2017 InnerFidelity Holiday Gift Guide Grover Neville

Editor's Note: Grover is a new contributor to InnerFidelity. He's been working on some upcoming reviews, but I figured I'd just throw him into the water with this season's gift guide. You'll be hearing more from him!

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The Affordable Headphone: Sennheiser HD569 ($149.95)
Tyll has recently reviewed these quite positively, and all I can say is that I have to echo his sentiments. This is a really seriously great option for the price, especially the current holiday sale special. The headphone isolates well, has a robust build quality and has a pleasingly warm frequency response. A great option for everyone from on-the-go music listeners to budding audiophiles.

InnerFidelity review here.

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The Expensive Headphone: Mr. Speakers Aeon Flow Closed ($799)
There’s been a lot of buzz about this headphone recently, especially regarding its adherence to the Harmon Kardon target curve. I believe this is a good thing—especially the gentle midrange rise. With the foam inserts the Aeon Flow Closed is quite neutral, and although some significantly more expensive headphones best it in smoothness or resolution, outside of modded headphones, these are the only ones I reach for when I have mixing or mastering to do.

The build quality, fit and finish are all excellent here as well. There’s been many complaints about efficiency, however I find them to reach acceptable levels with popular music out of a phone or laptop. If you listen to quietly recorded classical, however, you will want an amplifier. Are they expensive? In my opinion, yes. Are they great headphones? For the audio pro or neutral-head in your life, they most certainly are.

InnerFidelity review here.

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The Portable DAC/Amp: iFi Nano iDSD BL ($199)
You may be familiar with iFi’s bigger iDSD Black Label, which is a powerhouse mobile DAC/Amp, boasting oodles of power and super high quality components. Unfortunately it is ever so slightly too large to be considered truly portable, unless you’re interested in audiophile fanny packs. The new Nano iDSD Black Label brings the Black Label treatment to iFi’s smaller Nano DAC/Amp, and this is where the real sweet spot of the line is.

While the bigger unit makes for an excellent grab-and-go desktop unit, the Nano Black Label is truly portable—it’s even smaller than a Chord Mojo. Heck, it’s smaller than my phone or portable hard drives! In terms of sound it delivers smooth power in handfuls and converts PCM through DXD just like the bigger Black Label. It isn’t quite as balls to the walls punchy as the bigger black label, but the more even handed bass means it’s a little more neutral sounding. A great option for on-the-go listening and super compact travelers.

iFi Nano Black Label product page.

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The Desktop Starter DAC/Amp: Schiit Magni 3/Modi Multibit ($349)
Yes, it’s two units not one, but let’s be honest, who the heck buys these separately? This stack, in various iterations has been a kind of ‘baby’s first audiophile stack,’ for several years now, and the newest iteration is simultaneously less expensive, and better sounding than before.

If you aren’t familiar with Schiit’s multibit technology now, this is as cheap as it gets. For me, the multibit sounds somewhat warmer and less airy than delta-sigma, as well as more relaxed and transparent, although that also means more transparent to flaws. While this stack has always been an excellent value, the new Magni 3 ups the game once again, borrowing a topology from Schiit’s Jotunheim DAC/Amp. The brightness of Magni 1 and 2 is replaced with a mildly warm, inviting and punchy sound that seems to deliver more current and control the drivers better than before. It also has all the bells and whistles of the previous Uber version, delivers 2W at 32 ohms, and now costs just $99. Need I say more?

Product pages for the Magni 3 and Modi 2.

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The Curiosity: MiniDSP EARS ($159)
And now, for something completely different...a gift for the hardcore headphone enthusiast in your life. Someone who has outgrown DAC/Amps, closed back headphones and iTunes. In the past few years, a growing number of enthusiasts have invested in measurement setups and are building libraries of measurements for various headphones. One of the key components of this is a microphone, however many binaural microphones and dummy heads are prohibitively expensive for enthusiasts who don’t need or can’t afford a several thousand dollar single-use microphone system.

Enter MiniDSP’s EARS jig. The mics are inexpensive 6mm electret capsules, but with the appropriate calibration files, should be more than enough to start doing your own rough measurements at home. Handily, the mic is USB audio streaming enabled, so there’s no need for an interface or mic preamp, just plug and play. If there’s an audio enthusiast in your life who wants to start creating measurements (or binaural content!) this is just about the cheapest way to seriously get into the game.

MiniDSP EARS product page.

COMMENTS
Vinhcomputer's picture

But I've just bought NAD VISO headphone for $159. Is it a good deal?

John Grandberg's picture

... the NAD VISO HP50? If so, that's a good deal on a nice headphone. Original price was $299 and I have seen it as low as $180, but never under $160.

Enjoy!

Vinhcomputer's picture

Great! Thank you John :).

gibtg's picture

I'm really thrilled about the home measuring unit, please do a follow up on this gentleman! I'm ordering one right now!

100VoltTube's picture

That thing looks amazing. I want.

Martin.'s picture

What a great introduction. Looking forward to more content. However, it pisses me off that I just found out that I shouldn't have bought the Magni 2 Uber 2 months ago for 150 USD! I waited so long to save up for it; too long apparently.

castleofargh's picture

some cheap measurement rig as a holiday gift and a Monty Python reference, I already like Grover. ^_^
as I'm the only "hardcore headphone enthusiast" in my life, I made that gift to myself. how generous of me.

John Grandberg's picture
Absolutely nothing wrong with that!
ixtayul's picture

I noticed at HDtracks that the DSD 2.8 and 5.6 don't say Binaural. Will they have the same "you are there" effect?

DigMe's picture

The binaural albums from Chesky are recorded binaurally so all versions will be binaural.

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