WIFI HIFI HOLIDAY GIFT GUIDE 2018: Tech Gifts for Audio Enthusiasts

Christine Persaud


Published: 11/05/2018 12:20:02 PM EST in Sound

WIFI HIFI HOLIDAY GIFT GUIDE 2018: Tech Gifts for Audio Enthusiasts

There's usually at least one. An audiophile on your list who accepts nothing but the best sound. Sure, he is probably particular about his main audio system. Perhaps one of these items is already on his wish list. Or, you can introduce him to new and exciting brands and/or products to add to the main listening system, a secondary one, or to enjoy high-res sound on-the-go.

Roksan K3 Integrated Amplifier and CD Player With the Monitor Audio Studio Bookshelf Speakers

The combination of these two AV components was reviewed by WiFi HiFi's David Susilo earlier this year
alongside the Monitor Audio Studio bookshelf speakers (shown above), all distributed in Canada by Kevro International, and he was thoroughly impressed with the sound quality.

The K3 integrated amplifier is a one box integrated amplifier, and its perfectly matched to the K3 CD player. Both exude class and sophistication. Grab each for $2,500, the Studio speakers for $1,800 a pair, or surprise someone special with a complete replica of David's set-up for $7,500

NAD D 3045 Hybrid Digital DAC/Amplifier

This DAC/amp combo unit, available through Lenbrook Canada, includes HybridDigital 60W per channel amplifier, Asynchronous USB 24/192 Input, support for MQA and DSD, two-way Bluetooth powered by aptX HD, and a high quality moving magnet phono stage. The compact and energy efficient unit (standby power consumption is <0.5W) can stream music from mobile devices, or use two-way Bluetooth to stream music playing on the amp to any pair of Bluetooth-enabled headphones. The phono stage features RIAA equalization, ultra-low noise, and an infrasonic warp filter. Connect it to a computer, or other digital and analog sources, including through the MM phono input. There are even analog inputs for iPods and older non-digital audio components, such as FM tuners. Also included is a full-range preamp output, subwoofer output, and headphone jack connected to a dedicated, high current, low impedance headphone amplifier. It ships with an IR remote. $999

iFi Audio xCAN Portable Headphone Amplifier

The audiophile on your list probably has a pretty stellar set-up for listening at home. But what about on-the-go? The pocket-sized xCAN portable headphone amplifier (Motet Distribution) is primarily designed to be used with smartphones and portable audio players, affording better sound. But it can be used with computers, and even smart TVs, as well. It boasts Bluetooth aptX, and can be used in both a wireless or wired set-up. It features full analog volume control, which retains full-resolution at all volume levels, along with selectable 3D and XBass functions. The 3D function provides two separate circuits, one optimized for headphones and the other for loudspeakers, while XBass produces cleaner, tighter, and deeper bass that its predecessor, XBass , notes iFi. With support for high-resolution formats, it delivers 1000mW of power per channel. With aptX and AAC, it brings Hi-Res streaming to Bluetooth. The xCAN delivers live quality Bluetooth connectivity capable of storing up to eight wireless devices at once, which means users can stream their favorite music as well as boost audio on their smartphone, portable audio device, laptop, home audio system and TV, all at the same time. Made of rugged magnesium-aluminum alloy, it can run for six-to-eight hours using its 2,200 mAh Lithium-Polymer battery. MSRP $420


Shure High-Resolution Bluetooth 5 Earphone Communication Cable

He might loathe Bluetooth, but you can help him improve the quality of the signal with this accessory cable (SFM), which can be used with high-resolution audio players. It features a dedicated, high-performance headphone amplifier, providing lower noise and distortion while accurately maintaining frequency response. It supports popular audio codecs, including Qualcomm aptX audio, aptX HD, aptX Low Latency, AAC, and SBC. With an in-line remote and mic control, the cable leverages Bluetooth 5, and can run for up to 10 hours of play time with up to 350 hours of standby time. $199

Torus Power POWERBLOCK Series

Help him enhance his quality AV gear with these mid-range isolation transformers, which provide clean, uninterrupted power to small AV systems, or single components. The PowerBlock 10 has eight outlets in two banks, and the 5 has four.

Totem Acoustic KIN Play

Due out in time for Christmas, if he's a fan of Totem Acoustic speakers, he'll delight in the knowledge that the company has finally released its first active speaker. The cute bookshelf speaker can be paired with any compatible source device, than listen to tunes streamed over Bluetooth, with full aptX HD support, of course, to ensure the best quality. It has analog and digital inputs for a wired connection to a variety of devices as well, including turntables and even gaming consoles; and a subwoofer output. For customized sound, use the bass and treble controls on the included remote. $1,200/pr. The speaker is shown here from a secret back room at CEDIA EXPO 2018 with Totem's Jason Zidle.

Klipsch Heritage Theater Soundbar

Audiophiles generally don't buy into the concept of the soundbar, but this one, from Gentec International, might change his mind. What makes it particularly interesting is the design concept. It comes in customizable widths, finishes, and grill options. Widths range from 49.5" to 80" to perfectly match most flat panel televisions. Four furniture-grade wood veneer finishes are available, as well as raw and primed for paint versions, plus a choice of four removable grille cloth options to complement any room décor. A standard "quick-ship" 49.5" model, which looks pretty retro-chic in and of itself, is available, designed to match most 55" televisions. MSRP starts at $3,299.


Focal Elegia High-End Closed Back Headphones

Even after just a few minutes of listening to these headphones at the Toronto audiofest in October, I was blown away. They mark the French company's first pair of high-end, closed-back headphones, and have speaker drivers integrated directly into them. Elegia also incorporates a new generation of exclusive and low compliance electrodynamic transducers that are capable of operating in a small inner environment while ensuring "exceptional dynamics, the most precise sound reproduction, and a linear, extended frequency response of 23 kHz," says Focal. Listening to Daft Punk, the sounds of the show virtually melted away, and I was transported to what sounded like a live concert. But at $1,200, they don't come cheap. Each pair comes with a 1.2 m cable fitted with a 3.5 mm stereo jack connector and the 3.5 mm female jack adapter to 6.35 male jack; a headband that molds perfectly to the head; memory foam microfiber earpads and yoke that mold perfectly to the wearer's face; and a thermoformed, rigid carrying case in the same shape.


Bluesound Generation 2i Wireless High-Res Speakers

If he's been thinking of getting into the wireless audio game, Bluesound (Lenbrook) is a great option. And the latest players, which include the NODE 2i (MSRP $599), POWERNODE 2i ($999), VAULT 2i ($1,499), PULSE 2i ($899), PULSE MINI 2i ($599), PULSE FLEX 2i ($349), and PULSE SOUNDBAR 2i ($1,199 in black, $1,299 in white), boast some impressive new features, including dual-band Wi-Fi, AirPlay 2 support (with an upcoming software update), upgraded Bluetooth codecs, improved amplification and acoustics, and more. As with all Bluesound products, they also feature the BluOS music management system that connects, organizes, and controls your music. Choose music from your favourite streaming service or from a music library connected to the home network. Bluesound integrates all sources and sends the music to every room in the home. With AirPlay 2, they can stream audio from an iPhone, iPad, or Mac to their Bluesound system, all in sync, and use Siri voice assistance. The beauty is that if he already has older Bluesound players, he can add AirPlay 2 capability to the entire system with the addition of just one new Gen 2i player. Each supports aptX HD Bluetooth wireless audio (with the exception of the Pulse Flex 2i, which supports aptX Bluetooth).

Onkyo A-9110 Entry-Level, 2-Channel Integrated Stereo Amp

This amp includes custom-made or hand-selected parts, simplified and shortened signal-path topology, and specialized tuning to produce warm and clear audio, says the company. Following on the heels of its predecessor, the A-9010, the newly refined A-9110 (50W 50W, 4 ohms, 20Hz-20kHz, 0.9%, 2-ch driven, FTC) features several proprietary technologies from Onkyo. Key to the amp's lively dynamics is its Wide Range Amplification Technology (WRAT), Onkyo's high-current platform featuring a high-output EI transformer, low-ESR filter capacitors, and discrete power transistors. High-current capability assures instantaneous response to speaker-impedance fluctuations while precisely controlling the drivers for accurate yet musical expression. It benefits from Phase Matching Bass Boost, an audio technology that aligns the phase of low- and mid-band frequencies above 300Hz for richer bass and clearer vocals. Together with Optimum Gain Volume Circuitry, which requires half the conventional amount of signal attenuation to prevent interference from the amp's noise floor, listeners can enjoy a sense of clarity, depth, and vibrancy at low-level playback volumes. For purists, the A-9110 also features Direct Mode, whereby tone-control and Phase Matching Bass Boost circuits are bypassed, which helps maintain fidelity by further reducing signal-path lengths. With the increase in accuracy, sound quality and sense of atmosphere move closer to the original recording, whether it's captured on vinyl, CD, or a high-quality digital file, says Onkyo. It has four RCA line-level inputs, discrete MM phono equalizers, line-level outputs, subwoofer outputs, and top-quality non-magnetic speaker binding posts with clear knobs. MSRP $450

Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless Earbuds

These earbuds include 7mm dynamic drivers, AAC codec support, and Qualcomm aptX compatibility. The Transparent Hearing feature of the headphones allow users to blend ambient sounds into the listening experience for improved situational awareness, or to participate in conversations without removing the earphones. You get direct access to smart assistants like Apple's Siri or Google Assistant, via the tap of the touch interface and natural voice commands. Two-mic beamforming technology optimizes voice pick-up for clearer phone calls. Use the Sennheiser Smart Control app to fine-tune the audio to your personal preference, via the built-in audio EQ. (The app will be released alongside the product.) Additionally, aptX Low Latency compatibility enhances gaming or video content by keeping audio transmission in sync with the visuals. With a four-hour battery life, the compact, fabric-wrapped charging case can offer up to 12 hours more. They are splash- and sweat-resistant, and feature metallic details on the outer face, and gold-plated charging pins and magnets. Mid-November, MSRP US$379.95.

Devialet Phantom Reactor

Any audiophile salivates over the look (and sound) of the gorgeous Devialet Phantom speaker. Now, there's a smaller, more compact, but equally stylish and great-sounding version called the Phantom Reactor. It offers up to 900 watts of peak power, with "phenomenal purity, precision, and richness, zero distortion, zero saturation, and zero background noise" to ensure "nothing but audiophile-grade playback," claims the company. You'll have to sit down for a demo to judge for yourself. It works with Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, optical or analog, AirPlay, UPnP, Spotify Connect - you name it. And starting in 2019, you'll be able to connect two to make a stereo pair. You can pre-order one starting November 14, for US$1,349 for a 600-watt version, and US$1,749 for the 900-watt.

Want more gift ideas? Check out our other themed gift guides.





Article Tags:  holiday gift guide, gift guide, tech gift guide, wifi hifi gift guide, holiday gifts, audio, hifi, home theatre, gift ideas

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