Blue Lola $249.99

Interesting design, crisp and clear sound

The Lola headphones from Blue Microphones have one of the most interesting designs, almost like they are designed for a steampunk costume. They look over-engineered, but in a good way, and they are comfortable to wear.

Lola is an over-the-ear type of headphone, with more than an inch of cushy foam over the ear cups and on the crossbar that touches the top of your head. Adjustments are easily done as you put them on. These are not noise-canceling, but the ear-shaped cups provide a high level of isolation.

Blue Microphones actually started out with a set of headphones called the Mo-Fi, which looks exactly like the Lola but has a built-in powered amplifier. The Mo-Fi, at $349.99, has a great reputation for making music from almost any source sound great, but some users thought it sounded best when the amp was turned off.

So the Lola is for those users, without the amp and at a lower price.

Even though the headphones are still bit expensive, Lola sounds crisp and clear, with good reproduction throughout the entire range.


Phiaton BT 100 NC $99

Easy to use for both music, talking on phone

In the last year more people have been wearing Bluetooth earbuds around the neck like a collar. The BT 100 NC from Phiaton is well-designed and comfortable to wear when the earbuds are in your ears and even when they are not.

The earbuds are attached to the collar by short wires that are adjustable so you can have a full range of motion without tugging them out when you turn your head. When not in use, the buds tuck into the ends of the collar and stay put.

The NC in the name stands for noise canceling: The unit listens to any noises around you and does its best to keep them quiet. It works especially well with constant sounds, like the drone of the engines when you are on a flight. You can turn the noise canceling on or off as needed.

The collar houses the electronics and the battery, which takes two hours to charge via microUSB and lasts for 12 hours of music playback or 7.5 hours when using noise canceling.

The BT 100 NC is easy to pair and use for both music and speaking on the phone. The BT 100 NC is priced right, sounds good and works well for active listening.