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Electronista's Holiday Gadget Gift Guide: Music Fan edition

updated 10:56 pm EST, Wed November 27, 2013

Black Friday, holidays offer good deals on wide range of pop gear

Black Friday is just around the corner, and it's entirely likely that there's a particular loved one you've been unable to think of something special: your resident musicophile. Fortunately, they're secretly among the easiest of all the people on your list to shop for. Normally we'd be a bit quieter in saying something like that, but your house audiophile is probably off somewhere wearing a pair of high-quality headphones, vibing to Bishop Nehru or Tame Impala -- don't worry, they'll tell you about those bands sooner or later. In the meantime, click through and check out the Music Lover edition of Electronista's Holiday Gadget Gift Guide, and we'll hip you to some tech gifts you can give them that will make them take pause -- and even press pause -- in surprise and delight.

The Home Speaker: Cambridge Audio's Minx Go

We'll start out with the main speaker for a small home setup, and we're settling on Cambridge Audio's Minx Go Bluetooth speaker system. This diminutive portable speaker puts out sound that belies its size. It's packed with five premium speakers and the latest Digital Signal Processing tech built in. That translates to surprisingly full sound for its size. With its Bass Radiator, it pumps out sound that fills up a room quite well, more than adequate your music lover's ever-vibrating quarters.

Best of all, the Minx Go packs Bluetooth connectivity and an internal battery. That means it doesn't have to be plugged into a device -- just pair it and play. That internal battery gives up to 18 hours of playback, and it only takes two hours to charge fully. It also remembers up to eight paired devices -- phones, tablets, computers, and so on -- so everyone can get in on the music-playing action. If your musicophile will let them, that is.

The Cambridge Minx Go is available for just $149.

The Turntable (yes, a turntable): Pro-Ject's Debut Carbon

With that snazzy new speaker placed strategically, your musicophile will need something to pump sound into it, so that it can pump up the jam (or whatever the new generation do these days). We recommend Pro-Ject's Debut Carbon turntable.

"A turntable?" you ask. We reply with a grin, "Yes. A turntable."

You see, back in the days of yore, people used to listen to music on spinning discs with grooves cut into them. We called these "records," and some folks still like to listen to them, saying that they provide a "warmer" sound. One needs special technology to play these records, as it's just about the only thing your smartphone can't do. If your resident music lover scoffs at your MP3s and shakes a cane at your Spotify, you'd be well-served to pick up the Debut Carbon.

This turntable has an 8.6-inch carbon forearm (thus the name) that holds the needle that reads the record. It also sports a precision belt drive with a synchronous motor, making sure the record spins at a constant rate. It's also got new Sorbothane motor suspension, an Ortofon 2M Red cartridge, and a bigger platter size with more weight, further ensuring smooth playback.

The Pro-Ject Debut Carbon turntable is available for $399. When you present it, take a bit to get your music lover to play that 180-gram heavyweight vinyl copy of Kind of Blue on it. They'll thank you, and you'll thank yourself.

The Headphones: Parrot's Zik wireless noise canceling headphones

Of course, sometimes, your musicophile has to take the tunes on the road or just spare others the pleasure. For those times, we recommend Parrot's Zik wireless headphones. These beautiful, Bluetooth-enabled cans are packed with a bunch of high-end tech, making them just as snazzy as they are stylish.

The Zik headphones have a touch-sensitive panel that allows for control of playback and volume with just a few oh-so-cool swipes of a finger. They also have a sensor that automatically stops the music when it detects that the wearer has removed the headphones. They also feature some truly impressive noise-cancelation technology. Slip these babies on, and the world disappears.

With near-field communications technology, the Parrot Ziks can pair nearly instantly with a smartphone or speaker that also has NFC built in. That means one needs only tap the Ziks to one's phone in order to listen to music and answer calls on the go.

The Parrot Zik wireless headphones are available for $399 online. They're also available for overnight shipping if you want a bit of time to play with them yourself before handing them over to your music lover, because you definitely won't be getting them back after you've gifted them.

The Music: iTunes Gift Card

Here, we're going to step out on a bit of a limb. We've been suggesting some audiophile-esque gear so far, but we're about to break that trend here and hope "they" don't revoke our pass. If you want to make sure your music lover has access to all of the latest and greatest tunes, you pretty much can't go wrong snapping up an iTunes Gift Card.

Back in the days when iPods roamed the earth, your tune lover would have turned up their nose at the gift of iTunes and turned up their phonograph even more to boot. That's because the tunes that Apple sold back then maxed out at about 128kbps. There's still a stigma among many with digital tunes, but Apple now encodes its tracks at 256kbps. It's nowhere near the quality you're going to get with uncompressed CD tracks, but it should be more than enough for the average ear, so it'll do in a pinch.

With an iTunes Gift Card, you can make sure that your music buff is able to grab tracks while on the go. Just got to play that new Chvrches track? Absolutely have to let someone hear Avishai Cohen's version of Alfonsina y el Mar? No problem. Just pop over to iTunes and download away. Gift cards from iTunes are available directly from Apple in $25, $50, and $100 values. Apple has more than 26 million tracks in the iTunes Store, so buy a big card and watch their eyes light up when they finally find that one track that has always eluded them on vinyl.

For the serious purists and hardcore hipster snobs, there's also HDTracks, which sells a much smaller (but important) collection of classic albums in uncompressed formats. Gift certificates are available, and for some music lovers, getting a taste of the uncompressed masters may be a mind-opener.

The Kicker: iTunes Match

Now that your tune addict sees the utility in having digital tracks as an option, you can seal the deal with an iTunes Match subscription. With iTunes Match, all of those compressed guilty pleasures will be tucked away "in the cloud," accessible from your recipient's iPad, Mac, or iPhone. Subscribers can store up to 25,000 tunes in iTunes Match, and tracks bought in the iTunes Store don't even count against that total. The tracks are even stored in that 256kbps format, free of any digital rights restrictions. Subscriptions run just $25 per year, so you can snap up two years for the price of three CDs -- if you remember what CDs are, that is.

And that about does it for this installment of Electronista's Holiday Gadget Gift Guide. We'll be back shortly with another gift guide to help you kit out even more of your loved ones. For now, though, your music lover is fitted out from just about all angles with this setup, and you're just about certain to get a special mixtape made as a thank-you.

by MacNN Staff



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