Sound Pursuits

The Best Gifts for Music Lovers


December 9, 2018 Buying Guides By Photo by Chase Pellerin

If I were to guess, I’d say you spend a helluva lot of hours each week sitting at a desk, working on your computer and listening to music. If not, you sure as heck know quite a few people that do. The truth is, most of us appreciate good sound and would like to listen to it with more regularity. That’s why making a contribution to somebody’s desktop sound setup also makes a great gift. Whether it’s a comfortable pair of headphones or a full desktop system, complete with DAC, amp and some really nice speakers, you’ll find something that they’ll love below.

Schiit Audio Fulla 2

For anybody looking for a straightforward solution to upgrade their desktop audio setup, this is it. For $99 you’re not going to find a better DAC and headphone amp combo than the Fulla 2. It’s simple yet excellent, plugging into your computer via USB. From there, all you need is your own headphones. Plus, it’s got a great volume knob.

Bluesound Vault 2

This is a digital music player and CD ripper. For anybody that has a large CD collection, this is great. It’s able to quickly rip CDs into high-resolution FLAC or smaller MP3 files — your choice. Also, with a plethera of analog and digital connections, you can easily integrate this into an existing stereo or home theatre system and play great audio. No computer needed.

Sonos Connect

The Sonos Connect is ideal for anybody who wants to add Sonos speakers, or just generally stream music, to their existing analog system. It can be added to pretty much any receiver. If you don’t have a receiver, you should go with the Connect:Amp ($499) instead, which is an amplified version of the Connect. The Connect:Amp also works better if the system has a dedicated subwoofer.

AudioQuest DragonFly USB DAC

This is a really popular and portable headphone amp. It has a built-in DAC, so your music is going to sound much cleaner than if your headphones were just plugged into computer. It’s uncomplicated: it plugs into your computer via USB and you plug your headphones into it. That’s it.

Audioengine A2+ Computer Speakers

Look no further for great desktop speakers. Sure, you can get bigger and louder speakers, which is partly why Audioengine makes the A5+ Wireless speakers, but, for their size the A2+ speakers are amazing. They plug into your computer via USB, have an integrated DAC with high-res listening, and an output for a subwoofer, in case you really want to your system to thunder.

Vibrapod Isolators

These little rubber feet come in a bunch of different sizes, to match the size of your speakers, and aren’t complicated. They simply lift the speakers off the horizontal plane (aka a table or desk) and enhance isolation so there’s less distoration. They are a cheap way for people who have bookshelf speakers to make them sound even better. And stuff into a stocking nicely.

Meridian Explorer 2

We’ve got a couple of these headphone amps floating around the Gear Patrol office. They support sample rates up to 24-bit/192kHz and have a second line-out jack in case you want to hook it up to a stereo amp instead of plugging it into your headphones. A nerdy feature: because it uses your Mac’s or PC’s potentiometer, you can control your music volume from your keyboard. And that’s nice.

Grado SR80e Prestige Series Headphones

Grado’s SR80e headphones are an old-school pair of no-frills wired headphones that look cool and sound great. For under $100, they’re a great way to add some flair and terrific sound to your desktop setup.

Grovemade Walnut Desk Shelf

Because everything in your desktop setup deserves its own space. There needs to be separation — room to breath — and this shelf helps with just that. Not only can it help eliminate clutter, but it also provides enough space to house a pair of bookshelf speakers on either side of your monitor or computer. Finally, it’s pretty. It’s an elegant combination of American Walnut wood, aluminum and Merino wool felt.

Master & Dynamic MP1000B Headphone Stand

If you want a really nice and clean headphone stand, we recommend this guy. It’s easy on the eyes and bespoke enough that when you’re actually working and listening to your headphones, it doesn’t add clutter or ugly-up the desk.

BrainWavz Truss Headphone Stand

But, if you don’t have enough desktop space to have a traditional headphone stand, get this. It sticks to the underside of your desk — incognito — and has two hands to hold two pairs of headphones.

 

Killspencer Desk Mat

Made of natural leather and denser than most other desk mats, this will definitely add premium flare to any workstation, which, in the end, is what anybody wants to complement their really nice audio setup.

Bose QC35 II Noise-Canceling Headphones

The QC35 IIs are still the lightest, most comfortable and most travel-friendly headphones that I’ve ever worn. They sound terrific and have excellent noise-canceling capabilities. One thing that I really appreciate, is that they’re uncomplicated. Unlike the Sony WH-1000M3 noise-canceling headphones — which are excellent as well — you don’t have to deal with swipe gestures on the earcups, which I always hit by accident and pause the song or skip tracks when I don’t want to.

Shinola Bookshelf Speakers

The Shinola Bookshelf Speakers have been engineered from the ground up by Barefoot Sound, a leading manufacturer of pro-audio recording monitors, so they sound great. They have all the analog inputs needed to make a great bookshelf or stereo speakers, but they also have built-in Bluetooth, so you hit a button on the back and you can stream stereo straight from your smartphone.

Holiday Gift Guide 2018

Don’t know what to get the people on your list? We’ve got you covered with our holiday gift guide

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