If there’s one thing you can be sure a music fan covets for Christmas, it’s an upgrade to their listening experience. Whether that be a new component for a hi-fi system or some wireless cans for taking music on the move, you can never go wrong with better sound.
We’ve put together a dozen suggestions here that cover a broad range of gift-giving possibilities, and it isn’t only electronics: our list also includes the re-issue of a classic album and book penned by a true music legend.
There’s no Christmas compilation CD, but if you’re still after some festive tunes to enjoy on your new kit then check out our guide to the 12 best alternative Christmas songs.
Pro-Ject Primary E
Stocking-unfriendly vinyl is still relentlessly all the rage, so if the music fan in your life hasn’t yet taken the plunge, this entry-level Pro-Ject offers a reliable and fuss-free way in to record spinning. It’s more concerned with sound quality and quick-and-painless set-up than all the bells and whistles of USB recording and the like – but for £150 who can argue with that?
B&W’s 607 standmount speakers are wildly entertaining, but don’t just take our word for it: they beat nine other supremely talented products this year when thousands of you voted for them to win the What Hi-Fi? Readers’ Award. And you could wrap each speaker individually so that it counts as two presents, right?
A stereo amplifier is the beating heart of any traditional hi-fi system, and for years there has been no better budget option than the Onkyo A-9010. It might look basic, but its energetic, entertaining performance is anything but. Pair it with some decent entry-level speakers and a worthy source and you’ll wonder why you didn’t go for a system of separates sooner.
How about giving the gift of music itself? While Tidal is our favourite music streaming service for its CD-quality streaming and hi-res Masters, it’s easier to gift someone unlimited music access on the most popular streaming service on the planet.
A Spotify Premium subscription costs a tenner a month, so we don’t need to tell you how much one for one-, or three- or six-month period would set you back.
Yes, we know that thing in your pocket can do everything: web browsing, tweet posting, call making and indeed music playing. But when it comes to the latter, a portable music player such as the Award-winning Sony NW-A45 can do it better. This one supports hi-res playback, with DSD compatibility, and its microSD card slot means you can load it up with thousands of tracks beyond its 16GB of internal memory.
And why not pair that new Sony portable music player with the company’s Award-winning wireless cans? They offer the best noise-cancelling currently available at this price, matched with exquisite sound quality that only a few years ago would have been available only from wired headphones.
Monster by R.E.M. (25th Anniversary Edition)
“Monster is one urgent-sounding album, and that’s as it should be,” said Rolling Stone’s review of R.E.M.’s Monster, which was released now a quarter of a century ago. This 25th Anniversary double LP features the original record alongside a 2019 remix, including the singles What’s The Frequency, Kenneth?, Bang and Blame, Strange Currencies, Crush With Eyeliner and Tongue.
How Music Works by David Byrne
Few musical careers have been as sprawling as that of Talking Heads frontman David Byrne. In the best-selling How Music Works, he draws on his own work and that of his many illustrious collaborators, as well as globetrotting adventures, to show how music emerges from cultural circumstance.
If a portable music player is a little out of your price range, then how about a portable DAC to boost the sound quality of a smartphone? Cyrus’s USB stick digital-to-analogue converter can do just this as the middle man between your smartphone (or laptop) and headphones.
There’s a cable for micro-USB smartphones and another for laptops. If your music lover in mind has an Apple device, they (or you) will need to purchase a Apple camera kit adapter.
Atacama Moseco 6
Know someone taking the term ‘bookshelf speakers’ a little too literally? Then you can transform their listening experience by giving those speakers the support they deserve, with these Award-winning speaker stands from Atacama.
Naim Mu-so Qb 2nd Generation
If a traditional hi-fi system is not the ticket for the music lover in your life – or perhaps they already have a sterling set-up not yet needing an upgrade – then what about a wireless speaker? The Naim Mu-so Qb 2nd Generation is our favourite unit currently on the market, slotting into various multi-room ecosystems and pushing the limits of just what a one-box solution below a grand is sonically capable.
Annual What Hi-Fi? subscription
Looking for the Ultimate year-round gift? In an overt act of shameless self-promotion, we can’t help but suggest our own physical form as a present for anyone who not only likes listening to music but also reading about the kit that’s best to play it (and films) on.
Our annual subscription gets you 13 issues (one per month, plus our annual Awards issue) featuring the world’s most trusted tech reviews (and some darn good features, if we say so ourselves) for less than £3.50 a copy.