Are you having a hard time finding gifts for friends and loved ones this year? Are you looking for a gift for someone who is always tapping their foot and singing in the shower?
Though we all have different tastes and musical preferences, you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn’t have a favourite musical genre or artist.
So, without further ado, here is the MakeUseOf list of brilliant gift ideas for the casual and not-so-casual music lovers in your life.
A Streaming Subscription
Just 10 years ago, if you wanted some music for Christmas, you’d probably have gotten an iTunes gift card (or even physical media). These days we’re used to subscription-based streaming technology from the likes of Spotify, Pandora, and the recently launched Apple Music instead.
One of the most important things to determine when looking at purchasing a subscription is which service the recipient is using, or at least has access to. There’s little point in buying someone a Spotify membership if they’ve built up an Apple Music library and they’re happy with the service — so do some Facebook research first.
In terms of cost, this really varies and depends on what you’d like to spend. Apple Music uses iTunes credits, so you can purchase a standard iTunes gift card for this purpose. Apple Music membership costs $9.99 per month, so you’re looking at around $60 for a 6-month membership, or $120 for a year.
Important: If you’re buying a gift card, make sure the currency matches the recipient’s store. As an example, U.S. iTunes gift cards can only be used in the U.S. iTunes Store.
A Nice Turntable
Vinyl is back with a vengeance — it’s the only physical audio medium that’s experiencing rising sales (probably as a result of it going out of fashion for so long, but still) and the number of quality turntables continues to grow.
There’s something to be said about listening to music on vinyl. Purists argue that sound quality is unparalleled, that record players exude a warmth not found with digital mediums, and that the pops and crackles only serve to add character to recorded works. Others prefer the physicality of owning music on record, and take solace in the ability to support artists by buying LPs straight from small labels.
Of course, there’s no right turntable for everyone. For those starting out, or anyone who appreciates portability and the novelty of battery power, the Crosley Messenger ($80, above) offers serious flexibility. If portability isn’t important, the fancier pre-amped Keepsake Deluxe ($170) provides plug-and-play simplicity in a quality package.
For the wannabe DJ who must have it all, the Audio Technica LP1240 (around $370, above) provides more starting torque than the Technics 1200 series, with USB output, a pre-amped line stage and all the speeds and functions you’d expect from a $1500 Stanton (I own an LP1240, and it’s incredible). If budget is a concern, the Audio Technica LP120 ($250) offers similar features, without the ridiculous amount of torque on offer from the LP1240.
A Fancy Bluetooth Speaker
Why not give the gift of wireless sound this Christmas? Bluetooth technology has come on leaps and bounds since pricey wireless speakers first hit the shelves, and it’s now possible to buy some surprisingly punchy, room-filling solutions — depending on how much you want to spend.
At the lowest end of the spectrum are cheaper solutions like the best-selling DKnight Magicbox II ($32.99, above). This speaker includes a built in microphone for taking calls on your phone, 10w RMS output and manages up to 10 hours of playtime using the fairly power-efficient Bluetooth 4.0 standard — but don’t expect too much in the sound quality department.
If you’re looking for something a little more substantial than a stocking filler, Bose produce a range of portable speakers starting at $129.99 for the SoundLink I. If you’ve ever taken a listen to one of Bose’s small-yet-mighty speakers, you’ll know the company packs surprisingly good sound quality and volume into such a tiny package.
If your budget can stretch a little further the SoundLink II and SoundLink III ($199 and $299 respectively, latter pictured above) each offer a step-up in terms of volume, sound quality, and battery life. The latter can keep going for 14 hours, includes a silicone panel to protect from the elements, and provides an exceptionally crisp audio experience from a mobile speaker.
A Drool-Worthy Set of Headphones
Much of the time your choice of headphones depends on your musical preferences, but that’s arguably an industry invention. Bass-heavy Beats by Dre cans are great for modern electronic music, but turn classical, rock, and metal into a muddy and inaudible mess. I’ve always believed the best headphones you can buy are those that don’t try to change the music, instead providing as “flat” a response as possible.
That usually means opting for studio-grade headphones or monitors, which don’t try to augment the bass or add unnecessary punch to the treble. One such company that’s made a name for itself with quality, hand-assembled, American-made headphones is Grado Labs, based out of Brooklyn, New York.
Even its most basic of models — like the SR60e ($79, above) and SR80e ($99) — provide a much sought-after, balanced response, and exceptional clarity for their price range. What’s more, they ooze style with an iconic, adjustable design and fake leather headband that ensures a comfortable listening experience.
A Portable Music Player
I know what you’re thinking — who the hell wants to spend money on a portable music player when they can simply use their smartphone, right? Well there are actually a number of good reasons to opt for a dedicated device, depending on the person you’re buying for, of course.
Apple’s latest iPod Touch is amazing, as I found out when I reviewed it earlier this year. What’s more, you can pick it up for as little as little as $199 for the 16GB version, though I’d recommend opting for the 32GB model ($249, above) to provide enough room for a decent offline library. It’s the only iPod device compatible with Apple Music and Spotify, it comes in an adorably tiny chassis, and the battery life will put your smartphone or tablet to shame.
If the recipient is sick of using up their available space and battery life on music, travels a lot, spends a lot of time driving, or doesn’t yet own an iOS device, the sixth-generation iPod Touch could be the perfect match. Then again, they could be looking for something a little more substantial like the second generation FiiO X3 ($199) or X5 ($349, below).
FiiO’s players are built with higher audio quality in mind, including the ability to play less orthodox formats like DSD, FLAC and APE. They both include high quality digital-to-analogue converters (DAC) and expandable storage via microSD slots.
A Rhythm-Action Game
The last generation of consoles had rhythm-action music games sewed up, and they’ve arguably since fallen from grace. But that hasn’t stopped developers reinvigorating the genre with a fresh batch that don’t necessarily break new ground, but provide plastic-guitar fun on the latest generation of Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo consoles.
Guitar Hero Live ($100) focuses on providing a pure six-string experience, without paying homage to drums or vocals on both PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Wii U. It’s the cheapest way to pretend you can actually play guitar and jam along with some of your favourite songs.
Rock Band 4 on the other hand takes the experience to the next level, with drums, guitar, and a microphone included in their Band-in-a-Box bundle ($250) for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. It is possible to opt for the Rockband Wireless Guitar bundle ($130) instead, if you’d like to keep the price down.
Another firm favourite among those who appreciate nightlife is Just Dance 2016 (around $40), available on just about every platform you can think of — including current-generation, and last-generation consoles. Just be sure to check that the recipient has the suitable hardware (a Kinect or PlayStation Camera) before you commit.
Tell Us What You Want
Maybe you were looking at this list with the intention of buying some of these goodies for yourself. That’s OK, it’s nearly Christmas after all. So, why not leave a comment letting us know what’s on your wishlist this year?