Chances are, everyone has at least one passionate music fan on their gift list this holiday season. Buying CDs is always difficult, since you can never know what someone does or doesn’t have, so here are the top five gifts you can give any music fan to make them feel guilty about the cheese log they got you last year.
5. Apple iPod
Honestly, the iPod wouldn’t have made this list last year, but Apple did something crucial: they added gapless playback to the iPod through a firmware update. For music fans, this is vital – nothing’s more annoying than listening to a copy of Abbey Road with a break of about a half second between the tracks in the climactic second half of the album, and live concerts necessarily need to have gapless playback to keep you in the moment. This had been the only major flaw in the iPod, which supports downloads from iTunes, the world’s largest online music store and has a fantastic interface. There’s a reason that the iPod is on top of the other music players, and it’s the style and convenience of the little portable jukebox. With the new features, the iPod is nearly perfect.
4. USB Vinyl Record Player
If you’re shopping for older music fans, check out the return of the old school in the form of the iTTUSB turntable. This vinyl deck will set you back about $200 or so, and can convert old records to WAV or MP3 format – perfect for out-of-print records that aren’t available on CD. It can record at double speed, and though it requires the user to split up and name each track, the included software makes the process easy. Check the links section of this article for a place to find one of these – this is a great product to bring your music-loving parents or grandparents into the modern age.
3. Sirius Satellite Radio Subscription
Satellite radio is no longer just a fad, it’s a bona fide industry experiencing rapid growth thanks in part to the appearance of Howard Stern on the Sirius airwaves. For about $10-15 a month (there are several subscription plans), you can give a loved one hundreds of channels of music, talk, sports, and very few commercials. Sirius is currently gaining subscribers faster than XM radio (its leading contender), and simply has better stations for music and talk. An actual radio receiver will cost another $30 and upwards, depending on how fancy you want to get, and makes a great gift for commuters that love exploring new music.
2. Bose Speaker System
Hi-fi systems definitely enhance any music fan’s experience, so a look at the Bose line of high fidelity speakers is justified. They’re expensive – anywhere from around $350 to $1,400 depending on the model and capabilities – but well worth it. Bose is one of the most respected names in the field of speakers, and their Wave line implements new technology to bring that special someone on your gift list a whole lot of crisp, clean sound.
1. Real Rhapsody
As a music fan who’s used nearly every online music service, I can honestly say that Real’s Rhapsody software is the best. No, I’m not being paid off by the corporate heads of Real Technologies (thought I’d like to be). Yes, I realize that Real has a bad history of poor quality software that can’t stream audio. However, Rhapsody is absolutely fantastic, and is setting a gold standard for how internet music should be done.
With a “to go” service for portable music devices (other than the iPod, unfortunately) and a great organization system, Rhapsody is brilliant. Pages load quickly, artist bios and information are up to date and well written (including interesting bits of trivia that display as the songs play) and the recommendation system is the best I’ve ever found. In the two months I’ve used Rhapsody, I’ve found more new music than in the years I’ve used iTunes, Napster, eMusic, and anything else you can name. Rhapsody has a fantastic selection of bands, high quality streaming and downloading, radio stations that are actually entertaining, and hands down the best features you can find in an online music service. A must for any music fan, and a steal at about $15 a month.