The tech gift guide: audio gifts that will bring music to their ears

18 Dec 2013

The gift of music is one that can please young and old. This year, step up your game from a Now That’s What I Call Christmas compilation CD and opt for a high-tech audio gift that will keep on giving.

At-home audio

High-quality audio comes at a high price but, if you’ve got the budget for it, a top-of-the-range soundbar could make an audiophile very happy this Christmas. The most expensive item on our (wish) list is the Sonos PlayBar, which currently retails at about €700.

The PlayBar is a clever piece of technology that’s capable of setting up its own sound profile using built-in sensors to determine its positioning. Soundbars offer more than just great music playback and they’re fast becoming an essential piece of a kit for home entertainment systems.

This one measures almost a metre wide and connects wirelessly and easily. In fact, if you gift it to a Sonos fan, the PlayBar should seamlessly connect with any other Sonos speakers they have to form a multi-room system.

There’s even an app for that, and Android and iOS users can download it for free and control the PlayBar using their mobile device.

Sonos PlayBar

A whopping €700 is a big ask at Christmas-time, though, and a cheaper alternative to the Sonos soundbar comes in at a much more reasonable €300. Panasonic’s SC-HTE80 Speakerboard is ideally suited to 42-inch TVs and features two integrated subwoofers and Panasonic’s H.Bass sound processing technology.

Panasonic SC-HTE80 Speakerboard

The SC-HTE80 is both Bluetooth and NFC-enabled for wireless pairing and you can use the Panasonic Music Streaming app to stream music directly to the device. Available in silver or black, its brushed-metal appearance comes with a scratch-resistant top-coat.

On the go

The Boom speaker from Logitech’s audio brand Ultimate Ears (UE) is undoubtedly intended to steal custom away from last year’s tech gift guide-recommended Jambox from Jawbone. This wireless portable speaker comes in a range of striking colour combinations and packs a 15-hour rechargeable battery.

Logitech UE Boom

Protected by a water and stain-resistant skin, the UE Boom pumps out sound in 360 degrees, but users can wirelessly connect to a second Boom speaker using the free-to-download UE Boom app (available for iOS and Android) and play music in stereo-to-stereo mode or traditional left/right stereo mode.

The UE BOOM has a suggested retail price of €199 and is available from Apple retailers nationwide.

Hard-working headphones

We’ve already covered our favourite high-end over-ear headphones in an earlier gift guide, but what if your giftee requires something more outdoorsy? Not to worry, as Sony’s waterproof Walkman NWZ-W274S is your all-in-one solution.

Sony Walkman NWZ-W274S

This lightweight wearable Walkman is built for walkers, joggers, gym-goers and swimmers. That’s right: its specially made ear buds will continue operating in watery depths of up to 2m. There’s 8GB of storage on-board, capable of holding up to 2,000 songs, and it retails for about €100.

Cheap and cheerful

For bargains in audio gifts, Carphone Warehouse – renamed ‘Carphone Gifthouse’ for the occasion – is offering 50pc off a wide variety of headphones an personal speakers. There’s also a range of knitted audio earmuffs from KitSound for €20, to keep music-loving ears toasty in the winter months.

KitSound audio earmuffs

Elaine Burke is the host of For Tech’s Sake, a co-production from Silicon Republic and The HeadStuff Podcast Network. She was previously the editor of Silicon Republic.