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2023 Audioholics Christmas Gift Guide

by November 30, 2023
2023 Audioholics Christmas Gift Guide

2023 Audioholics Christmas Gift Guide

2023 Audioholics Christmas Gift Guide

If you are Christmas shopping for an AV enthusiast, this year’s shopping season has an enormous amount of great choices to shop from. While there is always a host of nifty AV stuff to choose from every year, the nice thing about this year is that the AV market seems to finally have recovered from the supply issues that have plagued it throughout the COVID era, so the availability of all the latest and greatest electronics is not in question. What is more, we are seeing what were once expensive technologies make their way into much more affordable price classes, and that helps to thwart the effects of inflation that are taking a toll on so many people’s budgets. Here is a list of some of the products that we think will make extremely satisfying stocking stuffers for anyone who is into audio and video entertainment.

Hisense 100-inch Class U8 Series Flat-Screen TV

MSRP: $5,000 ($3,000 on sale) | Buy Now

hisense u8

When we were first introduced to Hisense’s 100” Class U8 television at this year’s CEDIA, we were very impressed with its color vibrancy and dynamic range. However, we were shocked at the low street pricing, with an “around $5k” quote on an MSRP of $10k. And the fact that they can be had now for $3k at our affiliate Dreamedia is mind-blowing. This is a television that forces one to rethink getting a projection system for a home theater by virtue of its size, price, and image quality. It has a 4k resolution with 1500 nits peak brightness, IMAX-Enhanced certification, Dolby Vision IQ, and support for Dolby Atmos. It can support a 144Hz refresh rate for gamers who need fast reaction times (imagine playing your favorite FPS at a close distance on this thing). This is a great example of how once unattainable expensive technologies become affordable over time.

Denon PerL Pro Premium True Wireless Earbuds

MSRP: $350 | Buy Now | Review

Denon PerL earbuds 

Personalizing headphone and earbud sound for an individual’s ear physiology has been around for a while, but only in rarified and complicated audio systems. Denon finally brings this technology to the masses in an accessible and affordable form in the Perl Premium Wireless Earbuds. These earbuds use Masimo’s Adaptive Acoustic Technology to measure the user’s sensitivity to different frequency ranges and then form a profile for that user’s hearing. The PerL Pro edition is able to stream Qualcomm’s AptX Lossless for CD-quality sound, and Dirac Virtuo can enhance the soundstage for a more natural acoustic setting than the typical earbud or headphone sound. The Pro also uses new high-performance titanium drivers for an upgraded sound over the non-Pro version. The Perl Earbuds have adjustable levels of noise cancellation that can filter out background noise to the user’s taste. What is more, the Perl earbuds use eight microphones to enable the user to have crystal-clear voice communication with Qualcomm’s aptX Voice system. Eight hours of charge per battery-life, and three additional charges per case means that users can keep the system going for long durations before having to worry about needing to charge again. After listening to them at the 2023 Audio Advice Live Show, Audioholic’s Gene DellaSala said that they were the best earbuds that he had ever experienced. That is high praise from someone who has heard so many different earbud models, so shoppers should definitely take a long look at Denon’s PerL Wireless earbuds if they are looking at earbuds as a gift (or just shopping for themselves).  

Kanto ORA Powered Desktop Loudspeakers & sub8 Subwoofer

ORA Speakers MSRP: $360 | Buy Now                       
sub8 Subwoofer MSRP: $270 | Buy Now

ORA and sub8 5 

Kanto’s new ORA desktop speaker set pushes their loudspeaker design forward in several ways that may make it one of the best small desktop speaker systems that can be bought anywhere near its price. A big jump in technology for them was to use a fully active crossover filter. While their previous speakers had been powered, they still used passive crossover networks. Switching to DSP for the crossover in the ORAs allows them to have any kind of filter that the designers at Kanto want, and it also lets them EQ the drivers for any kind of response shape they prefer. Kanto have also redesigned their waveguide for a more wide and uniform dispersion. This all makes the ORAs a very linear loudspeaker, which is a rarity for small desktop speaker sets. They can used with RCA connectivity, USB Audio, or Bluetooth. While the ORAs have good bass for such tiny speakers, Those who want a full sound will want to add a sub, and Kanto has the perfect complement in the sub8 subwoofer. This sealed 8” subwoofer is small but it packs a punch with its 125-watt RMS amp; that is a lot for a near-field system. Audioholics has a forthcoming review on the ORA and sub8 set, so stay tuned for an in-depth look at what this system offers.

Philharmonic Audio True Mini Loudspeaker

MSRP: $380/pair | Buy Now


Philharmonic Audio has repeatedly impressed us with their affordable but exceptionally high-fidelity loudspeakers (the most recent example: Philharmonic Audio BMR HT Tower Review). They have recently released a line of extremely affordable yet highly accurate speakers in the True Minis that we think would make a great gift for those looking for a terrific sound from a small package. These are a perfect choice for an audio system in a bedroom, dorm, or small apartment room. They are also good for someone who has some extra desktop space for some absolutely killer computer speakers. And if you are looking for nice-looking but not huge surround speakers for a home theater system, the True Minis would be ideal. For the low price of $380/pair, you get a well-built enclosure housing superbly linear drivers and a crossover network engineered by an industry wizard, and this all comes in a gloss finish: an insanely good value. It’s a great way to give the gift of audiophile sound without paying audiophile prices.

Definitive Technology Dymension DM70 Floor-Standing Loudspeakers

MSRP: $4k/pair | Buy Now | Review

 DM70 pair4

If you are gift shopping for an audiophile with a penchant for high technology, look no further than Definitive Technology’s new Dymension speakers. In our review of the DM70s, we found them to be tonally neutral speakers with a wide, expansive soundstage. The DM70s use a ‘bipole’ sound field which has a mirrored driver array in the rear which will produce a greater ratio of late acoustic reflections in the room for a deeper and more enveloping sound. They also have a powered subwoofer section with its own level adjustment that can give the listener precisely as much bass as they wish. They exceeded our expectations, and we enjoyed their unique sound presentation, minimalist styling, and wide dynamic range. These speakers are a great solution for a living room or family room system where there is no space for a subwoofer on account of the DM70’s powerful onboard bass. They are also great for rooms that have no place for surround speakers since the DM70s already have such a broad and spacious soundstage. The DM70s are stellar for both music and movies, and whether they are being used for solitary enjoyment of a personal favorite album as a hi-fi stereo system or a cinematic experience for the whole family to enjoy on movie night, we are sure that these speakers will put a lot of smiles on listener’s faces. For more information watch our in depth Youtube video on the DM70.

JBL L75 Music System

MSRP: $1,650 | Buy Now

 JBL L75

If you are looking for gifts for someone who needs a very simple and clean sound system, you might take a look at JBL’s L75 Music system. This all-in-one cabinet is like a low-profile pair of powered bookshelf speakers within one enclosure. The left and right outer edges of the cabinet hold 1” aluminum dome tweeters, and a 4” pulp cone midrange lays between them, so listeners should get some sense of stereo separation. Bass is handled by two 5.25” woofers with each being fed by a 125-watt amp, so this shelf system will still have plenty of kick. Wired inputs consist of HDMI ARC, phono, and 3.5mm aux, and wireless connectivity features Wifi streaming and Bluetooth 4.2. It has Google’s Chromecast built-in, and it also supports Apple’s Airplay 2 and Bluetooth Wireless Audio. It does everything; all users have to do is provide the tunes. It’s a great way to get good sound without having to deal with multiple components or wires.  

Hsu Research ULS-15 mk2

MSRP: $989 (+shipping) | Buy Now | Review

Hsu ULS15mk2

Hsu Research’s ULS-15 mk2 isn’t the newest kid on the bloc, but even years after its launch, it remains extremely competitive at its price point. When we were compiling this list, we were looking for subs that weren’t hugely expensive nor tremendously large, i.e., subwoofers that might be suitable as a gift. After surveying the marketplace for subs that meet that criteria, it was hard to ignore the ULS-15 mk2, despite its age. We reviewed it back in 2016, and we found it to have a great combination of barn-burning output earning our Large Bassaholic Room Size Rating, as well as audiophile fidelity. It packages a 15” high-excursion driver powered by a 600-watt amplifier in a well-built cabinet with a slick satin black finish yet somehow managed to keep its MSRP under $1k after all these years. It remains as good of a bargain now as it was back when it was launched. If you are looking to give the gift of bass, the ULS-15 mk2 is one of the best bets out there.

Yamaha R-N1000A 2CH AV Receiver

MSRP: $1,800 | Buy Now | Review

Yamaha RN1000A 

If a friend or loved one is looking for a terrific stereo AV receiver, you can’t go wrong with the R-N1000A receiver from Yamaha. The R-N1000A can deliver 220 watts at 4 ohms, but there is a lot more to this amp than brute force. It uses ESS’s SABRE DAC ES9080Q for extremely low distortion and noise floor and will reproduce sound that not even the pickiest audiophile could fairly criticize. Connectivity is excellent, and one highlight is Yamaha’s MusicCast network system which allows users to stream sound from their tablet or smartphone from all major music streaming services. It also has HDMI ARC capability so the R-N1000A can be used to complement the video display with high-performance lossless sound. Turntable hook-up is easy with a phono jack and ground, and computer hook-up is easier with USB Audio that supports an incredible 384kHz sampling rate. Also included is Yamaha’s YPAO auto-equalization system which should help listeners obtain a more linear response by correcting for acoustic flaws. The R-N1000A brings loads of technology to two-channel audio in a major way and is sure to delight even the grumpiest Scrooge this holiday season. Check back for our full bench test report on the R-N1000A before the end of the year.

Focal Bathys Wireless Headphones

MSRP: $799 ($630 on sale) | Buy Now | Review

 Focal Bathys headphones

While Focal is known chiefly as a loudspeaker manufacturer, they have also left a major mark in the high-end headphone market. We have covered several of their headphones (one recent example: Focal Stellia Closed-Back Headphone Review), and we have always been left impressed by their sound and build quality. Focal brings those same strengths to the wireless headphone game in their Bathys headphones. These feature-rich headphones use Bluetooth 5.1 for wireless connectivity and can stream using a multitude of high-fidelity codecs. It also allows the user to select two different levels of noise cancellation so the user can decide how much of the outside world they want to tune out. A full battery charge allows the user 30 hours of wireless play time even with noise cancellation engaged. The Bathys are also equipped with Google Assistant and Amazon’s Alexa for voice assistance. Music can also be directly streamed from the Focal/Naim app which can also be used to equalize the sound. On top of all of this technology is Focal’s usual gorgeous industrial design. The Bathys packs a whole lot of technology into a small package but does not compromise on the sound quality that is expected of Focal. Some of us at Audioholics already own these outstanding headphones, and the rest of us would like to join them!

Steam Deck OLED

MSRP: $399 - $649 | Buy Now

Steam Deck OLED 

Nearly two years ago, Valve Corporation brought PC gaming to handheld devices in the Steam Deck, and it turned out to be a huge hit. This holiday season, it gets upgraded with an OLED screen and a host of other improvements. The OLED screen brings a much higher dynamic image range with HDR, so it will be brighter along with deeper blacks. That is a big deal in handheld gaming where playing in many bright environments can wash out the screen and make the image difficult to see. On top of that, the display now has a 90Hz refresh rate, up from the 60Hz that the LCD screen had. It also gets smaller processor lithography which makes it more efficient and runs cooler. This is also a big deal because it increases battery life by 50%. It also increases performance, although not by a huge amount.  The Steam Deck OLED gets upgraded WiFi and Bluetooth implementation. Storage capacity has also increased, and a 1TB version can be had now along with the lower-cost 512GB model. And despite all these improvements in technology, Valve managed to shed a small bit of weight, although the Steam Deck OLED still weighs just under 1.5 lbs. But the most astonishing aspect of all of this is that pricing has not gone up at all, so the lower cost and premium OLED models still retain the same pricing as the previous LCD versions. We predict that a lot of people will be new Steam Deck OLED owners on Christmas Day, and we wouldn’t mind brushing off our Halo skills on a system that can fit in our pockets.

Sabermasters Ultimate Lightsaber 2.0

MSRP: $399 ($199 on sale) | Buy Now

 Sabermasters lightsaber

I am deeply jealous of kids these days. I remember the toy lightsabers that were available when I was a kid in the 80s, and they were.. not durable. They didn’t look at all like the lightsabers in the Star Wars movies either. It was hard to pretend to be a Jedi when your lightsaber was a poorly lit plastic tube that shattered if you looked at it too hard. If Sabermasters Ultimate Lightsaber 2.0 were around back then, I would have sold both my kidneys to have one. This lightsaber has a solid aluminum hilt and an extremely durable polycarbonate saber that is brightly lit from top to bottom. They are strong enough to clash with each other, and when they do, the familiar lightsaber collision sounds from the movie are produced by the swords. It makes other appropriate sounds based on actions such as swings and activation, and it even has sound fonts to alter the sound effects to evoke particular Star Wars characters. The color of the saber can be changed with the click of a button, and users have dozens of different colors to choose from. You can also connect two blades to the handle Darth Maul style to get your full sith on. Sabermaster is so confident in the durability of the Ultimate Lightsaber 2.0 that they will fully refund your money if you manage to break the sword within a 12-month period. That is pretty fearless, even when considering that the lightsaber is made from polycarbonate which is an incredibly tough polymer that can be used in bulletproof windows. I am not a kid anymore, but the Ultimate Lightsaber 2.0 is so cool that it makes it very tempting to relive my childhood lightsaber battle fantasies… “Obi-Wan, we meet again at last!” You get a FREE lightsaber with purchase so get ready to duel.

Atari VCS All-In Bundle

MSRP: $300 ($180 on sale) | Buy Now


Atari returns to the living room with the Atari VCS , a completely modern gaming and video computer system, blending the best of consoles and PCs to delight a whole new generation of gamers and creators. The Atari VCS delivers a universe of games, apps, streaming entertainment and built-in Chrome to your TV or monitor all in HD. With the new Atari VCS you can access thousands of games and unlock a customizable multimedia PC. With everything from retro to indie to modern gaming, there's something for every gamer. Relive your childhood with the classic 2600 games you grew up with, or embrace the more modern takes on the classics with improved graphics, sound and gameplay, Atari has you covered with the VCS system. We plan on testing this out on our Youtube channel so stay tuned...

Medialight MK2 Series 6500K Bias Lighting

MSRP: pricing varies by length | Buy Now

Medialight bias lighting 

The Medialight mk2 has been measured to be one of the widest spectrum bias flex lights on the market, which is exactly what one would hope for in such a product. Truly neutral bias lighting is a great tool for keeping our displays in a balanced color range since our vision quickly adapts to any unnatural color biases in our displays. Neutral bias lighting can also improve the viewing experience by reducing the harsh contrast between a bright image in a darkened environment. That can eliminate eye fatigue that can occur when viewing wide dynamic range swings in brightness within a darkened setting. It also provides soft ambient lighting without interfering with the image itself since these lights are intended to be mounted in the rear of the display thereby not reflecting into the display itself. The Medialight MK2 series is bias lighting done right, as Audioholics’s own Gene DellaSala can attest to personally. It’s an inexpensive way to improve anyone’s TV or desktop monitor entertainment system.    


8-Bit PowerThis list is just a sampling of some of the cool consumer electronics that would make for terrific gifts because a comprehensive list would be hundreds of pages long. We know that any AV enthusiast would love to receive any of these gifts since we wouldn’t mind receiving them ourselves, and anyone who awakens to some of this cool gear under the tree on Christmas morning is going to be very lucky indeed. It’s a good time to be an AV enthusiast, especially if they are receiving gifts from an informed shopper.

We sincerely hope everyone has a great holiday season surrounded by family and friends who enjoy our passion for audio and entertainment. All cool gear aside, we value you as our reader and appreciate all of your support by reading our editorials and watching our Youtube content. We hope you have a very Merry Christmas!

Feel free to tell us which items on this list have your interest or if you are contemplating others in the related forum thread below.



About the author:
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James Larson is Audioholics' primary loudspeaker and subwoofer reviewer on account of his deep knowledge of loudspeaker functioning and performance and also his overall enthusiasm toward moving the state of audio science forward.

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