Maybe you’re thinking more along the lines of a new pair of headphones or a lovely new TV for presents this year. It could be a gift for the family, or maybe even for you — hey, we won’t judge! If this is what you’re thinking, we have some ideas.
Not quite sure what anyone wants? Consider a pair of headphones or a portable speaker, and we’ve checked out so many this year that we know the decision is hard for anyone out there.
We’ll start this guide with a lovely pair of ultra-light earphones that are comfortable and support replaceable cable, with great sound to boot. Most people know the Bose name represents quality, but it isn’t known for many pairs of headphones under the $300 mark, and with what we’ve seen on the SoundTrue, it certainly should be.
Plantronics Backbeat Pro headphones
Without doubt one of the most feature packed pairs of headphones this year, Plantronics entered the full-size headphone
market with a bang, including active noise cancellation with a built-in rechargeable battery, easy to use on-ear controls, and Bluetooth for wireless functionality. While they can look a little strange to some, the Backbeat Pro headphones are definitely worth checking out.
KEF is one of those brands known for audio, and while the M500 were its first play with headphones, you can almost see the perfectionism in the first effort. Simply put, the KEF M500 were brilliant with amazing sound that is incredibly well balanced, while featuring an aluminium frame that is compact and easy to put away and very comfortable to wear.
Highly recommended. Hell, we didn’t want to give them back.
Parrot Zik 2.0 headphones
One of the more intriguing pairs of headphones out there, Parrot’s Zik 2.0 comes with dynamic drivers, allowing you to change the sound of your music dynamically. Think of it as the evolution of the equaliser with celebrity made profiles to match specific styles of tracks. The Zik isn’t just about that, though, with touchpad controls built into the headset, noise cancellation, and Bluetooth support.
Not everyone likes on-ear cans, and if you know someone who prefers in-ears and demands high quality audio, AudioFly’s AF180 catered for that area this year. It’s also an Aussie brand, one of the few we have, and is very comfortable and very loud.
There’s no microphone included as the AF180 are more designed for music than for phones, but if you don’t care, and if the person you’re buying for doesn’t care, we’d take a look at these specialised set of earphones.
Hand-made and from France, the Aedle VK1 are one interesting piece of kit, with titanium drivers and leather pads, they’re the equivalent to owning an old Jaguar E-Type, except for your ears. Without a doubt, one of our surprise favourite pairs of the year.
Probably the most luxurious pair we’ve ever seen, the LCD2 will make you look like a lunatic if you wear them in public, but at home, the sound is equivalent to listening to music live, provided you have something beautiful to run through them. Amazing.
We may well be living in a digital world, but that doesn’t mean your audio has to start that way. Vinyl is back, and if you like listening to a warmer sound, it’s good for that. Alternatively, there’s high resolution audio bought from online, and while it’s not necessarily warm like vinyl, it is a higher fidelity that doesn’t have to be stuck in your living room.
Looking for a way to get those records over to digital for playback through modern equipment (like the ones we’re about to mention)?
You might want to check out the Numark PT-01 turntable, a digital ready USB turntable that has a few settings, software to help you make the conversion, and a built-in speaker powered by several batteries, making it a record player you can take on picnics.
Sony NWZ-ZX1 High-Res Walkman
Fancy taking those vinyl rips with you in the 24-bit quality you extracted them in? You’ll need something for that, because while the iPod and iPhone are great for MP3s, neither will play back audio in 24-bit.
That’s where Sony’s high-resolution Walkman comes in, the NWZ-ZX1. It’s a very specific product, aimed at providing solid reproduction and large amounts of volume on the go in a gadget that’s small enough to bring with you but dedicated to high resolution sound.
Sony Xperia Z3 Compact
One of Sony’s best phones, the pint-sized Xperia Z3 provides support for high-res audio out of the box, just like the Sony Walkman we just mentioned, making it possible to bring high-res audio on the go and still have a phone included.
It’s not the same experience, that said, and the ZX1 has more going for it as a dedicated audio player with more volume and sound enhancement technology, but if the person you’re buying for doesn’t need or want a new Walkman and would prefer a phone, we’d look at this option.
Alternatively, there’s LG’s G3 smartphone, offering more of that high-res audio support as far as mobile phones go. LG was first in the 24-bit space for mobile phones, supporting the technology ahead of the other companies, and if you want to save a bit more money, you can even look for the LG G2 which saw support for the technology late last year and should be available for less cash than LG’s more recent phone.
BlueSound multi-room range
Price: from $649
You might be noticed a trend in the HiFi category of this gift guide, and that is “high-resolution audio.”
Yes, this is the new vinyl, and it’s like vinyl in so many ways. Clearer, more detailed, and with a bit-rate like that of vinyl at 24-bit, so wouldn’t it be nice to have a way of playing this high-end format in every room? That’s what the BlueSound gear does, and while it’s not cheap, it does promise to keep a home audio enthusiast happy thanks to its ability to off crystal clear high-res audio in several rooms at once.
Astell & Kern Blue Note Kit
As long as you don’t mind spending almost ten grand on someone, if they like jazz, you’d be hard pressed to find a kit more interesting than this. A limited edition thing, this pairs a high-resolution audio player up with a Blue Note special edition collection, storing 75 of Blue Note’s best albums in high-resolution on the player.
Now all you need is a pair of great headphones to use it on, though we’re probably giving you some ideas for that in here…
HD Tracks Gift Certificate
Price: from $25 USD
Don’t have any high-resolution audio? There’s a fix for that, and while there aren’t many places to find high-resolution audio, HD Tracks is one of the places you can find it. Gift certificates from this online store come in the regular amounts, and while some of its albums may not be obviously available for Aussies, we’ve already found a loophole that makes this easy to get around.