Eight gifts that will rock any music lover
Whether your music lover plays his or her own music or prefers to listen to others perform, we've got you covered.
Here we offer up Eric Clapton's 1939 Martin 000-42 acoustic guitar as well as Dream Passes for 10 to San Diego's Kaaboo music festival.
The Burmester Phase 3 music system will please your couch-bound audiophile, while Noble Audio's Katana earbuds provide on-the-go musical bliss.
Mu-so Qb Wireless Music System
Naim is continuing to make an impact in the high-end wireless music system market with a new addition to its Mu-so product line, the Mu-so Qb, $US999 (about $A1350).
This all-in-one audio gadget boasts some impressive specs and sound qualities, along with robust construction and a convenient mobile app. Despite its small size and form factor, the product offers phenomenal sound and a remarkably different design from similar products.
Most noticeable when listening to the Qb is the strong, controlled bass presence that still allows other frequencies to shine. The device also casts a wide soundstage for its petite size, thanks to the tuned, angled drivers, ports, and passive radiators built in to the design.
Even the most sophisticated listener will note that the high frequencies on the Qb are very impressive, as Naim included two custom-made dome tweeters designed to very tight tolerances. Powered by an integrated 100-watt amplifier, the Qb packs a stronger punch than many high-fidelity audio systems, and can easily fill a medium-size room with sound.
The construction feels durable and sturdy, and interestingly enough is made from a 20-per cent glass-filled polymer with very rigid, supportive properties. A large volume knob tops the Qb, and at the centre are several touch-sensitive controls. It is likely that the user won't be using these controls very often, as Naim has produced a handy mobile app for iPhone and Android that conveniently can control the device from any room over a local network.
The Qb integrates with network-attached storage devices, Apple AirPlay, any PC or Mac, and popular audiophile and consumer-grade streaming services. Internet radio is also a convenient option, with several Naim-selected pre-sets available to the user upon start-up.
A handful of inputs are also available, including optical, USB, Ethernet, and a standard 3.5 mm jack. Looking for a multiroom solution? No problem. Naim designed its app to accommodate up to five Qb units in different rooms, which can all be centrally controlled from your phone.
The Naim Qb is a strong product with great design features and a sonic signature that suggests true quality. If the black grille does not fit in a room design, Naim is shipping the Qb in other optional colours, including blue, red, and orange.
The Qb would be a great feature in any space that requires minimal wiring, sharp accents, and a need for the sound of conveniently controlled, high-quality music. (naimaudio.com) - Alexander Lamascus
Burmester Phase 3
The German hi-fi brand Burmester has released its first all-in-one home-music system: the Burmester Phase 3, $US40,000 (about $A54,000). It features the company's new 161 receiver, which combines a pre-amplifier, a 120-watt power amplifier, and a music server in a single component. The Phase 3 also includes a pair of Burmester's new B15 loudspeakers. The receiver and speakers are available only in this system.
The 161 is based on Burmester's 151 MusicCentre and is the ultimate modern hi-fi hub. It has a CD drive for playing discs and ripping music to the two-terabyte onboard hard drive. It offers easy streaming from home computer networks, digital devices, and online music services.
Its reference-grade digital-to-analog converter can process resolutions as high as 24 bits/192 kHz. And it's equipped with a slew of digital and analog ports, including USB, RCA, and XLR. The 161 also allows you to control the entire system with Burmester's intuitive iPad app.
The B15 loudspeakers are compact but nonetheless mighty. Each is just 40 centimetres tall but, with a ported design and 17-centimetre fiberglass-and-paper woofer cone, can hit chest-rattling lows down to 40 Hz. The speaker's ribbon-based Air Motion Transformer tweeter offers an ultra-quick response for crisp, room-filling highs.
The Phase 3's rack creates an optimal listening angle in any space and has room for additional components or music sources. The system is available in a variety of styles and finishes, including retro, steampunk, and chrome. You also can order a completely custom finish. (Burmester ,burmester.de; available in North America through Rutherford Audio, 303.872.6285, rutherfordaudio.com) - Bailey S. Barnard
Eric Clapton's 1939 Martin 000-42 Acoustic Guitar
No acoustic guitar is more famous or more coveted than this 1939 Martin 000-42 , $US1 million (about $A1.35 million), and it is available only through Robb Report's Ultimate Gift Guide.
Eric Clapton played it during what may be the best known and most acclaimed of his performances over the past six decades.
In early 1992 at the Bray Film Studios in Windsor, England, Clapton mesmerised a small audience with a 17-song acoustic set that was recorded for a session of MTV Unplugged and soon thereafter released as an album.
He played this guitar, serial number 73234, during several songs, including a slower version of his rock anthem "Layla." The album revitalised Clapton's career by winning six Grammy Awards and selling 26 million copies worldwide. It remains his best-selling record. Clapton appears on the cover playing this gift's guitar.
"Besides using it for recording, it was Clapton's favourite home guitar that he'd sit around and play," says Lloyd Chiate, the owner of the legendary shop Voltage Guitars in Toluca Lake, California. Voltage is offering the instrument on behalf of its current owner to a Robb Report reader.
The owner, a prominent guitar collector, purchased it for $US791,500 (about $A1,070,000) in 2004 at a Christie's auction that benefited Clapton's Crossroads charity. The purchase price is the 10th highest ever paid at auction for any guitar and the second highest ever for an acoustic guitar.
Following the auction, the owner lent the guitar to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Museum in Cleveland, where it was on display for a decade, and then to the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art in New York City, where it was the featured item in an exhibit on early American guitars.
It is one of 113 pre–World War II Martin 000-42 short-scale guitars with a 14-fret neck. Martin designed these guitars with a shorter body so that players could more easily access all of the frets. It's the preferred style for many fast-playing blues guitarists. Pre-war acoustic guitars are the most sought-after by collectors: Martin models with no celebrity connections often garner five- and six-figure prices at auction.
C. F. Martin & Co., a 183-year-old Pennsylvania company, built this example with a top of Adirondack spruce and back and sides of Brazilian rosewood. The latter wood — renowned for the resonant tone it produces — is now protected from commercial use.
The deterioration surrounding the pick guard came from the guitar's frequent use, and contrasts with the beauty of the handlaid abalone inlays on the fretboard and body edge and around the sound hole. It also supports the claim that this was Clapton's favourite guitar to play.
"On top of it being a holy grail on its own," says Chiate, "it really is a part of rock-and-roll history." The guitar is on reserve for a Robb Report reader until January 1, 2017. (Voltage Guitars, Lloyd Chiate, 818.509.1344, voltageguitar.com) - Bailey S. Barnard
Noble Audio Katana Earbuds
The Noble Audio Katana earbuds , $US1850 (about $A2500) are like miniature speakers for your ears. Like loudspeakers that utilise multiple driver units, each Katana earbud has multiple drivers for a broad sonic response.
Each bud features nine balanced-armature drivers, providing a wide frequency range and a surprising low-end response for earbuds. The mid and high ranges are frighteningly clear, with musical nuances coming through with a level of detail approaching that of full-size headphones.
Noble offers many of its earbuds, including Katana, as in-ear monitors custom moulded to fit the user's ear. The universal-fit Katana earbuds are housed in sleek, lightweight machined aluminium and come with an array of ear pads to offer a light, comfortable fit for any user.
They also come with a detachable cable and an extra-heavy-duty Pelican Case for travel. (nobleaudio.com) - Bailey S. Barnard
KEF LS50 Wireless Speakers
The acoustic alchemists at UK-based KEF have conjured up more magic with the LS50 Wireless speakers.
Commemorating the company's 55th anniversary, the new active amplification system follows up its passive LS50 precursor from five years ago. The high-fidelity componentry features an FEA-designed cabinet, a Uni-Q driver, a 192 hHz/24-bit high-resolution digital signal path, and dual-band Wi-Fi connectivity.
Along with the integrated touchscreen panel, controls can be accessed remotely through the speakers' own app (compatible with iOS and Android) that can fine tune music streaming, subwoofer output, and personal settings.
Available in three colour combinations (titanium grey and red, gloss black and blue, or gloss white and copper), the LS50 Wireless sounds in at $US2200 (about $A2968). (us.kef.com) - Viju Mathew
Kaaboo Dream Pass
Forget fantasising about a day in the life of a rock star. How about a long weekend instead?
Designed specifically for Robb Report's Ultimate Gift Guide, the Kaaboo Dream Pass is a four-day passport to indulgence for a group of 10 attendees, granting nearly unlimited access to Kaaboo — the multifaceted music, comedy, culinary, and arts festival (a production of Virgin Produced) in Del Mar, California, from September 15-17, 2017.
Beginning on September 14, the ultra-posh perks includes private jet service to San Diego (up to 30 hours of air time), use of up to five chauffeur-driven Mercedes-Benz sedans, and accommodation in an exquisite five-bedroom villa overlooking the Pacific.
At the festival site, guests will meet-and-greet with various artists; have a choice of premier front-of-stage, on-stage, or backstage perspectives for all acts; and access to their own private sanctuary (the Dream Compound), where they will be treated to exclusive pop-up performances and a celebrity chef–prepared dinner (the night before the official start), daily brunches, and culinary presentations.
And when a little privacy is preferred, five lavish live-aboard tour buses are dedicated to the group — one for each couple. The passes also include a private concierge, complimentary spa services, a photographer to capture their experience and much more customised to the experience of each Dream Pass holder.
Focal Utopia Headphones
The French audio equipment manufacturer Focal produces what many consider to be the world's finest loudspeakers.
Its Utopia line of loudspeakers has appeared on Robb Report's Best of the Best list multiple times. Now, with the newly introduced Focal Utopia headphones, $US4000 (about $A5400), the company has a strong contender for the world's greatest full-size headphones.
Like Focal's top-end speakers, the open-back Utopia headphones utilise supremely rigid yet lightweight Beryllium for the drivers, which feature an innovative M-shape design that exhibits characteristics of both convex and concave driver domes.
These elements help create a supremely neutral sound wave and eliminate the need for a crossover and passive filtering, resulting in blissful personal listening when paired with dedicated amplification.
With featherweight carbon-fibre components and lambskin leather from New Zealand, the Focal Utopia headphones are exceedingly comfortable for long listening sessions. (focal.com) - Bailey S. Barnard
Sennheiser PXC 550 Headphones
The Sennheiser ** PXC 550**, $US400 ($A630) is one of the newest and best offerings in the Bluetooth over-ear headphone arena.
We recently sampled these headphones and can attest that they boast top-notch sound quality and are easy to use. Additionally, the PXC550 is a noise-cancelling model, so it cancels out a significant amount of ambient sound, making the music or audio far easier to hear.
This model includes phone features, and has a convenient touch panel on the right ear cup that replaces the typical volume and answer buttons. The PXC550 includes a mobile app, and has voice commands as well as gestures for phone controls.
They also include Near-field communication pairing and offer up to 30 hours of battery use on a single charge. (sennheiser.com) - Alexander Lamascus