Mostly affordable, and certainly thoughtful gift ideas for the serious audiophile.
1. Wadia 170i Digital iPod Dock
Like many audiophiles, I subscribe to the belief that the iPod is not an acceptable source for serious music listeners when played over a high-end system. The sound quality of its analog output leaves much to be desired when connected via an analog iPod dock. But I have been proven wrong with the Wadia 170i Digital Transport. The 170i elevates iPod music to a quality appropriate for higher end audio systems. Even a caveman can hear the difference!
In the world of digital audio, the end game is the digital to analog converter, or DAC. The DAC is the core of digital audio and the rapid improvements in DACs and the rise in popularity of computer audio has driven demand for outboard DACs. The real magic in the DacMagic is listening to computer audio sources. The sound of the DacMagic thoroughly eclipsed the DACs built into my Mac laptop and quickly elevated my computer to a legitimate audio source. Read my full review of the Cambridge Audio DacMagic.
If you're curious, or you know someone who is curious about the features and technologies that go into high-end audio, these books are great learning tools. They are written by industry professionals in clear, straight-forward articles designed to demystify the science behind the sound.
The KEF iQ50 speakers are among the best speakers I've reviewed in the sub-$1000 per pair price range and it's clear to me why serious music lovers revere KEF speakers. Their compact size is unobtrusive and the fine fit and finish of the cabinets is impressive. With three finishes available, Black Ash, Dark Apple and American Walnut the iQ50s will blend easily with almost any room decor.
Mordaunt-Short is a British loudspeaker maker with a reputation for making high-end products. The company started in 1967 and offers a wide range of stereo and home theater speaker systems and the Carnival 2 is one of their most affordable bookshelf models. Costing $299 per pair, the Carnival 2s may be one of the best-kept secrets in recent memory. They're great for a second pair of speakers in the den or bedroom or as a starter system.