Gifts For The Gadget Geek In Your Life
Our gimmick-free guide to the best headphones, speakers and cameras, with (jingle) bells on
There are now just 12 days until Christmas. And, because no one really wants to receive a partridge in a pear tree – or, for that matter, attempt to wrap one – we’re proffering a countdown of less perishable, more conveniently shaped gifts: seven of the best audio and technology presents to give your loved (or liked) ones. Unlike the smorgasbord of gimmicks thrust upon shoppers at this time of year, these are gadgets that are actually useful. Our carefully curated selection of techy things not only come in handy day to day but look rather nice, too. Still stuck for ideas? Mosey on over to Messenger and check out the MR PORTER Gift Finder for personalised recommendations from our little helpers.
It’s difficult to pinpoint the precise moment TVs, telephones and speakers stopped looking, well, anything like TVs, telephones and speakers, but Bang & Olufsen has had more than a helping hand in it. Since 1925, the Danish design outfit has been producing high-tech contraptions – you know, the sort of thing that might easily be mistaken for a museum exhibit or, as is the case with the new BeoSound 1 wireless speaker, a Mr Stanley Kubrick-esque monolith. The aluminium cone is sculptural, sure, but happily for audiophiles, it’s also up to scratch aurally. Developed by industrial designer Mr Torsten Valeur, the stand-alone device is equipped with 360-degree sound quality and Google Assistant, so it can readily supply you with answers when one of your tipsy relatives suggests a game of Trivial Pursuit after Christmas dinner.
Looking for something less space-age and more retro? Enter Revo’s award-winning range. The jewel in the crown is the SuperSystem model, an all-in-one, single-box digital audio system that lets you listen to music in various formats. As well as bass-rich, crisp sound, the unit is Wi-Fi and Bluetooth enabled and streams music through Spotify seamlessly. Form doesn’t play second fiddle to function, either. CEO and co-founder Mr David Baxter tells us the walnut and aluminium unit’s striking good looks are inspired by mid-century design. “While always looking to the future to innovate, we also keep one eye on the past, learning and taking inspiration from the great radio designers of the 20th century,” he says.
The Polaroid camera
While we’re reminiscing about days and design gone by, cast your mind back to 2003, when OutKast, in their infinite wisdom, urged us to all shake it like a Polaroid picture. Before you do the maths, that really was 15 years ago. It was a simpler time, back when our fingertips were more likely to leaf through a paperback before bed than scroll absent-mindedly through an Instagram feed. Still, it’s hard to ignore the irony that the success of one of the world’s most lucrative digital platforms is predicated on wistful nostalgia for an analogue way of doing things. The Clarendon, Ludwig and Lark filters are all inspired by the dreamlike haze of instant photos. Yes, the iPhone’s camera offers convenience, but there’s something singular about the shutter click followed by the gentle whirr of a Polaroid spewing film. The OneStep+ offers the best of both worlds – as well as issuing instants, it connects to an app via Bluetooth so you or your intended can scan your snaps and then, presumably, upload them to Instagram.
The compact camera
Then again, if the recipient you have in mind sees his photographic pursuits as less of a pastime and more of a professional endeavour, you’ll need to invest in something with a few more bells and whistles. Yes, you could spend hours compiling a comparative analysis of the best models on the market, or you could skip all that and opt for our personal favourite (seriously, have we ever let you down?). Leica’s Q Typ 116 Compact Camera has the look and feel of something Mr Henri Cartier-Bresson would take on his travels, but all the new-fangled features you’d expect on a top-end model, including an automatic 3.68MP viewfinder, sophisticated full-frame autofocus system and built-in Wi-Fi. Fair warning, though: the recipient is likely to neglect their Christmas dinner-cooking duties in favour of tinkering away with it for the rest of the day.
Headphones aren’t just for Christmas, they’re for life. In particular, they’re for drowning out the cacophony of a crowded commuter train and ensuring strangers on the street don’t stop you mid-stride and ask you for directions. So, if you know any city dwellers, this is likely to be a very well-received present. As it happens, the models made by Bowers & Wilkins are also really rather good at playing music. Even the brand’s wireless pairs, such as these leather and mesh PX ones, pack an aural punch. They also boast an intuitive interface, automatically turning on when you put them on and shutting off when you take them off. Excellent for saving precious battery life, and any of those aforementioned interruptions.
Unlike, shall we say, more conspicuous audio equipment, Master & Dynamic’s designs are minimalist – they’re not splashed with any discernible branding. These ME03 earphones are identifiable via discreet detailing (see, for example, the aluminium grills) rather than a flashy logo, so they’re a good choice for the kind of guy who equips himself with a slick Valextra briefcase in place of, say, a Vetements belt bag. Of course, the predictable downside to downsizing from headphones to earphones is that you often end up sacrificing a decent amount of sound quality along the way. This pair might be scaled to fit snugly in-ear, but they’re engineered with 8mm titanium drivers to mimic the crisp sound of the New York-brand’s over-ear models. We’re also rather partial to the little leather carry case supplied in the box which, incidentally, slips seamlessly into briefcases and prevents those inexorable tangles in transit.
Between the opening of his new flagship Coal Drops Yard studio-cum-restaurant in London’s King’s Cross and a recently announced partnership with Ikea, we’re not quite sure when Mr Tom Dixon found a spare moment to collaborate with Native Union. But, for those with an appreciation of mid-century forms (so, all of us), you’ll be pleased he carved out the time. The Stash collection is a bold reinterpretation of vintage analogue equipment – a modern man’s take on modernist codes, if you will. The Dome lighting cable demonstrates Mr Dixon’s trademark reverence for his materials, too: it’s made from heavy magnifying glass so it looks (and functions) more like an elegant paperweight. It’s certainly a much nicer addition to your desk than your standard (read: fraying) charging fare.