It may be more common than you think, connoisseurs of fine scotch also being audiophiles. To mark their 40th anniversary, Linn teamed up with Highland Park, makers of fine single malt scotch whiskey for the exclusive, and amazing Sondek LP12 Turntable ($40,000). Linn took their highest performance turntables and encased them in a remarkable whisky wood plinth, made from the actual solid oak casks that matured Highland Park whisky. If that sounds exclusive, it is, and there are only 40 of these that were made. But hey, at least they are throwing in a 40-year-old bottle of Highland Park, valued at nearly $1,500, to boot.
Most speakers built for the iPhone and iPad involve some sort of electronics. The Gramophone for iPhone & iPad ($200-$300) does its work naturally. Simply set your device in the handcrafted, solid wood base, and the built-in iron and brass horn will amplify its volume by three to four times, all while looking amazing. A terrific blend of old and new.
Great headphones are, well, great. What's not so great is the inability of many portable devices to drive cans with impedance of 32 or higher. The Firestone Fireye Mini Headphone Amp ($40) fixes this problem, by sitting in between your device's headphone jack and the headphones themselves, providing a healthy signal boost without adding much in the way of noise. Just charge it up via USB and you'll be ready to rock out for up to 24 hours before your next charge.
Whether you're on the hunt for a beautiful set of wireless speakers to sit on top of your desk, or you're just looking to add to your existing home audio set up, the Harman Kardon Nova Sound System ($270) is a strong solution combining a great listening experience with striking design. Each speaker produces 40 watts of power played through two-and-a-half-inch drivers and one-and-a-quarter inch tweeters, while passive radiators provide powerful bass response. They're compatible with just about any device you could think of, thanks to wired analog and optical inputs, as well as Bluetooth connectivity with near field communication.
Music is meant to be shared — but that can be a problem when you're wanting to listen with a friend in a public space (like a bus, airplane, or very odd restroom). This Kikkerland Branch Headphone Splitter ($10) solves this problem by splitting a single headphone jack into three. In addition, it comes with a handy keychain attachment so you can keep it with you, and features a simple, nature-inspired plastic design that adds a touch of whimsy to the proceedings. Rock on.
Forget about all of those lightweight, plastic audio boxes out there that feel like they would crumble with their first fall, and embrace the Grain Audio Packable Wireless Speaker ($250). Its solid walnut construction gives it some heft and durability, while lending the natural beauty and acoustic properties of a hardwood cabinet. Dual two-inch drivers, a passive radiator, and the technical proficiency Grammy Award-winning Waves MaxAudio Suite deliver music the way it was meant to sound — without all the gimmicky enhancements found in lots of portable speaker systems. Combine all that with powerful Bluetooth connectivity, eight hours of battery life, and a carrying pouch, and what you get is one of the best (and best looking) small speakers available.
Sponsored by our friends at Grain Audio.
If you're the kind of guy whose deep pockets are matched only by his desire to listen to music exactly as the artist intended, then these Bang & Olufsen Beolab 18 Speakers ($6,600) are an obvious necessity. As is typical of products from the Danish speaker company, these towers are a work of modern art, with stunning curves, gorgeous woodwork, and an unbelievable attention to detail evident in every inch. They operate on a 24-bit wireless frequency even an audiophile would approve of, letting you say goodbye to those unsightly speaker wires. Twin four-inch midrange drivers powered by separate 160-watt amplifiers and acoustic lens tweeters complete the package.
When buying a pair of headphones from the company who invented them, you'd expect a certain level of quality — and that's exactly what you'd get with the Koss ESP950 Electrostatic Headphones ($1,000). Meant for perfectly reproducing any sound in the studio, these headphones feature electrostatic transducers for a flat recency response across the range for clean bass and perfect sound quality.
Even if you don't have your own professional-quality sound studio, it doesn't mean you don't need to listen to your music on a pair of professional-quality JBL Synchros S700 Headphones ($350). These headphones feature aluminum die cast construction with soft leather ear cushions for durability and comfort. The 50 millimeter drivers in each ear offer excellent range, while a powered mode boosts the bass response. A detachable three-button remote on the cord lets you control your iOS device, and includes a built-in microphone in case someone calls you while you're wearing them.
When it comes to high end cartridges for your turntable, the Clearaudio Goldfinger Statement ($15,000) is in a league of its own. The flagship cartridge for Clearaudio, already a well respected source in the hi-fi landscape, is nothing short of awe inspiring. Drop the Goldfinger on an album and experience one of the richest, most balanced sounds possible, with minimal surface noise, and without sacrificing any of the depth and resolution that Clearaudio has become famous for. And oh yeah, did we mention it's housed within a 14 karat gold body, featuring twelve magnets allowing for the use of 24 karat gold for the coils? And of course the added touch of a half carat diamond mounted in the front of the body. A perfect gift for the hip-hop mogul on your list that you thought had everything.
Experience rich sound and deep bass when you work with the Symbol Audio Desk ($4,000). Sliding doors on this writing desk open to reveal two four-inch full-range drivers with titanium cones, paired with a down-firing five-and-a-quarter-inch sub-woofer. The cabinet is dampened and ported, helping your music sound great. Cable management keeps unsightly wires tucked away, controls for volume and bass keep you in control, while a stereo input jack lets you connect just about any device. Choose from solid oak, walnut, cherry, or maple finishes.
America's answer to the previously-dominant German carmakers, the 2014 Cadillac CTS ($45,000-$72,000) simultaneously boasts beauty and braun. The third-generation mid-sized sedan brings the brand's flagship model up to speed with its German competition — with aggressive front styling, a trio of engine options — a 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder good for 272 hp, a 3.6-liter V6 cranking out 321 hp, or an all-new twin-turbocharged 3.6-liter V6 that blasts out 420 hp — and either a six- or new eight-speed automatic transmission. Other highlights include a body that's longer, shorter, and lighter, Caddy's Magnetic Ride Control real-time damping system — the first time it's popped up on a non V version — available all-wheel drive, front-wheel Brembo brakes in the vSport, the CUE infotainment system (which utilizes Bose Active Noise Cancellation to monitor powertrain noise and sends out opposing non-audible frequencies to counteract these sounds), and an interior that's among the best GM has ever produced. Available early 2014.
Unbeknownst to most common folk, many of rock's greatest albums came from a not-so-glamorous part of the San Fernando Valley. Sound City ($10-$13) is dedicated to the studio of the same name, and the rare sound board held within — sound featured on albums by Tom Petty, Nirvana, Fleetwood Mac, Rage Against the Machine, Neil Young, and many more. Directed by Dave Grohl, this full-length documentary features interviews and performances by some of the rockers who held court there, and is a must-watch for true music lovers.
You don't need to be rocking a rustic look in your home for the Audiowood Barky Turntable ($1,300) to fit in with your decor — but it surely wouldn't hurt. This precision piece of equipment is made from a Rega parts kit, featuring a glass platter, a RB303 arm, a Rega Bias cartridge, and a solid ash platform that's finished with polyurethane, wax, and boasts adjustable spike feet. A decent vinyl collection for it to play? That's up to you.
Whether you use iTunes, Spotify, Rdio, Pandora, or plain ol' Winamp to play music on your computer, you can get more out of it with the Meridian Explorer USB DAC ($300). Hand assembled in the UK, this high-resolution DAC connects to your PC via USB, offering 24bit/192kHz native conversion capability, asynchronous data transfer, a built-in headphone amp, 3.5mm and optical audio outputs, and Meridian's resolution enhancement technology to ensure that your music sounds its best — no matter what the source.
Yes, it has a silly name, and yes, it's bigger than your average book — but for good reason. Swissted: Vintage Rock Posters Remixed and Reimagined ($25) measures roughly 11" x 14" because its filled with modern recreations of classic rock posters, and it wants you to appreciate them the way you're supposed to: from a nice spot on your wall. To that end, every page is microperforated, giving you a collection of 200 posters that are ready to frame and display. With poster representing everyone from Iggy Pop and the Sex Pistols to the Pixies and Nirvana, you should be able to find some that match your tastes.
Looking for a new set of high-end cans? Check out the new Sennheiser HD 800 Headphones ($1,350). Designed to produce the most accurate sound possible, the HD 800s feature 56mm transducers with a unique ring shape to help eliminate unwanted surface vibrations, specially-designed ear cups and headband, oxygen-free cabling for the clearest connection possible, and a frequency response of 6 to 51,000 Hz. They're sure to move you, whether connected to your iPod or to your home Hi-Fi.
The curved shape of on- or over-ear headphones makes them comfortable to wear, but also makes them a pain to display. Omega Headphone Stands ($180) solve this problem by offering a simple Omega-shaped stand, formed from a single piece of wood, coated in matte clear lacquer, and available in cherry, maple, walnut, or zebrano finishes. As a bonus, it should help in keeping your cord untangled, but we know you're really just worried about keeping your Beats out where everyone can seem 'em.
Celebrate the year's hottest shows and tours with some Vahalla Rock Posters ($20-$25). These 18" x 24" posters are printed in multiple colors and include shows from some of the best bands around, including Radiohead, The Decemberists, The Killers, and more. Bonus points awarded if you actually went to the concert depicted.
Tired of using various devices to access your music that's undoubtedly spread across multiple services and drives? Olive One ($500) is looking to help you out. This networked digital music player arrives in a decor-friendly glass and aluminum enclosure, and promises to consolidate your media in one place. It features Bluetooth 4.0 for direct connection to your smartphones and tablets, fast Wi-Fi for UPnP streaming, built-in access to Spotify and Pandora, and an optional internal 1TB drive for local storage. And how are you going to get all this audio out? Via the audiophile-quality dual HD amplifiers, or via Wi-Fi Miracast.