Know someone having a bit of a staycation this year? Consider a gift that’ll make their entertainment experience a lot of fun with some sound and video gadgets.
A big entertainment experience at home can be an excellent present, offering something to enjoy movies, TV shows, sports, or maybe even some video games. There are plenty of ways to gift for a great entertainment experience, covering sound, video, or maybe something a little bit extra, including the following items.
Buying an entertainment focused gift for someone should start where we’ll almost always tell home theatre upgrades to start: the sound.
You can watch anything on any TV, but if the sound isn’t great, the viewing experience will be marred significantly. Great sound can make an entertainment experience that much better, and that makes it a must-have if you’re buying for someone who wants an upgrade in their living room, home theatre, or just what they call “the place with the TV”.
So what’s out there, and what would make a solid sound gift idea this year?
An inexpensive take on how to improve sound while keeping to a budget, Australia’s BlueAnt is offering up a virtual 3D sound using the psychoacoustic form of Dolby Atmos that tricks your ears into hearing timing, and for a budget price.
It’s a decent looking soundbar with decent sound, as well, and while we have some ideas on what could improve it, the BlueAnt XT100 certainly matches budgets, making it a decent possibility for a gift, as well.
Sonos Beam and Sub Mini bundle
For roughly the price of a big soundbar, you might be able to find a bundle that includes a powerful soundbar and a decent subwoofer, too.
That’s certainly what Sonos is offering in one of its entertainment bundles this year, with the excellent Sonos Beam Gen 2 with its virtual Atmos, plus the also excellent Sonos Sub Mini along for the ride, as well. You can break up the two and buy them individually, of course, but with some extra bass on offer in the Sub Mini, it’s a combo that makes a lot of sense for a living room keen to upgrade things.
Bose Soundbar 900
Another variation on the 3D sound Dolby Atmos theme, this time we’re into the sound systems that offer real Atmos, in that they’re actually firing sound up, not just tricking your ears into doing it.
With the Bose Soundbar 900, it’s nine speakers including two up firing sitting in a long bar, working with a technology Bose calls “Adaptiq” that can match the sound to match your room, calibrating what you hear to your space.
Another big soundbar, Samsung’s Q990B goes a little beyond the others with a total 11 speakers for the surround, one subwoofer, and then four up firing speakers, creating a massive 11.1.4 sound for an entertainment space, all from four components: a big soundbar, a subwoofer, and two rear speakers.
It’s a big setup with support for both Dolby Atmos and DTS:X, with those rear speakers not only firing up, but also out, creating a massive surround sound experience the likes of which not many other soundbars can compete with.
One of the first Dolby Atmos soundbars, Sennheiser’s Ambeo is still one of the most expensive, but there’s a good reason why: it’s a pretty impressive thing. Packing in 13 drivers to deliver a 5.1.4 experience, the Ambeo is one of the more impressive soundbars you can find, and comes with a microphone to calibrate your room.
A bigger sound is one of our first recommendations, but it doesn’t have to be the only one. A big picture is another obvious approach for a great holiday gift, though it can get mighty expensive.
So what choices could make for better video this holiday season?
Hisense A7HAU 65 inch 4K ULED TV
Proving a big screen needn’t be too expensive, Hisense’s A7H stands out quite a bit. While you won’t find organic light emitting diodes (OLED) or even quantum dots (QLED) here, Hisense’s A7H brings 4K, Dolby Vision, virtualised Dolby Atmos sound, and the VIDAA smart TV interface to a 65 inch screen that won’t cost an arm or a leg.
Xgimi Halo Plus projector
You’ve probably never heard of Xgimi, but this looks to be a bit of an up-and-coming brand with some interesting ideas, and the Halo Plus is one of them. Looking a little like a Sonos speaker, the Halo Plus packs in a Full HD projector with a three hour battery to make it a portable projector you can take with you.
It could easily be used in the home, but the Halo Plus is also one of those video systems for folks who want an entertainment experience elsewhere, either in the backyard or maybe on a camping trip, too.
Samsung The Frame QLED 65 inch TV
A little more than just a TV, the 65 inch 4K Frame TV is both a QLED TV and a picture frame able to change images to make your room that little bit more interesting. That makes it both a really fancy arty frame and a solid TV, with Samsung opting to use its quantum dot technology to make the images on this screen stand out and pop just that little bit more.
LG G2 Gallery OLED EVO 65 inch TV
Just about the best technology you can find in a TV, LG’s “gallery” edition of its OLED screens is practically borderless and offers one of the sleekest designs of any TV today. It’s made to be mounted on a wall, but doesn’t have to be with an optional table-top you can buy for it, though the idea here is clear: a beautiful screen with dazzling colours and a look made to blend into the surroundings.
Making the room all about entertainment
Once you have great sound and visuals, it’s time to make the experience more complete. There are more ways to make a cinematic experience interesting without needing to upgrade the audio or screen, believe it or not. So what can you do, and what would make for an interesting entertainment gift this year?
Amazon Echo Dot
It might seem a little crazy to recommend a speaker in this section, but we’re all about the smart home routines, partly because they can make a room like the entertainment room that much cooler overall.
Set up a routine and make stuff happen with mere words. Why you could have either Google or Amazon Alexa power on the TV, lower the lights, switch on the fan or air conditioning, and turn the volume up on your sound system just from one word. With the Echo Dot, you’ll need to talk to Alexa, not so much Google, but it’s also a great entrance into the world of routines for your home.
Aqara Roller Shade Driver
Upgrading the blinds in the home is another great way to make a home cinema seem that much more special, because you can automate the opening and closing of blinds with hardware.
Aqara has shown us a camera before, but that’s not all the company makes, with an automated roller blind driver that can talk to Google and Amazon Alexa, and once installed, allows you to close those blinds without having to touch a thing.
Apple TV 4K (2022)
Still one of the better boxes to let you play video sources from around the web, the latest Apple TV 4K also sports something that’s a bit of a bonus: if you happen to subscribe to Apple Music, it also works as a sort of karaoke system, allowing you to turn down the vocals of many a music track, and sing your heart out.
Philips Hue HDMI Sync Box and lights
Price: $499 for the box, lights from $20
A projector can light up a room with colour, but you can actually go beyond what a projector can do with fancy smart lighting and a special syncing box. That’s what the Philips Hue HDMI Sync Box is for, providing a way to synchronise the colours from an HDMI source, and making special WiFi light bulbs play those colours around the room.
It’s about one of the best ways to get a room to become more immersive for movies and games, and a treat not just for kids, but adults, too.
Audio for one (while everyone is asleep)
A little bit different than better sound and video for all, this category is for folks who want to indulge in a bit of TV or movie watching without needing to bother anyone else.
You might know who this is, whether it’s the person who stays late at night watching or even someone who plans to game. Here are some options to keep the sound calmed down and the entertainment going.
An inexpensive soundbar from Sonos, the Ray is surprisingly good for the money, and like all Sonos soundbars, comes with a feature to let you quell big noises for night-time viewing, plus another for amplifying the volume of dialogue. Think of it as a way to improve the sound from just a TV, while also ensuring you won’t have to wake up the house for night time viewings of whatever it is that’s going to be watched.
Audeara A-02 TV Bundle
One of the few Australian headphone brands, Audeara provides a different style of headphones: one that can be customised to your hearing profile simply by following an app.
We’ve seen the Audeara headphones before, and this year, Audeara updated the idea, including a TV streamer so folks could listen to their TVs through the headphones directly, all while delivering a sound tailored and profiled for their ears.
It’s not just Audeara trying the personalised TV sound approach, but also Sennheiser. In fact, Sennheiser has been making wireless TV headphones for a while, and its latest updates the style even more, adopting the truly wireless design of many an earphone, including Sennheiser’s Momentum True Wireless 3.
Similar in nature, the Sennheiser Clear can also work with a phone, and for a neat trick, can run at a different volume to that of the TV, so if you need the volume louder than the person you’re sitting next to, you can turn it up just for your ears wearing these earphones.