When it comes to digital music fans, there’s no shortage of gear—in fact it’s just the opposite: There’s so much gear out there, it’s easy to get lost. But don’t despair: We’ve consulted with our resident digital music experts, Jon Seff and Dan Frakes, to get their picks for Mac-compatible music gear. Those suggestions range from some awesome (yet affordable) ear buds and headphones from Sennheiser to a sweet new 5.1 speaker system from Logitech.
Key : $ —gifts costing between $0 and $30; $$ —gifts costing between $31 and $200; $$$ —gifts costing more than $200.
Surrounded by sound $$$
Many of us watch DVDs on our Macs—but if you’ve never done so in surround sound, you don’t know what you’re missing. Logitech’s new Z-5450 is a complete THX-certified, 5.1 surround-sound speaker system: five satellites, a subwoofer, and a hardware decoder (Dolby Digital, DTS, DTS 96/24, and more). The compact receiver’s seven inputs let you use it with your Power Mac G5, iMac G5, DVD player, iPod, or PlayStation, while wireless rear speakers (they require only one nearby AC outlet each) save you from having to run cables across a room. Best of all, the entire system costs less than many AV receivers.—Dan Frakes
The ears have it $-$$
MX 500, $20; PX 100, $60; Sennheiser
If you’re still using your iPod’s stock earbuds, you owe it to yourself—and your ears—to upgrade to headphones that’ll do your music some justice. Thanks to Sennheiser, you can do just that without abandoning Apple’s stylish aesthetic or breaking the bank. The white-and-silver MX 500 earbuds ( ) offer better sound (and, for many people’s ears, a better fit) than Apple’s own buds. And the lightweight PX 100 headphones ( , pictured) provide incredible sound quality in a clever design that folds up like a pair of eyeglasses (both include convenient hard carrying cases). Your ears will thank you.—Dan Frakes
One-man band $$
$99 each; Apple Computer
You’ve been using GarageBand for a while now, and your musical creations are starting to sound a little stale. That’s because you’re using the same loops and instruments as everyone else. Spice up your songs with Apple’s Jam Packs . These four GarageBand add-ons—Instruments, Loops, and Effects; Remix Tools; Rhythm Section; and Symphony Orchestra—contain more than 2,000 additional loops apiece, and some also offer new instruments, guitar amps, and effects presets. One caution: each of these massive collections consumes several gigs of drive space.—Jonathan Seff
Rise and shine $$
$100; iHome Audio
For people who need music to get going in the morning, iHome Audio’s iH5 ( ) is the perfect nightstand companion. It provides a charging cradle for dockable iPods and great sound for its size, and will wake you with anything in your collection. (It also includes an AM/FM radio and a standard buzzer alarm.) Stash the $20 remote under your pillow, and you won’t even need to roll over to hit the snooze button.—Jonathan Seff
Goes to 11 $$
Practice makes perfect, but it also makes noise. M-Audio’s JamLab has a USB interface that lets any aspiring Clapton connect a guitar to a Mac via a standard guitar cord and listen in with headphones, so the neighborhood doesn’t have to hear. The included GT Player Express software, which provides guitar amp simulations and cool effects, can play and record audio at 24-bit, 48kHz quality. And the included 160MB of ProSessions drum loops means you’ll never have to play alone.—Jonathan Seff
Pet sounds $-$$
Music and pets are great, but musical pets are even better. Hasbro’s i-Dog (pictured) feeds off your music and responds with ear-wagging dances to match. Watch its lights to determine its mood: if the i-Dog starts to get sad or angry, it’s tune time. You can even plug your iPod into the i-Dog, and its built-in speaker lets you listen, too. Zizzle’s iZ , a sort of musical alien, can also act as an iPod speaker, showing various light effects in time to the music and commenting on your choice of tunes. But it also lets you create music using seven built-in beats, seven rhythm variations, and seven lead effects that you mix together by pressing, turning, and flicking iZ’s various body parts.—Dan Frakes
Looking for more musical ideas? Playlist reviews editor Dan Frakes has a host of gift suggestions for music-loving Mac users in this online extra.