Well, there are less than ten days left until Christmas, but there is still time for a little self-indulgent Christmas shopping for goodies to slip into your own Christmas stocking. If you’re like me, I get gift certificates from Acoustic Sounds and Elusive Disc for Christmas presents, and these are always appreciated to add to my LP collection. But, this post focuses on a few things for those of you who want something to slip into a stocking other than a gift certificate. All of these products are things that I have used over the years. To add to your Christmas cheer, almost all of the major online retailers have great discounts this time of year.
Oh, and speaking of stockings, this is actually my mantle pictured above. Becky and I no longer do Christmas stockings for each other, but we do include our furry babies in the festivities as you can see in the picture. So, here are some suggestions for your favorite audiophile’s stocking (or your own). All of these items are readily available online, and you might want to check a couple of sites to get the best deal.
I have tried lots of different record brushes over the years, but I keep coming back to the Hunt E.D.A. Record Cleaning Brush imported from England. It uses both long and short cleaning bristles. Its fibers are in two rows with a static grounding pad centered between. The grounding pad supports the tiny carbon fibers and keeps them erect so that they can clean deep into the grooves and extract trapped dust. This YouTube video does a good job of showing off this product.
To use, simply support the back of the brush with your hand, and let the brush’s weight do the work. I use it before I play each LP and find that it does the best job of actually cleaning the LP. The only downfalls are that it doesn’t really do much for static, and it leaves a line of dust on the LP unless you have a lot better flick of the wrist than I do.
The shortcomings of the brush are why I follow up a quick dusting with the Acoustech Big Brush Record Brush with Grounding Cord. I love this thing, and it really takes care of static and dust on the LP. You’ll find this product online at several dealers for just over $50.
Another device every vinyl lover needs is a digital stylus tracking force gauge. These start at about $50.00 and go up to over $500.00. What you give up with the less expensive ones is that they often don’t measure at the LP height, which means that you don’t get a true reading of your stylus force when playing an LP. My favorite digital stylus tracking force gauge is the Clearaudio Cartridge Weight Watcher. Right now, it’s one of The Cable Company’s 12 Deals of Christmas.
If your turntable has speed adjustment, the SpeedStrobe Turntable Speed Tester Strobe Disc & Test Light from KAB is a must have. It is by far the easiest strobe disc I have ever used. If you aren’t familiar with strobes, you can find out more from KAB here. You’ll also find a lot of good reviews on this product online.
If you’re feeling a little more self-indulgent, then I highly recommend the Audio Reference Technology Room Tuning Cones. These are like an equalizer for your system that’s not in the signal path. The cones resonate at different frequencies and can really be effective at dialing in a system. I had the folks from A.R.T. tune my listening room a few years ago with amazing results. Here’s my review of this product for Dagogo from a couple of years ago.
Herbie’s Audio Lab also has lots of inexpensive audio accessories. By far and away my favorite is their Threaded Stud Glider. On most speakers, these are a huge improvement over spikes or cones. I know they look unassuming and they cost very little, but believe me, they will bring more tone and musicality into your listening room.
If you haven’t tried a really good passive power distributor, you should. In my Dagogo review of the WyWires Power Broker, I concluded by saying I was extremely pleased and somewhat surprised with the way the WyWires Power Broker allowed music and video to be played on both of my systems. The picture on my HDTV was more vivid with blacker blacks and less noise. Music played with more intensity, had great pace and flow and the soundstage and imaging were improved with the Power Broker. The top-end lacked any hash and sounded clean with an effortless beauty. Personally, I think the WyWires Power Broker is the best value I’ve come across at getting clean AC to my equipment. Well done, indeed!
My favorite power chords are the Audience PowerChords. They range in price from $400 to $4,000, but they all sound great. They have a wonderful combination of speed and warmth. I also like that they make low and medium power versions of their different cables. This means you can get the best cable you can afford, and you don’t have to pay for the high power version to go on your DAC or preamp. Their whole line of cables are exceptional.
Speaking of liking Audience, everyone should own a pair of their ClairAudient 1+1 V2+ Generation 2. I do. Yes, this may be the most ridiculous name I have encountered, but more importantly, they are the best truly small speakers I have ever heard in my home. In their latest incarnation, they have enough bass to compare with classics like the Spica TC50s or even the Quad 57s. They redefine richness and clarity at the same time and have the biggest, most natural soundstage I have heard. Here’s my review of these speakers.
I’ll close out the list with the greatest value in the audio world, the Vanatoo Transparent Zero Powered Speakers. To call them just powered speakers is an injustice. For all practical purposes, this a complete audio system for $339.00. All you need is a wireless source to stream to the speakers; they even have their own remote. We are currently using a pair of these speaker with the TV in our master bedroom. Here’s the review I wrote on these speakers earlier this year.
Hope you enjoyed this read and your stockings are stuffed with music. Our Christmas gift to each other by the way is a quiet getaway to our favorite little hotel on the North Coast of California for a few days after the big day. Yes, we take a small system with us and enjoy the music in front of a fire while watching whales frolic in the Pacific Ocean. It is heavenly!
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you from the The Audio Beatnik and Becky!