The Digital Music News 2019 gift guide.
Disclaimer: None the links in this article are affiliate links. We do not earn anything if you choose to purchase any these items. All the companies with products listed in this list either generously provided a free unit to use for testing, or are products I purchased on my own. If you would like to have a product reviewed in a future article or gift guide, please email
Best Headphones | The Grado Limited Edition White Headphones
These headphones are an absolute treat to listen too! Let me preface this by saying, these headphones will only be available until 12/31/19. If you are reading this after that, you’re going to have to get these pre-owned (and let’s be real about the audiophile community; at a HUGE markup).
As expected, these headphones sound absolutely outstanding! The white theming on them is visually unique and I like that it’s done to celebrate the anniversary The Beatles White Album. They are constructed maple, despite the white coloring. I was also surprised that the default connection is 1/8th inch and comes with an included adapter for ¼ inch. This is the opposite my RS1 pair which by default has the ¼ inch and less convenient adapter to go to 1/8th inch.
These headphones are priced at $750 and provide an outstanding value for the price and make a great gift (to receive or to gift yourself) for the audiophiles out there. If you or someone you care about is an audiophile and looking for a new pair headphones to enjoy, I cannot recommend these enough! You can get your pair here as long as it’s before 12/31/19
Guitar Gadget | Roadie Guitar Tuner
The Roadie Guitar Tuner is a neat gadget. I am including this because I think it does make for a cool gift for a very specific circumstance. If you need something to get a guitarist or bassist a gift, you want it to reflect on their craft, and you don’t know what else to get them; you should get them this. It’s not perfect, the interface is clunky, it has a hard time getting the low notes right on acoustic guitars, but it is a neat gadget that will get used and has some thoughtful inclusions like a rechargeable battery (Snark should pay attention to that).
Guitar | LavaMe 2
For more info on this, or you can go on the companies website, here.
In short, this is a cool travel-sized guitar! These are brand new to US customers and can be had for around $650 USD. They are carbon fiber acoustics with built-in delay, chorus, and reverb! The effects are somewhat hit or miss depending on what you are wanting to do, but it’s cool that they included them and I doubt any guitarist will not want to play around with them from time to time. The guitar is super light, comes in matte finishes and has a much more well-rounded sound than any other travel guitar I have played. In my review, I said that it has more a dreadnought sound compared to other travel-sized options like the tinny joke a guitar by Martin, the backpacker or the flat sounding baby Taylor. For a long time, I have been saying “don’t get a travel size acoustic, get a parlor guitar” but now, I am saying “get a parlor guitar if you like them but if you just want a small guitar, I suggest the Lava Me 2”.
Bluetooth Speaker | UE Boom 3
I like the UE Boom speakers. I feel that they have some great features like water resistance and their sound quality is on-par for the price range. It’s not going to replace anybody’s home audio set-up, but it’s a great-sounding, portable speaker. I especially like this year’s introduction a charging base. It’s an add-on, but it’s affordable and I think ads convenience because it’s basically always charged because the charger is not some ugly or generic cord that you’ll want to stash in a drawer anytime it’s not in use.
Custom In-Ear Headphones | Ultimate Ears CXE
Ultimate Ears introduced something else that is new and innovative this year. Unfortunately, I did not get to experience it in the way I wish I could have. Their new product is the CXE. It pairs the internal components their Pro models with a shape that is more comfortable for regular use. Basically, they go into your ear less deeply. These EXCLUSIVELY require new molds to be done, but they have a cool way doing that now.
They mail you a box with these little foam earplug things that you put in your ear and plug into electricity. You pair it with an app that guides you through the process having these things fill in your ear and take a 3d reading the inside your ear, creating a digital mold. This mold gets sent to UE and they start making your earphones.
The problem for me was that the mold just didn’t work for my ears. I don’t know if I have oddly shaped ear internal spaces, but the impressions they got from me were not useable. Thankfully, UE is a company filled with really nice (and truly top-notch) customer service representatives who fered to send me another pair UE 18 Pros that were to be filed down a bit so they went less deeply into my ear, more like a CXE. As it turns out, there is only so much filing down they can do (making the CXE’s body shape more unique from the Pros than I originally realized) and they still go pretty much the depth into my ears as my other Pros.
One other thing that is new for this year is the STOW cases that you can get for UE IEMs. These are sold separately but I think they are super nice! They are really high-quality leather and you get two size options, I call them pocket size and non-pocket sized. Each is about 1.5” across but they vary in depth. I recommend the deeper one if you have a long cable or want to carry extra accessories.
Either way, I want to acknowledge UE’s customer service team and consistently outstanding sound quality across their models. I am happy to have another pair 18s and this pair even has my initials on the side instead UE. Also, Ultimate Ears has phenomenal customer service, Erica Lomotan was beyond helpful and Logitech uses a really good PR company, Finn Partners (hence the frequent reviews).
Wireless Earbuds | Cambridge Audio Melomania 1
I have been sent several pairs truly wireless earbuds and this is the only pair to be even halfway decent. I personally am not a huge fan this product type, I feel like it creates an inconvenient situation whenever you want to take out an earbud because either having to hold it or pop it in and out its case frequently.
I like the retro PC color scheme on them but they come in a variety colors. The sound quality is pretty decent! I also tried the xFyro’s which were abysmal and had outdated Bluetooth tech) and the Optima Nuforce wireless earbuds which seemed like just another generic and junky pair that you would find on Kickstarter, which was surprising because I normally like their products.
The Melomania 1 Wireless earbuds can be had for $129.99 and I feel like they are a great value at that price! If you want to feel confident about finding a pair truly wireless earbuds in a midst false advertising and junky crowdfunded brands, these should be your go-to. Also, these stay in the ear a lot better than it looks like they would and they come with various ear tips for different sized ears.
Album – Box Set | The Final Bow by The Pretty Things
If you are unfamiliar with The Pretty Things, this is a great time to familiarize yourself! I recently had the honor interviewing Phil May, lead singer and songwriter for the band, to discuss his career in music. We’ll be releasing that as a podcast in the near future, but in the meantime, let me tell you a bit about the band.
They formed in 1963 and have had a 55 year career where they have been releasing albums that are extremely good as well as innovative. They started out as a rhythm and blues band that I would consider to be ‘heavier’ by modern terminology compared to other burgeoning rock bands at the time like The Beatles or The Rolling Stones. In 1967, they recorded the worlds first rock opera, following the titular character, S.F. Sorrow from cradle to grave. This was a pioneering psychedelic album that was recorded at Abbey Road Studios alongside Pink Floyd as they recorded A Saucer Full Of Secrets and The Beatles as they worked on The White Album.
They continued releasing albums throughout the years, their next release in 1970, Parachute, was deemed ‘album the year’ by Rolling Stone Magazine. But this year, after 56 years playing, the band performed their farewell show, “The Final Bow”, which was recently released Burning Shed. This show, with special guests like David Gilmour and Van Morrison, includes a vinyl record, two live concert DVDs and two live music audio CDs and a 52 page book. If you act fast, you can still get one the 500 copies signed by Phil May and Dick Taylor. The one pictured above is my copy and I plan on buying a second so that I can leave this one sealed.
This release is an instant ‘must-have’ for anyone who is passionate about the history rock music, especially in paying attention to the chain influences that brought music to what it sounds like today.
Honorable Mention Album | Kiwanuka by Michael Kiwanuka
As soon as one starts listening to the opening track, “You Ain’t The Problem”, the listener should know they are in for an absolute treat by one today’s top talents in music and songwriting. Michael’s music tends to contain deeply moving chord progressions, the perfect amount ‘wall sound’, drawing from influences rock, soul, rhythm and blues to envelop the listener in a cocoon enjoyment until the album ends. The way he blends genres and seems to exist outside the typical modern rock music landscape brings something much needed for many listeners. It’s music you can move to, has meaningful messages and rotates between minimalist and epic motifs is something really worth listening too. For a perfect sample this blending, check out the track “Hard To Say Goodbye”. If you have never listened to Michael Kiwanuka, a good place to start is his most popular hit “Cold Little Heart”.
Speakers | Q Acoustic Concept 20
The big stand-out for me is the Q Acoustic Concept 20s. I have a on them for more information. These speakers have a new ‘Gel – Core’ technology that really helps to absorb a lot the vibration produced by the speakers. That helps keep the sound more clear and punchy. I highly recommend these to anyone in the market for a great pair bookshelf speakers.
Office Supplies | The Logitech MX Vertical Mouse
The Logitech MX Vertical Mouse is a great gift for people who spend a lot time at their workstations. The alignment the mouse helps to drastically allete shoulder and neck pain. I can vouch for this because I am someone who suffers from pain in my upper shoulder and neck and this mouse has made a huge difference. The one thing I will say is that you basically need to have a wrist rest cushion to make it comfortable and that comes with some caveats. For example, the bottom the mouse is ten bumping against the cushion, but it’s a worthwhile tradef because the pain reduction is that drastic.