The Best Gear: Audio and Visual

Audiovisual Gear

Best Earphones

Bose MIE2i wired mobile headset

5 Stars

($129.95,; $127,

Bose MIE2iThese Bose ear buds are highly rated for both sound quality and comfort. They come with three sizes of StayHear silicon tips and an answer/end button on the inline microphone. The reviews say the quality of sound is tops. Note that these are standard earbuds — no noise-isolating to block unwanted sound.

Klipsch Image S4i

4 Stars

($99.99,; $63,

Klipsch Image S4iKlipsch headsets are known for their full-bodied sound. The noise-isolating S4i comes with Apple's three-button control and microphone so that you can control volume and answer, as well as play, pause, and skip when listening to music. It includes four sizes of tips and a two-year warranty.

Palm Stereo Headset

3 Stars

($3.84,; $14.95,

Palm Stereo HeadsetFor sound quality and price, the Palm earbuds are hard to beat, selling for just over $3 on Amazon. Reviews say that the sound is much better than other low-priced models. The inline microphone includes an answer/end call button. Magnets let you park them behind your neck when not in use.

Best Headphones

Sennheiser MM 400 Stereo Bluetooth Headset

5 Stars

($349.95,; $248.88,

Senheiser MM 400 Stereo Bluetooth HeadsetThis high-quality, on-ear, wireless headset provides a rich listening experience similar to top-quality speakers. It includes a high-performance microphone as well as a cable for direct connection. The closed-back design helps block out noise. The next model up, the MM450 ($379.99,, adds noise cancellation. 

Motorola S9-HD Bluetooth Stereo Headphones

4 Stars


Motorola S9These lightweight wireless headphones feature 3-D surround sound and high-definition acoustics via the SRS WOW HD technology, as well as noise-isolation to block unwanted sound. The Bluetooth feature lasts up to 6 hours on a single charge. You can control music and calls from the headphones themselves. There's no microphone. Note that the reviews for the more recent S10 are fairly critical. The on-ear Motorola Motorokr S305 is also a good choice, and is less susceptible to sweat damage than the S9-DH.

Philips SHH8006/28 Headset

4 Stars

($49.99,, $28,

Philips SHH8006/28 HeadsetThese are neither earbuds nor headphones; rather, they hook over the ear like an old-style hearing aid, with an ear cap (three different sizes) that fits in your ear. The rubber ear hooks insure that they stay in place in your ear. An inline microphone lets you control a variety of iPhone functions, including triggering your iPhone's voice-control features. This headset has very good sound quality with passive noise isolation.

Ultimate Ears In-Ear Reference Monitors

5 Stars


Ultimate Ears In-Ear Reference MonitorsIf you've got the bucks, the sky is the limit in regards to high-end earphones. Ultimate Ears offers a range of earphones and headphones for sound engineers and well-heeled audiophiles. The In-Ear Reference Monitors have an over-the-ear design: ear hooks that hold the earphones in place inside your ears, giving you 32 decibels of noise isolation. The many high-end features include three balanced armature speakers, low-distortion cable, dual acoustically tuned sound channels and more. The result is natural and authentic sound.

Best Speakers

Logitech S715i Rechargeable Speaker

5 Stars

($149.99,; $97.98,

Logitech s715i Rechargeable SpeakerOne of the bestselling speakers for the iPhone and iPod, the portable Logitech S715i includes a dock that charges and plays your iPhone. Other features include a remote, travel case and rechargeable battery with an 8-hour life. The sound quality is excellent, though some users say that the sound degrades slightly when running off the battery compared to being plugged in. 

Sony ICFCS10iP Speaker Dock with Alarm Clock and Radio

4 Stars

($99.95,; $69.80,

Sony ICFCS10iP Speaker Dock with Alarm Clock and RadioThis Sony docking speaker has very good sound quality for the price. The many features include an alarm clock, LCD display, radio (though some users complain about the quality of the AM band), sleep timer and wireless remote with full menu control of your iPhone. This speaker also features Sony's Mega Xpand and Mega Bass sound technologies. You can connect non-docking devices via an auxiliary input. 

Altec Lansing M650 Speaker System

5 Stars


Altec Lansing M650 Speaker SystemThis is one of the best choices in the $200 price range. It features an iPhone/iPod dock, an alarm clock (via a free app), and a full-featured remote. A nested subwoofer on the bottom gives you a solid bass. It has an auxil-iary input for connecting a second speaker — and a component/composite video output port on the back that lets you play iPhone video on your TV (cable must be purchased separately). This compact, 4-lb unit runs off AC, and doesn't have any wireless capability, including AirPlay.

X-Mini II Capsule Speaker

3 Stars

($29.99,; $18.49,

X-Mini II Capsule SpeakerThis very popular speaker is tiny — 2.4 inches wide and high — small enough to fit in your pocket, yet has surprising sound quality for its size. There's a port for plugging in another speaker, so some people buy two or more and daisy-chain them for even bigger sound. The battery lasts up to 11 hours and is recharged via the included USB cable. Some users say that there are issues with durability.

Best Projectors

MicroVision SHOWWX Classic Laser Pico Projector

5 Stars

($199.99,; $159.99,

MicroVision SHOOWWX Classic Laser Pico ProjectorProjectors that connect to your iPhone, iPad, or iPod are becoming increasingly popular for presentations, showing photos, or even watching movies. The MicroVision SHOWWX Classic gets the nod at five stars for its combination of quality and value. Reviews praise the quality of the image, but as with any Pico projector, expect to use it in a room that's fairly dark or completely dark, especially if you want a large image. Also, users say this model has a surprising amount of brightness for 10 lumens. The image is automatically in focus on any surface, and the laser technology creates vivid colors. The contrast ratio is 5,000: 1, and resolution is 848 by 480. The image can stretch up to 100 inches. The device is among the smallest mobile projectors — very similar to the size and shape of an iPhone. A second generation model, the SHOWWX+ ($294.56,, is 15 lumens and somewhat brighter.

Optoma PK301 Pico Pocket Projector

4 Stars

($399.99,; $386.55,

Optoma PK301 Pico Pocket ProjectorAlong with the SHOWWX, the Optoma is among the most popular iPhone projectors, with up to 50 lumens and an image size up to 120 inches. It has a full assortment of ports, letting you connect it to most devices, as well as a range of optional accessories. The native resolution is 854 by 480. The iPod kit for connecting it to an iPod, iPhone, or iPad must be purchased separately. The image quality is very good. The battery only lasts an hour in 20 lumens mode.

Optoma Neo-i

4 Stars


Optoma Neo-iThe Neo-i has dock and adapters for every version of the iPhone and iPod touch, and it is capable of projecting large widescreen images of up to 120 inches. I was impressed with the sound quality and brightness of the image. This projector features a native resolution of 854 by 480, and it has a contrast ratio of 2000:1.

Cinemin Swivel Multimedia Pico Projector

3 Stars

($119.89,; $199,

Cinemin Swivel Multimedia Pico ProjectorThe street price on the Cinemin Swivel is one of the lowest among mobile projectors. It's called the Swivel because it has a 90-degree hinge that lets you project the image at different angles, it has a rechargeable battery that lasts up to two hours. The resolution is 480 by 320, and it can project an image up to 60 inches. The Swivel is designed to work with an iPhone, and is easy to use and set up. Note that it doesn't connect to computers.

Cinemin Slice Multimedia Pico Projector Audio Dock

3 Stars

($288.99; $429.99,

Cinemin Slice Multimedia Pico Projector Audio CockThe Cinemin Slice combines a dock (includes docking trays for iPhone, iPad, and various iPods) and a projector. It also has connectors for computers and other video sources. The sound quality from the stereo speakers is good, and the image resolution is 854 by 480. Rated at 16 lumens, the image is somewhat dimmer than competing models, though the sound quality is better.


Projectors, speakers and everything else you need to bring your device to life.
2011 Buyers Guide
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