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Father’s Day 2019: 11 gift ideas for tech-savvy Dads

Enlarge / These kids evidently got their dad a tie or some kind of parking lot toy… were wireless, noise-cancelling headphones not yet a thing?

Los Angeles Examiner/USC Libraries/Corbis

The annual day devoted to dads is approaching yet again, so it’s time to start thinking (if you haven’t already) about what you can do to make your father figure feel special. In addition to spending quality time with Dad, a gift that shows how much you care for him (and how much you listen to him) can make the day even better.

We’ve combed through our recent reviews, guides, and personal testing to pick out 11 possible tech gifts for Father’s Day that we heartily recommend. Some of these ideas have full Ars reviews available to peruse while others are devices that we’ve personally used, loved, and simply thought would be great additions to any dad’s life. And in case the father figure in your life is the kind who never tinkered past programming the VCR clock, we’ve even included a few picks for the less-tech-savvy dads among us—and those suggestions are better than ho-hum polo shirt or tie gift options, too. Check out the full list of Father’s Day gift ideas below and find what works for you before the two-day shipping deadlines pass us by later this week.

Note: Ars Technica may earn compensation for sales from links on this post through affiliate programs.

HyperX Cloud Stinger gaming headset

Jeff Dunn

If your dad likes to zone out with a good video game every now and then, a nice headset can make him feel closer to the action. You can splurge for a high-fidelity option if you want—we still like SteelSeries’ Arctis Pro + GameDAC if money’s no object—but for someone used to playing without headphones, HyperX’s Cloud Stinger can bring a noticeable audio upgrade for $50.

The Cloud Stinger has what audio dorks like us call a “v-shaped” sound signature. This means it boosts the bass and treble while mid-range frequencies are more recessed. (The frequency response curve of such headphones is thus shaped like the letter v, hence the term.) Audio purist types usually aren’t fans of this kind of profile since it’s not exactly natural, but for lots of popular music, it makes things sound particularly energetic.

It turns out it’s also well-suited for gaming: the bigger bass gives explosions more juice, while the elevated highs and high-mids make footsteps and ambient noises more immediate. The Cloud Stinger makes use of this sound to good effect. Its low end is strong, but it doesn’t trample the mids, and treble is present without being fatiguing. Imaging performance is also above average, meaning it’s good at placing specific sounds where they’re supposed to be as it reproduces a game’s audio—which is important! You won’t get tons of fine detail when listening to music here, but for a $50 headset it’s lively, and it’s tuned well for most games’ purposes.

Besides sound, the other two pillars of a good gaming headset are comfort and microphone performance. The Cloud Stinger hits both of those marks just fine. It’s lightweight and well-padded in all the right places, with earcups that give ears plenty of room to breathe and didn’t clamp too tightly on my ample-sized head. The volume slider built under the right earcup is nice and smooth as well. The permanently attached mic, meanwhile, performs more than adequately—not good enough for professional voice work but full and clean enough for game party members to hear you clearly while a commotion is happening in the background.

The only big thing to look out for is build quality. The Cloud Stinger’s headband is reinforced with stainless steel and feels sturdy, but most of the headset is composed of hard plastic. It’s not the kind of thing we’d advise taking on the road, but that big attached mic should give the hint that this is meant for the home anyway. Finally, it’s worth noting that this is a wired headset, but that shouldn’t be as big a deal with game controllers and PCs as it is with smartphones these days. HyperX’s Cloud Alpha has a more comfortable design and much better sound for about twice the price, but if your dad hasn’t made the jump to a dedicated headset yet, the Cloud Stinger still brings the fun at a more manageable price.

Jabra Elite Active 65t wireless earbuds

Jabra

Jabra made truly wireless earbuds well before AirPods took over the world, and Dad will appreciate the more professional look and feel of Jabra’s Elite Active 65t earbuds while on the go. Not only are the black, blue, and red color options subtle yet sophisticated, but the earbuds’ stemless design helps them disappear on your profile when you’re wearing them.

Also, they actually fit in your ears! AirPods only fit perfectly for people with certain ear shapes, but the three included silicone ear gels that come with the Elite Active 65ts can help you get the right fit for your body.

Jabra is known for making quality audio devices, and its truly wireless earbuds are no different. Sound quality is excellent, and the earbuds’ ambient noise reduction and wind noise protection help keep extraneous sounds out while you’re listening to music or talking on the phone. With the built-in mic system, you don’t need to have your smartphone out to speak when on a call, either. This particular model also connects to Alexa and Siri so you can ask either virtual assistant to tell you things like the weather forecast, the time of your next meeting, and more.

The Elite Active 65t have a motion sensor inside and an IP-56 rating that protects it from sweat and dust. That helps them double as activity trackers, which is useful if you can’t go for a run without your music. Battery life isn’t too shabby either—five hours of talk and listening time, or 15 hours when charging it up periodically with its included charging case. AirPods will cut it for some people, but Jabra’s Elite Active 65ts are great for anyone who wants a more advanced pair of wireless earbuds.

Ikea Eneby 30 Bluetooth speaker

Jeff Dunn

For the dad who tends to listen to music (or podcasts, or the radio) while getting things done, a good home speaker like the Ikea Eneby 30 should make for a friendly companion around the house or in the garage. Yes, Ikea—the company best known for selling rage-inducing furniture and Swedish meatballs—also makes one of the better values in wireless audio.

The $90 Eneby 30 is a Bluetooth speaker, though it’s powered through an AC outlet instead of an internal battery, so it’s not portable. That’s okay, though: this is a simple device with simple aims. The first is to be easy to use. There’s one knob for controlling volume, power, and pairing on its boxy, 12-inch frame, and that’s it. It’s wholly straightforward to set up.

The Eneby’s other goal is to sound great—and for the price, it’s superb. Underneath its attractive (and removable) fabric cover are two four-inch woofers and a one-inch tweeter. The woofers give the Eneby exceptional bass response for this class of speaker, so hip-hop and rhythm-heavy rock really come off as punchy. That bass is taut, though, not sloppy. Highs are clear and clean, meanwhile, and the whole thing gets good volume without distorting when the dial is cranked.

This is a mixed mono speaker that can’t pair in stereo with other Eneby units, so it’ll never produce super granular detail or the kind of imaging that makes a track sound wide. But if you think your dad would take to having a dedicated speaker, the Eneby will still give him rich, full sound for an individual package that isn’t a big drain on the wallet.

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