APPLE may have retired its iPod Nano but other audio gadgets are going from strength to strength.
Portable speakers are now designed to slip into a pocket, record crisp dictation, and even work after a quick dunk in the pool.
We rounded up four of the best new audio machines on the market to test which make the soundest investments.
4 out of 5 stars / $248 / harveynorman.com.au
You would expect a speaker from Bang & Olufsen offshoot BeoPlay to be stylish and capable of great audio, but you might not expect its hidden features.
This genuinely pocket-sized gadget connects to Google and Apple smartphones, uses a dedicated app for equaliser settings, and delivers rich, full sound beyond its 14cm frame, including impressive, clear bass.
Its exterior is a study in minimalism, with a hidden on button on its rear panel, and secret playback controls. Double-tap the grill and you can play a song, double-tap again and you’ll pause it, shake it and it will skip to the next track.
You can customise these controls within the app. The P2 also turns on and connects to the phone automatically when you open the app. It has just a few drawbacks: a volume control would have been handy, and it doesn’t deliver sound in stereo.
JBL Flip 4
4/5 / $128 / harveynorman.com.au
The weather is already warming up, putting beach-friendly speakers like this one into the frame. JBL’s upgraded Flip 4 speaker improves on its predecessor in several ways, with better sound quality, more bass, and a more rugged exterior.
Not only does it feature a more durable weave outside, but this speaker is now waterproof, letting you dunk it in liquid for up to 30 minutes.
It also features dual passive radiators for extra bass sound, the full array of exterior controls, and adds a button for accessing Apple’s Siri or the Google Assistant without reaching for your phone.
Its 3000mAh battery is able to power sound for up to 12 hours per charge, and you can link it to other Flip 4 speakers for a stereo effect.
Its audio delivery is not quite as impressive as its Ultimate Ears peers, and sound emanates from just one side of this cylindrical device, but it’s capable, easy to use, and great value for the price.
4.5/5 / $328, jbhifi.com.au
This retro microphone doesn’t just look good — it could make your personal podcast sound good. The upright device features a stylish grill, sturdy and hinged metal kickstand, and just two controls.
One dial controls the playback volume while the other controls the recording level. Plug this device directly into an Apple iPad, and you can record 24-bit sound with any app.
That sound is extra clear — particularly for podcasters — as the microphone’s internal acoustic diffuser highlights voices rather than ambient distractions.
The device also arrives with two cords, so you can connect it to an Apple device or a computer to take your recording.
3.5/5 / $79 / sony.com.au
Don’t be fooled by its teacup size. Sony has crammed the technology into this ultra-compact speaker and it delivers more bass than you’d expect.
This Bluetooth speaker is shaped like half a coke can and features a handle that can be used to suspend it or prop it up sideways on a table.
It offers external controls for volume and playback, an NFC chip for connecting to Google Android devices quickly, and a control to connect it to another XB10 speaker for stereo sound.
On the sound front, Sony has added a passive radiator to this speaker for a bass boost that you can feel during hip-hop tracks.
It can’t completely overcome its small dimensions — its audio output isn’t as crisp or bass-friendly as its larger peers — but it’s good enough to entertain a small room.
The speaker’s battery also lasts for up to 16 hours, and IPX5 water-resistant.