Our 2014 gift guide for music lovers
Buying gifts for music lovers gets more complicated every year. You used to be able to just buy them CDs or vinyl, but as more and more listeners move to streaming networks and ditch their physical collections, that’s not so much of an option. For those who are shopping for picky music addicts, we offer 10 suggestions, from coffee table books to hearing protection to gear that’ll help them create their own noise.
The DUBS earplugs, $25
Until recently, the only real options for earplugs were cheap foam rubber ones that reduced volume with no regard for clarity, rendering live music into a muddled mess, or custom-made ones that sounded great but required a professional fitting and cost hundreds. Now there are a number of good models that are designed to deliver a full frequency range and are cheap enough that you can afford to lose a pair. DUBS drastically reduce volume (and the risk of hearing damage) without otherwise noticeably altering the sound. We tested out a pair at an apocalyptically loud EDM show, and we walked away happy without ringing ears.
LittleBits synth kit, $159
Coming up with new combinations of Little Bits’ modules is a fun way to conquer the usually steep learning curve that comes with analog synthesizers, but more importantly, with components designed with Korg, it’s also a way to come up with professional-quality sounds.
With seemingly every rapper in the world angling for a chunk of the headphone market, it comes as no surprise that hip-hop ringmaster DJ Khaled would get in the mix, or that his offering would be the most luxurious of the bunch. These high-end cans offer the amount of bass boom that we’ve come to expect in a post-Beats world, but with the rich mids and crisp highs that a lot of modern headphones neglect, along with classy touches like lambskin-lined earcups, memory foam in the band, and a clean design inspired by old school audiophile gear.
Grenco Science Taylor Gang vaporizer, $14.95-$99.95
If you’re a fan of Wiz Khalifa’s music there’s a pretty good chance you share some of his, shall we say, other interests. Recently Wiz’s Taylor Gang signed up with Grenco Science to produce two custom vapes, one in the rapper’s trademark black and yellow color scheme, and another with rocket-themed detailing.
The mixtape has long offered rappers an outlet to create just for their hardcore fans without the need to please labels or radio. This new book, curated by Marshall “DJ Mars” Thomas, dives deep into the unique culture that’s grown up around mixtapes, with an emphasis on their artwork, which is often as wildly inspired and rule-breaking as the music itself.
Jesse Frohman’s photo shoot with Nirvana would have been iconic even if it hadn’t been Kurt Cobain’s last–you know the one, where he was wearing a fuzzy leopard-print coat, white cat’s-eye glasses, and an earflap hat. This new book collects the whole shoot, plus some concert pics and a few candid shots of Kurt hanging out with fans on the sidewalk. A must for the alt-rock obsessive in your life.
The most basic model in Native Instruments popular Maschine line is the ideal gift for the would-be Timbaland or Skrillex in your life. For the cost of an entry-level electric guitar and practice amp they’ll get not only the compact and portable Maschine Mikro controller, but the professional-grade Maschine 2.2 software, a virtual studio with a massive library of drums, synthesizers, and assorted instruments, along with the tools to turn them into complete songs.
In the rare moments when he’s not rapping about selling drugs, one of the subjects Pusha T likes to rhyme about is fashion. Like Kanye, who recently produced his crazy viral track “Lunch Money,” Push recently linked up with Adidas for his own custom sneaker model, this one with a white-on-white color scheme and fishtail accents, which not only look extremely fly but are hilarious in-jokes if you’re familiar with his lyrical preoccupations.
Sonos Play:1, $199
Sonos’ compact speakers boast built-in amplifiers, wireless connectivity, and fantastic sound, so you can easily move them to any room in the house you want to fill with sound, as long as there’s a free electrical outlet. You can set two of their Play 1 speakers to work together as a stereo pair, or you can separate them and play from two different audio sources in two different places.
Bose FreeStyle earbuds, $129
Smartphone manufacturers have been steadily upgrading the quality of earbuds they ship their handsets with, but there’s always room for improvement. Bose’s FreeStyle earbuds sound better, fit more comfortably, and look a whole lot cooler than the standard issue.