CES 2012: headphone and speaker roundup

Audio-wares may not be on the forefront of many geek's minds during CES, but that doesn't mean you won't find a bevy of sound-pumping gizmos while traversing across the crowded show floor. From giant AirPlay and iPod dock systems to premium audiophile headphones (and a bevy of dinky iDevice-compatible buds), we've picked out a few of our favorites. Whether you're focused on getting great sound or something packed with technology, jump past the break to visualize it all for yourself.

Speakers and Docks

Behringer may have turned heads -- and shaken floors -- with its massive iNuke Boom (seen above the break), but Klipsch also had a giant system to show off. Dubbed the Console 2.1, this retro-looking speaker array can serve as an extremely loud center piece for your living room. Thanks to its construction, you'll also be able to throw some drinks on top without having them tip over from vibrations. Expect to pay about $7,000 dollars for this gigantic puppy when it hits later this year.

Of course, not everyone is looking for sound so loud that it'll rock your house's foundation, and thankfully, we also caught some smaller options. Bang & Olufsen, known for their opulent home theater systems and related gadgets, took to CES introducing its new B&O Play brand. Aiming for a "younger" crowd with money to burn, the company introduced its $800 Beolit 12 AirPlay-enabled speaker. With a portable, picnic basket-esque and functional design (complete with a tray to hold your iPhone), the unit is sure to please those who are out and about -- if they're willing to cough up the dough for it later this month, that is.

Keeping on the portable audio-dock front, we took notice of rapper Ludacris' extension out from headphones to speakers. His Soul Electronics brand hit CES with Party in a Box, a beefy and "portable" wireless speaker that can have you covered for nearly any social gathering. Featuring wireless over Bluetooth, AirPlay, and other speakers thanks to an included dongle, the festivities can will be able to stream from nearly anywhere. We'd be remiss not to mention that you'll also be able to hook in a mic whenever you feel like spittin' some lyrics. Sadly, price and availability is anyone's guess at this point.

We also found a select few other pieces of interesting speaker gear, including Griffin's Twenty wireless amplifier. By plugging in your Airport Express, you'll be able to wirelessly stream audio to your favorite "noiseyboxes," with 20 watts total of 2.1 sound to any speakers of your choice. AirPlay-enabled systems, meet, The Enabler. Expect it to hit some time this year for "under 200 US bones."

Not to be left out in the dust, NuForce also introduced a wireless solution as well, introduced to us as the Air DAC. Audiophiles looking to bypass AirPlay and still get wireless to their speakers can use this dongle and connector setup to make the dream a reality. Best of all, you can bet it'll be less expensive than you'd think when it reaches shelves, in true NuForce fashion.

Then, there was LG's AirPlay-enabled speaker. It's a cube, it a has built-in clock and it's wireless, need we say more?

We'll never forget TOSY's mRobo dancing speakerbot. Bieber Fever and an unfortunately placed speaker made this unveil the greatest day of at least one Engadget editor's life.


We even peeked a number of awesome headphones while in Las Vegas. Sennheiser revealed its latest audiophile headphone the HD 700, along with its first lifestyle headset, Amperior. Folks who always craved the HD 800, but were put off by it's $1,500 price, may find the 700 more appealing with its slightly less spendy cost of $1,000. We only had a quick listen to both, but Sennheiser says the HD 700 is aiming for a slightly "warmer and less-clinical" sound than its larger brethren.

That Amperior we mentioned? Imagine the company's DJ-centric HD 25 repurposed for on-the-go audio. With a lower impedance of 18-Ohms (down from 150 70), and inline controller / mic, Sennheiser is hoping to hit the lifestyle headset market with some bravado when these cans launch in March for around $350. We gave the Amperiors a quick listen ourselves, and found 'em to be very comfortable with a thick, smooth bass and a vibrant high-end.

Logic3 hit CES with a full line of Ferrari-branded headphones. Clad in leather and featuring styles from racing- to street-inspired, fans of boom-boom bass and Vroom-Vroom cars might just have an audio-match made in heaven. No word on price just yet, but you can bet they won't be cheap. (Pro Tip: we also spotted some AirPlay docks as well.)

Saving the best for last -- our favorite audio-ware of the show had to be Parrot's Zik Bluetooth touch-activated headset. Sure, the AR.Drone 2.0 was certainly awesome, but we found this potential gem to be noteworthy. We've seen companies in the past try to load a pair of headphones with everything but kitchen sink, however, the Zik is the first one that may actually do it correctly. It's loaded with five microphones for calls and up to 20dB of active noise-cancellation, and even a jawbone sensor for clearing up your vocals.

There's also passive functionality if you drain its replaceable (and rechargeable) battery -- not to mention an NFC sensor on the left ear cup, and touch controls for your PMP's playlist on the right. Add it all together with a design by Phillipe Starck that's as comfortable as it gorgeous, and even an app that'll enable a more "concert-like" listening experience, and the Zik itself becomes even more compelling. We weren't lucky enough to get a good gauge of what the audio quality will be like, but hopefully, it can keep up. Expect these to hit shelves for a whole load of cash when they arrive later this year.

So, those were just some of our favorites from the massive halls of the LVCC during this past CES. Be sure to grab a look at all of our audio coverage from the past week here. For now, here's to 2013!