Here are some of the best gifts you can buy for the music lovers and audio enthusiasts in your life who prefer Android devices.
At the core of any audio enthusiast’s kit is an excellent set of headphones, and you won’t find better than a set from Audeze. Where most headphones and earbuds use dynamic cone drivers to create sound waves, Audeze headphones are designed around planar magnetic drivers. By comparison, this allows Audeze headphones to offer better clarity, a sense of space, and of course, solid bass. Screen For Car
That difference in quality is exemplified by the company’s instant classic LCD-2 over-ear headphones, which are world-renowned for exceptional audio quality. Since those game-changing headphones were released in 2009, Audeze has steadily improved the design and technology inside, giving them even better quality, clarity, comfort, and durability.
The Audeze LCD-2 closed-back is undeniably a premium product, retailing for $899.
In my personal experience, headphones from Audeze almost demand you to stop what you’re doing and listen to the music. All the fine details of the instrumentation, each individual vocalist in harmonies, and every small sound you may not have heard before is laid bare to your ears. A short demo of the Audeze LCD-2 will quickly turn into a multi-hour session listening to one’s favorite albums with fresh ears.
More recently, Audeze has been working hard to make its signature planar magnetic hardware accessible for lower budgets. Case in point, the Audeze Penrose headphones will only set you back $299. While technically the Penrose is a gaming headset — complete with a detachable microphone — it’s also usable as a simple set of Bluetooth (or USB or AUX) headphones for music, movies, and anything else.
With that set of common connectors, the Audeze Penrose may make a more compelling option for the beginning Android audiophile, as it can connect to many of the devices one already has. And while Bluetooth audio will always be a step down in quality, the option for it is there, for sake of convenience.
Over the last few years, Android phones have moved away from offering traditional headphone jacks, a fact which would normally make a premium set of wired headphones pointless. Thankfully, the USB-C port on most Android phones is actually multi-purpose, allowing you to plug in all sorts of useful gadgets.
One such gadget that every Android-owning audio enthusiast should have is a USB-C DAC like the FiiO KA1. There are plenty of cheap accessories out there that simply add a 3.5mm audio port back to an Android phone, but premium products like the FiiO KA1 are built to offer vastly improved sound quality and the power needed for high-quality headphones.
Importantly, the FiiO KA1 is also built to be supremely portable and durable, allowing one to have the same quality of music whether sitting at a computer or listening on the go from an Android phone.
At just $49, the FiiO KA1 brings solid audio quality without breaking the bank, making it a great gift for someone who you know loves music and uses an Android device.
For those looking for a step further up, the company also offers options like the KA3 and the premium-yet-portable FiiO Q3, each bringing major enhancements when paired with equally great headphones.
While there’s something to be said about the way smartphones manage to replace a multitude of previously separate gadgets, that convenience always comes with a compromise. Enter, the Android-powered music player. Analogous to the iPods of yore, a dedicated music player is able to natively support higher quality, high-resolution audio formats. You’ll also find the headphone jack that our phones have been missing all these years.
FiiO is one of the leading makers of Android-powered music players, building on the company’s years of experience with high-grade, yet reasonably priced audio equipment. FiiO’s latest player, the M11S, is its most affordable option, ringing in at just $499. Despite that, it’s still a well-equipped player with dual DACs, adjustable gain, and a massive 14-hour battery.
This isn’t just “a smartphone with better audio hardware,” either. Along the sides, there are dedicated buttons for skipping forward/back, play/pause, a multi-purpose button, and a large volume rocker. In a somewhat nostalgic way, carrying and using the FiiO M11S has felt like using an old portable cassette player — though with significantly better sounding music.
Digital audio purists will be pleased to know that all FiiO media players disable Android’s sample rate conversion process, meaning for example, that 192kHz files will always play at 192kHz, as they should. There’s also full support for new audio codecs like MQA and Bluetooth options like aptX, LHDC, and LDAC.
Packing the full Android experience, FiiO players are able to support a wide range of media apps like Tidal, Apple Music, Spotify, YouTube Music, and many more, all through the same Play Store you already know.
FiiO’s Android music players also come with additional modes besides the standard full-Android experience. The FiiO M11S can be switched to act as a Bluetooth audio receiver or plug it in as a DAC/amp for a PC or Mac. This ability to be multi-purpose makes any FiiO player a solid investment for use at home and while on the go.
Of course, all the high-end audio equipment in the world can’t fix bad quality music files. While the best solution will always be to buy high-resolution FLAC copies of one’s music library, streaming services have made great strides in improving quality in recent years, and a subscription makes one of the best gifts you can get for the Android audio enthusiast in your life.
Tidal has long been the leader on this front, putting its full focus on making high-quality music easily accessible. In the standard HiFi plan, at $9.99 per month, Tidal offers CD-quality lossless streams, while the $19.99 HiFi Plus subscription introduces Master Quality Authenticated (MQA) files.
While the MQA format is hotly debated in the audiophile community — particularly for being lossy instead of lossless and for being proprietary — it offers a noticeable improvement over CD-quality music without much increase to file size. Over the last few years, many phones and players have steadily gained full support for MQA, including most FiiO products.
Tidal also specifically directs a portion of its highest subscription plan to the artists that one listens to the most.
Another solid choice — even for Android fans, surprisingly — is Apple Music. On Android phones, Apple Music offers both lossless and high-resolution lossless tracks. Some enthusiasts will appreciate Apple’s high-res lossless (up to 192kHz, 24-bit audio) as theoretically offering better quality than MQA, though that particular debate is still ongoing.
Apple has also been in the music game for a lot longer, enabling them to have an impressive back catalog of tracks you may not find on other services — at least in this author’s experience. Apple Music is competitively priced at $9.99 per month, with discounts available for students and families.
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Kyle is an author and researcher for 9to5Google, with special interests in Made by Google products, Fuchsia, and Stadia.
Got a tip or want to chat? Twitter or Email. Kyle@9to5mac.com
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