Acoustic Sounds
2023 holiday gift guide
By: Tracking Angle

November 26th, 2023


Editor's Choice

Tracking Angle’s 2023 Holiday Gift Guide

Analog gifting made easy

The holiday season is here, though finding gifts for picky vinyl obsessives can be difficult. To help, we’ve compiled a list of records, gear, and accessories that demonstrate why yes, you do carefully listen to your loved one’s rants about fancy reissues and record cleaning supplies. Without further ado, here’s the 2023 Tracking Angle Holiday Gift Guide, independently selected by Michael Fremer and Malachi Lui based on personal opinions and experiences with each item.

U-Turn Orbit Special turntable ($549)

U-Turn Orbit Special turntableThis year, U-Turn Audio upgraded its Orbit turntable line. The new version of the $549 Orbit Special—with electronic speed control, a magnesium tonearm, and a preinstalled Ortofon 2M Red cartridge—“lowers the price of great turntable performance,” as Michael Fremer wrote. “The Orbit Special’s bottom end performance is exemplary at this price point: taut, well-controlled and rhythmically nimble… The overall lack of coloration helps make the turntable ‘disappear,’ though spending more on a more costly turntable that can deliver it (and not all can) will get you noticeably blacker backgrounds, improved macrodynamic and a few other desirably sonic virtues. But let me reiterate: I'm confident you won't get more sonic performance for $549 than you get here.”—Malachi Lui

Andover Audio SpinBase ($299-499)

Andover Audio SpinBaseThe Andover Audio SpinBase is a turntable-friendly, all-in-one speaker system powered by Class D amplification and featuring an MM phono input, Bluetooth compatibility, and a line input. Its soundstage fills the room far beyond the small central box it comes from, and for $299, the SpinBase is affordable and convenient for small living spaces or offices. There’s also the newer $499 SpinBase MAX, which is bigger and has deeper bass.—ML

Ramar Record Brushes (€360-582)

The best gift is something the recipient might not necessarily buy for themself but would be so happy to get. The Ramar wood-bodied record brushes handcrafted in Berlin by Rangel Vasev are the world’s most beautiful and—with six double rows of carbon fiber and two rows of goat hair—also the most effective dust removers. The magnetic lock and magnetically affixed stylus cleaning brush inside add functionality. Two recently introduced solid wood, metal-wrapped versions, the Christo and the Tara present a new look that make you wish for dusty records so you have an excuse to use them. (There’s a reason we’ve put this on the list two years in a row.) Prices range from €360 to €582 but your best friend is worth it.—Michael Fremer

ELAC Debut ConneX DCB41 Powered Monitor Speakers ($400)

ELAC Debut ConneX speakersThis high-performance, currently $400 powered speaker system costs less than a high-end Ramar brush yet produces an intensely three-dimensional near-field listening experience with greater frequency extension (or the illusion of it) than any small two-way subwoofer-less system has any right to create. It features a 96/24 DAC, Bluetooth aptX connectivity, and even has a decent MM phono preamplifier among a full array of inputs. For your kid’s dorm room or an office desk. Makes a great computer speaker too. The only weak point? It can’t remove dust from your records as well as the Ramar brush.—MF

Bill Evans Trio - Waltz For Debby Craft OJC reissue ($39)

Bill Evans Trio - Waltz For DebbyAn early entry in the newly revitalized Original Jazz Classics series, Craft Recordings’ latest reissue of the Bill Evans Trio’s Waltz For Debby stands out. As Fred Kaplan wrote, this all-analog version “sounds more like a live set at the Village Vanguard” than any previous pressing. Sure, you hear more tape dropouts from age, but “it’s the best sounding Waltz For Debby ever.”—ML

Rufus Reid and Caelan Cardello - Rufus Reid Presents Caelan Cardello ($20-40)

'Rufus Reid Presents Caelan Cardello'Forgive some shameless promotion, but this LP of veteran jazz bassist Rufus Reid playing with young piano sensation Caelan Cardello at NYC’s Klavierhaus exceeded just about everyone’s expectations, including ours. Don’t believe us? Check the user reviews on Discogs, which shows some satisfied customers. LPs available for $40 from Acoustic Sounds in the US and Michael45 in Europe. CDs available for $20 from Caelan Cardello’s website.—ML

Uberlight ($59-89)

UberlightThis flexible LED “task light” from Canada’s Reliable Corporation has taken the audiophile world by storm, and can be found on display at audio shows throughout the world. It’s available in both desk and clip mount variants. Both feature long, flexible light stalks and can be adjusted for both light output and color temperature. Prices start at a ridiculously low $59. It’s the perfect gift for your favorite turntablist. Despite the name, unfortunately, it won’t come pick you up and drive you to the airport.—MF

Analogue Productions UHQR releases ($150 each)

Steely Dan 'Aja' UHQRAnalogue Productions continues their UHQR series with more generally outstanding, ornately packaged classic albums. Of this year’s releases, we most enjoyed Steely Dan’s Aja, John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme, and The White Stripes’ Elephant. Last year’s 45rpm Kind Of Blue UHQR is also truly special, and still available.—ML

TEAC TA-TS30UN turntable mat ($30)

TEAC TA-TS30UN turntable matTEAC’s TA-TS30UN turntable mat, made of washi paper, is one of the easiest, cheapest, and most noticeable system upgrades for those entering hi-fi. Unless one has a much more expensive mat like Stein Music’s The Perfect Interface, this TEAC mat will be a huge improvement over standard felt or wool, and it only costs $30. Your recipient will be grateful for this less-than-obvious gift (and if they don’t notice the sonic difference, at least it looks nice).—ML

Vinyl Me, Please subscription (prices vary)

Sly & The Family Stone - There's A Riot Goin' On VMPRecord club Vinyl Me, Please gets more expensive almost every year, but their quality rarely disappoints. For all of 2023, their three, six, and 12-month subscriptions respectively include one, three, or eight bonus records. Five continually running subscription tracks make sure that there’s plenty to choose from, including previous titles. If you’re only looking to gift one title, though, VMP’s all-analog edition of Sly & The Family Stone’s There’s A Riot Goin’ On is excellent, and their reissues of The Strokes’ first two albums are definitive. Feel like splurging? The seven-album, 11LP, all-analog VMP Anthology box set of Miles Davis’ electric period is truly stupendous and worth the $399 price.—ML

Analogue Productions / Atlantic Records 75th Anniversary Series 45rpm LPs ($60-$120 each)

John Prine - John PrineWhether your giftee’s tastes run towards folk, rock, prog, or jazz, there are already numerous great releases in the ongoing series curated by Atlantic Records Chairman, CEO and vinyl fanatic Craig Kallman and Analogue Productions’ Chad Kassem. John Prine’s extraordinary 1971 eponymous dark and funny debut contains classics “Angel From Montgomery,” “Sam Stone,” and “Hello In There.” The rest of the set is equally strong and if you want to feel like a disaffected youth with a keen sociological eye circa the turn of the decade, there you have it. Mingus’s Blues and Roots was born from Nesuhi Ertegun’s suggestion that the jazz great deliver a blues and soul album. The result foreshadowed and encapsulated late 60s anger and turbulence still relevant today. Disgust never sounded so good. And then there’s the series’ surprise “breakout” hit: Phil Collins’ Face Value, his post-Genesis “breaking up is hard to do” divorce record. Those are but a few of what’s in store from this series.—MF

Locking record case (prices vary)

Night Shift locking record flightcaseThe perfect gift for younger record enthusiasts paranoid of nosy roommates, these locking record cases protect such precious possessions and add an air of importance. The metal outer shell is reasonably rigid, and the foam lining inside prevents LPs from moving around too violently. Lock not included, but you can find these cases here in the US and here in the UK (they’re both essentially the same thing, but for whatever reason it’s significantly cheaper in the UK than the US).—ML

Andover SpinStage Phono Preamplifier ($249)

Andover Audio SpinstageThis $249 phono preamplifier features both moving magnet and moving coil inputs. The MM input unusually features four resistive and 15 capacitive loading choices. Yes, 47KΩ is the “industry standard” MM resistive load but—dirty little secret—it’s not always the correct one. The SpinStage’s MC input doesn’t add gain (and noise) to the MM stage, it instead features a dedicated transimpedance gain stage (actually an input buffer in front of the MM stage that properly loads an MC cartridge to “see” close to short circuit). The MC input works best with low internal impedance MCs (best under 10 ohms, the lower the better) so first ask your intended recipient about their MC cartridge. There’s also an “aux input” bypass so you can add the SpinStage and not lose the input. The clear finish bead blasted anodized aluminum chassis makes it an attractive as well as a quiet and flexible gift.—MF

Deutsche Grammophon “The Original Source” LP series (prices vary)

Deutsche Grammophon Emil Gilels vinylThis new Deutsche Grammophon LP reissue series, downmixed to lacquer from four-track quadrophonic master tapes instead of the two-track mixdown tapes originally used, highlights great performances once thought to be ineffectively recorded. Reviews by our Mark Ward and Michael Johnson prove that Rainer Maillard and Sydney Meyer’s mastering work at Emil Berliner Studios makes these 1970s recordings sound spectacular. Gift a few to your favorite classical music devotee and wait for profuse “thank you”’s as you pick up a few for yourself.—MF

PS Audio Sprout100 integrated amplifier ($500)

PS Audio Sprout100The PS Audio Sprout100 is a small yet incredibly versatile integrated amplifier with a built-in ESS Sabre DAC, an MM phono input, Bluetooth connectivity, and plenty of power for most bookshelf speakers. Michael Fremer wrote: “The Sprout100’s sound was consistent and clear: it's got a somewhat bright signature but with cleanly rendered transients, a nice sense of rhythmic excitement and punch, good image stability, three-dimensionality, and quiet backgrounds.”—ML

Gift cards (varying amounts)

Gift cardsGive your friend or family member a gift card and let them choose what they get. Acoustic Sounds and Elusive Disc offer a nice array of LPs, equipment, and accessories; Juno in the UK and HHV in Germany are also great (for overseas buyers as well as US buyers who prefer EU pressings or seek rarer releases); and Rough Trade is on the expensive side but sometimes worth it for their exclusives. In our Marketplace section you’ll also find Audiophile USA and Intervention Records, as well as Kirmuss Audio and their renowned cavitation record cleaning machine.—ML

Bob Dylan - Fragments: The Bootleg Series Vol. 17 ($28-230)

Bob Dylan 'Fragments' Bootleg Series 17The latest volume of Bob Dylan’s Bootleg Series, Fragments documents 1997’s Time Out Of Mind in a way that welcomes novices and obsessives alike. Michael H. Brauer’s new remix of the original album is more organic and involving than Daniel Lanois’ original mix, and several discs of outtakes and live recordings illuminate the songs’ dimensionality and adaptability to different contexts. The 5CD and 10LP versions are absolutely worth it, but the 4LP and 2CD editions are more manageable and still satisfying.—ML

Classic Tracks—The Real Stories Behind 68 Seminal Recordings by Richard Buskin ($40)

'Classic Tracks' bookOne of the most insightful coffee table books about music, Richard Buskin’s Classic Tracks—The Real Stories Behind 68 Seminal Recordings details the history of 68 songs from Les Paul and Mary Ford’s “How High The Moon” in 1951 to The XX’s “Crystalised” in 2009. This lavishly illustrated book is great no matter how one chooses to read it, and it’s packed with entertaining historical information as well as technical details about relevant microphones, consoles, compressors, tape machines, and other outboard processing.—ML

Spin Clean ($80)

Spin CleanThis convenient, easy to use, and inexpensive wet style record cleaning system sets the standard for low-cost vinyl hygiene. It’s sort of a low rent manual labor Audio Desk but you must spin and then dry the records by hand using a microfiber cloth—faster and easier to do than you might think. Removed dirt gets “encapsulated” in the water and falls to the bottom of the tank so the water is good for many cycles. There’s nothing better for $79.99 except for Beatles fans, who can choose from The Beatles Red and Blue edition Spin Cleans at the same price.—MF

Good luck and happy holidays!


  • 2023-11-26 08:21:04 PM

    Anton wrote:

    B & H currently has the Teac record mat in stock for 29.99.

    • 2023-11-26 08:31:24 PM

      Malachi Lui wrote:

      turntable lab also has it!

    • 2023-11-26 11:46:14 PM

      bwb wrote:

      I bought one a while back based on the recommendation here. . The static charge after the first record was so strong I could barely peel the mat off the record. Wasn't the first and I doubt the last $30 I ever waste

      • 2023-11-27 12:39:55 AM

        Malachi Lui wrote:

        if you thought the static charge on the teac was strong, you'd be infuriated with the stein mats. being used to peeling the stein mats off the record, the teac slid off quite easily imo

        • 2023-11-27 07:07:35 AM

          Adrian Galpin wrote:

          Whilst we're talking platter mats, may I recommend asking Santa for the new(ish) Vertere Technomat, its awfully good. Regards from London everyone!

      • 2023-11-27 09:56:05 AM

        Michael Fremer wrote:

        Consider adding an anti-static device. That mat is telling you something!

        • 2023-11-27 10:53:09 AM

          bwb wrote:

          Like the old joke....

          Patient to doctor...... "my arm hurts when I do this" Doctor ..... "quit doing that"

          Since no other mat I have (cork, felt, rubber, leather) acts like this, instead of adding something to my system, I just reverted back to something that doesn't create a problem for me.

          • 2023-11-27 12:09:47 PM

            Anton wrote:

            Did you notice any sonic differences between the mats?

            • 2023-11-27 01:56:11 PM

              Jeff 'Glotz' Glotzer wrote:

              Vs. my German carbon fiber and plastic mat for $400 (or the $300 I paid), I find the TEAC mat to soften bass and textures a bit too much for my taste (vs. sans mat on an acrylic platter. I do think it's a solid and thin (1mm) mat for the price! In MY system, it falls short of the clarifying effect of the carbon fiber / plastic one (I always forget the name as it is so generic of a name). Millennium Audiotrade M-LP Record Mat used to make one extremely similar to it and now Turntable Lab offers almost an identical one for $40 or less! Okay, I do consider my purchase or the Millennium a rip off now... but cheap alternatives didn't exist previously. Every mat I have ever owned never dissipates static electricity- nor does any brush i have used. It IS generated elsewhere as MF states above. I use the Furutech device and it works very well. Not as good as the DS Audio by any means though, but substantially better than a ZeroStat.

              • 2023-11-28 12:00:21 PM

                bwb wrote:

                I use a cork mat and have zero issues with static except in the middle of winter when the air gets so dry around here.

            • 2023-11-28 11:58:29 AM

              bwb wrote:

              after the first side of the first record got pasted to it I quit using it, so not enough time to get a feel for the sound.

  • 2023-11-27 02:17:22 PM

    Jeff 'Glotz' Glotzer wrote:

    How is the Fragments 10 LP set? Does anyone have any input on it? I don't see it on Qobuz, only the 2 CD set. I love the 4 LP set! One of my fav Dylan albums.

  • 2023-11-27 06:49:40 PM

    Rashers wrote:

    I bought myself a Humminguru ultrasonic record cleaner. I really wanted a Degritter, but this machine was 1/6th the price and it works great. Another option worth noting is the Night Dreamer direct to disc vinyl series. And the best vinyl product of the year is the Spincare crystal clear record cover series. I have tossed away hundreds of semi opaque record covers and replaced them. Most usefully they supply gatefold covers that can be used on double and triple albums.

    • 2023-11-27 09:04:41 PM

      topround wrote:

      A friend bought the humming guru and loves it, he uses it as a rinse cycle for his other ultra sonic cleanser, the one by the guy that wears the lab coat and adds dr. to his name, I believe.

      • 2023-12-02 08:27:39 AM

        Mtglass wrote:

        I have a Humminguru and a Degritter. What buying the Degritter showed me was how great the Guru is for the money.

  • 2023-11-28 03:24:26 AM

    Kim Petersen wrote:

    Thanks for bringing the Uberlight to my attention once again... Back when it was launched it wasn't available in Europe, and shipping from the US plus import toll added to much. Now I can get it at a more sane price - duly ordered :-)