We’re back with the WiFi HiFi holiday gift guides! Each week, we’ll release a new themed gift guides, chocked-full of great tech gift ideas for different people on your list. This week, we’re looking at great gifts for audiophiles and hifi enthusiasts, or those simply looking to enjoy better sound.
Bryston BR-20 Preamplifier
The Bryston BR-20 combines a new analog preamplifier with the company’s flagship digital-to-analog conversion (DAC) platform and high-performance streaming music player. A ring of small LEDs are placed around the perimeter of the volume knob, elegantly indicating output level. It supports up to 15 sources and a wide variety of inputs. Access high-resolution content from up to seven external sources plus the internal digital music player that offers TIDAL and Qobuz streaming capability. Connectivity for an additional four HDMI sources becomes accessible when using the optional HDMI card. The internal DAC can decode PCM up to 384 kHz/24 bit and DSD 256 (DSD x4), and it has the unusual capability to decode DSD over HDMI. The built-in music player will natively pass PCM up to 384 kHz and DSD128 to the DAC. It features Bryston’s most powerful onboard headphone amplifier ever offered, providing the high-output and critical low-output impedance to drive even inefficient headphone models. The front plate of the new BR-20 is named in honour of Brian Russell, President of Bryston, who recently passed away. US$5,995. A premium quality Moving Magnet (MM) phono stage equivalent to Bryston’s outboard BP-2 can be added for US$1,000 and the optional HDMI card for US$1,200.
Audio-Technica AT-PEQ30 Phono Equalizer
Audio-Technica’s AT-PEQ30 phono equalizer is designed to add a phono stage to a turntable setup or to serve as an upgrade from a turntable’s built-in phono preamp. It accommodates MM (moving magnet) and MC (moving coil) phono cartridges, and offers a selectable MM and MC input with a fixed gain of 35 dB (MM) or 59 dB (MC). Its input impedance is 47 kiloohms for MM and 120 ohms for MC, for compatibility with a wide range of phono cartridges. The AT-PEQ30 delivers a 250 mV line-level output for both MM and MC cartridges. Built from premium-quality precision components, with a machined aluminum front panel, gold-plated input and output connectors and other refinements, its FET inputs ensure low noise and precise RIAA equalization with a smooth, accurate tonal balance from 20 to 20,000 Hz. Measuring just 1.9 inches high by 7.8 inches wide by 4.9 inches deep for easy installation in any system, the AT-PEQ30’s all-metal construction provides superior isolation from outside electronic and radio frequency interference (EMI and RFI), says the company. MSRP US$229
JBL Synthesis L82 Classic Loudspeakers
This classic-designed speakers will fit right in with a retro-themed listening room. Designed to look like JBL’s iconic L100 Century that was sold circa 1970 to 1980, they come in classic orange with matching stands. The L82 Classic features fully modern speaker design that marries a classic ‘70s aesthetic to almost 50 years of innovation and improvement in the high-end audio space. The L82 features a 2-way design with an 8” woofer and identical tweeter to the L100 Classic. It features a vintage Quadrex foam grill and comes in a choice of three colours; black. orange and blue. $3,500/pr.
Dali Oberon C Series Smart Speaker Systems
These smart speaker systems offer a wireless active solution for hifi enthusiasts and audiophiles. The series includes the floorstanding Oberon 7 C, compact stand- or shelf-mounted Oberon 1C, compact and low-profile wall-mount Oberon on-wall C, and the Sound Hub Compact. The Dali Oberon C is the active counterpart to the popular Oberon Series, sharing the same drivers and cabinet construction while providing a new Sound Hub Compact wireless transmission preamplifier that the company says is “perfectly configured for contemporary home media installations where Bluetooth devices and smart TVs are the primary audio source.” All three two-way Oberon C speakers incorporate a wireless streaming interface, digital signal processing (DSP), and a pair of 50-Watt Class D power amplifiers, one for bass/midrange driver(s) and one for the high frequency driver, in a module located on their rear panels. The speakers come in a choice of four laminate cabinet finishes and supplied with a contrasting gray fabric: Matte White, Light Oak, Dark Walnut, or Black Ash. Use of the grille is optional. Complementing the Dali Rubicon C and Callisto Series active loudspeakers, the Oberon C provides a more cost-effective, plug, pair, and play wireless Hi-Fi solution. The Dali On-Wall C is a slim, discreet, and powerful on-wall speaker system. At its heart is the Dali Sound Hub Compact, which transmits Hi-Res audio in true HD quality (24bit/96KHz) to the Oberon C speakers while you takes control of the hub via its supplied infrared remote control or your audio source. The Dali Sound Hub Compact will automatically switch to whichever source is connected and can be hidden out of sight, if so desired, as the remote control connects via Bluetooth. The Sound Hub Compact Bluetooth input features AAC and Qualcomm aptX HD audio high performance codecs and enables smartphones, tablets, laptop or desktop computers, or any other Bluetooth audio source to easily and quickly play either locally stored or streamed music. Even Bluetooth-equipped TVs can be connected via HDMI to create a wireless TV audio solution. The Oberon C Series speakers are also compatible with the Dali Sound Hub wireless audio preamplifier, which was originally introduced in the Callisto and Rubicon C Series. In addition to providing Bluetooth and a variety of wired audio inputs, the Sound Hub is equipped with facilities for future expansion and upgrade. For example, with its optional NPM-1 BluOS module installed, the Sound Hub can provide all the benefits of the BluOS hi-res multi-room audio ecosystem that manages stored and cloud music sources and playback, with support for audio streams up to 24/192. BluOS integrates with many popular streaming music services like Tidal, Qobuz, and Spotify as well as features support for FLAC, WAV, MQA, and other high-resolution formats and codecs. Pricing is as follows: Dali Oberon 7 C (MSRP $3,499/pr.), Oberon 1 C ($1,999/pr.), Oberon On-Wall C ($1,249 ea.); and the Sound Hub Compact ($599 ea.)
JBL Premium High Definition Imaging Speakers
JBL’s High Definition Imaging speakers use JBL’s HDI waveguide geometry, a design that the company says delivers neutral frequency response both on- and off-axis and provides a “seamless transition between the high and low frequency drivers.” The line offers dispersion control of 100 degrees horizontal/80 degrees vertical and consistent energy delivery across its dispersion area. The HDI line includes a pair of 2.5-way floor-standing main speakers, featuring either triple eight-inch drivers (HDI-3800) or triple 6.5-inch drivers (HDI-3600). The line also includes a 6.5-inch two-way bookshelf loudspeaker (HDI-1600), a 2.5-way quadruple 5.25-inch driver centre channel loudspeaker (HDI-4500) and a 12-inch 1000W powered subwoofer (HDI-1200P), which the company says is the “highest performing 12-inch powered subwoofer in JBL history.” The full HDI line is available in three finishes: black gloss, grey oak, and walnut, with pricing ranging from $2,500 a pair to $7,000 a pair for various configurations.
Bowers & Wilkins PX7 Carbon Edition Wireless Headphones
As the new flagship over-ear headphones for B&W, these feature adaptive noise cancelling technology use carbon-fiber composite reinforcement in their construction, in celebration of the 10th anniversary of the company’s first-ever headphone design, the P5. Finished in black with diamond-cut detailing on each ear cup, they share the same specs as the existing PX7 models. They support the latest wireless codecs, allowing the transfer of genuine high-resolution music wirelessly at 24-bit/48kHz streaming quality. Made from a carbon-fiber-reinforced polymer that is both light and stiff, they also come with memory foam ear pads for passive noise isolation and adaptive technology for active noise cancellation that can intelligently sense the background environment and automatically select the appropriate type and level of noise cancellation. Use the companion app to select an Ambient-Pass-Through feature that allows certain external sounds to be heard without removing the headset.
Proximity sensors built into both ear cups mean the audio is automatically paused when either ear cup is lifted and automatically resumes when placed back on your ear. They also offer push-button access to Voice Assistant Support via Siri or Google Assistant. You’ll get up to 30 hours per charge, and a 15-minute quick charge enables an additional five more hours. $500
NAD C 298 Amp
The NAD C 298 amplifier uses Purifi Eigentakt amplication technology and boasts 185 watts per channel into 8 Ohms and can be bridged to 620W x 1 into 8 ohms to create a Monoblock. The power supply easily allows for 340 watts continuous into 4 ohms and over 570 watts instantaneous power for short term musical transients. Innovative Asymmetrical PowerDrive fully uses every last watt available with its vast reserves of dynamic power available to accurately reproduce musical transients without distortion or compression. This efficient supply also provides near perfect regulation of voltage across a wide range of conditions and provides a solid noise-free foundation for the amplifying stages. Purifi is a Danish technology company that has brought together several of the industry’s leading engineers to apply advanced mathematical modelling to solve the last remaining limitations of audio amplifiers. While there are many good sounding amplifiers on the market today, Purifi has taken a fresh look at every aspect of amplifier performance and found many seemingly small non-linearities that can make a dramatic difference in the overall sound, says NAD. The Eigentakt modules are manufactured by NAD under license from Purifi, allowing NAD to optimize these specifically in combination with the custom designed power supply and input stages of the C 298. It has selectable balanced inputs for studio use or connection to high end preamps and processors. These inputs include a trim control that’s useful for matching to other components. A line out allows further addition of power on the same channel for additional speakers or subwoofers. Auto-sense with selectable threshold can automate complex systems or hide the amp out of sight in a cabinet. NAD even included a Ground Lug that can be very useful for eliminating ground loops and noise in complex multi-unit systems. Added to this connectivity is a Bridge Switch that turns the C 298 into a powerful monoblock amplifier. Start with one and add a second C 298 later should upgrading speakers be desired. MSRP $2,799
iFi Audio ZEN Phono Stage
iFi Audio has introduced its new ZEN Phono stage, an entry-level phono stage or phono preamplifier that is designed for those who have been recently diving into vinyl for the first time or getting reacquainted with the format. It incorporates a circuitry with a balanced, symmetrical dual-mono design that can reduce noise and crosstalk, thus increasing sonic clarity, says iFi. The balanced circuitry contains surface-mounted components with capacitors including TDK C0G and Murata multilayer ceramic types, as well as Panasonic ECPU polyphenylene sulphide film devices. Their ESL (Equivalent Series Resistance) and individual qualities such as high stability and low distortion offer good sound quality and “the accuracy of RIAA equalisation,” says iFi. In common with many iFi audio products, the ZEN Phono incorporates a custom OV Series op-amp – in this case, the OVA2637. The ZEN Phono creates a power supply with an oscillation frequency of 1.2MHz, which is 20,000 times that of mains electricity. In this circuit, a filtering capacitor with a 10uF rating is equivalent to 200,000uF at lower, audible frequencies. The power supply circuitry is located on its own ‘island’ on the circuit board to ensure there is no contamination of the audio signal – just super-clean +/-12V DC. The ZEN Phono delivers a range of gain settings from 36dB to 72dB, with four gain settings in total: 36dB (MM), 48dB (high-output MC), 60dB (low-output MC), and 72dB (very-low-output MC). Also not usually found in an entry-level phono stage is a subsonic filter, engaged via a front-panel button to tackle the large subsonic signal output caused by warped records. A feature of all iFi phono stages, this proprietary circuit ‘intelligently’ filters out the unwanted subsonic output without affecting any deep bass on the recording – an undesirable side effect of some warp filters. Vinyl cutting lathes incorporate a so-called ‘elliptical filter,’ which means that low-level bass on an LP is invariably mono and creates only horizontal movement of the stylus. Therefore, any low-frequency vertical movement of the stylus as it tracks the LP can only be the result of record warp. iFi’s subsonic filter removes the effect of record warp from the vertical plane, doing its job efficiently without the common drawbacks of attenuating any low bass or adding group delay. As well as the usual stereo RCA inputs and outputs, gold-plated for optimal signal integrity, the ZEN Phono’s rear sports a 4.4mm Pentaconn balanced output. This can be used to connect to an amp or active speakers equipped with a balanced input – either a Pentaconn 4.4mm input, such as the one found on the ZEN CAN analogue headphone amp, or XLR inputs via an adapter. A grounding terminal is also provided; attach a turntable’s grounding wire to this to avoid ground loop issues that can cause an audible hum. Even the way the ZEN Phono switches between settings has been engineered to ensure sonic transparency, handled by a microcontroller that only ‘wakes up’ when a setting is changed to avoid any sonically deleterious electronic noise. $249
Totem Acoustic V2 Element Series Metal Loudspeakers
These loudspeakers showcase advancements in the company’s 7″ Torrent bass driver, with more mid-bass, deep bass extension, bass control, speed and precision as a result of a smoother midrange frequency response and an even better integration with the tweeter section. There is a full 5Hz improvement in bottom end frequency response; a different crossover in the tweeter section; and different internal bass tuning design. Imaging is much more expansive and three dimensional, extending further beyond the physical location of each speaker. Now speaker placement is such only the bass extension will change when the cabinet is moved. It features a driver facade that’s a black anodized finish as opposed to the previous silver anodized aluminum. The “Skid Plate” located at the bottom rear, now in a black anodized finish. MSRP US$15,500.
Shure High-Resolution Bluetooth 5 Earphone Communication Cable
This is a great accessory for the audiophile who wants to listen to music from a high-res portable audio player, but still wants to enjoy the freedom of a wireless connection. The cable features a dedicated, high-performance headphone amplifier, providing lower noise and distortion while maintaining frequency response. It supports popular audio codecs, including Qualcomm aptX audio, aptX HD, aptX Low Latency, AAC, and SBC. Featuring an in-line remote and mic control, the new high-resolution communication cable leverages Bluetooth 5, the latest version of the wireless communication standard. It runs for up to 10 hours of play time with up to 350 hours of standby time. Approx. $70
If you know a hifi lover who has an extensive music collection that could use some organization, Roon is an answer. The Roon Necleus is essentially a compact Intel-based PC optimized for quiet operation that comes with Roon Core, the company’s server software, pre-installed. It works with the web-like software player Roon Remote, helping you better organize songs, albums, composers, and more, creating a beautifully-designed, information-rich library that resembles a searchable, surfable magazine. The Nucleus is $2,100 in Canada, and the Nucleus+ is $3700; you can also buy directly from Roon in the U.S. for US$1,398 and US$2,498, respectively. Note: a subscription is also required.
NAD Electronics Masters Series M10
This BluOS-enabled high-performance streaming amplifier offers audiophile sound or can be combined with other players in a BluOS ecosystem of wirelessly networked music players throughout the home for a whole-home audio system. It offers Dirac Live Room Correction and has inputs for analog and digital audio sources. It has an HDMI Audio Return Channel and is compatible with leading smart home systems from companies like Apple, Crestron, Control4, and Lutron, to control lighting, shades, HVAC, and security from one interface. With the inclusion of BluOS, the wireless multi-room Bluesound music management software, it supports Master Quality Authenticated (MQA) files, along with over 15 free and paid subscription services, as well as locally stored music libraries. The M10 uses HybridDigital amplification featuring the Hypex nCore amplification stage. You can easily play music from the Internet including Apple AirPlay 2. With the BluOS multi-room system, you can sync rooms together or play different music in different rooms, all in High Resolution. The M10 can be combined with music players from NAD, Bluesound, and DALI with more products being added to the ecosystem every day. Completely operable by Wi-Fi connection to the BluOS App, the M10 also has an elegant, high resolution TFT colour touch screen with graphics that change from ‘now playing’ to ‘control panel’ allowing many operations directly from the front panel without opening the app. Get hands-free control of music from any Amazon Alexa supported device or via Siri. An IR remote control is also included. MSRP $3,299
Cables are an often overlooked segment of the market, but wouldn’t an audiophile want cables that not only perform well, but look great to go along with their gear that costs thousands and thousands of dollars? This new brand offers lots of different audio cables to suit audiophile needs, including the The V Series Optical Audio two-metre cables ($60) that employs 24K endurance gold-plated, aDesign precision connector LinkFit housing, precision-polished termination for digital audio accuracy, braided WovenArmor cable, and durability from over-molded strain relief and metal retention hardware. For $100, there’s the two-metre V Series Audio Interconnect that offers 24K endurance gold-plated aDesign precision connector housing, LinkFit secure connection, over-molded strain relief and metal retention hardware soft-touch high-flex cable. Also available is the V Series speaker cable and speaker cable adapters (14-gauge 100-foot for $200 and 12-gauge 100-foot for $250) that boasts fine-stranded 100% pure OFC, soft-touch high-flex cable, and a durable jacket for smooth wire routing. Four banana adapters are included, and additional adapters are sold separately for $55 ea. The five-metre V Series subwoofer cable ($100), meanwhile, features 24K endurance gold-plated aDesign precision connector housing, LinkFit secure connection, over-molded strain relief and metal retention hardware, and SoftTouch high-flex cable. And the Banana Adapters (four adapters, $55) include a Pure Gold shield to prevent copper wire oxidation, are high-performance adapters with SecureLatch and twist-by-hand design. The aDesign philosophy, adopted for all of these cablesis characterized by “beautiful, minimalistic design,” from the products themselves right down to the packaging that will make them perfect gifts under the tree.
Rotel Michi Integrated Amplifiers
There are two options here: the Michi X3 and Michi X5. The Michi X5 Integrated Amplifier delivers 350 Watts of Class AB power into 8 ohm (600 Watts into 4 ohm) speakers under even the most extreme loading conditions. It has inputs supporting all popular audio sources, including three each of coaxial and optical and four analog RCA inputs. It features an AKM premium 768kHz/32bit DAC, PC-USB with DSD 2X decoding and MQA rendering, Bluetooth with apt-X and AAC, Moving Magnet and Moving Coil Phono Stage inputs, XLR Balanced input, twin custom engineered toroidal transformers, a dimmable front panel TFT high resolution display, and IP and RS232 2-way communication for control system integration. Shipping with a remote, it ships for $8,999 ea.
Available for MSRP $6,299 ea., the Michi X3 Integrated Amplifier delivers 200 Watts of Class AB output power into 8 ohm (350 Watts into 4 ohm) loads and comes custom engineered with all critical circuits and components hand selected through rigorous listening sessions and bench testing, says Rotel. It offers similar features to the X5, including AKM premium 768kHz/32bit DAC, three coaxial, three optical, and three analog RCA inputs, PC-USB with PCM and DSD 2X, Bluetooth with apt-X and AAC, Moving Magnet Phono Stage input, XLR Balanced input, custom engineered toroidal transformer, dimmable front panel TFT high resolution display, IP and RS232 2-way communication for control system integration. It also comes with a Michi remote control.
Audio-Technica AT-LP120XBT-USB Direct-Drive Manual Turntable
This turntable adds wireless Bluetooth capability to its popular AT-LP120XUSB model, along with USB connectivity, a phono cartridge, built-in phono pre-amplifier, and more. Available in black, the AT-LP120XBT-USB can be paired with compatible Bluetooth headphones, wireless speakers, or other devices for cord-free listening. It supports the Qualcomm Bluetooth aptX codec, or, alternatively, can be used as a standard wired turntable. The turntable can play 33-1/3, 45, and 78 RPM records and comes supplied with a high-performance AT-VM95E Dual Magnet phono cartridge with an elliptical stylus. The cartridge is pre-mounted on an AT-HS6 universal ½-inch-mount headshell and is compatible with any Audio-Technica VM95 Series replacement stylus. The turntable has an S-shaped tonearm with a hydraulically damped lift, adjustable tracking force, and dynamic anti-skating. The AT-LP120XBT-USB includes a built-in switchable phono preamp, enabling it to be used with audio systems and powered speakers that do not have a dedicated phono input. Its USB output allows the turntable to be connected to a computer to convert records to digital audio files. The turntable incorporates additional professional-quality features including an upgraded DC servo direct-drive motor; die-cast aluminum platter with felt mat; stroboscopic platter with speed indicator; variable pitch control with quartz speed lock; damped base construction for reduced low-frequency feedback coloration; an external power supply to reduce electrical noise; and a removable plug-type light to aid with cueing in low light. The AT-LP120XBT-USB is supplied with a removable dust cover, detachable RCA output cable, USB cable, 45 RPM adapter and other accessories. MSRP US$299
Monitor Audio IMS-4 Music Streamer
This streamer features BluOS technology along with Apple AirPlay 2, so it can stream to four separate zones, and with the BluOS Controller app, available for iOS, Android, Windows, and MacOS, you can stream from music services, access music libraries, and enjoy voice control through a smart device. Accessed through the app, or one of the many supported integrated control systems including Control4, Crestron, and RTI, multiple IMS-4 Music Streamers can be integrated with other BluOS devices to provide up to 64 zones of music. Each zone can perform together in sync or play different streams to different zones. Lossless music can be played at up to 24-bit/192kHz to every room in a home network and, through BluOS, IMS-4 can deliver millions of Master Quality Authenticated (MQA) recordings. Apple AirPlay 2 lets you use Siri to request the track you want to hear and state the room they would like it to be played in. Like BluOS, Apple AirPlay 2 lets the music be enjoyed separately or in sync throughout the home.
A system interrupt feature allows doorbells and fire alarms to be heard. The unit features a shallow depth and discreet design that only takes up 1U of rack space so it can be easily incorporated into any custom installation project. It can also be partnered with Monitor Audio’s range of installation amplifiers. MSRP $2,299 ea.
Didn’t find what you were looking for? Check back as this gift guide will be updated through to the end of 2020, and check out more gift suggestions in our other Holiday Gift Guides.