2012 Holiday Headphone Gift Guide from Nate Maher

... from Nate Maher

Looking for the perfect gift for that DIY'er looking to make the move from newb status to serious electronics enthusiast? There are many categories worth considering, but for the purposes of keeping this short and actually giving you time to do your shopping, we're going to look at three types of tools: flush cutters, wire strippers, and multimeters. Nothing is quite so frustrating as burning what little time you have available to get something done by trying to use the wrong tool for the job. I got lucky, when I started in DIY I found a great resource (previously mentioned in another one of my articles--www.tangentsoft.net) where the author took the time to layout several options for a pretty full set of DIY tools and equipment. That guide has long since expired, all of the part numbers have changed and heck, even some of the vendors have been bought and sold and don't operate under the same name anymore. So where to go to get some decent tools? My personal favorite is Stanley Supply Services. This is the reincarnation of the place where I bought most of my original tools and I still use all of them.

So what do you actually need? That's probably a decent subject for an entire article but you aren't going to get very far without the following: a pair of flush cutters (for trimming leads on pcb-mounted parts and other assorted wires and such), a set of wire strippers (obvious), and a good quality multimeter (indispensable). Sure, there are lots of other things, but I've seen far too many people cheap out on the basic stuff and get really frustrated trying to do something that otherwise would be pretty simple if they had the right tool for the job. Here are a few examples of what I'd consider good tools.

Xcelite MS54J Miniature Diagonal Flush Cutter ($18.90, part # 115-087)
121115_Blog_2012GiftGuide_Nate_CutterDiagonal flush cutters - Xcelite MS54J Miniature Diagonal Flush Cutter (part # 115-087). There are a ton of variations on this theme but Xcelite is my chosen brand and I've only once broken a set using it to cut aluminum plate (err, wrong tool for the job prime example right there). Figure around $20 for a good set, including shipping.

Stanley Supply product purchase page.

Gardner Bender GS-394 Automatic Stripper
121115_Blog_2012GiftGuide_Nate_StripperWire strippers - I carry a quiver that includes: Ideal 45-416 Premium T-6 Wire Stripper (part # 411-017), Klein 11055 wire strippers (part # 457-263), and a Gardner Bender GS-394 Automatic Stripper, but you really only need this last one if you're going to be churning out cables. The first two really should have you covered. Figure around $15 for the small Ideal and $30 for the larger Klein.

Product purchase page at Tool King.

B&K Precisions 2709B Multimeter ($105)
121115_Blog_2012GiftGuide_Nate_MeterMultimeters - oh boy, this is one of those areas that gets DIY'ers all revved up and hammering on their keyboards. I'll simply state my position and if you disagree you are welcome to that position. I believe a good DMM will save you more money that you can imagine. So I spend money on them. Right now I use a completely overkill Fluke 189, but for years lived quite happily with a Fluke 73-III. I picked up the 73 brand new off Ebay for $75 (I got really lucky) and you can still find good used 73-IIIs for under $100. But if I had to make a recommendation for an affordable, but good quality new DMM, it'd be the B&K Precisions 2709B (part # 457-742) for $105 + shipping. Whatever you do, don't rely on the cheap $5 Harbor Freight (or similar) meters that some will claim are all you'll ever need. I have one. I use it as a fuse. On its best day it's within 10% of reality which is in not nearly accurate enough. Some examples are likely better than others, but if it's all you've got you may end up very sorry when something goes poof and releases its magical smoke.

Stanley Supply purchase page.

ultrabike's picture

Excellent recommendations! Liked Nate's B&K multimeter recommendation and will be considering it. Really digging the Horns of the Hollidays and Amber Rubarth smiley.

mosshorn's picture

Great job, everyone. Especially on the RE262, which is now only $99 (this is an absolutely crazy steal). Even though I just bought some top-tier universals, I'll probably get another pair of RE-262's. They are just THAT nice. I'll also probably be picking up those albums, they seem really nice. 



In other news, I keep seeing that Leckerton combo keep popping up. Everyone, quit trying to hurt my innocent wallet! D:

ultrabike's picture

The Leckerton UHA-6S is an outstanding DAC/Amp with the right I/O and form factor.

dcpoor's picture

Oh man, getting a bird call. Thanks Tyll.

Tyll Hertsens's picture

(I crack myself up sometimes.)

clovernine's picture

Hi Tyll,

I read your website a lot, and I seen that you promised a review of the Beyerdynamic DT250 250ohm, I'm really waiting for this.... I need a new pair of can for my job (I'm a 22years old new mixing engeneer). Please when did you plan to post the review ?

I don't have a lot of money so I can't afford to make a mistake by choosing the "wrong headphones". Here my toughts :

- HD600 (pricey but the closest to my needs, I wan't them to be little bit more revvealing in the Highs)

- DT880 Pro (I like them a LOT but I would love a lil bit of tamed high, cause I will wear them for very long periods of time)

- DT250 250ohm (Heard it could be my match, like a HD600 but more reveling in the high frequencies)--> if you already tested them can you give me an insight ? Please.

That would be a great help to begin my career (I need your help because I really trust your reviews... still, I don't know why lol ;)


Guitarist9273's picture

It'll be difficult to get the RE-262 IEMs after this year since HiFiMan recently discontinued them.


ljokerl's picture

a darn shame. They are bringing out two new models so there's hope for a worthy replacement, albeit at a higher price point. Some things are just too good to last...

deckeda's picture

HDTracks has this release regularly for less -- $12 -- if you can do without the CD. It's the only place I know of selling a lossless downloadable copy, and not mentioned anywhere. (It's not a hi res copy however.)