10 perfect Christmas presents for... music geeks
Welcome to the audio side of our Pocket-lint perfect Christmas gift guide instalments. If there is a music geek in the family or a loved one itching to be just that, then you're in the right place.
You've already done the shopping for the Apple fanboy/girl in your life, the photographer, laptop addicts, the console gamer, PC gamer and the AV lover as well. Now is the turn of the avid listener. Enjoy.
Etymotics Custom Hf/Sony MDR-XB700
Good headphones are a must; beyond a must, they're integral to the music geek experience. You can get a decent set for under £50 but for between £10-40 more you can really get something special. A good on-ear solution is the Sony XB700 on-ear closed cup headphones. They don't give a particularly balanced sound - the XB stands for extra bass - but they're a high quality build and are really good noise cancellers. They're also rather swish. You can pick them up for a very reasonable £70.
For the in-ear solution though, it has to be the Etymotics Custom Hf2. Now, the trouble is that the headphones themselves cost around £90 and the custom made ear moulds cost about the same again. So, either you need to be happy to fork out £180 or your giftee needs to understand that they have to supply the extra cash. This may seem like a faff but these headphones, or more to the point, the tailor made moulds are absolutely amazing.
The Hf2 is the one to go for if your loved one uses an iPhone, otherwise it's the hf5. The other option is to find out what headphones your giftee already uses and then contact ACS , that make the moulds, to see if it can do a pair to fit those instead. It'll take some investigating but it's well worth the trouble.
Creative Gigaworks T3 PC speakers
Described by Creative as a "high-end 2.1 speaker system" the T3's are an excellent desktop solution. The sub will need to sit under the table, most likely, but the pair of satellite speakers and a twisting volume knob will be at arms reach while you pump the tunes. All the cables you need are in the box and they're a great way of playing music from your computer without having to put it through an amp or send it round to other rooms in the house.
The Creative Gigaworks T3 PC speakers are a smidge over our notional budget at £134 but, no doubt about it, these things are worth the extra money. Make someone's day.
iTunes/Amazon gift card
Record tokens are 80s but the music credit system for today is the iTunes gift card. You can go to just about any music download provider, but Apple has a good selection and your giftee can always just take the music to their own media player after they've bought what they wanted.
You might find that Amazon gives a better tunes per pound ratio but it's not worth sweating over. Just avoid Apple if your loved one happens to have it in for all things Jobs.
Spotify/Last.fm premium subscriptions
If you want to be a little smarter and more 2009 about these things then the gift of a premium subscription is definitely the way to go. The Spotify premium costs £9.99 per month but means the end of the irritating adverts, a few exclusive downloads, offline playlists, higher quality sound and, best of all, the use of Spotify apps on your mobile phone.
For Last.fm, it's much cheaper at just £3 per month and you get uninterrupted radio listening, ad-free browsing and streaming, recent visitors to your profile and a prestigious black icon. All very nice.
A to Z CD dividers/MP3 labelling software
Your music geek will of course have bookcases full of CDs somewhere about their living space. Although they might have been organised enough to have alphabetised or categorised it, chances are that they won't have gone to the lengths of getting a set of dividers for the purpose. Take them that extra distance with a pack of A to Z CD dividers, lovingly scuzzed up to look like record shop authentics. They're made from black polypropylene, printed on both sides, and come in packs of 30 for just £14.95.
While you're at it, you may as well throw in some digital music organising software too. You can bet there'll be a mess of MP3 files stored away on some hard drive with labels awry. Both MP3 Tag and Music Brainz Picard are both excellent bits of free software that'll sort out the mess for you to make sure the entire collection looks the same and sits in order on your media player.
We could have written a 10 perfect recycled vinyl list all of its own but go to Etsy "record" and you'll find an Aladdin's Cave of gift ideas for the music geek in your life. Some of the favourites in this massive list include - coloured cuffs ($6), LP rings ($5), record cufflinks ($12), vinyl clutch hangbag ($20), Kenny Rogers Just Dropped In record bag ($45), dripping vinyl wall decal ($35) and Santana GrooveBowl ($25). For something really special and quite hard to get hold of, then the recycled cassette tape neck tie for $120 will require some nifty international shipping.
Yes, you read right. The Musical Ruler. Naturally, there's a certain amount of novelty factor to this one, but at £6.95 it would make an excellent stocking filler. The idea is that you put this 30cm device flat down over the edge of a table and ping the overhanging end to make a note. The ruler has markings on it for the eight whole tones in a complete octave meaning that you can basically play any tune.
It comes with a step by step guide from ruler playing master Dan Wieden and includes tips on solos, Rock 'n Roll, Folk, Jazz and special effects. Possibly the silliest present you'll see all year but, when you grow tired of the fun, it'll still work as a gadget for measuring short distances and making pens and pencils run straight.
Following the relaunch of the retro Stylophone, the Beatbox edition produces several different percussion sounds, from bass drum all the way to hi-hat. With different sound "palettes" - percussion, actual beatboxing (provided by beatbox champion MC Zani) and bass tones - this gadget lets you create a percussion loop, which means you can form a beat over, allowing you to improvise with other voices.
There's also the option to connect up your MP3 player to the Beatbox via the headphone socket and tap along with your own records. IWOOT is offering the musical gadget now for £19.99. Silly but fun and probably quite addictive.
Lecci Mini Mixer
Wannabe DJs take note - there's a nifty little gadget which could make it easier to play off a couple of iPods. The Lecci Mini Mixer is basically a two-channel mixer that allows you to cross fade between a couple of audio sources. Those sources could be iPods, CD players, laptops - anything that outputs to a 3.5mm jack.
There's gain controls on both, a great big crossfader, and cue buttons so that you can check what a track sounds like before switching to it. Output is to either an audio-out jack or there's an internal speaker if you're DJing to a very tiny party. The Lecci Mini Mixer is available now from the Gadget Shop and costs £20.
Rock Band/Guitar Hero/DJ Hero
This isn't going to work if they don't own a games console, but if your music geek doesn't already have one of these titles, then buy one for them - particularly if they have no actual music playing skills of their own.
These games are easy enough that you don't need any real talent to be able to play them, but hard enough to feel like you do. What they offer most of all is the chance to rock out to whatever it is that you love. You actually get the chance to be Brian May/Jimi Hendrix or Ry Cooder, if only in your front room. Find the version to suit your giftee best from Rock Band 2, Guitar Hero 3, 4 or 5, Band Hero, DJ Hero and all the band specific ones - The Beatles, Metallica, etc. Hours of fun.