CMOY Headphone Amplifier
If you’re going to gift a set of high-fidelity headphones, you might as well pair a headphone amp to go along with it. If you’d like some personalized recommendations for albums, shoot our music editor an e-mail, and he’ll get back to you with a few ideas: dowens@denverpost.com. (AP Photo/Simon & Schuster)
Here’s the great thing about the buying gifts for music nerds: No matter how knowledgable the ones in your life claim to be (they’ll say they know it all), it’s impossible to get a handle on everything that was released this year. He puts on a career retrospective every time he takes the stage, but for nearness to the man himself, this account of how he got here is unbeatable. Well, sort of. Why choose between a guitar, synthesizer, violin or a drum pad when you can have all of them in one? Then, just rip that sucker onto a thumb drive, wrap it in a bow and pray he or she doesn’t upload it to Facebook. Worn Free recreates the T-shirts music legends like John Lennon, Blondie, Kurt Cobain and many more wore, and includes a photo of the artist and where they were when they were wearing it. $72.99
Numero Group’s “Cosmic American Music”
Gram Parson’s 1969 Southern soul-country band The Flying Burrito Brothers gave rise to a sub-genre that provided a link between the home on the range and the wide expanse of stars and galaxies that hung over it come sundown. It may seem excessive, but if there’s any one year of Dylan’s so-called Never Ending Tour to catalog, this is it. A portable amp like the CMOY boosts the signal needed to power larger and more complex headphones, allowing them to play music at a quality near their potential. It might not have the cut of a Fender’s metal strings or satisfying give of a piano, but pressure sensors do allow auditory dynamic control when you’re strumming, plunking and/or bonking the thing. Battery powered or plugged into a wall, it sounds and looks phenomenal, mimicing the style of the tube amps of yore — right down to its grate, which glows orange when switched on. With this guide, you’ll find a curated selection of diamonds in the rough from another stout year of albums, gear, books and miscellaneous gadgets that you and your beloved audiophile probably didn’t know existed. $127.98
Image courtesy of Nasty Little Man.  One drawback: They’re open-air headphones, which means that loud outside sounds can seep in. $32.50
“Imagine Me Gone,” Adam Haslett
Adam Haslett’s latest novel isn’t strictly concerned with music — it’s told from the perspective of a family of five, focusing on the eldest child, Michael, who suffers from depression. These hand-made, on-ear cans are routinely listed among the best sounding headphones in the $100 range, a price point it owes to its no-frills approach to design. Haslett proves frightengly capable in capturing the sense of duty and purpose in spreading the gospel of a beloved band that’s typical of the musically obsessed, and through the painful course of the novel, cuts a sharp figure of their hearts. Free  
You don’t need to know that Ben Ratliff is a well-pedigreed music journalist for The New York Times to check out his new manual on music appreciation in the age of music saturation; you just need to read the introduction. If you have a computer, you have recording equipment, if not instruments. (On modern listening habits: “The unit of the album means increasingly little to us, and so the continent-sized ice floes of English-language culture that were Beatles and Michael Jackson records are melting into the water world of sound.”) If nothing else, check out the book’s Spotify playlist, which highlights if not every song ever, an example of Ratliff’s encyclopedic knowledge of music’s far reaches throughout its recent history. It was arguably one of the singer-songwriter’s most formative periods, just after his infamous unplugged escapade at Newport Folk Festival in 1965 through the bumpy transition from an acoustic to an electric guitar. In language and metaphor, Ratliff’s “Every Song Ever” takes the scenic route, relishing in the subject of how music from artists as disparate as Ke$ha and Benny Goodman share commonalities as much as he does writing about it. Shirts from rock history
It’s one thing to wear a band T-shirt; it’s quite another to wear the shirt that that band used to wear. The new four-LP box set collects a remastered version of the original album along with demos, unreleased outtakes and a DVD of previously unseen live footage. That’s the aim of Artiphon’s Instrument 1, a glorified MIDI controller that pairs up with your smartphone and computer to become whatever instrument you want it to be. With Apple’s Garageband (free), which provides a library of looped sound clips to serve as a jumping off point for your magnum opus, you don’t even need instruments (although it’s probably best if you know your way around a guitar or a piano). Dylan was joined on this international tour by a then little-known band called The Hawks, who would later become The Band. That’s good news for you. The Boss has collected a rabid base of followers in the 50 years since he started wrenching out songs, then as just a teenager in Freehold, N.J. In other words, a perfect gift for this generation’s musically minded. Grado Labs has been making world-class headphones from its Brooklyn outpost for more than 60 years, and the relatively affordable SR80e is no exception. “Born to Run” traces Springsteen’s historically little-known path from then to now, still selling out massive stadiums around the world and playing well past curfew. Grado SR80e Headphones
Believe it or not, you don’t have to shell out a month’s rent to get audiophile-quality headphones. Ryan Adams’ “Heartbreaker” box set
If Bob Dylan is too obvious, Ryan Adams’ “Heartbreaker” might be just right. You don’t need to hit on a chord progression that’s never been done before (as if that were possible) or come up with an original melody (just ask Bruno Mars). All you really need is an hour or two, a crumb of inspiration, and the trust that the person you’re giving the song to will love you more than you’re embarrassed by it. Most purveyors of the genre — what the obscure music revivalist label Numero Group has classified as “cosmic American” — didn’t take off, landing with a thud in sundry bargain bins across the country. For the songwriting itself, keep it simple. $26
Grado Lab’s SR80e headphones. For free. In the instrument world, it’s a bit of a conundrum: everything and nothing. $26
“Born to Run,” Bruce Springsteen
The tricky thing about recommending “Born to Run,” the autobiography of one of the most celebrated everymen of rock music, is that the Springsteen fan in your life probably already has it.  But it is deeply informed by music (as is clued in by an epigraph on the subject by poet Jean Genet), which Haslett writes about, often profoundly, under the guise of Michael. Music Books
“Every Song Ever,” Ben Ratliff
Image courtesy of Farrar, Straus and Giroux. $400
Write a song
The most thoughtful gift on this list is also the cheapest. If not a watercolor painting from his new collection in London, how about the just-released 36-CD set of every known recording from his 1966 tour? $30.  $300
Etc. Image courtesy of Grado. FILE: An early but undated publicity photo of Bob Dylan in New York City from his autobiography, “Chronicles Volume One.” “Bob Dylan: The 1966 Live Recordings” collects all of the known recordings from Dylan’s famous 1966 tour in one massive box set. Eat your heart out, guy at the concert who thought he was cooler than you. $35-$50
Artiphon Instrument 1
Image courtesy of Antiphon. Lucid Labratories’ CMOY is not only affordable but — thanks to its MacGyver-esque Altoid’s tin case (it also comes in Newman’s Old and plain-old stainless steel) —  your mustachioed audiophile hipster boyfriend’s music will not only sound superior, but he’ll think he looks superior, too. Yamaha THR10C
Right at the crossroads of fashion and function, this personal amplifier is a personal favorite. Released in September 2000, Adams was firmly in his Dylan phase here, penning songs like “To Be Young (Is to Be Sad, Is to Be High),” his “Like A Rolling Stone,” and “Oh My Sweet Carolina,” which stands alone as Adams’ most plainly gorgeous song. Albums
Bob Dylan’s complete 1966 tour box set
What do you get the Dylan fan who has everything? Weighing in at six pounds, it isn’t a hassle to take it to the moutains for a plugged-in acoustic session (it features eight effects knobs if you want to get weird) or just play your favorite Bing Crosby jams via your smartphone through its 3.5mm jack. This two-LP collection dusts off some of the finer needles in the hay, like Jeff Cowell’s “Can’t Make Nothin’.” $25
Personalized recommendations
The inherently difficult thing about listing music recommendations for a general audience is that your loved one’s minutely nuanced tastes will vary from those of your neighbor.