Most year-end top gadget lists include the most advanced products and the most ground-breaking technologies. For me, the products of the year are those that have become an indispensible part of my everyday life. And so, in alphabetical order (until my top pick) here are my Top 10 Gadgets of 2011.
After years of searching, these Shure SE215s in-ear buds are, hands down (ears up?) the best sub-$100 earphones ($99.99) I've ever stuck in my canals. They deliver smooth yet detailed sound, no sharp treble peaks, and just enough bass across the widest sound field I've heard. Plus, even though they're noise-isolating, they have an open, airy sound, not the usually in-your-head claustrophobia in-ear buds usually produce. An audiophile associate of mine heard them and thought they had to be $500. Plus, these noise-isolating buds are really comfortable – they are worn with the cable draped behind and over the ear rather than dangling in front – and are flat enough to lay ear-down on a pillow. One drawback: if you're going to use them with an iPhone, you have to buy the iPhone-ready cable (CBL-M+-K-EFS) with in-line mic and controls separately for $50. But these in-line controls are large and easy to locate and manipulate by feel. Even with the extra $50, they're better sounding than many buds at twice the price.