Each year we select some of the neatest gadgets and gizmos from all over and present them to our readers as they search for new and interesting electronic gifts for their loved ones. Well, the Best Electronic Gifts 2014 Edition is finally here, and it’s chock full of unique and interesting products you may find to be great surprise gifts for your loved ones. Buy these, and you’ll be in the know—and claim the title of favorite dad, mom, aunt, uncle, or relative this holiday season!
It’s the Thought That Counts – 2014 Holiday Gifts Under $100
Check out these gifts if your budget is limited or you just want to pick up quick gadget for extended family or the guy at the office who always gets your coffee.
DiVoom Voombox Travel
Why We Like It: When I first heard the DiVoom Boombox travel speaker I was, above all, impressed by the sheer amount of bottom end the little driver put out. This is a wireless Bluetooth speaker that will play your music even if you’re over 20-25 feet away. There’s also a built-in microphone to let you take a call when needed. Run-time is also goo, with a 6-hour rechargeable battery that will last pretty much through any outing. Lastly, it’s fully water-resistant, so getting it splashed won’t send your tuned packing. For under $40, this is a great gift for anybody.
Where to get it: http://www.divoomusa.com/products/voombox-travel
Silverlit Lazer M.A.D. 2.0 Battle Game
Why We Like It: Uh…it’s Laser tag! Resurrected from the 80’s, this game, this kit lets you turn your home into a battleground. It includes two “lazer” blasters which shoot IR beams and feature a target lock, light sensor, and rear pull mechanism for reloading. The set also includes two headsets with a vision filter featuring a life point indicator, 360° danger alert and physical feedback, so you’ll know when you’ve been hit. What does this have to do with home theater or audio? Absolutely nothing…but you should buy it for your kids anyway!
X-Doria KidFit Bands
Why We Like It: Some of the coolest gifts are the ones that innovate in areas we didn’t expect, and the fun of this gift is that it combines physical activity with an iOS/Android app to encourage kids to play and reach exercise goals. So many child-focused electronics are solely based on entertainment value, but the KidFit is a wireless activity and sleep tracker for ages 5-13 that actually encourages and motivates kids to play hard (and get enough rest). The KidFit itself is a “slap band” style wristband and is IPX3 rated (basically, it’s splash-proof). You set a daily activity target for each child and they try to score 100 possible points for each day. Parents can monitor multiple kids and can even set custom goals tied to real world rewards.
Where to get it: http://shop.x-doria.com/pages/kidfit
Dish Wireless Joey
Price (existing customers): $7 per month per device (you can add up to three) plus one-time $50 fee for the wireless access point
Why We Like It: The DISH Wireless Joey system lets you watch TV anywhere in a DISH-enabled home without the need to locate a coax cable feed from the satellite dish. With newer televisions and an increasing desire to see those TVs hanging on walls, the wireless Joey is just the ticket. If a wired connection from the dish is simply too difficult this is your solution. The Wireless Joey uses the new 802.11ac wireless format and an access point connects right to the DISH Hopper so you can connect this Joey wirelessly to the Hopper Whole-Home HD DVR from anywhere else in the house. The DISH Wireless Joey is identical to the wired Joey in every way—except for the wires. If you know someone on DISH, this might be a great present that you can take care of by buying a year’s worth of service (or offering to do the rather simple install).
Read our DISH Wireless Joey Preview
808 HEX SL and HEX TL Wireless Speakers
Price: $59.99 (HEX SL), $79.99 (HEX TL)
Why We Like It: The 808 HEX SL lets you enjoy rich sound with no wires attached, directly from your Bluetooth enabled smartphone or tablet. The SL’s portable design and built-in rechargeable battery allows for up to 12 hours lets you seamlessly listen to music anywhere you choose. This bluetooth speaker 360-degree cabinet design produces room filling clear and accurate audio with rich bass. Or, you can step up to the HEX TL for a two-way design that also runs for 12-hours, but with even more output and the ability to also run off 8 x AA batteries.
Where to get it: http://www.808audio.com/speakers/
SOL Republic Punk Bluetooth Speaker
Why We Like It: This little speaker puts out a ton of output, so taking it with you allows for a nice source of entertainment with very little weight or hassle. Clip it to your backpack and you’re good to go. It has an 8 battery life as well, plus, it’s both water and shock proof so you don’t have to worry about babying it on your trips. It claims a 60 ft signal range, but typically you’ll find Bluetooth devices yielding 30 feet reliably. One really neat feature is a stereo audio output. That means you can connect the SOL Republic Punk to your AV system and pair a smart phone or tablet to it. That makes the Punk capable of serving as a Bluetooth receiver that can send wireless audio to your stereo or home theater system. Now that’s cool and well worth the $69.99 price of admission. We know several products that do that which cost more and don’t feature a speaker or any sort of battery system that would include portability. It’s also available in three colors.
Where to get it: http://solrepublic.com/shop/punk-wireless-bluetooth-speaker.html
Auvio Wood Headphones
Why We Like It: The Auvio Limited Edition Wood headphones are made with a Walnut ear cup housing and look really nice. The combination of wood and metal gives these headphones a premium look, even though they aren’t priced for high-end users. Rather, the 40mm neodymium drivers and detachable audio cable (wrapped in braided fabric) with mic and call controls makes this a bargain headphone for those who love the aesthetic look of wood and want a more “natural” product. The leatherette padded earcups and headband is comfortable, and you can wear these for a long time before encountering much head fatigue. And, if your loved one is into conservation, the package includes a hemp pouch! Also included is a gold-plated 6.35mm adapter.
Yamaha EPH-M100 Earphones
Why We Like It: These Yamaha earphones are very detailed and, for the price, quite accurate. They use a large driver (for earphones) and deliver full-range sound when inserted properly. The ear buds are made from two different types of silicon materials, capitalizing on both conformity (fit) and comfort. The EPH-M100 driver uses a powerful neodymium magnet, but the higher-end EPH-M200 headphones add sound tubes made from beta-titanium. You also get five ear tip sizes to choose from (S, M, L, SS, and LL), and we found these earphones to provide ample ambient noise rejection when inserted. The earphones use a tangle-resistant cable that includes an inline remote and microphone for hands-free calling.
Buy the Yamaha EPH-M100 earphones at Audiogurus
Buy the Yamaha EPH-M200 Earphones at Audiogurus
Netgear PowerLine AV Products
Pricing: XWNB5201 $89.99/kit; XAVB5101 $79.99/kit; XAVB5602 $69.99/kit
Why We Like It: WiFi is great, but sometimes a hard line is just what you need for streaming higher quality audio or networking your computers and accessing the Internet. With the XWNB5201 you can create a high-speed WiFi (802.11b/g/n) access point while delivering 500 Mbps locally via Powerline technology. We also like that the new Netgear Powerline products are tiny. The new AV500 “Nano” devices are roughly 30% smaller than previous models and they perform the same. Each device has an automatic push button wireless setup and the LEDs actually let you know which outlets are better than others for optimal performance.
Sphero and Ollie Connected Toys
Why We Like It: The Sphero and Ollie are really cool connected toys that strike as generation “next” products. I love the idea that you can control them with your iOS or Android device and have a blast having the Sphero mess with your pet, or driving the nearly-indestructible Ollie at up to 14 miles per hour and performing stunts with it. These toys redefine what it is to play with remote control devices. Forgot RC cars—these toys can drive, flip, jump, spin, light up or otherwise explode into action at you slightest whim. Fun? Absolutely. The Ollie gives you up to 60 minutes of drive time and the Sphero gets you the same drive time. but with inductive charging. These might be the coolest things you see this year.
Where to get it: http://www.gosphero.com
Ion Sound Lounge Ottoman
Why We Like It: The Ion Sound Lounge is just a fun product. Are you going to get HiFi fidelity? No, but the though of an ottoman with an integrated Bluetooth receiver with going to turn some heads (and possibly help you play some practical jokes). You can, of course, sit on the Ion Sound Lounge Ottoman, or use it to prop up your feet, kick back, and stream music from your Bluetooth-enabled smartphone, tablet, or computer. The Ion Sound Lounge includes a ported subwoofer as well as side-firing stereo speakers to deliver a remarkably room-filling sound. You can even connect up to four Sound Lounges using the analogue auxiliary inputs and outputs to daisy chain an entire room’s worth of systems. The Sound Lounge has a nice cushioned top and seems to be built sturdily enough to survive its expected use. Underneath there’s a zippered storage space that lets you store small items out of the way. This system isn’t wireless, of course, so you’ll need to affix the included power adapter to power it up. An RCA cable is included in case you want to use it to receive or extend audio from a non Bluetooth source.
Where to get it: http://www.ionaudio.com/products/details/sound-lounge
The True Friend – 2014 Holiday Gifts from $100 to $200
Plantronics Backbeat FIT Bluetooth Headphones
Why We Like It: The Plantronics Backbeat FIT headphones come from a brand we trust and love, and these phones are flexible, so they fit comfortably and stay put when you exercise or work in the yard. The design is super-rugged and comes with a P2i coating to make it sweat-proof. On-ear controls let you take calls quickly or switch back to your music, and an included neoprene armband secures your smartphone (or reverses to store your FIT headphones). You get up to 8 hours of listening time and 6 hours of talk time with 14 days of standby—plus a “DeepSleep” mode puts your earbuds into hibernation when you’re away from the phone to extend your battery life. These are definitely going to be a hot product this holiday season.
Where to get it: http://www.plantronics.com/us/product/backbeat-fit
LittleBits KORG Synth Kit
Why We Like It: LittleBits and Korg have taken the traditional analog synthesizer, broken it down into its component parts and made it super easy for novices and experts alike to create music. They did this by making each component attach magnetically, from power source to output—everything is super-easy to experiment with and formulate your own sounds and experiences. Also, the system can connect to external speakers, computers and headphones for an even larger experience. You can literally use the LittleBits system to make your own musical instruments. This is amazingly cool for fans of old school synthesized music as well as a new generation who can experience what it’s like to literally create sound from scratch.
Where to get it: http://littlebits.cc/kits/synth-kit
Cambridge Audio GO Portable BT Speaker
Why We Like It: Unlike many Bluetooth speakers, the Cambridge Audio GO has two huge things going for it. One, it’s truly wireless, with 18 hours of battery life and no need to be plugged in. Second, it’s built with components normally reserved for full-fledge home audio speakers. Twin titanium tweeters take care of the highs, and a pair of 2″ woofers handle everything else. Not only is this a wireless Bluetooth speaker, but Cambridge does it right, with AptX technology and Near Field Communication (NFC) pairing. If you don’t need all 18 hours of play time that’s OK, too—just connect your smart phone or tablet to the GO and it will charge it for you while you listen.
Where to get it: http://www.cambridgeaudio.com/products/wireless-speakers/go
AudioTechnica ATH-ANC70 Active Noise Canceling Headphones
Why We Like It: I love these headphones, having used them extensively on many business trips. The ATH-ANC70 QuietPoint active noise-canceling headphones can be worn for hours (literally, I’ve had them on my head for a 4-hour flight) and they fold up nice and flat in the included case—though I wish they were a tad more collapsible for travel. Still, the fact that they drop your background noise by as much as 90%, while still giving you incredibly accurate, hi-fi audio quality. The ATH-ANC70 headphones are a closed-back design and can reproduce a lot of bass that, while punchy, isn’t overbearing. If you use these with a smartphone you can press the illuminated logo-button on the earcup to take a call. Then, you press it again to leave the call. AudioTechnica included a high-sensitivity mic right in the earcup that I found delivered sufficient pickup for calls, despite being on the side rather than in front. These headphones are also lightweight and comfortable, and the headband didn’t press down on the top of my head—allowing the phones to remain comfortable over the long haul.
Peerless-AV PeerAir Wireless HDMI system
Why We Like It: What’s not to like with wireless HDMI? Peerless-AV used the WHDI standard for this product, and it works really well for streaming movies or gaming content across the room or simply from an AV cabinet to your television—all without the use of wires. The system is pretty much plug-and-play and has a very low latency, so you don’t incur tons of lag when sending content over the air. The PeerAir Wireless HDMI system can stream Full 1080p content as well as 3D content formats. With a wired pass-through feature that sends content to a nearby HDTV, and a wireless receiver able to receive wirelessly streamed content up to 100ft (30m) away, it is simple to watch TV or play video games in different rooms, all without the clutter and cost of running cables. In addition, this is the only system that provides the ability to expand wireless connectivity with the ability to add additional HDMI sources wirelessly to one HDTV with an available Transmitter accessory.
Get the Peerless AV Peer Air Wireless HDMI System from Audiogurus
Grace Digital Encore
Why We Like It: Grace digital has several products on the market in both portable audio and streaming media categories, but their new Encore Wi-Fi Music Player features a 3.5″ color display that displays, among other things, album art for your tunes. It’s a nicer interface than their pared down systems and we like the vast amount of music you can access using the Internet radio features. As an Internet radio, the Encore plays music directly without a PC, and you can also stream AAC, AAC+, ADTS, AIFC, AIFF, CAF, MP3, NeXT, OGG , WAV, WMA,ASX, M3U, PLS,HTTP, HTTPS, RTSP, Apple Lossless, and FLAC 24-bit 96kHz files from your computer. Connectivity includes built in 802.11n Wi-Fi, headphone and RCA analogue outputs, an RCA aux input, and even USB so you can play back audio from a flash drive.
Where to get it: https://gracedigital.com/shop/encore/
SOL Republic Tracks Air Bluetooth Headphones w/aptX
Why We Like It: Tracks Air are SOL Republic’s first wireless Bluetooth headphones—and we’ve been waiting a while to see the company release something this cool. SOL does a good job of combining comfort, durability and sound quality, and now they’ve added the freedom of movement. Unlike other camping, however, they didn’t sacrifice on sound. This is why you’ll find Bluetooth with aptX technology included. The phones also are spec’d to last a full 15 hours and can support connection to two different devices so you don’t need to re-pair each time you share. Hey…that rhymes!
Braven BRV-X Waterproof Speaker
Why We Like It: This is one ultra-rugged speaker. The Braven BRV-X comes with an IPX7 waterproof rating and a shockproof rubber exterior. You can also use two BRV-X speaker and pair them together for left and right stereo sound—a feature rarely seen in sports speakers of this type. The Braven BRV-X will deliver 12 hours of music play—and it’s loud enough for outdoor use, no matter if you’re camping or hosting a backyard BBQ. One top of all this, the Braven BRV-X comes with a large 5200mAh battery which in addition to driving the portable speaker, can be used to charge external devices like your smart phone or portable tablet.
Where to get it: http://www.braven.com/brv-x-rugged-waterproof-bluetooth-speaker.html
Soen Audio Transit Portable Bluetooth Speaker
Why We Like It: The Soen Audio Transit is a bit of an anomaly. It’s a rather small speaker—perfect for portability. But it provides deep, room-filling sound that would typically only be possible from much larger speakers. Driven by transducers that have extreme excursion (in and out dome movement) for their size, the Soen woofers have peak-to-peak distances that are at least 20% of their thickness (with some even up to 25%). The built-in rechargeable Lithium-ion battery charges via USB and delivers up to 8 hours of run-time. Recharging the battery takes approximately 2 hours. This is also a very elegant speaker, with sleek lines and a pushbutton flip foot to allow it to stand up and project from a desktop. When you open the packaging on this product you can immediately tell you’re buying quality.
Where to get it: http://soenaudio.com/transit_features.html
The “I Ain’t Messing Around” – Holiday Gifts from $200 to $300
V-Moda XS On-ear Headphones
Why We Like It: I’ve loved v-moda headphones ever since I put on a pair. The XS, however, present a new way for on-ear headphones to fit your head. Most on ear and over headphones leave a gap on the side of your head. This gap between the headband and your head looks weird, but it also places all of the pressure and support of the headphones on the top of our head—a place that can quickly get uncomfortable. V-moda took a lot of R&D time to design a more form-fitting headband. This SteelFlex headband fits better, but it’s also virtually indestructible. The memory foam cushions inside the earphone cups are supple and adopt well to your ears so you can wear these headphones for hours on end in comfort. If you’ve never tried v-moda, now’s the time.
Where to get it: http://v-moda.com/xs/
Mass Fidelity Relay Bluetooth Receiver
Why We Like It: Bluetooth audio with aptX decoding is where it’s at, and the Mass Fidelity Bluetooth receiver lets you stream high fidelity sound to your high-end two-channel system or home theater. You get the convenience of wireless Bluetooth connectivity with the clarity, deep bass and fidelity your home stereo or home theater sound system can deliver. The Mass Fidelity Relay is more than a Bluetooth receiver, it’s also a Digital to Analog Converter (DAC). Inside the Relay is a Burr-Brown 5102 DAC and a Cirrus microprocessor to decode aptX, a high resolution CODEC for Bluetooth that gives you near-lossless, CD-quality audio streaming.
Where to get it: http://massfidelity.com/products/relay-wireless-bluetooth-dac
Cambridge Audio Bluetone 100
Why We Like It: A 100 watt class-D amplifier drives this Bluetooth speaker which connects to almost any device for unusually big sound. The Cambridge Audio Bluetone 100 speaker features aptX Bluetooth for near-lossless music streaming and has both RCA and 3.5mm inputs for connecting non-Bluetooth devices, and you get a ton of output from the dual 4” balanced mode radiator (BMR) drivers. Setup and control are easy, and this is one of those speakers that truly sounds much bigger than it is.
Who Loves You? Holiday Gifts Over $300
Phiaton Chord MS 530 Headphones
Why We Like It: These Chord MS 530 Headphones from Phiaton feature Bluetooth 4.0 as well as active noise-canceling technology that will remove as much as 98% of ambient background noise. These are going to be perfect for that business trip, or even in the office where you can’t exactly crank up a desktop speaker to escape the surrounding noise. Bluetooth 4.0 is becoming the new standard, and it excels by letting you connect two devices at the same time. That means you can share without having to re-pair the headphones over and over again. On the cord there is a dual pickup microphone to reject ambient noise during calls, making it transparent that you’re talking to someone on a headset. One other feature is that the headphones work in analogue mode, letting you use them even when the battery goes dead. You’ll lose the active noise cancelation, but at least you can still listen to your tunes! Photon calls this feature “EverPlay-X”
Logitech Harmony Ultimate Home
Why We Like It: If you want an easy-to-program, powerful remote control system that can handle anything from a home theater to a whole home, the Logitech Harmony Ultimate Home system is for you. You can change channels, adjust volume, fast-forward, or rewind using gestures on the bright 2.4” touchscreen, and motion-activated, backlit controls let you quickly and easily find what you need—even in the dark. The remote also has haptic feedback, so you know you’re activating buttons on the LCD touch screen, and you can fully customize the remote to your own tastes by using the simple application provided. Finally, a convenient charging station lets you drop the remote in place when it’s not being used, ensuring that it always has a full charge when you need it.
Where to get it: http://www.logitech.com/en-us/product/harmony-ultimate-home
ZVox Soundbase 670
Why We Like It: If you can’t entertain a full 5.1 system with surround speakers and a sub, then the ZVOX SoundBase 670 will allow you to produce rich, room-filling home theater sound in a highly-reduced form factor. The Soundable 670 is just 3.5” high, but it contains five full range speakers (including three center speakers). When placed under your flat panel television, it virtually disappears. Connection is simple, and you get both analogue and digital options for receiving Dolby Digital audio from your TV. The ZVOX PhaseCue virtual surround system even creates a DSP-based surround experience that has to be heard to appreciate. This model also includes Bluetooth with aptX, so you can stream audio from any smart phone or tablet wirelessly. For under $500 you get a lot of sound that will even blow away most sounders we’ve heard.
Get the ZVOX Soundbase 670 Speaker Base from Audiogurus