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December 2008
Enjoy the Music.com Review Magazine
Audiophile Holiday Gift 2008
Great Audiophile Gifts 2008
Gift ideas to give your audiophile for the 2008 holiday season!

Article By Steven R. Rochlin, Rick Becker and the Enjoy the Music.com Staff
Click here to e-mail reviewer

  For the past three years (see 2007 here, 2006 here and 2005 here) Enjoy the Music.com provided audiophiles a way of giving hints to their loved ones of what they wanted for the holiday season. Feel free to print out this article and our previous three, 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 fourth annual Great Audiophile Gift suggestions. Prices range from free to a mere $349 for these eleven items. For the twelfth day your loved one is on their own to satisfy your innermost needs is some other way.

Rick Becker says, "Itís no secret times are hard for many people. Baroque is broke and the Blues are back. Audiophiles are not exempt from the economic climate change. And while Iíve had the great pleasure of reviewing some outstanding, but pricey gear this year, Iím not about to put it on my Christmas list. Instead, Iím going with more affordable tweaks that have tickled my fancy over the past few years. Hmm, the Panzer Board... Oh, wait, I canít tell you about that one just yet. And donít forget to shop your Local Retailer who may be anxious to move trade-ins and discontinued models at lower than usual prices during the holiday season. With the CES and THE Show coming up in January, retailers want to make room and raise cash for new models."

 

Audiophile Holiday Gift 2008
The Clash by The Clash ($45) is the first time this legendary band wrote a book concerning their revolutionary career. This impressively thick hard cover book spans 384 full-color pages and looks like not a penny was spared towards production costs. You get rare stories, commentary about albums and so much more! This book is worth it just for the photos! VIP backstage, vinyl, posters... and so much more! After the introduction, the book is broken down by chapter, which covers each year from 1996 through 1983. You can see how the band matured, or at least develops in the case of this remarkable group. There are so many photos that you truly get a taste of being in the action as it happened. This book is a must-have for Clash addicts and fans of revolutionary music alike. To quote the band, "Death or glory, becomes just another story."

 

Audiophile Holiday Gift 2008
Boston Audio Designs Mat 1 and Mat 2: We all know analog is all the rage these days whether youíre a vintage hippy or a Gen Y hatching from your iPod. Iíve given the Mat 1 a Tweak of the Year Award, and now Iím here to tell you there is a thicker version that out-performs it. The 5mm thick Mat 2 comes with a radius top edge and like the Mat 1 it is 293.25mm in diameter to fit Garrard turntables. (Use the Mat 1 on your Linn, as the Mat 2 causes the platter to list to the stern). Moreover, ignore the conventional wisdom that acrylic platters work best without a mat. I tried both on the VPI Scout with a JMW 9 Signature arm and while the Mat 1 was great, the Mat 2 really proved to be worth the extra money. If your arm has VTA adjustment, get the thick one and you will forget about a turntable upgrade until the economic crisis is long gone. You will have to ask for the Mat 2 since it is not yet up on their website. (Mat 1, $199; Mat 2, $279) (click here for review)

 

Audiophile Holiday Gift 2008
Dynamat Extreme: Thatís Dynamat, not dynamite! Buy a sheet of it at your local car audio emporium. But donít waste your time cutting it into 2.5-inch circles like I did. Settle for 2.5 x 2.5 inch squares that are much easier to cut with a straight edge and will give your windows more of a Frank Lloyd Wright look. Stick these squares three inches toward the center from each corner of your large glass windows and listen to the improvement in focus and inner detail ó with the curtains pulled back, even! You can now watch the snow fall and the plows go by with even better resolution from your rig. (The boss says it works great for chassis damping, also). ó Rick Becker (click here for review)

 

Audiophile Holiday Gift 2008
AVM (Anti-Vibration Magic): Affectionately called Blue Tube Goop, you paint a ring around your small signal tubes, coat your glass fuses and dab it on the soldered IEC connections inside the chassis and revel at the improvement in focus. If the soldered connections of your interconnects are not already encased in silicone, use it there, too! A $100 bottle the size of nail polish is worth thousands of dollars in upgrades, earning it a Tweak of the Year Award this year. ó Rick Becker (click here for review)

 

Mil-Spec wire: You will know your honey really loves you if she can find a source for this stuff. It is available mostly from industrial suppliers with high minimums. Make up your own cables with this Teflon coated, fine stranded silver plated copper wire (use 24 gauge in boondoggle weave for your interconnects, and 14, 12 or 10 gauge for twisted pair speaker cables). Great for second rigs and home theater, too. Use a high quality RCA connector for best results on interconnects; bare wire ends for speaker cables. ó Rick Becker

 

Audiophile Holiday Gift 2008
Sound Dead Steel Isofeet: Place these classy 3Ēx3Ē stainless steel and visco-elastic polymer plates beneath the spikes of your loudspeakers if you have a joisted floor, or place them between the aftermarket footers you currently use and the chassis of your components (especially your turntable). You will reap the benefit of thousands of dollars of loudspeaker and component upgrades without having to spend but a small fraction of that amount. (Isofeet costs are £15:32 (no vat) per set of 4, postage is charged at actual cost) ó Rick Becker (click here for review)

 

Audiophile Holiday Gift 2008
So how does someone get access to enough information and the right types of experience to be able to make an informed decision based on facts and feelings rather than costs and hype? Well, it is not quite as simple as just going to your computer, typing keywords into a search engine and looking up various websites which purport to represent the truth about audio and video equipment. While many of these, and certainly Enjoy the Music.com is an example, do a great job of giving the facts as unbiased as possible a manner, they still rely on the preferences of their reviewers to give their impressions of how things sound. Luckily there are several books which give a consumer many of the basic facts about high fidelity, what things to look for in a system, and more importantly what things you do not want to find present in a system you are looking forward to purchasing at some time in the future. Perhaps the most well known of these is Robert Harley's book entitled The Complete Guide to High-End Audio and his Introductory Guide To High-Performance Audio Systems. Robert Harley, who is the Editor-in-Chief of a well respected audio magazine The Absolute Sound, gives a reader an extremely in depth understanding of audio principles, system construction and even some interesting engineering tidbits which might leave many people wondering what they have gotten themselves into.  ó Brett Rudolph (click here for review)

 

Audiophile Holiday Gift 2008
You can buy the Hagerman Piccolo MC Headamp in either of two versions, half-kit or fully-built. The half-kit comprises a very high quality double-sided, thru-hole plated, printed circuit board with 6 surface-mount devices (SMDs) pre-soldering in place. You also receive some useful nuts and bolts, LED lens, rubber feet, earthing post, a couple of capacitors, chassis hole-punch guide plus chassis lettering layout and a construction guide. Note that you will need to purchase the remaining parts need to finish this project, though Hargerman does provide the Digikey part numbers to make life easy. Hagtech are in Hawaii, Digikey in Minnesota and I'm in the UK. The complete cost for all parts of the kit, including UK import duty and tax came to £118. Purchasers in the United States should budget around $200, maybe a little less. The fully built-version comes in at $349. ó Clive Meakins (click here for review)

 

Audiophile Holiday Gift 2008
The Esoteric Soundís Rek-O-Kut Re-Equalizer ($349) is a brilliant bit of kit. It does exactly what it says it does on the package, no more, no less, and that is a great thing. It slots easily in and out of any system, only requiring an extra (supplied) set of patch cables. It can correctly Re-Equalize any 78 under the sun. If you wish to hear your 78s as they were meant to be heard, it is essential. Plus, hearing your 78s as they were meant to be heard is an ear-opening experience. There is quite a bit that is great on these old 78s and taking the time and care to listen to them properly without damaging them is an entirely enjoyable experience. Performance styles have changed remarkably over the years and before todayís classical competition conservatory system was entrenched, there was much more variation between performers than there are now, particularly in piano and voice. And if there is one thing that these 78s have to tell us is that the format wars are as old as the formats. ó Jeff Rabin (click here for review)

 

Audiophile Holiday Gift 2008
Technology is not the end-all be-all driving force per se; it is here to be our servants without intruding into our lives. Here is where the Audioengine shines as it does virtually nothing to intrude on the music while making my daily musical pleasures easier to command. With nearly 1000 albums digitally ripped to my hard drive i can take any one of the number of playlists and let them feed my office system, or my entire home. The sound quality is more than good enough for non-audiophiles and very close to the hard-core music lovers who will dissect every little thing the Audioengine W1 does (alters) to the 'pure' source signal. It may not be SACD or DVD-Audio, yet for this low a price is does a remarkable job at handling the audio signal. If you desire an easy to use, impressive sounding wireless signal transfer system then the Audioengine W1 should be on your short list. At $149 it is nearly a freebie when you consider the cost of a good interconnect cable. ó Steven Rochlin (click here for review)

 

Audiophile Holiday Gift 2008
The KECES DA-131 ($320) does all of the expected "hi-fi" stuff. It doesn't seem to accentuate any frequency band and is very smooth. When I listened to Steely Dan's classic Aja, I originally thought it came across las lively, but as the album progressed, I realized it was "life like", not a subtle difference. Imaging and sound staging were excellent. One telling thing about the KECES DA-131 is that my vinyl rig has sat unused for the vast majority of the time once it arrived... I can wholeheartedly recommend the KECES DA-131 DAC. It is well built, dead silent, and offers excellent performance at its price point, and beyond. It would be a good value if it only offered CD quality resolution. Considering that it offers the ability to decode high-resolution 24-bit/96kHz signals, it is a fantastic value. ó Nels Ferre (click here for review)

 

Audiophile Holiday Gift 2008
Thy 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 2008 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 2009. Of course in the end what really matters to me is that we all....

Enjoy the Music ("It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year" with a few writer's embellishments),

Steven R. Rochlin

"It's the most wonderful time of the year
With the vinyl and NAS drive music a-singing and everyone telling you
"Be of good cheer"
It's the most wonderful time of the year.

It's the hap - happiest season of all
With those holiday greetings and music-filled joyous meetings
When friends come to call,
It's the hap - happiest season of all.

There'll be music for playin' and audiophiles grinnin'
Digital discs for a-playing
Be caroling out in the snow.
There'll be happy tweaking stories and tales of the glories
Of holidays long, long ago.

It's the most wonderful time of the year.
There'll be tapping-toeing, and hearts will be glowing
When your fave music is playing near.
It's the most wonderful time of the year."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     
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