Pocket-lint Gadget Awards 2010 - Audio Gadgets
It's the end of October and that means two very important things. Number one is that it's getting cold. Bloody cold. You can tell because it's impossible to get hold of a plumber. Number two, the end of October also means that it's nearly the beginning of November and that's about the time we announce nominations for the Pocket-lint Awards.
As ever, we're seeking your ideas as to what you think should be making the short list of the best of 2010. So in order to give your capacious, but overtired little noggins a wee nudge and inspire some good hot banter in the comments below, we've taken a trawl through the dusty Pocket-lint archives and come up with a few suggestions. Each day over the next 2 weeks we'll be bringing you a selection of the best from our 10 award categories and we'll start the ball rolling with Best Audio Gadget 2010. Read, consume, ruminate, scribble.
Whether you like them in or on, closed or open, it's been a good year for headphones. Since the explosion of the digital age of music, it's largely been about getting as many files as you can for as little as possible, but over the last 12 months there's been a definite recognition that there's a growing group of consumers who're looking for quality of sound too.
On the in-ear front there's been a decent spread from the manufacturers of the products that got top reviews from the Pocket-lint team. The ever-popular Etymotics refreshed last year's Pocket-lint Awards nominee, the hf2, to the predictably named Etymotic hf3 headphones which were also well received. Combine them with the ACS custom ear moulds and you're onto a winner.
While not tailor-made for your lug holes, there's also been some interesting competition in the iPhone accessory space for headphones with remote control carrying options in the shape of the remarkably reasonably priced V-Moda Remix Remotes, the neat Scosche IDR655m headphones and the Phonak Audio PFE 022 taking up where 2009's Phonak 122s left off.
For something a little less Apple specific, the hip-hop styled Atomic Floyd TwistJax were an excellent reminder that headphones don't have to look dull or even sound like all the rest, and Creative came up with both the noise-cancelling EP-3NC headphones and the Creative Aurvana In-Ear 2 pair which were branded a Pocket-lint Hot Product back in April. The last of the bunch was the Sony Ericsson MW600 Bluetooth headset which managed to bring the all elusive music quality and battery life together without cords.
For those that prefer full head hugging apparatus, the compact and, again, cordless Sennheiser MM 450 Bluetooth cans that picked up the best marks of the year along with super stylish Bowers and Wilkins P5s. All the same, both the Sennheiser RS 160 wireless and the JVC HA-KD10 TinyPhones for tiny people are well worth a look too. Plus, it's always worth having a listen to Denon and now even Dr Dre.
Hi-Fi & Speaker Systems
Creative has done a rather good job in 2010 of taking the speakers market all to themselves. For under £100 the Creative Inspire S2 wireless system proved a bit of a bargain and the D200 Bluetooth speaker bar was well worth grabbing if you wanted a little quality audio on the move too.
On the more substantial side, both in terms of cost and mass, two great giants of high end audio fame might well find themselves doing battle for this year's gong. The Arcam Solo and Naim UnitiQute picked up top end marks for bringing digital stream music to pedigree manufacturers, but whether they're of more importance than some of the other often purchased gadgets remains to be seen.
The dock/radio has been a hugely popular category ever since Apple invented the 30-pin connector. Fortunately, 2010 has seen yet another sorting of the wheat from the chaff as more and more manufacturers realise that they can't just churn out junk.
Again, Creative has showed us that they're strong all over the audio category with the £279 Creative ZiiSound D5 Bluetooth model, but there's been some serious competition this year from the high end, wooden sculpted Philips Fidelio DS9000; the Alessi-style ghetto blaster that is the Harman Kardon Go + Play Micro; the retro chic Vita Audio R2i; Sony's answer to the Bose Sound Dock - the Sony RDP-X80iP and the B&W Zeppelin Mini. All products well worth owning.
For those with a little less to spend, what's impressed us has been the sub-£100 category with products from Sharp, Logic3 and Gear4 as you might expect. Probably the most interesting, though, is the dual dock in the shape of the Altec Lansing Octiv 202. Worth a quick look.
Of course, not every dock has a radio nor every radio must have a dock. Those of the non-Apple persuasion have also been busy in a year that saw Pure bring us two special edition radios both of which raised eyebrows for all the right reasons in the Pocket-lint labs. There was the Pure Evoke Mio as designed by Orla Kiely and the Pure Evoke-1S Marshall for those who prefer to rock. For something more internet connected though, Logitech looked to be making headway with the music streaming Squeezebox and Squeezbox Touch.
Call them MP3 players, call them PMPs, it doesn't really matter any more. If 2010 has proved anything to personal audio, it's that even the smallest of this kind needs to be able to do something with imaging even if it's just album art.
The prime example of that is, of course, the redesigned Apple iPod nano. All the same, its siblings, the iPods shuffle and touch, both in their fourth incarnation, faired that little bit better under the scrutiny of the Pocket-lint review team.
Away from Apple, other good options have arrived from Sony under the Walkman brand in the form of the low end Sony NWZ-E453 and the mid-range Sony NWZ-A845 with its 2.8-inch OLED screen. There's a late entry expected from Philips with the GoGear range, but otherwise it's all quite quiet for media players this year.
Sometimes, of course, there are a couple of products that don't quite fit in with the rest and we've certainly seen some interesting bits and pieces in the audio world that we wouldn't want to leave out of the running. First up is Spotify for Sonos which was apparently the number one requested feature for all Sonos users. Well, now it's here and available for a tenner a month.
Another type of music service is now available for internet connected Pure radio devices as well. Pure FlowSongs means users can now download, stream and tag any tunes, courtesy of Shazam and 7digital, and all through their radios. The only trouble is that it's not free.
And finally, 2010 saw the union of guitar and iPod app (is there nothing these things can't do?) when Griffin came up with the GuitarConnect Cable + iShred Live app which turns your pocket player into a mini amp.
What do you think?
But these are just some of the fantastic choices our ears have had in 2010. What would you like to see held aloft as the winner of Pocket-lint Best Audio Gadget 2010? Who have we missed out? Which are your unsung heroes and, of those we've already mentioned, which would get your vote? Let us know in the comments below and you can help our panel decide which make the shortlist of nominees to be announced here on Pocket-lint on 8 November.
We'll have all our coverage of the Pocket-lint awards 2010 right here. Don't miss a minute of it.