Father's Day Tech Gifts: Wireless Speakers and Headphones
Give the gift of music with these memorable hits from CR's testing
Whether it’s Fifth Harmony, the 5th Dimension, or Beethoven’s Fifth, all dads like to listen to music. And these days, you can find a wireless speaker or pair of headphones to suit almost any taste. So why not give your dad the gift of music this Father's Day?
To help you narrow the choices, we’ve prepared a list of great audio gadgets at various prices. They all performed well in our test labs.
If you’re feeling extra generous this year, consider throwing in a gift card to a streaming music service, too. You know, so dad has some fresh tunes to play on his new toy.
For a Sonos product, this stylish, solidly constructed $200 speaker delivers very good sound at a nice price. Pair it with a second Sonos Play:1 via WiFi and it gets even better. You can mix things up using the device's mobile app, playing soft jazz in the dining room and rock and roll in the den (as long as there's an outlet nearby). You can, of course, stream music and podcasts wirelessly from your computer, tablet, or smartphone, but the Play:1 also has direct access to music services such as Pandora and Spotify.
Don't let dad suffer with the cheapie earbuds that came with his phone. In addition to very good sound quality, this $23 pair from Panasonic offers an earplug-style design that muffles some external noise so that he can enjoy his favorite music with less distraction. (The design also limits the amount of sound that escapes, so you don't have to listen to doo-wop when he's sitting next to you!) It also features a built-in microphone and player function controls that let you lower the volume and field calls from certain smartphones and Apple products.
This $400 wireless speaker is a sturdy sidekick for fathers who love to take the party on the road. According to the manufacturer, it's water-resistant, too, which means it's not likely to let a little rain spoil the fun. Easy to use, with good sound quality, it comes with a built-in FM radio and analog audio input so that you can use it with non-Bluetooth devices.
These earbuds are for the father who enjoys listening to tunes while on the go but doesn’t want any cords tripping him up. In other words, they’re "truly wireless," which means no cords at all—not even between the two earpieces. At $250, the Jabra headphones are pricey, but they perform as promised (unlike other "truly wireless" models, which have had problems syncing properly). They also deliver very good sound quality. (By comparison, Apple's AirPods rate just good in our tests.) Another plus for fitness buffs? This model offers a built-in heart-rate monitor.
If your father is fond of laser light shows, this $200 Bluetooth speaker packs a pleasant surprise. At the press of a button, bright LED lights flash in multicolored patterns just beneath the device's grill. And, yes, you can choose from a menu of preset effects on the speaker's mobile app. The Pulse 2 is not all show, though. The speaker delivers good sound quality, too.
These $300 headphones add a new twist to Bose's pioneering noise-canceling technology, allowing your father to decide just how much sound gets to his ears from the outside world. If he’s out jogging to Jimi Hendrix, he can dial the tech back, using a control on the cord or the Bose Connect smartphone app so that he's not completely cut off from the wooshing tires and blaring horns of the crosstown traffic. And if he stops to say hello to a neighbor, he can lower the effect even more to engage in conversation. According to our testers, the model's noise-cancellation performance is excellent and so is its sound quality.
After admiring the woodgrain finish and the LED display on this $200 Bluetooth speaker, we sat back and enjoyed the very good sound. The Fi50 is easy to use and comes with analog audio inputs (for hooking up those old-school devices). One last thing worth noting: According to the manufacturer, the sound gets more rounded and pleasing after a 10-hour break-in period.