It so happened that the last few weeks I was approached for multiple gadget recommendations by friends and family. The speaker, microphone and headphones that I suggested to them worked out well for the recipients that I am sharing the details here for the benefit of you, my readers.
Disclosure: I write reviews about products that I have bought for my usage or my friends and paid in full. There were no sponsorship or advertisement, or commission of any sort involved in this post.
Last year, I suggested to my friend, who conducts a lot of online classes, Lenovo IdeaPad C340, which turned out to be the perfect computer at an affordable price for him. Wearing headphones for a long time was becoming painful, so I suggested he get a set of speakers and a microphone. The first two items below are what I recommended to him, which he is happy with.
Speaker: Zebronics Wonderbar
His usage was only video calls and classes, no music listening. Hence, I looked for something that is cheaper, small and connects to the existing sound port (say Realtek) in the laptop, rather than as USB which will add an additional device in the speakers listing in Windows and confuse him. I picked Zebronics Wonderbar 10. I got it from Amazon India for INR 877 (USD 12). This is a set of two speakers (Right & Left) that can be placed as two units vertically or kept together as a horizontal soundbar. It is USB-powered (and not a USB connected device) which means it doesn’t require a separate power source. It connects to the laptop’s 3.5mm sound port. Has colour lighting and a microphone port.
Now that an alternative for the speaker functionality that was served by his headphones was found, I needed to suggest him a good microphone. My friend didn’t want to spend on a condenser microphone like the Fifine one I have. The local electronics shop in my neighbourhood [Rajam Electronics & Electricals, Station Road, West Mambalam, Chennai. Phone: +91 44 24740106, 42065480] recommended the Zebronics Zeb-Klarity gaming USB-connected Microphone, at a price of about INR 1000 (USD 13). This is an omnidirectional mic that sits on top of your table and has a noise filter for clear audio.
JBL wired Headphone
My father-in-law wanted a simple to use headphones that he can connect to his iPad for watching movies and doing video calls. I know well that Bluetooth headphones won’t work for him, due to the complexity involved of pairing them and turning them ON/OFF every time and the need to charge them periodically. I was searching for good quality headphones with microphones that can connect to the 3.5mm headphone jack in his iPad. I considered both a JBL model and a Sony, to finally settle for the JBL Tune 500 one, Blue colour. He is happy with it and has been using them regularly for the last few weeks.
Zebronics Bluetooth Headphones
My son was using hand-me-down Sony Bluetooth headphones from me for the last few years for his online classes, which had worn down and Bluetooth stopped connecting – when contacted Sony service centre and the local shops said the ear cushions are not available and the Bluetooth can’t be fixed. So, my son demanded a new pair of headphones with a good microphone. After much searching, I found Zebronics (I wonder why this post has become mostly about the same brand, it is purely coincidental) Zeb-Envy Bluetooth headphones for INR 1900 (USD 25). A key advantage in these headphones are the detachable microphone, it can be brought near your mouth like the ones used by call centre operators for convenience and clarity. The headphone can be connected using an AUX port as well, but the detachable mic works only with Bluetooth. The headphone is large and completely covers the ears, but is not that heavy, because of the mic being near the mouth the other side in video calls are able to hear us clearly.
Speaker: JBL GO2
When my mother receives a WhatsApp voice call it is easier for her with the speakerphone mode rather than holding the phone in her hand. I was looking for a small Bluetooth speaker with a microphone that is lightweight and easy to move around. Many years ago, I had used JBL Flip 2 speakers, which I was happy with, so I looked for the smaller version of it and went with JBL Go 2 Portable Bluetooth speakers. It was just 2.8 x 3.3 inches in dimension and 180 grams, light enough to put in your pocket or take it to my mom when she has a call to speak.
The audio volume is adequate for phone calls, simple music listening and hearing podcasts. The microphone seems to work fine too, no complaints on the receiver end about the voice clarity. With IPX7 waterproof housing, you can take it to swim or not worry about rain :-) At INR 2099 (USD 28) it is an affordable choice if you are looking for an easy to use, lightweight Bluetooth speaker with a Microphone.