The tech gift guide: Music players, speakers and headphones

9 Dec 20121 Share

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What’s the best way to listen to those sleigh bells ringing? On an iPod or 21st-century Walkman, with a boost from a powerful speaker dock, or keeping it to yourself with a set of headphones? We’ve sifted through them all to give our tips for top audio gifts this Christmas.

Music players

It’s 11 years since the iPod became a go-to Christmas gift. The iPod Shuffle is now in its fourth generation, the Nano has reached its seventh generation, and we’re on the fifth generation of the iPod Touch.

When it comes to choosing an iPod, the main considerations will be storage, price and capabilities. This handy comparison chart from Apple can help in that regard.

iPod Touch

The latest iPod Touch (from €329) is the thinnest model yet and features the same 4-inch Retina display as the iPhone 5, a dual-core A5 chip, iOS 6, and a 5MP iSight camera capable of shooting 1080p HD video. Buyers have a choice of 32GB or 64Gb of storage, as well as a range of pretty colours.

iPod Nano

The 16GB iPod Nano (€169) is also at its thinnest size ever at 5mm, and features its largest screen ever at 2.5 inches. It comes in seven new colours, and features Bluetooth, a built-in pedometer and support for Nike+.

iPod Shuffle

For pure simplicity, though, there’s the 2GB iPod Shuffle (€49), available in seven new colours. This pared down music player comes without a display, just the controls needed for audio playback, plus a VoiceOver button that speaks the song title, playlist or artist name, or battery status. The tiny device can be clipped on and offers up to 15 hours’ playback.

All of these devices come with apple’s new EarPods, which are engineered to fit ears of all shapes an sizes and have increased durability and improved audio. All of the latest devices in the iPod range also come in red for Product Red, for which a portion of the profit goes towards the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

Sony Walkman F850

Of course, there’s also the originator of the Walkman brand, Sony, for your music player needs. The F805 (€249) comes with 16GB storage, a 3.5-inch multitouch display, a Tegra 2 dual-core processor, and Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich.

Sony Walkman E470 series

The cheaper E470 series (you can pick up an 8GB E474 for €99) comes in a selection of colours and features a 2-inch LCD screen and 36 hours of battery life. And for walkers, joggers and runners, there’s the 2GB NWZ-W262 Wearable MP3 Player (RRP €59) which is water-resistant and features a light, close-fitting design.

Sony NWZ-W262 Wearable MP3 Player

If a hi-fi is what you’re looking for, the Logitech UE Smart Radio (€179.99) can play internet radio, stream online music services, and play music from a PC or Mac. The colour sceeen displays album art, track and station information and users can save their favourite stations or playlists for one-touch access. The portable device comes with a rechargeable battery that offers up to six hours of playback.

Logitech UE Smart Radio

Speakers and docks

The problem with investing in the iPhone 5 or any of the latest iPod range is that compatible audio accessories are hard to come by in Ireland. You can, of course, pick up a Lightning to 30-pin adaptor and work with some of the docks available now.

Better yet, you can pick up a wireless speaker that eliminates this issue and expands the range of devices your speaker can connect with. Jawbone’s Jambox has made waves this year and the small but powerful wireless speaker can download apps and receive software updates by syncing with Jawbone MyTALK.

Jambox

Jambox is available in five colours and costs €199.95.

Whether you want something small and quirky or big and powerful, both the Sony 360° Circle Sound Speaker SRS-BTV25 (€179) and the Sony XA900iP Speaker Dock (€599) can connect via Bluetooth, while the XA900iP is also AirPlay-enabled for all your Apple devices.

Sony SRS-BTV25 Circle Sound Speaker and XA900iP Speaker Dock

For a full-size speaker for an iTunes household, the AirPlay-enabled Logitech UE Air Speaker costs €349 provides powerful sound in a stylish package, with a slick piano-black finish, brushed metal dials and subtle curves.

Logitech UE Air Speaker

Sony also has an NFC-enabled speaker dock, the SRS-BTM8, for €99, and the CMTV75BTiP Audio System (€279) which features a 30-pin dock, Bluetooth and a CD player for a more complete music system.

Headphones

Uber-trendy Beats by Dr Dre are set to be a hot Christmas item, and you can pick up a set of Solo HD headphones – less expensive than the original Beats Studio version– for €179.99 from eMobile.

Sony MDR-ZX600

Alternatively, you could shell out €69 for a set of Sony MDR-ZX600 headphones, available in a variety of colours. Stylish, comfortable and plenty capable of delivering high-quality audio, these headphones have consistently received positive reviews.

Elaine Burke is managing editor of Siliconrepublic.com

editorial@siliconrepublic.com