The low down: Best Music Gadget 2009
The Vodafone Pocket-lint Gadget Awards 2009 are just 2 weeks away now. Public voting is live, but before you add your penny's worth, we'll be giving you the low down on each category up to the event itself to give you a better idea of which gadget you might want to support.
First up, it's the Best Music Gadget 2009. So here's a little more about the nominees and just why they deserve your vote. In no particular order...
Apple iPod touch 3rd gen
There's plenty to like about the Apple iPod touch. We know the Apple's premium PMP very well these days and although the 3rd generation didn't come with a camera, as many of us had expected, it still manages to deliver in pure quality of performance. Apple didn't add much onto this edition of the device. The Cupertino cult didn't really need to.
The 16GB version was ditched for the £229 64GB model and they each now come with voice control as well as the iPhone 3.0 software as standard. The most important boost though, has been the addition of the same hardware guts as the new and improved iPhone 3GS. Now with 256MB of RAM, an 833MHz ARM Cortex-X underclocked to 600MHz and an improved graphics accelerator, Steve Jobs' claims of a gaming device to take on the DS and the PSP are looking more realistic.
Etymotic/ACS hf2 custom fit headphones
The Etymotics hf2 in-ear headphones are a very decent set of listeners. There's no two ways about it. They're very good but they're not amazing. Let's face it, spend £50-£100 more on earphones and you'll get better sound quality. In fact, arguably the likes of the Ultimate Ears Super-Fi and similar sets of the same class will give you a better experience than the hf2s will. However, what Etymotic has done is team up with custom mold specialists ACS to multiply the clarity of sound experienced by a factor of 10 while only extending the cost two-fold.
With the perfect size, tailor made ear buds blocking out all ambient sound from your audio experience, your PMP will give you astounding playback quality at comfortable low amplification levels where it won't distort the sound. What's more, because they fit like a glove, they're also incredibly comfortable. The hf2s themselves feature a microphone so they can be used in conjunction with an iPhone, but they'll work with anything so long as it's got a 3.5mm jack. These things simply have to be tried to be believed and have induced claims such as "life changing" from their users on more than one occasion.
Griffin MyPhones headphones
Cutting edge technology is not always the key to the perfect gadget and the MyPhones are an excellent example of that. What's great about these is that Griffin has aimed them at children and done it really well too. For just £26 parents get peace of mind and the kids get headphones that are great to use. The sound quality is competent but the secret is that they have an always-on noise level limiter set at an ear drum-friendly 85dB no matter how hard your children might try to bypass it.
They come with a nice long cable to prevent accidents from erratic movements and the cans are customisable by the young ones who can draw their own designs to adorn their ears. Really nice idea, really well executed.
Monitor Audio Airstream 10
We're not the only ones to have recognised the genius of the Airstream 10 this year. This superbly crafted networked radio and music player has been turning heads the tech world over. On the spec attack its audio in and out ports, its ease of Ethernet and Wi-Fi internet connection and simple set of digital file support with MP3, WMA, RA and AAC are not utterly mind-blowing. Granted, the sound quality you get out of its single 3.5-inch woofer is astonishing, but the real buzz is the way this thing looks.
There's an austere resonant quiet hum about it that exudes class and it'd simply be a pleasure to own. You do pay for that privilege with the price tag but it's the kind of device that'd look great even in 30 years' time. It does FM, DAB, internet radio and just about anything else you ask it to do with minimal fuss. A real joy.
Sonos S5 ZonePlayer
Sonos says that people who own one of their systems listen to music at least twice as much as they did before and the best thing about the S5 is that, for the first time, the company has finally made that dream affordable. At the very basic level it acts as a really good iPod dock without the need of an actual dock to plug your PMP into. This thing works wirelessly as well as playing back music stored on your computer networks or a NAS drive too.
It's a 5-driver speaker system, including two tweeters, two mid-range drivers and a built-in subwoofer, but you will need an Ethernet cable or the £80 Sonos ZoneBridge to connect it to your network. Once online, it also supports Last.fm, Napster, Pandora, Rhapsody and SIRIUS in the US and Last.fm, Napster, Classical.com and Deezer in the UK. No Spotify sadly. The only other issue is that there is no remote control unless you happen to own an Apple iPod from which you can control it over your network. A lovely device with great functionality.