Sound Advice Holiday Gift Guide 2017
By Don Lindich
Great gifts under $100
Welcome to my best gift guide ever! I am featuring items and more variety than ever before, and everything costs under $100.
Headphones and earphones
Grado SR60e and SR80e headphones, $79 & $99: Handmade in the USA by a great American Hi-Fi company, these headphones have the best sound you can get under $100. The open-back design lets you can enjoy beautiful music while hearing what is going on around you.
Hiearcool L1 Active Noise Cancelling Headphones, $69: These comfortable, great-sounding headphones have Active Noise Cancellation for use on airplanes and other noisy places. The L1 has 901 Amazon reviews, and 97% of these reviews are 5-stars. This is the best customer endorsement I have ever seen of any product.
Panasonic ErgoFit RP-HJE120 Earbuds, $9: A steal for under $10, these wired earphones do an amazing job isolating you from the outside world and sound nice and clear, too. Nine colors are available.
Que Audio Q3E Wireless Sport Earbuds, $99: These wireless sports earbuds make it easy to get a good, solid fit, and sound very precise, even and strong. A few hours’ break-in time is necessary to get them sounding their best.
Kicker EB300 Sports Earphones, $79: If you like a lot of bass from your earbuds, these are the ones for you! Over-ear clips keep them in place in extreme situations.
Audio and Vinyl Records
OontZ Angle 3 Ultra Bluetooth speaker, $49: The portable OontZ Angle 3 Ultra sounds as good as or better than any similarly-sized Bluetooth speaker, even ones that cost much more. Its sonic greatness is evident immediately, and even my 16-year-old niece said, “It is AWESOME. It sounds much better than any Bose or Beats Pill I have heard.” If the OontZ Angle 3 Ultra’s superior sound can overcome the Bose and Beats marketing machines for the affections of a trendy, brand-conscious teenager, I think that is all that needs to be said! The bigger OontZ Angle 3XL Ultra is a bit above my $100 limit at $119, but it has the big, lively sound of a $300 tabletop sound system.
Audio-Technica AT-LP60 turntable, $99: This is the only turntable under $100 that is worth buying. The sound is good for entry-level and most importantly, it won’t damage your records as will other sub-$100 turntables. Automatic operation makes it suitable for beginners, and you can combine it with an OontZ Angle 3 Ultra speaker to create a truly portable record playback system under $150.
Allsop Orbitrac 3 Pro Vinyl Record Cleaning System, $49: Audiophiles around the world rejoiced when Allsop brought back the Orbitrac, with its spindle-mounted rotating brush that makes cleaning records a snap!
LP Gear The Vessel A3SE phono cartridge $99: This phono cartridge is sheer magic, having musical qualities that give budget buyers a taste of what high-end vinyl reproduction sounds like. It’s perfect for upgrading that old turntable, or for upgrading a new one, too. In the under-$100 cartridge class, nothing comes close.
Fluance Signature Series HiFi Bookshelf Surround Sound Speakers, $99: Though marketed as “surround sound speakers” these speakers can also be used as a stereo pair for music with an amplifier or receiver. They have a visual and sonic presence you would never expect for under $100.
Dayton Audio DTA-1 15-watt Amplifier, $25: This tiny amplifier can be powered with the included wall-wart power supply or four AA batteries, and can drive a pair of speakers to a reasonable listening level in a small room. Connect it to a pair of speakers (like the Fluance speakers above) and use its single connection with a turntable, CD player, smartphone or tablet for surprisingly good sound.
TV and Video
Mediasonic HW180STB Tuner and DVR, $29: Use this small box with an antenna and a USB drive to tune and record over-the-air HDTV broadcasts in full high definition quality. Some users report it works best with a powered hard drive instead of flash memory, but I have not had problems with either. It has its quirks, but brings amazing capability for under $30.
Winegard FlatWave Ultrathin Antenna, $29 and $59: This indoor antenna is unobtrusive and effective for tuning over-the-air HDTV broadcasts for free with your TV’s built-in tuner. The $59 amped version includes an amplifier for improved reception in distant areas.
Amazon Fire Stick with Alexa Voice Remote, $39: The $39 Fire Stick is my favorite way to bring streaming video and smart TV capability to any television with an HDMI port. It is a must-have for anyone with Amazon Prime.
Samsung BD-J5700 Blu-ray player, $99: If you still have only a DVD player, it is long past time to upgrade to the goodness of Blu-ray and its high definition picture and sound. This player has WiFi and streaming capability, too.
ThinOPTICS Reading Glasses and Phone Cases, $19 and up: Tiny, flexible and durable with sharp optics, ThinOPTICS reading glasses are small enough to fit in a wallet or a ThinOPTICS phone case. If you hate being without reading glasses, with ThinOPTICS it will never happen again.
JAM Voice Alexa Speaker, $49: For the same price as an Echo Dot you can get a real speaker with Alexa capability. Sounds good and looks nice, a great way to add Alexa Voice Sevices to your life.
Amazon Fire HD8 Tablet with Alexa, 8” HD Display and 16 GB, $79: You don’t have to splurge for an iPad to get a nice, functional tablet with a sharp, colorful display. Add up to 256 GB of storage with the MicroSD card slot.
iHome iZABT50 Zenergy Ultimate Speaker with Aromatherapy, Color Therapy, and Sound Therapy, $99: The iZABT50 will soothe your senses and lull you to sleep with its relaxing sounds, pleasant smells and soft color light patterns. A fun, cool and useful product unlike any I have seen before.
Philips Hue Starter Kit, $99: Get a start on adding smart, wireless-controlled lighting to your home with the industry leader for under $100. The kit includes a hub and four white bulbs, and more bulbs and color options can be added later.
Anker PowerCore 20100 Portable Power Bank Charger, $31: This portable charger has a two USB ports and massive 20,000 mAh capacity, perfect for charging any portable device on-the-go. The USB ports charge your devices quickly, and it charges quickly itself when it is time to recharge it. The Anker brand is known for top quality and reliability, too.
Vibes Earplugs, $23: These unique earplugs protect your hearing with a 22 dB reduction in noise, but without muffling the sound. Meant for use at loud concerts, they can also be used for other hearing protection applications, such as operating power equipment. discovervibes.com
Cameras and Photo
SJCAM SJ4000 Action Camera, $59: This GoPro-clone action camera provides fantastic-looking 1080p footage that you would never guess came from a $60 camera. Search YouTube for SJ4000 to see for yourself. It comes with tons of accessories and mounts, making it an even stronger deal. The SJ4000 has been so successful it has spawned countless counterfeits. I suggest ordering from bhphotovideo.com to be sure to get a genuine SJCAM SJ4000.
Amazon Basics 60-inch tripod with bag, $23: If you don’t have a tripod, you really should! This lightweight tripod is a good one to get started with, or as a second tripod to supplement a heavy-duty unit.
Think Tank Photo Digital Holster and Mirrorless Mover camera bags, $39 and up: Photographers in the know have been switching en masse to Think Tank Photo camera bags from legacy brands, and for good reason. Their smart design, high quality materials and components, unique, useful features and low prices make them difficult to match.