Ever since Édouard-Léon Scott de Martinville recorded an almost non-decryptable version of the French song “Au Clair de la Lune” in the mid-19th century, it has been 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 a tinny, almost unrecognizable noise or a fully realized sound experience.
As you can imagine, the people here on The Verge 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 midrange Bluetooth headset from Plantronics (now Poly) called the Explorer 500. It was a small, nicely built, single-ear headset, and it came with a short USB cable with ends that were magnetically merged to become a loop. I thought it was a pretty good piece of technology at the time, so I bought one – and I still use it. Of course it’s not good for music (it only takes one penny after all), but it’s incredibly convenient to have it hanging on a loop in my bag so I can grab it for a quick phone call or if I want to hear on a podcast. And surprisingly, the battery still holds a reasonable charge. One of these days I have to invest in a full wireless headset, so that I can also have full mobile music – but until then, the Explorer 500 serves me well. – Barbara Krasnoff, review editor
AudioQuest Dragonfly USB DAC
AudioQuest’s Dragonfly Portable Digital-to-Analog Converter (DAC) delivers higher quality audio to your devices. Most laptops, tablets and smartphones do not have good DACs or do not support native high-resolution files such as FLAC (nor do they tell when they do not), but with Dragonfly you can listen to uncompressed audio up to 24-bit / 96 kHz . There is also an LED light on the device 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 higher-performance DAC chip; and Dragonfly Cobalt, the tallest model.
To take full advantage of Dragonfly, you also need an adapter for your phone with a Lightning-to-USB-A adapter for an iPhone or a USB-C-to-USB-A adapter for an Android device. Portability is the biggest feature here – switching between my phone and my laptop is why I recommend this to anyone who wants a device that lets you listen to high definition sound on any device. – Andrew Marino, sound engineer
Audio-Technica ATH-M50 headphones
Okay, yes, I’m aware that this is already the internet’s favorite pair of wired headphones. But seriously: I’ve had mine for six years now, and they’ve been doing well. Sure, the feather on the headband is starting to peel off, and I had to replace the ear cups a while back, but they sound just as good as the day I got them. I find that music just sounds fun with them – not too analytical, as my DT-770 pros sometimes can be. Audio-Technicas are certainly not reference headphones, but that’s probably not what most people are actually looking for.
They were also a good price, especially compared to their Bluetooth counterparts. And honestly, I have fallen in love with wireless headphones for anything but exercise, although that’s probably a problem for me, not them. Either way, the newer version, the ATH-M50x (ATH-M50 is discontinued), has a removable cable, so you do not have to worry about getting hooked up with the ridiculously long cables that sometimes come with fancy headphones. (Another version, ATH-M50xBT, throws the cable completely.) – Mitchell Clark, News Author
Antlion Audio ModMic USB Microphone
It seems like everyone is getting large free-standing microphones for their desks during the pandemic, but I do not want to give up any precious properties. One solution that works better for my needs is Antlion Audio’s ModMic USB microphone. It is smartly designed. First, attach a small circular base (about the size of a large chocolate chip) to the side of the headphones, then the microphone itself can be magnetically attached and detached as desired. I like to be able to quickly turn my headphones into a gaming headset, or to get ready for a meeting look, and then return to regular headphones by loosening the microphone. I use one with Beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro open headphones, and it helps me get more out of the set I already own.
This special microphone has two modes you can switch between: omnidirectional (made for broadcasting) or unidirectional, which helps capture only your voice if you are in a noisy environment. The sound quality of a voice recording made with ModMic is very good – far better than most gaming headsets I have tried. The microphone is compatible with Windows, macOS, Linux, PS4 and PS5.
The downside is that this model costs around $ 70. If your headphones are connected, it can be a bit difficult to manage the insertion of this microphone cord into the battle. For me, the price is worth the effort. Antlion also makes a $ 120 wireless rechargeable microphone if you want to go that route, which also has two microphone modes and can stick to your headphones with glue. – Cameron Faulkner, author
I love AirPods and I have since my first pair. They are light, they charge quickly in the case, and they sound good for what I need them for, which are mostly hearing alerts, listening to podcasts and watching YouTube videos. It helps that I am an iPhone and a Mac user, as they work very well with both devices.
I think I like the original AirPods more than the pros. While the pros offer some welcome upgrades such as active noise reduction and resistance to water and sweat, they just do not fit my ears as well. The original AirPods never fell out, but the AirPods Pro will slowly slip out if I talk or eat, and sometimes when I run. This means that I constantly adjust them again if I do anything besides sitting completely still. (To be fair, I’m sitting still most of the time right now.)
Here we hope that the next version of the pros will fit my ears just a little better. If they do, they’ll probably be one of my favorite Apple products ever. – Jay Peters, news writer
Rode RodeCaster Pro podcast production
This audio signal interface with four microphones from Rode makes it significantly easier to set up a full podcasting session with a design that mimics a live mixing board. You can record multitracks on your computer or internally on a microSD using a USB-C connection.
As someone who mostly mixes podcasts after they are recorded, this setup is more attractive for live streaming on Twitch or YouTube. You also get built-in customizable audio banks, compression and EQ settings, multiple monitoring outputs and an intuitive design for traditional live mixing.
Funny tip: it’s also a great way to record phone calls by connecting RodeCaster Pro with your smartphone via Bluetooth. – Andrew Marino
HyperX QuadCast microphone
I had been looking at upgrading my microphone for a long time, but I was unsure which product to use. A few friends recommended the HyperX QuadCast, and that’s what I ended up buying.
I used to use a Blue Yeti microphone, but I felt that the sound quality was unsatisfactory in the end. I wanted to make sure I bought a microphone that was not too cheap and not too expensive, and most importantly, had a nice cable that was long, so I did not have to rearrange the desk. Compared to the Blue Yeti, I found that the HyperX QuadCast had great clarity and took the subtle details from my audio output.
I really like the slightly unconventional design of QuadCast; it comes with simple controls, a stand and a shock mount adapter for the boom arms if you want to mount the microphone closer to you. I think it is convenient that the mute button is on top of the microphone. It makes it easy to mute myself quickly while on Zoom or Discord. —Taylor Lyles, author
Sonos Five speaker
I have never found a single smart speaker that sounds better, and I like that there are no microphones inside. These are the main points why I’ve had a Sonos game: 5 – recently updated as Sonos Five – on my desktop for several years now. For a speaker that does not have a 360-degree design, Five still produces a very satisfying sound image that can fill most rooms. It can kick out plenty of bass without overpowering the pitch and midrange of your music. It takes two of most other smart speakers paired together to get anywhere near what the Sonos Five can deliver. (Granted, it had better sounding damn good for $ 500.)
Almost all audio apps under the sun are supported through the Sonos app, including hi-fi options such as Tidal and Amazon Music HD. Sonos Five works with Apple AirPlay, and there is a auxiliary input of 3.5 millimeters for wired playback. (You can also use this to get a turntable connected to your Sonos system.)
No, there is no built-in voice assistant like Alexa or Google Assistant included here. But some people will appreciate the absence of always listening microphones. Adding an assistant to the mix is easy, either via another Sonos speaker as one or simply by connecting an Echo Dot or Nest Mini.
It’s just a shame that the white and black combination Play: 5 ribbons are no more; I think it was the best speaker Sonos has ever made. – Chris Welch, news editor