Following up on their highly popular Major comes the Marshall Major II, a refreshed set of on-ear headphones that update performance and fit, amongst others. The spotlight of the Major II is new customized drivers that deliver an overall improved acoustic profile, particularly deeper bass and more detailed highs. Importantly, they’re also more solidly built, in part thanks to a more flexible headband, a durable vinyl finish, and redesigned, beefier hinges that still allow for the cans to collapse down and slip into a pack for easy transport. Other niceties include ultra soft ear cushions that passively dampen ambient noise, dual 3.5mm sockets — one per ear — to customize the side where the cord is worn or to share music with others, plus an inline mic and remote for taking calls or skipping tracks.
There’s no denying the planned obsolescence that goes into the design of virtually all our modern electronics. AIAIAI flips this ugly practice on its head with their TMA-2 Modular Headphones, a set of cans that come together from individually selected speakers, headbands, earpads, and cables for a grand total of 360 combinations. First, choose from PU foam-, silicone-, or leather-padded headbands. Couple these to one of four 40mm drivers depending on your preferred listening profile, add on over- or on-ear earpads made of either PU leather or microfiber, and select one of six cables of varying lengths and with/without 1 or 3 button mics. And if you decide to eventually switch it up — or if any one component fails — swapping parts is as easy as snapping and plugging them in.
Build yours at AIAIAI – $145 to $250
Apple’s purchase of Beats hasn’t brought on any obvious changes to the headphone maker’s hardware — until now. While just skin deep, Beats’ Solo2 Wireless are now also available in Apple colors that include Space Grey, Gold, and Silver, perfectly matching the latter’s lineup of smartphones, tablets, and new MacBook. Otherwise, they still boast the same Bluetooth connectivity, 12 hour battery, RemoteTalk cable, and bass-heavy acoustic profile. Which begs the question of when we’ll see the first completely revamped, Apple-influenced Beats headphones.
Fixed cables are problematic when tripped or pulled inadvertently, whether they be laptop chargers or other. Magzet Magnetic Audio Jack solves this problem for the audio jack in a way that’s very similar to Apple’s touted MagSafe adapter. Made up of a MAGjack that plugs into your device’s audio jack and a MAGkap that connects to your headphones’ audio cable, Magzet connects with a satisfying magnetic click and disconnects just as smoothly if pulled upon, potentially preventing your lighter devices from tumbling to the floor when carelessness gets the best of you. Plus, since each set includes multiple Magjacks, you can plug them into your favorite devices and leave them in, preventing unnecessary wear and tear caused by repeated plugging and unplugging.
Find it at Kickstarter – $35
With its unusual shape and weight for a portable speaker, Bang & Olufsen’s aluminum and leather Beolit 15 may be overlooked — that is, until it’s heard. The Beolit 15 boasts 240 watts of peak power, more than sufficient to fill a large room with booming omnidirectional sound provided by dual Class D amplifiers powering a 5.5-inch long-stroke full-range driver, two four-inch passive bass radiators — one on each side to nullify vibrations — and three 37mm mid-tweeters. The 15 also drops AirPlay in favor of Bluetooth 4.0 aptX, though it still retains a 3.5mm auxiliary jack for direct, higher resolution connections. And even though it’ll keep playing for up to 24 hours on a charge, you don’t need to worry about it running dry: a trap door on its rear conceals a charge cable, ready to go in just a moment’s notice.
A sound system component unlike any other, the Devialet Phantom eclipses speakers multiple times its size with its tremendous output. This sleek, alienoid device features proprietary ADH (analog digital hybrid) technology, which employs a powerful processor to purify and magnify the audio signal, precisely regulating the unit’s mechanical functioning. While small speakers usually lack bass, the Phantom is an exception, its symmetrical lateral wings beating simultaneously to produce ultra deep bass while cancelling out movement to keep the unit dead still. And while a single Phantom sounds incredible, up to 24 can be paired and synchronized at once, far amplifying the acoustic experience to a ludicrous state.
Audiophile-quality equipment is often accompanied by, at the minimum, decent looks, but the Beam Tower Speakers are on a whole other level. Each Beam Tower is housed in a stunning, 43-inch tall reclaimed heart pine timber cabinet and boasts a versatile 8″ Scan-Speak driver that’s solid across the bass and mid-range coupled seamlessly to a 1″ Seas aluminum dome tweeter. Driver selection, in addition to impedance correction circuits, QB3 vented alignment, and accuracy across the range, results in an acoustic experience that still manages to best the speakers’ aesthetics.
Learn more at Fern & Roby – $4,500
Everything nowadays feels disposable, particularly our tiny, seemingly impossible to repair electronics. But it doesn’t have to be that way, and here to prove that are Jays’ q-Jays Earphones. Considering that cables are usually the first thing to go on a pair of buds, q-Jays come with exchangeable, screw-on, 3-button remote-equipped cables that can be swapped if need be without busting out a soldering iron (and inevitably inflicting irreparable damage). The earphones themselves are of course built to last with a CNC-machined and laser-cut housing that’s finalized with a tough physical vapor deposition finish, and sound quality competes with the best of them thanks to precisely tuned dual balanced armature drivers in each side, tailor-made acoustic filters to clean the sound, removable laser-cut filters, and multiple sizes of silicone or foam ear tips.
Learn more at Jays – $450
On the subtler end of the style spectrum lies Ghostly’s TMA-1 Headphones, designed in collaboration with Danish acoustics design house AIAIAI. But don’t let its murdered out, matte black design make you think otherwise: these are some seriously listenable cans. The Ghostly edition TMA-1’s feature dynamic 40mm closed drivers that pump out detailed, accurate sound, fine Moroccan leather-covered Japanese memory foam cushions that passively block out external noise, plus seven-position adjustable cups for optimizing size. They’re also equipped with a variety of detail-oriented niceties, including a 6.3mm plug adaptor and a durable 1.5 metre woven coil cable that locks with a twist to keep from getting pulled out.
Pick up a pair at Ghostly – $250
Perhaps bold, red or white corded earbuds aren’t flashy enough for your liking, but Glow Headphones should be. These earbuds promise quality sound thanks to Knowles dual balanced armature drivers but really stand out thanks to their laser-driven Corning Fibrance cables, which light up brightly and pulse to the sound of your music. Each pair also includes an in-line 5-way remote, a pulse oximeter rate rate sensor within the buds (which can synchronize the pulsing to your heart beat), and comes in one of three colors: red, blue, or green.
Find them at Kickstarter – $150