Lots of ink has been spilled about the "vinyl renaissance," but the truth is, if you're playing your wax on a cheap all-in-one turntable/stereo combo, you might as well be listening on your laptop speakers. That's where Arizona Hi-Fi comes in, offering primo turntables, tube-driven amplifiers, headphones, and more. It's gear for the kind of folks who think of music as an investment, more than just an accessory, and it's right next to Stinkweeds, where there's plenty of high-quality titles to try out on your swanky new turntable and speakers.

Stinkweeds

Everything about Stinkweeds reeks — get it? — of professionalism. The tidy store fits thousands of mostly indie and hard-to-find treasures into a tiny space that packs an astounding number of albums per square foot without feeling particularly crowded. Indie music mags, books, and 'zines fill the store's back wall, and T-shirts and vinyl line the store's walls. CDs take up the bulk of the store, and the racks are filled with everything from ABBA to Xiu Xiu. The store is basically everything you'd expect from owner Kimber Lanning, an icon in the Phoenix music scene. Her hands-on involvement in promoting local businesses and musicians dates back decades.

Revolver Records

The best record stores have something beyond albums in their bins. The music playing on the speakers, the posters and albums chosen to decorate the walls, the person behind the counter — when you enter a great record store, the sum is greater than the parts, and it's immediately apparent. Whatever that impossible-to-define ambiance is, Revolver Records' downtown Phoenix location has it. You walk in and you know you're among friends, musical and otherwise. You can flip through the racks and find rarities from musicians you'd forgotten you loved, strike up a conversation with the employees and get a non-judgmental recommendation to help expand your music tastes, or stop by on First Friday to hear a local band or two. Do any of it and you'll get an idea why Revolver is consistently the best of Phoenix.

Dollar Tree

Dollar Tree is to dollar stores what Saks Fifth Avenue is to department stores. You won't find any seconds here; no discontinued crap from full-price shops or expired lunch meat or unidentifiable things tossed randomly into torn-open boxes set on the floor. Dollar Tree is the cleanest, best-organized place in town for inexpensive stuff you'd pay five times as much for elsewhere if dollar stores weren't a thing. This is a great place to take the kids when they have holiday shopping to do (we hand them 10 bucks and let them go wild) and even better for name-brand soaps and cleaning supplies (we recently bought Glade Solid twofers — for a buck, natch) and storage tubs and baby toys and kitchen supplies and fake Barbies and and and . . . Hey, anybody got a buck we can borrow?

Double Nickels Collective is a one-stop shop for things you had no idea you needed. And that makes the record store/vintage boutique/comic book shop/stereo equipment emporium one of our favorite places to swing by on a mellow weekend afternoon. Not just a destination for browse-happy shoppers, it's also home to one of the Valley's most beloved indie music institutions: Ghost of Eastside Records. Stinkweeds, Stereophonic High Fidelity, and some of the Valley's most avid record collectors also stock shelves at the collective, which is just a few doors down from Yucca Tap Room. Apart from audio selections, shoppers will find Ben Funke's funky throwback fashion under the Meat Market Vintage banner and book selections from Ash Avenue Comics.

Open less than a year, the spacious Zia on Mill Avenue and Southern — one of four locations in the Phoenix area, including a new one in the East Valley — is our favorite purveyor of new and used games, DVDs, books, magazines, toys, CDs, and vinyl. With thousands of square feet to roam, plus a fine selection of pop culture tchotchkes and bins full of cheap books, it's the place for one-stop holiday shopping. It's also a great place to while away the afternoon, flipping through albums you used to like, finding new music you didn't know you liked, and comparing notes on upcoming shows and releases with the friendly staff.

Changing Hands Bookstore

Call us shallow or impossibly snotty — we always judge a book by its cover and a city by its bookstore. Portland has Powell's, New York's got The Strand, even Venice Beach has an amazing independent bookstore, Small World Books, right on the main drag between the T-shirt shops and the henna stands. But when it comes to our town, things have been awkward: For many years, the city of Phoenix really didn't have a bookstore, not a legit indie with new titles and author events. Finally, the day came — in late May, to be exact — and we learned we are not alone in our sentiments, as eager customers flooded the new Changing Hands, housed in a gorgeous space in a development called The Newton in the space formerly occupied by the legendary restaurant Beefeaters. And with that, Phoenix had arrived. Tempe remains lucky as ever — the East Valley outpost of CHB is still running strong and the bookstore will continue to host events all over town.

All About Books and Comics

Forgive us for how nerdy this is going to sound, but the employees of this place are like matchmakers. Tell them you want something really gory and, in a few seconds, you'll be looking at a two-page color illustration of human intestines and other innards strewn across the pages. Sold. (That was Warren Ellis' No Hero, by the way.) The employees are what make this place great, but that's not to downplay the selection. All About has wall-to-wall comics, from the newest releases to collectible classics. There's even a little room in the back with nudie material, if you're into that kind of thing.

Tucked into a sweet little strip mall at 16th Street and Bethany Home, this charming shop is our idea of old-school bookstore. Open seven days a week, The Bookshop is a great place for collectors of rare books and those of us just looking for our next good read. (We recently snagged one of each: an early hardcover printing of The Bell Jar and a signed copy of Anne Tyler's Noah's Compass — both for under 20 bucks!) Affordable prices, monthly deals, and local author events are the order of the day here, and the management is quick to talk up whatever it's reading at the moment or suggest something that you might like better, based on your own current favorites. You'll want to come back often, not just because this is such a great place for book lovers, but because The Bookshop features work by a different local artist every month. We're in love!

Bookmans Entertainment Exchange

You've come a long way, Phoenix. Except when it comes to that urban mainstay, the magazine rack. A few spots around town have a decent selection, but, really, this is one of the few Best of Phoenix categories that punts. Unless you find yourself at Bookmans. Technically speaking, Bookmans' magazine rack isn't legit: These are not new magazines. They are used, as is the lion's share of the merchandise at this mini-chain. But on many occasions, we've scored the latest issues of The New Yorker or Vogue (at a big discount!), and there are always a few periodicals with titles we don't recognize, which makes for fun browsing. You're on notice, Phoenix: We want a giant, legit, indie magazine rack. We just wish someone else did, too, or rather, a whole bunch of someones, because we know how expensive that kind of endeavor is. For now, you'll find us at Bookmans.

Best Of Phoenix®

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