Article By Steven R. Rochlin
For the past two years (see 2006 here and 2005 here) we provided audiophiles a way of giving hints to their loved ones of what they wanted for the holiday season. The response to both of these articles has been overwhelmingly positive, as you'd be amazed how many audiophile hubbies on their own seek to find the perfect gift for their loved ones. Of course you should feel free to print out this article and our previous two, circling the items you most desire. Gift-giving season is upon us and help make your wife/husband/friend's job easier by placing hints for them concerning what you most desire. Enjoy the Music.com is proud to present our third annual Great Audiophile Gift suggestions.
We have arranged them in price from lowest to highest, with some being so inexpensive as to make great stocking stuffers! Pricing of these gifts range from $1295... to free, with an average being $484 (not factoring in the free protractor). Those who feel being an audiophile is expensive, or are constantly whining about magazines only covering uber-expensive products, should take note at the below list. Enjoy the Music.com has reviewed each product! And without further delay, i present to you the Enjoy the Music.com's Great Audiophile Gift ideas for the 2007 holiday season.
The Benchmark DAC1 USB has been reviewed by everyone, including perhaps even Granny Smith in her Apple-Of-My-Eye My Space Blog and Enjoy the Music.com senior editor Dick Olsher and music editor Steven Stone. This unit has both balanced (XLR) and unbalanced analog (RCA) output plus SPDIF, Toslink, AES/EBU and USB digital inputs. headphone and significant others who hate loud music will like that it has not just one, but two headphone jacks on the front panel! With the right headphones the DAC1 makes a superb headphone amplifier. As for sound quality and performance, the Benchmark DAC1 nearly equals the much more expensive Lyngdorf TDAI 2200 according to reviewer Steven Stone. If you demand an extremely neutral DAC/preamp the Benchmark DAC1 USB will do the job better than a 'John Henry wielding a steam hammer'. Given its very reasonable price it's no wonder that the Benchmark has come to be the de-facto standard against which all other digital preamps are measured. To read the full review click here.
The factory Modified Jolida 102B is a little gem when compared to similar EL84 amps. Scott faller says, "The longer I live with this amp, the more I love it (and I don't fall in love with much gear at all). The factory modified JoLida 102B does so much right and makes such good music, I simply can't live without it in at least one of my systems. At a puny 25 watts of tube power, you wouldn't think that it could handle low efficiency speakers…but it does, and quite admirably by the way. This amp has found its way into each and every article I've written since it showed up…and that is saying something. Let me put it this way, if Editor Steven R. Rochlin would let me hand out two Blue Note Awards for a single piece of gear, the factory modified JoLida 102B would get them." Editor's note: On that (blue) note, this product is a Blue Note Award winner and Great Audiophile Gift suggestion! Your wish is my command Scott :) To read the full review click here.
"I don't know about you but I wish the format wars would end" says Enjoy the Music.com reviewer Todd Warnke. "I'm sick of the alphabet avalanche of CD, HDCD, DVD, DVD-Audio, SACD, Blu-ray and DVD-HD – and sick of trying to figure out which one or ones will win. And so I've been sitting on the sidelines, holding off on investing in the wrong acronym. It seems to me that this (as well as the entry-level buyer) is exactly the market the CEC CD3300R is aimed at – someone who is waiting for the price of an ultimate universal player to fall into the reasonable range, but someone who also knows good sound and will not settle for less. If, like me, that describes you, then I can heartily recommend the CEC CD3300R. It has an open, detailed, rich and rhythmic sound that, while just short of the top tier, is so close that it would be a bargain at $2000. At under $700 it my no-brainer pick for great sound on the cheap or while waiting for the affordable and good sounding universal player to appear. Quite highly recommended." To read the full review click here.
GINI's iTube (2 + 1 System) and GINI iConec are in the shape and color of the original iPod, with a hybrid transistor/tube amplifier to boot. You might laugh in fact, but the laugh quickly turns to a smile when you listen to the engaging sound this combo can provide. Add the inexpensive GINI iConec and you have a charging cradle for your iPod complete with line out, volume control and a comprehensive, albeit miniature, remote control that does a great job with my iPod Mini. Amplification includes an 18 watt subwoofer and 16 wpc output to the satellite speakers. Reviewer Phil Gold experienced a "clean, warm and colorful sound on good recordings." If one keeps heavy orchestral music fares and loud dance music in check to san volume levels, all will be fine. This is a novelty item that surprises on the upside. To read the full review click here.
The Promitheus Audio TVC SE is a compact unit, roughly the size of a cigar box. At approximately 12 pounds, it weighs more than one expects given its size. The knob on the left controls input selection, while the knob on the right is a 24 position volume knob. The back panel is populated with four pairs of inputs and two pairs of outputs. The review sample was single ended; those that require balanced (XLR) connections will be pleased to learn they are available at no additional charge. Do not let the $320 price of admission or the handmade appearance fool you. The Promitheus Audio TVC SE is a serious audio component, and probably the very best bargain in audio today. The Prometheus Audio TVC SE to not only be a joy to "listen" to, but also an invaluable reviewing tool. "This component gets my very highest recommendation" says Nel Ferre. To read the full review click here.
Like the larger A5 self-powered loudspeakers of 2006, here in 2007 the less expensive (and small) Audioengine A2 gets my vote as a Great Audiophile Gift," says editor Steven R. Rochlin. "After many hours of playing around with the Audioengine A2 powered speakers, i can wholeheartedly recommend them for audiophiles who desire a great powered loudspeaker in a small package. Many people use their computer's sound card to drive such devices, and please allow me here and now to warn you that the A2 self-powered loudspeaker system has enough resolution to tell you if your computer's internal sound card is good or lackluster. This is precisely why there are many outboard DAC units on the market today. Mated with an excellent sound source, the Audioengine A2 loudspeakers should produce many hours of musical pleasures without the pitfalls of sounding like the usual mainstream small plastic junk or apparent distortion boxes on the shelf at from your local electronics store.... Forget the usual reviewer comment of "highly recommended," am buying the review pair and another set for the wife so she will keep her hands off mine!" To read the full review click here.
Tweaking audiophiles may be right in expecting "nothing special" from the Trend Audio's TA-10.1 Class-T stereo amplifier available for a paltry $119. The TA-10 is a very smooth and capable performer. Not as quite as slick sounding as the silver tongue fox, the Roksan Caspian perhaps, but just as capable in the mid-range. Otherwise, the Internet buzz about the TA-10, on big ole horns, is accurate. Vocals are very good, just not as three dimensional as tube amplifiers can make them. Piano and percussive instruments are also very good. While it is not as quick as tube amplifiers can be; acoustic guitars and vocals can seem compressed. So why the recommendation? Mid-range of the TA-10 is clear. Drums, cymbals, brushes and voice sound natural and realistic on big ole horns. This barely over $100 unit can produce an airy, bright, sparkling, clear, tone rich, natural and full of life. Shore up the bottom with powerful self-powered subwoofer(s) and explore the world of audio on the cheap. To read the full review click here.
What some people don't realize is that the recovery of the bits from a digital disc is actually an analog rather than a digital process. The bits are recorded on the disc as on and off signals like tape with 0 and 1 numbers, but a pit system with the laser seeing the beginning and end of the pits vs. the flat unburned or unpressed surface of the disc, measuring the lengths of the pits and flat areas to determine the values. If the beginning or end of the pit is slightly indistinct to the reading head, or the CD is warped or not perfectly round, this will lead to timing errors of the on and off signal. With an almost perfect score (two misses out of about 50 tries) I could tell whether the original and/or the CD-R had been treated with the Digital Systems & Solutions Ultrabit Platinum disc treatment. So there's some objectivist related information; there is a difference in sound between treated and untreated discs, at least with this experimenter's ears. The biggest improvement though was a more 3D freedom to the space, with stereo mic'ed recordings allowing the hall signature to come out beyond the listener. With 5.1 SACD and DVD-Audio discs, the rear channels could be turned down by one or two dB with the sound being more enveloping and the decay of hall sounds more natural, plus all of the above characteristics. Price is very reasonable and it will treat about 500 discs. Included are two shammy cloths for polishing. I like to use Charmin Ultra toilet paper for the initial removal as then the cloths don't get dirty as fast and the Ultra never causes any micro-scratches to the discs that other papers do. To read the full review click here.
S. Louis, Phone: (619) 401-9876 or toll free (888) 588-9542 best between 8am and
9:00pm Pacific Time and e-mail anytime at GsLouis@GsLouis.com.
They say the best things in life are free... and who are we to argue? If your audiophile loves music on vinyl, they need to have a special tool to ensure their cartridge is properly aligned. In the past decade or so we have gladly given away tens of thousands of high quality printed cartridge alignment tools! We will not attempt to count the perhaps hundreds of thousands of vinyl lovers who have downloaded our file to print for themselves or used our special Excel program to design their own alignment tool. If you want to give more free tools to your audiophile, Enjoy the Music.com also provides downloadable strobe discs to ensure proper turntable speed! get you free vinyl alignment and speed check tools for free by clicking here.
And that rounds out Enjoy the Music.com's Great Audiophile Gift 2007 ideas. Hopefully you have found something that will bring your audiophile friend or lover joy this holiday season... and all year long. There is something to please virtually every audiophile no matter what their preference or your budget. We here at Enjoy the Music.com wish you and yours a very happy holiday season and a prosperous 2008. Of course in the end what really matters to me is that we all....