2014 InnerFidelity Holiday Gift Guide John Grandberg


Sansa Clip+ and Clip Zip (Starting at $34.99)
These tiny DAPs are what I consider an audiophile baseline—good enough to show off the capabilities of a nice IEM or easy to drive headphone while sounding a whole lot better than many smartphones. All without breaking the bank or taking up more space than a pack of gum. These models are light on whiz-bang features but heavy on practicality, and every self-respecting portable audio fan should have at least one of these kicking around.


NuForce HA-200 ($349)
A simple but seriously good sounding headphone amplifier—no frills, just a straight forward design heavily biased into class A. This thing will drive most any headphone quite well, but if that's not enough one can always add a second HA-200 for monoblock operation, resulting in a killer (but still relatively affordable) setup for the notoriously difficult HiFiMAN HE-6.

Read full Innerfidelity review here.


Wren V5 Wireless SPeaker ($299)
This type of device won't replace a true stereo setup but I reckon that's not really the point. There are situations where these things are called for and if that's true for yourself or a loved one, the Wren V5 is among the best of them. Wren offers versions for AirPlay or Bluetooth, and gives a choice of wood finish too. Best of all, the price recently dropped from $399, making it an even better buy.

Read full InnerFidelity review here.

Adam Audio

Adam F5 ($550)
Adam Audio's F5 occupies a spot on our Wall of Fame, and I see very little in the desktop speaker category threatening to take that spot. With their proprietary X-ART tweeter, they offer a nearly perfect blend of accuracy and grain-free smoothness. The size is the only potential drawback, but if you can somehow make room, the sacrifice is well worth it.

Read full InnerFidelity review here.


The Tokyo String Quartet Plays Beethoven - The Complete String Quartets ($15.99)
Don't let the bargain price fool you - this is one of the world's premier chamber ensembles at the top of their game, and a very well recorded collection to boot. Anyone with even a passing interest in the genre should make it a point to pick up this 9 disc set; if you purchase just one item off my list here, let this be the one.

forkboy1965's picture

Thanks for the recommendation. I've recently begun to explore classical music and it's not always easy to figure out where to go, what to start with, etc.

A recommendation this strong should not be overlooked.

pbarach's picture

For about $30, you can get the later Tokyo Quartet set of all of the Beethoven Quartets on multichannel SACD (Harmonia Mundi). They also sound great in 2-channel SACD. Both sets of performances are wonderful but different.

tony's picture

Anna Von Hausswolff's Rock Album "Cermony" !!
***** five Stars .
Steve G. recommended it .
I already have it ,
Superb Organ *****+
Eerie Vocals *****+
maybe the best recording of 2013 . *****+
Don't have to be a Rock fan or Pipe Organ fan to love this album ,
it will blow-up into a smoke cloud any less than super capable system , Organ goes deep , way deep and way up in Level ! :)
My Schiit Asgard 2/Sennheisers are the only thing I own that can handle it . :)
Retailers won't want you trying to Play this CD on their Top System , lookout Woofer Voice Coil probable melt down and expected Warrantee repair . :(
We never had any Vinyl LP with this kind of Bass Power , Vinyl Bass is mixed down to Mono below 100Hz or thereabouts and compressed to boot , no Vinyl System other than a Tape Master will have this kind of Power , the Vinyl Twiddlers ( a Mike Moffet description ) will pull their hair out trying to get this Album to play properly ( a good test for Art Dudley and all those Vinyl True Believers !!

This is my gift to all you Tyll followers ( other than my insights and great Modesty of which I'm justly proud ) !

Bon Vivant !

Tony in Michigan

brotherlea's picture

Thank you Tony for this 'gift'--I also am a Michigan resident. -Gary.

Akmax57's picture

Tyll, before you complete your review of the Meelectronics AirFi Matrix 2, would you give them a comparison listen to the Sony SCH80's that ljoker highly recommends? Hopefully the Bose Soundlink BT phones will be reviewed soon also. all I know is, I'm asking for wireless headphones for Christmas, and Santa says I been mostly good. hoot! Happy Holidays!

Grave's picture

Pono, really?


Marcello's picture


Have you heard the Pono? It sounds fantastic and punches way above its price, IMO.

Grave's picture

There is in fact no relationship between price and performance when it comes to DAP's, they are trivial to get right.

brotherlea's picture

Thanks, Marcello. I pledged for two Pono players & gave one to my brother. He wrote an email thanking me, adding "This Pono has amazing sound." We both played the violin from grade school through high school; being submerged in well-played orchestral instruments gave us a foundation by which to judge musical audio reproduction.

donunus's picture

Is this a new remaster? Is this the same one as the 90s box?

John Grandberg's picture
... as the RCA Victor Red Seal releases from the 90s. I have an older 3 CD box called "The Late String Quartets" which is identical to the last 3 discs on this collection. I don't hear any difference so a remaster is unlikely, which is fine as this is already very well done. I don't recall there being a larger box set from that time frame but I may have just missed it.
Bobs Your Uncle's picture

Tyll, |joker| Nate, John, Skylab .... Can we look forward to a review of Pono in the weeks or months ahead? Pono's clearly earned Skylab's favor, save OS issues. But otherwise, it's still all a ????

What can be said with any certainty about the enigma that is Pono. Or rather, what can be said with confidence born of broad consensus? Not much, it seems to me.

One thing that I think many might agree on is this: Pono's extended triangular prismatic profile somehow seems capable of driving persons (those of both good conscience & good will) practically to blows over this thing!

It's almost as if Pono projects a decidedly polarizing spell over people, despite the fact that almost NO ONE has ever heard this thing perform its Pono mojo. (And half of those debating the polarity profess NO intention of EVER listening to it either, thank you very much!)

While much of the fundamental design doesn't exactly "thrill" me, I admit to being quite intrigued by this DAC/AMP/Player (DAP). I must also admit to being somewhat conflicted over this beast, however, & I attribute this (partially, at least) to reservations over some "not-so-incredibly-keen" product marketing to date.

Thus, I beseech you; you the Highly Revered; you The Noble Innerfidelians: Ameliorate this, my wrenching existential angst, that I might again come to know the transcendence of order restored; of The Universe returned to balance.

So ... are we getting a review, or not?

DiRo's picture

Hi Tyll did you guys happen to check out the Sony Pulse Elite headset? Recently purchased a set. Thought it was good value and fun set of cans for multiple uses...

Magick Man's picture

The Meelectronics Air-Fi Matrix2 AF62 (that's a mouthful) look an awful lot like the Nakamichi BT304, and the latter (which also sound pretty amazing for BT headphones) are $35 or less all over ebay.

SevenPlus's picture

How does the Matrix2 compares to the CAL! ? I love the convenience of BT, but I don't want to compromise too much in terms of sound quality.

Guitarist9273's picture

No bird call?

gmf001's picture

I don't believe there was a 9 CD set originally. I certainly bought it as three - 3 CD boxes. I'd concur that this is an excellent recording at an great price (less than what each of the 3 CD boxes cost originally).

gmf001's picture

I don't believe there was a 9 CD set originally. I certainly bought it as three - 3 CD boxes. I'd concur that this is an excellent recording at an great price (less than what each of the 3 CD boxes cost originally).

John Grandberg's picture
For some reason this type of thing is far more difficult to track, compared to other genres. But this is how I remember it, and if you recall the same thing, that helps confirm it.
pbarach's picture

But their later SACD set of the Beethoven quartets is currently available as a box set for ~$30. Now that's quite a bargain, too.

guerillaw's picture


Might I suggest you consider including an amazon vendor link next time? Meaning that a bit of the purchase from amazon comes back to infer fidelity. It would be a nice way for some folks who enjoy this wonderful site to give a small amount back.

maiken zhang's picture

Hi,Tyll Hertsens,
this is maiken zhang, the marketing manager of Noontec.

I found you on youtube, ( i am love your reviews, lol !) now we have come up with a new headphone which named ZORO II HD, we are very pleased to send you a free sample of that from our American's warehouse since you are interested in .

Due to i haven't get reply from your contact mailbox within this site. so i am writting to you here .
Kindly informed us the additional requirements through maiken.zhang@noontec.com , if you are planning to.
looking for your reply!

Stillhart's picture

Hi! I just found out about these SW remasters the other day and I can't find them for anywhere close to $20. Can you tell me where you're seeing them that cheaply? I need these!

Musicfirst's picture

Hi John

I really enjoy your articles and reviews. I am looking to buy the Aurender X100L, largely based on your review and I was curious what your current reference USB cable is?



John Grandberg's picture
I didn't notice this until now. I'm not huge into aftermarket USB cables, but I do use a Cabledyne Reference as it matches all my other Cabledyne stuff. It's a great cable and the price is relatively down to earth.