For the budding musicians, we have a slightly different take on the gift guide, because if you know someone who wants to strum a guitar and cheer on a crowd, here are some top ideas.

Wanna be startin’ something

Starting out in music or just keen to have a play? There are a few options you can look at as far as gifts go.

Guitar Hero Live (iPad, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Wii U)

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Price: $150-200

Know someone who wants to start a band, but you don’t think they’ll take it seriously, maybe a kid or even the husband about to go through a mid-life crisis?

Forget the real instrument and give them the chance to join a digital band, one that feels like they’re a part of the action now instead of working their way up to the top.

Guitar Hero Live provides that with a guitar-like controller that feels like you’re strumming chords, and a video setup that when you stand in front of the TV makes it seem like you’re playing in front of a crowd. Do well and the band will cheer, but perform poorly and they’ll boo, simulating what it might be like if you were, you know, a decent or terrible music act.

Read our review…

IK Multimedia iRig Acoustic

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For the budding musicians, we have a slightly different take on the gift guide, because if you know someone who wants to strum a guitar and cheer on a crowd, here are some top ideas.
$89

Designed for an acoustic guitar or bass, which if we’re honest shouldn’t cost too much to pick up, the iRig Acoustic is a little clip on microphone to let you grab the sound direct from the source on the guitar.

Keen to show off those chord strumming skills like a champion and own a phone, tablet, or computer? This will let you do that, and for not too much cash.

Read more about this…

Tribute acoustic ukulele with electric pickup

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Price: $120

Perhaps a guitar isn’t up their alley, but you’re still keen on getting them something guitar-like.

Why not try a uke? These things are small, fashionable, and still able to send out an amplified signal if they’re electric, taking a more higher pitched approach to guitar playing with a shorter neck, shorter scale, and a style of music that is really in season.

Alternatively, the acoustic only models (that should be compatible with the iRig Acoustic) are super cheap, so if you feel like giving the gift of music, you’ll find these on sale across Australia from $20 to $80.

Korg NanoKey 2

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Price: $100

And if guitars and ukes don’t cut it, how about just an ordinary piano that can be plugged into a computer and paired with some music software.

Korg’s NanoKey is a rather creative concept taking a computer style keyboard and replacing the keys with piano keys, resulting in a small and slim USB-powered MIDI keyboard with 25 keys to let someone compose music provided they have a Mac or Windows machine nearby.

We’ve been using one for ages (actually, the original NanoKey) simply because it’s so much easier to carry around and then store than a fully-fledged piano or keyboard.

Apple iPad Mini 2 with Garageband

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Price: $369 with $7.99 for the Garageband app

Apple’s iPad Mini is the other way to get into music creation if you’re new to the whole thing, and there’s a reason we say the Mini over the bigger one, and that’s price.

Simply put, with a cost of $369, the iPad Mini is one of the best small-size tablets you can find around, and given that Apple’s Garageband app lets you make music on the iPad quickly and easily, it’s not-quite-$10 price means the whole package doesn’t have to be expensive after all.

In case you’ve never seen it, Garageband simulates owning and playing instruments, and is a fairly capable app designed to basically be a cut-down but graphically friendly equivalent of Apple’s own industry audio recording standard that is Logic Pro. That means to someone who wants to make music, they may even get a few tracks out, and they won’t have to have a real instrument nearby to help them.

Plantronics BackBeat Sense headphones

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Price: $249

Starting out in music should have some headphones, and one of the better ways to join the modern audio world is to cut the cables and go wireless.

The Plantronics BackBeat Sense is one of the better priced ways of doing so, offering a small size, comfortable padding, and great sound with or without the cable.

Read our review…

Beats Solo 2 Wireless headphones

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Price: $399

Or if you want that special someone to have something seen a little more stylish, there’s always something made by Beats.

While it might be the king of the “celebrity headphones” craze, the Beats headphones we’ve seen this year feel like they’ve actually started to come into their own, offering a more balanced sound than the overly bassy signature style they have had in the past.

Now, they sound a little closer to how pop is designed, and while we wouldn’t use these for engineering audio professionally, if you think music is only a passing interest for someone, these will go a lot further, providing solid sound and smiles all around beyond the world of playing and singing.

Read our review…

Getting better all the time

If the person you’re buying for is no longer dabbling, consider something that could help them make music like a pro, like a portable sound card, digital instruments, or a great pair of cans.

Or, if none of that made sense to you, just check out what we’ve written below, because it’s all in plain English with product names, too.

IK Multimedia iRig Duo

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Price: $330

Generally, audio engineering is something done at a desk, but in the case of the iRig Duo, you can go mobile.

This little gadget is a small battery powered sound card capable of bringing in a feed from either two instruments, an instrument and a microphone, or two microphones, and then sending it to another device, say a computer, or perhaps a mobile phone or tablet.

It’s one of those neat little concepts ideal for people who don’t want to be stuck to the desk, as it means they can get out in the world and make their music anywhere and everywhere they go.

Read more about this…

Roland TD-1K

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Price: $699

A real drum kit can be a hassle to store, and then to play simply because of how loud they are, but an electronic drum kit can be folded up and makes very little noise at all.

Those two features alone make it a great alternative to a real kit, but then there’s the other side: instruments.

In theory, a drum kit will sound like one style of instrument, but with an electronic drum kit, you can get it to sound like something completely different, and if you plug it into a computer, well, the sky is the limit.

Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol S49

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Price: $849

A large piano or keyboard isn’t going to cut it for everyone, so now that one of our favourite sound card companies has produced its own keyboard, you can bet we’re taking notice.

Here at GadgetGuy, much of the audio work we do (and previously did for the Naked Geeks podcast) was handled through a solid Native Instruments Komplete sound card, and the S49 keyboard takes much of that technology and throws it into a 49 key digital piano.

Guide LEDs are part of this package, telling you where sounds are, while a “Smart Play” feature will let you map the keyboard to create scales and melodies with one key stroke.

And there is software… so much software.

Logic Pro X

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Price: $320

Pretty much the industry standard for audio capture and engineering, this will let you record real instruments, virtual instruments, add effects, and create music the way the professionals do in the real world.

You can also score films, compose music with notation, and even grab an iPad for an external mixer and controller for the music, making it possible to do some pretty advanced sound controlling if you have a lot of instruments or a particularly large recording space.

A Mac is needed for Logic Pro to work, though, so if the person you’re buying for doesn’t have one, well…

Apple MacBook Pro 15 with Retina

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Price: from $2799

If that someone doesn’t have a Mac yet and yet you want to deliver the industry standard for audio editing, well, you might want to get them a laptop.

Granted, a MacBook Pro 15 is not a cheap present, not by a long shop, but it should last the next few years, so until they’re making platinum record after platinum record and can afford the computers they need themselves, it could well be a long term present.

This year’s generation of MacBook Pro isn’t just an incremental one, either, offering that same excellent high-res screen and fantastic keyboard, while updating the trackpad to be button-less and introduce a deeper secondary press, and bringing in a new faster Intel processor.

Read our review…

RHA T20

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Price: $379

One of the last pairs of headphones we’ve received for the year, the RHA T20i are a rather special pair, taking a style that you don’t see very often.

Essentially, these are in-earphones designed as metal pieces you keep in your ear, and they even offer customisable tuning. Think of this idea as a notion of “if you don’t like the sound of your earphones”, you actually can change it. Not enough bass? Switch to the bass tuning filters. Prefer it high pop and treble-intensive? Move to those filters.

We reviewed the original generation of these (T10) earlier in the year and found them to be a little too bass heavy, but early impressions of the T20 are very good, with the reference tuning reminding us of the most balanced headphones we’ve ever heard.

Read more about this…

Focal XS Book Wireless

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Price: $549

Two channel speakers aren’t talked about much anymore, especially when they’re small, but the Focal XS Book Wireless are worth singing about, delivering some clear and accurate sound in a fairly tall casing.

Bluetooth is provided for connecting, but you’ll probably want to go the route of wired, delivering audio the good ol’ fashioned way to the 20 watts of power found in each speaker.

Granted, these aren’t professional monitors, so if you need something totally flat, these may not be it. What the Focal XS Book are, however, is a pair of well engineered and beautiful sounding speakers, and totally worth checking out.

Read more about this…