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Engadget's holiday gift guide 2012: portable audio

Joe Pollicino

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Welcome to the Engadget holiday gift guide! Picking presents for friends and loved ones is never a simple task, and with thousands of options for each category, buying technology can be an especially frustrating experience. We're here to help. Below you'll find today's bevy of curated picks, and you can head back to our hub to see the rest of the product guides as they're added throughout the holiday season. And don't forget to enter our giveaway -- leave a comment for a chance to nab AT&T's HTC Windows Phone 8X.

If you plan on picking up smartphones, tablets or laptops for you and your loved ones this holiday season, it's safe to bet most of them won't produce decent sound quality when left to their built-in devices. That's why we're here to highlight some portable audio wares that should help you jam out at home and on the go with pleasing sonic fidelity. We've narrowed it down to wired headphones, wireless headphones and wireless speakers that blend style, portability and, of course, quality to please many an audiophile.

Wired Headphones

V-Moda M-100

DNP Engadget's holiday gift guide 2012 portable audio

Created with heavy input from the audiophiles at Head-Fi, the M-100s are a cross between V-Moda's M-80 on-ears and LP2 DJ headphones. The result is a striking set of portable, fashion-focused cans with HiFi DNA. Military-grade construction, with swappable cabling, replaceable leather earpads, customizable ear plates and folding earcups, helps ensure that these over-ear (yet still low-profile) headphones will also be ready for your abusive commutes. The M-100s won't be available until later this holiday season, but you can get your pre-order filled out in the meantime.

Key specs: Cliqfold earcup hingers, highly durable MIL-STD-810G metal construction, carrying case, dual cable inputs, replaceable and customizable earcup plates, Kevlar-wrapped cable with a one-button remote / mic, memory foam earpads.

Price: $300 to $310 from V-Moda

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DNP Engadget's holiday gift guide 2012 portable audio

Klipsch Image S4i series II

It's been years since Klipsch introduced its S4 lineup of in-ear headphones, and we still think they are among the best for about a Benjamin. The latest iteration of the intra-aurals features flat cabling and updated remotes, but the rich sound and comfortable fit are the same as ever.

Price: $99 on Amazon

DNP Engadget's holiday gift guide 2012 portable audio

Bowers & Wilkins P3

Downsized from B&W's leather-wrapped P5 headphones, the P3s are a bite-sized chunk of opulence for your ears. These cans feature folding earcups and memory foam padding. Best of all, the iOS-remote / mic-loaded cabling and earpads are replaceable.

Price: $239 on Amazon

Wireless Headphones

Parrot Zik by Starck

DNP Engadget's holiday gift guide 2012 portable audio

You really can't go wrong with the Parrot Zik by Starck Bluetooth headphones as a gift for the audio-loving gadget geek in your life. Not only are they dressed to the nines thanks to Philippe Starck's synthetic leather-and-metal design, but the headphones also offer everything from a touch control on the right earcup to NFC support and active noise cancellation. Can't wrap your head around it? Check out the beefy spec list below, and you'll see why we recommend these premium cans. Just be sure to pick up a secondary battery for $30, as you'll only average six hours per charge with wireless and ANC functionality enabled.

Key specs: NFC, active noise cancellation, touch-activated gesture control, jawbone sensor, dedicated speech microphone, replaceable Li-ion battery, Parrot Audio Suite app Bluetooth 2.1, pressure-sensitive head detection.

Price: $399 on Amazon

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DNP Engadget's holiday gift guide 2012 portable audio

Harman Kardon BT

This is a set to check out if you've wished Bowers & Wilkins would make wireless versions of its headphones already. A dapper metal-and-leather, retro-inspired design melds with modern Bluetooth wireless streaming and iOS-compatible on-ear controls for a premium mobile listening experience.

Price: $250 from Apple

DNP Engadget's holiday gift guide 2012 portable audio

Jaybird Freedom Sprint

Jaybird knows what's up when it comes to fitness-focused audio gear. Its Freedom Sprint offers performance similar to its JF3 in-ears in a package that's 40 percent smaller. Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR streaming and secure-fitting earbuds will help ensure you won't get tangled during your workouts.

Price: $130 on Amazon

Portable Wireless Speakers

Beats by Dr. Dre Pill

DNP Engadget's holiday gift guide 2012 portable audio

Dr. Dre thinks it's time for a new prescription when it comes to enhancing your mobile audio needs in a diminutive speaker. With a quartet of 1-inch drivers, this medication-inspired mini-rig offers sound that's miles ahead of other portable Bluetooth speakers at its price point, supporting the likes of Apt-X and AAC codecs. The rechargeable lithium ion battery will let you bump out the jams for around seven hours, while tap-to-pair NFC makes connecting to your smartphone a cinch.

Key specs: Tiny size, four 1-inch drivers, NFC, on-board microphone, Apt-X and AAC support, Bluetooth 2.1, 3.5mm input and output jacks, micro-USB charging and probably some sort of street cred.

Price: $200 on Amazon

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DNP Engadget's holiday gift guide 2012 portable audio

Logitech UE Mobile Boombox

The UE mobile weighs in at a paltry 10.51 ounces, yet it still nets around 10 hours of use from its internal battery. It charges via micro-USB, though a 3.5mm input is on board if you'd like to forgo wireless streaming. It comes in a variety of colors, too, so you're sure to find one that fits your mood.

Price: $100 on Amazon

DNP Engadget's holiday gift guide 2012 portable audio

Libratone Zipp

The Libratone Zipp is pretty huge for a portable speaker, but it's packing a major trick up its sleeve: AirPlay Direct. Adding a bit of Scandinavian style, the signature wool grille can be zipped off and swapped with an additional two colors that are included in the box.

Price: $449 from Libratone


DNP Engadget's holiday gift guide 2012 portable audio

HTC Windows Phone 8X

Ready to take home one of AT&T's hottest smartphones? Today's offering is the HTC Windows Phone 8X, which runs on the carrier's LTE network and offers a gorgeous 4.3-inch, 1,280 x 720 display. To enter for your chance to win, be sure to review our full guidelines, then leave a comment below.

The rules:

  • Leave a comment below. Any comment will do. Duplicate entries will be filtered out and discarded, so adding additional comments won't increase your likelihood of winning.
  • Contest is open to all residents of the 50 States and the District of Columbia, 18 or older! Sorry, we don't make this rule (we hate excluding anyone).
  • Winners will be chosen randomly. One winner will receive one (1) HTC Windows Phone 8X.
  • If you are chosen, you will be notified by email. Winners must respond within three days of being contacted. If you do not respond within that period, another winner will be chosen. Make sure that the account you use to enter the contest includes a contact email. Social media contact details are not carried over into our system.
  • This unit is purely for promotional giveaway. AT&T, HTC and Engadget/AOL are not held liable to honor warranties, exchanges or customer service.
  • The full list of rules, in all its legalese glory, can be found here.
  • Entries can be submitted until December 31st, 2012 at 11:59PM ET. Good luck!

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