2015 InnerFidelity Holiday Gift Guide lJokerl
Xiaomi Piston 3 ($16 - $23, pictured above)
The latest evolution of Xiaomi's venerable Piston line deliversoutstanding sound quality and much-improved ergonomics. While not a direct upgrade to the warmer, bassier 2nd-gen Piston, the Piston 3 provides a clearer, tighter, more balanced audio experience for those willing to trade off some of that bass. Value for money is still unbelievably good, and like all Xiaomi earphones the Piston 3 features a 3-button Android remote.
1MORE Crystal Piston ($16 - $35)
For the more fashion-conscious, the 1MORE Design Crystal Piston earphones offer similarly excellent value with a much more unique aesthetic, courtesy of a large multi-faceted Swarovski Crystal at the back. Available in silver, pink, and black, the Crystal Piston sounds better than fashion earphones have any right to sound, being a closed-back version of Xiaomi's fantastic Piston 2 in-ears and only giving up a small amount of punch in comparison. Combined with the stylish, minimalistic packaging, this makes the 1MORE Crystal a superb gift item that backs its aesthetics up with very solid performance.
For the casual listener...
Beats Tour 2.0 ($150)
This year, the word "Beats" has been slowly becoming less defamatory in the headphone world. Tyll enjoyed the Solo2 on-ears, and the latest revision of the Tour in-ears has impressed me as well, thanks in part to a more comfortable fit and understated design. Performance is good toothe bass is not as overwhelming as you may expect and the sound is smooth and refined. While you can get comparable audio quality for less, competitors have trouble matching the Tours' feature set, which includes a 3-button Apple remote, and the Beats brand still adds value to a gift item.
For the serious music lover...
Audio-Technica ATH-IM02 ($160 - $200)
It is unfortunate that the current generation of Audio-Technica BAs is not commonly available in the US, because the sound of the dual-driver ATH-IM02 can go toe to toe with pricier monitors such as the Westone W20 and Ultimate Ears UE900. Fortunately, Japanese imports abound, so the ATH-IM02 can still appear on holiday shopping lists for music lovers everywhere.
The IM02 has a "stage monitor" look and feel with sturdy construction, a secure and comfortable around-the-ear fit, and neutralif just a hair smoothed-outsound. The cables are detachable and user-replaceable, and while the sound is not for fans of enhanced bass, critical listeners will appreciate the clarity and accuracy the IM02 delivers without being overly treble-heavy and harsh.
For the gadget geek...
RHA T20 / T20i ($240 - $250)
Perhaps the most overbuilt set of IEMs on the market, the RHA T20 delivers more of what I liked about the MA750 model with tough-as-nails construction and a slightly more exaggerated take on the MA750's impactful, mildly v-shaped sound tuning. It can be a little heavy-handed in the upper midrange and doesn't have the most refined sound for its price, but also rewards listeners with excellent dynamics, good clarity, and impactful bass. With its ergonomic fit, heavy-duty stainless steel construction, and three interchangeable sound tunings, the T20 is a fantastic piece of engineering sure to impress any gadget geek.
The T20i version adds a 3-button Apple remote and microphone.