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Christmas Shopping

Gifts for Music Lovers
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Are you tired of receiving boxes of chocolate every Christmas? You can’t take another hand-knitted sweater from your aunt and you’d like the bottom of the tree to look a little more…musical? Here’s a selection of gift ideas for your loved ones who may lack inspiration ...

 

iStuff for Musicians

 

We know there will probably be more than one iPhone or iPod under the tree this year. So we took a trip over to the App Store to you select a few essential apps for making music on Apple’s gadgets.

MooCowMusic created Organist, Pianist and Guitarist which respectively emulate organ, piano and guitar. Another application called Band has several instruments and lets you write bits and ideas. The price: $2.99 each. In the virtual guitar aisle, you can also see an app called Guitar, which is quite playable even if it’s less impressive than PocketGuitar with its vibrato that’s controlled by an accelerometer

 

For Home Studios

The ultimate audio interface?
Prominently listed among the highlights of this year, TC Electronic’s Studio Konnekt 48 is a Firewire audio interface that features 24 inputs including 4 preamplifiers, 22 outputs, 12 simultaneous analog channels and world class DSP effects. Supplied with a remote control for around $1200, it’s one of the select few able to overshadow RME’s FireFace which, despite its numerous qualities, took a serious blow ...

ProTools to go!
ProTools on a USB key; who would have imagined it? They did. Of course, the audio interface is ultra basic but thanks to the MBox 2 Micro, you can work your ProTools session on any computer, for a little less than $250. And since Transfuser currently comes with the package ...

Little Adam
Halfway between a multimedia speaker and a near-field monitor, the Adam A5 is somewhat unique ... There is the famous ribbon tweeter for which the brand is famous, guaranteeing quality highs, and bass response, which, given the size of the speaker, is no joke and makes it a worthy sibling of the famous A7, for a little less than $440 each. The ideal monitors for working in your apartment without disturbing the neighbors?


A half-legend?
Walking in the footsteps of the illustrious C414, the C214 is meant to be a more accessible version of the classic AKG mic. Featuring only one polar pattern but having the essential of what made the reputation of the large membrane microphone for under $600.

Night terror
It's small, cute, inexpensive and it works like a charm. For less than $150, the Novation Nocturne will let you control your DAW and plug-ins while tasting the comfort of Automap technology.

26+26=2626
M-Audio’s high-end Profire 2626 has it all for those home studio owners who need a lot of inputs/outputs. Its preamps and converters meet our expectations and the price is around $700; did someone request a great deal?


Deus in machina
Widely used by the pros, the UAD-1 DSP card was nevertheless beginning to get old. So imagine our joy when we saw the UAD-2 arrive with a cornucopia of new plugins each as attractive as the next. And with prices that are not so "pro", because between the small Solo to the big Quad, prices range from $500 to $1800.

Big Groove
The reference in virtual drummers is back! With 10 full kits and 55 GB of sounds and above all a complete mixer with a great effects section, Fxpansion’s BFD2 is a must for just under $400.

U47 USB?
If you're looking for a simple way to connect a microphone (static or dynamic) to your computer, know that MXL has created the Mic Mate, an XLR to USB "adapter" incorporating a mic preamp and phantom power. It works without drivers, at the very reasonable price of around $50!

Multimedia Killers
Of course, with their 4" boomers the Studiophile AV40 won’t do as studio monitors. Still, we’ve rarely come across such good multimedia speakers, with surprising lows for the size of the speakers, highs that’s aren’t bad at all, and great balance ... The latest speakers from M-Audio have struck a strong blow to the competitors who offer roughly the same thing for much more, like Creative Labs, Logitech or Altec Lansing. At $150, the AV40 is probably one of the best options you can find for a traveling setup ...

 

What if you changed sequencers...
We’ve got a thing for Reaper, a customizable sequencer, extremely stable, only a few MB, and costs, for non professional usage, fifty dollars. Where’s the catch? Why the discrepancy in prices? Well, we’re beginning to wonder ...

Swiss army knife?
A recording studio in your pocket? It’s possible with the Boss Micro BR, a genuine Swiss Army knife that combines 4 tracks, a multi-effects processor, 300 rhythmic patterns and basic editing functions. It’s MP3 compatible, stores on SD cards, has a tuner, and an integrated microphone. What more do you need to know? The price? Around $200.

What a sound!
They look good, and work great, and what a sound. These tube and/or transistor preamps from Universal Audio give the best of both worlds ...

In the synth aisle there are a lot of goodies too, starting with Noise.io, minisynth or the highly experimental SynthPond. All are quite nice but do not offer the possibility of sequencing. To do this, we’ll look to Finger BassLine and especially to BtBx. Like a poor man's ReBirth, it brings together two rudimentary synths, a distortion, a delay and a 16 step pattern drum that’s programmable. And it only costs $1.99.

Beatmaker from Intua is a type of MPC copy. It’s certainly worth more than 19.99€, and is definitely the most advanced music application on the iPod Touch/iPhone, with a sequencer and everything you need to work on your samples.

Izotope, the creator of Ozone, has also created a very nice and very graphic drum machine sold for under $6. It's called iDrum and comes in different styles (Hip Hop, Ministry of Sound, etc.)..

Utility aisle, a lot of interesting things too, like GuitarToolkit which, for $9.99, brings together a chord dictionary(Chord Finder), a tuner and a metronome.

Want to use the touch screen as a MIDI controller like Jazzmutant Dexter. That’s what the following apps, more or less complex and affordable, let you do: TouchOSC from Hexler, OSCemote or all ITM apps: pad, console, keyboard, etc..

And to transform your telephone into a measurement or visualization device, take a look at Faberacoustical which offers a sound level meter (SLM), signal generator, and oscilloscope for spectrum analysis; and PocketChirp proposes a spectrogram.

Do you dream of having a 4-track recorder with you at all times, stashed in your pocket, especially when a brilliant idea comes to you? Well, for $9.99 FourTrack from Sonoma Wire Works features recording on 4 separate tracks via iPhone’s microphone, or an external microphone for the iPod Touch. You can then transfer what you’ve recorded via WiFi onto your computer to continue to work on it with your favorite sequencer.

Korgendo
Even if Mario and Link annoy you with their stories of kidnapped princesses, don’t sell your Nintendo DS yet! Because Korg has been thinking about gamers-musicians on the move, and created DS-10, a virtual synthesizer based on the famous MS-10 for the portable Nintendo console. Thanks to its touch-screen, the interface is simple and user-friendly. You can turn knobs and cable oscillators in a few strokes of the pen. Featuring two keyboards, a drum module, 6 tracks, a 16-step step sequencer and effects (chorus, flanger and delay). And since a Wi-Fi connection allows the console to play in rhythm with friends, you have all you need to form a geek electro band!

 

And for others...  

 

Beach Boys Construction Kit
In these times of crisis, finding singers is increasingly difficult. So when TC-Helicon provided a pedal simulating a pair of singers and integrating effects good enough to convince an audience, we cried genius. The Voicetone Harmony-G recognizes the chords you play on the guitar or keyboard and generates vocal harmonies on top of your voice. Impressive.

More than just a looper
We liked the Spider Jam, Line6’s rehearsal amp, so much that we also recommend the JM4 Looper which, as its name does not indicate, is not just a looper. It includes all of Spider Jam’s effects (amp modeling, quality jam tracks, an effects section, and so on.) except the speaker, in a nice pedal complete with many connection possibilities. For around $330, it's a good deal ...

The ultimate all-tube
All-tube amps are becoming more accessible, like Bogner’s Alchemist for example, but also, and especially, Egnater’s Tourmaster 4212, which offers incredible versatility in terms of sound while letting you adjust its power from 15 to 100 Watts. The perfect combo for less than $1600.

 

Pedal Box
If you're the type that links 10 pedals with a bunch of cables, no doubt you’ll love the Stagefive SKB, a pedal board designed to power and connect your pedals in the most efficient way without risk nor hiss, for less than $350.

 

Positive Vibes
Do you dream of buying a Jazzbass a Strat or Tele but don’t have the budget for the U.S. Standard Fender range? Then you’d do well to take a look at Squier’s Classic Vibes series, the entry-level sub-brand of the famous American manufacturer. The essential has been preserved: the personality of the instruments. As for the price that they’re sold at (around $300) it's just amazing how they sound ... Special Mention goes to the DuoSonic which charmed more than person of the editorial team. ...

Repeat after me
In the small and very crowded world of handheld recorders, Line6 has differentiated itself with the Backtrack, whose characteristic is to record continuously, 24 hours non-stop. It’s the only way not to miss anything for less than $150 with integrated microphone, and less than $100 without the microphone.

Rip it after me
No offense to conservative audiophiles, but cassettes and vinyl have outlived their usefulness, hence the idea to digitalize them. To do this, we can look to Ion Audio who offers solutions for digitizing vinyl (iTTUSB series), or cassettes (Tape 2 PC) or even VHS (VCR 2 PC) for very reasonable prices: around a hundred dollars ...

Click after me
You’ve been training with Guitar Hero III all year and you’re starting to get tired of being all alone? It's time to put together a group and call up friends who want to sing at the top of their voice or to pound on drums. The new Guitar Hero World Tour, recently released, incorporates the same principles as in previous episodes but including drums and a microphone. It’s therefore possible to do songs from the new playlist alone or in groups. Add to this the ability to compose songs and record them to share online, and you get one of the best music video games of the last part of 2008.

Heart Beat
For occasional DJing, it would be ideal to have a sort of pocket-sized iPod that could store your favorite music and that could enable you to mix easily. This is what the Pacemaker Device does with a 120GB hard drive, screen, Crossfade slider and touch pad (for bending a track, navigating, and synchronizing/mixing tracks in real time. A bit expensive (approx $874), but perfect for impromptu mixing!

The New TD 9
Roland is pretty much on the high-level end when it comes to electronic drums. So when the TD-9 module comes out with redesigned ergonomics, hundreds of new sounds, real-audio songs and patterns onboard, plus new Scope and Quick Rec/Quick Play practice functions, full V-Hi-Hat compatibility, and three-way ride triggering available, the price ($850) doesn't seem an issue.

Sampling beyond reproach
Lacking ideas? Eager to find new sounds? Check out www.boldersounds.com. For more than 15 years they’ve been offering samples of rare & unique instruments: Tibetan bowls, toy pianos, crystal glasses, dulcimers, strange percussion and bagpipes for a more than a reasonable price... Along the same lines, it would be a good idea to take a look at www.tonehammer.com which offers excellent rare percussion and even an out of tune piano for ambiances ... At www.virb.com, another un-tuned piano but also a magnificent Dulcitone for next to nothing, along with Steel Drums, a harpsichord and a free bank of Firework samples! We continue this little tour of samples with www.acousticsamples.net which offers sound banks which are a very good value for the money: acoustic and electric bass, vibraphone, amongst others, are included on the menu ... And for loops, what do we have? Many interesting things at www.platinumloops.com, including things rare stuff like mandolins or Cajons.

Unidentified musical object
Yamaha proved that it can still surprise us with the Tenori-on, an instrument based on a matrix of light that even a child of 4 would be able to use. Beyond the visual interest it could provide on stage, it mainly has the purpose of allowing you to rethink how you work with your sequencer.

 

DJ Console More & Better
After the success of its DJ Console, Hercules switched gear with its DJ Control RMX, a nice looking DJ audio interface for a price of 350€ which is a blow to the competition. Even less expensive is the Steel version that only has a control surface. It’s a great way to get initiated into the art of Djing with a computer.

Zoom H2
Because of its ultra-low price (less than 200€) and its many features, Zoom H2 remains one of the best possible choices in terms of portable stereo recorders. To get 4-tracks and an effects section, you might consider its big brother the H4 which is also highly recommended.

A Tuner for lazy people
Sold for just under $50, the String Master is a tuning machine capable of turning the tuning heads for you. Until TRONICAL finally comes out with its PowerTune this is probably the best option…. for those who don’t have roadies! See it here: http://www.actiontuners.com/. .

When knobs become pedals
Never short on original accessories, Musictoyz.com offers, for $110, the Tone in Progress 3rd Hand, an entirely mechanical device that turns pedal knobs (giving real-time control over any parameter on any pedal) , ideal for adjusting parameters like gain on certain pedals for example, or delay time, or the speed of a flanger ...


All Terrain Guitars

Acoustic or electro-acoustic, the X5 from Life Emerald Guitars is undoubtedly the first ATG (all terrain guitar). Small enough to be easily transportable, it’s also built entirely out of carbon, which makes it able to endure extreme humidity or extreme changes in temperature without breaking. Playing guitar in water, snow, or next to the camp fire without fearing for your instrument is finally a reality accessible from 479€. To see it, go to http://www.emeraldlife.com/.

A Smoking Amp
Who would have thought…! Zinky Electronics offers SmokeyAmps: miniature guitar amplifiers made from flashlights, packets of cigarettes or boxes of all kinds. Not only is it playable, but it can even be connected to a speaker or an amp (as a fuzz 'pedal' ).
The price? Less than $35 at www.smokeyamps.com.

Anyone have a 2.5mm Allen wrench?

Advice to aspiring Guitar Techs or simply to 6-string DIY enthusiasts, Gigmate proposes a pack, that in its pro version, has most of the tools necessary for the maintenance of your instrument: string winder, string cutters, flashlight, two-in-one screwdriver, 4 Allen Wrenches
(1.5, 2.5, 3 and 4 mm) and more... Everything is packed into a small bag with extra spaces provided for spare batteries, acoustic guitar string pegs, fuses etc. All this for less than $50. The case just by itself is sold at $13, 95.

To see www.gigmate.com.

Healthy mind, healthy body, healthy musician
It should not be forgotten: playing an instrument is also a matter of muscles and endurance. In the fitness equipment department, two products caught our attention: the Powerball and GripMaster.

With its rotor turning up to 15,000 rpm within a of 10cm diameter sphere , the Powerball uses inertia to exercise all parts of your arm, which makes it an excellent device for drummers and percussionists, among others. From 30 to 100 € on www.powerballs.com.

More specifically for guitar, bass and keyboard, the GripMaster is dedicated to finger fitness. Ideal for strengthening that ring-finger that always tends to follow the middle finger. $15 at www.gripmaster.net.

Jack & Cable Doctor
You just spent 4 hours setting up a group on stage and, despite your legendary rigor, the vocal microphones refuses to provide any sound and the guitarist’s monitor doesn’t work. If your connections are beyond reproach, it’s more than likely that you have a problem with your cables. To that end, the CT-1 from Rolls could be very useful. It makes it possible to test most commonly used cables on stage or in the studio: 6.35 jack, RCA, XLR and MIDI. For less than $60, this should save you a few nervous breakdowns ... To see http://rolls.com/.

One wire to rule them all !

If your pedal board is a cable and connection nightmare, and seems like a puzzle at times, read on: the brand PedalSnake is selling Multicore which is specially designed for guitarists, allow them to carry unbalanced audio, power, and digital signals together in one cable without noise or crosstalk.. Three basic models are available from $50 at www.pedalsnake.com, plus the custom shop can make one tailored to your needs. Isn’t life wonderful?

The Next best thing to a Roadie

There's nothing more tedious than carrying bulky boxes containing flight-cases, cabinets, guitars and racks. Being aware of the problem, the company rocknroll has developed a series of five very practical transport carts that are foldable and fully adjustable, and which can support up to 250 kilos of weight (depending on the model). If you do a lot of gigs but can’t afford a roadie, take a look at www.multicart.com.

 

 

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