There is no fair without sound, and it came as no surprise that we got to see new headphones at the CES show. The greatest focus was on completely wireless earbuds and gaming headsets, but headphones with active noise cancellation were abundant. And some more whimsical of the sort, it should turn out.
True wireless earbuds
JBL with 10 hours in the earbuds
The biggest news in wireless earbuds is that the battery life has increased. And that’s good, because completely wireless earbuds tended to have a slightly shorter battery life than we would like.
Among those who are betting on wireless earbuds with long battery life is JBL. Live Pro 2 has extensions with as many as six microphones for the best possible voice reproduction in conversations. But the most important feature is a full 10 hours of battery life in the earbuds alone. Add the charging case and you get a total of 40 hours with your favorite playlists or podcasts! And active noise cancellation as well.
If you do not want the microphone booms protuding like stalagmites, JBL Live Free 2 is of the more traditional kind. The performance should be pretty much the same, but you probably do not get the same speech quality, and the playing time is down to 7 hours in the earbuds and 28 hours extra from the case. Not that bad either!
If you want plugs for a more active training routine, the JBL Reflect Aero may be more for you, with both dust and water resistance (IP68). Up to 24 hours playback, with 8 hours from the plugs.
We expect to see Live Pro 2 and Live Free 2 at around £120, while Reflect Aero will be a slightly more expensive.
New top model from Belkin
You also get eight hours from the earbuds if you choose Belkin’s new top model, the Soundform Immerse. They also have a more effective noise reduction with a microphone on the outside and inside of the ear canal, which should be better at sensing and reducing noise from the surroundings. AptX HD should provide better sound, and bigger drivers than usual (12 mm) should provide better dynamics and control in the bass. We do not know the price, but Belkin is not known for being too expensive. If they cost much more than £200, we will be surprised.
The most unsitial earbuds at this year’s CES were still Ible. Airvida E1 supposedly cleans the air around you!
Airvida E1 is actually marketed as a personal air purifier. Are air purifiers is what Ible focuses on, and they claim that their air purifiers remove up to 99.9 percent of the virus from the air – and 99.7 percent of the coronavirus!
The last claim would hardly be allowed on more regulated markets, but the idea is at least that you go with an air purifier around the neck, so the air around you becomes cleaner. The Airvida E1 also has earbuds, eanbling youy to listen to music while walking around in clean air. The product should also help against general air pollution.
One thought: That the product cleans almost all viruses that reaches it, the manufacturer may well have the evidence for. But this does not mean that the product manages to absorb all the virus – and otherwise polluted air – around you and then clean it. We doubt that the tiny product has enough power for air flow.
Shokz: Music directly in the temple
Then we hjave more faith in the new product from Shokz, called OpenRun Pro. The manufacturer, formerly called Aftershokz, has for several years been known for its bone-conducting headphones. That is, where the sound does not go through the ear, but propagates directly through the temporal bone. OpenRun Pro is the last shot at this technology and addresses the biggest problem with that kind of product, namely bass response. Usually you will have very little in the lower frequencies with bone conducting tranducers.
OpenRun Pro delivers the sound through the temporal bone in front of the ear and directly into the inner ear. This means that you hear the sounds of the surroundings as well as before, as the ear canal is open. So forget about noise reduction. But it can be smart when you exercise, not least because you avoid earplugs, which push the earwax into the ear, where it mixes with sweat and becomes thick and risks clogging the ear canal. There are also spcial models intended for swimming.
In addition to the improved bass response compared to OpenRun, OpenRun Pro has batteries with longer playing time from 8 to 10 hours, and the form factor is also 20 percent smaller. Not bad!
Mark Levinson: The most expensive – and best?
Over-ear headphones were of course also on display, and the most expensive we saw were supplied by none other than Mark Levinson. No. 5909 are their very first headphones, wireless and with active noise reduction. The price is as much as 1000 dollars. Which would likely translate into a similar number of GBP. Plus VAT!
Those who know Mark Levinson from the past know that the American manufacturer is behind some of the most well-sounding ones on the hi-fi market. Therefore, it is perhaps no surprise that with No. 5909 focuses on sound quality, i.a. with beryllium drivers. A very expensive material, which, however, gives a really good frequency response – especially in the high range.
The sound quality is handled by the best Bluetooth audio codecs like LDAC and aptX.
In addition, you also get 30 hours of playing time with the noise reduction activated, or 34 hours without. 15 minutes of fast charging can provide a full six hours of music playback.
Thanks to six microphones, the noise reduction should also be effective against wind, which is the main problem with this technology. We will see.
Little brother from Shure
Shure Aonic 50 are among the best noise-canceling headphones. They do almost everything right, especially the sound is perfect. However, they are not foldable, and at launch they were quite expensive.
Shure has now rectified this with the more compact Aonic 40. The 50 mm large drivers have shrunk to a more normal 40 mm, and the headphones can be folded. The Aonic 40 has a slightly longer battery life than their more expensive big brother (25 vs. 20 hours) and also has fast charging – something the Aonic 50 lacks.
HyperX: 300 hours battery life!
Within the game category, we particularly noticed HyperX Cloud Alpha Wireless. With them you can play for up to 300 hours before they must be charged!
Whether this is actually the case, or whether you also have to count the standby time – like a mouse or a keyboard that lasts for months before they have to be charged – time will tell. At least according to HyperX, the headset is not much heavier than its predecessors.
Otherwise, 3D sound is provided with the DTS Headphone X, and the microphone boom is both removable and has active noise reduction.
Master & Dynamic MG20: Luxury
We also noticed in Master & Dynamic MG20. A luxury magnesium headset, upholstered in Alcantara faux leather and with genuine lambskin around the ear cushions. We hope they feel as comfortably on the head as they look. But they may not, as they are closed and not open, and you will therefore probably get swaety ears after a while. On the other hand, you isolate yourself from the outside world, and that’s what gaming is all about.
The headset simulates 7.1 surround sound and should provide the very best sound experience thanks to 50 mm beryllium elements. Expensive and nice!
The microphone boom is detachable, so the headset can also be used as wireless headphones on the go. A low-delay Bluetooth adapter is included so that the sound follows the movements of the image.
Alienware: Gaming headset with noise reduction
From Alienware comes Tri-Mode, which is a wireless gaming headset with 3D sound and Dolby Atmos. 40 mm drivers are Hi-Res certified, and active noise reduction removes noise from outside extra efficiently. The microphone boom is detachable, but the Tri-Mode can still be used for phone calls thanks to a built-in microphone.
The right earcup has touch functions.
JBL launched a new top model for gaming, namely the Quantum 910. Like its predecessor Quantum One, the headset has head tracking, so the sound picture changes according to the main movements. The headset has an expensive microphone boom and can either be connected wirelessly via Bluetooth or with USB. It also has 24 hour battery life.
There are also some cheaper models from JBL, namely Quantum 810 and Quantum 610.
Noveto N1: Invisible “Headphones”
And finally, a real curiosity. Whether the Noveto N1 is a pair of “invisible headphones” for desktop use or a soundbar that produces sound “just for you” could certainly be argued. But it is at least a kind of speaker on the desk, aiming the sound directly towards each ear of the listener. You hear everything, while no one around will hear anything!
We have written about the technology before, back then the concept product was called Soundbeamer 1. Now it is launched commercially and is instead called N1. It has also got a price tag, namely $800.