Whenever it seems technology sounds as good — and is as convenient — as possible, engineers and designers make it even better. Bose, the masters of active noise-cancelling technology (they use tiny microphones to pick up annoying sound and patented circuitry to hush it up), have gone wireless with the plush Bluetooth-connected QuietComfort 35 over-ear headphones. Batteries last 20 hours per charge (if you’re still traveling, just plug in by wire to your phone or other music source), and the sound is great.
Available from Best Buy; $349
Though audible tech keeps improving rapidly, smartphones have lagged on listenability, except for the priciest models. The slim-line Axon 7 from ZTE packs two front-facing speakers, a powerful amplifier, and a pair of sound-processing chips to emit an ample sonic spectrum, rendered surprisingly dimensional by Dolby Atmos Surround Sound firmware. The result is this affordable, easy-to-listen-to handheld communicator. Paired with a razor-sharp bright screen, it’s the best value today in an unlocked Android phone for use on 4G LTE networks.
Available from B&H Photo Video; $359
A wood-and-strings wonder of sonic elegance, the classic acoustic axe can sound meek without help from plug-in amplification. Now, Yamaha rolls out amp-optional hefty audio reinforcement with a built-in “actuator” in its LS-TA TransAcoustic Guitar. Picking up the sounds of plucked strings, it echoes musical vibrations through the guitar’s body and out to appreciative ears. Able to mimic the reverb of playing in a large hall or a plump chorus of backing guitars, this just could motivate someone to quit that day job and go pro as a bona fide guitar hero.
Available from Sam Ash, White Plains; $999
No more ugly audio-speaker boxes at work or home if you treat yourself to crystal-clear sound from SONY’s stylish take on a classic New England hurricane lantern. The Glass Sound Speaker (model LSPX-S1) is so pleasingly designed, it’s become a consistent bestseller at the Museum of Modern Art’s online store. The speaker channels higher-pitched tones through its vibrant glass cylinder, while the metallic base pumps out robust lower notes. A rechargeable battery allows wireless use for up to four hours. Its glowing light adds extra charm.
Available from MoMA Store; $799