Gift Buying Guide for the Music Lover
By Jon Hillman
Hi-Fi audio is all the rage this holiday season, but with all the choices it can be hard to figure out what to buy. With this quick guide, you'll know exactly what to get the music lover in your life.
What is Hi-Fi?
You hear 'hi-fi' and 'hi-def' thrown around a lot these days. When we're talking visuals, you might think Retina display or 4K TVs. When we're talking audio, there's a lot of confusion out there, so we've narrowed things down to three essential elements.
Beats headphones are all the rage. They're stylish, famous people wear them, and they're not cheap. And in the last few years, it seems like premium headphone companies pop up every day. When selecting headphones for the music lover in your life, here's what to consider:
- Build Quality: Metal construction, padded earcups, and other quality materials. Look for a detachable cable, as the cable is usually the first thing to go on headphones – detachable means it's easy to replace.
- Sound: Look for 'Neodymium drivers' (the type of speaker in the earcup), and a flat frequency response (+/- .5dB from 20Hz to 22kHz would be great). High-quality drivers and flat frequency response mean you'll hear what the artist intended in the music you love.
- Price: More is not necessarily better! $100 or less can buy a great pair of headphones – the Master & Dynamic MH40 and Focal Spirit are among our current favorites. Sennheiser and Grado are also great brands to consider.
High Fidelity Files
When the digital music explosion happened with file sharing sites like Napster and the Apple iPod, the face of music was changed forever. However, the audio quality of digital music took a huge hit in the pursuit of tiny .mp3 files – the web was young and slow. In the days of HD Netflix streaming, we have more than enough bandwidth for higher quality audio.
If you're after great sound, you need uncompressed or 'lossless' audio files. 'Lossless' means the file contains all of the original information stored in the audio masters – nothing is lost. More and more services are offering this, so you have a lot of options. However, TIDAL is the only music streaming service that offers lossless quality files. This is why we've partnered with them this holiday season to give you a free 90-day trial with MIYO ($60 value, while supplies last) – once you hear your favorite music this way, you'll never go back to mp3s.
Converter and Amp
When you plug your headphones into your computer and listen to music, you might not think much about how those digital files make their way to your ears. It's simple really:
- Converter: Digital files go through a converter, which takes 1's and 0's and turns them into an electrical signal, which then goes into the...
- Amplifier: The converter electrical output is relatively low. To drive your nice big headphones, you need an amplifier to boost the signal.
Convert and amplify, that's it. The problem is that the converter and amplifier that's built into your computer are an afterthought – as cheap as it gets. Even if you've got nice headphones and lossless files, plugging straight into your computer guarantees low-quality audio.
MIYO is a world-class converter and amplifier – the kind of gear you find in professional mastering studios (literally). It lets you hear the music exactly as the artist intended. Here's the best part – MIYO has two headphone outputs, so you and your music lover can both enjoy the gift of hi-fi!