New to the Pocket-lint Gadget Awards this year is the Best Portable Audio category. There’s a craving for good sound spreading round the world and, by reflection, there are just too many good products to fit under a Best Audio umbrella.
So, what we have here for you to think about are those headphones, speakers and players that have really stood out as top notch and top value over 2012. Let us know which you think deserve a nomination and don’t forget to vote.
Undoubtedly, the biggest boom over 2012 in the audio space has been on-ear headphones. The move away from lug plugs has been coming since Dr Dre’s Beats brand captured the imagination of the public and, suddenly, these things have become fashion accessories again. While the sound profile of the Beats headphones is an acquired taste, there have been plenty of companies working out how to do a better, if slightly less populous, job.
Philips has been quick off the mark. While the Royal Dutch seriously impressed our boys in the labs with the Philips Fidelio L1 headphones, the more recent Philips Fidelio X1 headphones absolutely blew them away and resulted with the only 5-star review we’ve seen on Pocket-lint this year. A shoo-in for the prize?
No, says Sony, with the affordable and lightweight Sony MDR-ZX600 cans and the more DJ-specific Sony MDR-V55 which come in at only £90 and bring some serious booming bang for that buck. Bowers & Wilkins, as ever, has added a touch of luxury, but certainly nothing out of reach, with the B&W P3 with, again, portability in mind. We likey. We likey very much.
Of course, just because on-ear headphones are all fashionable and everything, it doesn't necessarily make them any better or certainly any more convenient than the in-ear variety. Flying the flag in 2012 were some familiar faces from previous years, including Phonak Audeo with its PFE 232 top-end selection offering stunning sound from such small buds.
Klipsch had something a little more affordable and specifically with an Android bent, thanks to the Klipsch S4A headphones. Oddly though, if it's bargain basement you're after, Apple turned up with the new versions of its free-in-the-box phones, the Apple EarPods. Finally, somewhere in the middle of it all are the Bowers & Wilkins C5.
Not much to separate this lot in terms of value but, then again, maybe it's not a pair of headphones that you're looking to nominate at all...
Speakers and Players
Last of all, portable audio can be about those wireless speaker systems or modern-day ghetto blasters as well as whatever PMPs like to call themselves - smartphones, probably.
The 2012 edition of the Apple iPod touch is a good enough place to start. This fifth-generation device now comes with the Apple Lightning connector and the same stylings of the iPhone 5. With iTunes and everything that goes with it to back it up, it's rather hard to ignore.
For something a little different on the same front, how about a portable DAB radio player? The Oxx Portable DAB is just the ticket and, with battery power and just £60 to get one, it's of little surprise it was a winner when it came to review.
The other main area, of course, is when you want your portable audio to be less personal and more party. Jawbone improved upon something that was already good with the even bigger, even beefier Big Jambox. Great sound once again.
Another in very much the same space and perhaps with a little more style is Braven and we were very pleased indeed with what we got out of the Braven 650 in particular. Last of all is Logitech and the Ultimate Ears Boombox - wireless Bluetooth sound with something of both the modern and the retro about it.
Any more that you can think of? Just let us know.