Sound at home doesn’t necessarily have to be stuck in the living room, with speakers available all throughout the house thank to multi-room audio and Bluetooth speakers you can take with you.
The entry level to the Sonos system, the Play:1 is a surprisingly powerful compact speaker that can rock the living room, kitchen, or bathroom, and if you have a few, they can be synchronised in a party mode, playing music throughout the home together.
While we’ve yet to experience Panasonic’s answer to the Sonos, it gets our attention this holiday season because unlike Sonos, uses an open standard developed by Qualcomm to get sound working throughout your home.
This standard is “AllPlay,” and while Panasonic is the only developer with products currently available in Australia (that we know about), it means you won’t necessarily have to buy Panasonic products only as more companies begin to support the “AllPlay” multi-room technology.
Samsung’s effort in multi-room audio isn’t the open standard Panasonic is using. Rather, it’s closer to what Sonos has succeeded in, with a range of products allowing music to be synchronised across small, medium, and large speakers, as well as having quite a few soundbars. If the person you’re buying for already has a recent Samsung soundbar, this could provide some extra sound throughout the home.
Harman/Kardon’s first Bluetooth speaker grabbed high marks from us this week not just because it’s an elegant leather bound portable speaker, but also because it has a lovely warm tonality to it and can even charge two devices simultaneously, making it a good speaker to keep around with you, not just for sharing your music with the world.
B&O BeoPlay A2
A clear speaker with a design focused on taking it with you, the BeoPlay A2 is bright and cheerful and offers loads of volume, making it ideal for filling a room, or even a park and potentially annoying all the other guests.
Marshall Stanmore Bluetooth speaker
The problem with Bluetooth speakers is they often look the same. Basic blocks with a clean look, a couple of ports, and a simple on switch that’s often found somewhere on the body you’d check last.
But not Marshall’s Stanmore. No, this thing is pure rock god beauty, looking like it walked out of an Aerosmith video from the 70s, and with a quality of audio that really does max it to eleven.
If there’s a musician in your life, this is a great gift idea.
Home theatre evolved
Finally, if you have a relatively large packet to spend on someone (could be you), consider an upgrade to their living room. Now that Ultra HD TVs are becoming relatively common, our TV suggestions are based in them, while audio evolves with Dolby Atmos sound.
Soniq 55 inch E55S14A Frameless Full HD TV
Not everyone needs Ultra HD yet — hey, we don’t even have the content for the new TVs — so if you can live without it and want to save a buck, Soniq might have the answer with a frameless TV that is almost all screen and then a stand.
Sony 55 inch X8500 Ultra HD TV
Sony’s X8500 isn’t quite flagship level, but it does offer the 4K picture new TV owners are craving, support for 3D, a Triluminos display for brighter and more dynamic colours, and is even one of Sony’s few TVs that will offer five UHD movies over the holidays.
This might not seem like a huge draw in the beginning, but there’s virtually no UHD content in Australia, making this a gimmick that could grab sales.
Samsung 55 inch HU9000 Ultra HD TV
Prefer the allure of a curved screen to one of those flat ones everyone has? Samsung has the edge this year, offering curves throughout both the Series 8 and Series 9 TVs. If you go with Series 9, you’ll find Ultra HD, but if you forgot the new level that constitutes higher definition — higher than Full HD, that is — you’ll save around $1200. It’s your call.
LG 65 inch EC970T Ultra HD OLED TV
OLED TVs have been called the next generation of plasma now that the gas-based TV technology is gone, and if you see one for yourself, you can totally see why: the colours are so vivid, the images almost pop out of the screen, presenting a picture that you just can’t take your eyes off.
But few companies are producing OLED TVs, with LG the only company releasing a 4K model in Australia, supporting the Ultra HD and the OLED technology.
We don’t have this much money for a present, but if you do, power to you, and this telly is worth considering.
Onkyo TX-NR636 Atmos amplifier and speaker 5.1.2 package
We’ve had 5.1 and 7.1 surround sound for so long that it’s high time we had something new for this area, and now we do. Movie theatres overseas have had Dolby’s even more immersive Atmos sound for a while, and while only one cinema in Australia supports the technology, now Aussies can bring it home.
It’s not cheap, and there’s even less content here than in UHD (amazingly), but loads of movies are Atmos ready, so now we’re just waiting for companies to release the titles, and then you can get into a deeper sound experience.