Summer 2019 is shaping up to be the biggest launch period for audio products in several years, with big brands from Bose to Beats, Sony to Sonos all getting in on the action. We give the lowdown on what products should be on your radar.
Sony’s popular Extra Bass portable speakers range is getting a full refresh. The models are designed for both great sound and fun, with lights that dance to the beat of your music. But if you’re looking for something more serious to blend in with your home’s contemporary decor, Ikea and Sonos are collaborating on a range of speakers.
Meanwhile, headphones heavyweights Beats and Bose are launching their latest flagship models. Beats is releasing its first pair of truly wireless headphones, and Bose its latest high-end noise-cancelling headphones.
Fans of voice assistants will want to watch out for the more compact version of the Amazon Echo Show, while Google does the opposite with the Google Nest Hub Max, featuring a larger screen than its current smart display.
Best speakers – our expert lab tests reveal the best-sounding wireless and Bluetooth speakers on the market.
Sony Extra Bass speakers – various portable models available now
Sony says its Extra Bass portable speakers allow you to ‘take the festival feeling with you’ and ‘boost the party’ with its grab-and-go design. The SRS-XB32 (pictured, £150), slightly less powerful SRS-XB22 (£100) and tiny SRS-XB12 (£60) are the successors to Sony’s current Bluetooth speakers the Sony SRS-XB41, Sony SRS-XB31 and Sony SRS-XB10. The larger two include optional light effects and sound effects when you tap them, and all are waterproof.
Sony is also releasing a much larger, more powerful portable speaker, the SRS-XB402M (also pictured, £250) with ‘deep, resonant bass’ that aims to ‘give you a three-dimensional sound experience as if you were at a music festival or a concert venue’. Sony claims it has a battery life of up to 12 hours.
We’ll be putting these speakers through our lab tests very soon. But are Sony’s speakers among the best for sound quality on the market, or are others better? See how Sony has fared so far by reading our Sony speaker reviews.
Beats PowerBeats Pro, £220 (stock available June-July)
The Beats PowerBeats Pro are designed for sports and it’s Beats owner Apple’s answer to those looking for AirPods that will stay secure during your workout. They’re much larger than the AirPods, but come with an impressive nine hours’ claimed battery life, secure-fit ear hooks, and they’re sweat and water resistant.
We’ll see whether they deliver the sound, features and comfort in the coming months. But to see whether Beats is a brand worth considering, see our current Beats headphone reviews.
Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700, £350 (coming very soon)
Bose has broken its long-time naming convention with these headphones, dropping the QuietComfort name it uses for its noise-cancelling headphones. On paper they seem surprisingly similar to the Bose QuietComfort 35 II headphones – but Bose has dropped their iconic design here in favour of a more modern style that may appeal beyond its usual fans.
Instead of buttons, it’s switched to touch controls similar to the rival Sony WH-1000XM3 headphones. There’s also an innovative new augmented reality feature that aims to avoid the common problem with headphones that you become disconnected from the world around you when listening.
But £350 is pretty steep for a pair of headphones. Are Bose headphones worth the cost or are you paying extra just for the brand name? Find out whether its headphones are worth considering by checking out our current Bose headphone reviews.
Amazon Echo Show 5, £80 (launches 26 June)
The Amazon Echo Show 5 is a smart speaker with a 5.5-inch screen, which is much more compact than the current Amazon Echo Show (2nd Gen). It’s designed for those looking for a larger display and higher sound quality than the Echo Spot, without the bulk or cost of the full-size Echo Show. As always, Alexa voice control means you can control the device with only your voice – asking it to play music, show you recipes and a whole lot more.
But is the sound quality of these devices really up to scratch? See what we thought of the Show 5’s larger sibling in our comprehensive Amazon Echo Show (2nd Gen) review.
Google Nest Hub Max, £219 (coming summer)
While Amazon has bet on the appeal of a smaller smart display, Google thinks bigger is the answer. While the original Google Nest Hub (formerly known as the Google Home Hub) had a 7-inch touchscreen, the Nest Hub Max sports a 10-inch HD screen – which by no small coincidence happens to be the same size as the full-size Amazon Echo Show (2nd Gen).
Here you can ask for music to be played, ask for the weather or news updates and much more using Google Assistant.
We’ll put the Google Nest Hub Max through our lab tests following launch. Find out our verdict on its smaller sister in our Google Nest Hub review.
Bose Home Speaker 300 (coming soon)
For those looking for a smart speaker with sound quality to rival traditional speakers, perhaps the Bose Home Speaker 300 could be the answer. It supports a choice of either Google Assistant or Alexa voice control, and Bose promises room-rocking bass and 360° lifelike sound.
UK pricing hasn’t yet been announced, but it’s available for pre-order at $260 in the US, which is around £204.
We’ve already tested its larger brother – so how did that perform? See our exclusive Bose Home Speaker 500 review.
Ikea-Sonos Symfonisk speakers (coming August)
The brand names synonymous with home furniture and home audio are collaborating on a new range of affordable speakers for your home, exclusively available at Ikea.
There are currently two products available in the range – a table lamp that is also a wi-fi speaker (€179, around £159) and a bookshelf-style wi-fi speaker, that can be placed either horizontally or vertically (€100, around £89).
Sonos is a well-known name in audio. But is it just a big-brand name you pay over-the-odds for, and are there better-sounding speakers available for less? Our tests reveal all in our Sonos speaker reviews.
Pure portable smart speakers (available now)
Fans of Pure radios can now get their hands on the brand’s new range of smart speakers: the Pure DiscovR (pictured, £230) and smaller Bluetooth-only Pure StreamR (£170). Both have Alexa voice control, allowing you to play radio and music or ask for the latest news without even having to lift a finger.
The Pure StreamR has a screen which can usefully display what radio station you’re listening to, just like your existing radio. Meanwhile, the Pure DiscovR is more music orientated with a larger speaker and a focus on privacy, with a unique ‘mic drop’ privacy feature. Mic drop physically disconnects the microphone so no one can possibly be listening when you don’t want them to.
Both speakers have built-in batteries so you can easily move them around your home.
So what do we think? We’ll see whether these speakers excel when they come back from our audio lab very soon, but in the meantime discover our initial impressions in our first look Pure DiscovR review.