Pretty much everyone has a music lover on their holiday shopping list. Finding the right gift for them can be surprisingly difficult. For example, there are literally thousands of options for wireless earbuds — and not everyone wants a set of AirPods. Whether you’re looking for the earbuds with the perfect fit, the most boombastic portable Bluetooth speaker, a turntable that can stream to a wireless speaker, or a modern audio system that includes a record player, I’ve got you covered.
Each of these picks has either been reviewed and recommended by me, or is currently in the process of being evaluated and on its way to a positive review. Keep in mind supplies may be constrained this year, so don’t leave shopping to the last mind. Also, while I have published the MSRP for these products, many are being offered for sale prices, especially over the Black Friday and Cyber Monday weekend.
High Performance, Low Price Wireless Earbuds: 1More ComfoBuds Pro Aurora Blue
These $109.99 wireless earbuds offer high-end features at an affordable price point. 1More ComfoBuds Pro Aurora Blue include QuietMax active noise cancellation, programmable touch controls, “firefly” LED indicator lights, and battery life of up to eight hours on a charge. They live up to their name with a very comfortable fit. With 13.4 mm titanium composite dynamic drivers and custom tuning, music sounds excellent. You can also fine-tune the audio with a choice of 22 sound profiles available through the 1More app.
Compact, Modern Music System: Andover Audio Spin System
Andover Audio is winning accolades for its home audio systems and one of the most impressive — and flexible — is the Spin System. The company’s innovative SpinBase turntable speaker is the heart of the setup. It packs two woofers and two tweeters and a Class D amp for 270-degree sound in a base that fits perfectly beneath a turntable. Andover’s proprietary IsoGroove technology prevents resonance or vibration from the drivers from affecting the turntable. Add a SpinSub Subwoofer, SpinDeck or SpinDeck Pro turntable, and a SpinStand (with integrated record storage) for a complete system. Spin System components start at $199.
Custom-Fit Wireless Earbuds: UE FITS
Does anything make a more personal gift than earbuds that are custom-molded for the recipient? Custom molding means an absolutely perfect fit, for a proper seal (everything sounds better), extreme comfort, and buds that stay in place without the need for tips and wings. Once exclusive to very high end buds and in-ear stage monitors, Ultimate Ears brought the custom molding process to the consumer market with UE FITS. These are $249 true wireless earbuds that take just 60 seconds to permanently mold themselves to a wearer’s ears.
Powered BookShelf Speakers: Fluance Ai61
Powered bookshelf speakers are a great way to enjoy two-channel stereo audio without having to invest in a component stereo system with an amplifier. The amp is built right into one of the speakers. Canada’s Fluance makes some nice ones, including the new Ai41s I reviewed earlier this year. The Fluance Ai61 powered bookshelf speakers (which I am currently testing) offer the same great features, including integrated Bluetooth 5.0, subwoofer output, optical input, and great audio performance from woven glass fiber composite drivers and 1-inch silk soft dome neodymium ferrofluid-cooled tweeters. However, for an extra $50 ($299.99 for the pair), the Ai61s get a bigger, 6.5-inch woofer for a low end boost, plus Class D amp output that’s increased to 120 Watts.
High Performance, Low Price Bluetooth Portable Speaker: Tribit Stormbox Pro
The Tribit Stormbox Pro made a big impression when I reviewed it in April. This is a $119.99 portable Bluetooth speaker that puts out a lot of sound, and more bass than you would ever suspect. That low end punch is thanks to the bottom half of the speaker housing a 3-inch, downward-firing subwoofer with its own 25W amp. The Stormbox Pro also offers excellent battery life at up to 24-hours of playback, and it’s IP67 water resistant. For the price, it’s a bargain.
Bluetooth Streaming Turntable: Crosley C100BT-BK
Shopping for a vinyl record fan who could use a more capable turntable, but doesn’t necessarily want to connect to a traditional component stereo system? The $279.95 Crosley C100BT-BK turntable offers options. With its switchable pre-amplifier, it can be connected to virtually any audio system or powered speakers. They can also skip the wires altogether and stream to a wireless speaker using this turntable’s Bluetooth output. The C100BT-BK will ensure records sound their best with premium features including an aluminum platter, adjustable strobe pitch, low-vibration synchronous motor, and an Audio Technica AT95E MM cartridge.
Internet Music Streamer With Apple AirPlay Support: Andover Songbird
The iPhone has the highest marketshare of any smartphone in North America, but iPhone owners can’t always enjoy the best possible audio when streaming music to a speaker or audio system. Not all manufacturers include Apple AirPlay support. In the past, I’ve connected an old Apple Airport Express router to an audio system to gain AirPlay connectivity. A much easier method is the $149 Songbird Internet Music Streamer from Andover Audio. Plug the tiny device into the AUX input of virtually any audio system to connect it to your Wi-Fi network. This gives you access to streaming services like Tidal and Spotify, support for high resolution audio formats, and Apple AirPlay connectivity.
Mobile Headphone Amp: Questyle M12 Mobile Headphone Amp with DAC
If you’ve been following the news lately, you’ve probably seen headlines about the resurgence of wired earbuds and headphones. While more people are going wired because they don’t want to be seen as AirPod “sheeple,” there’s a group of music fans who never went wireless in the first place. They want the best possible sound when listening to music, and that means wired. The thing is, most smartphones and laptops don’t have great built-in amplifiers and DACs. However, that can be remedied with an external version. The Questyle M12 mobile headphone amp with DAC is a nice option. It’s tiny (the size of a thumb drive), affordable ($139.99), and pretty stylish looking with its anodized aluminum enclosure. Most importantly, it does the job of making good wired headphones sound even better when connected to devices like smartphones, tablets, and laptops.
Record Accessory Kit: Fluance Vinyl Record Accessory Kit
If you’re looking for a gift idea for someone who collects records and owns a record player or turntable, you can’t go wrong with a few accessories to ensure those records sound their best. Fluance has become a big name in turntables, thanks to releases like the stellar Fluance RT85 (you can read my review here). So it should come as no surprise that the company also makes great accessories. The $66.99 Fluance Vinyl Record Accessory Kit includes a stylus brush, a record brush with both velvet and anti-static carbon sides, plus a 760g steel with rubberized finish record weight to keep records flat during playback.
High Performance Portable Bluetooth Speaker: Ultimate Ears HYPERBOOM
There’s a reason why the Ultimate Ears HYPERBOOM has made it to my gift lists repeatedly since I reviewed it in early 2020. You simply are not going to find a bigger, more powerful, or better-sounding portable Bluetooth speaker. At least not for the $399.99 price of the HYPERBOOM. It features six drivers driven by a powerful 229 Watt amplifier, adaptive EQ to optimize audio for the room, touch controls, AUX and optical inputs, customizable EQ and sound settings, IPX4 splash resistance, and 24 hour battery life with USB power charging for mobile devices. The Ultimate Ears HYPERBOOM is simply the best portable Bluetooth speaker you can buy for the price, and one of the best portable speakers available — period.