Anyone hoping for a relatively normal CES experience in 2022 was disappointed when Covid-19 forced many exhibitors to withdraw from the Las Vegas tech show at the last minute. Fortunately, we were not disappointed with the audio products and technologies presented this year.
CES is the perfect place to learn about the weirdest and wackiest developments in the tech world, not to mention the most important innovations. This year was no exception. However, it was the smaller audio brands that really stole the show this year, with many large audio companies having a more subdued presence than normal.
We’ve seen everything from invisible headphones to bluetooth speakers with endless battery life, in addition to the usual range of true wireless headphones, soundbars and record players – giving us a real taste of what what we can expect in the coming year in audio.
So while CES 2022 may not have been the return to normal we were hoping for (and really, what is normal? never mean as far as CES is concerned?), it has always been an outstanding show for all things audio. Here are some of our favorite products and technologies coming out of Vegas this year.
Headphones should be heard, not seen
There are always plenty of headphones to see at CES. This year’s offering included some really wacky tech alongside conventional audiophile headphones that will appeal to discerning listeners.
Mark Levinson, the company best known for its high-end hi-fi equipment, launched its first pair of headphones at the show. The Mark Levinson # 5909 is among the most sophisticated cans we’ve seen, featuring 40mm beryllium drivers, high-resolution audio support, active noise cancellation, and 34-hour battery life.
These are also the most expensive headphones we’ve seen at CES this year; they will set you back $ 999 (around £ 750 / AU $ 1,400). Ouch.
If that price is out of the question, we’ve also seen some excellent Sony WH-1000XM4 rivals from Shure. The Shure AONIC 40 costs $ 249 / £ 215 (around AU $ 345). For that, you get a sleek foldable design, ANC, dynamic 40mm neodymium drivers, and adjustable EQ settings – and at $ 100 / £ 134 less than Sony’s flagship cans.
However, our favorite pair of headphones from CES was a very different beast than the Mark Levinsons and Shures of the world. In fact, it’s not a pair of headphones at all.
The Noveto N1 is a truly innovative device which is in effect a pair of “invisible headphones”. Looking a bit like a sound bar, this smart gadget sends ultrasound to “pockets” of air just outside your ears. You will hear your music as if you are wearing real headphones, while the people around you are no more aware of it.
That’s right, no one else will be able to hear your music. And, with smart head tracking technology, sound should always hit the right place, even when you’re on the move. This is the kind of technology CES is talking about. We can’t wait to try it out for ourselves.
True wireless headphones are getting cheaper and cheaper
There were plenty of new true wireless headphones to see at CES this year. While none of them can be considered really Innovative, the latest models show just how far the form factor has come – and how affordable it can be these days.
JBL released three real models of wireless headphones at CES. All retail for $ 149.95 (around £ 115 / AU $ 210) and none of them skimp on specs. The Live Pro 2, for example, comes with adaptive noise cancellation, up to 40 hours of battery life, and six microphones equipped with noise and wind isolation.
Jabra has also launched a more affordable pair of wireless headphones. The Jabra Elite 4 Active are some of the most complete heads we’ve seen at their price point. They’ll only set you back $ 119 / £ 119 / AU $ 179 and give you good audio performance, decent noise cancellation, adjustable EQ settings, and a 28-hour battery life.
Perhaps the most interesting heads on the show are the Belkin Soundform Immerse, which could be a great, cheaper alternative to AirPods Pro. Priced at $ 179.99 (around £ 130 / AU $ 250), these stylish headphones offer many of the same features as Apple’s noise-canceling headphones, as well as high-resolution audio support.
None of these models represent huge advancements in true wireless technology. However, they show how manufacturers are starting to offer previously high-end features at lower prices. We expect CES 2023 to be a bit more exciting in this regard, as brands begin to incorporate Qualcomm’s aptX Lossless codec, which will enable lossless audio streaming over a wireless network.
So far this has not been possible due to speed limitations. However, Qualcomm says the audio provided by this codec – which is expected to arrive in the next generation of wireless headphones and earphones – will be “mathematically accurate bit by bit”, so you won’t lose any data on a connection. wireless. or any precious detail in your music.
Record players that do it all
It was a big CES for record players. The best upcoming turntables at this year’s show showcased a fantastic mix of modern conveniences, like wireless streaming and portability, with all the nostalgia of spinning vinyl on a big deck.
Cambridge Audio has launched two new turntables: the Alva TT V2 and the Alva ST, the first to act as the successor to the world’s first aptX HD Bluetooth turntable.
In addition to offering high-resolution wireless streaming, the Alva TT V2 comes with a removable shell and switchable phono stage, so you can upgrade the turntable over time.
At $ 1,999 / £ 1,700 (around AU $ 2,770), this is the most premium turntable at CES 2022. The most exciting turntable was the Victrola Re-Spin bargain.
This $ 99.99 / £ 99 (approx AU $ 140) suitcase turntable comes in a range of vibrant colors and has a built-in bluetooth speaker and a cute, portable design. While it doesn’t have a built-in battery, one of Victrola’s other CES offerings does – and it’s the first record player to do so.
The Victrola Revolution GO comes with a rechargeable battery, lightweight construction, and a built-in bluetooth speaker. It even has a detachable guitar strap, so you can carry it around like a handbag.
While not the best-sounding turntable we’ve ever tested, we were impressed with how well it worked and how easy it was to use. For $ 199.99 / £ 199 (around AU $ 280), it performs well, plays at high volume, and lets you take your vinyl on the go. It is a real innovation worthy of CES.
Speakers that prolong the party … forever
There weren’t many speakers that really caught our eye at CES 2022. In fact, the only model that did is a prototype that won’t actually reach the market.
The portable speaker was created by technology companies Exeger and Mayht, and its innovative design could really shake up the Bluetooth speaker market. Designed with Exegers Powerfoyle material, it can convert any light source into power, giving the speaker virtually endless battery life.
Not only that, but the prototype device also contains a new type of double-diaphragm driver created by Mayht, which the company claims can match the power of a speaker 10 times its size.
It’s a shame that audiences never get their hands on this particular device, but this prototype speaker gives us a great insight into what wireless speakers of the future might look (and sound like).