# Smarter sound

#01 UE WonderBoom 2

UE’s second-gen WonderBoom is bassier and louder, particularly if you activate its outdoor boost mode. But the sound isn’t really the point. It’s the versatility that makes it essential: the ball-shaped WonderBoom is as at home on your shelf as it is bobbing around in a pool. Capable of pumping out 360-degree sound for 13 hours, you can now hook a pair of them together for true wireless stereo.

£89.99, utimateears.com

#02 Flare Audio PRO 2HD

Built to last, built to blast out sound, and built to best even cans with huge drivers, Flare’s PRO 2HD are earphones you can really rely on. From the acoustic lens that ensures precise sound reproduction, to the extra-large 5.5mm beryllium drivers, there’s a tremendous amount of detailed engineering on display – and Flare’s Jet tech means musical detail takes centre soundstage.

£399, flareaudio.com

#03 Audiolab M-DAC Nano

DACs are traditionally about improving audio resolution, and with its low-power 32-bit/384kHz converter the M-DAC nano certainly has chops in that department. But it’s a DAC that puts convenience just as high on the list. It charges wirelessly, gets its signal via Bluetooth 4.2, and is so incredibly small you can drop it into any pocket while leaving your phone slung in a bag. Ingenious.

£150, audiolab.co.uk

#04 Ruark Audio R5

The all-in-one R5 is packed with audio inputs, totes a built-in CD player and FM/DAB+ radio, and is overflowing with streaming protocol compatibility, but it’s about as outwardly calm as high-end audio gets. Start cranking it up, though, and the integrated sub, 75mm full-range drivers and intricately engineered amp will excite: this could be all you need to fill your home with accomplished sound.

£999, ruarkaudio.co.uk

#05 Monoprice Monolith M1060

Planar magnetic cans usually sit at the high end of the market, but Monoprice hasn’t dragged the M1060s down to more affordable levels by cutting out performance or looks. In fact, we’re not entirely sure how they’ve done it. These are beautifully weighty metal and wood headphones whose enormous 106mm drivers pound out a supremely clear sound, and they’re somehow sensitive enough to be driven without a headphone amp.

£275, monoprice.uk


The LSX is, technically, a shrunken and more affordable alternative to KEF’s two-grand LS50, but its small size might make it an even better choice. KEF’s innovative Uni-Q drivers, which nestle the tweeter in the centre of the woofer, are internally amplified, the pair can communicate wirelessly between themselves, and the vast range of streaming options – from DLNA to Tidal to Airplay 2 and beyond – mean the LSX is all you need for bookshelf audio.

£1,000, uk.kef.com

#07 Pro-ject T1 BT

Boasting some premium minimalist design – a CNC-machined metal plinth with no plastic parts, an anti-resonance glass turntable, and a stiff aluminium tone arm that’s ready-calibrated out of the box – you’d be forgiven for thinking that the Bluetooth-packing T1 BT was a vastly more expensive deck. And at under £300, for a quality record player with a phono stage built in, this is an absolute bargain and a perfect hi-fi centerpiece.

£289, project-audio.com

#08 Sonos Amp

If you’ve already invested in some premium wired speakers, the thought of throwing everything out when going multi-room is going to sting. Unless, that is, you consider the Sonos Amp, a tremendously designed 125-watt per channel amplifier with its own subwoofer output, RCA and HDMI inputs with automatic TV switching, and all the wireless smarts you’d expect of Sonos’ range. That might make things a little easier.

£599, sonos.com

#09 Amazon Echo Input

Alexa all the things! Amazon’s Echo Input is essentially the meat and potatoes part of its other Echo devices, just without a speaker or screen. This means you can get talking with the Bluetooth speaker of your choice, or hook Alexa up to your hi-fi or powered speakers – all in a discreet way. And if all you’re interested in is smart home control, you don’t need a speaker at all.

£35, amazon.co.uk

# Commute busters

#10 Anker Power Drive Elite

Turn that redundant 12V outlet in your car into something far more useful… Anker’s Powerdrive 2 offers up a pair of PowerIQ-enabled USB ports with 24V of power, which is more than enough to offer full-power juice phones or tablets

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