The Verge’s favorite audio gear: headphones, speakers, and more – The Verge9 min read

Plantronics Explorer 500

About six years ago, I examined a midlevel Bluetooth headset from Plantronics (now Poly) called the Explorer 500. It was a little, perfectly constructed, single-ear headset, and it included a short USB cable with ends that magnetically snapped together to become a loop. I thought it was a respectable piece of tech at the time, so I purchased one– and Im still utilizing it. Naturally, its not great for music (it uses only one ear, after all), however its extremely practical to have it hanging on a loop in my bag so I can get it for a fast telephone call or if I want to listen to a podcast. And remarkably, the battery still holds an affordable charge. One of nowadays, Ill have to purchase a totally wireless headset so I can have completely mobile music also– however till then, my Explorer 500 serves me well.– Barbara Krasnoff, examines editor

Since Édouard-Léon Scott de Martinville tape-recorded a nearly undecipherable version of the French song “Au Clair de la Lune” in the mid-19th century, its been clear that the technology that you utilize to listen and produce to sounds can impact your experience. Even now, about 150 years later, the quality of your equipment can mean the distinction between a tinny, nearly unrecognizable noise or a totally realized acoustic experience.
As you can envision, individuals here at The Verge spend a lot of time listening to a variety of digital sounds– whether its online conferences, music, podcasts, videos, or sound checks of their own multimedia productions. We asked the personnel what their favorite devices were to either listen to, boost, or produce their digital noises. Heres what they discussed.
Plantronics Explorer 500 Bluetooth headset

Picture: Poly

AudioQuest Dragonfly USB DAC

AudioQuest Dragonfly series

AudioQuests Dragonfly portable digital-to-analog converter (DAC) brings higher-quality audio to your gadgets. The majority of tablets, mobile phones, and laptop computers dont have great DACs or dont natively support hi-res files like FLAC (nor inform you when they dont), however with the Dragonfly, youll be able to listen to uncompressed audio approximately 24-bit/ 96kHz. Theres also an LED light on the gadget that alters colors to indicate which sample rate is being supported at the moment. AudioQuest makes 3 separate models: the standard Dragonfly Black; the Dragonfly Red, which utilizes a higher-performance DAC chip; and the Dragonfly Cobalt, its highest-end model.
In order to make the most of the Dragonfly, youll also need an adapter for your phone with a Lightning-to-USB-A adapter for an iPhone or a USB-C-to-USB-A adapter for an Android device. Portability is the biggest feature here– swapping between my phone and my laptop is the reason Im advising this for anyone who wants one gadget that will let you listen to hi-res audio on any device.– Andrew Marino, audio engineer

Image: AudioQuest

Audio-Technica ATH-M50 earphones

Audio-Technica ATH-M50x

Photo: Audio Technica

Alright, yes, Im mindful that these are quite much currently the webs preferred pair of wired, over-ear earphones. Seriously: Ive had mine for 6 years now, and theyve held up great. Sure, the pleather on the headband is starting to exfoliate, and I had to replace the ear cups a while back, however they sound just as excellent as the day I got them. I find that music simply sounds enjoyable with them– not too analytical, like my DT-770 Pros can sometimes be. The Audio-Technicas are for sure not reference earphones, but thats probably not what many people are really searching for.
They were also a fantastic rate, specifically compared to their Bluetooth counterparts. And truthfully, Ive been falling out of love with wireless earphones for anything besides working out, though thats most likely a problem with me, not them. Either method, the more recent variation, the ATH-M50x (the ATH-M50 has been stopped), has a removable cable television so you dont need to fret about being saddled with the unbelievably long cable televisions that often include elegant earphones. (Another variation, the ATH-M50xBT, gets rid of the cable totally.)– Mitchell Clark, news author

Antlion Audio ModMic USB microphone

Antlion Audio ModMic USB microphone

Image: Antlion Audio

It looks like everybodys getting big standalone microphones for their desks throughout the pandemic, however I do not desire to quit any valuable real estate. A solution that works much better for my requirements is Antlion Audios ModMic USB microphone. Its cleverly designed. You adhere a little circular base (about the size of a large chocolate chip) to the side of your headphones, then the microphone itself can be magnetically attached and detached at will. I like being able to quickly turn my headphones into a video gaming headset, or to get prepared for a meeting look, then back to routine earphones by detaching the mic. I use one with my Beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro open-back earphones and it assists me get more out of the package I already own.
This specific microphone has 2 modes you can change between: omnidirectional (made for broadcasts) or unidirectional, which assists to record just your voice if youre in a noisy environment. The sound quality of a voice recording made with the ModMic is great– far much better than the majority of the gaming headsets Ive attempted. The microphone works with Windows, macOS, Linux, PS4, and PS5.
If your headphones are wired, presenting this mics wire into the fray can get a little difficult to manage. Antlion likewise makes an all-wireless rechargeable microphone for $120, if you want to go that route, which likewise has dual mic modes and can stick to your earphones with adhesive.


Image by Chris Welch/ The Verge

Sonos Five.

HyperX QuadCast microphone.

I d been looking to update my microphone for a very long time, but I was uncertain which product to go with. A few buddies suggested the HyperX QuadCast, and thats what I ended up purchasing.
Formerly, I utilized a Blue Yeti microphone, but I felt the audio quality was unacceptable on my end. I wished to make sure I was buying a microphone that was not too cheap and not too expensive and, most significantly, had a great cable television prolonged so I did not need to reorganize my desk. Compared to heaven Yeti, I discovered the HyperX QuadCast had terrific clearness and got the subtle details from my audio output.
I really delight in the rather unconventional design of the QuadCast; it comes with straightforward controls, a stand, and a shock mount adapter for boom arms if you want to mount the microphone more detailed to you. I likewise find it convenient that the mute button is on top of the microphone.

Rode RodeCaster Pro podcast production.

HyperX QuadCast.

This four-mic input audio user interface by Rode makes it substantially easier to establish a complete podcasting session with a style that imitates a live mixing board. You can tape multitracks onto your computer or internally on a microSD using a USB-C connection.
As someone who primarily blends podcasts after theyre tape-recorded, this setup is more appealing to me for live streaming on Twitch or YouTube. You also get built-in adjustable sound banks, compression and EQ settings, multiple outputs for monitoring, and an instinctive style for traditional live mixing.
Enjoyable idea: its likewise a fantastic way to record call interviews by matching the RodeCaster Pro with your smart device via Bluetooth.– Andrew Marino.

An option that works better for my requirements is Antlion Audios ModMic USB microphone. You adhere a little circular base (about the size of a big chocolate chip) to the side of your headphones, then the microphone itself can be magnetically attached and separated at will. Antlion likewise makes an all-wireless rechargeable microphone for $120, if you desire to go that path, which likewise has dual mic modes and can stick to your earphones with adhesive. Formerly, I used a Blue Yeti microphone, however I felt the audio quality was unsatisfactory on my end. Ive never ever discovered a single smart speaker that sounds much better, and I like that there are no microphones inside.

Picture: HyperX.

Sonos Five speaker.

Rode RodeCaster Pro podcast production.

I love my AirPods and I have given that my first pair. Theyre lightweight, they charge up quickly in their case, and they sound sufficient for what I need them for, which is primarily hearing alerts, listening to podcasts, and seeing YouTube videos. It assists that Im an iPhone and a Mac user, as they work truly well with both gadgets.
I think I like the initial AirPods more than the Pros, though. While the Pros offer some welcome upgrades like active sound cancellation and water and sweat resistance, they simply do not fit my ears. The initial AirPods never fell out, but the AirPods Pro will gradually slip out if Im eating or talking, and sometimes when Im running. If Im doing anything besides sitting entirely still, that indicates Im continuously readjusting them. (To be fair, Im sitting totally still a great deal of the time today.).
Heres hoping that the next variation of the Pros will fit my ears just a little bit better. If they do, theyll likely turn into one of my preferred Apple products ever.– Jay Peters, news author.

Image: Rode.

Picture: Sonos.

Ive never found a single smart speaker that sounds better, and I like that there are no microphones inside. Those are the main bullet points for why Ive had a Sonos Play:5– recently revitalized as the Sonos Five– on my desk for several years now. (Granted, it had much better sound damn great for $500.).
Pretty much every audio app under the sun is supported through the Sonos app, including hi-fi choices like Tidal and Amazon Music HD. The Sonos Five works with Apple AirPlay, and theres a 3.5-millimeter aux input for wired playback. (You can also utilize this to get a turntable hooked into your Sonos system.).
No, theres no built-in voice assistant like Alexa or Google Assistant included here. Some people will value the lack of always-listening mics. And including an assistant to the mix after the reality is simple, either by means of another Sonos speaker like the One or simply by hooking up an Echo Dot or Nest Mini.
Its just an embarassment that the black and white combo Play:5 colorway disappears; I believe that was the best-looking speaker Sonos ever made.– Chris Welch, news editor.

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