2018 Holiday Gift Guide, Part 3

2018 Holiday Gift Guide, Part 3

How’s your holiday shopping list looking as we head into the home stretch before Christmas? Still have a few gifts to get? Don’t worry, you’re not alone. In this installment of our ongoing 2018 Holiday Gift Guide, we present 11 recent Top Pick-designated products, complete with synopses, quick-reference ratings, and holiday pricing where available. In our humble opinion, any (or all) of these winning products — listed here from least to most expensive — will make for a fine gift to give — or get. Happy shopping!

Sennheiser HD 569 Headphones: $149
(currently selling for $140 at BestBuy.com and Amazon.com)

Performance
Features
Comfort
Value

If you think audiophile sound quality is beyond the reach of headphones that cost a hundred and fifty bucks, think again. Sennheiser has made all the right choices with its new HD 569, featuring a rugged plastic design with black suede accents, super comfortable memory-foam earpads, and two cables — a 10-footer for home use and a 4-footer with an in-line remote/microphone and minijack for use with a phone. Impressed with its sweet tone and neutral sound, headphone maven Steve Guttenberg wrote: “Don’t underestimate the HD 569; this is an audiophile-oriented design. That much was clear when I spent a few hours spellbound listening to Vladimir Horowitz CDs…The HD 569 was a faithful messenger of this music.”

AT A GLANCE

Plus

Lightweight yet rugged design
Smooth overall sound balance
Two-year warranty

Minus

Isolation from external noise could be better

Full Review Here

Polk Audio Command Bar Soundbar: $300
(currently available for $250)

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value

You’ll be hard pressed to find a $300 soundbar that looks and sounds as good as Polk’s Command Bar, the second product to receive our new Top Value designation. The svelte Bar is brimming with features — from Bluetooth streaming and built-in Dolby Digital and DTS surround processing to four preset listening modes, 4K/HDR-compliant HDMI 2.0a inputs, and Alexa voice control. Calling the Command Bar “surprisingly authoritative,” reviewer Rob Sabin said it boasts “serious chops and…over delivers on features and performance. I don’t hesitate to recommend it.”

AT A GLANCE

Plus

Alexa voice control
Flexible connectivity
Good sound quality
Great value

Minus

No multiroom music functions

Full Review Here

Kanto SYD Bluetooth Speaker: $330

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value

In a world littered with mediocre Bluetooth speakers, Kanto’s SYD distinguishes itself as a stellar performer that delivers rich, powerful sound from a rock-solid enclosure that’s the width of a standard-size audio component. Best of all, it does so at an eminently reasonable price. Reviewer Bob Ankosko was impressed: “I was blown away by the intimacy, clarity and depth of Holly Cole and her jazz quartet performing “Larger Than Life” from 2007’s Holly Cole) — and that’s just one example of many. Quite an accomplishment for such as small speaker.”

AT A GLANCE

Plus

Excellent sound quality
Compact and well-built
Easy to set up and use
Great value

Minus

No Wi-Fi streaming
No visual feedback
No grille cover

Full Review Here

Sonos Beam Wireless Soundbar: $399
(currently selling for $349 at Amazon.com)

Performance
Features
Build Quality
Value

It’s not much to look at but the Sonos Beam delivers impressive sound quality and can be easily integrated into a Sonos multiroom music system without breaking the bank. At its best in moderate-sized rooms, the soundbar is remarkably compact and equipped with Sonos’ awesome Trueplay auto-room-correction processing and Alexa voice control. Reviewer Rob Sabin wrote: “I found it unfailingly pleasant on pretty much any content I tried, both music and movies, and was consistently impressed with just how much high-quality sound it put out given its size and price.” All in all, a smart value.

AT A GLANCE

Plus

Affordable price
Alexa voice control
Links with other Sonos speakers

Minus

More optimized for TV sound than music
Requires HDMI ARC for voice control of TV

Full Review Here

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