WiFi HiFi Holiday Gift Guide 2019: Gifts for Audiophiles

Christine Persaud

Published: 11/11/2019 10:50:03 AM EST in Sound

WiFi HiFi Holiday Gift Guide 2019: Gifts for Audiophiles

We're back with the WiFi HiFi holiday gift guides! Each week, we'll release new themed gift guides, chocked-full of great tech gift ideas for different people on your list. This week, we're looking at great gifts for audiophiles and hifi enthusiasts, or those simply looking to enjoy better sound.

iFi Audio Aurora Tabletop System

Surprise an audiophile on your list with this sexy and sleek system, finished in bamboo with an aluminum frame. Designed by French product designer Julien Haziza, it was inspired by the architecture in Tokyo's Omotesandō and Harajuku districts. Six drive units sit behind the bamboo fins that curve around the sides, with two bass radiators underneath. It has touch-sensitive controls and an OLED display inlaid with bamboo. Connect via Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, with hi-res audio supporting up to 32-bit/192kHz without conversion or down-sampling via Wi-Fi, USB, or Ethernet cable. High-quality Bluetooth codecs are supported, including aptX HD, LDAC and LDHC, as well as AAC; along with AirPlay and Spotify Connect. Link several Auroras over Wi-Fi for a multi-room system, playing in-sync or controlled individually. ‘PureEmotion' proprietary amp technology is a hybrid circuit design to improve hifi sound. With Ethernet inputs, a 3.5mm input, and microSDHC card slot, it can work with an optional rechargeable battery pack. MSRP US$1,299. Ifi-audio.com

McIntosh MTI100 Integrated Turntable

Get the vinyl lover on your list one of these turntables, which can play 33-1/3 and 45 rpm vinyl records, and includes a power amplifier, vacuum tube preamplifier section, shielded phono preamplifier, unbalanced auxiliary input, digital audio coaxial and optical inputs, Bluetooth 4.2 receiver, subwoofer output, stereo speaker outputs, and a headphone jack. The machined aluminum platter and matching machined aluminum tonearm with anti-skate sit atop a 3/8" (9.5mm) thick piece of glass. This, in turn, sits atop a custom 1/4" (6.35mm) thick metal plate. The belt drive platter with manual speed change is driven by an industrial grade permanent magnet AC synchronous motor with a 2-speed pulley. It comes with a Sumiko Olympia Moving Magnet cartridge, with upgraded stylus and cantilever assembly. A Class D amplifier, rated for 80 Watts per channel into 4 Ohms or 50 Watts per channel into 8 Ohms, drives a pair of speakers. This one is only for someone special, given it's high MSRP of US$6,500. Mcintoshlabs.com

Focal Arche DAC and Amp

Combining a digital-analog converter with two pure class-A amplification modes (voltage and hybrid) designed especially for headphones, with presets for Focal headphones, the premium digital-analog balanced AK 4490 converters take care of the left and right-hand channels, respectively, each with a dedicated regulated power supply. Each amplifier operates at pure class-A, regardless of the impedance of the headphones. Select two amplifier types using the rotary potentiometer on the front panel. A pure current amplifier is available in the Amplifier section, providing an output impedance of 0.1 Ohm, resulting in major listening dynamics. The second Hybrid integrated amplifier in Voltage benefits from a higher output impedance, with tonal balance that slightly favours the bass, midrange, and extreme treble registers. Analog input (RCA) and three digital inputs (USB, toslink and coaxial); comes with an aluminum headphone mount. Starts at US$2,500. Focal.com (Shown with the Focal Stellia headphones)

Totem Acoustic V2 Element Series Metal Loudspeakers

These loudspeakers showcase advancements in the company's 7" Torrent bass driver, with more mid-bass, deep bass extension, bass control, speed and precision as a result of a smoother midrange frequency response and an even better integration with the tweeter section. There is a full 5Hz improvement in bottom end frequency response; a different crossover in the tweeter section; and different internal bass tuning design. Imaging is much more expansive and three dimensional, extending further beyond the physical location of each speaker. Now speaker placement is such only the bass extension will change when the cabinet is moved. It features a driver facade that's a black anodized finish as opposed to the previous silver anodized aluminum. The "Skid Plate" located at the bottom rear, now in a black anodized finish. MSRP US$15,500. Totemacoustic.com

Thorens TD 402 DD Direct Drive Turntable

As the company's first direct drive turntable in more than 30 years. The TD 402 DD features a new carbon tube tonearm, known as the TP 72, a near-silent direct-drive motor, damped platter, integrated phono stage for moving magnet cartridges, and an auto shut-off function. It also comes with an Audio-Technica AT 95VM E cartridge. Because it is a direct-drive turntable, it is ready to use out-of-the box. Place the platter on the axis, balance the tone arm, and adjust the tracking force and anti-skating. It features brushed aluminum atop a massive plinth that comes in either piano black, or high gloss walnut veneer, and rests on black rubber damping feet with accented silver trim rings. Canadian pricing TBA. Thorens.com

Shure High-Resolution Bluetooth 5 Earphone Communication Cable

This is a great accessory for the audiophile who wants to listen to music from a high-res portable audio player, but still wants to enjoy the freedom of a wireless connection. The cable features a dedicated, high-performance headphone amplifier, providing lower noise and distortion while maintaining frequency response. It supports popular audio codecs, including Qualcomm aptX audio, aptX HD, aptX Low Latency, AAC, and SBC. Featuring an in-line remote and mic control, the new high-resolution communication cable leverages Bluetooth 5, the latest version of the wireless communication standard. It runs for up to 10 hours of play time with up to 350 hours of standby time. $199 Shure.com

iFi Audio xCAN Portable Headphone Amplifier

To help someone get better sound from their headphones, this little device uses Bluetooth aptX, and can be used in both a wireless or wired set-up. It features 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 than its predecessor, XBass+. It supports high-resolution formats to deliver 1000mW of power per channel, can store up to eight wireless devices at once, and run for up to eight hours. Made of rugged, ridged magnesium-aluminum alloy, it features a dual-mono headphone amplifier; ESS Sabre DAC with time domain jitter eliminator; balanced 2.5mm headphone output; S-Balanced compatible 3.5mm headphone output; and Advanced Analog Signal Process. MSRP $420 Ifi-audio.com

iFi Audio Zen Blue Bluetooth Receiver

A third entry from iFi, this one is a Bluetooth receiver that allows the user to stream hi-res music from a mobile device or computer to any audio system. Housed in an aluminum enclosure, it has a Qualcomm QCC5100 chip and supports Qualcomm's aptX HD, Sony's LDAC, and Huawei's HWA, along with aptX, aptX Low Latency (for synching sound with visual media), AAC, and SBC. It has separate digital and analogue stages, and Hyperstream architecture with integrated Time Domain Jitter Eliminator to deliver low distortion and high dynamic range. RCA stereo outputs allow connection to amplifiers, active speakers and the like, while a 4.4mm Pentaconn output enables balanced signal transfer to amps/speakers equipped with a balanced input. Use the optical and coaxial outputs to connect to anything with a built-in DAC and corresponding digital input, such as an AV amp or an external hi-fi DAC. MSRP $189 Ifi-audio.com

Bryston BDQA-3.14 Multi-Function DAC

Using this DAC, the music lover on your list can get streaming capability via a built-in music player that delivers access to network-connected storage and USB drives as well as streaming services such as Qobuz, Tidal, Roon, and Internet radio. Digital connectivity between the internal music player and the DAC is managed using the I2S protocol that preserves audio and clock data with virtually zero error. Digital volume control drives an amplifier directly. An updated version of Bryston's Manic Moose user interface for phones, tablets, and computers provides intuitive control. The DAC can decode up to 384 kHz/32-bit PCM music and up to DSDx4 natively. Each format is processed in its native resolution. It has 10 discrete inputs including four 2-channel HDMI, asynchronous USB, AES/EBU, TOSLINK, and digital coax; and includes Bryston's network module, which facilitates control via TCP/IP and RS-232. Q4 2019, MSRP US$4,195. Bryston.com

Audeze LCD-1 Reference Audio Headphones

Audiophiles love experimenting with headphones, so even if they have a favourite pair, or a few in their listening room to suit different purposes or types of music, they can never have too many! Consider adding these to their collection, which were handcrafted in California, combine planar magnetic technology with a new lightweight and foldable design that makes them more compact and travel-friendly for audiophiles. They feature patented ultra-thin Uniforce diaphragms and Fluxor Magnets that Audeze says provide powerful sound, sonic detail, and accuracy. The 90mm over-ear planar drivers offer wide dynamic range, while the open circumaural design helps deliver a transparent, spacious sound stage and stereo imaging. Fazor Wave Guides, meanwhile, provide deep rich bass with zero audible distortion. Weighing just 250 grams, the lightweight headphones come with a memory foam ear and headband, which makes them comfortable to wear for long listening sessions, says the company. The ‘phones come with a 3.5mm premium braided cable for tangle-free connection and a 1/4'' adapter included. $600 Audeze.com

64 Audio In-Ear Headphones

If they prefer in-ears, consider the 64 Audio tia Trio or Fourte Noir, which both include the company's pex air pressure exchange which purportedly involved a pneumatically interactive vent that released air pressure into a sealed ear canal. The company was recently awarded its first U.S. patent for the technology, which is said to alleviate listener fatigue and open the soundstage. Apex preserves the bass frequencies and produces a more open soundstage, says 64 Audio, which helps the listener distinguish individual instruments. Ultimately, artists are better able to follow their mixes and execute the best performance possible. The apex module is also engineered with features to prevent vent-clogging and wind noise. Its compact and durable construction is virtually maintenance-free. Founded by a sound engineer who has been working with musicians and production companies for nearly two decades, he discovered the advantages of in-ear monitors over traditional floor "wedges" and recognized that a better solution to in-ear monitoring was needed. Today, 64 Audio supplies products worldwide to musicians, singers, and engineers, as well as discerning audiophiles.

Roon Nucleus

If you know a hifi lover who has an extensive music collection that could use some organization, Roon is an answer. The Roon Necleus is essentially a compact Intel-based PC optimized for quiet operation that comes with Roon Core, the company's server software, pre-installed. It works with the web-like software player Roon Remote, helping you better organize songs, albums, composers, and more, creating a beautifully-designed, information-rich library that resembles a searchable, surfable magazine. You can learn more about Roon in our feature article before deciding on how to get set up (note: a subscription is also required). The Nucleus is $2,100 in Canada, and the Nucleus+ is $3700; you can also buy directly from Roon in the U.S. for US$1,398 and US$2,498, respectively.

NAD Electronics Masters Series M10

This BluOS-enabled high-performance streaming amplifier offers audiophile sound or can be combined with other players in a BluOS ecosystem of wirelessly networked music players throughout the home for a whole-home audio system. It offers Dirac Live Room Correction and has inputs for analog and digital audio sources. It has an HDMI Audio Return Channel and is compatible with leading smart home systems from companies like Apple, Crestron, Control4, and Lutron, to control lighting, shades, HVAC, and security from one interface. With the inclusion of BluOS, the wireless multi-room Bluesound music management software, it supports Master Quality Authenticated (MQA) files, along with over 15 free and paid subscription services, as well as locally stored music libraries. The M10 uses HybridDigital amplification featuring the Hypex nCore amplification stage. You can easily play music from the Internet including Apple AirPlay 2. With the BluOS multi-room system, you can sync rooms together or play different music in different rooms, all in High Resolution. The M10 can be combined with music players from NAD, Bluesound, and DALI with more products being added to the ecosystem every day. Completely operable by Wi-Fi connection to the BluOS App, the M10 also has an elegant, high resolution TFT colour touch screen with graphics that change from ‘now playing' to ‘control panel' allowing many operations directly from the front panel without opening the app. Get hands-free control of music from any Amazon Alexa supported device or via Siri. An IR remote control is also included. MSRP $3,299 Nadelectronics.com

Austere Cables

Cables are an often overlooked segment of the market, but wouldn't an audiophile want cables that not only perform well, but look great to go along with their gear that costs thousands and thousands of dollars? This new brand offers lots of different audio cables to suit audiophile needs, including the The V Series Optical Audio two-metre cables ($60) that employs 24K endurance gold-plated, aDesign precision connector LinkFit housing, precision-polished termination for digital audio accuracy, braided WovenArmor cable, and durability from over-molded strain relief and metal retention hardware. For $100, there's the two-metre V Series Audio Interconnect that offers 24K endurance gold-plated aDesign precision connector housing, LinkFit secure connection, over-molded strain relief and metal retention hardware soft-touch high-flex cable. Also available is the V Series speaker cable and speaker cable adapters (14-gauge 100-foot for $200 and 12-gauge 100-foot for $250) that boasts fine-stranded 100% pure OFC, soft-touch high-flex cable, and a durable jacket for smooth wire routing. Four banana adapters are included, and additional adapters are sold separately for $55 ea. The five-metre V Series subwoofer cable ($100), meanwhile, features 24K endurance gold-plated aDesign precision connector housing, LinkFit secure connection, over-molded strain relief and metal retention hardware, and SoftTouch high-flex cable. And the Banana Adapters (four adapters, $55) include a Pure Gold shield to prevent copper wire oxidation, are high-performance adapters with SecureLatch and twist-by-hand design. The aDesign philosophy, adopted for all of these cablesis characterized by "beautiful, minimalistic design," from the products themselves right down to the packaging that will make them perfect gifts under the tree. Austere.com

Hi-Fi Book By Gideon Schwartz

Here's a gift idea for anyone on your list that has a passion for audio gear or industrial design. Gideon Schwartz's new book Hi-Fi takes us on a journey of sound replication from the 1950s through to 2000. If I have any criticism of the book, it would be a lack of emphasis on Canadian audio brands that have contributed so much on a global stage. Claritone is mentioned but that's it! It will make a terrific follow up book for Schwartz to cover Bryston, Anthem, the legacy API brands, Totem, psb, and so on. But still, this is a must have book for any audio gear fan. (John Thomson)

Article Tags:  wifi hifi holiday gift guide, holiday gift guide, gift guides, tech gift guides, tech gifts, audiophile gifts, gifts for audiophiles, music, audio, hifi


WiFi HiFi Holiday Gift Guide 2019: Gifts for Audiophiles

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