Valentine’s day is almost upon us, and rather than the traditional gifts you may be used to, I propose that you give the gift of audio. Music is a universal language, and it can set the mood, promote and inspire creativity, it boosts productivity and much more.
Here’s a few ideas that will make your valentine love listening to music, and enjoying it even more than before:
1. Streaming services: We live in a digital era where browsing, sampling and even finding new music is easier/simpler than ever before. Streaming music services can range from free-to-paid and from compressed-to-lossless. Everyone will have their own preference when it comes to quality, and the value of what there money goes to, so I’ll leave with options, and you can decide what’s bets for you.
–Spotify also has free and paid service, but if you act now, you can get their premium service free for 60 days, if you haven’t already tried it. Spotify allows you to follow friends, their playlists, and you can share your own with others.
–Soundcloud is great for indie bands, DJs, and people who really like to “crate dig”. The whole experience is really meant for individual tracks, but if you know what you’re looking for, it’s great. They also have free and paid versions.
–Google Play Music has both free and paid subscription services and the ability to upload your own music files. Google Music is good for everyone, but great if you’re invested into Google’s ecosystem.
–Amazon Music Unlimited is a paid only music service, but there a few ways to get it for less than their standard $9.99 a month fee. Many people who are prime members don’t even know that this is included, but it’s an option.
–Apple Music is also only a paid subscription service, but there’s three options, student, individual and family. Apple music’s interface isn’t great, and can sometime be confusing, which is surprising since they used to be Beats radio, and MOOG before that. This isn’t for everyone, but if you’re invested into Apple’s ecosystem, then check this out.
–Deezer has multiple options as well that range from free-to-paid, but they offer a better quality of audio than the competition. This is definitely a service for someone who really loves audio, and cares about quality. Some people will tell you they can’t hear the difference between good and bad audio, so maybe have them look into the premium service vs. their HiFi subscription.
Tidal HiFi offers a similar quality product to Deezer, but they also offer exclusive content, and more often than not, content that can only be found their, or before the competition can get access to it. They also have a music store where you can purchase the artists music in either MP3 or FLAC.
There are plenty of other really great music services out there, and each is slightly different in their offerings and experience, but you get the idea, right?
2. Digital Audio Converters: The mobile and computer digital audio experience hasn’t always been great, and typically if you don’t add a DAC, you’re missing out on quality. Luckily for you, there’s a fair amount of quality DACs designed for the audio enthusiast on the go, us in living in the digital era.
–Peachtree Audio has always focused on providing a better digital audio experience, and is definitely a leader in this category. The biggest reason I noticed them when they launched, was that they were producing vintage inspired/ quality audio products, and lots with a tube buffer stage for a warm audio playback experience. Things have changed up a bit as of recent over at Peachtree, so the mobile DACs, and tube amps are gone, but they still offer quality amplifiers, speakers and accessories that can be found here.
-OPPO Digital always updates their product offerings, so currently you can purchase either their HA-2SE (portable headphone amplifier and DAC – $299), or the Sonica DAC (Audiophile grade DAC and network streamer – $799).
–Chord Electronics has definitely made a name for themselves in the HiFi community, and started their journey back in 1989 for the aviation industry, and their very first amplifier were supplied to the BBC, followed by world-leading studios including Abbey Road, Sony Music (New York) and later, The Royal opera house. Today they are still manufacturing audio products that provide audio playback true to what the artist intended, and their multi-award- winning proprietary FPGA technology has become legendary and remains the most advanced in the world, making their DACs a must have.
Again, there are plenty more DAC manufacturers to choose from, and each with their own sound, but you get the idea.
3. Quality Headphones: A quality set of headphones is a must have for a lover of audio, when on the go. This category is huge, and they range from in-ear-to-on-ear, and from wired-to-wireless, so I’ll just recommend a few brands that BEATS the hell out of some popularly market brands.
–Sennheiser has an impressive selection of headphones, and there’s something for everyone. This german made brand, has been producing quality audio as far as I can remember. They also have a broad selection of headphones with multiple styles, and purposes. You can check them out here.
–Bang & Olufsen is a favorite of mine because not only do they sound superb, they also look and feel the part. B&O make some of the worlds finest sounding and looking audio products; this remains to be true in their headphone selection.
–Audeze’s origins go back to 2008 when founders Sankar Thiagasamudram and Alexander Rosson met engineer Pete Uka who developed specialized flexible circuit materials for NASA. They quickly realized the material might be perfect for headphones. That’s when Dragoslav Colich, who has 30+ years’ experience in designing planar drivers, joined the team as CTO to create the LCD-1 headphone. Now, the LCD-1 will always be their flagship baby, but they now offer more competitively priced, quality headphones for you and I, in their SINE (on-ear) and iSINE (in-ear) headphones.
–Harman Audio has a few brands to choose from when it comes to headphones. They are all good companies and each has its own flavor. Much like Sennheiser, they too have a good range of headphones to choose from and you can find them here.
There is a whole world of brands out there full of headphone manufacturers, and they all sound different. As I start do product reviews here, we’ll dive down into each one’s offerings, quality and value, so you don’t have to make an uninformed decision, before making a purchase.
Now, If you decide to gift someone with audio this year, I guarantee they will use it often, smile more and they will love it. Don’t forget to make a mix tape; you kids call it a playlist.
Image via Gavin Whitner