Music lovers are notoriously difficult to buy for. The problem is that there are many different types of music lovers — from quality-audio fans lusting over purist playback through audiophile headphones or speakers, to vinyl collectors, to listeners just looking to stream tunes from a mobile device as conveniently as possible, it can be difficult to know exactly what gift will hit the right note with individuals.
Rest assured that we’re all music fans on the Tom’s Guide team, and we’re here to help you make the best buying decisions we can. So if you’re struggling for gift ideas for the music fan in your life, you’ve come to the right place.
In selecting gift ideas for our list below, we’ve scoured the market, our reviews and our own personal experiences to draw up a shortlist of the best audio products for all kinds of budgets. Quality audio doesn’t often come cheap, but we’re sure our picks below will inspire and help you make the perfect gift choices this holiday season.
As a former editor of the U.K.’s Hi-Fi Choice magazine, Lee is passionate about all kinds of audio tech and has been providing sound advice to enable consumers to make informed buying decisions since he joined Which? magazine as a product tester in the 1990s. Lee covers all things audio for Tom’s Guide, including headphones, wireless speakers and soundbars and loves to connect and share the mindfulness benefits that listening to music in the very best quality can bring.
Apple Music subscription
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Whether you’re buying for a music fan who listens at home, or someone who enjoys personal listening on-the-go via the best wireless headphones, a subscription to one of the best music streaming services is quite literally giving them the gift of music. With access to a library of literally 100 million songs at CD-quality or better for the highest quality music streams, Apple Music is the best value streaming service right now.
The Apple Music app is clean and intuitive to use via iOS mobile and macOS, and the music streaming service is being integrated into more third-party components including Sonos, Xbox (Series X, S and One), PS5, and Roku, as well as Android mobile users. The only slight downside is that hi-res output is not supported on Windows desktops.
The only way to gift a subscription to Apple Music is to purchase an Apple Gift Card (opens in new tab). Gift card givers can select any value from $10 up to $2,000, and cards can be personalized with your own gift message and either emailed or delivered by post. Of course, the value of the gift card can be redeemed on all Apple products from any of its stores. An Apple Music individual subscription costs $10.99 / month.
Apple AirPods Pro 2
Another great gift for music lovers favoring Apple’s ecosystem are the AirPods Pro 2, which are designed for iPhone owners looking for a more tailored listening experience. Launched in September at the same price as the original ($249), they can already be found discounted to $239 via some online retailers. They are the pinnacle of Apple technology and take performance to the next level.
Externally, the AirPods Pro 2 look pretty similar to the first generation but battery life has been increased to offer 6 hours on a single charge from the earbuds and a further 30 hours from the wireless charging case. Not only are the earbuds IPX4-rated, but now too is the case itself.
With features like personalized spatial audio sound to listen to some of the best Dolby Atmos sound in any pair of earbuds, and noise cancellation twice as effective as the original AirPods Pro, these are among the best we’ve yet to test, period.
Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II
As the best noise-canceling earbuds on the market, the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds 2 are the ones to buy for the music lovers who desire the best possible noise cancelation for listening to music without interruption. These are a remarkable follow-up that delivers better sound, great call quality and unrivaled ANC. Proprietary technologies like ActiveSense and CustomTune balance sound and noise neutralization extremely well.
Bose’s redesign also makes these buds less of an eyesore compared to the original, and only the high price and mediocre battery life count against them. CustomTune automatically calibrates ANC and the sound frequency profile to the unique properties of your ear and optimal performance that’s right for you. The MSRP may be pitched high at $299, but they can already be found discounted for less via online retailers.
The goal for the majority of music fans right now is to block out the hubbub of their surroundings and luxuriate listening to their favorite music without interruptions. As one of our favorite headphones of the year, the Sony WH-1000XM5 are a great value active noise canceling headphone option.
The latest flagship headphones improve upon the already great WH-1000XM4 with better active noise cancellation, call quality, sound, comfort and connectivity. They have useful touch controls on the earcups, and playback time runs to 30 hours with ANC on (40 with it off), which is better than most.
Quality audio fans can bask in one of the best-sounding noise-canceling headphone experiences available with LDAC support for the highest-quality Bluetooth streams from compatible playback devices. The excellent Sony Headphones Control app works with both iOS and Android devices and provides useful customization, and the whole Sony XM5 package is one of the most eco-friendly headphone designs we’ve come across.
Apple AirPods Max
If you’re looking for one of the best gifts to give Apple iOS users, the AirPods Max noise-canceling headphones are the company’s only over-ear option. As Apple’s premium headphone design, the list price of $549 may feel a bit extravagant for a pair of headphones, but they can regularly be found discounted for considerably less.
Apple has also loaded the AirPods Max with some rather advanced features, like Adaptive EQ and spatial audio. There’s only one level of active noise cancellation available, but it works like a charm and does a great job of blocking out ambient sounds, especially at the lower end of the frequency spectrum. They sound excellent, and the design standards and build quality are so high you can bet that any music lover receiving the AirPods Max as a gift will be very impressed indeed.
The only downside is that they come with a smart case, which only offers basic protection. Alternative and more robust carry case options can be found in our best AirPods Max cases roundup.
Anker Soundcore 3 portable speaker
A great stocking filler, the Anker Soundcore 3 is an amazing little Bluetooth speaker. It costs just over $50 in black, and is also available in blue, red and silver colors for $56. It’s one of the standout portable speakers of the year, and made the list as one of the best cheap Bluetooth speakers around.
This tiny powerhouse delivers loud, well-balanced sound within an IPX7-rated design that can survive water and dust, while the robust rubberized outer case takes care of protection from everyday knocks. The speaker lasts up to a whopping 24 hours, and delivers powerful sound in any setting. It’s the perfect portable speaker for tossing into a bag on a road trip, and SharePlay allows multiple Soundcore speakers to be synced for an even bigger sound.
Sonos Roam smart speaker
As its most affordable speaker, the Sonos Roam is the perfect introduction to the company’s multiroom ecosystem. It comes in five color options and is one of the most versatile portable speakers around. It’s a connected smart speaker at home, and a powerful Bluetooth beast on the road. Battery lasts around 10 hours, and it juices up quickly via USB-C or wireless charging, its auto Trueplay feature adjusts the sound to suit your surroundings wherever you’re listening, even outdoors.
When you return back from your latest excursion, say, the Sonos Roam should rejoin your larger Sonos system on its own. It also gives you the option to hand off your current soundtrack to the nearest Sonos speaker. Or you could stick to Roam, bringing your voice assistant and streaming services room-to-room, or as far as your Wi-Fi can reach.
Turntables and vinyl
Audio-Technica AT-LP120XBT-USB record player
As one of the best affordable all-round turntables, this Audio-Technica deck packs an awful lot in. It looks similar to Technics’ iconic SL-1200 turntable with a direct-drive motor for stable playback, stroboscope and pitch control, making it a great start for any budding DJ as well as vinylistas. A Swiss Army knife of a record player, it has an integrated switchable phono stage (making it easy to slot into systems of any kind), aptX Bluetooth wireless streaming (for uber-convenience) and USB output (for making digital copies of vinyl to a computer).
Although we’ve not reviewed this particular model on Tom’s Guide, we’ve seen it in action and love the sound it makes. It extracts plenty of detail, has an easy-going way with rhythms and puts some nice emphasis on the midrange (vocalists in particular). It’s the best turntable pick if you want a little bit of everything.
Spin-Clean Record Washer MkII
If you’re looking for a great gift for someone who loves to buy music on vinyl but hates the pops and crackles that can often be heard when it’s playing, then the Spin-Clean Record Cleaner is a great choice to clean up their LPs. This manual record cleaner will spruce up any record collection and remove extraneous sounds caused by a combination of surface noise from dirt trapped in the record’s groove and static to deliver crackle-free results.
The Spin-Clean cleans both sides of the record at the same time as you rotate records through a pair of brushes in a reservoir of distilled water (not supplied) mixed with record care solution. As even new records can suffer from unpleasant clicks and crackles as they play, you could include an LP or two to make the music fan in your life feel even more special.
Portable DAC and Headphone amps
Chord Electronics Mojo 2 headphone amp/DAC
If you’re shopping for a music lover that likes to listen on wired headphones, Chord’s Mojo 2 battery-powered headphone amp/DAC is the perfect gift. Aimed at anyone who cares about getting the best sound possible audio quality from their playback device and headphones while on the move, Chord’s Mojo 2 is even better than the original and makes the most of hi-res audio streams as well as improving the sound of compressed music streams, too.
Although we haven’t yet given the DAC a full Tom’s Guide review, we’ve spent some time with it on our travels to and from the office, and is one best iPhone audio upgrades we’ve tried. It delivers a three-dimensional soundstage and far more realism than anything we’ve heard using the same pair of headphones connected wirelessly, the Mojo 2 simply lets whatever music you’re listening to sing.
Soundbars and subwoofers
Devialet Dione soundbar
If you’re wanting to splash out on the ultimate soundbar for your TV viewing this holiday season, then it doesn’t get much more high-end than the Devialet Dione. Properly expensive and strikingly stylish, it’s a full-on 5.1.2 Dolby Atmos affair, designed to deliver a surround-sound experience from a single unit.
We loved the way it handled full-on, action-packed Dolby Atmos soundtracks, and gave a dynamic, expansive and nuanced listen. For a soundbar that goes without the low-frequency reinforcement of a partnering subwoofer, the amount of bass it’s able to produce really is quite remarkable, and width and height soundstage elements are deeply effective. If you have deep pockets and are looking to gift big this holiday season, the Devialet Dione is top of the list in our best soundbars, and the most elegant Dolby Atmos soundbar solution on the market right now.
Sonos Sub Mini subwoofer
Adding a subwoofer to a home audio setup is one of the most rewarding audio upgrades we can think of, and the Sub Mini is the perfect Sonos add-on. It has a smaller design form to complement and integrate with Sonos One, Ray soundbar, or Beam soundbar speakers, and is a great choice if you’re looking to make a big impression.
As part of Sonos’ reliably stable ecosystem, the Sonos Sun Mini is remarkably straightforward to integrate with other Sonos networked speakers, and achieves a satisfying boost to music listening with a full range of frequencies that everyone will be able appreciate. Movie fans will love the bass depth and boost it brings to TV sound, too.
Q Acoustics M20 wireless music system
The Q Acoustics M20 is a wireless music system in a pair of powered bookshelf speakers with great sound. Available in black, white, or wood wrap finishes, the M20 is essentially one powered speaker partnered with a passive speaker that can be placed either side of the TV, a desktop computer, on speaker stands, or on a table top. It supports Bluetooth with aptX HD for wireless streaming (there’s no Wi-Fi), and there’s a digital optical input and USB port for wired digital connections. It does have a pair of analog RCA inputs for adding a music streamer or CD player, too.
We haven’t reviewed this active speaker system at Tom’s Guide, but we’ve had plenty of experience with it at home. The system has room-filling capabilities that belie the dimensions of the compact stereo speakers. You don’t get format handling for the likes of Dolby Atmos soundtracks, but you do get great stereo TV sound and music playback performance that will satisfy audio fans who want to fill the room with their favorite tunes.