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The Audiophiliac 2015 holiday gift guide

The Audiophiliac's picks -- many are well under $100.

It's that time of year again, so the Audiophiliac has put together a nice assortment of gift ideas. Your choices run the gamut -- there's music, a turntable, headphones and speakers!

Dust & Grooves: Adventures in Record Collecting (book, $30)

Eilon Paz' "Dust & Grooves: Adventures in Record Collecting" coffee table book breaks the mold for this type of book. Flipping through page after page of Mr. Paz' photos of avid collectors clutching their prized albums and 45 singles warmed my heart. They looked happy, coveting these inanimate objects that contain the music that means so much to them. The book is loaded with photographs and interviews with 130 collectors in the US, Britain, France, Italy, Israel, Holland, Argentina and Japan. There's a foreword by RZA.

Beatles 1+ Deluxe Edition (prices start $45 for CD; the Blu-ray, DVD and LP formats prices vary)

For 2015 Apple rolled out newly remastered "1," and "1+" DVD or Blu-ray sets brimming with 27 restored and new videos. The Blu-ray's DTS MA lossless high-resolution sound quality advances over the 2000 era CD are very significant; the videos' quality varies from one song to the next, but they never looked better. For Beatles fans, the Deluxe "1+," one CD/two Blu-ray set is highly recommended!


FiiO EX1 in-ear headphones


Schiit Modi 2 Uber digital converter ($149)

The pint-size Modi 2 Uber digital converter will pump up the sound of your music at home, and handles USB, Toslink optical and coaxial inputs, so it can be hooked up to computers, AirPort Express wireless devices, TVs, games, CD/DVD players and so forth. High-res files up to 192kHz/24-bit are welcome.

'Bob Dylan - The Cutting Edge 1965-1966: The Bootleg Series Vol. 12' CD box set ($109.99)

The six-CD set covers Dylan's transition from acoustic folk singer to electrically charged rocker, spewing surreal lyrics that roared past the other bands of the sixties. It's chock full of outtakes, rehearsals and alternate takes from the "Bringing It All Back Home," "Highway 61 Revisited" and "Blonde On Blonde" sessions. The Deluxe Edition set also includes a lavishly illustrated hardcover book. If you're just now starting with Dylan, get the two-CD "The Best Of The Cutting Edge 1965 - 1966: The Bootleg Series Vol. 12" collection that runs $17.09.

Monoprice Hi-Fi Lightweight on-ear headphones ($14.99)

The Monoprice Hi-Fi Lightweight On-Ear Headphone is sonically on par with 'phones that sell for up to $100! So at $14.99 (plus Monoprice's $4.99 flat-rate shipping in the US), it's a steal! The headphone is sold direct by Monoprice with a 1-year replacement warranty, and a 30-day money-back guarantee.

Etymotic Research ER20 ear plugs ($12.95)

It might not be the most glamorous treat under the tree, but the $12.95 Etymotic Research ER20 earplugs might be the most valuable. All earplugs block out external noise, but most muffle the sound. The ER20 plugs sound clear, and still reduce noise, so they make concerts and other loud activities safer to enjoy.

FiiO EX1 in-ear headphones ($69.99)

FiiO's EX1 was the stand-out, budget-price in-ear headphone this year, because its clear, dynamic sound, big soundstage and brawny bass put a smile on my face every time I popped them in my ears. Available on Amazon for $69.99.

Emotiva Big Ego USB digital converter ($179)

This nifty USB powered digital converter really does have a big, warm-hearted sound. This little guy directly drives headphones or desktop power speakers and handles ultra high-resolution PCM digital music files of up to 384kHz/32-bit quality.

U-Turn Orbit Plus turntable ($309)

The U Turn Orbit Plus is made in the US, and comes with premounted Grado Black 1 phono cartridge (made in Brooklyn, New York). The turntable is available in your choice of black, white, red, green or blue, and it comes with a clear plastic dustcover. Sound quality is right up there with audiophile turntables that sell for twice as much.

ELAC America Debut B5 speakers ($230 per pair)

The ELAC Debut B5 and the slightly larger Debut B6 bookshelf speakers are, by large margins, the best budget-price speakers I've heard in ages. Their clarity and astonishing bass definition humble the competition.

So there you have it: a tasty selection of gift ideas for audiophiles -- or go ahead and treat yourself! Have a great holiday season!