If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. However, our picks and opinions are independent from USA TODAY's newsroom and any business incentives. There are gifts that are practical, gifts that are functional, and then there are gifts that are just… wowsers, that's beautiful. If you're looking to impress someone with a show-stopping present, this list of gadgets has been imbued with great design, and they're all really useful to boot. Good news: Beautiful does not always mean budget-breaking (though there are a few splurge-worthy items here too).
The Raumfeld One S is the least expensive speaker in the Berlin Acoustics multi-room audio system, and it sounds magnificent for its size. For an in-depth look at the system as a whole, read our introductory article that discusses how it works, the codecs its supports, and more. This review will concentrate specifically on the 249 Raumfeld One S. If you're comparing this speaker to what Sonos has to offer--and you should--the One S fits right between a Sonos Play:1 ( 199 at Amazon) and the Sonos Play:3 ( 299 at Amazon), but it sounds better than both of them. Sonos has the better system overall, but the Raumfeld line supports high-resolution audio where Sonos doesn't. Measuring 7.1 inches wide, 5.1 inches high, and 4.3 inches deep, it's small enough to fit just about anywhere, including on the wall if you buy the optional mounting bracket ( 30 at Amazon).
A new generation of smart speakers greatly improves on the device's sound quality. A new generation of smart speakers greatly improves on the device's sound quality. As the audio engineer for the Tiny Desk concert series, of course I obsess over how our concerts are experienced -- so when I watch someone pull up a session on their smartphone, laptop or tablet, with those tiny and tinny speakers, my heart sinks a little. I'm thrilled people love these concerts as much as we love making them, but they sound so much better when played on a decent sound system, or on headphones. Sure, the concerts sound OK on a mono phone speaker, but you'd be amazed by what you're missing once you've heard the audio mix on a device that can actually reproduce the low and high ends of the frequency spectrum, where all the chest-thumping bass and shimmering cymbals live.
Does a soundbar really need Alexa voice controls? I honestly didn't think so at first. But after using the Sonos Beam for a couple a weeks, I don't think I'll ever consider a soundbar without some kind of digital assistant support. The $400 Sonos Beam is far from the perfect soundbar, but it hits the sweet spot on price, design, sound quality, and features. Unlike most soundbars, the Beam is a new breed of soundbar.
With a few notable exceptions, Bluetooth speakers are a dime a dozen. They're commodity items with little differentiation to set one apart from the rest. Among larger Bluetooth speakers, I would count Creative's Sound Blaster Roar 2, Jawbone's Big Jambox, and JBL's Xtreme among those exceptions. But the Libratone Zipp lineup sounds as good if not better than any of those speakers, and it has some features the others lack, including multi-room audio support to compete with the Sonos Play:1 and Play:3. Libratone doesn't have anything in its lineup that can compete with Sonos' larger Play:5 or Playbar sound bar, nor does it offer a dedicated wireless subwoofer, but the Zipp and Zipp Mini deliver great sound, multi-room audio support, battery-powered portability, and several innovative features.