Koss Corporation’s UR42i over-ear headphones cost $49.99 USD. That price is unbelievably low for a set of serious cans, but the veteran headphone maker has often proved that inexpensive ’phones don’t have to sound inexpensive. I was curious to hear if the UR42i’s would be more proof.
Altec Lansing has a long and distinguished history -- the company was founded in 1936, before I was born, and I remember their speakers from my college days. The subject of this review, the Mini Lifejacket 2 ($99.99 USD), is only the tip of an iceberg -- Altec Lansing makes eight models of Jacket Bluetooth speakers, from the Mini H20 ($39.99) to the Omni Jacket Ultra and the Super Life Jacket (both $299.99).
Expect the unexpected from Grace Digital and you’ll never be disappointed. Hot on the heels of their EcoPebble Bluetooth speaker-powerbank-flashlight, which I reviewed last month, comes another waterproof powerbank combo -- but this one’s solar powered.
I remember when 10 to 12 hours of battery charge time was considered a lot -- and that was only two or three years ago. Now we’re seeing mind-boggling charge times, even for small devices. The EcoPebble Powerbank can easily be held in the hand, yet boasts a 50-hour charge time -- a helpful thing, because it’s designed to charge your other devices. It’s also a Bluetooth speaker and a 200-lumen LED flashlight.
Thanks largely to Google’s Cast system, Wi-Fi speakers are rapidly replacing Bluetooth models. Wi-Fi units use your wireless network to transmit sound, and since they’re not subject to the data-transfer limitations of Bluetooth transmission, they have the capability to provide better performance. The Grace Digital CastDock X2 is rated to handle music files up to 24-bit/192kHz resolution.
Lately, it seems, I’ve reviewed nothing but over-ear headphones, which have become lightweight enough to be serious contenders in the portable-headphone market. Still, on-ear cans have some features that appeal more to people on the go; because they block out fewer external sounds, they let you have birds with your Bach -- and they’re safer to wear when you’re out and about. Wearing over-ear ’phones, you can get so wrapped up in the music that you can’t hear that quiet car approaching from the rear. On-ear models can also be cooler and more comfortable to wear over long periods.
I hadn’t heard much about Acoustic Research in a long time, though the name was very familiar. When I was in college, every other student who was on a budget but appreciated great sound had Acoustic Research AR-3 bookshelf speakers. These used an acoustic-suspension design that produced amazing amounts of bass from a small box. Then AR produced an affordable ($78!), high-quality turntable, the AR-1 -- a belt-driven design that greatly reduced acoustic feedback. Since then, AR speakers and turntables have only appreciated in value, as collectors continue to seek them out.
The first pair of headphones I ever owned were Sennheisers, back when the German company’s main competitor was the US manufacturer Koss. Many competitors and multitudes of headphones later, I was happy to check out Sennheiser’s Momentum Wireless Bluetooth circumaural (over-ear) model -- noise-canceling ’phones that can be used with or without wires. The noise-canceling feature is always on. The Momentum’s price of $499.95 USD is a bit higher than those of many competing products. There are also Momentum models in an on-ear wireless version, and wired over- and on-ear versions.
It had been a while since I’d visited the world of miniature Bluetooth speakers, but this one called to me from the shelf: “I look like a hand grenade. Doesn’t that make you curious?” Well, yes, it did -- and so did the fact that, like most hand grenades, this one is water resistant. But the Philips Shoqbox BT2200 Mini proved to be more than a toy.
Audio-Technica, one of the last big-name manufacturers to enter the market of wireless Bluetooth headphones, has put out two new over-ear models: the ATH-S700BT SonicFuel, which I reviewed very favorably two months ago, and the subject of this review, the ATH-WS99BT Solid Bass ($249.95 USD), which has problems.