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Holiday Gift Guide 2015: 40 Perfect Presents for Music Fans

Killer audio gear, rock books and more

Gift Guide 2015

With a dizzying number of weird gadgets, deluxe edition LPs and fancy headphones on the market, it can be hard to nail down a killer gift for the music fan in your life. So we did the heavy lifting, narrowing down the 40 best items you'll want to surprise a loved one – or add to a wish list of your own.

Polaroid Zip Mobile Printer

Polaroid Zip Mobile Printer

This tiny, wallet-sized machine prints photos directly from a phone using Bluetooth technology, with instant access to Instagram, Snapchat, and other apps. With the click of a button, the picture gallery in your phone can be hanging on your refrigerator. $130

Guitar Hero Live

Guitar Hero Live

Step into the lights: The popular music game is back with a concert version that puts players center stage in famous venues – including outdoor festivals and small clubs. With a rock-god POV you can gaze out on the crowd, and then better you play along to any of the hundreds of available songs, the crazier fans get. $99

So Many Roads; David Browne

‘So Many Roads’ by David Browne

Fifty years after the dawn of the Dead, is there anything left to learn about the band? Actually, yes – fresh interviews with surviving members and a unique approach: Each chapter zooms in on one day in Dead history, from an early gig as the Warlocks to Jerry Garcia's diabetic coma in 1986. $21

Sam Phillips; The Man Who Invented Rock 'n' Roll; Peter Guralnick

‘Sam Phillips: The Man Who Invented Rock ‘n’ Roll” by Peter Guralnick

Peter Guralnick's rigorously researched book tells the story of a Southern white businessman who enabled the careers of epochal artists, black and white – including Elvis Presley, B.B. King, Johnny Cash, Howlin' Wolf, Ike Turner, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Carl Perkins. $22

Fortunate Son; My Life; My Music; John Fogerty

‘Fortunate Son: My Life, My Music’ by John Fogerty

The Creedence legend opens up like never before about the short and tumultuous life of the band – as well his up-and-down solo career and personal struggles. It's a story that Fogerty has wanted to tell for years. $22

Unfaithful Music; Disappearing Ink; Elvis Costello

‘Unfaithful Music & Disappearing Ink’ by Elvis Costello

After four decades of lyrics like "every time I phone you, I just wanna put you down," it's no secret that Elvis Costello has a way with words. So it's not a shock that he's written one of the greatest, most consistently entertaining rock memoirs ever, packed with poignant personal revelations and revealing stories of his time with fellow stars like Paul McCartney. Like the best rock books, it'll send you straight back to his discography. $18

Petty; The Biography; Warren Zanes

‘Petty: The Biography’ by Warren Zanes

The book, by author and former Del Fuegos guitarist Warren Zanes, marks the first time Petty has ever talked about his heroin abuse publicly, but it's far from the only dark moment in the book. Petty and Zanes have decided to tell the unvarnished truth, and the result is not only the definitive account of Petty's life, but one of the best rock biographies in recent memory. $21

M Train; Patti Smith

‘M Train’ by Patti Smith

M Train is an impressionistic weave of dreams, disasters, space-outs and epiphanies, a meditation on life and art by a woman who sees them as one. For the follow-up to a surprise bestseller, the book is bravely experimental. $16

Bob Dylan

‘Bob Dylan All The Songs: The Story Behind Every Track’ by Phillippe Margotin, Jean-Michel Guesdon

An in-depth look inside every one of Dylan's 36 official studio recordings by 55 different commentators ranging from college professors, music critics, journalists, radio DJs, musicians, producers, and more. Even widely-dismissed mid-1980s albums like Knocked Out Loaded and Down In The Groove are rigorously analyzed, proving that even at his lowest ebb he could still produce fascinating work. $30

Covert To Overt; Shepard Fairey

‘Covert To Overt’ by Shepard Fairey

An often gorgeous survey of recent work by Shepard Fairey, the street artist behind Barack Obama's iconic "Hope" poster. $50

To Disco With Love; David Hamsley

‘To Disco With Love’ by David Hamsley

No period of pop music produced crazier, more colorful album art than the disco era, and this wildly entertaining book spotlights the wildest. Cher's sexy viking costume on 1979's Take Me Home deserves its own chapter. $10

Bruce Springsteen; The Ties That Bind; The River Collection

Bruce Springsteen, ‘The Ties That Bind: The River Collection’

The four-CD/three DVD box set features previously unreleased footage of Springsteen and the E Street Band rehearsing for the River tour along with tracks that didn't make the double album. There's also a concert shot in Tempe, Arizona the night after Ronald Reagan was elected president and a new documentary where Springsteen breaks down key songs from the album. $108

Neko Case; Truckdriver, Gladiator; Mule

Neko Case, ‘Truckdriver, Gladiator, Mule’

The alt-country singer-songwriter's vinyl box set spans seven studio releases and a live record and ostensibly her life's work, which also includes an 80-page full color photography book that she designed and curated. It's a testament to the work she put into each record, which she's reflected with the title. $200

Bob Dylan; The Cutting Edge

Bob Dylan, ‘The Cutting Edge’

Over 110 tracks on six CDs, the box set chronicles the 14 months that produced Bringing It All Back Home, Highway 61 Revisited, and Blonde on Blonde. (A two-CD best-of and an 18-CD collectors edition are also available.) Six CDs may be too much for many but every shift, every stop and start, also provides a chance to hear familiar songs anew, as they come into being. $150

Kurt Cobain; Montage Of Heck

Kurt Cobain, ‘Montage Of Heck’

Culled from hundreds of hours of Kurt Cobain's cassette demos spanning his entire career, this fascinating, often revelatory, box set – a companion to the HBO documentary Montage of Heck – takes us inside Cobain's raw, wide-ranging process. $128

The Grateful Dead; Fare Thee Well

The Grateful Dead, ‘Fare Thee Well’

This box set of 12 CDs and seven Blu-Ray discs chronicles the Dead's goodbye concerts from this past summer and includes great backstage footage. $175

Bob Marley

Jason Ware

Bob Marley, ‘The Complete Island Recordings’

These vinyl reissues of all 11 of Marley's albums for Island Records come in a silver box shaped like a lighter, in homage to the packaging of his 1973 debut. $236

Beats Studio

Apple Inc

Beats Studio Wireless

Wireless headphones allow for dancing, singing and playing the air-guitar without getting caught up in cords and wires. The new Beats Studio Wireless headphones sync with your devices in seconds, allow hands-free calls with a built-in mic, and have the same noise-cancelling, impressive, full and thick sound. $380

Jabra Sport Coach


Jabra Sport Coach

Finally, comfortable workout headphones that actually stay in your ears. Seamlessly sync these ultra-light, wireless headphones with the Jabra app on your mobile device for a personal fitness profile that includes training management and customized workout results. They're also sweat and weather resistant, and the audio quality is damn good. $150

Dharma D1000 Electrostatic;Dynamic Hybrid Stereo


Dharma D1000 headphones, ENIGMAcoustics

The most exciting developments in hi-fi are happening in the headphone space, where new models and technologies seem to pop up each week. Some of the most interesting are from small companies, like the innovative Dharma D1000, from ENIGMAcoustics. Most headphones have one driver in each ear; the D1000s have two:  On top of typical dynamic drivers, these add less common electrostatic to handle the extreme high end, including frequencies that extend beyond the limits of human hearing. The result is the most crazily crisp and realistic cymbals and hi-hats you've ever heard (try Neil Young's "Danger Bird"), paired with powerful bass and an overall sound that is strikingly three-dimensional.  The D1000s are cheaper than other world-class headphones (though certainly not cheap), and unlike their competitors, can be driven nicely, if not ideally, by an iPhone. $1,190

MrSpeakers; ETHER-C


ETHER-C headphones

In the growing world of ultra-hi-fi, top-of-the-line headphones – or "summit-fi" as the denizens of the influential message-board head-fi.org call it – most of the favorites are "open" models, which means they blast out sound to everyone around you. The gorgeous-looking, relatively lightweight, American-made ETHER-C model, from the tiny boutique company MrSpeakers, are an exception  – they're "closed," sufficiently sound-isolated to use on an airplane or train. They're also among the most astonishing headphones you'll ever hear, projecting an almost palpable soundstage and a near-miraculous, goose-bump-inducing ability to unearth tiny hidden details of your favorite recordings. (As with all summit-fi headphones, you'll want to use a headphone amp for best results.) $1499

Master and Dynamic ME05

Master & Dynamic

Master and Dynamic ME05 Earbuds

These premium-sounding ear buds are machined from solid brass, which makes them look cool and also adds noise-isolating, improved sonic qualities like vibration absorption. The ear tips are 23 grams of solid metal (they're pleasantly heavy) and are angled for a comfortable fit. Also comes with a leather storage box – that’s luxury. $199



RHA T20 High-end Earbuds

For audiophiles who don't want to look like an airplane mechanic, these stainless-steel earbuds are a revelation. Swappable filters on the tips optimize sound for bass or treble-heavy tunes, and a DualCoil driver makes any music crystal clear. $240

Audioquest Nighthawk Audiophile

Lee Shelly

Audioquest Nighthawk Audiophile

If Friday night plans involve a dark room and Kid A on the turntable, these studio-grade cans are the perfect mate: Powerful 50mm drivers deliver deep bass and and warm, natural sounds, and the ear-shaped cups are particularly comfy. $599

Rega RP10

Adam Goodwin/Rega Research Limited

Rega RP10 Turntable

This skeletal turntable looks cool, but there's a method to the madness: Stripping away unnecessary mass means less vibration for sweet-sounding vinyl. $6,495 (with cartridge)

Apple TV

Apple Inc

Apple TV

It's no longer just a way to stream TV (although it does that pretty well) – with Siri control and a touch pad remote, it turns any flat-screen into an addictive portal for games and apps. $149

Google Chromecast

Google Chromecast

Google Chromecast Audio

Any music fans on your list stuck in the Dark Ages? This bare-bones device turns any analog stereo or speaker into a full-fledged Wi-Fi-streaming system. $35



Mjolnir 2/Gungnir Combo

Just like speakers, many of the world's best headphones need serious power to come to life. Schitt's gleaming, high-octane Mjolnir 2 headphone amp is a no-compromise solution to desktop hi-fi, with a crazy-simple interface – two switches, one knob – and the ability to switch behind tube and solid-state operation. Pair it with Schitt's Gungnir DAC (and summit-fi headphones like Audeze's LCD-3, Sennheiser's HD800 or Mrspeakers' ETHER-C), and you've got a headphone rig that can rival the best stereos. $849 each

Oppo Amplifier


Oppo HA-1 Headphone Amplifier

Top-of-the-line headphones don't sound their best without a dedicated headphone amp – and assuming you're using a computer or smartphone as your music source (and who isn't in the post-CD era?) a dedicated digital-to-analog converter (DAC) is also a must. The great-sounding, ultra-versatile, easy-to-use HA-1 from Oppo, also the maker of well-regarded CD and Blu-ray players, is both pre-amp and DAC, and much more – it's also a great way to get high-quality sound to a home stereo or powered speakers. $1,200

Peachtree 220SE

Peachtree Audio

Peachtree 220 SE Digital Amp

Audio nerds will lose it for this jack-of-all-trades amp that provides up to 350 watts per channel of power to any system and has a built in digital-to-analog convertor for optimizing lossless audio from streaming services like TIDAL. $1,599