6 Music Products To Up Your Listening Game, Because iPods Were Only The Beginning

Do you remember a world without the iPod? I had a first-generation one, and before it was destroyed by sand damage (hey, it didn't say "don't use at the beach"), it was basically the most revolutionary thing my teen ears had ever encountered. For a generation raised on Walkmans and CD players, that was the start of an addiction — but, nowadays, having a digital music player is nothing new. We're so inured to leaps and bounds in music technology that it's hard to impress, let alone get us to fork out. Music you can carry in your pocket? Boring. Ring me back when I can encode it into my earlobes.

It can be hard out there for the tech-loving music nerd for other reasons, too. The failure of the mi.mu "music gloves" Kickstarter, the serious teething problems of Neil Young's groundbreaking portable music device PonoPlayer: for every time something exciting happens in the field, there are multiple non-starters. And let's not even talk about Tidal.

Luckily, however, there's a crop of technology out there that's still capable of making the listening experience exciting even for the casual music-lover — and of making a great gift for the person who will not shut up about the sound quality of their latest turntable. Here are six of the best and most amusing new music inventions.

1. Laser Headphones That Pulse With The Beat

Glow headphones ($149) had a massive run on Kickstarter, and it's not entirely surprising: the tech is fun, cool, simple to understand, and pretty universally appealing. The headphones, or more strictly speaking, earbuds with laser-embedded cables, light up to the beat — whether it's your favorite tune or your heart rate. (This may lead to embarrassing situations when a passerby realizes you're listening to NSYNC. Be warned.)

2. Horn Amplifier For iPhone

This is seriously low-fi — for the kinds of people who look wistfully at gramophones in thrift shop windows. The Bone portable amp ($2.90) makes your iPhone into its very own gramophone with a simple silicon clip-on "stand," complete with its own attached horn. It's basically an amplification device for those occasions when the only music player at the party is a phone, but its simplicity and retro feel give it major points.

3. A Device That Interrupts Your Music To Alert You To Noises

This is another Kickstarter device and it hasn't got off the ground yet — but if it does, it could be particularly useful to people with hearing problems, or the kind who just have their earphones on 24/7. If you've ever missed an important phone call or a door-knock because of your music, the SoundBrake (as yet unpriced) is your friend: it detects noises in the outer world higher than a certain level, and dims your music if they happen, so you can dash to the phone/door/cute dude in distress.

4. Bluetooth Headphones That Can Also Make Phone Calls

Audiophiles will already be aware of these: the Parrot Zik 2.0 headphones ($399) are the Beyonces of the headphone world. (Sorry, Beats.) They've got a hefty pedigree, designed by Phillipe Starck, and are Bluetooth-enabled, capable of taking phone calls, loaded with tracks from artists before you even buy them, and packed full of music-controlling functions, from noise cancellation to tuning to an entertaining-sounding "concert hall" feature. And they're leather. And can come in yellow. Hello.

5. Floating Portable Speakers The Size Of Your Palm

Portable wireless speakers can be a bit of a pain — they're weighty, expensive, and too delicate to leave around hard partiers. Right? Wrong, apparently. The Philips Shoqbox ($149.99) despite the silliest name in the business, is getting a lot of buzz for being tiny, powerful and, weirdly, able to float. Philips claims it can basically handle anything your party guests throw at it, as long as that something isn't fire.

6. Earbuds That Tune Out Certain Sounds

This just busted through its funding goal on Kickstarter, so it's looking like a reality — all because people really hate having to listen to gossips, babies, and other annoying ambient noises. The Here Active Listening earbuds ($249) are designed to tune out specific noises, like toddlers crying, plane engines, and arguing couples. They're even meant to make live music better, doubling as earplugs and sound-enhancers. Much more costly if one falls out in the mosh pit, though.

Images: CNet, Here Active, Parrot Zik, Soundbrake, Bone, Glow