Music to His Ears
12 Guys of Christmas: The Mediaphile
Thought purchasing a Christmas gift for your in-laws was tough? Try shopping for someone who knows everything about media gadgetry and can’t abide anything but the best. The Mediaphile’s affinity for films, games, music, and yes, eBooks, goes beyond the bounds of reason and continues to expand as the consumer market welcomes the latest tech innovations daily. Best believe he’s on top of everything from next-gen gaming consoles to popular subscription-based apps. This presents a problem, because you think HDMI, DSLR, DAC and WAV are medical tests and/or prerequisite exams for grad school applications. Don’t run to the Geek Squad yet. We’ve pulled together some awesome media-primed options worth your coin this holiday. He’ll thank you — and then you won’t see him for a couple months, save for Doritos runs and the rare bathroom break.
Revo SuperConnect Digital Radio
Picture a device that brings together the best features of personalized Internet radio, wireless streaming and speaker docks. UK electronics manufacturer Revo has created just that dream machine in the SuperConnect, which combines functionality with great craftsmanship and a hefty dose of technology. Underneath its gorgeous walnut housing and anodized aluminum grille lays a single 3.5 BMR speaker drive and 15W Class-D amp that bumps clear audio and a wide range of frequencies; the graphical OLED display and bundled joystick controller provide modern swag to a stylishly retro design, too. The digital receiver supports several radio bands (AM, FM, DAB, and DAB+) while offering access to 16,000 global stations from across the globe via wi-fi. If traditional radio seems too archaic, the SuperConnect comes equipped with Spotify Connect, which opens the virtual gateway to over 20 million songs.
Qvivo Family Plan
Smartphones and tablets are progressively phasing out home entertainment components like the Blu-Ray player by encouraging movie collectors and online pirates to embrace new ways to procure their media libraries — on the go, for example. The only roadblocks portable media faces are limited internal storage and OS restrictions from the Android, iOS, and Windows platforms and the price of admission to Apple’s iCloud service above 25GB. Consider QVIVO your solution to these problems. For just $5 a month users get unlimited storage and web streaming across three plans (Family, Mobile, and Web). Uploading content requires little to no effort, as users can simply drag files into the program and add to the “Albums,” “Movies,” or “TV Shows” playlists. The service is compatible with iTunes and supports playback for every major format including AAC, FLV, MP3, MOV, MPG, WAV and several more.
Best of Warner Bros 50 Film Collection
Any film treasury that includes Dirty Harry, The Departed, Goodfellas, Lethal Weapon, The Dark Knight, and The Lord of the Rings trilogy is obviously worth dropping serious coin on. Warner Bros. is a seriously prestigious studio, and this premium set is up to par: there’s 16 Best Picture-winning films including Amadeus, Ben-Hur, Casablanca, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Chariots of Fire, Unforgiven, and Million Dollar Baby to name a few, alongside some of the entertainment staple’s other groundbreaking titles. Other goodies include two new documentaries, commentaries, limited edition poster, and a series of movie poster postcards. And did we mention it’s currently on sale for almost $400 less than its original price?
Oyster Books Subscription
Fresh off its invitation-only beta launch, Oyster is the latest service to join the digital literary soiree. Now available across all iOS devices, the so-called “Netflix of eBooks” provides immediate and unlimited access to over 100,000 titles at only $10 a month and continues to curate its extensive library on a weekly basis. It operates similarly to iBooks when used on the iPad, promoting landscape and portrait modes, as well as a nighttime reading mode for night owls. Books are synced across all portable Apple devices, too. The latest software update introduces an enhanced content discovery system that dishes recommendations based on favorites and genres. Of course, you can always use excellent Men’s Reading Guides.
Tivo Roamio Premier DVR
Cable is becoming ridiculously expensive — don’t even get us started on monopolies and price gouging when it comes to major providers. TiVo remedies financial pains as the ultimate cable box alternative. The Roamio Pro lets users stream and record live TV programs at home or portably through iOS devices, recording up to six shows at once and storing up to 450 hours of HD content on a 3TB hard drive. Talk about a win-win for any family man or frat house. On top of promoting an integrated search function that indexes across Amazon Instant Video, Hulu, Netflix, and YouTube, the box also carries all the major music-streaming services like Pandora and Spotify. Just consider its long-term value before questioning the high MSRP.
Steve Jobs once proclaimed music was part of Apple’s DNA. The massive success of iTunes can attest to that, but hardcore audiophiles will argue that Apple’s ubiquitous digital music player falls just short of delivering an unadulterated listening experience.
BitPerfect fills in where iTunes leaves off by seamlessly running alongside iTunes and extracting the absolute best possible audio from your library, no matter the format. The best part is it’s simplicity. All of BitPerfect’s magic happens in the background, meaning iTunes works as it always has — simply. We’re oversimplifying what BitPerfect accomplishes, but if you (or the audiophile in your life) use a high-end pair of headphones, an external DAC or audiophile-grade audio system with your Mac, BitPerfect may just be the best $10 you’ll ever spend.
AppleTV and Roku have led the charge of the set-top box segment, but it’s the late man into the media-streaming octagon — Google — that’s proving to hold the next step in pure couch-denting TV enjoyment. The tech giant’s HDMI dongle is optimized to mirror TV shows, movies and music directly from Chrome on Mac or Windows, iPhone or iPad to your HDTV and bears all the essentials for watching Netflix, YouTube and everything else on the internet. What else could possibly make Chromecast such a steal at $35? How about the ability to automatically turn on a TV, switch HDMI inputs, and start programs through the touch a button on your mobile device. Great things do come in small packages.
Microsoft set a goal to create the ultimate home entertainment system, and they’ve come extremely close with the Xbox One. The do-it-all machine beefs up the platform’s signature services with a more mature version of Kinect at the forefront commanding superior multitasking abilities. Features like Snap make it possible to watch Monday Night Football and monitor Fantasy Football ratings through the integrated NFL app on the same screen. Your voice drives the system’s dashboard, swapping activities and performing awesome tasks like recording and sharing gameplay during live gaming sessions. The Xbox Live system receives a facelift and offers cloud storage, background updates and much more. Throw a killer launch title lineup into the equation, the Xbox One clearly distinguishes itself from the competition.
Cambridge Audio Minx Go
The portable Bluetooth speaker market is blowing up right now with most major tech companies jumping onboard the gravy train. UK-based Cambridge Audio is one of the few manufacturers doing it right. Engineered for broad power and performance, their Minx Go balances punchy lows with sharp highs and generates strong bass levels that blast through its powerful rear subwoofer. Voice reproduction is just as impressive at all volumes. But it’s in vitality where the speaker shines: its battery life clocks in at over 15 hours. You won’t get those results from the Beats Pill or any Jawbone Jambox model. With its glossy body finish, stout metal grille and built-in kickstand it’s a suitable addition to any living room or bedroom.
Sony STR-DN840 Receiver
AV receivers are a hard sell unless you’re speaking to the audiophile crowd, but then, look who you’re shopping for. The STR-DN840 comes equipped with a variety of built-in features including AirPlay, Bluetooth, and wi-fi support, enabling users to wirelessly stream audio from any laptop, smartphone, or other compatible device. Numerous services like Pandora, Slacker, and Sony Music Unlimited all come integrated. Six HDMI inputs are enough to tackle the several entertainment machines. But the big props come in the audio quality department, where Sony’s receiver stands apart from all other AV rivals with a monstrous 7.2-channel setup backed by 150-watt amp output. Hearing Nirvana’s Unplugged LP or watching Jurassic Park never sounded so damn good.
Bowers & Wilkins P7 Headphones
B&W won most audiophiles and tech experts over with last year’s universally acclaimed P3 headphones. Now the hi-fi speaker manufacturer is making serious noise with its first over-ear sound cans, which carry over the luxury appearance of its predecessors while amplifying the brand’s high-end sound. The P7 sports an eye-catching aluminum and leather design, making any owner feel like they’re wearing a Bentley on their dome; refined ear pads and a snug headband only stimulate longer listening sessions. The headphones do an amazing job of balancing overall sound, producing loud bass that isn’t overbearing like in other high-end models, along with precise acoustics and sharp highs across all music genres.
Pioneer SP-SB23 Soundbar
For decades Pioneer’s been recognized as an audio engineering savant, responsible for the most acclaimed sound systems ever created. The company’s latest sound bar is a true testament to its credo of immaculate build quality and superb audio, but at a more affordable value. Underneath its understated cabinet, six speakers each fitted with an individual amp pack enough punch to make an entire room throb with sound. The accompanying wireless subwoofer comes Bluetooth-enabled to accommodate any iTunes library or streaming services like Spotify, and, to the surprise of many, works great alongside the SP-SB23W to improve output. Crisp vocals, detailed stereo imaging, and tenacious treble can only be expected.