2016 InnerFidelity Holiday Gift Guide

Recommendations from Tyll Hertsens

Sennheiser HD 202 ($34.95)
161128_HolidayGiftGuide_Photo_HD202

Sennheiser is a big believer that the next large category of headphone purchasers will be consumers intent on personal content creation on social media. Seriously good, but seriously inexpensive, will be a big boon to these personal media producers. The Sennheiser HD 202 is a perfect example of a headphone worthy of use: honest in reproduction for those intent on looping, DJing, and movie/slideshow production. If you know someone who loves playing around with content creation, the Sennheiser HD 202 is a great entry level headphone. They're sealed to isolate from outside noise; they've got a long cord so you can move around your workstation unencumbered; they're built like a tank and will easily withstand the rigors of backpack transport; and, most of all, they sound very good at this price.

Sennheiser HD 202 product page
InnerFidelity HD 202 Review

Noontec ZoroII Wireless ($149)
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Wireless headphones are all the rage, but the good ones are expensive and the cheap ones usually junk. Bucking this tide is Noontec with their new Zoro II Wireless on-ear headphone. This little gem has very good build quality at this price; folding design for compact storage and transport; a 35 hour battery life and runs off a cable when the juice runs out; and, most importantly, terrific sound quality. A solid value. Cut the cord!

Noontec Zoro II Wireless product page
InnerFidelity review

Bose Quiet Comfort 35 ($349)
161128_HolidayGiftGuide_Photo_BoseQC35

Know a traveller? These are the traveler's headphone. Over and over and over again I've listened to competing headphones and found they come up short in both sound quality and noise canceling compared to the Bose products. This is the complete package—excellent accessories and travel case; folding design for compact storage and transport; 20 hour battery life; wired operation when the battery drains (sadly, the supplied cable doesn't allow for phone calls when operated on the wire); and simply stunning noise canceling and sound quality from a headphone of this type. Give the gift of background-noise-free listening to your traveling friend. Blissful music makes the aluminum sky-tube cattle car tolerable. Ahhhhhhh!

Bose home page and Quiet Comfort 35 product page.
InnerFidelity review

Focal Utopia ($3999) 161128_HolidayGiftGuide_Photo_Utopia

Photo credit: AudioHead.

A rare gift giving opportunity reserved for those with very healthy wallets, I present what, in my opinion, is the world's best headphone. Have a loved one with a passion for music? The Focal Utopia will satisfy! In what amounts to a complete rethinking of traditional dynamic driver headphones, the Utopia sports a Beryllium dome driver, mono-layer formerless voice coil, lambskin leather earpads and headband strap, real carbon fiber yolks, and numerous other outstanding build-quality characteristics that come together in a simply gorgeous headphone. And the sound quality? Wow, just wow. Your significant other will be tickled pink.

Focal Utopia product page
InnerFidelity review

High Fidelity Music Streaming (19.95/month)
161128_HolidayGiftGuide_Photo_Tidal

I'm hooked! I use Tidal every day. I listen on my Sonos system at home. I stream it on my lab computer. I store off-line playlists on my iPhone. It's my "go to" source for taking requests when I have a party at my house. I can spend hours linking my way through related artists and suggested other tracks when searching for new music. And all of it at full CD resolution! Truly, I can think of no better gift than the gift of the music!

Tidal Website

ARTICLE CONTENTS

COMMENTS
drm870's picture

Not sure I know anyone who would fully appreciate it, though, and I'd probably have to pass at getting it for myself that price. (I primarily listen with my smartphone in practice, anyway.) Still, bookmarking their website in my browser for sure!

John Grandberg's picture
I initially thought it was too expensive for what I told myself was just a fancy interface, nothing more.... but now that I've used it I can't go back. For example, my Aurender server has a really well done iPad app for controls. I used to love using it. Now, after spending time with Roon and another server, the Aurender app seems totally primitive and extremely limiting. Add in Tidal Lossless which integrates tightly with Roon, and you've got an unbeatable combination for about the cost of 2-3 new CD's per month.
tony's picture

I think I'll be giving subscriptions to Stereophile's Print version.

All of the "Gear" owning folks I know seem to already have closets filled with stuff the Grannies will be selling off on eBay when that last day has finally passed.

Gear Gifts, hrump, let em buy there on darn Focal stuff. Maybe a joker recommended $50 in ear monitor ( or Etys if they've been especially nice, none have ).

I'm say'n ( I think ) that JA has managed to build the finest group of folks I may have ever remembered, something special is happening at Stereophile.

Well done!

I'll gift literature

Tony in Michigan

Peragulator's picture

Spotify: $10.60 a month. Can't beat that. HiFiMan 400i's were $249.00 at the store.

canali's picture

i've had tidal hifi and couldn't tell a diff ..seems other blind tests (2 below) show the same (yes i have good cans and both chord mojo and dragonfly red)
http://www.theverge.com/2015/7/7/8872115/apple-music-tidal-spotify-audio...
http://www.cnbc.com/2016/08/05/hifi-music-streaming-services-people-cant...

ultrabike's picture
Indeed an awesome entry level can. Love mine.
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