What's Christmas without a song?
"Better" might be the answer offered by certain members of your family, but ignore them. There's no time like 25 December to awaken a loved one's passion for music, even if hurts your ears.
From alluring accessories for lazy listeners to geeky gizmos for kooky creators, these are the gifts to get everyone rockin’ around the fake plastic Christmas tree.
You know the Nura drill by now: before you listen to the headphones, they listen to you – testing your ears’ response to different frequencies so they can tailor their output to compensate. The full-size Nuraphone is an absolute wonder, but about as gym-friendly as a Victorian diving helmet; luckily, these lightweight buds are hardly any less spectacular.
Ultimate Ears Hyperboom (£359)
The perfect gift for a party animal who doesn’t know the meaning of ‘Please, I’m begging you to turn it down a bit’, the Hyperboom is three times louder than UE’s already monstrous Megaboom and will fill just about any room with beefy but detailed sound.
TEENAGE ENGINEERING PO-133 (£85)
Christmas just wouldn’t be Christmas without a Teenage Engineering Pocket Operator in the Stuff Gift Guide – and this year the zany Swedes have surpassed themselves. The Capcom Series comprises two tiny gadgets packed with the sounds of arcade gaming: this Street Fighter sampler and a Megaman synth/sequencer. Tatsumaki senpukyaku, as they say in Lapland.
GLASS PLAQUE SPOTIFY ALBUM COVER (£27)
Starting to feel a bit too old to have giant posters of Little Mix all over your bedroom? Ask Santa for one of these: a clear acrylic plaque recreating the Spotify page of any album you choose, with a scannable code to play your favourite song.
KORG NTS-1 DIGITAL KIT (£94)
Korg’s cutest mini-synth yet is part of its Nu:Tekt range of self-assembly kits, which also includes a surprisingly refined guitar overdrive pedal and an excellent but extremely niche headphone amp. The NTS-1’s tiny ribbon keyboard is limiting but it’s packing some top-class sounds – and don’t worry, your soldering ‘skills’ are not required.
WU-TANG CLAN FACE MASK ($15)
“Times is changed and life is strange, the glorious days is gone,” observed the Wu-Tang Clan on their 1994 single Can It Be All So Simple. Who’d have thought life would get so strange that the world’s favourite East Coast hip-hop collective would be selling PPE?
COWBOY BEBOP (OST) (£25)
The bad news? Netflix is working on a live action version of this peerless anime series about philosophical bounty hunters in space. The good news? The original show’s music is out now on double vinyl. Play it loud to drown out the TV.
SOUNDBRENNER CORE (£177)
A smartwatch for people who think Sp02 is the name of a Finnish ambient electronica duo, the Soundbrenner Core includes a tuner, a decibel meter and a silent metronome that thumps your wrist with percussive vibrations. Sounds barmy, but it works - and as a bonus, this is a dapper-looking wearable that handles basic smartphone notifications in style.
ROLI LUMI KEYS (£299)
One way to help find your bearings on the keyboard of a piano or synth is to scribble all over it in colour-coded crayons when nobody’s looking. A slightly better way is the Lumi keyboard, with its light-up keys and accompanying app, allowing you to follow the dancing colours all the way to carefree proficiency. Crayons are a fair bit cheaper, to be fair, but still...
OAKYWOOD 2IN1 STAND (£85)
Headphones are awkward to stash, smartphones are awkward to keep charged. So here’s the most elegant two-in-one solution since the sandwich-toasting trouser press (patent pending): a steel headphone stand with a Qi charger in the wooden base.
SPIN CLEAN RECORD WASHER MKII (£79)
So the vinyl revival turned out to be more than just a three-month fad. This is good news for anyone who’s spent their kids’ university fund on a turntable, but how to keep those records clean? The Spin Clean kit includes a fluid bath plus brushes, rollers and lint-free drying cloths.
SOLIDGOLDFX NU-33 (£249)
A lot of guitarists obsess about wanting to sound ‘like a record’, but they don’t usually mean it quite this literally. As well as offering standard chorus/vibrato effects, the Nu-33 recreates the wobbliness of a dodgy turntable... and even lets you add random pops, crackles and hiss
Senstroke Essential Box (€160)
Drumming: the best idea for a new hobby until you realise you need to build an extension to house a kit. Not with Senstroke, the connected drumkit that can make a drum out of a cushion, the surface of a table, or even your better half's head (permission strongly advised). Simply slide the sensors onto a pair of drumsticks, connect wirelessly to your phone, and you're off. There are lessons for newbies in the app; and if it turns out that you're not exactly a natural Grohl, you can plug in some headphones to keep your session private.
Vox SDC-1 Mini (£165)
The day will come when, vaccines permitting, all those bedroom guitar heroes are going to want to play outside again. Heck, they might even come round to yours for tea. Ease their transition back to normality with this cutey from Vox: the small body and short playing scale (just under 19 inches) mean they'll be able to tuck it into a modest-sized bag and not worry about banging into door frames, but the mini-humbucker pickup promises tones big enough to shake a stadium.
AUDIO PRO ADDON T3+ BLUETOOTH SPEAKER (£195)
Give the gift of spacious sound on-the-go with a beasty battery life, courtesy of the Audio Pro Addon T3! Their signature sound is delivered via the taut low-end woofer and tonally rich tweeters, paired up for a great level of detail and space to any music you throw at it.
The compact, minimal design takes pride of place on any shelf or bedside table, while the 30-hour battery life makes this an awesome portable option too!
MRCL vinyl subscription (£34 p/m)
Music discovery shouldn’t just be about algorithms from a streaming service. The perfect antidote to programmed predictability is a monthly vinyl subscription from a small company like MRCL. Every month your fortunate recipient will be sent two records spanning a range of genres, and the beauty is that it’ll probably be something they’ve never heard, with carefully curated selections from all regions of the planet.