“Music is a moral law. It gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and charm and gaiety to life and to everything”
“Ears” to Great Audio Gifts, a review by Alison Blackman and Anthony Sabatini
We can’t help but wonder: what would Plato, the Greek philosopher and mathematician and the founder of the Academy in Athens ( the first institution of higher learning in the Western world) have thought of today’s audio equipment?! We are willing to bet he’d love it!
If you look around you in public right now, chances are you’ll see just about everyone “plugged in” to their smart devices and music players. The chances are the most of those people are listening through earbuds or headphones. At home, wireless speakers have become the new “must-have” audio equipment, often replacing pricey and bulky audio components. There are so many different kinds of speakers and earbuds and headphones to choose from it is definitely dizzying! What we’re suggesting here are the best of the best affordable audio gifts for Holiday 2015.
Pump up the JAM! It’s Party time. In the old days, only rock concerts had light shows, but now you can add light as well as sound to your listening experience with this Jam Trance Plus LED Bluetooth Light Show Speaker (srp. $80.00) from Jam Audio It isn’t just for parties, it actually offers good sound along with its light show, as the audio projects from all three sides to send your audio in every direction. The speaker is small and portable with some really fun features. Synching was easy, and you can also use a auidio cord if you don’t have or want bluetooth. The controls are large and have raised embossing so you can feel them even if it’s dark. You can stream music wirelessly or us an Aux Input Jack.
Tony: some products are just fun The Jam Trance Plus LED Bluetooth Light Show Speaker makes for a happy little light show while playing your music. The speakers are small, but have accurate sound within the limits of their size. Likewise, the volume is excellent for personal listening. In a very loud party environment it might be more useful as background music. The light show is created by an array of led lights which can be adjusted to any color and can be programmed in a number of different ways, making for exciting, intriguing patterns. Obviously this is a fun gift for someone who likes listening to music controlled by a phone or or other smart device. It will make a fabulous gift for all ages (kids will be utterly captivated by the light show) and it’s a must-have for your next party.
For those who like tech-speak, here are the basics:
Equipped with Bluetooth so you can connect wirelessly with any Bluetooth device in a 30-foot range. Charge for 3 hours to get up to 10 hours of play time; Choose from 36 LED light party programs that synch with your music; Answer calls directly from your Trance Plus speaker as a speakerphone; The speaker has voice prompts to tell you what it’s doing (powering on, connecting, etc.); the speakers is protected by a rubberized exterior, Size is about the same size as a small water bottle. JAM Trance Plus is about the size of a water bottle. This is one of those “wow!” gifts everyone will adore. For more information visit the Jam Audio Web Site
Also from Jam Audio we suggest the sound of silence while you travel or at work. The JAM Transit City™Noise Canceling Headphones (srp. $129.99) let you listen to music or your phone, with an active noise-canceling feature that keeps your world quiet, but not entirely, so you don’t get hit by oncoming traffic (or the bulls running in Pamplona). The other thing we love about these is that they fold into a small size into an included travel pouch. The 12-hour battery life and fast 3-hour charge is a plus on long trips. You can filter out noise with the push of a button, answer calls, and connect to any Bluetooth devices within a 30 foot range. The controls are on the earcup and they are raised enough so you can find them easily, adusting volume and switching tracks. If you don’t have bluetooth there’s an aux-in port cord. The sound is good, with deep bass, clear treble, and ultra-crisp sound. The price is reasonable, but the sound of silence..that’s priceless!
Tony: The price is right for the The JAM Transit City™Noise Canceling Headphones. These are over the ear headphones that fold and they’re one of the better Bluetooth headphones we have reviewed on advicesisters.com. What makes these particularly nice as they way they fold small and portable (there is a soft pouch to shelter them) and expand out to a comfortable, over the ear headphones. They are adjustable for any size adult heqd and are clearly marked for “left” and “right.” The right side features the controls. The over the ear earcups provide excellent isolation from the outside world as well as the noise cancelling function on these headphones.
The controls were a high spot in that it was extremely easy to adjust volume, and skip forward to t he next song or skip back to a previous song just by touching the proper area of the right side earcup. Synching was easy with a dedicated synch button and a dedicated power on/off switch. Charging is via standard usb cord and there is also a audio cable for those who can’t or don’t want to use Bluetooth.
As to the sound, the mid-range on these headphones is good, but like with many noise cancelling headphones, the noise cancellation feature has impact on both the low and the high ends of the audio spectrum. Therefore, these headphones are excellent for their intended use, which is traveling on subway or commuter train or an airplane, but they night not be your first choice for listening in the quiet of your home. Another thing to note is that you can’t turn the noise cancellation off and you might hear the music through the headphones if you are sitting next to someone wearing these (depending upon how loud they pump up the volume). But they’re easy to use, user friendly, lightweight and comfortable. For $130.00 they’d make a great gift for the commuter and the traveler (they even come pre-charged) for immediate listening!
When it comes to earbuds, it’s best to pick a style the works with your personal interests. For example, the Jam Transit Micro Sports Buds Wireless Earbuds ($80.00) are really stellar. When we tested these, we really enjoyed using them both for comfort, and because the sound for their size and weight was fabulous. These earbuds have additional optional hooks to keep them on your ear while you’re running, jogging, etc, but for normal use they’ll stay securely in your ear without the hooks. The earbuds fit well in just about every ear, and couples well with the bone, giving you better base sound than many earbuds. The midrange is uncolored and open, leading to a listening experience which is hard to duplicate even with $200 on the ear headphones. The Bluetooth was easy to set up and the earbuds have volume adjustments (no forward or back) but they do give you the ability to answer calls on the microphone/volume control unit attached to the cord connecting the two earbuds .One cute feature is that it comes with a little plastic “wire loom” which takes up excess cord so that you can put the cords behind your head and hide the wire loom under your hair or the back of your shirt. It also has a reflective cord which adds to safety when using it at night. The battery life is 10 hours. To top it all off, the earbuds are packaged in a use-able BPA-free water bottle (so it’s two gifts in one), and they also are available in green, pink and blue. If you are the type who likes to run in the rain or snow, or you sweat at lot, you’ll be delighted that they’re sweat resistant, great to wear even in hot weather. For anyone who likes great sounding earbuds, and for the sports enthusiast, these are a fabulous find. Learn more at http://www.jamaudio.com/
The Advice Sisters are real fans of House of Marley products and we’ve reviewed a number the higher and more luxurious items from this fabulous audio company in the past few years (check out search box on the top of this page, type in “House of Marley” and those reviews should show up). However, House of Marley audio products also have some super affordable options. For Holiday 2015 we are going to the budget/bargain end with the House of Marley Little Bird in-ear headphones ($19.00) . They colorful earbuds don’t have a lot of bells & whistles, but this takes nothing away from the quality or the sound. A color plastic sleeve covers the eco-friendly cardboard bottom of the box. Inside are basic earbuds without a microphone or volume control (the higher end House of Marley earbuds have these controls — very good — much appreciated). However, these in-ear headphones do share something in common with their more expensive brothers, the signature, “Marley Sound.” That means you’ll get well-balanced sound with a good, solid, base. Vocals and instrumental will be clear and give you a fun experience when listening to music, audio books and more. There’s a 9.2mm driver and noise-isolation in these “little birds,” that deliver thrilling sound even at this budget price.
Also note-able of the House of Marley is that they’re all about eco-friendly materials. The House of Marley headphones are in what the company calls “mindfully manufactured” plastic housing. The earbuds are some of the most comfortable we have personally tried at any price point. They will stay in your ear even if you are active. While our review sample was basic black with a few white speckles on the earbuds, there are a range of fun colors. For just $19.00 these make a great stocking stuffer gift for any age, and they’re also a good choice for a backup pair of earbuds for travel when you don’t want to “worry, about a thing” Buy these for yourself, and for everyone on your gift list, and “every little things’ gonna be alright.” House of Marley headphones are available at electronics retailers and online but I suggest visiting the House of Marley Website http://www.thehouseofmarley.com/
Editor’s Note: *we recently reviewed two higher end headphones on advicesisters.com. Either one of these would make a luxe gift for a true audiophile. Check out our reviews of the On-Ear Noise Cancelling Headphones from Audio Technica and the blingy-est headphones with fabulous sound, from Monster. Both us these would make stunning holiday gifts.
Keep your ears warm and listen to your music with style? Music Muffs by Yatra ($35.00) let you do both! Adorable faux fur earmuffs are really adjustable headphones (so they really fit your ears) bringing decent sound quality and lively base to a novel product. Just plug in the detach-able cord with controls for forward and back, answer phone, play/pause etc. In our initial test with our iPod Touch, the headphone sound was great (the Music Muffs are compatible with most smartphones, tablets, and MP3 players) but we couldn’t get the functions to work on the cord. Our second test with a Samsung Galaxy Note 4 worked better. Press once for play/pause, answer and end call. Press twice to go to the next song, and press three times to go back to the previous song and to shuffle songs. Easy! But the best thing about these adorable earmuffs with knitted headband for comfort, is that they kept our ears toasty, and our toes, tapping to our favorite songs. For those who want to know the “tech specs” the Music Muffs have: Neodymium Driver (NEO), FREQUENCY RESPONSE: 20Hz – 20kHz, and 50mm drivers, cable connects to the right side earmuff. We’re showing the leopard “Stephanie Marie” earmuffs we received for review, but there are plenty of other choices including: basic black, white, knitted grey and even a few Nordic prints. Visit the Yatra Web Site to see all their tech goodies and purchase these Music Muffs.