Holiday gifts for the budget audiophile


Repost from Facebook, but here are my thoughts.

Hmm, Beats aren’t bad, but they’re significantly overpriced. The Sennheiser HD598s are cheaper, and absolutely fantastic for the price point, the HifiMan He400 is more expensive, but wonderful orthodynamic headphones, the Alessandro MS2 is priced the same and is a great headphone. Or the Audio Technica ATH 900 series.

Schiit Lyr is indeed fantastic. For the more budget conscious, the Objective2 Amp is a great non-tube alternative, or for portability the CMOYBB amps are cheap and powerful.

Wow, the Zeppelin Air goes for $600 on the Apple Store. How is a $600 AirPlay speaker/dock in any way a budget option?

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Well, given the (IMO insane) amounts of money true audiophiles spend on their equipment this is a steal!

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Isn’t “budget audiophile” an oxymoron?

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A $450 headphone amp is “Amazingly affordable”?

Gimme a break. That’s absolutely ridiculous.

You can buy a decent amp for under $75, and build your own for half that.


No, that would be Beats + audiophile.

We all know how much Boing Boing loves audiophilia and Monster Cable, not to mention corporate tie-ins, so this all makes perfect sense.

(Yes, I know Beats and Monster are no longer associated.)

Yeah, “budget” + “audiophile” + first item is Beats by Dr Dre = total fail.

Beats are quite literally the second worst headphones I have ever had the misfortune to put on my head.

The worst were the headphones in the language lab in high school in the 80s – monophonic, a third of them had one speaker out, they had the frequency response of a soup can, smelled of disinfectant, and were probably manufactured in the late 40s.

But it’s a close race.

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I second that. As far as I can tell, they hit neither the “budget” nor the “audiophile” categories.


Bowers and Wilkins makes some decent bookshelf speakers-- you might be better off if you stick with the standard boxy speakers plus amp/receiver.

Then you can actually put yourself and the speakers at the vertices of a equilateral triangle and get a nice stereo effect. But the zeppelin? Possibly not the best way to spend your budget.

not if you still buy with your ears.
Kind of hard to do these days, though, as anything bought through Amazon is a “deaf buy”,Best Buy is a giant warehouse not known for acoustics. Boutique audio is still rather expensive.
Easiest way to get into audiophile stuff is headphones. Grados are good, iff you have someplace quiet to listen, but can’t really afford speakers to put in that someplace quiet. For listening outside, or exercising, or not disturbing people, they’re rather horrid.

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I’ve never owned a pair of Grados, but these have been my dream headphones for years:

Admittedly, I mostly want them because they’re so damn pretty.

I’m really happy with my Audio-Technicas, though they’re really worn out. My next pair will probably be Audio-Technica or AKG.

Regarding “buying with your ears,” you’re right, that’s mostly gone by the wayside. But I’ve found that customer reviews are usually pretty true.

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Customer reviews are frequently self justifying. I own two sets of bookshelf speakers-- bowers and Wilkins 601, which are awesome, and Klipsch Synergy bookshelves, which were a stellar deal, and decent enough. Am I satisfied. Yes. Are they better speakers than their competitors? Um. My ears are far from golden, and I really didn’t compare all that many,… but I don’t want to believe that I chose poorly.


I’d be very surprised if that very circuit board they’re using isn’t on Ebay for about thirty-forty quid. you can pick clones of old Quad circuits up for about that price.

Ah, alright. That definitely happens some, too. But most customer reviews, in my opinion, are from people who really LOVE the product or really HATE the product.

I mean, if I’m happy with a purchase, I’m not going to bother writing a review. If you want me to give something a five-star review, it had better change my world.

Also, for reference:

Also, the Grado SR60i headphones are about $70ish-- much more accessible than the $1000 pair. It might even sound vaguely similar-- no need to lust over a pair of cans if you don’t like Grado’s “house style”

Aren’t those “on-ear” headphones? I can only really do the “over-ear” ones.

On ear? Pretty much.

Thought so. I had ear surgery a while back, so the type that actually sit on my ears aren’t very comfortable for me. I like the type that go around the ear instead.