Has there ever been a better time to splurge on quality gadgets? Perhaps, but the opening weeks of 2010 will still be prime shopping time. The Australian dollar remains high against the Greenback. January is all about sales.
So hit up the web, hit up your favourite retailer, and check your mail for catalogues. Actually, forget that last bit: we’ve scoured the tech world for holiday season gifts for you and your family – dad, mum and the kids. Sure, you might not be able to afford everything listed here, but that’s what’s so great about AV gear: there’s something for everyone!
Gifts for him
Panasonic DMR-BE850 Blu-ray recorder & DVR
If the back of your AV rack is starting to resemble the thickets of thorny bushes that surrounded Sleeping Beauty’s castle, then you need to start consolidating your boxes. Away with the dedicated HDTV tuner, the PVR, the Blu-ray or DVD player.
Replace the lot of ’em with this all-in-one beauty. HDTV reception and recording to its 500GB internal drive, plus backups of your favourite shows to Blu-ray or DVD. And naturally you connect it to your receiver via a single, slim HDMI cable.
Does it have the most complicated remote in the history of electronics? Yes. But it’s the very essence of “does everything”.
Sennheiser HD 800
Say the man of the house is one of those fellows who insists that audio be reproduced to the very highest of standards. He’s so serious about sound, he’s about to drop $50,000 on a two-channel system for his old vinyls. Stay his hand: you can get a similar experience from a set of really, really good headphones.
Yes, the HD 800s cost $2400. But you’ll pay up to 10 times as much for a pair of speakers that deliver comparable sound. Pair these cans with a quality headphone amp, and you’ll avoid a second mortgage and – bonus – won’t have to listen to his Frank Zappa collection.
What price elegance? What price true art? What price an enormous set of speakers made from six millimetre, super-formed aluminium and limited to just 100 pairs?
KEF’s Muon aims to combine technology and art, creating speakers that look good on the bridge of your interglactic starship.
At these prices, asking about power handling and performance is pretty gauche, but each speaker has eight separate drivers, including 4 x 250mm bass drivers, a 250mm lower-midrange, a 165mm midrange unit with a 25mm high frequency tweeter, and then to just round out the bottom end, another two 250mm rear-facing bass drivers.
The discerning home office executive requires an iPod dock of unparalleled design and sophistication. Or something. Anyway, the BLOK is a simple, elegant and above all wooden bit of kit, accented with machined aluminium. Quality stuff.
Output is 40 watts thanks to two 4.5 inch drivers and a class D amp. It supports all the dockable iPods, and works unofficially with the iPhone. The rotary volume control also doubles as the iPod’s scroll wheel.
Also included, a very design-focused hockey-puck remote with its own scroll wheel and other iPod controls. Available in both American walnut and black oak.
There are times when no TV is quite big enough. And for those times, you need a projector that gives comparable contrast ratios and supports all that fiddly frame rate stuff you need for Blu-ray.
Enter Epson. The EH-TW5000 is an LCD-hearted beast and unlike so many other LCD projectors, it’s really really good at blacks. That makes it an ideal companion to your Panasonic Blu-ray unit (see above), made even better by support for 1080p24.
Connections include the all-important HDMI, and there’s horizontal and vertical lens shift for precise positioning of the (gigantic) image, be it on your projection screen or the side of a recently constructed skyscraper in your neighbourhood.
How do you know this is one of the best in-car audio systems in the entire world? It’s the factory standard that comes with the $2m Bugatti Veyron Grand Sport. A car audio system so advanced, it can deliver world-beating sound through just four speakers even as the amplifier is accelerated to 100kph in something under three seconds.
Seriously though – you can get more modest Dynaudio products for both your car and home cinema, but the key message here is ‘authentic fidelity’, or speakers based on high-end home theatre designs.
Price: $2 million (includes Bugatti Veyron Grand Sport)
Sony Vaio X
Your computer is too fat. How do we know? Because you don’t own a Vaio X. This machine is a mere 13.9mm thick and weighs a little less than 750g. But it’s no slouch: think of it as a supercharged netbook, with 2GB of RAM and a 1.86GHz Atom processor.
Enough of the geek talk: check out the thinness! The 11 inch screen also runs at a higher resolution than your average netbook too. And the case is made of carbon fibre, which at these prices, it had better be!
Are you bored with the iPhone? Do you want to stand out from the crowd? Are you some kind of Google fetishist who has to own all of the company’s increasingly bewildering array of search engines, browsers, operating systems etc? Then the Hero will indeed be your hero.
Like the iPhone, it’s a touchscreen smartphone, with a few extra hardware buttons to make things a little more tactile.
Lots of apps to download, lots of customisation and personalisation options, it’s like the iPhone except, you know, more open.
Of all the 14 megapixel SLRs in the world, why choose this one? Because the 7D offers awesome value for money: professional performance at a pro-sumer price.
The best thing about this camera though is its movie-mode. You can shoot 12 minute clips at 1080p with all the awesome light-gathering and depth-of-field capabilities of a quality SLR lens (which will be extra on this price).
For independent filmmakers, the future is movie mode on DSLRs, and the 7D is a machine worthy of any budding auteur.