News & Politics

Tech Gadgets for the Summer

New gadgets that keep the music going—from home to the bike path to the beach

Wake Up, Rock Out

With the JBL On Time, your wake-up call doesn’t have to be either an irritating buzz or a static-filled radio broadcast. Plug your iPod or MP3 player into the On Time and select which song you’d like to start your day. The looped speakers make your iPod look as if it’s getting an MRI, but they’re the key to JBL’s “halo acoustics,” which provide a 360-degree field of sound.

At $249.95, the JBL On Time may seem like a splurge for an alarm clock, but it does guarantee you’ll never sleep through a workday. We’ll assume that’s a good thing.

Take the Ball Game to You

XM is one of the few places to hear America’s favorite summer pastime: Major League Baseball. We like following the Nationals with the satellite-radio company’s portable devices, including the Pioneer Inno and Samsung Helix, both $400. The feather-light (4.5 ounces) hand-helds also record XM shows and MP3s and display custom stock updates.

If your taste runs to the NFL, Martha Stewart, or Howard Stern, then Sirius satellite radio and its portable device, the S50, may be for you. The S50 offers the same features as the XM versions for $300.

Whether you choose Howard or Oprah—another XM offering—you’ll have to pay for a monthly subscription: about $13 a month or, if you already have satellite radio, $6.99 a month.

Ease Into the Digital Age

Not everyone is riding the wave of downloadable MP3s, satellite radio, and iPods. Compact discs still take up shelf space for most of us.

The Escient Fireball, a VCR-size black box, promises to ease tech-averse consumers into the digital age. Insert a CD and the device downloads the artist name, album title, song list, and cover art while digitizing each song and saving it to the internal hard drive. The Fireball can then play songs through a stereo or send them to a computer. While the Fireball isn’t cheap—it starts at $1,000—you can make some of that back by selling those old CDs.

A Better Boom Box

Despite creating the most ubiquitous music accessory in recent history, Apple doesn’t hold the edge in stereo equipment. As one tattooed salesman at the Clarendon Apple store says, “Apple isn’t known for their speakers . . . Bose is.”

The Bose SoundDock is movable and perfect for a backyard barbecue. Compatible with the iPod and iPod mini, the SoundDock retails for $300.