes it gentle up each time your hand will get close to — so you’re feeling like a wizard.
Drivers: 5 (two 5.25-inch woofers; one 1-inch tweeter; one 4-inch midrange)
Energy: 350 watts
Wi-fi Streaming: Chromecast; AirPlay 2; Bluetooth
The JBL L75ms is an all-in-one speaker system that is modeled after the corporate’s iconic L100 loudspeakers from the 70s — identical wood veneer and putting Quadrex foam grille out there in black, blue or orange — and it is a stunner. It provides off classic vibes and performs hi-fi sound, plus it has all the fashionable conveniences (like Wi-Fi and Bluetooth streaming) that you simply’d need in a contemporary speaker. You’ll be able to even use it as a soundbar (by way of HDMI ARC) or join it to a turntable because of its built-in phono preamp. It is the overall bundle.
Nothing Ear (1)
Battery: 5 hours per earbud, 34 hours complete w/ case
Options: Wi-fi charging; energetic noise-cancellation
The Ear (1) are wi-fi earbuds that seem like nothing else on the market. The results of a collaboration between Nothing, a brand new audio firm began by one of many co-founders of OnePlus, and Teenage Engineering, an audio firm greatest recognized for its funky designs and hip synthesizers, they’ve a novel clear design — so you possibly can see the circuitry, magnets and different inner-workings of every earbud. Additionally they have premium options like wi-fi charging and energetic noise-cancellation. The kicker? You’ll be able to snag a pair for lower than $100.
Professional-Ject Debut Professional
Drive Kind: Belt-drive
Cartridge: Professional-Ject Decide It Professional
Weight: 13.22 kilos
You probably learn about Professional-Ject. The Austrian audio firm is without doubt one of the premium gamers in inexpensive hi-fi, and so they make all types of parts, from amps to audio system, but it surely’s greatest recognized for its turntables. Its latest turntable, the Debut Professional, is the highest-end mannequin within the firm’s best-selling line of Debut turntables. It is gorgeous to take a look at, clearly, but it surely additionally has some key upgrades — redesigned tonearm, Sumiko Rainier cartridge, heavy aluminum platter — to additional get rid of resonance and guarantee it sounds spectacular. You are not going to discover a higher turntable for lower than a grand.
Apple Music (Lossless + Spatial Audio)
Default Audio High quality: 256 kbp/s
Max Audio High quality: As much as 24-bit/192 kHz
Immersive Applied sciences: Help for Dolby Atmos and Spatial Audio
Apple Music is not new. In reality, together with Spotify, it is the preferred music streaming service on the planet, with hundreds of thousands and hundreds of thousands of subscribers. However Apple flipped the music streaming business on its head this yr by giving Apple Music two actually vital issues in order that it feels, nicely, “new.”
First, it introduced lossless streaming tracks — that are roughly 4 instances the audio high quality of the common MP3 file — to Apple Music at no additional price to subscribers. This meant that, in a single day, not solely did Apple Music change into the preferred lossless streaming service, it additionally turned probably the most inexpensive lossless service, because it lower the month-to-month price of some legacy providers (like Tidal) by half.
Secondly, it launched tracks that help Dolby Atmos and Apple’s new immersive expertise, spatial audio. The mixture of the 2 trick your ears into pondering that sound is coming from throughout you — left, proper and above — such as you’re at a live performance. Moreover, should you’re listening on Apple’s AirPods Professional, AirPods Max or AirPods (Gen 3), the audio will modify as you flip your head because of spatial audio with dynamic head monitoring, for an extra feeling of immersion.
And once more, all these new options come at no additional price. So should you’re an Apple Music subscriber (otherwise you wish to be), you type of hit the jackpot.
Immersive Applied sciences: Help for 360 spatial sound mapping; Dolby Atmos; DTS:X
Streaming: Bluetooth, Chromecast built-in,;Spotify Join; Apple AirPlay 2
Good House Compatibility: Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa
In case you’re shopping for a house theater system, you have mainly bought two choices. You should buy a soundbar, which is the straightforward possibility because it’s primarily a plug-and-play system (and because of a brand new breed of sensible soundbars, just like the Sonos Arc, you possibly can flip it right into a encompass sound system with the addition of wi-fi satellite tv for pc audio system and a wi-fi subwoofer). Or you possibly can go the normal route of shopping for an AV receiver and a speaker system, which is extra work (and normally extra dough) however means that you can create a bigger and extra immersive system. Then there’s the Sony HT-A9.
However there is a new type of encompass sound system that is as straightforward to arrange as a soundbar, but delivers the true immersive expertise of a bigger encompass sound system. It consists of 4 wi-fi audio system that you simply place round your room (and work as your front-right, front-left, rear-right and rear-left channels) and a management field that plugs instantly into your TV. The 4 wi-fi audio system are all similar, consisting of a tweeter-and-woofer combo, rear bass port and an up-firing driver, the latter of which is required to create digital top channels for a real Dolby Atmos expertise.
Along with being straightforward, the Sony HT-A9 can also be sensible: After inserting the wi-fi audio system across the room, they will then auto-calibrate themselves in order that the system sounds greatest. It additionally makes use of 360 spatial sound mapping expertise to create a digital heart channel (as a result of there is not any soundbar or conventional heart channel speaker) so that you needn’t fear about not listening to dialogue. And if you would like extra bass, you may also add an optionally available subwoofer down the highway.
Streaming: Wi-Fi and Bluetooth
Good Assistant: Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant
Battery: As much as 10 hours
The Roam is the primary ultra-portable speaker by Sonos — and it is tremendous versatile. It might hook up with Wi-Fi in order that it really works similar to every other Sonos multi-room speaker, and you’ll even summon music along with your voice (by way of Alexa or Google Assistant) similar to Sonos One. It might additionally hook up with Bluetooth, that means you possibly can take the Roam outdoors your house — prefer to the seashore or to the park — and use it like every other transportable Bluetooth speaker.
Let’s be clear: the Roam is not the primary transportable speaker that may hook up with each Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. However it’s the first one made by Sonos, some of the well-liked speaker corporations on the earth. It is also priced competitively with different transportable audio system that may’t hook up with Wi-Fi and do not have the identical trendy options (like wi-fi charging).
Basically, if you have already got Sonos audio system in your house (hundreds of thousands of individuals do) and also you’re searching for a transportable speaker to take to the golf course and even simply observe you across the residence from room to room, there’s just one nice possibility: Roam.
Battery: As much as 8 hours per earbud (with ANC on)
Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.2
Max Audio High quality: As much as 990 kbp/s (with LDAC)
When Sony launched the WF-1000XM3 in 2019, they had been far-and-away one of the best wi-fi earbuds when it comes to sound high quality and energetic noise-cancellation. However previously two-plus years the competitors has gotten fierce (most noticeably due to Apple’s AirPods Professional) and it was Sony’s job to do the catching up. And it very a lot did with the Sony WF-1000XM4.
The Sony WF-1000XM4 aren’t only a newer and higher model of their predecessors — they’re fully redesigned. Sony made them smaller — the earbuds by 10% and the charging case by 40% — and gave every earbud a completely totally different, extra bulbous form. They gave them a brand new processor, a brand new microphone system and new 6mm drivers, the mix of which has drastically improved the energetic noise-cancellation and transparency capabilities, in addition to the audio and name high quality. And Sony introduced over options reminiscent of wi-fi charging and superior contact controls in order that they really feel like the long run. As for worth? Yea, the Sony WF-1000XM4 are costly. However they’re often discounted so you possibly can usually choose up a pair for manner lower than Bose’s or Apple’s options.
Driver: Planar magnetic (90mm)
Frequency Response: 5-50k Hz
Impedance: 14 Ohms
The Californian audio firm Audeze is well-known within the hi-fi group for its planar magnetic headphones, which use planar magnetic drivers (versus dynamic drivers, that are present in most mainstream headphones) to realize high-fidelity audio with very low distortion. This yr noticed the discharge of a brand new flagship pair of cans, the LCD-5 — and so they’re simply unbelievable.
The corporate’s earlier flagship product, the LCD-4, had been no slouches (as they had been praised by quite a few hi-fi blogs and publications as among the best-sounding headphones you could possibly purchase), however they had been a number of years outdated and the brand new LCD-5 are miles higher in nearly each manner. An important factor is that Audeze gave them newly redesigned drivers that, along with delivering unparalleled accuracy and sound high quality, are additionally surprisingly straightforward to drive (though you are still going to need a good amp to pair with these dangerous boys).
The brand new cans additionally function sloped leather-based earpads that truly improved the midrange. The headscarf is now manufactured from carbon fiber, which makes them considerably lighter and extra snug to put on. And there is even a brand new “high-purity” copper cable to make sure you’re getting the cleanest potential sign.