It’s not easy being an audiophile. You spend months crafting a Christmas megamix, sourcing lossless versions of the classics and mastering them into a high-fidelity playlist with added sleigh bell, only for some joker to skip the queue and stream a low-res bootleg of Dominick The Donkey.
Detest their mule music? Don’t lower your standards for the sake of undeserving ears: stick this tuneful tech at the top of your wish list and escape to a world of sonic satisfaction this Christmas.
From noise-cancelling cans to remastered records to speakers you can speak to, these melodious gifts will be a bigger hit with music lovers than a FLAC back-catalogue of their festive favourites.
Philips Fidelio L3
Audiophiles enjoy few things more than clearing their schedule, putting their feet up and sinking into sonic bliss. These premium cans make audio immersion even easier. A lightweight metal frame, Muirhead leather cushioning and memory foam cups mean they’re comfy to wear for even the lengthiest of listening sessions. Which is handy, given their 38-hour battery life. The Fidelio ‘phones also come equipped with active noise-cancelling, while their drivers deliver loads of detail and a warm, open soundstage. If someone should have the nerve to interrupt your ear time? A wear sensor will automatically pause your playlist when you take them off – so you won’t miss a single good vibration.
Fender Mustang Micro
Size isn’t everything when it comes to guitar gear. Sure, you can’t shred with a ukulele, but this dinky amp from Fender proves that small stuff still rocks. Inserted directly into your axe, it can replicate the tones of a dozen different full-size amplifiers, with a range of 12 effect combinations to top it off. You can’t turn it up to 11, but with headphones or a laptop attached, the Mustang Micro can transform your six-string’s sound in an instant.
Dali Katch G2
Objectively, £329 is a lot to drop on a Bluetooth speaker. But Dali’s Katch G2 isn’t your average noise box. Somehow squeezed into its streamlined aluminium chassis are two low-frequency drivers, two dome tweeters and two passive bass radiators, plus a pair of 25W Class D amplifiers. With all of that audio kit inside, it’ll make even the most overplayed Christmas songs sound fresh. And thanks to a 30-hour battery life, it’ll keep pumping out tunes well into Boxing Day.
There’s no point forking out for a limited-edition copy of All I Want for Christmas Is You on vinyl if you haven’t got a deck to spin it on. This relatively affordable turntable from Lenco is ideal for first-time disc jockeys. An integrated pre-amp and pre-installed Audio Technica cartridge mean minimal fuss is required to start the festive party, while a USB connection means you easily convert your rare Mariah Carey record collection to MP3.
Lego Fender Stratocaster
A songwriting course might equip you with the building blocks to create a great riff, but only this Lego kit gives you the bricks to build your own Fender Stratocaster. No, you won’t get a killer lick out of its plastic parts, but with a moving whammy bar, twistable tuning pegs and a panel that can be removed to reveal the attached amp’s innards, it’s the perfect gifts for aspiring guitarists whose skills are clapped out rather than Clapton.
Astell&Kern’s ACRO BE100
Calling Astell&Kern’s ACRO BE100 a Bluetooth speaker is like referring to Santa as a pretty generous bloke: technically true but slightly missing the point. Sure, the ACRO can fill any room with wireless tunes, but it’s the quality of its output that sets the BE100 apart. Behind its angular mesh, the monolithic block harbours a pair of 1.5in silk dome tweeters, plus a 4in Kevlar woofer for premium whump. The driving force is delivered by a Class D amp with 55W at its disposal, while a dedicated DAC supports hi-res codecs for top-notch tunes to get your hi-fi hootenanny hopping.
Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 Studio Bundle
Always thought you had a Christmas banger in your back pocket? Make 2021 the year you top the charts: Focusrite’s home recording bundle turns any room into a studio. Attach the USB interface to your laptop, connect the CM25 MkIII condenser mic using the supplied XLR cables, then hook up the HP 60 MkIII closed-back headphones and you’re ready to lay down a hot track like your cul-de-sac is actually Abbey Road. Talent not included.
Belkin Soundform Connect
Sometimes the old gear is the greatest. Sure, new hi-fi kit might ship with wireless bells and whistles, but who cares about cables trailing across the carpet when your vintage speakers sound so good? Belkin’s Soundform Classic lets you have the best of both worlds: hooked up to any system with an optical or 3.5mm input, it seamlessly adds AirPlay 2 connectivity – so you can stream straight from your phone without sacrificing the old-school sonic warmth you know and love.
The Rolling Stones: Unzipped
It could be the genre-defining back catalogue. It could be Keef’s rock ’n’ roll reputation. Or it could be the lip-licking logo. Whatever the magic ingredient, few bands have influenced popular culture quite like the Rolling Stones. Celebrate the legendary rockers with this coffee table compendium, packed with archive images, artwork and backstage snaps spanning almost 60 years of the Stones. It also features fresh insights from the famous four.
Sennheiser CX True Wireless
You could fill an entire advent calendar with true wireless earphones and still have enough left for next year. If ever a pair was worthy of being behind for 24, it’s these multi-talented Sennheiser buds. Sound is bold by default, with drive that cuts through the endless crowd of average earphones. Connect to the Smart Control App for finer audio adjustments, plus customisable touch controls. And with a 27-hour battery life courtesy of the charging case, the CX True Wireless can jingle all the way.
The Listening Party
With live gigs on hiatus during the lockdowns of the last 18 months, Tim Burgess’ Twitter listening parties gave thousands of audiophiles something new to listen to. The Charlatans frontman invited a varied line-up of artists to host real-time album playbacks, which were certainly easier on the ears than your boss’ Zoom voice. This hardcover book collects the best Tweets from artists and fans on the night, adds a few photos from back in the day and lets you relive 100 of the most memorable events – or catch up on any that you originally missed.
Chord Company Shawline Analogue
From the umbilical to the emergency, chords can be a lifeline in all sorts of situations. Experiencing sonic difficulties? It could be down to the wire. The Chord Company’s premium cables promise to transport sound signals with minimal interference, for audio that’s as true as possible to the source material. This one-metre lead features a silver-plated mini-jack for connecting to smartphones, laptops or your trusty iPod Classic, with RCA connectors on the other end for hooking up to your hi-fi.
Q Acoustics M20
They say good things come in twos, yet the Sex Pistols only made one studio album. Restore balance to the adage with this pair of bookshelf speakers. More like an entire music system, the M20s feature a built-in 65W amp which powers 22mm tweeters and beefy 125mm mid/bass drivers. There’s Bluetooth 5.0 on-board for easy wireless streaming, but connecting via USB unlocks 24bit/192kHz audio – so you can punk-rock around the Christmas tree in high resolution.
iFi GO blu
Styled like a vintage MP3 player, iFi’s GO Blu is actually a pocket-sized DAC and headphone amp. Paired wirelessly with your source device via Bluetooth, it’ll spruce up the sound coming out of any player. Super lightweight at 26g, it supports several formats – including aptX Adaptive and aptX HD – and lasts for 10 hours between charges. All you need to add is a good pair of wired headphones. How retro.
The blimp is back: aping its distinctive predecessor, the second-gen Zeppelin catches the eye as much as the ear. And while it might exceed your audiophile club’s Secret Santa budget cap, you certainly get what you pay for. Instead of helium, it contains two 25mm tweeters, two 90mm mid-range drivers and a single 150mm woofer – all of which make the airship impersonator sing, whether you’re connected through AirPlay 2, Spotify connect or B&W’s Music app.