Sounds of science: musical gadgets
The latest musical gadgets aren’t devices that will be obsolete within a year – they mix technology with tradition for ideal long-term investment, writes Pavan Shamdasani
With newer audio technologies constantly making subsequent formats obsolete, it becomes near-impossible to know exactly where to invest for your aural needs. But in the world of audio devices, some things never go out of style.
Like a well-tailored suit, a strong speaker system will rarely have a useby date. The middle ground between a iPod dock and the overcompensating wall-to-wall ear-destroyers is a mid-fi system: essentially two well-made speakers and a powerful receiver.
Consider the Marantz NR1603 (HK$5,080), a sleek, slim 7.1device that is able to handle all your standard devices, while also being new-fangled enough to stream music from your smartphone or computer. Add to this a pair of Wharfedale Diamond 10.2 speakers (HK$3,250) that are possibly the best mid-fi sound-blasters money can buy. They’re able to handle everything from the subtleties of classical orchestras to the heart attack-inducing shredding of hard rock.
But it’s never just about being at home. Invest in Beacon’s recently released Phoenix portable speaker (US$99, beaconaudio.com). No bigger than a baseball, it’s a USBrechargeable and Bluetooth-activated device that is amazingly loud for those lazy Sundays in the park, while being crisp and clear enough to not disturb your Ritz-Carlton neighbours.
The big question now is headphones or earphones?
Wannabe DJs and bedhead fans should opt for the best brand in show: Bose’s QuietComfort 15 acoustic noisecancelling headphones (HK$2,580, bottom). Lighter than most, they combine monitor-quality gadgetry with the most advanced noise reduction technology, meaning local construction or high-altitude planes will never disturb your tunes. All this, and an inline microphone for hands-free business chats.
Those interested in a little more subtlety for their head-silhouette should once again consider Bose – its MIE2 mobile headset uses the brand’s advanced acoustic design to make music sound more natural, while its trademark StayHear tips offer better in-ear stability for when you’re on the move. And they one-up most earbuds with the ability to effortlessly switch between those Gregorian Chants you’re currently obsessed with, and that allimportant business call.
All your listening device bases have been covered, but it’s one thing to just follow the crowd and another to lead. Playing an instrument allows you to appreciate music on a different level. Check out one of the newer devices on the market.
The Tenori-On (US$1,200, top right) is a popular instrument used by a variety of musicians, from Radiohead to Bjork. A double-sided square grid tablet with 16x16 flashing LED buttons on each side, you simply slide your finger across to make music while the reverse provides a light show to your audience.
Those looking for something that mixes technology with tradition should try the Eigenharp, a futuristic bassoon that comes in three models: the Alpha with 132 keys, Tau with 72 keys, and the Pico with 18 keys, from £459 (HK$5,600). Each allows a variety of otherworldly sounds, while still the perfect size to shred in front of an audience.