Music is powerful stuff. It forms not only the soundtracks of our favorite movies, but often the soundtrack to our very lives. A recent study found that people who love music to such a degree that it gives them chills have higher emotional response in general. That same article goes on to say that previous studies have confirmed that music helps us manage our emotions, including simply making us happier.
While the nature of the music industry is shifting in some uncertain ways, there is no shortage of truly amazing listening material out there. Anybody can find at least one song they like in the mixes Spotify throws together on a daily basis, while tracks from years past continue to captivate new audiences. There are so many choices when it comes to enjoying music now, too. Our smartphones alone contain at least three different methods, while anything that can carry a Bluetooth radio and a speaker can turn into our own personal stereo. The vinyl renaissance continues to grow. Music is an essential part of the human experience.
That’s what makes music-related gifts so easy to give. From the most curated audiophile setup to the boombox playing classic rock at the job site, virtually everyone listens to music at some point. True enjoyment of it takes many forms, giving the gift giver a plethora of options. Buying something to enable listening is an evergreen gift idea, and of course you can never go wrong with giving music itself.
For the melodically entranced on your shopping list, here are the top ten best gifts for music lovers.
1. Headphones: Bose SoundLink II Headphones
We live in a golden age of headphones. Everywhere you look, there’s a halfway decent pair of headphones that even look pretty good. Gone are the days of the cheap plastic headphones complete with metal band from years past, which have been replaced by ubiquitous white earbuds. I have personally recommended headphones as gifts for coworkers, musicians, and even as luxury items in past posts. As you may have guessed, they also make excellent gifts for music lovers.
These Bose headphones are some of the best consumer-level options available. While they aren’t noise cancelling, they do offer the flexibility of being either wireless via Bluetooth or wired using the included cable. I vastly prefer the sound quality of wired headphones, but they aren’t always practical. I have the older version of these that are wired only, and there are certainly times I wish mine could go wireless, such as when I’m working at the coffee shop. They’re available in black or white and come with the aux cable, carry case, and recharging cable. If you want to go the noise cancelling route, you’re looking for the QuietComfort 35, which are $100 more.
If you want something cheap and cheerful, take a peek at the TaoTronics Bluetooth Headphones, which can also be used via aux cable or wirelessly with Bluetooth for up to 25 hours. Nowhere near the same class sound-wise, but they’re also under $40 at the time of this writing.
Need more options? Browse more headphones here.
2. Bluetooth Speaker: Fluance Fi50 Two-Way High Performance Wireless Bluetooth Premium Wood Speaker System
Similar to headphones, you have your pick when it comes to wireless speaker systems these days. So many different configurations are covered that you’re bound to find something worth gifting. Fluance make a truly fantastic vinyl turntable, and their take on the Bluetooth speaker platform is no different. The manufacturer sent me a unit to review and I was very reluctant to send it back at the end. Put up against my previously-beloved Bose SoundLink, the advantages of the wood cabinet and increased wattage were immediately obvious. To be fair, the Fluance is not a rechargeable battery unit, nor is it water resistant like the Bose. It’s meant to sit on a shelf, plugged into the wall, filling your home with sound. For that purpose, it’s fantastic.
3. Wireless Streaming Systems: Sonos Play:5
The limitation of Bluetooth speakers is that your playing device must be within 33 feet, preferably in line of sight. It doesn’t take much to cause a Bluetooth connection to drop, and we’ve all experienced the weird detuning effect or occasional volume drop when using the wireless protocol. It’s pretty good, but the Sonos system is strictly better, utilizing wifi to form a hub for all your music services. While you can use just one of these units as you might a traditional radio, they’re designed to be paired for both stereo imaging and for placement in various rooms throughout your home. When using multiple speakers, you can opt to play different songs in each room or music from a single source in perfect sync.
This is the PLAY:5, which has six discrete amplifiers and six speakers in each unit, tunable with the Trueplay feature and can be oriented both horizontally and vertically. They also offer the PLAY:1 and PLAY:3, all of which can be combined to create a master system with the speaker size matched to the needs of each room. (Note: In order to take advantage of stereo pairing, you’ll need two of the same model, but all models can work together in a larger system. More on that here.) In addition to the refined touch controls on the unit, you can easily connect them to any Alexa-enabled device to control playback from all the top streaming apps by voice command. The new Sonos One has Alexa built right into it — no need for separate hardware.
Need more options? Browse more wireless and streaming audio options here.
4. Digital-to-Audio Converter: Marantz HD-DAC1
The audio purists out there may be quick to point out that all wireless protocols are inferior to anything physically connected to the output device. Further, they may go on to point out that all the streaming services downsample music too much for an enjoyable listening experience, even if it saves bandwidth. Assuming physical media isn’t available, the best modern audiophiles can hope for is a lossless file format played through a DAC, a digital-to-audio converter. The function of these devices is to turn those ones and zeroes into electrical impulses that can then be rendered by acoustic devices (i.e. speakers) and interpreted by your ears.
As with anything, the sky is the limit when shopping for these devices. Audiophile gear gets expensive in a hurry and it isn’t always clear what you’re paying for. In this Marantz unit, you immediately feel where the money went as it’s very heavy for its size, owing to a large transformer. You can use this directly into powered speakers, as a headphone amp, or into a larger stereo amp. It’s not the absolute top of the line, limited to 24-bit/192 kHz, but it will certainly improve almost any home listening situation.
For far less, you could try the Audioengine D1, which is much smaller and still offers significant sound sweetening. If you want to focus just on headphone use, the Apogee Groove includes four DACs per channel and can drive high-end headphones easily.
Need more options? Browse our list of the best DACs under $200.
5. Music Decor: It’s Our Earth Recycled Vinyl Record Clock
While some make think it sacrilegious to do anything with a record aside from put it on a turntable, vinyl just lends itself too well to decorations. In addition to bowls and coasters, you can get a wall clock made of a classic album. The one pictured above is Fleetwood Mac’s Rumors, which is certainly one of the best albums ever made. You can get clocks featuring a wide variety of artists including Grateful Dead, Michael Jackson, The Police, and more.
Need more options? Browse more It’s Our Earth products here.
6. Music Books: ‘Anatomy of a Song: The Oral History of 45 Iconic Hits That Changed Rock, R&B and Pop’ by Marc Myers
Reading about music gives music lovers another window into the inner workings of their favorite artwork. Whether it’s revealing the history about how a musician or album they love came to be or deconstructing the very nature of music itself, pairing the visceral experience of listening with deeper understanding can heighten the experience. In Anatomy of a Song, Myers chronicles the oral histories of 45 mega hits that changed music and how they came to be. These songs include “Losing My Religion” by R.E.M., “Proud Mary” by Credence Clearwater Revival, and many more.
For a look into the dominant musical force of the last several years, consider The Rap Year Book: The Most Important Rap Song From Every Year Since 1979, Discussed, Debated, and Deconstructed by Shea Serrano. Michael Azerrad’s now-iconic Our Band Could Be Your Life profiles 13 bands who were indie long before the term was relegated to describing Telecaster-wielding pop/rock acts. Finally, Hanif Willis-Abdurraqib’s latest They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us offers in essay form what his Vintage Sadness offered in poetic form, digging deeply into the intersection of music, culture, and identity against the backdrop of fear and political division in the world today.
Need more options? Browse more music history books here.
Price: $8.48 on Kindle, $18.82 for hardcover, $12.19 for paperback
Buy ‘Anatomy of a Song: The Oral History of 45 Iconic Hits That Changed Rock, R&B and Pop’ by Marc Myers here.
7. Music Decor: ConcertPosterArt Show Posters
While the posters you can buy from bands on tour are always pretty neat, vintage gig posters are even cooler. These are original posters that would have been put up by street teams ahead of a show at a local venue and run the gamut from relative gutter punk unknowns to heavyweight classic rock titans. A little digging will turn up a gem for just about any music lover.
Price: $24 and up
8. Making Music: Beginner Instruments
The most dedicated music lovers on your list may even go so far as trying to learn an instrument. Learning an instrument is the best way to get intimately acquainted with song construction, theory, and ultimately, meaning. We have several shopping guides for choosing beginner instruments depending on what sort of musician you’re looking to inspire:
- Best beginner electronic drum sets
- Best electric guitars for beginners
- Best beginner guitar kits
- Best bass guitars under $500
- Best guitar books for beginners
9. Music: The Original Mashtape Cassette Tape USB Drive
Naturally, the very best gift for music lovers is music itself. Since we’re moving beyond the ability to play even mix CDs these days, you’ll have to look into something like this to gift a hand-picked selection of music. This is an eight gig flash drive packed inside a standard cassette-sized package, complete with the plastic case for writing down your tracklist. True, you probably won’t want to compile a 2,000 song mix (kudos if you attempt this), but still, the combination of nostalgia and neat packaging makes this a great gift.
10. Music: Amazon Music Unlimited
If a measly eight gigs isn’t enough for the insatiable music lover you know, you’ll want to give them access to a truly staggering amount of music. The Music Unlimited plan is the step beyond what’s included with Prime. The Prime Music subscription gives you access to two million songs, while Music Unlimited offers tens of millions of songs, playable on any and all devices. The easiest way to achieve this gift is either via an Amazon Gift Card or by gifting a Prime membership.
Alternatively, check out Bandcamp to give the gift of independent music. Any album on Bandcamp can be sent as a gift, which enables the recipient to download it in their choice of file format and to play it in the Bandcamp app after they register with a fan account.
Price: $7.99 per month for Prime members, $9.99 per month for non-Prime members
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