2012 Holiday Headphone Gift Guide from Steve Guttenberg

... from Steve Guttenberg

Fluance FiSDK500 iPod Speaker ($230)
121115_Blog_2012GiftGuide_Steve_FluanceI'm not a big fan of $500-$600 mostly plastic iPod/iPhone speakers, but the $230 Fluance FiSDK500 is pretty slick. Firstly because it actually sounds pretty decent, it sports a pair of two-way coaxial drivers, and the cabinet is made out of wood! Have an iPhone 5? No problem, run a wire from its headphone jack to the FiSDK500's RCA inputs. Comes in gloss black and brilliant red finishes. The speaker may not have Bluetooth or AirPlay, Fluance just made it sound good.

Read full InnerFidelity review here.
Buy direct at Fluance product page.

Firestone Audio Fireye Mini Portable Headphone Amp ($39)
121115_Blog_2012GiftGuide_Steve_FireStoneMost "portable" headphone amplifiers aren't really all that small, but the Firestone Audio Fireye Mini is downright tiny; it's just 1.5 by 1 by 0.5 inches, and the soft-rubber-shelled amp weighs almost nothing. Charge it via USB and it'll play for up to 24 hours. The Mini unleashes a broad soundstage, taut bass, and detailed highs. It's available in green, gray, purple, red, and white.

Manufacturers product page.

Emotiva Pro Airmotiv 4 Powered Speakers ($349 per pair)
121115_Blog_2012GiftGuide_Steve_airmotiv4The Airmotiv 4 offers astonishing performance in a desktop-friendly size, and that's no accident. The '4's folded ribbon tweeter is more transparent than the competition's domes, the 4.5-inch woofer is no slouch, and each driver has its own 25 watt Class A/B (non-switching) amp. The little speaker's rock-solid MDF cabinet is no less remarkable. Connectivity options include RCA and XLR inputs, and there are bass and treble EQ controls.

Manufacturer's product page.

Amber Rubarth "Sessions From the 17th Ward" ($29.98 for the 24/192 download, $17.98 for the 24/96, and $11.98 for the 16/44.1 version from HDtracks.com)
121115_Blog_2012GiftGuide_Steve_AmberI fell in love with Amber's voice seconds after I dropped in on her Chesky Records session back in March. She's a rootsy/folkie singer/songwriter, and Rubarth makes the Bob Dylan and Tom Waits covers totally her own. She's on guitar, but the arrangements are fleshed out with violin, cello, and percussion. The binaural recording is blissfully free of dynamic range compression or any processing.

HD Tracks album download 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.)