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11 Brilliant Gifts for the Audiophile in Your Life

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Listen up: Audiophiles can immediately tell the difference between cheaply made headphones and professional studio monitors, so make sure your choice of gift is sound. Here are 11 suggestions sure to bring holiday cheer to the well-informed audio fanatic.


1. WOO AUDIO HPS-RS UNIVERSAL ADJUSTABLE ALUMINUM HEADPHONE STAND; $104

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For the person who already owns a serious set of headphones, gift an accessory that will make the listening experience more enjoyable and clutter-free. The Woo Audio HPS-RS Universal Adjustable Aluminum Headphone Stand, available in black and silver, is designed to hold two headphones at once. With an adjustable height from 11 inches up to 14 inches, the aluminum base and arm are both sturdy and practical. Another perk: The curved rest won’t leave permanent indents in headphones with luxe headbands.

Find it: Amazon


2. SCHITT VALHALLA 2 HEADPHONE AMPLIFIER; $389

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Help your beloved audiophilliac tap into the full potential of their headphones with this all-tube amp. At 9 x 6 x 3.25 inches and weighing it at 7 pounds, the compact device is small enough to fit on a desk and easy to move around.


Find it: Amazon


3. SKULLCANDY GRIND; $59

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When it comes to buying headphones, you don’t always have to break the bank for quality audio. At the sub-$100 price point, the Skullcandy Grind is a wise choice. Winner of PC Magazine’s Editors’ Choice award for 2015, the headphones are described as having a “bass-forward, balanced sound signature” and also surprised CNET reviewers with how good they sound for the price. The Skullcandy Grind is available in a wide range of colors and graphics, so finding one to match your music lover’s style should be easy.

Find it: Skullcandy


4. MASTER & DYNAMIC MH40; $399

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Jumping up a bit in terms of price and build quality, the Master & Dynamic MH40 Over Ear headphones sound great and are one of the more attractive headphones on the market today. Made of forged aluminum, stainless steel, and premium leather, the MH40s are noticeably sturdier than some other headphones, which means that they are also a bit heavier. The New York-based company prides itself on craftmanship and calls itself “obsessed with sound and creativity.” Both shine through with the MH40. David Carnoy of CNET describes the sound as “highly detailed, yet never harsh, and the bass is deep, without any boom or bloat,” while Tim Moynihan of Wired notes that the 45mm neodymium drivers are “tuned for the mid-range and low-end, with bass that sounds nice and punchy without distortion.”


Find it: Master & Dynamic


5. SENNHEISER HD800; $1369



If you really want to splurge for a loved one this holiday season, the Sennheiser HD800s come highly recommended by several trusted reviewers in the tech industry and average Joes on the Internet who can’t get enough of the experience that Sennheiser provides. Steve Guttenberg gave the headphones a perfect five out of five stars in his CNET review, and others including Trusted Reviews, TechRadar, Digital Trends, and several online reviewers have given the HD800 a perfect or near perfect score, applauding its comfort and its “intense, realistic, and natural” sound. The listening experience has been compared to that of sitting in a room with high end speakers instead of having headphones over your ears. A small criticism that critics and consumers have had with the headphones is that the noise isolation could be better, but that has not been enough to knock the Sennheiser HD800 off its throne.


Find it: Amazon


6. BOSE QUIETCOMFORT 20i; $300


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If the person you’re shopping for isn't into over ear headphones, the Bose QuietComfort 20i Acoustic Noise Cancelling Earbuds are a great buy. They are pricier than most standard earbuds, but you get what you pay for. CNET notes that the experience is not for someone seeking a “flat response,” but the earbuds are comfortable and perform well with many genres of music. The headphones boast a rechargeable battery that lasts for an advertised 16 hours (and juices fully in two), a slider to turn the noise cancelling feature on and off, and an inline remote and microphone.


Find it: Bose


7. PELICAN 1300 CASE; $49

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Protect your favorite audiophile's pricey investment with sturdy travel case for their headphones. Members of the Head-Fi forums found the Pelican 1300 case to be the ideal size for most large headphones. The foam inserts are customizable, and the cases are lightweight, durable, and also crush-, water-, and dust-proof.


Find it: Amazon


8. FOCAL DIMENSION SOUNDBAR; $1399

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Focal is known primarily for its studio monitors and expensive high end speakers, but the French company also makes headphones, car audio systems, and speakers for home theater setups. This 5.1 system has a soundstage of 4 meters, bluetooth connectivity, and is Plug-N-Play, so the person you buy it for can have great wireless sound minutes after opening the box.

In comparing the product to a previously tested soundbar, trusted reviewer Steve Guttenberg said that the Focal Dimension’s “more-expansive stereo image is bigger and more precisely focused.” He preferred a tower speaker and amplifier setup, but said that for people who prefer soundbars, “the Dimension is highly recommended.”


Find it: Audio Advisor


9. PRO-JECT DEBUT CARBON DC TURNTABLE; $399

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Vinyl has always been the preferred medium for serious fans of music, and now that it’s cool again, there are lots of great turntables to choose from. The Pro-Ject Debut Carbon DC is one of Turntable Lab’s best-selling models for a reason. Featuring a Ortofon 2M Red Cartridge, a carbon fiber tonearm, and motor improvements from the previous version of the Debut Carbon, the sleek turntable looks and performs above its price point. If your giftee isn’t keen on black, Pro-Ject offers several other color options.


Find it: Turntable Lab


10. MATHMATIKS TURNTABLE RING; $550

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So the audiophile in your life already has a turntable? Well, they probably don’t have this turntable ring. More expensive than the Pro-Ject Debut Carbon, this cool piece is made of gun metal with a rotating, 22-carat gold plated top. It’s the perfect fashion accessory for both audiophiles and budding DJs.

Find it: Mathmatiks


11. CRUTCHFIELD GIFT CARDS, $25 AND UP

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When someone is particularly hard to shop for, gift cards are always an acceptable choice. Crutchfield gift cards start at $25 and go up according to your generosity. So save time shopping and guarantee that the person you’re shopping for gets exactly what they need.


Find it: Crutchfield

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Big Questions
What Could the Repeal of Net Neutrality Mean for Internet Users?
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What could the repeal of net neutrality mean for the average American internet user?

Zouhair Belkoura:

The imminent repeal of net neutrality could have implications for Americans beyond the Internet’s stratification, increased costs to consumers, and hindered access to content for all. Net neutrality’s repeal is a threat to the Internet’s democracy—the greatest information equalizer of our time.

With net neutrality’s repeal, ISPs could be selective about the content and pricing packages they make available. Portugal is a good example of what a country looks like without net neutrality

What people may not realize is that a repeal of net neutrality would also give ISPs the ability to throttle people’s Internet traffic. Customers won’t likely have visibility into what traffic is being throttled, and it could substantially slow down people’s Internet connections.

What happens when this type of friction is introduced to the system? The Internet—the greatest collective trove of information in the world—could gradually be starved. People who experience slower Internet speeds may get frustrated and stop seeking out their favorite sites. People may also lose the ability to make choices about the content they want to see and the knowledge they seek.

Inflated pricing, less access to knowledge, and slower connections aren’t the only impact a net neutrality repeal might have. People’s personal privacy and corporations’ security may suffer, too. Many people use virtual private networks to protect their privacy. VPNs keep people’s Internet browsing activities invisible to their ISPs and others who may track them. They also help them obscure their location and encrypt online transactions to keep personal data secure. When people have the privacy that VPNs afford, they can access information freely without worrying about being watched, judged, or having their browsing activity bought and sold by third-party advertisers.

Virtual private networks are also a vital tool for businesses that want to keep their company data private and secure. Employees are often required by their employers to connect to a VPN whenever they are offsite and working remotely.

Even the best VPNs can slow down individuals' Internet connections, because they create an encrypted tunnel to protect and secure personal data. If people want to protect their personal privacy or company’s security with a VPN [they] also must contend with ISP throttling; it’s conceivable that net neutrality’s repeal could undermine people’s freedom to protect their online safety. It could also render the protection a VPN offers to individuals and companies obsolete.

Speed has always been a defining characteristic of the Internet’s accessibility and its power. Net neutrality’s repeal promises to subvert this trait. It would compromise both people's and companies’ ability to secure their personal data and keep their browsing and purchasing activities private. When people don’t have privacy, they can’t feel safe. When they don’t feel safe, they can’t live freely. That’s not a world anyone, let alone Americans, want to live in.

This post originally appeared on Quora. Click here to view.

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Pop Culture
An AI Program Wrote Harry Potter Fan Fiction—and the Results Are Hilarious
Andreas Rentz/Getty Images
Andreas Rentz/Getty Images

“The castle ground snarled with a wave of magically magnified wind.”

So begins the 13th chapter of the latest Harry Potter installment, a text called Harry Potter and the Portrait of What Looked Like a Large Pile of Ash. OK, so it’s not a J.K. Rowling original—it was written by artificial intelligence. As The Verge explains, the computer-science whizzes at Botnik Studios created this three-page work of fan fiction after training an algorithm on the text of all seven Harry Potter books.

The short chapter was made with the help of a predictive text algorithm designed to churn out phrases similar in style and content to what you’d find in one of the Harry Potter novels it "read." The story isn’t totally nonsensical, though. Twenty human editors chose which AI-generated suggestions to put into the chapter, wrangling the predictive text into a linear(ish) tale.

While magnified wind doesn’t seem so crazy for the Harry Potter universe, the text immediately takes a turn for the absurd after that first sentence. Ron starts doing a “frenzied tap dance,” and then he eats Hermione’s family. And that’s just on the first page. Harry and his friends spy on Death Eaters and tussle with Voldemort—all very spot-on Rowling plot points—but then Harry dips Hermione in hot sauce, and “several long pumpkins” fall out of Professor McGonagall.

Some parts are far more simplistic than Rowling would write them, but aren’t exactly wrong with regards to the Harry Potter universe. Like: “Magic: it was something Harry Potter thought was very good.” Indeed he does!

It ends with another bit of prose that’s not exactly Rowling’s style, but it’s certainly an accurate analysis of the main current that runs throughout all the Harry Potter books. It reads: “‘I’m Harry Potter,’ Harry began yelling. ‘The dark arts better be worried, oh boy!’”

Harry Potter isn’t the only work of fiction that Jamie Brew—a former head writer for ClickHole and the creator of Botnik’s predictive keyboard—and other Botnik writers have turned their attention to. Botnik has previously created AI-generated scripts for TV shows like The X-Files and Scrubs, among other ridiculous machine-written parodies.

To delve into all the magical fiction that Botnik users have dreamed up, follow the studio on Twitter.

[h/t The Verge]

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