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For a long time, I equated shopping for a speaker with a trip to Best Buy. That all changed in December, when I began hunting for the perfect turntable to add to my holiday wishlist. I stumbled upon several dynamic, online audio brands that infused the DTC style we know and love into the speaker shopping experience.
The below brands have created dynamic listening experiences that redefine the future of sound. In order from classic to unconventional, here are five noteworthy brands changing the audio landscape.
They’re classic for a reason.
Marshall Speakers, $150+
The Look: Marshall speakers are classic for a reason. They’re the speakers you’ll see on a funkily styled shelf, or perhaps an AirBnB, ubiquitous for their solid quality and accessible aesthetic. They’re simple, with a trademark logo across the front.
The Hook: Most of all, Marshall speakers are trusty. At times, navigating the sound and speaker landscape can feel overwhelming to those who crave a great listening experience but struggle with the nitty-gritty descriptors meant for those producing or analyzing sound on a granular level. (I just want a song to sound amazing, okay?) They’re attractive, ubiquitous, and work well in most spaces.
The Lowdown: Most of us will end up pretty satisfied with a Marshall speaker, plain and simple. The range is extensive, from big, blocky units like the Woburn II Bluetooth ($549.99) to the smaller portable Emberton ($169.99) you can take to the beach.
Explore the world with exclusive soundscape and musical content.
Oda Speakers, $399
The Look: The Oda speakers are lovely by themselves: two minimal slabs of wood that don’t scream tech whatsoever. They feel almost hidden.
The Hook: Oda’s big appeal – aside from its organic, minimalist style – is actually the listening experience, and how unabashedly different it is than anything else on the market. Oda offers a seasonal listening membership to “rediscover the world through sound.” Each season brings exclusive new soundscapes from around the world: recent experiences include a soundscape of the sheep of Whetstone Farm in Amery, Wisconsin (niche, no?), a jazz parlor in Sugar Hill, New York with legend Marjorie Elliot, and more. Earn your set after a stint on Oda’s extensive waitlist.
The Lowdown: Oda Speakers feel almost nostalgic for the days of radio entertainment and a family clustered around their device to hear about the world’s happenings. The elegant curation of audio content elevates the speaker into an experience that introduces elements of ritual and intimate connection into the everyday (or at least, when the season is underway).
No focus? No problem.
Neurable, $399 (Pre-Launch)
The Look: These Enten headphones themselves look pretty simple (and comfy). Most of the appeal comes from the technology, encased in a straightforward and familiar design.
The Hook: The Neurable team is probably sick of hearing from me at this point because I’ve been dying to test these since discovering the brand.
These headphones use EEG technology to read your brain waves (less scary than it sounds), then track and optimize your focus. For example, the headphones can track whether you’re more focused in your home office or living room, what time of day, and even mute notifications as needed. Even cooler, they can provide playlists that best keep you dialed into what you’re doing. In a culture currently suffering from inability to “deep work,” these feel both necessary and luxurious.
The Lowdown: Because they’re pre-launch, we don’t actually know how the Neurable headphones stack up to others. The data collected feels like it would optimize your focus in the same way a fitness tracker optimizes your exercise. High hopes, and big promises for Neurable to fulfill.
Switch up the visuals of your speaker.
The Look: In an age when wires and machines dominate our spaces, there’s something uniquely refreshing about the sense of lightness and simplicity that Transparent evokes. That alignment of aesthetic and function just feels good.
The brand states that its speakers’ stripped-through design displays only its high-quality essentials, allowing the listener to see its modular inner components. The large Transparent Speaker clocks in at $1100, while the small version is $550, each available in white or black.
The Hook: The term “transparent” also applies to the brand’s sound quality. Each speaker is exquisitely tuned to best reproduce the artists’ intention, displaying an appealing transparency of sound. In regular-person terms, you should be able to hear each element of the music as it’s meant to be played.
The Lowdown: The Transparent speaker is designed with upgrades in mind, so it should be easy to swap out components as society’s tech and sound quality continually improve. They’re pricey but beautiful, ideal for those looking to invest in an aesthetic and high-end technology. If you like The Frame TV or wire hiders, the Transparent speakers are right up your alley.
Completely transform your sound quality.
The Look: The Syng looks undoubtedly futuristic, which is perfect considering the brand claims to have re-engineered the way we listen. Planted on a metal pole, the speaker is a spherical, spaceship-like device that challenges our convention of what a usual speaker would look like.
The Hook: To the average Joe, “object based sonic architecture” may sound like mumbo jumbo. Syng means that the sound its Cell Alpha produces is “triphonic”: deeper, richer, and wider than anything we’re used to. The sound feels physically present and alive in a way we’re not used to, a way that almost swallows you. (On that note, that *unreal* quality is why the speaker itself is so expensive; the most comparable experiences would occur in a literal recording studio.)
The Lowdown: If you’re a die-hard audiophile who chases sound quality above all else, the Syng may be for you more than all the other speakers meant for us mortals. It’s truly an investment, but worth keeping an eye on as they innovate in this space.