Top 10 iPad Accessories for the Home Theater Crowd Page 2

soundmatters foxLO Bluetooth Subwoofer ($179)

Let's get this straight right up front: You can never have too much bass. Well, not too much good bass anyway, and so the compact, eminently portable foxLO is a worthy complement to your compatible Bluetooth speaker. It will work with soundmatters' own foxLv2 Bluetooth (2.2), as well as the competing Jawbone Jambox, connecting at the 1/8-inch audio out mini-jack of either with foxLO's bundled cable. An attenuator add-on cord is also included, and recommended—to reduce signal power without distorting it—when connecting to the foxLv2 specifically. The 30-watt sub uses a linear magnetic drive woofer/dual passive radiator system, and it neither contains its own battery nor does it draw from the attached speaker, so it must be connected to AC power when in use. All four corners are covered by removable rubber guards, so you can stand it up or lay it down just about any which way you like. At 4.5 x 2.5 x 6.3 inches, it's much bigger than the foxLv2 I used for this review, suggesting the amount of sonic work you should expect it to do. The Level slider balances bass output and potential overload, while the limiter button lets you choose between safer-yet-deep bass (Off) and higher volume with a hint of danger (On). The upshot of a properly set-up and tweaked system is a mighty, dynamic audio experience for both music and movie content, almost freakishly responsive and more akin to a respectable home sub-sat system than its quirky looks might suggest.

Audyssey Audio Dock Air ($400)

You have to love Apple's AirPlay technology. Sending your audio to an outboard speaker frees you from the solitude of headphones and allows you to share, which I was raised to believe was a good thing. It also eliminates wires, but where AirPlay moves ahead of Bluetooth is in terms of range, since it utilizes your Wi-Fi network and is thereby limited only by your particular 802.11 setup. It also sends its signal without any additional compression necessary, so the same folks who appreciate the difference between the quality of the Apple Lossless audio codec and common 128kbps MP3s will likely relish this improvement. But which AirPlay speaker to use? The Audyssey Audio Dock Air is a substantial piece of audio gear, packing a pair of three-quarter-inch tweeters, 3-inch woofers and 4-inch passive bass radiators, so you can be assured that the low end is going to kick. (The AADA spent a lot of time next to my desk, and I could definitely feel the bass massaging my leg.) Combine that with Audyssey's home theater-tested audio processing technologies—including Audyssey BassXT which actually manages to wring more air out of your speaker—and you have a one-piece wireless titan that does wonders with whatever you stream or store on your iPad. Even when the Audio Dock Air was driven hard, I found the performance to be rock-solid, with a tight low end, an effortless midrange, and crisp highs to boot. And you can link up to four Audio Dock Air units across the house for a bona fide multi-room audio system.

Bluetooth Headphones
Were you surprised to discover that your iPad does not include headphones? No matter, as even Apple's iconic white earbuds (and now EarPods) take a backseat to these premium wireless alternatives—in-ear, on-ear, or over-ear—that liberate the listener as well as the audio.

Phiaton PS 210 BTNC Bluetooth 3.0 Noise Canceling Earphones ($160)

Even handy, ubiquitous earbud-style headphones bring with them the hassle of cords, and cords have given me nothing but grief since the Walkman days. So for Earbud Nation comes sweet salvation in the form of the Phiaton PS 210 BTNC's "wireless" connectivity. Why the quotation marks? Well, in truth the earbuds are not merely wired to one another but to a little Bluetooth dongle complete with control buttons, which does bring a set-it-and-forget-it ease of use I suppose: Once the dongle is charged and clipped or tucked out of the way, we are not tethered to the iPad itself. Just as pleasing as the light, snug (four different-sized sets of soft silicon eartips included) and inconspicuous form factor, however, is Phiaton's active noise-cancellation, which is not easy to find in any earbud since a lot of headphone designers have noted that 'buds already plug up the ears like… well, earplugs. But on a droning jumbo jet, I for one need greater amnesty , and here I get it with effective eradication of the omnipresent rumble for a welcome respite, plus overall enjoyable music and movie listening. The PS 210 BTNC 'phones support Bluetooth 3.0 specifically, which offers superior sound quality, battery life and range versus 2.0. (The newest iPads support backward-compatible Bluetooth 4.0.) No Bluetooth allowed? No gas left in the wireless dongle's tank? No worries: "EverPlay-X technology" allows you to plug in the included cable, bypassing the wireless mode and using the 'buds non-stop.

Creative WP-450 Wireless Headset ($150)

Earbuds are not for everyone, and neither are over-ears for that matter. And into that nether-region swoops the underappreciated on-ear headphone, which combines lighter weight than its over-the-ear cousins and (potentially) a broader sonic spectrum than the wee in-ears. By positioning themselves atop the ear canal instead of inside, or rather than surrounding the entire ear, a compact headset like Creative's WP-450 allow environmental sounds to seep in, along with enough fresh air to keep you cool and comfortable, even during extended wear. (The soft leatherette cushioning here helps, too.) The Neodymium-magnet drivers deliver a remarkably large and transparent soundstage—the WP-450's high-frequency response is particularly strong—with little- to-no evidence of strain at higher volumes despite their fold-and-tuck size. The built-in rechargeable battery far outlasted me, while the controls located on the right earcup are quick to learn and the unseen yet quite capable microphone with Creative's ClearSpeech Engine is a boon to the iPad's nifty voice-control features. A simple carry bag and a USB cable are included.

Logitech UE 9000 Wireless Bluetooth Headphones ($400)

It helps to think of the Ultimate Ears 9000 cans as serious headphones first and foremost, and oh yeah, they also happen to be wireless. As the memory foam settles around your ears and the earcups swivel to embrace your noggin, and as the awe-inspiring dynamic range of your favorite tunes tickles your brain from both sides, the prevailing sensation is one of freedom. The large, laser-tuned drivers and onboard DSP render familiar songs with a welcome spaciousness and exquisite nuance. Never before have performance, comfort, and convenience come together quite like this. They play loud without strain and the bass thump is genuine. The size, shape, and fit go a long way toward blocking out reality, and the active noise cancellation pretty much handles the rest. (The useful Listen Through button also gives you the choice of letting outside sounds in without having to take off the 9000s.) Well-positioned on-earcup buttons offer basic control when you don't want to touch the iPad, while an included yet optional cable adds a microphone and in-line controls. The tough-looking travel case with polishing cloth implies that these headphones—a serious investment, no doubt—will last well beyond the next couple of iPad generations, and look spiffy doing it.