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As summer break draws to a close, the ever-looming reality of school begins to solidify in the not-so-distant future. Much like that sobering feeling that comes from waking up, only to realize it’s Sunday and the weekend is all but over, so too does the start of August feel like every day is just one small step towards school.
While we can’t delay the school year, we can help you or your music-loving grad prepare for the next year. Give those morning walks to class a little more pep with headphones able to block out the noise and survive the rain. Or turn any dorm or studio apartment into a sanctuary with a comfy listening chair, unique posters, and high-quality speakers. From wall art that shows off your love of mixtapes, to noise-cancelling headphones and portable turntables, we’ve gathered some of the best products that any music fan will enjoy in between classes.
With a special focus on students, though anyone can appreciate our list, there is a roundup of our back-to-school essentials for every music lover.
1. Rock and Roll Vintage Poster
There’s nothing that sucks more than a blank dorm room wall — Redbubble is an an easy one-stop shop for dorm room decor, since they have thousands of different designs from hundreds of independent artists with essentials to help transform your college living space. Their vintage-inspired art in particular will show off to your roomates that yes, you would’ve gone to Woodstock (the Sixties one, not the Nineties disaster) and yes, you’re ready to turn it up to 11.
If classic rock is what fills up the majority of your Spotify study playlist, then this is the poster for you, with a smooth semi-gloss paper finish that won’t look like you bought it from a bin at the orientation week student fair. It comes in a range of sizes from Small (21.8 x 16.4 inches) to Large (44 x 33.2 inches), so you can easily find somewhere to shove it in on the wall between your roommate’s Pulp Fiction poster and postcards from studying abroad. Wall space a luxury you don’t have? Lucky for you, Redbubble has flexible design options so you can get this retro design as a sticker, mug, tote bag, and more.
2. Big Joe Fuf Bean Bag Chair
After a long day of taking notes, working on projects, cramming for tests and taking quizzes, a respite from the academic world is a must. But a scene change and a cold beer won’t always cure the overworked blues. Instead of sitting on a bed or a desk chair to enjoy some relaxing tunes, we opt for a beanbag like this one from Big Joe.
Coming in an array of colors and sizes (though we prefer the Large in Cobalt), the New Fuf by Big Joe provides a fluffy oasis to enjoy music, brews or a book when you or your favorite college student needs a break from studies. Paired with some noise cancelling (like the COWIN listed below) the Big Joe New Fuf quickly becomes hideaway from the rigors of school.
As an added bonus, the New Fuf by Big Joe is also a green product. Using upcycled foam instead of beans, every Big Joe product is made in the USA in a Zero Landfill certified facility.
3. Soul Emotion Max Active Noise Cancelling Headphones
Wireless (by way of Bluetooth), noise cancelling, comfortable and enough battery to last for 38 hours on a single charge, these Emotion Max over ear headphones paint a pricey picture. However, these headphones are reasonably affordable compared to the bigger audio players. At $119.99 on Soul Nation’s site, these headphones seem too good to be true. Self-proclaimed audiophiles will love the crisp mids and highs thanks to their dynamic 40mm drivers, and marathon study session will be even easier with ANC that’ll cancel out the noise of even the noisest student center.
With all the features that come packed in these Emotion Max’s, you can buy them or gift them with confidence, knowing that even if they don’t last all four years, you got your money’s worth and then some.
4. Otium Bluetooth Headphones
Sporting a formidable IPX7 waterproof rating (meaning they’ll function in rain and while immersed in 1 meter of water for under 30 minutes) these Bluetooth earbuds from Otium make a fantastic option for working out or walking to class.
Whereas our over ear picks above are ideal for long flights or ignoring roommates, these semi-wireless headphones (wired together but not to your device) make a great everyday carry to stuff in a backpack and use throughout the day. Otium’s headphones can last up to 8 hours on a single charge and come with a 1-year Manufacturer’s warranty and a 30-day, no questions asked refund policy.
5. Back In The Days Art Print
Though you could easily pick up one of several generic band posters from Urban Outfitters like the majority of other students rolling into college next month, we found this “Back In the Days” poster from Redbubble made a unique alternative. Over an all white background, this poster sports the iconic look of an old-school mixtape with the label written over in pen, and a washed-out aesthetic that gives an organic look to the piece. To top it all off, the art print can be framed if you want to get a little fancy, but otherwise the gallery-like, lightly textured paper will add extra life and presence to any space.
Hang it above a desk, beanbag or bed to add some color and personality to a dorm and let people know you listened to something other than “Sour” this summer.
6. Victrola Vintage Suitcase Turntable
In our eyes, the ultimate gift for a college student is something that is inexpensive but not cheap. In other words, well-priced but also well-crafted. There’s no point saving money if the product falls apart immediately, right? For that reason, we had to include Victrola’s Vintage Suitcase turntable.
Portable, sturdy and durable, this $43 turntable is our recommended ultimate starter turntable. It packs built-in speakers (with the added ability to outsource via RCA outputs if you own better speakers), a convenient carrying handle, adjustable pitch controls and the ability to play music by way of Bluetooth through the Victrola’s speakers. For anyone starting to collect records, this turntable makes an easy entry point that won’t break the bank. But, most importantly, it’s quality will last as your collection grows.
7. DemerBox Bluetooth Speaker
Far from inexpensive, the DemerBox Bluetooth speaker may seem out of place on this list. It is, after all, $300. However steep the price, this speaker is worth it. The DemerBox is waterproof, crush proof and about as rugged as a speaker can be. The shell is made by Pelican (maker of military grade cases) and comes with a plug to allow the entire speaker to be completely waterproof. What’s more, you can actually open the DemerBox and place valuables inside, allowing the speaker to double as a carrying case.
Combined with its powerful sound, impressive battery life (40 hours on a single charge) and near indestructibility, the DemerBox makes sense for a back to school present as it is built to last through whatever life throws its way. Regardless of how many times it’s kicked, dropped in the pool, spilled on or tossed, this speaker will keep working.
8. KAIU Vinyl Record Frame
Outside of the mixtape poster mentioned above, a true music lover is going to want to show off their record collection, which is why we love these record frames by KAIU. Available in either a black or natural finish, use these sturdy wooden frames to display some of your favorite LPs and further decorate your walls. Though slightly more expensive than other options, we like these frames by KAIU because they’re a bit sturdier and sport a slightly larger bezel, giving a more elegant look to the frame and record.
And with 67% of reviewers giving these frames a stellar 5 out of 5 stars on Amazon, we think this is a must-have for anyone headed back to school.
9. Bose SoundLink Revolve+ II
Though the previous Bluetooth speaker on our list is as indestructible as a Nokia phone, we’re always here to give you some options. We’re also fans of Bose and their high-quality audio gear. Their Bluetooth speaker, the Bose SoundLink Revolve+ II warrants that same admiration.
Offering 360-degree sound, a sophisticated and elegant design, a convenient carrying handle, a water resistant IP55 rating, and the ability to use the Revolve+ II as an extension of your speakerphone and Siri/Google Assistant, this Bluetooth speaker makes an excellent parting gift for your kid shipping off to college. While it’s not as rugged as the DemerBox featured above, the Revolve+ II nestles itself well in any dorm room or first apartment to become not just a speaker, but a piece of furniture. With its long list of features and relatively affordable price (half that of the DemerBox) this speaker rates well in both the form and function categories.
10. VNYL Gift Membership
Now that you’ve picked out the appropriate poster, purchased the speaker and grabbed the portable turntable, the only thing missing is, well, the music. While Amoeba and Discogs offer options for the adventurous record collectors, it’s easy to help someone get their record collection started with a membership to VNYL.
VNYL will send three new LPs once a month, every month until the subscription is canceled. As a gift, you’re locked into either a 3-month, 6-month, or 12-month subscription, but their deep collection makes the service worth a try, and you can cancel at any time. To figure out your musical preferences, VNYL works like a private investigator, using questions on your member profile and/or looking at your Spotify (not required) to find new music that you need to hear. From there, they will send new records each month, including a handwritten note explaining the selections, as well. And with a collection that ranges from Method Man and Phoenix to Outkast, Al Green and Buddy Guy, you can be sure they’ll have something you’ll enjoy.