To say that CES 2024 has delighted and surprised us is an understatement, with audio innovations, wireless wizardry and great-sounding gadgets taking their place upfront and center stage (and rightly so).
CES 2024 proper kicked off on Tuesday, January 9 and ran until Friday, January 12, 2024 (oh, we didn't want it to end!), and over the course of the event, manufacturers from BREGGZ to Bose, EarFun to FiiO, Hidizs to Kanto, Naqi to Sonos, Sony to Victrola and myriad more showed off their latest audio tech, concept ideas, prototypes and ready-for-market products.
The sonic treats unveiled will soon be vying for a spot on our best headphones, best turntables, and best wireless earbuds lists, once we can get our hands on them and put them through our fully star-rated review process. That said, we've had people on the ground in Las Vegas throughout the event, so our ears-on coverage might be all that's needed for you to decide whether a product is worth snapping up now – or as soon as its hits the shelves.
We've rounded up the 23 most exciting audio tech announcements revealed at CES 2024 – so strap in and get comfortable, there's plenty here to enjoy.
Speakers, turntables, streamers and, er… cassette players
Want to improve your home theater surround-sound system or upgrade your speakers? CES 2024 is the place to find out what's hot right now; we've been treated to a veritable smorgasbord of home audio solutions.
First up is the unique LG Labs DukeBox (above), a concept translucent OLED screen-toting valve amp jukebox with fireside visuals – yes, that's really as good a summary as we can muster. Billed as "an innovative audio product that seamlessly combines the charm of vacuum tube audio with cutting-edge transparent OLED panel technology", we have to admire the idea: classic sensibilities mixed with state-of-the-art technology.
Elsewhere, Sonus Faber unveiled arguably the most high-ticket item at CES, the Sonus Faber Suprema speaker system, yours for a cool $750,000 (and who's to say it isn't worth every last cent?). At the other end of the food chain, JBL brought special sonic Auracast powers to its most lovable and affordable next-gen JBL Clip 5 speaker.
On that note, our very own Matt Bolton attended a very special Auracast demo at CES involving faux airport lounges and the like, and he truly believes the audio broadcasting tech will change our relationship with our headphones – and with each other.
The Focal Aria Evo X is a five-strong lineup of Focal speakers unveiled at CES – and, frankly, we think the availability of a moss green finish option alone makes it the floorstander to beat at CES.
If you want a speaker around which to build a multi-room wireless audio system or one to connect to a turntable, the new Audio Pro C20 could be it. I've written love letters to this firm's stunning speaker output, and with the slightly bigger C20, the company has broadened its already extensive connectivity options.
By adding a phono stage, Audio Pro's new speaker can be plugged straight into your turntable, allowing you to simply power it on, lower that needle and get into the groove! Of course, this is Audio Pro (maker of some of the best wireless speakers on the planet), so the new C20 also features AirPlay 2, Google Cast, Tidal Connect, Spotify Connect, Bluetooth, ARC and multi-room capability, too.
Don't have a turntable yet? Don't you worry, we've just the thing…
If it's a new plate-spinner you're after, Victrola's extensive CES rollout included a slew of hot decks. Our favorite? We've narrowed it down to either the Victrola Automatic, a fully automatic turntable with a first-of-its-kind "Repeat" feature to continuously repeat the side of a vinyl record, or the Victrola Stream Sapphire (pictured above), the company's new best-in-class flagship wireless turntable, which now works with multiple streaming ecosystems. What makes it so good? The Victrola Stream Sapphire builds on the DNA of Victrola’s inaugural October 2022 Stream deck – which you can learn about in our dedicated Victrola Stream Carbon review – by expanding on its connectivity solutions, to stream vinyl in "stunning clarity" to UPnP and Roon-integrated systems as well as Sonos, plus support for up to 24-bit/48kHz lossless FLAC audio.
If that’s not old-school enough, feast your eyes on this ode to the original 1979 Sony Walkman, the FiiO C13. That's right, we came to CES 2024 and saw a portable cassette player. There's no Bluetooth, so forget wireless listening (this is real retro; you've got to live it), plus the only new-fangled feature is the USB-C charging port, so you won't need to keep buying batteries. It does have a rewind button, though, so there will be no flipping the tape over and fast-forwarding to go back to the start of your jam, right before the beat drops.
Back to the future (see what we did there) of audio and FiiO's been busy here, too –check out the little bijou music maestro above, the FiiO R9. In a nutshell, it's the compact music system with smartphone-esque screen I need in my life, because it's so multi-faceted it's hard to know what to call it. DAC/amp streamer? Music hub? Entire just-add-speakers music streaming system? It's all of these things – and, refreshingly, it takes up about the same room in you home as a houseplant.
FiiO calls it a "flagship desktop audio player/streamer & balanced DAC/amplifier". We call it a fantastically featured and great-looking little proposition.
Adding a soundbar (or upgrading the one you have) can add oodles of separation, immersion and bass clout to your home entertainment setup, and CES 2024 has delivered standard "bar-and-sub" propositions and quirky space-saving options in equal measure.
Take Samsung, which revealed its 2024 soundbar lineup at CES, headlined by the Samsung HW-Q990D (above), which is the successor to the fantastic Samsung HW-Q990C – one of the best Dolby Atmos soundbars available. It has 11.1.4 channels (the same as the Q990C), supports wireless Dolby Atmos, and now comes with 4K 120Hz passthrough for games consoles, something the Q990C lacked. There’s also Party Play mode, which tunes the HW-Q990D to play a balanced sound across the whole system when listening to music, so everyone has the same experience.
Samsung had an ace up its sleeve, though – the Music Frame. It's essentially a picture frame that's also a wireless speaker and/or subwoofer, and I think that is both a great idea and a very bad one, in equal measure.
Look, we adore Samsung's The Frame TV, which happily becomes an electronic art gallery when you're not bingeing the entire series of Beef on Netflix – and as our IKEA-meets-Sonos Symfonisk Picture Frame with Wi-Fi Speaker review proves, we love an audio solution boasting space-saving style and substance. Samsung tells us the Samsung HW-LS60D (aka the technical name for the Music Frame) is the world’s first customizable and personalized wireless speaker with built-in IoT hub, and it's meant to "be used as a TV speaker, rear speaker, or a subwoofer – and even pair two for more surround sound options".
Music Frame also boasts Dolby Atmos support and hides two woofers, two tweeters, and two mid-drivers behind your chosen photo (you can digitally print your favorite memories onto the accompanying "Art Panel"; a Diasec matte acrylic plate).
From an audio perspective, we must remain cautious: the Music Frame is literally meant to hang on a wall, which should mean vibrations, articles, echo – all of the audio nasties. Then again, we love the space-saving, art-loving concept and this is Samsung, after all, so we'll reserve judgement until we've heard it properly.
Headphones and earbuds
CES 2024 has seen a swathe of fantastic wireless earbuds, so it might seem odd to be kicking off with a relatively humble-looking pair (by today's standards) from EarFun. But the EarFun Wave Pro aren't just the company's first ever stab at over-ear headphones; they're also LDAC and hi-res certified, offer noise cancellation and a whopping 80-hour battery life, all for $79.99. Suffice to say, we can't wait to hear them.
Screens on earbuds' cases are definitely a thing at CES 2024 – Samsung unveiled a Galaxy Buds case with an OLED screen, but said it had no plans to actually release it, while JBL is sticking to its screen-enhanced earbuds lineup with the new JBL Live 3. They come in three different designs, but they all have one feature in common: JBL's touchscreen Smart Charging Case, which is designed to make it much easier and quicker to access your audio playback and your earbuds' various features – it's like having a smartwatch screen right on the case.
We first saw JBL's screen-enhanced case in the JBL Tour Pro 2, and were fans initially: in our JBL Tour Pro 2 review we said that the case was "a thing of beauty". However, the novelty kind of wore off, over time, in favor of our trusty phone and JBL's excellent companion app.
There are three options in the JBL Live 3 range: Buds, Beam and Flex. As with their current incarnations, the Buds 3 look most like standard earbuds; the Beam 3 are like Apple's AirPods Pro, sporting a stick design and an in-ear fit; the Flex 3 are like regular AirPods, with a stick design but no silicone tip that sits right in the ear canal. All three have JBL's True Adaptive Noise Cancelling and Bluetooth 5.3 with LE Audio.
The next big thing in portable listening gear at CES 2024? Neural headphones. If the idea of your headphones being able to read your mind doesn't sit easy with you, calm yourself with the thought that products such as the CES Innovation Award honoree Naqi Neural Earbuds and NeurGear ZenBud are designed not to neurohack your noggin and control your actions, but to help you out – either by giving you full, hands-free control over your Windows or Mac computer, including typing, browsing, online shopping and gaming (Naqi); or by stimulating your Vagus nerve using ultrasonic sound waves to relax you (NeurGear).
We've been covering similar tech since June of last year, with the Neurable headphones. It seems the idea really is here to stay, and if it could potentially act as a safe and non-invasive alternative to brain implants, we're all for it.
Elsewhere, BREGGZ has unveiled a new "hearable": made-to-measure earbuds that both promise a custom fit better than even hand-made molds. They're are also being touted as "the world’s first truly wireless, custom-made in-ear computer".
In a resoundingly positive nod to sustainability, BREGGZ's IEMs also utilize a unique, patented "one-box" technology, where all of the hardware and firmware is processed in a mini cartridge, which can be easily replaced if (or when) the user wants to upgrade to a newer version, or following a battery charge decrease over time.
But what of the heavy-hitters? Sennheiser has unveiled the new Momentum True Wireless 4 along with the Accentum Plus, and Momentum Sport for every kind of listener – but the headline grabber is the Momentum True Wireless 4 earbuds, billed as "Sennheiser's most capable earbud yet". They're built around the Qualcomm S5 Sound Gen 2 platform – which is also going to be a really big deal in 2024 – and Snapdragon Sound, which means aptX lossless sound quality, as well as exceptionally low latency. The Bluetooth version is 5.4 with confirmed support for Auracast, improved ANC, something Sennheiser calls "evolved tuning", and upgraded batteries to boot.
Also landing were the Audio-Technica ATH-TWX7 wireless earbuds – chic, hi-res Audio-Technica earbuds with LDAC streaming for less – and, in the wired realm, the Hidizs ST2 Pro Digital IEMs, which not only boast hi-res audio support but also a DAC built into the USB-C connector.
It's a simple audiophile-friendly solution that means levelling up your wired audio with a separate DAC dongle to get the goods will no longer be necessary – making the ST2 Pro almost certainly a serious audio upgrade for your iPhone 15, Android phone, Mac or PC.
TechRadar's Josephine Watson (Managing Editor, Lifestyle) tried Nanoleaf's new music-syncing software at CES, and discovered that house parties will never be the same. Nanoleaf announced a spring 2024 release along with news of its new outdoor lights (which she also saw at CES, and they're gorgeous), describing the software as a “real-time audio-visual experience”.
Nanoleaf Orchestrator is a new desktop-based music interpretation engine that actually analyzes your music itself, to create a comprehensive light show with your devices. Not only can Orchestrator create a palette of colors based on your chosen song's vibe or mood, it also lets you customize which lights respond to which musical passages or frequencies of a song. Want your bulbs to pulse along with the bassline while your smart light panels react to the mids or highs? Done.
Want to take your music out of your home and on the road? TechRadar's Senior Editor of Home Entertainment, Al Griffin, has you covered. He got to experience a Mercedes-Benz S 580 tricked out with a 4D sound system furnished by German manufacturer Burmester at CES. The 31-speaker Burmester 4D configuration is an option for the latest MBUX-generation infotainment system in Mercedes-Benz vehicles, and it allows for Atmos-compatible tracks to be streamed in an immersive format from Apple Music and Amazon Music. How was it? Music on the road never sounded so good.
We’re covering all of the latest CES news from the show as it happens. Stick with us for the big stories on everything from 8K TVs and foldable displays to new phones, laptops, smart home gadgets, and the latest in AI.
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Becky is a senior staff writer at TechRadar (which she has been assured refers to expertise rather than age) focusing on all things audio. Before joining the team, she spent three years at What Hi-Fi? testing and reviewing everything from wallet-friendly wireless earbuds to huge high-end sound systems. Prior to gaining her MA in Journalism in 2018, Becky freelanced as an arts critic alongside a 22-year career as a professional dancer and aerialist – any love of dance starts with a love of music. Becky has previously contributed to Stuff, FourFourTwo and The Stage. When not writing, she can still be found throwing shapes in a dance studio, these days with varying degrees of success.