Wallpaper* wants… high-tech innovation from low-key brands

Six new tech devices offer up fresh twists on consuming and creating, proving that big ideas don’t always come from obvious sources

Polaroid Music players
Polaroid Music players
(Image credit: Polaroid)

This eclectic mix of audio, visual, and productivity products show that innovation can come from unlikely places, and that there’s more to the tech industry than just the big-name brands. Whether you’re in the market for a super-smooth tablet, a distraction-free writing tool or some slimline speakers, here are six gadgets that recently caught our eye. 

1. Boox NoteAir 2 Plus Tablet

Boox NoteAir Series

Boox NoteAir Series.

(Image credit: Boox)

Boox’s NoteAir2 continues the current trend for e-ink tablets – a market recently entered by the mighty Amazon. Although it’s quite as well put together as ReMarkable’s elegantly simple offering, the NoteAir has added functionality in the form of a more flexible Android operating system. That means in-built apps like an eReader, recorder, dictionary, gallery and calendar, as well as access to Google’s Play store, although many third-party apps will be stymied by the slow refresh rating of the screen (and the obvious absence of colour). That said, the added functionality will please those who want to minimise their electronic footprint. 

Boox NoteAir 2 Plus, €549,99, Boox.com

2. Hidden Sound Speakers

Hidden Sound Speakers

Hidden Sound Speakers

(Image credit: Hidden Sound)

Swiss-based manufacturer Hidden Sound has debuted with two speaker set-ups, each of which is designed to add more depth to the listening experience while simultaneously taking up far less space. Founded by Jovan and Vesna Jelovac, along with Belgrade sound engineer Igor Radojević, Hidden Sound’s ECO and EVO set are based around a hefty rectangular sub-woofer and two ultra-slim flat panel speakers. At just 8mm thick, the panels are made of balsa wood, acoustic foam and aluminium, and use Distributed Mode Loudspeaker technology to generate the soundwaves, creating a fuller soundscape.  

Hidden ECO Set, CHF 1,000, Hidden EVO Set, CHF 1,750, HiddenSound.ch

3. Orba 2 by Artiphon

Orba 2 by Artiphon

Orba 2 by Artiphon

(Image credit: Artiphon)

Artiphon’s Orba 2 is an update of the 2020 Orba, a ‘music tech gadget’ that walks the fine line between toy and useful studio tool. The original Orba contained banks of on-board sounds that were triggered by the user to create an endlessly flowing sequence of loops. Orba 2 updates the device by allowing users to record their own samples, along with an enhanced sound engine, quantizing to keep beats and notes in time, and longer song lengths. The palm-sized, bowl-shaped object has an intuitively arranged interface that combines buttons and a touch-sensitive surface, it’s a quirky addition to any desktop for an instant distraction. 

Orba 2, $149.99, Artiphon.com

4. Freewrite Alpha

Freewrite Alpha

Freewrite Alpha.

(Image credit: Astrohaus)

The Alpha is the newest product from American manufacturer Astrohaus, creator of the minimal Freewrite Traveler. The Alpha further refines the Freewrite ethos of minimal distraction and cut-to-the-chase functionality; it’s a keyboard with a small screen. Huge battery life and storage capacity, automatic cloud syncing and instant ‘on’ allow you to get ideas down without veering sideways into the bottomless pit of distraction and procrastination that all writers know and love. As it did with previous products, the company is crowdfunding this new product, with shipping expected in July 2023. 

Freewrite Alpha, more details at alphasmart.com

5. Bowers & Wilkins Px8 Wireless Headphones

Bowers & Wilkins Px8 Wireless Headphones

Bowers & Wilkins Px8 Wireless Headphones.

(Image credit: B&W)

Bowers & Wilkins’ latest wireless headphones are the Px8, which blend high-quality materials and finishes with exceptional sound quality. Available with Napa leather trim in black or tan finish, Px8 has diecast aluminium arms and diamond-cut metal detailing, enveloping a proprietary sound engine geared up for high-resolution audio and noise cancelling that’ll keep you immersed in the music. Thirty hours of listening time complete the premium package. 

Bowers & Wilkins Px8, £599, bowerswilkins.com

6. Polaroid Music

Polaroid Music player P4

Polaroid Music player P4

(Image credit: Polaroid)

Polaroid continues its brand revival with the launch of Polaroid Music, a polychromatic venture into the streaming audio sector. The Polaroid name has a long and storied association with photography, and its recent journey from enthusiast-backed start-up, sifting through the remnants of eight decades of innovation, to a bona fide manufacturer is now venturing in new directions. The Polaroid Music collection consists of four Bluetooth speakers, the Polaroid Players, available in bold retro colours. In addition, the company has launched its own digital radio station, Polaroid Radio, which promises a curated stream of ad-free music without an algorithm in sight. 

Polaroid Music Players, from £49.99 (P1), polaroid.com 

Jonathan Bell has written for Wallpaper* magazine since 1999, covering everything from architecture and transport design to books, tech and graphic design. He is now the magazine’s Transport and Technology Editor. Jonathan has written and edited 15 books, including Concept Car Design, 21st Century House, and The New Modern House. He is also the host of Wallpaper’s first podcast.