December 7, 2016 // by // 0 Comments

Down and Dirty – Gift Guide for your Audio Enthusiast

This holiday season, don’t get bogged down with the overwhelming amount of audio products out there on the market these days. If you have a music lover in your life, here’s your go to list of what to buy them this holiday!

Under $100

  1. Mobile Fidelity LP#9 Stylus Cleaner – $24.99
  2. Hifi News Test LP Producer’s cut – $39.99
  3. AudioQuestion DragonFly Black USB DAC/Headphone Amplifier – $98.75

Vinyl is back, and it’s better than ever. The first two items here are must haves for anyone who is spinning 12″ pieces of vinyl. First of all, this Mobile Fidelity stylus cleaner is awesome. A bottle of this will last forever, and three quick strokes (back to front for safety!) on the stylus will keep it squeaky clean and sounding fantastic.

For those who want to make sure their turntable is setup properly and sounding its best, this HiFi news Test LP is essential. It has a bunch of tests that will give you all the information you need to know if your turntable is setup just right, or if you have some problems. My favorite tracks on this are the “torture tests,” which gradually get harder and harder for a cartridge to track. How many of them can you run before you get distortion? A big surprise for me was finding that some very expensive cartridges failed these torture tracks miserably!

Lastly, the AudioQuest DragonFly will give you a super-clean, punchy and dynamic headphone jack output from your computer. Skip the piece-of-junk-jack in your computer (you know the one!) and plug in this DragonFly for a great-sounding, audiophile-approved audio output from your computer. The coolest thing is that the dragonfly glows different colors depending on the quality of your music files!

Under $500

  1. Audioengine A2+ Powered Speakers – $249.00
  2. Rega Planar 1 – $475
  3. NAD D 3020 Hybrid Digital Amplifier – $399

Stepping up the price a bit, we have some gift ideas here that are truly excellent audio products regardless of one’s budget. First of all, the Audioengine A2+ is a very portable set of powered speakers. This means that they have an amplifier built in, so all you need to do is plug in your source via headphone jack or RCA, and then crank em up!! They are tiny little guys, but place them with a wall close behind them and you will be blown away by their clarity and their bass response!

For a bit more dough, we have the “entry level” table from Rega. Rega is one of the most renowned turntable manufactures out there, so in this case, entry-level means “freaking awesome.” The P1 is a very well engineered turntable complete with a very strong tonearm, the RB110. This is a new tonearm from Rega, that incorporates many of the design features from their more expensive tonearms. It includes a pre-mounted cartridge as well. This is the turntable that we would buy with a budget of $500.

Lastly we have the NAD D 3020 hybrid digitial amplifier. This little guy has gotten AMAZING reviews from the audio magazines and review sites. It is a tiny, portable, integrated stereo amp outputting 30 Watts of power per channel. It also has a 24/96 DAC built in, so you can even plug in digital sources! Couple this with excellent sound quality across the board, and we have a winner.

Then they took it even further and built Bluetooth wireless capabilities in. Seeing this baby under the tree will put a smile on any audio enthusiast’s face.

Here is a gushing review of it from What Hi-Fi:

Under $1000

  1. Jolida FX10 Integrated Tube Amp – $649
  2. Dynavector 10X5 High Output Moving Coil Cartridge – $599.99
  3. Shure SE846 Sound Isolating Earphones – $999.00

Lastly, we have the cream of the crop gifts.

Amazing integrated tube-amp complete with magical blue glowing lights? Check. The Jolida FX10 uses a pair of EL84 power tubes and 1 12AX7 pre-amp tube per channel to put out a smooth and warm 10 watts per channel. 10 watts doesn’t sound like much, but believe it or not it is probably all you need! This little amp will go surprisingly loud and the sound will be so smooth, clean, and never harsh or fatiguing. This is a fantastic introduction to tube amps and is highly recommended.

Next we have one of our favorite cartridges, the Dynavector 10X5. This is a high-output moving-coil cartridge, which means you get the amazing sound of a moving-coil cartridge, but you don’t need a fancy expensive phono preamp like you typically would for a moving-coil. It will with with any phono preamp, and you will set it to the moving-magnet setting (MM). It has a clean, clear, open and dynamic sounds and I have personally found it to sound better than many cartridges that cost more than a grand. It is also an excellent tracker, so say goodbye to tracking distortion and inner-groove-distortion with this Dynavector!

And for the priciest gift on the list, we have the truly captivating Shure SE846. I know what you’re thinking “$1000 for earbuds!?!?.” Trust me on this one. They are worth it. Listen to one track on these and you will understand what I mean. I’ve heard $50,000 setups that don’t even touch these magic little earbuds in terms of overall sound quality. They are dynamic and punchy as hell, with ruler-flat bass response down to the limits of human hearing. These are my personal earbuds, and I would never leave home without them. Highly, highly recommended, and the ultimate stocking-stuffer.

After being exposed to the magic and nuance of Barbara Streisand's voice on a great hifi system, Carolyn fell off the deep end and got hooked on hifi. She's on a mission to help expose newbies to the game and provide helpful tips and insight as they transition out of the dark and into the light. Contact Carolyn at!