To say that the best audio products in the world can be shortlisted into just 5 would be just as ludicrous as face ID is better than a traditional home button; although we realise that's a touchy topic in the tech community, so we'll leave that for another blog. Either way, audio branches out into so many different categories that it can get hard to keep track of what's new in the world of audio tech. Luckily, we've done the vigorous job of finding our best picks for portable speakers, wireless earbuds and on-ear headphones out right now, so you don't have to.
Sony SRS XB23
Sony's entry-level SRS-XB23 features a new design that brings an affordable outdoor speaker that most people will love. The design of the Sony SRS XB23 hosts a mesh grille-covered casing which is housed around an elongated cylinder body. On the speaker's body, you can find the playback controls: play/pause and volume controls. One feature worth mentioning is the fact that the Sony SRS XB23 comes with an IP67 rating which means that it is entirely dustproof as well as waterproof up to one meter. Now, whilst we don't anticipate you to listen to your favourite bangers in a SpongeBob-inspired underwater rave, this will give you some extra piece of mind for those pool parties in the summer. The Sony SRS XB23 makes use of USB type-c rather than the last model's micro USB which in turn allows for faster-charging speeds as well as more charge to power the upgraded extra bass speakers. In terms of battery, the Sony SRS XB23 promises 12 hours of playback time on a full charge at around 50% volume with higher playback volumes giving you close to the quoted 12 hours; however, most people claim to get between 10 and 11 with 80-90% volume.
JBL Flip 6
The JBL Flip 6 features a rugged and robust design which makes it easily portable, and whilst yes, a charging port for your phone would be excellent, it's easily forgiven when the Flip 6 ticks all the other boxes for a portable speaker. Like the Sony speaker, the JBL Flip 6's design is reminiscent of 'your average portable speaker' in 2022: a cylindrical build with a wraparound grille and bass radiators on either side. The JBL Flip 6 comes in at just 550g with an added wrist strap which, on behalf of all portable speaker users, we can say we truly appreciate. The JBL Flip 6 also comes with IP67 water and dust resistance rating as well as USB charging. In real-life performance, the JBL Flip 6 has nothing but positive reviews; from its deep bass to rich mids, the JBL Flip 6 is sure to produce a pleasurable listening experience. As for the battery now, the JBL Flip 6 features a 12-hour battery life which is by no surprise very accurate. The USB C charges the device from 0-100% in a mere 2 hours, which is very respectable for a portable speaker. The last thing to mention with the JBL Flip 6 is it features Bluetooth 5.1 connectivity which prevents those annoying connection dropouts that you're used to with the current Bluetooth standard.
Nothing Ear 1
The design of the Nothing Ear 1's is nothing short of impressive! They've used a completely unique approach by housing their earbuds inside a transparent case that accentuates the underlying basis of their whole brand, minimalism that amounts to Nothing. Now that's intelligent design and not something that is easy to pull off either. The design of the Nothing Ear 1's is similar to the AirPods Pros featuring coloured dots to help differentiate from left and right, squared-off stems for an easier grip, as well as allowing for a larger mic and a robust casing. The Nothing Ear 1's emphasises higher midrange vocals, bringing them forwards in the mix to amplify detail and excitement. The treble on the Nothing Ear 1's is good, and the shape of the ear tips allows for the bass to be locked in well. The balance between the two is well maintained, and it really does a good job of bringing out individual instruments from song to song. To add to the audio performance, the Nothing Ear 1's features 11.6mm audio drivers to power the powerful active noise cancellation. In terms of battery, the Nothing Ear 1's is satisfactory, offering around four hours of listening time with active noise cancellation on; however, outside of that, the case itself does offer 34 hours of charge time to help replenish the battery level in-between uses.
AirPods Pro 2
The AirPods Pro 2 have recently been released alongside the iPhone 14 range and has brought about some massive upgrades thanks to the new H2 chip, making these a real contender for the best true wireless earbuds around. In terms of design, nothing really noticeable has happened around here. The AirPods Pro 2 have an identical design to their predecessors (the AirPods Pros), with the only alterations being a slightly shorter stem and a wider case to house them in. In addition to this, these AirPods Pro 2 also come with different size audio tips in the box, allowing a better fit to more ears and whilst this is something many are applauding Apple for, audio manufacturers have been doing this for the last decade, so it's definitely better late than never. The AirPods Pro 2 are packed with an abundance of different features, all ranging from a transparency mode for natural feeling conversations whilst wearing the buds, spatial audio and brilliant noise cancellation. When it comes to battery, the AirPods Pro 2 boast a moderate 6 hours of listening time on a single charge with noise cancelling enabled. The case itself holds 30 hours of charge which can recharge the AirPods Pro 2 five times before needing a recharge.
The Sony WH-1000XM5'S name holds a lot of weight in the audio scene thanks to its class-leading noise-cancelling features and well-balanced audio. However, a slightly shorter and easier name to remember would take a little off these headphones as the name holds a bit too much weight than I'd like typing this blog. Nevertheless, the Sony WH-1000XM5's is a truly impressive pair of headphones and the first in its line to host an all-new design. The last generations of the Sony WH-1000XM5's have been very similar in design elements; however, this year, they feature a much sleeker design over its predecessors. The general design ethos of the Sony WH-1000XM5 is curvier and tidier: with more discreet noise cancelling ports, a slimmer headband with extra leather to cover up joints and a slightly different shape on the earcups to offer a tighter fit. When it comes to the battery, these headphones boast a respectable 30 hours of battery life with active noise cancellation enabled and an additional 10 hours when listening without any noise cancellation.
Apple AirPods Max
The Apple AirPods Max are among the best-sounding headphones money can buy; however, their high price, limitations for Android users, and lack of a 3.5mm audio port means they can only really be recommended to iOS users with a lot of money to spare—and no interest in Hi-Res Audio. Whilst this is a trade-off some can't make, let's talk about what makes this one of the best pairs of headphones on today's market. First and foremost, the AirPods Max's design is one of a kind with a truly unique look which is made up of large flat earcups made from stainless steel which is offset by an ultra-lightweight headband made from a knitted mesh fabric to alleviate head pressure when in use. The noise cancellation on the Apple AirPods Max is impressive, sitting on par with the aforementioned Sony WH-1000XM5's. When it comes to the battery life on the AirPods Max, you can expect 20 hours of playback time with active noise cancellation enabled, of course, although Apple does quote 30 hours of use.
Whilst there's still a tonne of other audio picks on the market, we've certainly narrowed down some of the top contenders in 2022, many of which are set to be sought-after Christmas stocking fillers. Let us know what your thoughts on this list are and any additions you'd make in the discussion box below.