The Verge’s favorite audio gear: headphones, speakers, and more

Ever since Édouard-Léon Scott de Martinville recorded an almost undecipherable version of the French track “Au Clair de la Lune” within the mid-Nineteenth century, it’s been clear that the know-how that you simply use to supply and take heed to sounds can have an effect on your expertise. Even now, about 150 years later, the standard of your gear can imply the distinction between a tinny, almost unrecognizable noise or a totally realized aural expertise.

As you may think about, the individuals right here at The Verge spend a number of time listening to a wide range of digital sounds — whether or not it’s on-line conferences, music, podcasts, movies, or sound checks of their very own multimedia productions. We requested the employees what their favourite gadgets had been to both take heed to, improve, or produce their digital sounds. Right here’s what they talked about.

Plantronics Explorer 500 Bluetooth headset

Plantronics Explorer 500
Picture: Poly

About six years in the past, I reviewed a midlevel Bluetooth headset from Plantronics (now Poly) known as the Explorer 500. It was a small, properly constructed, single-ear headset, and it got here with a brief USB cable with ends that magnetically snapped collectively to change into a loop. I assumed it was a reasonably good piece of tech on the time, so I purchased one — and I’m nonetheless utilizing it. After all, it’s not nice for music (it makes use of just one ear, in any case), however it’s extremely handy to have it hanging on a loop in my bag so I can seize it for a fast telephone name or if I wish to take heed to a podcast. And surprisingly, the battery nonetheless holds an affordable cost. Certainly one of nowadays, I’ll should spend money on a totally wi-fi headset so I can have totally cell music as nicely — however till then, my Explorer 500 serves me nicely. — Barbara Krasnoff, opinions editor

AudioQuest Dragonfly USB DAC

AudioQuest Dragonfly series

AudioQuest Dragonfly collection
Picture: AudioQuest

AudioQuest’s Dragonfly transportable digital-to-analog converter (DAC) brings higher-quality audio to your gadgets. Most laptops, tablets, and smartphones don’t have nice DACs or don’t natively help hi-res information like FLAC (nor let you know after they don’t), however with the Dragonfly, you’ll be capable to take heed to uncompressed audio as much as 24-bit / 96kHz. There’s additionally an LED mild on the machine that adjustments colours to point which pattern fee is being supported in the intervening time. AudioQuest makes three separate models: the fundamental Dragonfly Black; the Dragonfly Pink, which makes use of a higher-performance DAC chip; and the Dragonfly Cobalt, its highest-end mannequin.

So as to take full benefit of the Dragonfly, you’ll additionally want an adapter to your telephone with a Lightning-to-USB-A adapter for an iPhone or a USB-C-to-USB-A adapter for an Android machine. Portability is the most important function right here — swapping between my telephone and my laptop computer is the rationale I’m recommending this for anybody who needs one gadget that can allow you to take heed to hi-res audio on any machine. — Andrew Marino, audio engineer

Audio-Technica ATH-M50 headphones

Audio Technica ATH-M50x

Audio-Technica ATH-M50x
Picture: Audio Technica

Alright, sure, I’m conscious that these are just about already the web’s favourite pair of wired, over-ear headphones. However significantly: I’ve had mine for six years now, they usually’ve held up nice. Certain, the pleather on the headscarf is beginning to flake off, and I needed to substitute the ear cups some time again, however they sound simply pretty much as good because the day I received them. I discover that music simply sounds enjoyable with them — not too analytical, like my DT-770 Pros can typically be. The Audio-Technicas are for positive not reference headphones, however that’s most likely not what most individuals are literally searching for.

They had been additionally an important value, particularly in comparison with their Bluetooth counterparts. And actually, I’ve been falling out of affection with wi-fi headphones for something aside from figuring out, although that’s most likely an issue with me, not them. Both approach, the newer model, the ATH-M50x (the ATH-M50 has been discontinued), has a detachable cable so that you don’t have to fret about being saddled with the ridiculously lengthy cables that typically include fancy headphones. (One other model, the ATH-M50xBT, disposes of the cable totally.) — Mitchell Clark, information author

Antlion Audio ModMic USB microphone

Antlion Audio ModMic USB microphone

Antlion Audio ModMic USB microphone
Picture: Antlion Audio

It looks as if everybody’s getting huge standalone microphones for his or her desks throughout the pandemic, however I don’t wish to surrender any valuable actual property. An answer that works higher for my wants is Antlion Audio’s ModMic USB microphone. It’s cleverly designed. First, you adhere a small round base (in regards to the dimension of a big chocolate chip) to the facet of your headphones, then the microphone itself could be magnetically connected and indifferent at will. I like having the ability to shortly flip my headphones right into a gaming headset, or to prepare for a gathering look, then again to common headphones by detaching the mic. I take advantage of one with my Beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro open-back headphones and it helps me get extra out of the equipment I already personal.

This explicit microphone has two modes you may change between: omnidirectional (made for broadcasts) or unidirectional, which helps to seize simply your voice if you happen to’re in a loud atmosphere. The sound high quality of a voice recording made with the ModMic is excellent — much better than a lot of the gaming headsets I’ve tried. The microphone is appropriate with Home windows, macOS, Linux, PS4, and PS5.

The draw back is that this mannequin prices about $70. Additionally, in case your headphones are wired, introducing this mic’s wire into the fray can get a bit powerful to handle. For me, the worth is well worth the effort. Antlion additionally makes an all-wireless rechargeable microphone for $120, if you wish to go that route, which additionally has twin mic modes and may persist with your headphones with adhesive. — Cameron Faulkner, author


The AirPods Pro, the best wireless earbuds for people who use Apple products, pictured next to an iPhone 11 Pro Max and MacBook Pro.

Picture by Chris Welch / The Verge

I like my AirPods and I’ve since my first pair. They’re light-weight, they cost up shortly of their case, they usually sound adequate for what I want them for, which is generally listening to notifications, listening to podcasts, and watching YouTube movies. It helps that I’m an iPhone and a Mac person, as they work rather well with each gadgets.

I feel I just like the original AirPods greater than the Pros, although. Whereas the Professionals provide some welcome upgrades like energetic noise cancellation and water and sweat resistance, they only don’t match my ears as nicely. The unique AirPods by no means fell out, however the AirPods Professional will slowly slip out if I’m speaking or consuming, and typically after I’m working. Meaning I’m continually readjusting them if I’m doing something apart from sitting utterly nonetheless. (To be truthful, I’m sitting utterly nonetheless a number of the time proper now.)

Right here’s hoping that the subsequent model of the Professionals will match my ears just a bit bit higher. In the event that they do, they’ll probably change into certainly one of my favourite Apple merchandise ever. — Jay Peters, information author

Rode RodeCaster Professional podcast manufacturing

Rode RodeCaster Pro podcast production

Rode RodeCaster Professional podcast manufacturing
Picture: Rode

This four-mic enter audio interface by Rode makes it considerably simpler to arrange a full podcasting session with a design that mimics a reside mixing board. You’ll be able to document multitracks onto your laptop or internally on a microSD utilizing a USB-C connection.

As somebody who largely mixes podcasts after they’re recorded, this setup is extra interesting to me for reside streaming on Twitch or YouTube. You additionally get built-in customizable sound banks, compression and EQ settings, a number of outputs for monitoring, and an intuitive design for conventional reside mixing.

Enjoyable tip: it’s additionally a good way to document telephone name interviews by pairing the RodeCaster Professional together with your smartphone by way of Bluetooth. — Andrew Marino

HyperX QuadCast microphone

HyperX Quadcast

HyperX QuadCast
Picture: HyperX

I’d been seeking to improve my microphone for a very long time, however I used to be not sure which product to go together with. Just a few buddies really useful the HyperX QuadCast, and that’s what I ended up shopping for.

Beforehand, I used a Blue Yeti microphone, however I felt the audio high quality was unsatisfactory on my finish. I wished to verify I used to be shopping for a microphone that was not too low cost and never too dear and, most significantly, had a pleasant cable prolonged so I didn’t should rearrange my desk. In comparison with the Blue Yeti, I discovered the HyperX QuadCast had nice readability and picked up the delicate particulars from my audio output.

I actually benefit from the considerably unconventional design of the QuadCast; it comes with easy controls, a stand, and a shock mount adapter for growth arms if you wish to mount the microphone nearer to you. I additionally discover it handy that the mute button is on prime of the microphone. It makes it straightforward to mute myself shortly whereas on Zoom or Discord. —Taylor Lyles, author

Sonos 5 speaker

Sonos Five

Sonos 5
Picture: Sonos

I’ve by no means discovered a single good speaker that sounds higher, and I like that there aren’t any microphones inside. These are the primary bullet factors for why I’ve had a Sonos Play:5 — recently refreshed as the Sonos Five — on my desk for a number of years now. For a speaker that doesn’t have a 360-degree design, the 5 nonetheless produces a really passable soundstage that may fill most rooms. It could kick out ample bass with out overpowering the highs and mids of your music. It takes two of most different good audio system paired collectively to come back anyplace near what the Sonos 5 can ship. (Granted, it had higher sound rattling good for $500.)

Just about each audio app underneath the solar is supported via the Sonos app, together with hi-fi choices like Tidal and Amazon Music HD. The Sonos 5 works with Apple AirPlay, and there’s a 3.5-millimeter aux enter for wired playback. (You may also use this to get a turntable hooked into your Sonos system.)

No, there’s no built-in voice assistant like Alexa or Google Assistant included right here. However some individuals will admire the absence of always-listening mics. And including an assistant to the combination after the actual fact is simple, both by way of one other Sonos speaker just like the One or just by hooking up an Echo Dot or Nest Mini.

It’s only a disgrace that the white and black combo Play:5 colorway isn’t any extra; I feel that was the best-looking speaker Sonos ever made. — Chris Welch, information editor

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