2015 InnerFidelity Holiday Gift Guide John Grandberg
Sony NWZ-A17 ($299, pictured above)
Sony's little DAP isn't the most powerful. It doesn't handle DSD, and it doesn't have the best connectivity either. But I love it for the battery life measured in days, not hours; the slick, intuitive user interface; the excellent aptX Bluetooth connectivity; and the compact form factor whichunlike most audiophile devicesis easy to live with on the go. This "practical" solution still manages to make beautiful music with the right headphones (nothing too difficult to drive, please). In a world full of awkward, heavy devices running clunky interfaces, this little Sony could be just the ticket.
Echobox Finder X1 ($199)
Using titanium housings strong enough to withstand extreme punishment, the new Echobox Finder X1 has a premium feel without a massive price. I particularly like the screw-on filters which come in three flavors: bassy, neutral, or bright. This isn't the first IEM to feature adjustable tuning but it's probably the most successful implementation I've yet encountered. With attractive packaging and a generous selection of tips included, the Finder X1 is a gift worth giving. MRSP is $199 but it early adopters can score a set for less, and Echobox tells me those orders will go out in time for Christmas.
Parasound Zdac v2 ($549)
Parasound's little wonder makes an excellent solution for DAC, preamp, and headphone amplification duties. It may not have the most up to the minute hi-res and DSD capabilities, but it more than makes up for that with its stout linear power supply, handsome casework, and digital design by high-end Danish firm Holm Acoustics. This all adds up to a compelling experience whether using it with headphones or to drive active monitors in a desktop system. Easy to recommend as a gift, even if it's addressed to yourself.
Core Audio Design twiG headphone stand ($349 and up)
This headphone stand is completely over the topwhich could be just the thing for the crazy headphone enthusiast in your life. Core Audio Designs makes stunning high-end audio furniture, and the twiG is their love letter to headphone aficionados. The bold design is tall enough to easily fit even the largest headphones with room to spare for cable clearance. Choose "basic" woods like cherry, walnut, and maple, or go exotic with zebra, bubinga, sapele or ebony, for an additional charge. As audio art, it doesn't get much more unique than this.
Streaming Music - Rdio or Spotify gift card
All my prior Gift Guide entries have included music - either a single CD or a boxed set. These days, gifting a CD is becoming more and more like giving someone a VHS movie. A nice thought, but perhaps not so practical. This year I'm recommending the gift of music from either Spotify or Rdio. Spotify has the advantage of being more well known, and physical gift cards are available in stores like Target and Best Buy. Rdio, in my humble opinion, has better sound quality, but requires an email address for the recipient. Either way you'll be opening someone's ears to all manner of excellent music.