Engadget's back to school guide 2012: portable audio

Welcome to Engadget's back to school guide! The end of summer vacation isn't nearly as much fun as the weeks that come before, but a chance to update your tech tools likely helps to ease the pain. Today, we're taking our audio with us -- and you can head to the back to school hub to see the rest of the product guides as they're added throughout the month. Be sure to keep checking back -- at the end of the month we'll be giving away a ton of the gear featured in our guides -- and hit up the hub page right here!

DNP Engadget's back to school guide 2012 portable audio

With all of the studying and on-campus traveling you're about to delve into, sometimes adding a bit of music to your step can spice up those mundane times in your daily routine. That's why we've rounded up a selection of portable speakers and headphones that'll not only help you rock out whenever the mood strikes, but also go a step further by letting you take phone calls without skipping a beat. It may not be audiophile-grade gear in the official sense, but it won't matter when you're enjoying good sound just about anywhere your smartphone-connected life takes you.

On the cheap

Klipsch Image S4 (II) headphones


Klipsch's S4 series in-ears have been a favorite of Engadget for a while, thanks to their comfy oval eartips, pleasingly smooth audio and relatively modest pricing. Now in their second generation, the in-ears (which can also be had with an inline remote / mic for iOS and Android devices) feature tangle-proof flat cabling to lessen time spent fiddling with knotted cords on the go.

Key specs: Tangle-resistant flat cabling, inline remote / mic, carrying case, oval-shaped ear tips.

Price: $79 on Amazon

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AiAiAi Capital

"Ay, yai yai" is what you've said after breaking your cans, but that might change with the Capital on-ears by the Danish company whose name sounds much the same. Touting an impact- and water-resistant fiberglass casing, an inline remote and a foldable design, these cans should handle the rigors of your dorm lifestyle admirably.

Price: $99 on Amazon


Koss Porta Pro KT

The Koss Porta Pro has been a favorite among headphone lovers since the early 1980's thanks to the great sound it offers in a lightweight and budget-minded package. Now available in a KTC (Koss Touch Control) variant, the cult classic has been subtly tweaked for the 21st century with an iOS-compatible inline remote / mic.

Price: $79 on Amazon


Harman Kardon BT / CL


Bowers & Wilkins' P5 may finally have some competition in classiness, thanks to Harman Kardon's latest leather-clad over-ear cans: the Bluetooth (BT) and Classic (CL). Wireless lovers will appreciate the BT's on-earcup playback controls, while those who prefer cables get to command their playlists with the CL's inline remote and mic.

Key specs: Steel and leather construction, over-ear fit, foldable earcups for storage.

Price: $250 on

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Braven 625

The OG Jambox ushered in the portable Bluetooth speakerphone craze, but Braven's 600 series takes the idea further. The 625 has a 1,700 mAh battery that'll power up your USB gadgets or its bundled LED flashlight. Its rugged design and waterproof bag will ensure that it'll survive your next house party, too.

Price: From $180 on Amazon


Sony XBA-3IP

Lest we forget that Sony knows a thing -- or 11 -- about in-ears loaded with balanced armature drivers. We were impressed with the clarity offered by the triple-driver-loaded XBA-3 when we tried 'em out, and it doesn't hurt that they can be had with an iDevice inline remote / mic for an extra $20.

Price: $238 on Amazon

Money's no object

Parrot Zik by Starck


The Parrot Zik is optimal for audio-loving geeks. It's jam-packed with tech including Bluetooth, NFC for device pairing, active noise cancellation (assisted by four of five onboard mics), a sound-shaping Android and iOS app and touch-activated playback control -- not to mention a jawbone sensor that helps its mic pick up your voice during calls and a pressure sensor that knows to pause and start your tunes when you take 'em on and off your head. Then there's the gorgeous leather-and-metal-clad design by Philippe Starck that also makes these headphones ultra-comfortable. Despite some Bluetooth hiccups and a short six-hour battery life that'll keep you tethered via USB unless you opt for a spare $30 battery, the Zik is a winner.

Key specs: NFC, active noise cancellation aided by four mics, touch-activated playback control, jawbone sensor, dedicated speech microphone, swappable Li-ion battery, Bluetooth 2.1, audio-enhancing app, pressure sensor for head detection, passive functionality.

Price: From $400 on Amazon

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Jawbone Big Jambox

Want gobs of volume in a relatively portable package for you... and a maybe few friends? Look no further than the Big Jambox. Taking the DNA of its smaller sibling, this 2.7-pound Bluetooth speakerphone can be carried in one hand, or thrown in a backpack. An internal 2,600mAh battery offers 15 hours of music, or up to 500 hours in standby.

Price: $300 on Amazon


Sennheiser Amperior

It's not uncommon to see famous DJs, -- and our own James Trew -- rocking the $200 HD 25 -- but it's not geared for mobile devices. The Amperior comes from the same mold, but it has easier-to-drive 18-ohm drivers and an Apple-oriented inline remote, letting you push its "DJ-inspired" clear sound with thick bass into your ears without a DAC.

Price: $350 on

Engadget's Back to School Giveaway
Official Rules
No Purchase Required to Enter or Win

Eligibility: Engadget's Back to School Giveaway (the "Giveaway") is open only to individuals who are legal residents of the fifty (50) United States (including the District of Columbia) and Canada (excluding Quebec) who are 18 years of age or older. Employees of Weblogs Inc. LLC, AOL Inc., their advertising or promotion agencies, those involved in the production, development, implementation or handling of Giveaways, any agents acting for, or on behalf of the above entities, their respective parent companies, officers, directors, subsidiaries, affiliates, licensees, service providers, prize suppliers any other person or entity associated with the Giveaways (collectively "Giveaway Entities") and/or the immediate family (spouse, parents, siblings and children) and household members (whether related or not) of each such employee, are not eligible. All U.S., federal, state and local and Canadian federal, provincial, and municipal laws and regulations apply. Void in Quebec, Puerto Rico and where prohibited by law.

Sponsor: The Giveaway is sponsored by Weblogs Inc. LLC, 770 Broadway, New York, NY 10003 ("Sponsor").

Agreement to Official Rules: Participation in the Giveaway constitutes entrant's full and unconditional agreement to and acceptance of these Official Rules and the decisions of the Sponsor, which are final and binding. Winning a prize is contingent upon fulfilling all requirements set forth herein.

Giveaway Period: The Giveaway begins at 12:00 pm ET on August 6, 2012 and ends at 12:00 pm ET on September 7, 2012 (the "Giveaway Period"). The Giveaway Period shall be divided into fifteen (15) separate Entry Periods:

Entry Period 1 begins at 12PM ET on August 6, 2012 and ends at 12PM ET on September 7, 2012.
Entry Period 2 begins at 1PM ET on August 6, 2012 and ends at 12PM ET on September 7, 2012.
Entry Period 3 begins at 12PM ET on August 7, 2012 and ends at 12PM ET on September 7, 2012.
Entry Period 4 begins at 12PM ET on August 8, 2012 and ends at 12PM ET on September 7, 2012.
Entry Period 5 begins at 12PM ET on August 9, 2012 and ends at 12PM ET on September 7, 2012.
Entry Period 6 begins at 12PM ET on August 10, 2012 and ends at 12PM ET on September 7, 2012.
Entry Period 7 begins at 12PM ET on August 13, 2012 and ends at 12PM ET on September 7, 2012.
Entry Period 8 begins at 12PM ET on August 15, 2012 and ends at 12PM ET on September 7, 2012.
Entry Period 9 begins at 12PM ET on August 17, 2012 and ends at 12PM ET on September 7, 2012.
Entry Period 10 begins at 12PM ET on August 20, 2012 and ends at 12PM ET on September 7, 2012.
Entry Period 11 begins at 12PM ET on August 22, 2012 and ends at 12PM ET on September 7, 2012.
Entry Period 12 begins at 12PM ET on August 24, 2012 and ends at 12PM ET on September 7, 2012.
Entry Period 13 begins at 12PM ET on August 27, 2012 and ends at 12PM ET on September 7, 2012.
Entry Period 14 begins at 12PM ET on August 29, 2012 and ends at 12PM ET on September 7, 2012.
Entry Period 15 begins at 12PM ET on August 31, 2012 and ends at 12PM ET on September 7, 2012.

Entry: During the Giveaway Period, go to and follow the instructions to submit your entry. The use of any agencies or automated software to submit entries will void all entries submitted by that person.

Drawing: At the conclusion of the Giveaway Period, Sponsor will select the name of one (1) Grand Prize Winner from each of the fifteen (15) Entry Periods in a random drawing of all eligible entries received during each Entry Period. The odds of being selected as a potential winner depend on the number of eligible entries received during the applicable Entry Period. Potential Winners will be contacted via email and asked to provide their full name, age and mailing address within a specified time period. If a potential winner does not respond within the timeframe stated in the notification email, the Sponsor may select an alternate potential winner in his/her place at random from all entries received during the Entry Period. Non-winning entries from one Entry Period do not carry over into subsequent Entry Periods.

Requirements of the Potential Winners: Except where prohibited, the potential winners will be required to complete and return an affidavit of eligibility and liability/publicity release (the "Affidavit/Release") and IRS W-9 form within seven (7) days of being notified. If a potential winner fails to sign and return the Affidavit/Release and W-9 form within the required time period, an alternate entrant may be selected in his/her place in a random drawing of all entries received. Acceptance of a prize constitutes consent to use winner's name and likeness for editorial, advertising and publicity purposes without additional compensation, except where prohibited by law. In the event the potential winner of any prize is a Canadian resident, he/she will also be required to correctly answer a time-limited mathematical question to be administered by email, mail or phone to receive the prize. Limit one (1) prize per household.

Prizes: Fifteen (15) Grand Prize Winners will each receive a Back to School Prize Pack containing the following items: HP Envy Ultrabook 4, Sony NEX-F3, Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 (7.0), Samsung Galaxy S III (AT&T), Nook Simple Touch with GlowLight, AiAiAi Capital headphones, Western Digital My Passport (1TB) hard drive, Timbuk2 Commute Messenger laptop bag, Flying Alarm Clock, AOC 16" USB monitor, Spotify Premium subscription (1 year), Satechi Energy Station, Edifier Tick Tock, Satechi 12-port USB hub, NuForce Cube, Withings WiFi Scale, Powermat 24-hour system, Carbonite Backup (1 year), AViiQ Ready Chips, and Targus Defcon 1 lock. Approximate Retail Value of each Prize Pack is $3,203. Subscriptions are subject to issuer's terms and conditions. Activation fees and monthly service fees not included with any smartphone/digital devices. No cash or other substitution may be made, except by the Sponsor, who reserves the right to substitute a prize or portion of a prize with another prize of equal or greater value if the prize is not available for any reason as determined by the Sponsor in its sole discretion. Winners are responsible for any taxes and fees associated with receipt or use of a prize.

General Conditions: In the event that the operation, security, or administration of the Giveaway is impaired in any way for any reason, including, but not limited to fraud, virus, or other technical problem, the Sponsor may, in its sole discretion, either: (a) suspend the Giveaway to address the impairment and then resume the Giveaway in a manner that best conforms to the spirit of these Official Rules; or (b) award the prizes at random from among the eligible entries received up to the time of the impairment. The Sponsor reserves the right in its sole discretion to disqualify any individual it finds to be tampering with the entry process or the operation of the Giveaway or to be acting in violation of these Official Rules or in an unsportsmanlike or disruptive manner. Any attempt by any person to undermine the legitimate operation of the Giveaway may be a violation of criminal and civil law, and, should such an attempt be made, the Sponsor reserves the right to seek damages from any such person to the fullest extent permitted by law. The Sponsor's failure to enforce any term of these Official Rules shall not constitute a waiver of that provision. In case of a dispute as to the owner of an entry, entry will be deemed to have been submitted by the authorized account holder of the screen name from which the entry is made. The authorized account holder is defined as the natural person who is assigned to an e-mail address by an Internet access provider, online service provider, or other organization responsible for assigning e-mail addresses for the domain associated with the submitted e-mail address.

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Disputes: Except where prohibited, entrant agrees that any and all disputes, claims and causes of action arising out of, or connected with, the Giveaway or any prize awarded shall be resolved individually, without resort to any form of class action, and exclusively by the appropriate court located in the Commonwealth of Virginia. All issues and questions concerning the construction, validity, interpretation and enforceability of these Official Rules, entrant's rights and obligations, or the rights and obligations of the Sponsor in connection with the Giveaway, shall be governed by, and construed in accordance with, the laws of the Commonwealth of Virginia, without giving effect to any choice of law or conflict of law rules (whether of the Commonwealth of Virginia or any other jurisdiction), which would cause the application of the laws of any jurisdiction other than the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Giveaway Results: To request the names of the winners, send a self-addressed stamped envelope to Engadget Back to School Giveaway Winners, 770 Broadway, Attn: J. Turi, New York, NY 10003. Requests must be received by September 30, 2012.