The Upscale Audio Gift Guide
End the year in style
Be your own Santa. We know you've been good. Get yourself something nice.
Remember, it might seem like it's for you, but a home filled with wonderful music makes everyone happy. Here we have two sources, an amp and speakers, and if you want to live happily ever after, just buy the whole list!
Dr. Feickert Trio SE Upscale Audio Exclusive
When Dr. Feickert took the tri-motor design of the flagship Firebird and built a single-tonearm model called the Venti, we immediately fell in love. We couldn't believe that something this good and this essential was offered as a limited edition. So, long after it was sold out, we kept clamoring for more Venti until Kevin said, enough is enough; we'll buy so many that Dr. Feickert is forced to re-issue the Venti. But in true Kevin style, he wasn't content with a simple reissue. "Let's make it even better!"
Renamed the Trio SE, this Upscale Audio exclusive is in a beautiful walnut finish and has numerous improvements under the hood, including better suspension and motor decoupling, an improved bearing bed and chassis grounding, coupled spike feet, and a larger cutout for the sliding tonearm base.
You can buy the Trio SE with no tonearm or choose between Kuzma and Tri-Planar arms. Don't go this alone! Call and talk to one of our analog experts.
T+A Electroakustik DAC 200
Once expanded from its unintended hilarity in English, T+A stands for a pretty dry Theory + Application. Listening to the German company's products though, you realize the name is a solemn promise to take the best technology and engineering, and apply it to producing the most beautiful music.
The DAC 200, a unanimous Upscale Audio favorite, takes solid (expensive!) engineering such as separate DSD and PCM processing, a de-jittering masterclock and filter with femtoclock signal transfer, galvanic isolation, and more, to produce a sound whose micro detail and dynamics, and natural warmth and presence captivate to everybody who listens.
If you put digital sound on a spectrum with a crunchy, warm vintage R-2R DAC on one end and a crystalline, hyper-detailed oversampling DAC on the other, the DAC 200 sits towards the clean side for sure, but without losing the heart and warmth and grain (not digital grain, but wood grain, tape grain, vocal cord grain) that makes great music.
PrimaLuna EVO 300 Hybrid
Tube audio for the tube-shy! A great hybrid amp takes all the presence, imaging, and delicate sparkle of tubes and combines them with the muscular bass and dynamic slam of solid state. The EVO 300, as one of the world's greatest hybrids, takes this combo and adds PrimaLuna's legendary build quality and features.
As expected with PrimaLuna, the Hybrid's power supply is extremely complex and built around two custom-wound dual-mono potted toroids. The Dutch company's famous AC Offset Killers can be spotted, too, along with Takman resistors, superquiet relay inputs, point-to-point wiring, and capacitors so good that even the most driven modders have nothing left to do but listen.
Focal Scala Utopia EVO
Upscale Audio owner, Kevin Deal, could get any speaker he wanted, but for his listening room at home, he chose Focal. Okay, it's the top-of-the-line Grande Utopia ($140,000 each), but you'd be amazed at just how much magic trickles down (or trickles up?) through the Focal range. After all, each model's driver is custom-made by Focal itself, allowing them to integrate perfectly with the enclosure (and there are separate enclosures for each driver.)
A nice big 11" woofer delivers chest-thumping bass, but with Focal's legendary ability to delineate all the edges and textures on even the deepest notes. A woofer-sized 6.5" midrange brings the resonant weight of voices and instruments.
Finally, Focal's beryllium tweeter extends way up high, shimmering with air and detail and none of the glass.
Feliks Euforia EVO + Sennheiser HD 800 S
Yes, yet another product on this list with EVO in the name, and just as exciting as the others. Here again, we have the best components joined with point-to-point wiring, a proper power transformer, and, this being an OTL (output-transformer-less) design, direct coupling to a tube stage comprising two 6SN7 and two 6AS7G tubes. With the EVO, Feliks made every day Christmas Day by incorporating all the improvements from the 20th Anniversary Euforia with a stunning new faceplate design and XLR output.
The Sennheiser HD 800 S is the first pairing our resident headphone guru, Grover Neville, mentions with the Feliks. With the smoothness and rich sound of the tube amp, you can easily pair headphones that are faster and more open on the top end to get detail without shrillness. Grover loves how the higher impedance of the HD 800 S pairs well with the voltage swing of tubes. "It does something... it's very natural sounding," says Grover. "You get the richness and musicality of tubes without the frequency response anomalies."
|Feliks Audio Euforia EVO Headphone Amplifier
|Sennheiser HD 800 S Headphones
The Stocking Stuffers
Do you have "normal" friends who live their lives perfectly content with their mass-market mid-fi systems and with whom you really wish you could share this hobby? Here are some sub-$200 ways to hook and reel them into your crazy world.
AudioQuest USB Things
For a friend using a laptop as a music source, get them a Jitterbug FMJ to connect either inline or parallel with a USB audio cable (complete instructions included) and watch them get a first lesson in Dropping Noise.
Or, get them DAC and filtration in one unit with the Cobalt that outstrips the performance of onboard phone or laptop DACs by a huge margin.
For you, the Jitterbug can used anywhere there's an open USB port. One of our crew has them on his streamer, NAS, Roon Core Intel NUC, and even on his router. "Individually, not a huge change, but all together, Wham!" he says.
|AudioQuest Jitterbug FMJ USB Filter
|AudioQuest DragonFly Cobalt USB DAC
Audio feet are a perfect way to get your mid-fi friend firmly on their way to sonic and social isolation. Mid-fi components use thinner casings and cabinets and benefit breathtakingly from vibration drainage and isolation. The IsoAcoustics Pucks are well below $200, but you do need at least three to change lives. Choose the model depending on the weight of the component. If your buddy has a turntable bought at the checkout counter of a record store, a zaZen platform is an easy way to lessen the damage of his bad choices.
|IsoAcoustics ISO-Puck Equipment Isolators
|IsoAcoustics ISO-Puck 76 Equipment Isolators
|IsoAcoustics zaZen Isolation Platform
One way to quickly improve the sound of a turntable is to clamp the record firmly to the platter with a weight that drops the resonant frequency of the system and flattens the vinyl. On the inexpensive end is the Record Doctor, and higher up, our analog team is impressed with the MoFi weight that uses materials technology from the ultra-high-end rack manufacturer HRS Technology.
Don't just blindly gift a weight, though, in case of cheap or delicate bearings or suspended designs. Check in with our analog team on website chat!
|Record Doctor Record Clamp
|MoFi Super Heavyweight Noise Dissipation Record Weight
New Video: Grover Neville and Dan Clark
Grover gives us the low-down on this new planar headphone from Dan Clark Audio, the Expanse. He makes recommendations for the best headphone amp pairings (the Expanse likes power!) and describes their sound and feature sets so you know what to expect from this beautiful, dynamic set of cans.