We’re accustomed to tech products that don’t last and that are instead replaced on a one, two or three year cycle. The Module Project’s Decibel Modular Speaker is instead built for the long haul. An Allen key is all it takes to crack open its anodized aluminum shell and make repairs or swap components since no glue is used to hold parts together. If significant advancements in one technology or another warrant an upgrade, the speaker units (two two-inch bass drivers and two tweeters), lithium ion batteries, and electronic control module (which, notably, houses its Bluetooth antenna along with all other electronics) can all be traded out for newer versions, sparing all other components as well as the case from further populating landfills. Decibel also promises 24 hours of battery life, USB-C fast charging, and wireless charging.
Currently crowdfunding on Indiegogo. Learn more here – $195
You’d be forgiven for wondering where Miniot Wheel Turntable’s tonearm’s hiding. It’s only visible once you lift up the vinyl sitting on Wheel, since the laminated mahogany linear tonearm and AudioTechnica AT95E cartridge sit underneath and play the record from its B-side. Besides looking sleek and minimal this unique setup allows the turntable to play records when placed horizontally on a flat surface or mounted vertically to a wall while keeping its delicate, sensitive components free from dust. A center stick controls playback including on/off and volume by turning, play/pause by tapping, and skipping tracks when shifted left or right. It’s also got your standard analog outputs and and comes in walnut, cherry, mahogany, and a special edition Indian rosewood paired to a champagne-colored aluminum platter.
Find it at Kickstarter – roughly $600
Like many Apple products before them, AirPods come in a colorway that starts and ends with white. And if you’re willing to pay, ColorWare again fills that gap with ColorWare AirPods in 58 colors, half metallics and half solids. They don’t simply spray paint the surface but rather meticulously disassemble, paint, and reassemble the AirPods for a perfect, seamless look. They also come in either gloss or matte finishes and can also paint the case if you throw in an additional 30 bones.
Grab a pair at ColorWare – $289
Gone is the iPhone 7’s headphone jack, but you knew that. In its place is Apple’s new (and underutilized) W1 wireless chip that few headphones so far support, with smaller, portable earbuds especially lacking other than, of course, the AirPods. And now BeatsX Wireless Earphones. Their only wire connects the earbuds together and includes a Siri-compatible remote with mic as well as two small symmetrical bulges that hold the charger input and, presumably, their lithium ion batteries. While they’ll work fine with Android devices via traditional Bluetooth the W1 chip really shines in ensuring smooth, straightforward pairing to your Apple device as well as high quality audio transmission that reproduces sound in a typically bass-heavy Beats fashion. Conveniently they also last 8 hours per charge and go from dead to 25% charged with just 5 minutes of charging. And when you’re not listening to music or taking calls the two buds link up magnetically to stay secured around your neck, tangle-free.
Learn more at Beats – $150
Pelican’s briefcases are virtually indestructible. That’s why the Black Pelican BoomCase was built inside one, making for a sound system that’s more rugged than BoomCase’s traditional offerings while remaining just as portable. Closed, the speaker system is completely protected against bumps and even water, and open it’s still more durable than your average speaker system thanks to grilles over the drivers. Inside a 100 Watt amp powers the two 6.5-inch woofers, 4-inch mid-range and two dome tweeters, and a huge rechargeable battery keeps it running for over 16 hours straight. Comes in several colors other than black (like yellow, orange, green, and grey) and includes a battery charger and an aux cable, though a Bluetooth module to make this BoomCase wireless will run you another $45.
Find it at Pelican – $895
The Love Intelligent Turntable isn’t unique just for its looks, though these are definitely a breed apart from most record players. Instead it’s the turntable’s particularly intuitive controls and smartphone integration that make it easier and more convenient to use. To start playing music, place a vinyl on the included record base and then the strudel-sized device on top of that. The size of the record is automatically determined, as are the number of tracks, so you can skip tracks or start playing at the track number you like, and do so wirelessly from across the room. Both Bluetooth and WiFi are built-in to output sound wirelessly to various systems, with an included 3.5mm or RCA Bluetooth adapter if your system isn’t yet sans cables, and RPM selection is determined by a switch on the device. It doesn’t weigh on your records, either, instead balancing at its center to let a standard size stylus read the grooves just like the turntables of yesteryear.
Learn more at Kickstarter – $300
The lowly cinder block isn’t good for much other than building. But Cinder Speakers, a collaboration between industrial designer Daniel Ballou and Dashdot, turns a pair of concrete cinder blocks into high fidelity speakers. Since concrete minimizes vibrations the material is a logical choice, or at least from that perspective since you’ll need to find a relatively solid surface on which to rest such hefty speakers, and perhaps line the base with a felt pad or similar to avoid scratches. The kit, still in development stage and with a target price of roughly $150, ships as pre-assembled panels that attach to either side of the blocks and feature a 5-inch driver, a tweeter, a crossover, and an input jack on the right side of the front panels. Where you get the cinder block, on the other hand, is your problem.
Built around the same high-resolution armature drivers as their q-JAYS, the q-JAYS Anniversary Edition earphones manages to refine the already spectacular-sounding reference earphones while commemorating the brand’s 10th year making audio equipment. The compact metal injection molded stainless steel housing of each earphone is polished repeatedly for a slightly sooty but reflective shine and paired to sound isolating silicone ear tips in five sizes as well as one pair of memory foam Comply tips. Each side packs in two armature drivers — one for lower frequencies and another that handles midrange and highs — behind an acoustic filter that cleans the sound for precise acoustics with stunning clarity that can accentuate otherwise overlooked and unheard details in music you’ve listened to for years. Despite their compactness the included high-purity oxygen-free copper cables (also twisted to minimize external electromagnetic interference), distinct to the Anniversary Edition, can be unscrewed and removed if they ever need replacing, avoiding you the need to toss the pair should the cables eventually fail. And the same goes for the laser-cut protective filters that block dust and dirt from entering.
Find them at JAYS – $349