This decade the digital audio revolution has taken us from piracy to the start of an age where we can listen to anything, anywhere. Here are some gifts that let your loved ones do just that.
1. Sonos System, $350-$500:
If you've got more than a few rooms in your abode, there's just no better way to spin your music through all of them than Sonos. All your music, a bunch of subscription services, piped through in any combination, to Sonos speakers, preamps and amps. And controlled through iPhone or iPad apps or a touchscreen controller. And PC compatible. Sonos changed my life this year. [Sonos]
2. Apple TV and other Airplay Parts, (Prices Vary):
Airplay is Apple's Sonos fighter, but it can't do some things well, like play to multiple zones from an iPhone. But it will be part of a grand ecosystem of standalone speakers, receivers, TVs, iPod docks, once it gets off the ground, hopefully, next year. It also will play video content and connect to bluetooth speakers and can already pipe audio from almost any iPhone audio app. Denon has a $1200 receiver, the AVR-3311CI which will get a $50 airplay update later this month and is 3d and media streaming compatible. But I might just connect a $99 Apple TV to your existing stereo to make the most of what you have while the legion of airplay gadgets hits the shelves. Airplay is also a great little step into music streaming and works best if you have a small apartment and just need a quick fix. (Sonos is much more scalable for whole house music, at this time.) [Apple]
3. B&W P5 Headphones, $300:
B&W, makers of the legendary nautilus speakers, are generally too expensive for me to enjoy. But B&W's first headphones? Well, they're expensive, too, but at $300, heavenly and refined enough to make a fantastic gift to you or someone you really, really like. They made from leather and metal and sheepskin earcups magnetically attached to the body. Joe Brown wrote a review at Wired before he came here. If you need more convincing these are worth your dime and time, read his praise there.
[Bowers & Wilkins; Amazon]
4. Speakers, (Prices Vary):
Speaker selection is hard. This list of the best under $2000 from our friends at Audiogon makes it easy. [Audiogon]