Looking for gift ideas for that special audiophile in your life? Here are some, priced from affordable to crazy expensive. Let's get started!
"Miles! Live at Montreux - The Definitive Miles Davis at Montreux Collection, 1973-1991"
This historically important 10-DVD set ($150) captures all of Miles Davis' performances at the Montreux Jazz Festival between 1973 and 1991. The final concert features Davis paying tribute to his collaborator and close friend Gil Evans, who died in 1988. The audio and video quality of the collection varies, but most of it is surprisingly good.
Audio Technica ATH M50 headphones
These headphones are nearly impossible to fault; they're extremely comfortable, great-sounding, ruggedly built, and fairly priced. The ATH M50 ($199) is a closed-back design and provides nearly as much isolation from external noise as noise-canceling headphones, but sounds better than any NC headphones I've heard to date.
Pioneer SP-PK21BS subwoofer-satellite package
The SP-PK21BS is absolutely huge compared with any competing systems. How big is it? The SP-BS21-LR bookshelf speakers are 12.6 inches high, 7.2 inches wide, and 8.1 inches deep; and the SP-C21 center speaker is even bigger, at 7.9 inches by 19.9 inches by 8.7 inches. The SW-8 8-inch subwoofer is average in size for a budget system, being 14.3 inches by 12.4 inches by 12.4 inches. If you're looking for a "lifestyle"-oriented speaker system, the SP-PK21BS won't be of interest. But the SP-PK21BS is, without doubt, the best-sounding $400 speaker package you can buy.
Eddie Kramer photographs
This coming year marks the 50th anniversary of the start of Eddie Kramer's career in music. He went on to collaborate with some of the top names in rock, engineering and/or producing albums by Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, the Rolling Stones, and he recorded the entirety of the Woodstock Festival. In celebration of his 50th year in the business and his 70th birthday, he's offering a selection of photographs, shot between 1967 and 1972, the period Eddie calls "The Golden Era of Rock n' Roll." The photos have been exhibited at the Grammy Museum, and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Centrance DACport USB headphone amplifier
A great headphone amplifier, like the Centrance DACport ($400), makes headphones sound better than you thought they were. I love the sound, and there's no power adapter or batteries; the DACport runs off your laptop or home computer's USB port. The DACport has a 1/4-inch headphone jack at one end, and a USB port at the other. The cigar-shaped aluminum chassis is 4.5 inches by 1 inch by 1 inch, and it weighs a mere 2.5 ounces.
The Mini Maggie desktop speaker system
Magnepan is known for its floor-standing speakers, but the Mini-Maggies are 14 inches high, 9.3 inches wide, and just 1.25 inches thick. They can be superthin because they don't use conventional cone woofers; the Mini-Maggies feature proprietary thin-film driver technology and ribbon tweeters (a separate woofer is included in the $1,495 system). The speakers are built in Minnesota with American-made parts. The Mini is, hands down, the best sounding desktop speaker you can buy.
JH Audio JH-3A portable power amplifier and custom-molded in-ear headphones
The state of the art of in-ear headphones made a giant leap forward with the introduction of JH Audio's JH-3A tri-amped system ($1,748). The package includes a proprietary portable digital-to-analog converter/power amp and a set of custom-molded-to-your-ears JH-Audio headphones. The JH-3A is astonishing in its power, dynamic range, and resolution (review to come).
Steinway Lyngdorf S-Series subwoofer-satellite system
I always thought audiophile-grade speaker systems had to be huge, imposing things, until I heard this lifestyle-oriented system. The S-Series speakers may be just 10.2 inches high, 7.8 inches wide, and 3.1 inches deep, but they (and their matching subwoofers) generated the sort of sound I'd expect to hear from full-size tower speakers. The system includes amplifiers and employs Lyngdorf's proprietary RoomPerfect digital signal-processing technologies. The $22,100 system's build quality and construction are superb.
Looking for something more affordable? Check out my Awesome-sounding under-$100 audio gift ideas blog entry.