The universal jukebox is allegedly right around the virtual corner; while you wait, you can get a Sony 200-CD changer ($179.99 at J&R, or $219.99 or $229.99 for the 300- and 400-capacity versions, respectively) and set it on shuffle. We shopped for 26 likely gift items this year and found that, recession be damned, prices are edging up. Sounds is once again your best bet, but J&R is a close second, has better selection, and needs a boost after being shut down for a month by 9-11. Both are cheaper than functional equivalents Tower and Virgin, with a slight edge to Tower, which also needs your business (see The Sound of the City, November 20). Kim's didn't have enough matches to make it worth including, but was competitive with Other Music. Online, Web-based comparison-shopping bots like Pricescan.com and Bizrate.com won't always find the outstanding deals at Cheap-cds.com and Alldirect.com, but they do occasionally find prices even lower than theirs. With a few clicks, we were able to find new (and thus returnable) copies for about as much as the best used prices at Amazon or Half.com.
Bonus rummage items: Amazon:Louis Armstrong, "Beale St. Blues" 45, $3*; Cheap-cds:The White Stripes, White Blood Cells, $8.55; Half:Bulworth soundtrack, 75 cents*; Alldirect: Corn Sisters, The Other Women, $9.34; J&R:Honeywell QuietCare HEPA air filter, $59.99; Sounds:Loretta Lynn, Out of My Head and Into My Bed, $3.99*; Other Music: Pavement, Watery, Domestic, $3.99*; Tower:Go Simpsonic With the Simpsons, $8.99*; Virgin:MatrixHugo Weaving action figure, $8.25.
Addresses:J&R Music World, 23 Park Row; Sounds, 16 and 20 St. Marks Place; Other Music, 15 East 4th Street; Tower Records, 692 Broadway; Virgin, 52 East 14th Street.
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