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The 2012 Gift Guide

More than 50 stocking-rocking presents for the music lover in your life: The best in wireless stereos, books, DVDs, headphones, box sets and much more

It's the Wi-Fi stereo of the gods: This sleek but mighty device from audiophile brand McIntosh makes for a dream office sound system. Both its styling and its sound – warm, throbbing bass, unexpectedly spacious soundstage – are pleasing retro throwbacks. But streaming technology means you can rock the room from your iPhone. ($3,000)

Bowers & Wilkins A7

This elegant little monster (courtesy of respected hi-fi craftsmen B&W) might blend into the décor of your living room, but there's no missing the killer output from its five speakers: astonishingly loud, strikingly detailed, almost perfectly balanced sound, streamed directly from your iPhone or computer. You'll be frantically upgrading your music's bit rates just to be able to play something worthy. ($800)

Sonos Sub

Sonos was among the earliest contestants in the wireless-speaker race – but fans have long complained of missing bottom end. The wireless (of course) Sonos Sub adds a much-needed thump to the system, and its two powerful internal speakers are expertly designed, so the floor won't shake when things get rowdy (and you won't get evicted). ($700)

Libratone Zipp

Most portable speakers are as exciting to look at as the artwork in a Clarion hotel room. This is an exception: It's swathed in one of several vibrantly colored felt covers; you can swap them in and out. The three-speaker system is fully wireless – there's no bluetooth option, but you can stream from an iPad or iPhone over an ad-hoc Wi-Fi connection, meaning it could power your next beach party. And with a 60-watt amp to power it, the Zipp is loud enough to shake a cheesy painting right off the wall. ($400)

Bose Soundlink Bluetooth Mobile Speaker II

The updated version of this Bible-sized streaming speaker maintains the original's protective cover (either nylon or leather), which doubles as a fold-down stand. Good thing, as the engineering tweaks Bose made give it even more nuanced sound than before, including enough bass to make it thump right off your end table, were it not so stable. ($300)

Logitech UE Boombox

The sleekly designed UE is a modern take on Eighties on-the-shoulder stereos. It can connect with three devices at once, and eight internal speakers pump surprisingly big sound. ($250)

Carbon Audio Zooka

Watch TV on your tablet? In addition to streaming music, this speaker attaches to your iPad or iMac, so you can hear Carrie Mathison's theories as clearly as possible. ($100)

Beats By Dre Pill

Chronic may be Dr. Dre's drug of choice, but he gets into pills with this capsule-shaped speaker, which gives seven hours of playtime and slides easily into a backpack. ($200)

Big Jambox

With maybe the richest, most well-balanced sound of the bunch, this perforated steel slab gets 15 hours per charge – enough for the most epic holiday party. ($300)

JBL Micro Wireless

If you heard this hockey-puck-size speaker before you saw it, you'd think the sound was coming from something twice its size – it has enough big bass to fill a living room. ($59)

Gramophone for iPhone and iPad

Made to look like a vintage Gramophone, this wireless docking station (sold by Restoration Hardware) pumps up the volume of your tunes by a factor of three or four, using physics rather than electricity. It's amplification the old-fashioned way. Gramophone for iPhone: $249; Gramophone for iPad (shown here): $299.

3rian Radios

A perfect blend of retro and modern: Brooklyn manufacturers 3rian turn antique radios into iPod docking stations, giving you an eye-popping way to play your digital tunes. Bluetooth compatibility is now an option; the radios also convert your music into analog signal for that extra touch of old-timey warmth. Prices vary.

Apple iPad Mini

You've undoubtedly seen the cute, "Heart and Soul"-themed commercials for this diminutive addition to the Apple family. But only when you grip the tablet's sculpted form in one hand and stare at its crisp 1024 x 728 resolution do you realize that the folks in Cupertino, CA have shoehorned nearly everything about it (ease of use! front and rear cameras! apps!) into a smaller form. Try one, and most other devices seem out of date. Starts at $329.

Apple iPod Touch and iPod Nano

Somehow, Apple was able to create a slimmer, lighter iPod Touch while also giving it such meaty specs as latest ultra-high resolution Retina display, a flash for its rear-facing camera, and Siri. And while the Touch went on a diet, the Nano hit the gym – going from square to rectangular, gaining a 2.6-inch screen with a multi-touch display and extras like an FM tuner and fitness pedometer. Maybe Apple learned about Quinoa? Starting at $300 for iPod Touch and $150 for the Nano.

SMS Audio’s Street by 50

50 Cent is the latest rapper to enter the headphones game, releasing a line of sleek cans with bass big enough to rival Beats by Dr. Dre, and overall sound that's even more well-rounded. The Street by 50s are as easy on your outer ear as the inner, thanks to their pillowy memory-foam pads. They're insulated enough to block office chatter, too, but their shatterproof casing can withstand daily abuse. ($250)

Audio-Technica Solid Bass ATH-WS55

Big sound at a budget price: These foldable cans produce a satisfying rumble, but never overwhelm the music's finer points. ($100)

Sennheiser HD 700

Just how good can a pair of headphones sound? Try this audiophile model – whose intricate design makes every note stunningly pure – and you'll fi nd out. ($1,000)

Bowers & Wilkins P3

These slim, retro-themed headphones might not have the big bass that characterizes so many of today's models, but they offer a sound as refined as their look. Made for on-the-go use, the plastic and metal cans feature a supple fabric lining and a headband comfortable enough for the longest commute. They fold up smoothly to fit in any pocket, too — but they look so good you may want to keep them on your neck. ($200)

Shure SE215

Not only are these see-through 'buds angled to aim sound directly at your ears' sweet spot, they also cancel enough outside noise to let you nod your head in peace. Even better, the SE215s are so comfortable you can wear them for hours at a time. ($100)

Sennheiser/Adidas PMX 685I

Go for a run with most 'buds, and they'll fall out or break before you hit the quarter-mile mark. These sweat- and water-resistant plastic ones cradle your neck to ensure a secure fit during any workout. ($80)

Westone 4R

You won’t believe they make earbuds this good. Westone are inner-ear specialists, making monitors for pro musicians; their 4R earbuds nestle comfortably inside your ear to seal in the warm, accurate sound. For the audiophile on the go, there’s no better choice. ($500)

Logitech UE 900

Open the box and you'll find variously sized pairs of ear tips, several adapters, a hard-shelled case, various cords, and a smattering of other items. Makes sense — and not only because they cost as much as a car payment. It’s also because, with earbuds, fit is everything. Since these 'buds sit upside down in your ear, they seal off your ear canal from outside noise, letting you enjoy the wonderfully full-bodied sound as if you were in your very own sound studio. ($400)

Apogee MiC

Record podcasts, home demos or album cuts on this sturdy studio-quality microphone – which directly connects to the iPad, iPhone and Mac – straight into GarageBand. ($199)

Apogee Duet2

The best digital recording interface in the business is sleek, travel-ready and costs a fraction of a home studio. Plug this robust console into your Mac to record studio-quality demos onto programs like Logic, GarageBand and ProTools using "breakout cables" that connect instruments, speakers and microphones. ($595)

Guitars

(Left to Right)
Fender American Vintage 1964 Telecaster
From Merle Haggard's twang to Keith Richards' biggest riffs, the Tele is the most versatile solid-body axe ever. First produced in 1950,it's never strayed too far from its classic specs: the feminine-looking body, dual pickups with a three-way switch system for a resonant sound ranging blues, jazz and country. The company's American Vintage '64 Telecaster recreates that year's incarnation with a lightweight alder body, a thinner C-shaped-neck profile,dark rosewood fingerboard and fiery three-tone sunburst finish. ($2000)
 
Fender Johnny Marr Jaguar Signature Model Guitar
Johnny Marr toured with more than a dozen Fender Jaguars while he considered how he'd build his own. Marr's version of the instrument – a longtime favorite for both surf-guitarists and indie rockers – features his own modifications; Bare Knuckle pickups, a simplified simple four-way switch. "When [the switch is] pushed forward into the fourth position, it puts the two pickups in series where they act as one big humbucker, giving a darker, thicker sound that you don't normally hear on a Jaguar," says Marr. It's not ideal for blues playing, but perfect for big arena-sized fuzz-drenched riffs. ($1649)

Martin 00-DB Jeff Tweedy Custom Artist Edition
The Wilco frontman has been a Martin fanatic since 1998's Mermaid Avenue Volume 1. He designed his own 00-DB Jeff Tweedy Custom Artist Edition, a traditional 14-fret mahogany Martin with a modified V-shaped neck, a deeper body for richer sound and a gorgeous shiny sunburst top with a hand-numbered interior signed by Tweedy. "The shape and aesthetic are based largely on my favorite go-to Martins that I have been using for years to write and record music," says Tweedy. ($2399)

Epiphone Limited Edition Riviera Custom P93 Electric 
This semi-hollowbody's deep tone is a favorite for everyone from Lou Reed to the Strokes' Nick Valensi. This affordable new Rivera Custom P93 model features a three Epiphone "Dogear" single-coil P-90 pickups with a gritty bite (think the Beatles "Revolution" intro), perfect for jamming on tracks from Chuck Berry to the Velvet Underground. ($549)

Third Man Revolution

This portable – emblazoned with Third Man Records' colors and logo – is half the size of a usual turntable. But it can play 33 1/3- and 45-rpm records, and it connects to your computer to turn your analog faves into digital fi les. ($145)

Pro-Ject Debut Carbon

From Austrian turntable specialist Pro-Ject, a first-rate entry-level model with excellent sound (thanks partly to its high-end carbon-fiber tonearm), and a sleek and sturdy design that comes in seven different colors. ($399)

Paul Simon, ‘Graceland: 25th Anniversary Edition’

The landmark African-pop LP, packaged with an excellent making-the-album documentary and more. ($115)

‘The Velvet Underground & Nico 45th Anniversary (Deluxe Edition)’

It's still a jolt to hear after all these years – and now it comes with live cuts, outtakes and even Nico's first solo LP. ($85)

Grateful Dead, ‘Spring 1990’

This was the Dead's last great tour, with a healthy Jerry Garcia and the band jamming at their peak. This 18-disc box features six full shows, plus a 60-page book. ($200)

‘Roxy Music: The Complete Studio Recordings’

This understated 10-disc box has nearly every sax blurt, keyboard wash and elegant come-on from one of the 1970s' most fascinating art-pop bands. ($90)

Johnny Cash, ‘The Complete Columbia Album Collection’

All 63 LPs Cash recorded between 1958 and 1986, including 35 showing up on CD for the first time. ($265)

Rock Docs

Led Zeppelin: Celebration Day
A beautifully shot document of the most sought-after reunion in rock. Led Zeppelin's December, 2007 concert in London was more than just a killer greatest-hits set; it was the sound of legends making old songs sound new. ($20)

The Rolling Stones: Charlie Is My Darling
Shot during a 1965 Irish tour and never officially released until now, this captures the pandemonium of early Stones' gigs; Mick Jagger goes so wild during "It's All Right" that fans bum-rush the stage. But the intimate hotel-room scenes are the real treasures here: Jagger and Keith Richards write songs and jam to the Beatles' "Eight Days a Week" while mugging for the camera – musical brothers just getting started on an epic journey. ($23)

Marley
This moving two-and-a-half-hour documentary might be the definitive portrait of Bob Marley. Director Kevin Macdonald situates Marley within the larger story of Jamaican and African history, adding commentary by friends and family, and stunning performance clips (like the 1976 concert two days after Marley was shot by a would-be assassin). ($27)

LCD Soundsytem: Shut Up and Play the Hits
Think of it as a dance-rock Last Waltz: One of the greatest bands of the 2000s says goodbye with a blowout concert at Madison Square Garden; this film mixes funk-pumped live jams with intimate behind-the-scenes footage. ($20)

Rock & Roll Reading

Rod by Rod Stewart
In an action-packed memoir, Stewart explains how he survived the excesses of Seventies rock stardom while avoiding perils such as wifeswapping with Mick Jagger (Mick offered, Rod declined). The book is light on deep revelation, but full of bad behavior and enough ex-wives to fill an entire soccer side. ($25)

Bruce  by Peter Ames Carlin
How do you find the man behind the myth? It's simple: reporting! Springsteen, his family, the E Street Band and various ex-girlfriends talked to Carlin, who ended up with a rounded portrait of one of rock's most important figures – who, it turns out, might not always be an easy guy to work for. Even the most obsessive Bruce tramps will find surprises throughout. ($28)

Who I Am by Pete Townshend
Always the most thoughtful and articulate of rock stars (when he wasn't delivering fatal blows to his instruments), Townshend doesn't disappoint in his longawaited memoir. It goes deep into his emotional and marital struggles, without skimping on the stories behind the Who's greatest music. It's a painful, but amazing, journey. ($33)

The One: The Life and Music of James Brown by RJ Smith
Rich in musical and historical detail, this novelistic portrait of the Godfather of Soul is as illuminating as it is definitive. The One serves as a minihistory of R&B, rock & roll and funk, and Smith manages to make sense of a chaotic, contradictory life that changed the shape of American culture. ($28)

Makeup to the Breakup by Peter Criss
A good subtitle to this tell-all might be "Gene Simmons is the devil." The ex-Kiss drummer decided to burn his bridges to dust and tell the real story about his tenure in Kiss, including endless stories of groupies, wild nights and Simmons' ego trips. Much of it is stunningly graphic, but Kiss fans will love every word. ($26)

Coffee Table Books

The Rolling Stones: 1972, Photographs by Jim Marshall
The Rolling Stones' 1972 American tour was bigger than anything that had come before it. Marshall, who covered the tour for Life magazine, got complete access to the band, and the stunning images in this collection show the Stones in all their strung-out Exile on Main Street-era splendor – recording in Los Angeles, chilling backstage and strutting across some very lucky concert stages. ($25)

360 Sound by Sean Wilzentz
Columbia Records – home of Springsteen, Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash, among many others – celebrates its 125th birthday with class: the label commissioned Princeton historian Wilentz to write this engrossing survey of its incredible run from John Philip Sousa to Adele. With over 300 images from the Columbia archives, 360 Sound is 2012's coffee-table must-own. ($45)

Steve Schapiro: Then and Now
This stunning coffee-table book collects 50 years of photos by Schapiro, an occasional Rolling Stone contributor. It's full of fantastic candids of film and music stars – from Robert De Niro to New Kids on the Block. ($85)

101 Essential Rock Records by Jeff Gold
This survey of "the golden age of vinyl," from Please Please Me in 1963 to Never Mind the Bollocks in 1977, is record-nerd eye candy, and an insight-filled look at how great art begets great art. Each LP cover is beautifully displayed, and an array of artists are interviewed about the records that changed their lives – from Iggy Pop on Them to David Bowie on the Velvet Underground. ($40)

Beck Hansen’s Song Reader

Some artists record with analog equipment or release tunes only on vinyl. For his new album, Beck went full-on 19th century, releasing the 20 songs as a collection of sheet music. The book, published through the McSweeneys imprint, runs 108 pages, with individual full-color song booklets. ($34)

F2 Design Concert Posters

Lubbock, Texas artist Dirk Fowler makes striking concert posters on an antique letterpress, featuring bands like Wilco, Spoon, and the Old 97's. Most of the limited edition prints sell for $30 or less; see more at f2-design.com.

RedisCover Jigsaw Puzzles

Eight classic album covers – Nevermind, Ziggy Stardust, The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan and more – made into high-quality 16" x 16" jigsaw puzzles. Why didn't we think of this? ($22)

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