Having your favourite music wherever you go certainly makes life more enjoyable. With so many Cloud Music Services available now (iTunes Match, Rhapsody, Spotify, etc), it’s very easy to get what you want anytime and anywhere. The problem comes when you want to listen to it out loud, in the room and with other people.
Here’s a round-up of some of the best Mobile Audio Equipment & Portable Speakers that we’ve come across:
1) X-Mini II
Of all of the portable, powered speakers, this one is our favourite. Sound quality is really good and it’s extremely small. And, the price is right! You get true stereophonic sound, so long as you sit within a comfortable distance. If you use the Mono X-Mini’s, you can daisy-chain them together to create extremely loud and powerful bass (but no stereo). The battery is rechargeable (via a special USB cable) and they last up to 6-8 hours depending upon use.
2) HeadRoom’s Total BitHead Portable Headphone Amplifier
If you are an audiophile who doesn’t want to sacrifice quality while on the road – or, if your headphones just lack oomph – you will be interested in the Total BitHead headphone amplifier. It contains a DAC that can connect to your laptop via USB and, therefore, bypass your computer’s audio circuitry (which is generally inferior). It’s battery powered (AA’s… not rechargeable) and has wonderful sonic clarity.
3) SRS iWow 3D Adaptor
This iOS adapter connects to your iPad/iPhone and offers you 3D surround sound through your headphones. It’s a great way to watch movies that have surround sound FX. Okay, so it’s not taking the actual multi-channel audio data to do this but it creates a similar effect. The result is that movie audio sounds much more natural, less compressed and more immersive.
4) Damson BT5 Bluetooth Surface Mounting Speaker
We haven’t yet listened to one ourselves but this surface mounting speaker appears to be one of the best on the market. We have tried the VIBE, which we liked for the most part (especially its size) but it had some quirks – click here to see the Vibe in action.
If you want something LOUDER and more solid-state, take a look at the MiniRig Portable Speaker.
5) Bowers & Wilkins mm-1 Desktop Speakers
Here’s another one for audiophiles. If you don’t care about newfangled Bluetooth, portability or any of those other bells and whistles but want honest-to-God good audio, check out the Bowers & Wilkins mm-1. For years, these guys have been making top-notch speaker equipment and they have not compromised on these, either, just because they are small. Beware – they are expensive – but, then again, sonic nirvana comes at a price.
6) iHome iD9 iPad Dock
If you just want a simple powered speaker to plug your iPad into, take a look at the iHome iD9. It’s straightforward, doesn’t take up a lot of space and is competitively priced.
7) Audyssey Audio Dock Air
If you love your iOS devices and can’t wait to use Airplay to connect to a pair of portable wireless speakers – then here are your speakers.
If you aren’t fussed about the wireless part but want a small pair of bookshelf, powered-speakers then check out the Audyssey speakers with optical input.
8) Shure In-Ear Sound Isolating Earphones
We are huge fans of the Shure series of sound isolating earphones. We’ve been using the SE425, SE530, and SE535 for several years now and never tire of them. Sonic quality is outstanding. They are incredibly portable. Yes, they are slightly expensive but the quality is worth the price.
What’s the difference between Noise Cancelling and Sound Isolating, you may ask? Noise cancelling headphones require power to operate. Generally, these are the rechargeable kind, which means that you must have them juiced to go whenever you need them and they may run out of juice on you during a long transatlantic flight. They are bulky and fiddly. Not so with the sound isolating in-ear phones. You simply shove them in your ear and go. Frankly, if you fit them properly, they will block out just as much sound as the noise cancelling kind without requiring battery power or all the extra gubbins.
Or, if you’re on a budget, check out our sound-isolating earphones for under $150.