2012 Holiday Headphone Gift Guide from Steve Guttenberg
... from Steve Guttenberg
Fluance FiSDK500 iPod Speaker ($230)|
I'm not a big fan of $500-$600 mostly plastic iPod/iPhone speakers, but the $230 Fluance FiSDK500 is pretty slick. Firstly because it actually sounds pretty decent, it sports a pair of two-way coaxial drivers, and the cabinet is made out of wood! Have an iPhone 5? No problem, run a wire from its headphone jack to the FiSDK500's RCA inputs. Comes in gloss black and brilliant red finishes. The speaker may not have Bluetooth or AirPlay, Fluance just made it sound good.
Firestone Audio Fireye Mini Portable Headphone Amp ($39)|
Most "portable" headphone amplifiers aren't really all that small, but the Firestone Audio Fireye Mini is downright tiny; it's just 1.5 by 1 by 0.5 inches, and the soft-rubber-shelled amp weighs almost nothing. Charge it via USB and it'll play for up to 24 hours. The Mini unleashes a broad soundstage, taut bass, and detailed highs. It's available in green, gray, purple, red, and white.
Manufacturers product page.
Emotiva Pro Airmotiv 4 Powered Speakers ($349 per pair)|
The Airmotiv 4 offers astonishing performance in a desktop-friendly size, and that's no accident. The '4's folded ribbon tweeter is more transparent than the competition's domes, the 4.5-inch woofer is no slouch, and each driver has its own 25 watt Class A/B (non-switching) amp. The little speaker's rock-solid MDF cabinet is no less remarkable. Connectivity options include RCA and XLR inputs, and there are bass and treble EQ controls.
Manufacturer's product page.
Amber Rubarth "Sessions From the 17th Ward" ($29.98 for the 24/192 download, $17.98 for the 24/96, and $11.98 for the 16/44.1 version from HDtracks.com)|
I fell in love with Amber's voice seconds after I dropped in on her Chesky Records session back in March. She's a rootsy/folkie singer/songwriter, and Rubarth makes the Bob Dylan and Tom Waits covers totally her own. She's on guitar, but the arrangements are fleshed out with violin, cello, and percussion. The binaural recording is blissfully free of dynamic range compression or any processing.
HD Tracks album download page.