Sennheiser CX 7.00 BT
We fell in love with these little beauties' posher predecessor, and this is definitely evolution rather than revolution, which can only be a good thing. They neckband is plastic, not leather, but it's still more comfortable than the majority of neck earbuds of this time. The earbuds fit snugly and the sound quality remains as high as you'd expect from Sennheiser. There's a soft, rather than a hard case this time, which is swings and roundabouts - it fits in your bag more easily, but equally, it could get squished more easily, however the build quality is such that it almost certainly won't.
With 10 hours running time of a single charge, aptX compatibility, NFC and in-line controls, neckband headphones are a great balance, especially for the gym bunny, and these are amongst the best.
A strong contender for best earbuds on this list, the Jaybird actually just edged out the equally lovely Freedom 2 model. Both come with an absolutely thumping bass, but unlike, say, Beats, it doesn't come at the expense of the rest of the sound spectrum. The already excellent battery life can be added to with a clip on adapter that adds an extra 3-4 hours and in terms of fit, there's a huge choice of earbuds, including memory foam, and clips to hold them snuggly in place.
Add in an app to adjust the sound to suit you, a great colour palette of options to choose from and voice guidance (which can be switched off), and most importantly smooth as silk playback with no jumping or cutting out, these are an absolute star buy.
VAVA Voom 23
One of a number of tiny speakers that produce an impressive sound. This one is rugged as anything, and managed to survive being dropped onto concrete without a scratch, or a gap in playback.
Most of the specs are as you'd expect - bluetooth 4.1 or an optional 3.5mm jack, battery life is impressive - Vava claims it'll last all day playing back at 80 per cent volume, but the real clincher is that its IPX6 rated - that means you can drop it in the sea and it probably won't even stop playing.
It's quite hard to review wireless earbuds because they are all much of a muchness. The key thing is if they manage not to cut out when your phone is in your pocket, which these don't. They are magnetic (so they clip together around your neck when you're not using them), they're IPV5 (splashproof) but perhaps amazingly at this price is they're Bluetooth 4.1 with aptX codec - that's a significant addition to a budget model, and as such definitely worth a second look as a sporty stocking filler.
And now for something completely different. Nuraphones are not just another pair of high-end headphones. These are your headphones. Literally. When you turn them on and install the app, the Nuraphones will bounce some sounds around your ear canal and actually map the inside of your ear. In other words, they learn how you hear. With a team including doctors in audiology, what you end up with is a pair of headphones uniquely matched to your ears.
The rather strange arrangement of an earbud inside an over-ear also means that noise isolation, both ways, is incredible, and once you're used to it they're really comfy too.
As each Nuraphone set can store multiple profiles, the real difference comes when you try listening with someone else's profile and realise that what you hear, and what they hear are completely different - Nuraphones level the playing field. And don't worry about faffing about setting them to your profile - they'll recognise you when you put them on. Yeah. Really.
Google Pixel Earbuds
We're probably not going to tell you much about the Pixel Earbuds that you haven't heard before. They sound like a great idea. Earbuds which have Google Assistant capabilities that allow instant translation. Awesome. Not really. The charging box is like an egg box that should be chucked in the bin, the earbuds are uncomfortable and don't fit very well and the Assistant capabilities are so limited that after 10 minutes of trying and failing to do something useful with it, we gave up and switched back to our Amps Air. We've included them on this list as a "control" against all the other items you could buy for the same money or less. They're not even "bad" per se. Just not as good as they should have been.
Kitsound Voice One Smart Speaker
We love Kitsound. OK, sure they're not exactly high-end audio but they make good, solid products with good quality sound for reasonable prices. The Voice One is their first Alexa enabled device and we'd certainly be happy to find one in our stocking. Covered in fabric over a well built plastic shell, it boasts Bluetooth, wifi (of course) a 3.5mm Aux and a 2.1A USB port - in other words, it's a pretty complete package. A bit fiddly to set up, but once it's done, it makes a great second-room device, and is certainly more impressive sound-wise than an Echo.
It can be linked with up to seven other speakers for multiroom independently from the Alexa function, using Shareplay which means it will work with devices from Orbitsound and iLuv amongst others. It looks good, it sounds good. What more can you ask/
Buy direct from Kitsound for £129.99 but keep your eye out - we've seen aggressive discounts.
Aukey SK-31 Mini Speaker
The audio equivalent of Little Voice - how so much good quality sound can come from such a tiny speaker defies all logic. It's got Bluetooth 4.2. It's got an FM radio. It's got a hands-free kit for call management, and it's even got a slot for and SD card.
5 watts doesn't sound like a lot but it manages to cover a lot of range - not at all tinny (which is what we would have expected) and it'll happily play for 10 hours on a single charge.
Perhaps most important of all, it'll actually fit in a stocking. And as a stocking filler, it's a revelation. Ours has gone in the bathroom, and that seems like rough justice - it's certainly a great travel companion.
With the usual glut of headphones coming in, we're pleased to report these are a good mid-range option. Once again, the big difference is the low latency AptX compatibilty, meaning you get no glitching but high definition sound. If you don't fancy that, add the 3.5mm cable and they'll work wired too. Battery life claim is a whopping 24 hours straight (or 2200 hours stand by). And they're seriously comfortable to wear with snuggly ear cups. Once again Bluetooth 4.2 is aboard and there's a hands free calling function.
Intempo Colour Changing Capsule Speaker
Not one for the sound quality, but we do like the flashing LEDs, akin to the JBL Pulse, and the look akin to the Beats Capsule. They're good at what they do, and that's fine.
OK, so we're going to stick our necks out here and say that these are the best earbuds here. By some considerable margin. With a cherry on top. Listening to songs that we've heard 1000 times, we were instantly able to pick out entire melody lines and background rhythms that we'd never noticed before. The titanium design is tiny, and even the cable manages to be unintrusive. Unlike any of the other earbuds in this list, they can be used either as wired or wireless, via a lapel dongle with controls on it. It's not as subtle as wrapping them round your neck, but the increase in sound quality vastly justifies showing them off on your clothes.
The earbuds themselves defy all logic in terms of how tiny they are and the memory foam buds go right into your ear canal for complete isolation. These are the real deal. We defy you to find on-ear headphones this good - we'll take these for everything from airplanes to DJing any day of the week. They are that good.
Logilink Suitcase Turntable
Whereas a lot of the vinyl players we've come across look like an attempt to authentically recreate the Dansette of the 50s, the inspiration to this suitcase with speakers is more like something out of the early 70s with metal grills, and steel corners. Sound quality is ok, but that's fine because the Logilink also acts as a USB turntable, and comes with everything you need to upload your precious collection to mp3 - even the software. At under £50, we're happy with this as an option and we rather like the fact that it looks a bit utilitarian.
Watch this space. Loads more to come.... µ
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