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2016 Audioholics Christmas Gift Guide

by December 11, 2016
Audioholics 2016 Christmas Gift Guide

Audioholics 2016 Christmas Gift Guide

Audiophiles and home theater fans rejoice! It’s that time of year again. You know, the one where you’d relish unboxing a pair of new headphones or shiny new speakers over a whole new wardrobe of shirts and ties. We know all about it and we have you covered.

There are great deals happening between now and the end of the year. And this just may be the best time for you to upgrade your own home theater system and use the excuse of “gifting” to your significant other so you can both reap the benefits.

As is our annual tradition, we have put together our Audioholics AV electronics holiday gift guide of relatively affordable audio gear and accessories that can really enhance your enjoyment of your favorite music and/or movies.  Whether you're shopping for a new AV receiver, speakers, or even Star Wars stuff, we've got you covered.

Archeer A320 Bluetooth SpeakerArcheer A320 Portable Bluetooth Speaker

MSRP $79.99 (limited time price) | Review | Buy Now
The nice sounding, good looking, and easy to set up A320 from little- known Archeer might just have the cure to those streaming audio blues. Strong bass and sweet highs highlight this 2.1 ported Bluetooth speaker that comes in at a relatively bargain basement price point.  You won’t find many bells and whistles (such as Wi-Fi or a complementary app) that some of the A320’s more expensive competition have. But you will find two 5 watt full range drivers and a 15 watt subwoofer. While the exposed drivers may cause some consternation for households with curious, tiny fingers they give the speaker a great look. Put it on a mantle and then sit back and stream some Christmas cheer.

HSU V2-Mk5 SubwooferHSU Research VTF-2 mk5 Subwoofer

MSRP: $539 | Review | Buy Now
Forget about the Grinch that stole Christmas, how about the Grinch that’s been stealing all your bass? Fear not. If HSU Research has anything to say about it, your sound system will bring down the full assault of Thor’s hammer and make your sound system Grinch-proof thanks to the VTF-2 mk5 subwoofer. The VTF-2 has been part of HSU Research’s VTF subwoofer line for an astounding 17 years. This model stands as fifth iteration of the original. It features a front-firing 12-inch driver and 350 watt BASH amplifier in a 3.9 cubic foot enclosure. The $539 price-point makes the VTF-2 mk5 sub a veritable no-brainer for your home theater.  And at that price, if you’ve been really good, you can certainly add two VTF-2 mk5 to your Christmas really rock. Add solid bass extension down to 18Hz and it means that your neighbors will know and feel exactly what you got for Christmas. 


Denon AVR-S720 AV ReceiverReceiver: Denon AVR-S720W

MSRP $479 | Preview | Buy Now
This was a close call, but we gave the nod to the Denon AVR-S720.  This is a low-profile, 7.2 channel receiver that sports all the bells and whistles you want while also meeting just about every practical need.  There are six on-board HDMI inputs (five rear and one front) each capable of supporting 4K/UHD, HDR, and BT.2020 content with full HDCP 2.2 compatibility. Dolby Atmos and DTS:X are standard and support up to 5.1.2 immersive audio layout configurations. Streaming is a breeze. Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and Ethernet are standard and you’ll be able to pick from your choice of AirPlay, Android Push playback, Spotify Connect, and more. The S720 comes standard with Denon’s HEOS multi-room audio streaming solution. And if you have a hi-res audio collection have no fear. WAV, ALAC, FLAC and even DSD are all supported. Audyssey MultiEQ will help you dial the Denon into your setup with ease. It’s hard to find all this in the competition for under $500.


Monoprice K-Bas Bookshelf SpeakersMonoprice: K-Bas bookshelf speakers

MSRP: $249.99 each | Preview | Buy Now
Monoprice made a name for itself seemingly overnight with the ridiculous price/performance ratio of its HDMI cables. Now, Monoprice has made a major splash onto the audio scene with its Monolith line of speakers and audio equipment. The Monolith K-BAS Reference Series Bookshelf Speaker is a two-way ported design with a 5.25-inch polypropylene and Mica Cone woofer and 1-inch liquid-cooled titanium dome tweeter. The big news about the K-Bas is that it produces big sound from a small footprint thanks to a large internal chamber, premium crossover electronics, and internally sealed cabinet. The speakers utilize K-BĀS (Kinetic Bass Amplification System) technology that utilizes a specially designed cabinet and port to give you low bass extension for a speaker of comparable size. The speakers are rated to go down to 39Hz. We got a chance to listen to them on the CEDIA floor in September and were wowed by the amount of low end bass coming through. At $249.99 each or about $500 for the pair, the K-Bas speakers are a sure cure for the budget speaker Christmas blues. Be sure to stay tuned for our full featured review of these speakers with measurements in the coming month.


Polk Magnifi MiniSoundbar:  Polk Magnify Mini

MSRP: $299.95 | Preview | Buy Now
Sure, your brand new 4K/UHD TV looks good and ultra-thin, but boy does it sound bad. That’s where Polk’s Magnify Mini comes in. You’ll get some seriously good audio in a small, flexible footprint.  Set it on a cabinet under your TV and your’e done. No wall-mounting needed. Voice adjust technology allows you to adjust he voice levels to make dialogue clear and intelligible. Oh, and with virtual surround sound made possible by its six driver array you won’t believe the sound improvement you’ll get. Google Cast is also included and you’ll be able to stream music directly from your smartphone, tablet, or compatible device. What really makes this mini soundbar special, however, is its wireless subwoofer. Don’t fret, the sub is tiny. The 6.5-inch woofer rests inside a 14.5 x 7.4 x 14.4-inch standing enclosure. Place the sub anywhere in your room to fit finicky aesthetic demands or place it in the exact spot that will give you the perfect bass response.


RBH HP-1BWireless Headphones: RBH HP-1B

MSRP: $199 | Review | Buy Now
Since 1976, RBH has been designing and manufacturing high-performance audio products for residential and commercial applications. While it took nearly 40 years for the company to make its foray into over-the-ear headphones, it was worth the long wait. The RBH HP-1B is a superb-sounding Bluetooth headphone with a long-battery life for the road warrior. These cans feature Bluetooth 4.0 + EDR (Enhanced Data Rate) and the aptX codec for near CD-quality streaming. The bass is deep and rich with a lot of bottom, while maintaining a terrific balance with midrange and high frequencies.  When we tested them, they never sounded boomy, whispy or crunchy, even with the most straining music.  Their compact size makes them great for traveling and their stellar performance makes them awesome for home entertainment use as well. Just be warned, if you get these for Christmas and you might not stop listening to music until the new year.


Fluance RT81Fluance RT81

MSRP $249 | Preview | Buy Now
Vinyl is making a comeback and so are budget-conscious turntables that will bring out the best in your vinyl collection.  The RT81 plays traditional LP and EP vinyl albums (33 1/3 or 45 RPM). Whether dusting off a classic album or spinning up Adele’s 25 for the first time, Fluance’s new turntable will transport you through a stunning adventure down the sonic spectrum.  RT81 features an AT95E Audio Technica stylus. The included stylus is renowned for its freedom from noise and distortion, clarity on musical peaks and channel balance. Other premium components include a high-quality Texas Instruments preamp and gold plated RCA line outputs for captivating signal clarity, and a ground terminal that ensures warm, true sound. Resurrecting vinyl for $250? Priceless.

Harmony Elite RemoteLogitech Harmony Elite

MSRP $349.99 | Preview | Buy Now
We’ve loved Logitech’s harmony remotes for years. You’ll be hard pressed to find a universal remote line with better ease of use, wide-ranging product support (including AV, thermostats, and lighting), and solid hardware. However, as good as previous generation models have been, the Harmony Elite stands head and shoulders above the rest. The Harmony Elite uses RF wireless signals to communicate with a central IR controller, which means that you can control components located behind cabinets and don’t need line of site.  The included Harmony Elite remote sports a clean layout and relatively large screen that parents and grandparents will love. What really makes the Harmony Elite shine is its seamless integration with the new Harmony mobile app.  You can use your Harmony Elite activities on your smart phone or tablet of choice. Changes or additions to devices in your home or activities are seamlessly synchronized across any mobile device and the physical remote control.  The icing on the cake, however, is that the Harmony Elite now features integration with Amazon Alexa (an Alexa-enabled speaker is required). You can initiate any activity and perform basic functions with voice commands. It doesn’t get much better (or easier) to control your home theater or smart home. A perfect gift.

Hands-Cannot-Erase-Bluray Blu-Ray: Steven Wilson Hand Cannot Erase

MSRP: $15.00 | Review | Buy Now
Hand Cannot Erase is a progressive concept album written from the perspective of a woman who lives in a large city between 2008 and 2015.  It is inspired by the true story of Joyce Carol Vincent, who lived in London and died unnoticed in her apartment. The Blu-ray version is mixed in 96/24 5.1 LPCM and DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and the fidelity is superb. The secret? He doesn’t allow a master engineer to touch the mixes which helps preserve dynamic range. He also uses the studio as an instrument for making his mixes as opposed to trying to recreate a live performance.  This is one audio Blu-ray that takes advantage of the medium and storage capacity. There is a track-by-track story board; alternative versions and mixes of the songs; instrumental versions of every song; and a behind the scenes documentary. This is a concept album on Blu-ray that is worth listening to in its entirety and following along with the images on the Blu-ray.

Monoprice HDMI RedmereCables:  Monoprice Redmere HDMI

MSRP $9.00-$50.00 | Preview | Buy Now
If your values are performance, reliability, and price then you’ll know why Monoprice’s Redmere HDMI cables rank as one of our favorite for digital connections—especially at long distances. Unlike regular HDMI cables, Redmere cables are active HDMI cables and directional. They are able to maintain a strong signal where others won’t dare to tread. Perhaps best of all, Redmere cables are ultra-thin at shorter distances and even at manageable at super-long runs.  Monoprice Redmere cables are available in multiple colors, nylon braided versions, and some are CL-2 rated for in-wall installation. Even with all that tech, Redmere cables are still cheaper than many HDMI cables you’ll find in big box stores. One of the real no-brainers in the AV world.

Captain America ShieldMarvel Legends Captain America 75th Anniversary Metal Shield

MSRP $299: | Buy Now
If you’re a Captain America or Avengers fan then you won’t find a better full-sized, replica shield out there than the Marvel Legends 75th Anniversary edition Captain America Shield. While it’s not made of vibranium, this shield is a thing of beauty. All-metal construction with a brushed finish, leather straps, and impeccable painted detail are just some of the highlights. No cheap plastic here. Whether you hang Cap’s shield as a centerpiece of your home theater or take it with you on your next adventure, the Marvel Legends 75th Anniversary Shield is a must-have for the serious fan.

Star Wars Storm TrooperStar Wars: Black Series Imperial Stormtooper Electronic Voice Changing Helmet

MSRP: $79.99 | Buy Now
While these may not be the droids you're looking for, this certainly is the Stormtrooper replica helmet you want. This collector-grade Star Wars Black Series Imperial Stormtrooper helmet changes your voice at the push of a button located on the right side. With realistic detail and the ability to wear it around the house for fun or show it off for bragging rights, this is a cool and reasonably-priced addition for any Star Wars fan.  Let the force be with you this Christmas by adding Star Wars memorabilia to your theater room.

Merry Christmas From Audioholics

Well there you have it.  That's our list.  We hope you find at least one item that will help fulfill your shopping list.  If you alternative suggestions please feel free to post them  on the forum.  Most importantly, we hope everyone has a great holiday season enjoying the spirit of Christmas surrounded (no pun intended) by family and friends.  In the end, that's all that really matters.


About the author:
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Theo Nicolakis has been reviewing high end audio, video, home theater, headphone, and portable music products for the past 14 years. His reviews have appeared here on Audioholics as well as Techhive.com, PCWorld.com, MacWorld.com, and more. His reviews span high end two-channel and home theater systems, AVRs and immersive audio processors, headphones, DACs, DAPs, music servers, sound bars, and display technologies.

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