Your young birds are about to fly the coop, or if they already have, they’re about to enter the rest of their lives. The prospect of your children leaving the nest can be daunting—so I’m told. In the mix of all the happy-sad feelings, you may have forgotten to get a graduation gift. That’s okay. That’s what we’re here for. We present to you the best audio gifts for grads.
One of the best audio gifts for grads are the Sony WH-1000X M2
Sony’s WH-1000X M2 active noise-cancelling headphones are the king of noise cancelling. Our very own Chris Thomas, who’s infamous for how he loathes Bluetooth, condones Sony for these cans. Yes, they are the most expensive item on the list at $348, but if the grad in question plans to do a lot of travel—for business or pleasure—the Sony WH-1000X M2 make for an excellent companion.
Sony WH-1000X M2Full Review
The battery life is solid for active noise-cancelling (ANC) headphones, but what really warrants the WH-1000X M2 a spot on this list is the EQ app. Normally, we’re weary of these things as they can turn out to be gimmicks. But Sony’s offers excellent granular controls. Unfortunately, these settings are limited to the standard SBC codec. If you want to use LDAC, you have to forgo customization.
The Sony WH-1000X M2 are our best all around pick for active noise-cancelling headphones, and make for an excellent gift to any audio-loving graduate.
These headphones handle low-end noise brilliantly. To directly quote our article on the best noise-cancelling headphones, “The WH-1000X M2‘s attenuation performance can be seen below, with the results color coded from pink to blue: pink is poor ANC, green and blue are commendable. Every 10dB reduction in noise is a reduction of half the loudness, so 20dB on this chart means outside noise is 25% as loud as it’d be without the headphones on (and so on).”
Protect their ears with the Etymotic ETY-Plugs
You can never go wrong with a pair of ear plugs. No, really. It may seem like an odd gift on an audio site, but what’s better than giving the gift of hearing? Prolonged exposure to just 85dB is cause for irreparable hearing loss. If the grad in your life likes to attend concerts, keep their ears safe with the Etymotic ETY-Plugs. These evenly reduce noise by 20dB, but it should be noted that they’re not effective for impulse noises like shooting sports.
Prolonged exposure to just 85dB is cause for hearing loss.
Aside from the ear plugs, listeners will receive a neck cord and carrying case. They may groan upon receiving them, but mother (father, sister, or brother) knows best. Plus, they’ll thank you in the future when they don’t have to repeatedly shout, “What?” to the unassuming IHOP waitress.
What you should know about the best audio gifts for grads
We’ve created a bit of a hodge-podge of choices. Naturally, not every product is going to please every single graduate out there, but depending on your graduate’s interests, there should be at least one suitable option. Of course, if you think that some of these are close but don’t quite hit the mark, we have plenty of other, more specific best lists here at SoundGuys. If after you’ve read through this, you find yourself wanting more, click on any of the articles below.
- Best noise-cancelling headphones
- Best workout earbuds
- Best Bluetooth speakers
- Best headphones under $100
- Best Android phones
Does your grad like to camp? Go with the Bose SoundLink Micro
Regardless of all the places that your beloved graduate will go, chances are they’re going to want to take a speaker with them every now and again. The Bose SoundLink Micro was awarded best durability in our best Bluetooth speakers under $100 list. The SoundLink Micro is IPX7-rated, pairs with the Amazon Echo Dot, and allows for virtual assistant access.
Bose SoundLink MicroFull Review
If the person you’re gifting to loves to camp or meet friends at the beach, then this is the speaker to get. Sure, you could go with the UE Roll 2, but if volume is important, then the Micro is the way to go. It competes with the larger SoundLink Color II when it comes to volume and is one-third the size.
|IPX1||✓||Dripping water (1 mm/min)
Limit: vertical drips only
|IPX2||✓||Dripping water (3 mm/min)
Limit: Device max tilt of 15° from drips
Limit: Device max tilt of 60° from sprays
|IPX5||✓||Water jets (12.5 L/min)
Example: Squirt guns
|IPX6||✓||Strong water jets (100 L/min)
Example: Powerful water guns
Limit: 1 m. for 30 min
Limit: 3 m. for 30 min
Additionally, the rubber strap on the back can hook around nearly anything from a backpack to bike handles. For just a hair under $100, the Bose SoundLink Micro is a great, long-lasting gift that can travel as far and wide as your grad does.
Keep it wired with the 1More Quad-Driver In-Ear earbuds
These have been crowned as the best all around earbuds. They’re pricey at $185, but oh, so worth it. If you’re not well-versed in all things audio and are wondering what a pair of earbuds could possibly need four drivers for, no worries. The separation means that each driver is tuned to a specific frequency range to reduce distortion. (Technically there’s one dynamic driver and three balanced armatures.)
1More Quad-Driver In-EarsFull Review
Aside from sounding good, these are tough. A Kevlar-wrapped cable ensures durability, and the earphones are gorgeous. The brushed aluminum looks sophisticated and industrial. Even the metal three-button control module looks nice. What’s more the Quad Driver In-Ears are Hi-Res certified, which means that they can reach up to 40kHz—20kHz beyond what we can perceive.
Let them sweat in the Jaybird X3
Whether your graduate is transitioning from high school to college, college to more college, or college to the scary thing that is the rest of life, they’re probably going to want to exercise every now and again. If not for the physical benefits, then perhaps for the mental health perks. The Jaybird X3 provides 27 fit combinations and a customized sound, thanks to the optional app, making them one of the best audio gifts for grads.
Jaybird X3Full Review
Unfortunately, unlike the Bose SoundSport Wireless, the X3 doesn’t have an official IP rating, but they are sweat-resistant. Additionally, they only require 15 minutes of charging for one hour of playback. Generally speaking, the low end is emphasized and detracts from vocal and treble reproduction. Since these are intended for gym use, it’s not too much of a drawback.
Why you should trust us on the best audio gifts for grads
Not only is this site our nine-to-five, but Adam, Chris, and Lily each have multiple years of reviewing consumer audio products. We’ve kept tabs on the ever-changing world of audio, giving us the ability to parse apart the gimmicks from the gems in creating this list of the best audio gifts for grads.
As frequent visitors of SoundGuys already know, Chris wears his hatred for all things Bluetooth like a lovesick teenager wears his heart on his sleeve. The Bluetooth products listed? They’re damned special. Adam, a SoundGuy for nearly three years, has heard everything from pristine highs to vacant lows. Then there’s Lily with countless hours clocked in at a radio station working in a professional studio environment and reviewing audio products on her own time prior to joining SoundGuys.
We want you to be happy with your purchase—none of our writers see a dime from partnership deals or referral purchases—and nobody here is allowed to benefit from steering you towards one product or another. While this site does make money from referrals, the individual writers are paid based on their work, regardless of whether or not people clicked that “buy” icon. They will never even know if anyone did, though the site going under might be a good hint.
How we chose
Although we’ve reviewed a vast array of products here at Sound Guys to decide the best workout earbuds available to you, we haven’t gotten around to all of them. Since we’re only human and are inherently subjective no matter how hard we try, each review may not always perfectly reflect your experiences. To counteract that, we do quite a bit of research like reading others’ reviews, visiting discussion forums, and launching vicious internal debates. If a product made one of our best lists, you know it’s survived the ire of an old-school audiophile, and two active twenty-something audio lovers. After the preliminary steps, we picked out which models were in and which were out (cue Heidi Klum).
Seeing as we’re only human, it’s possible that we missed something. However, this list of the best audio gifts for grads will be updated as we come across new information, so don’t be surprised to see them change a few times a year. We buy the vast majority of our products for review—that way, we go through the same experiences that you do when you buy.