Published on December 14th, 2012 | by Greg0
TrulyGadgets Gift Guide: Sound Off
Welcome to the final of our four holiday gift guides- be sure to check out the other ones, like the first from TrulyKitchen and the second from TrulyIndoors, as well as our roundup from TrulyOutdoors. We’ve checked out hundreds of products in 2012, and our staff has thrown our smartphones into water, listened to dozens of pairs of headphones, transferred terabytes and printed hundreds of pages (in the name of journalism). Here are some of the best items we checked out this year, that kept us coming back and have proven useful since we originally wrote. We’re breaking this up into two sections, one for audio gear and one for everything else! First, the year in sound.
One of the first AirPlay products we tried out was the Bowers and Wilkins Zeppelin Air. It looks a lot like the original Zeppelin, which happens to be our favorite iPod dock. Of course, iPhone 5 users are still in a tough position due to the change in connector, but thanks to Apple’s wireless music streaming protocol you can still enjoy using any iPhone with the Zeppelin Air. Setup wasn’t easy, and it’s expensive, but the audio quality and the design will both wow you. $600 or so.
Of course, we couldn’t in good conscience do a gift guide without mentioning the best all-in-one package for digital audio that we saw this year. Audiophile gear doesn’t come cheap, and this was one of the highest ticket items we reviewed this year. But if you’ve got $2000 to spend on audio, the CEntrance desktop system combines an amazing DAC and amplifier with a pair of the best speakers we’ve yet heard.
The Paradigm Millenia CT 2.1 made us reconsider what was possible in a two-speaker-and-a-subwoofer system. The soundstage was impressive, the lower frequencies big and bold, and everything was sharper than we had any right to expect in a set this size. The sleek styling and configurable vertical or horizontal positioning add up to a good value for the $700 pricetag.
But you can’t always bring your speakers with you. That’s where headphones and earbuds come in- and we tried out everything from noise-cancelling models to foldable, ultra-portable models. Three of the best follow.
Studio monitors aren’t for everyone. They’re pretty neutral-sounding and tend to be on the bulkier side. But the Audio-Technica ATH-M50s were monitors in another class, offering extreme comfort while still being portable. Gigantic drivers had range and accuracy, and listeners raved. Even the price is right: $150 or so.
Lightweight headphones often come at a sacrifice- durability or audio quality or comfort. An on-ear set from beyerdynamic changed the equation for us- some staff were inseparable from their lovely t50ps. Weighing only six ounces, they offer great build quality and no real compromises in sound. Worth every penny at $200.
Weighing even less, and isolating even more, the Etymotic hf3s are earbuds (or in-ear monitors) that offer all of the modern features like Apple-compatible controls and a microphone. But the Kevlar-reinforced cable and triple-flanged tips topped others, and though a little constrained at higher registers, they managed to make earbuds cool again. Around $150.