The latest trend in personal listening devices is the around the neck Bluetooth speaker. They create a comfortable, intimate sound experience that’s more natural and well suited for users that don’t want to be totally isolated from the world around them. If you’re looking for just that kind of experience, here’s a guide to 5 great wearable speaker options for 2018.
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Bose has a reputation for creating elegant, high-quality audio devices. Their entry into the wearable speaker market, the Bose SoundWear Companion, doesn’t disappoint. It features:
- 12-hour battery life
- Bose’s patented waveguide technology for accurate sound reproduction
- 30-foot Bluetooth range
- 15-minute fast charge for up to 2.5 hours of listening
- A 3 button remote to control your device, with advanced microphone for calls and digital assistant use
- Weight: 0.57 lb (259 g)
As with any Bose device, the most impressive aspect is the sound quality. The upward facing speaker design creates a sound field that envelops the wearer but doesn’t block out ambient sound. This is handy for users that need to remain aware of their environment during use. The quality is crisp, with an excellent deep bass response and clear mids and highs. The effect is akin to hearing a live performance with vocals appearing to come from ear level while the bass surrounds you.
The overall design lends itself to an experience so comfortable that it’s very easy to forget you’re even wearing it. This provides a clear advantage over other types of personal listening devices. In addition, the included Bose connect app makes switching between sources seamless and hassle-free.
In January, JBL introduced their coming entry into the wearable speaker market at the annual CES trade show. The SoundGear was positioned as a wearable that was designed with users of VR headsets and apps in mind. Key features include:
- 6 hours of playtime per charge
- Lightweight design
- Dual-microphone system with active noise cancellation
- Compatability with all major Bluetooth-enabled VR headsets
JBL has designed their unit to be well suited for the gaming crowd and the casual user. The nature of the CES demonstration made it difficult to judge the overall sound quality, but if they turn out to be anything like JBL’s other products, it should be more than adequate for their intended audience.
The SoundGear is made of lightweight materials and is very comfortable to wear. It has rubber anti-slip material included to keep it stable but is also wrapped in soft-touch fabrics to make sure it won’t be irritating with continual use. It can be paired with up to two Bluetooth sources for added versatility and mobility. The dual-microphones and noise canceling technology make it a great option for phone calls, and the VR compatibility should mean an easy comfort upgrade for headset-wearers.
LG is notable for their around the neck headphones, LG Tone series. Unlike their rivals in the market, LG has produced a veritable swiss army knife of mobile sound. The LG TONE Studio is jam-packed with features to make it a great fit for a variety of uses. They include:
- Real 3D surround sound
- A 3.5mm auxiliary input jack
- Tethered earbuds for discreet listening
- Haptic feedback bass response
- 6-hour battery life
- Weight: 4.4 oz (125 g)
If you’re looking for an all-in-one listening solution, the LG TONE Studio may hit the spot. The sound quality is decent but isn’t going to win any awards. The design includes downward facing subwoofers and a haptic feedback system that delivers low tones with a mixture of audible sound and vibration transmitted to the wearer. While the bass response isn’t great, the overall effect is satisfying. This unit shines when being used with DTS content or with the simulated surround sound feature. The depth of field is excellent and provides a great experience for movie audio and video gaming.
The tethered earbuds are a nice option for on the go use, and the auxiliary jack makes it easy to use with non-Bluetooth devices. If you’ve got more than one set, they can be simultaneously connected to a single source so you can share the sound with a friend. The only major drawback is that they’re a little heavy, but it’s a tradeoff that comes with having such a big feature set.
The recently released Sony SRS-WS1 Wearable Neck Speaker is a slightly different concept than the other units we’ve covered. It’s aimed specifically at home users and isn’t really mobile at all. It’s great for sharing sound from a television or stereo. It includes:
- A 30 to 90-foot range (depending on the number of attached devices)
- 7-hour battery life
- Stand-alone transmitter
- 3-hour charging time
The Sony SRS-WS1
isn’t available in the U.S. yet, has recently been released in the US domestic market and judging by previous Sony products, users can expect decent sound from an ergonomically designed package. The system can produce three user selectable levels of vibration to assist with bass response, but with only two speakers, it’s not likely going to be the best sound you’ve heard.Since it’s used with a proprietary transmitter, it can’t be used on the go or with a mobile device (unless you connect it via the included 3.5mm input jack). The included charging stand makes keeping the headset ready for use easy, but it’s only suited for those that need personal sound from their television or computer.
Being developed through an Indiegogo campaign, the Necksound is designed with runners in mind. It’s made of hypoallergenic silicone to provide an anti-slip grip and excellent water-resistance. It features a necklace-style design and built-in storage for stand-alone use. It features:
- 6-hour battery life
- 4 Gb internal storage for about 1000 Mp3 encoded songs
- Vibrating call indicator
- Resilient flexible PCB electronics
- Bluetooth 4.0 connectivity
Since this device hasn’t been released yet, the jury’s still out on the audio performance. The real benefit is in the flexible water-resistant design. It’s thin and light, with a 2-hour total charge time. Not only can it store and playback music internally, it can be synchronized with up to 2 additional units for running in groups. Another feature that’s sure to please active users is a magnetic attachment system that keeps the unit securely attached to the wearer’s shirt.
The Necksound is also a good fit for the style conscious. It will be available in three colors, making it a nice accessory when paired with most activewear. The sleek design and built-in microphone, call, and volume controls make taking calls on the run a snap. Due to the innovative design, it’s also likely to be better suited to the wear and tear of everyday use than the other available options.
Article updated 04/27/2018