NME Christmas Gift Guide 2020: 30 gifts for music fans

Let the music play on

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Without gigs and festivals, it’s been a deathly quiet year – all the more reason to splurge on the music lovers close to you. We’ve rounded up 30 gift ideas, from turntables to biographies to electric guitars, to make the holidays really sing.

Record players and accessories

Rega Planar 1

Rega Planar 1
Credit: Rega

The British turntable brand’s entry-level model is the ideal way to get stuck into the wired world of audiophiles. The belt-drive record player ships with a factory-fitted Rega Carbon cartridge and a new RB110 tonearm all set up, so you can begin listening practically out of the box.

And in no small part due to Rega’s renown in the industry, we think the Planar 1 is a much more sensible and future-proof purchase than the all-in-one record players you see flooding the market these days.

BUY NOW: $475 (Amazon US)

Pioneer DJ PLX-1000 Turntable

Pioneer DJ PLX 1000 Turntable
Credit: Pioneer

Turntables for DJs are completely different beasts. They need to be more robust, have a high-torque direct-drive mechanism and finer speed controls for all that scratching and beat-matching. And this Pioneer DJ deck fits the bill for just under $700 – take note, however, that the set doesn’t include a cartridge and stylus.

BUY NOW: $699 (Amazon US)

Way Basics Eco Stackable Storage Cube

Way Basics Eco Stackable Storage Cube
Credit: Amazon

As much as we love the IKEA EXPEDIT (RIP) and KALLAX to store our records, they aren’t very flexible: your collection can easily outgrow those Swedish shelves. These eco-friendly organisers from Way Basics, however, are stackable, so you can just buy more cubes after a big crate-digging spree. They won’t even burn a hole in your pocket – each cubby is only about $30.

BUY NOW: $32.31 (Amazon US)

BUY NOW: £37.30 (Amazon UK)

Karavella Vinyl Record Shelf Display

Karavella Vinyl Record Shelf Display
Credit: Amazon

Or maybe you’re more of an exhibitionist. In which case, these handsome wall-mounted ‘floating’ shelves, made of solid pine, let you display your favourite records as artworks in your home. Six pieces are included in this package.

BUY NOW: $39.99 (Amazon US)

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Speakers, headphones and home audio

Sonos One SL

Sonos One SL
Credit: Sonos

Here’s a compact, room-filling Bluetooth speaker that’s more affordable than the wildly popular Sonos One (the SL doesn’t come with voice assistant tech). And as a nice little feature, the Sonos One SL is humidity-resistant, so you can even use the wireless speaker in the bathroom.

BUY NOW: $179 (Amazon US)

Shure AONIC 50

Shure AONIC 50
Credit: Shure

These comfy, over-ear wireless headphones from one of the most prolific brands in the business pack adjustable noise-cancellation, 20 hours of battery life and, thanks to the in-built amplifier, some of the best sound quality for Bluetooth headphones around. The downside? It’s not cheap.

BUY NOW: $349 (Amazon US)

BUY NOW: £259.99 (Amazon UK)

Audioengine B1 Bluetooth Music Receiver

Audioengine B1 Bluetooth Music Receiver
Credit: Audioengine

No, this isn’t a wireless router but an audiophile-grade Bluetooth receiver. If you’ve got a stereo system set up for vinyl records, cassettes and CDs but want to add a digital source, the Audioengine B1 is arguably the best in class. We won’t bore you with the technical details, but this little device comes with a 24-bit DAC and all the necessary codecs to stream high-definition audio. It even has an optical-out jack if your amplifier supports it.

BUY NOW: $189 (Amazon US)

BUY NOW: £284 (Amazon UK)

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Musical instruments

Fender Vintera ’50s Telecaster

Fender Vintera 50s Telecaster
Credit: Fender

Introduced back in 2019, Fender’s made-in-Mexico range of electric guitars have earned a reputation for being serious yet modestly priced professional-grade instruments. The ’50s Telecaster retains vintage specs like a chunkier neck and rounder fretboard – which make the guitar more suitable for chord players – as well as bright, classic-voiced pickups.

Our sister site Guitar.com reviewed the ’50s Vintera Telecaster, calling it a “no-nonsense vintage-style Telecaster with classy tones and a sumptuous neck”.

BUY NOW: $899 (Amazon US)

BUY NOW: £749 (Amazon UK)

Squier Affinity Stratocaster Bundle

squier affinity stratocaster bundle
Credit: Amazon

For those only starting out on the instrument, though, this Squier bundle has almost everything you need: the iconic Stratocaster model, a tuner, a guitar strap, a bunch of picks and a free trial subscription to Fender Play, which is the brand’s online lessons platform. Don’t expect stellar tones out of this, though – this is squarely a beginner’s guitar, Squier being Fender’s more affordable sibling brand.

BUY NOW: $279.99 (Amazon US)

Novation Launchpad X

Novation Launchpad X
Credit: Novation

Rather trigger samples than strum a six-string? Novation’s Launchpad X, launched earlier this year, is a slim 64-pad controller designed for Ableton Live. The pads are all RGB-lit, and velocity- and pressure-sensitive, and the Launchpad itself has a MIDI out, so you can hook it up to other hardware you might have.

Our sister site MusicTech reviewed the unit in February, saying, “If you’re using Ableton Live, with its grid-based Session View, you’ll definitely benefit from a controller that reflects the layout you’re seeing on your computer screen.”

BUY NOW: $149.99 (Amazon US)

BUY NOW: £145 (Amazon UK)

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Books

Future Sounds: The Story of Electronic Music from Stockhausen to Skrillex

Future Sounds: The Story of Electronic Music from Stockhausen to Skrillex
Credit: Amazon

This exhaustive thesis on electronic music, written by NME contributor David Stubbs, is a swerving, blindingly brilliant apology for the ‘genre’ as a sign of the postmodern condition. The book charts the history of electronic music from the late-19th century’s mechanical experiments to the cut-and-sew musique concrète of the mid-century all the way to today’s party-starting DJs.

BUY NOW: $20.04 (Amazon US)

BUY NOW: £22.50 (Amazon UK)

Listen to This

Listen to This by Alex Ross
Credit: Amazon

Alex Ross has been one of the music world’s leading critics for well over two decades, applying his knowledge of classical music to talk passionately about the leading men and women of pop.

Listen to This collects Ross’ pieces for the New Yorker since his start at the magazine in 1996 – including an interview with Björk, a road trip to Beijing’s indie-rock underground and a visceral, personal portrait of Mozart that even pop junkies will find fascinating.

BUY NOW: $17.39 (Amazon US)

BUY NOW: £11.19 (Amazon UK)

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Fashion and beauty

Fenty Beauty By Rihanna: A Killawatt Freestyle Highlighter

Fenty Beauty By Rihanna A Killawatt Freestyle Highlighter
Credit: Fenty Beauty

With festivals and gigs set to return in 2021, it’s never too early to start looking the part. Part of Rihanna’s celebrated Fenty Beauty brand, this dual highlighter uses a cream-to-powder formula that lets it stay on throughout the day.

It comes in two neutral shades: Mean Money, a soft champagne colour, and Hu$tla Baby, a pigmented peachy blush with a pearlescent shimmer. Housed in a sleek octagonal white casing, the highlighter doesn’t just look great on any dresser – its compact size also makes it the ultimate stocking stuffer.

BUY NOW: $41 (Amazon US)

Dr. Martens Womens 1460W Originals Eight-Eye Lace-Up Boot

Dr. Martens Womens 1460W Originals Eight Eye Lace Up Boot
Credit: Dr. Martens

These boots were made for walking – and trudging through muddy festivals when they eventually return. Like the Docs that cemented itself in the Mod, grunge and punk sub-cultures, these leather boots in women’s sizes bear all the trademarks of the originals: grooved sides, heel loop, yellow stitching and those famous air-cushioned soles.

BUY NOW: From $144.99 (Amazon US)

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