A guide to this year's best tech gifts

By Don Lindich

McClatchy-Tribune News Service (MCT)

Published: Tuesday, Dec. 3 2013 10:13 a.m. MST

—Samsung PN43F4500 plasma HDTV: Samsung 720p plasma TVs in the 40-inch size range have been perennial favorites for their great picture quality at a low price. The $399 Samsung 43-inch 720p plasma TV has a very natural picture and is fantastic for sports, movies, and general TV watching. www.samsung.com

—Audio-Technica AT-LP120-USB turntable: This $235 turntable looks like a clone of the legendary Technics SL-1200 and offers robust construction and great sound. It has an internal phono preamplifier and USB connection so it can be used with any audio receiver. Comparing this turntable to a typical sub-$200 turntable sold in stores is like comparing a BMW to a bicycle. The AT-LP120-USB is that superior! www.audio-technica.com

—Pioneer SP-FS51-LR tower speakers and Elite A-20 amplifier: Designed by audiophile speaker designer Andrew Jones, these clean-looking speakers sound much better than anyone would expect for $259 / pair. They are a great match with Pioneer's excellent Elite A-20 amplifier, $299. www.pioneerelectronics.com

—Marantz NR1403 home theater receiver: This $399 home theater receiver is small, very easy to set up, runs coolly, and sounds great even with expensive, demanding speakers. It's everything most people want, while omitting confusing features which most people never use. High performance with Apple-like simplicity makes the Marantz NR1403 a winner. www.marantz.com

—Pentax MX-1 camera: This high-end compact camera is built as solid as a brick and has a user interface meant for serious photographers. High quality lens ensures great images and the flash pictures are excellent, as well. www.pentaximaging.com

—Arx A1b speakers: These $299 bookshelf speakers use exotic technology in ordinary-looking boxes to produce sound that can't be beat for the price. www.theaudioinsider.com

—Neuhaus Labs T-1 amplifier: This $499 amplifier has Bluetooth and uses vacuum tubes for great sound and exotic looks. It's a great match for the Pioneer, Arx and GoldenEar speakers mentioned here. www.neuhauslabs.com

—Mass Fidelity Relay: This $249 product is perfect for audiophiles desiring Bluetooth streaming capabilities. High quality component parts maximize sound quality, making it suitable for use in even the most expensive, high-performance audio systems. www.massfidelity.com

—Oppo BDP-103 Blu-ray player: This $499 Blu-ray player is a wonderful gift for anyone with a large DVD or Blu-ray collection. The BDP-103 has finely tuned video and audio processing to make every disc look and sound their best. www.oppodigital.com

—Definitive Technology Incline: These $399 powered speakers are far and away the best desktop speakers I have ever heard. They look like small versions of the monolith from “2001: A Space Odyssey” and have multiple inputs as well as subwoofer output, though you don’t need a sub given the big sound. Sound is radiated from the front and back and is full and satisfying, with deep bass, precise, detailed highs and a full midrange. They seem expensive until you hear then play. They put the musical performance directly on your desktop for you to enjoy! www.definitivetech.com

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GREAT GIFTS UNDER $1,000

—Apple iPad Air: The Apple iPads are the best tablets on the market, and the new iPad Air ($499 and up) is the best of the best. www.apple.com

—Samsung PN60F5300 HDTV: This 60-inch plasma is available for under $1,000 and provides a beautiful, large picture for big rooms and anyone looking for a theater experience at home. www.samsung.com

—Olympus Stylus 1 camera: The $699 Olympus Stylus 1 takes much of the goodness of the award-winning Olympus OM-D E-M5 and distills it into a small form factor with a 10x 28-300m lens with a fixed 2.8 aperture, and a built-in electronic viewfinder. If you want one small camera that can do everything and does it very well, this is the one to get. www.getolympus.com

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