We explore nine new audio devices, from standalone speakers to portable players, all of which offer a distinct take on high-quality sound reproduction and cutting-edge design. These devices should set you apart from the musical mainstream and help in the pursuit of perfect sound.
Nine audio innovations in pursuit of perfect sound
1. Astell&Kern A&Ultima SP3000 portable music player and Odyssey in-ear monitors
Portable music players keep threatening to have a renaissance, but the vast majority of people are sticking to their smartphones for their day-to-day listening needs. If you want a dedicated device, you can’t do better than the latest from portable audio specialist Astell&Kern. The South Korea-based brand has launched its latest player, the A&Ultima SP3000, alongside the Odyssey in-ear monitors.
The latter have been developed alongside American brand Empire Ears and are handmade in the US, complete with a specially composed polymer-based ‘dichroic’ casing that’s a visual cut above the ordinary. The player itself is housed in an ultra-high-quality stainless steel body, protected by a French goatskin leather case. Capable of delivering hi-res audio, either via streaming or internal storage, the sharp-edged SP3000 is a cut above.
Astell&Kern SP3000 player, $3,700, Odyssey headphones, $ 3,400, astellnkern.com (opens in new tab)
2. Ruark R2 Smart Music System
The newest iteration of the Ruark R2 is the fourth generation of this elegant all-in-one streaming box. Featuring a full quota of sources, including DAB+, FM, internet radio, and support for the major suite of streaming services, the R2 is compact, elegant and sounds great. It’s devices like this that bridge the generations-old cultural connection to radio; by sharing the same form format and simple dial-based control, the R2 is both completely familiar and bang up to date.
A slatted wood grille – available in either walnut or ash – is combined with a full-colour LCD display, while there’s Bluetooth 5, AUX input and USB-C charging as well.
Ruark R2 Smart Music System, £479, ruarkaudio.com (opens in new tab)
3. Loewe Klang Sub1 subwoofer
German TV maker Loewe Technology has enhanced its audio offering with the new Klang Sub1, a compact active subwoofer that’s designed to be paired with your flatscreen TV to add more body and boost to the sound. The first time the company has ventured into wireless TV speakers, the Klang Sub1 is more compact than its rivals, yet the cylindrical device puts out a respectable 160 watts. Placement is straightforward thanks to the size and form factor, giving you cinematic sound without the scale.
Loewe Klang Sub1, £399, loewe.tv (opens in new tab)
4. Sonos Sub Mini wireless speaker
Designed to complement its new soundbars, the Beam and the Ray, the Sonos Sub Mini is the latest wireless speaker from the cult manufacturer. Bringing bass to your space without sacrificing square footage, the compact Sub Mini is available in matte black and white. The cabinet design incorporates twin inward-facing woofers, minimising distortion to allow you to crank up the volume. The Sub Mini can either be combined with the existing soundbars or added to the Sonos One smart speaker for additional low end.
Sonos Sub Mini, available from 6 October, £429, sonos.com (opens in new tab)
5. Bang & Olufsen Beosound Theatre soundbar and TV support
Perhaps the most impressive piece of kit in this round-up, the Beosound Theatre has a price to match its meticulously crafted good looks. The Beosound Theatre pairs with a vast swathe of Bang & Olufsen’s acclaimed output going back some three decades. The Theatre is effectively a very glamorous television stand, a soundbar that doubles as a support for a contemporary flat screen TV, with space to conceal cables.
If you opt for the motorised stand, the viewing angle can be adjusted via the remote control. Alternatively, the Theatre can be mounted on a wall. The elegant fabric or wood-fluted device contains 12 speaker drivers in total, together with Dolby Atmos sound processing, and it can also be used to stream music from any device.
Bang & Olufsen Beosound Theatre, from £5,590 (fabric cover), bang-olufsen.com (opens in new tab)
6. PSB Speakers Passif 50 stand-mounted speakers
PSB Speakers retain the cloth-covered, sober vibe that has defined the company since its foundation in Canada in the early 1970s. To celebrate the company’s half-century, it’s creating the Passif 50 Anniversary Edition, a stand-mounted loudspeaker with walnut veneered cabinets and original 1972-era badging. Beneath the retro skin is a thoroughly modern speaker system that reflects the years of research and development undertaking by PSB. Only the highest-grade titanium and aluminium go into the speakers, ensuring they sound as good as they look.
PSB Speakers, Passif 50 Speaker, $2,499 (US), psbspeakers.com (opens in new tab)
7. Wilson Audio Lōkē Subwoofer
If space is an issue, consider Wilson Audio’s new Lōkē, the American audio brand’s compact subwoofer. Small is a relative term when it comes to kit that has to deliver seamlessly smooth bass, and the Lōkē is still over half a metre tall. Nevertheless, that allows you to slot it under a desk or elsewhere out of sight. You might not want to hide it away, given the rainbow of colours available. Lōkē is designed to pair with Wilson’s eclectic line-up of floor standing and bookshelf speakers, many of which have a bold, unconventional form in keeping the late David A Wilson’s idiosyncratic and passionate approach to audio design.
Wilson Audio Lōkē, $8,750, wilsonaudio.com (opens in new tab)
8. Triangle AI03 Active Speaker
French firm Triangle has launched a new edition of its AIO3 speaker, enhanced with four new colour finishes – Powder Pink, Frost White, Green Forest and Red Ocher – with cloth created in collaboration with Danish fabric specialist Gabriel. The rectangular box houses four speakers and adds Amazon Music compatability as well as over-the-air updates. The simple machined metal buttons and finish reference classic hi-fi from the 1970s, yet the whole ensemble is bang up to date in terms of connectivity to practically every major streaming service.
Triangle AIO3 Active Speaker, £409, trianglehifi.com (opens in new tab)
9. Escape P6-BT Portable Speaker System
For more rugged, go-anywhere access to high-quality audio, Escape’s P6-BT fits the bill. Offering eight hours of standalone listening time thanks to a hefty battery, the Bluetooth speaker can be hauled into place using the integral handle and features a weather-resistant casing. Two speakers can be paired to create true stereo, and there’s also a dedicated app to tweak the soundscape of this simple, totemic, and endlessly practical device. §
Escape P6-BT, €599, escapespeakers.com (opens in new tab)
Jonathan Bell has written for Wallpaper* magazine since 1999, covering everything from architecture and transport design to books, tech and graphic design. He is now the magazine’s Transport and Technology Editor. Jonathan has written and edited 15 books, including Concept Car Design, 21st Century House, and The New Modern House. He is also the host of Wallpaper’s first podcast.
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