Listen up: Audiophiles can immediately tell the difference between cheaply made headphones and professional studio monitors, so make sure your choice of gift is sound. Here are 11 suggestions sure to bring holiday cheer to the well-informed audio fanatic.
1. WOO AUDIO HPS-RS UNIVERSAL ADJUSTABLE ALUMINUM HEADPHONE STAND; $104
For the person who already owns a serious set of headphones, gift an accessory that will make the listening experience more enjoyable and clutter-free. The Woo Audio HPS-RS Universal Adjustable Aluminum Headphone Stand, available in black and silver, is designed to hold two headphones at once. With an adjustable height from 11 inches up to 14 inches, the aluminum base and arm are both sturdy and practical. Another perk: The curved rest won’t leave permanent indents in headphones with luxe headbands.
Find it: Amazon
2. SCHITT VALHALLA 2 HEADPHONE AMPLIFIER; $389
Help your beloved audiophilliac tap into the full potential of their headphones with this all-tube amp. At 9 x 6 x 3.25 inches and weighing it at 7 pounds, the compact device is small enough to fit on a desk and easy to move around.
Find it: Amazon
3. SKULLCANDY GRIND; $59
When it comes to buying headphones, you don’t always have to break the bank for quality audio. At the sub-$100 price point, the Skullcandy Grind is a wise choice. Winner of PC Magazine’s Editors’ Choice award for 2015, the headphones are described as having a “bass-forward, balanced sound signature” and also surprised CNET reviewers with how good they sound for the price. The Skullcandy Grind is available in a wide range of colors and graphics, so finding one to match your music lover’s style should be easy.
Find it: Skullcandy
4. MASTER & DYNAMIC MH40; $399
Jumping up a bit in terms of price and build quality, the Master & Dynamic MH40 Over Ear headphones sound great and are one of the more attractive headphones on the market today. Made of forged aluminum, stainless steel, and premium leather, the MH40s are noticeably sturdier than some other headphones, which means that they are also a bit heavier. The New York-based company prides itself on craftmanship and calls itself “obsessed with sound and creativity.” Both shine through with the MH40. David Carnoy of CNET describes the sound as “highly detailed, yet never harsh, and the bass is deep, without any boom or bloat,” while Tim Moynihan of Wired notes that the 45mm neodymium drivers are “tuned for the mid-range and low-end, with bass that sounds nice and punchy without distortion.”
Find it: Master & Dynamic
5. SENNHEISER HD800; $1369
If you really want to splurge for a loved one this holiday season, the Sennheiser HD800s come highly recommended by several trusted reviewers in the tech industry and average Joes on the Internet who can’t get enough of the experience that Sennheiser provides. Steve Guttenberg gave the headphones a perfect five out of five stars in his CNET review, and others including Trusted Reviews, TechRadar, Digital Trends, and several online reviewers have given the HD800 a perfect or near perfect score, applauding its comfort and its “intense, realistic, and natural” sound. The listening experience has been compared to that of sitting in a room with high end speakers instead of having headphones over your ears. A small criticism that critics and consumers have had with the headphones is that the noise isolation could be better, but that has not been enough to knock the Sennheiser HD800 off its throne.
Find it: Amazon
6. BOSE QUIETCOMFORT 20i; $300
If the person you’re shopping for isn't into over ear headphones, the Bose QuietComfort 20i Acoustic Noise Cancelling Earbuds are a great buy. They are pricier than most standard earbuds, but you get what you pay for. CNET notes that the experience is not for someone seeking a “flat response,” but the earbuds are comfortable and perform well with many genres of music. The headphones boast a rechargeable battery that lasts for an advertised 16 hours (and juices fully in two), a slider to turn the noise cancelling feature on and off, and an inline remote and microphone.
Find it: Bose
7. PELICAN 1300 CASE; $49
Protect your favorite audiophile's pricey investment with sturdy travel case for their headphones. Members of the Head-Fi forums found the Pelican 1300 case to be the ideal size for most large headphones. The foam inserts are customizable, and the cases are lightweight, durable, and also crush-, water-, and dust-proof.
Find it: Amazon
8. FOCAL DIMENSION SOUNDBAR; $1399
Focal is known primarily for its studio monitors and expensive high end speakers, but the French company also makes headphones, car audio systems, and speakers for home theater setups. This 5.1 system has a soundstage of 4 meters, bluetooth connectivity, and is Plug-N-Play, so the person you buy it for can have great wireless sound minutes after opening the box.
In comparing the product to a previously tested soundbar, trusted reviewer Steve Guttenberg said that the Focal Dimension’s “more-expansive stereo image is bigger and more precisely focused.” He preferred a tower speaker and amplifier setup, but said that for people who prefer soundbars, “the Dimension is highly recommended.”
Find it: Audio Advisor
9. PRO-JECT DEBUT CARBON DC TURNTABLE; $399
Vinyl has always been the preferred medium for serious fans of music, and now that it’s cool again, there are lots of great turntables to choose from. The Pro-Ject Debut Carbon DC is one of Turntable Lab’s best-selling models for a reason. Featuring a Ortofon 2M Red Cartridge, a carbon fiber tonearm, and motor improvements from the previous version of the Debut Carbon, the sleek turntable looks and performs above its price point. If your giftee isn’t keen on black, Pro-Ject offers several other color options.
Find it: Turntable Lab
10. MATHMATIKS TURNTABLE RING; $550
So the audiophile in your life already has a turntable? Well, they probably don’t have this turntable ring. More expensive than the Pro-Ject Debut Carbon, this cool piece is made of gun metal with a rotating, 22-carat gold plated top. It’s the perfect fashion accessory for both audiophiles and budding DJs.
Find it: Mathmatiks
11. CRUTCHFIELD GIFT CARDS, $25 AND UP
When someone is particularly hard to shop for, gift cards are always an acceptable choice. Crutchfield gift cards start at $25 and go up according to your generosity. So save time shopping and guarantee that the person you’re shopping for gets exactly what they need.
Find it: Crutchfield