Skip to content
Link copied to clipboard

Jonathan Takiff: Turn on, tune in, drop off: For Dad on his day, great gear

THE GIZMO: Gifts for dad. What's a guy want? Gear! When does he want it? Father's Day! Here's some new and nifty stuff that's sure to please.

While the Guitar Hero is out of the room, the kids can use his HitMaster speaker box ($99, above).
While the Guitar Hero is out of the room, the kids can use his HitMaster speaker box ($99, above).Read more

THE GIZMO: Gifts for dad.

What's a guy want? Gear! When does he want it? Father's Day!

Here's some new and nifty stuff that's sure to please.

HIT ME WITH YOUR BEST SHOT: The "Guitar Hero" and "Rock Band" game player on your gift list already has the necessary guitars, drums and microphones to live out the fantasy.

But did the roadie remember to pack a stage monitor to pump up the volume on favorite tunes as well as other action-packed video games?

Polk Audio, longtime specialist in the speaker biz, has come up with the HitMaster, a compact, wedge-shaped, 13-pound "single point stereo" speaker box for gamers that plugs into the analog audio jacks (RCA and mini) of a console game system, TV set or other sound source.

Reasonably priced at $99, HitMaster has an 80-watt amp and five-speaker array that issues a wall-rattling 103 dBs of sound, with plenty of bass (especially at louder volumes) and good clarity in the mid and upper frequencies, even when you crank the volume control to 11 - yeah, just like in "Spinal Tap."

And there's a handle on top for easy transport.

GETTING 3-D READY: While new 3-D TVs are pricey, a high-quality, 3-D-ready a/v receiver that can process and pass through 3-D video source signals doesn't have to break your bank account.

Apt case in point: Onkyo's new, entry-level 5.1 channel TX-SR308 receiver, which retails for $299 and has been spotted online for under $230.

The TX-SR308 has three of the latest generation, HDMI 1.4 inputs needed for switching 3-D signals. Equally appealing is an "HDMI Thru" feature sure to save Dad lots of those agitated "I can't get the cable TV to work" phone calls.

A selected source's signal simply passes through the "off" receiver for play on the TV screen and speakers.

PHONE-SATIONAL: Here's another marriage saver from VTech - the first DECT 6.0 cordless phone system (with answering machine) with a "Push To Talk" feature.

PTT is great for communicating when Dad's out back and Mom's in the kitchen and neither wants to move or holler. Pressing one button on the side of a handset lets you shout out a loud and clear message, walkie-talkie style, to any or all the other phones on the same system.

The feature had a usable range of about 100 feet from the base station in my indoor/outdoor test. (Your conditions could vary.) A bundle with three handsets - VTech LS6325-3 - sells for $70-$80 from Radio, and

BUILT TO LAST: They make the best beer- and wine-bottle carriers and insulated lunch totes - lightweight yet strong, water-resistant, easy to clean and easy on the eyes. So, no surprise that Built NY is now delivering spiffy gizmo totes, too.

The Built Cargo Travel Organizer ($20-$25 at Staples, TigerDirect and eBags) is a similarly stretchy (neoprene), zippered case with four pockets for neatly stashing stuff like a phone, camera, MP3 player, computer mouse, portable hard drive and cables.

The DSLR- and lens-toting Built Cargo Camera Bag ($45 in "medium" from boasts a semi-rigid cloth exterior, velcro-adjustable dividers and inside pockets, with handles on top and a detachable padded shoulder strap.

BARGAIN EARPHONES: I've tried a bunch of semi-isolating earphones at prices up to $350 and found most fatiguing and downright painful after about an hour of use.

But the ultralight, wood-encased (!) Voz-P Premium Earbuds from C. Crane ( held my attention, comfort and pleasure three times as long, which is as much of an endorsement as I could possibly manage.

To boot, these little things go for a bargain $24.95 and come with a no-tangle plastic carry case.

HE'LL GET A CHARGE: For the guy who frets about running out of juice on his mobile gizmos, the chunky little ZAGGsparq 2.0 battery backup and charger could prove a blessing.

Its 6,000 mAh lithium battery gave me almost four full recharges of an iPhone before itself needing recharging. That's simply done by flipping out and connecting the onboard power plug. Two USB-connecting ports double your powering-up pleasure. Just $99 at

Weighing only a half-ounce more and barely thicker than a conventional rubbery case for an iPhone 3G or 3GS, the wraparound enclosure that's half of the Powermat Wireless Charging System does a lot more. Just place this now-wrapped phone on the AC-connected Powermat base. Via induction power transfer, the phone now recharges in a few hours with no wires to connect. $69.99 at

LAST-MINUTE GIFTS: When in doubt, the gift of an entertaining, razor-sharp and sonically endowed Blu-ray videodisc will tell Dad he's tops on your list. Just out and amazing is BBC Earth's boxed global exploration of plant and animal survival, "Life," follow-up to the most successful "Planet Earth.

With Robert Downey Jr. as "Sherlock Holmes" (Warner Bros), the vintage sleuth comes off like an old school mix of "Iron Man" and James Bond. The Maximum Movie Mode inside look at the production is great fun, too.

For inspiration, try Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon's turns as Nelson Mandela and a South African rugby captain in Clint Eastwood's "Invictus" (Warner Bros.)

And if you're man enough, take on the new "Sapphire Series" edition of Stephen Spielberg's "Saving Private Ryan" (Paramount/DreamWorks), with Tom Hanks, Mr. Damon (in the title role) and a supporting cast of thousands. Surely the grittiest World War II movie ever made.

Also worth revisiting in Blu-ray form: Eastwood's "The Good, The Bad and the Ugly" (MGM), Martin Lawrence and Will Smith at their blow-it-up best in "Bad Boys" (Columbia Pictures/Sony) and my father-in-law's comedy fave, "Caddy-shack" (Warner Bros.), enhanced with a new, 80-minute documentary.

E-mail Jonathan Takiff at