This story first appeared in the Feb. 15 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
1. The Dock: Teenage Engineering OD-11
Don’t let the name fool you -- this is not for kids. (Unless they invented the next Spotify.) Mono often gets a bad rap, but the single OD-11 does fine on its own; it also can be combined with up to three units to create stereo or quadraphonic sound. Based on a revered 1974 speaker by Stig Carlsson, this update can wirelessly pull in and play music from the cloud (and your home network). The icing on the cake is its minimalist remote, essentially a giant button-free volume knob. $800, teenageengineering.com
2. The Headphones: Audio-technica ATH-AD900X Elite
You could blow your wad on a similarly priced pair of headphones from Beats by Dre, or get these and quit letting your trend-chasing teenagers do your shopping for you. The CCAW voice coils and 53mm drivers in Audio-technica’s ATH-AD900X (an update to its excellent ATH-AD900 set) provide superb reproduction. Better yet, the company’s 3D Wing Support Housing makes them supremely comfortable for long sessions. Selena Gomez is a fan of the brand. $300, audio-technica.com.
3. The Preamp: The McIntosh D100
McIntosh has been winning over fans since its founding in 1949, with everyone from Howard Hughes to Jack Nicholson, L.A. Reid and Liev Schreiber more recently. So trust the company to turn out the drool-worthy D100, which acts as a gateway from your digital sources to an analog stereo. Five ports (each with its own digital-to-analog converter) means your devices, from iPods to laptops, can all get a hookup. Plus, it has a built-in headphone amp to make your cans sound their best. $2,500, mcintoshlabs.com
4. The Portable Music Player: Astell & Kern AK100
Back in the swirling mists of time, instead of storing music tracks in their phone, people carried them in single-purpose devices called iPods or Zunes (the Zune is now thought by archaeologists to have been a myth). Return to the days of the dedicated music player with the Astell and Kern AK100. Why would you do such a thing? Because the AK100 can play back high-resolution 24-bit audio formats, most significantly FLAC (FLAC files are typically only playable on a computer). It’s also packed with audiophile goodies like a high-quality DAC and 2 SD card slots that allow you increase its internal 32BG of storage, up to a maximum of 96GB. $700, aloaudio.com
5. The Integrated Amp: Wadia Intuition 01
Audio components used to come in the strikingly unexciting form of differently sized black boxes. That time officially has passed. Wadia introduced a stunning new look for its audio products with the Intuition 01, an integrated amp that packs a remarkable amount of audio goodness into its very sleek package. Although it measures just 15 inches square (and under 2.5 inches tall at the center), inside you’ll find a 32-bit digital preamp with seven digital and two analog inputs, a 350 watts-per-channel amp, as well as state-of-the-art Digital-Audio Converters and upsampling magic to make all your digital sources shine. looks a treat while doing it. $7,500, audiostream.com