The Apple Core Last-Minute, Stocking-Stuffer Gift Guide 2013

The Apple Core Last-Minute, Stocking-Stuffer Gift Guide 2013

Summary: Is there an Apple user on your gift list? Here's a short list of useful, unusual, and yet practical hardware accessories for Macintosh and iOS devices.

TOPICS: Apple, iPhone, iPad

Etymotic Research's hf3 headset earphones — $149

Etymotic Research's hf3 headset earphones use passive noise reduction.


When it comes to noise-reduction technology, I have long expressed my preference for what is called "passive" noise reduction over the "active" kind. Active headphones cancel noise by listening in real time to the acoustic environment and then generating counter-noise and bringing that mix to the listener. This approach requires battery power and doesn't always work effectively in some conditions.

Instead, the passive-style earphones fit inside the ear canal to block out the noise. There's no batteries to run out. They just work like ear plugs with tiny speakers (except there's a lot of acoustic science to make them sound right).

With my iPod, I use a pair of Etymotic Research ER•4 MicroPro headphones, which I admit are expensive with a list price of $299. And for my iPhone, I use the company's hf3 headset/earphones.  Yes, Apple keeps improving the iPhone adding extra microphones to introduce noise reduction. However, real clarity comes into play when you are "isolating" out between 35 to 42 decibels of noise. You can really hear the caller. 

Etymotic also offers interesting software for this headset called Awareness! This app is used when customers use the headset as earphones for recorded content. The app performs "programmable noise isolation," which is a twist on the active noise reduction system. Awareness! listens to the environment and then boosts certain, programmable noises that you might want to hear, such as an announcement at an airport. It's a free download.

Topics: Apple, iPhone, iPad

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  • Apple gifts for some

    Speaking of Apple gifts, why have tech journalists ignored Apple's abandonment of IOS 5 and 6 users? Nothing could be more obvious than Apple's 12 days of gift promo. The required app requires IOS 7! Had Microsoft pulled this stunt you journalisst would have been all over it. I now have two older IPADs and two IPODs that fully meet my needs short of the IOS support.
    • Outdated iPods and iPads?

      Aren't you supposed to buy the new version of Apple gadget as soon as it is released? Your gadgets should be at most 1.5 year old.
  • Best Apple gift

    ...would be advice to jump ship to a better value platform. At some point you may may even need a job where PC and Office knowledge is invaluable. Most Apple products are toys.
    Sean Foley
    • Really?

      All my friends are dumping their crappy Microsoft junk for Apple awesome excellent products. Microsoft junk are toys (Xbone anyone). LOLZ!
    • Why do you think people use apple?

      They use Windows all day at work and they prefer to use apple OS at home. I personally don't use it because I like to game on my PC. but to call apple products toys shows how childish and uninformed you are.
      new gawker
      • Sorry

        Ok, Toy is the wrong word. How about Expensive Proprietary Simple Minded Buggy Devices, with Exploding batteries on Macs.
        Sean Foley
        • Clearly you haven't lived

          Because if you had you would be spontaneously combusting with your PC or other laptops since the early 2000's. Either that or you are intensely bitter now that Apple is trying to crash your Laptop inferno party. Don't you feel that LIon disco inferno coming on?
    • Best apple gift

      In addition to my ipads and ipods I have several PCs. My main PC is Win 8. I do not consider Apple products an alternative but just another tool. There is little reason why Apple has chosen (other than the obvious product turnover) to not support IOS levels. They run on proprietary hardware. It's a fixed sandbox!