The Christmas and the Winter Holidays are fast upon us. Whether you’re thinking of a gift for a music making close friend / relative or yourself, it’s not too late to find them something of worth that’ll bring a smile to the receivers studio.
In no particular order here’s 15 gifts we think musicians and producers will appreciate and love.
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1. Universal Audio Apollo Twin - $699 (Solo)
The sleek and sexy Apollo Twin audio interface brings the high-quality preamps and the UAD Powered Plug-Ins from the Apollo into a portable and affordable package. The 2 XLR mic preamps are very high quality and its hardware buttons allow access to important features that’ll prevent you needing to fiddle around in software when tracking. The Unison mic preamp features deserve special mention, so make sure to read out review below for more details.
The dual processor version of Apollo Twin is available for $899.
2. Korg volca sample - $225
This digital sample sequencer adds to the range of Korg’s volca range, but is also comfortable and confident enough to be used by itself. You sample sounds via the iOS app and then can sequence, manipulate, and perform them using the machine. It might not be for everyone, but as iOS wielding musicians we love what it can do.
3. Novation Launchkey Mini - $79.99
Designed for Ableton Live 9, but happy to play a role as a standard MIDI controller with most DAWs, Novation’s Launchkey Mini is packed full of controls. Aside from the 25-note velocity sensitive mini keys, there’s 16 multi-color backlit velocity sensitive pads, 8 knobs, octave up/down, track buttons, 2 navigation buttons, 2 multi-color backlit round buttons and it even comes with Ableton Live Lite, Novation Bass Station and V Station instruments and 1 GB of samples courtesy of Loopmasters.
4. Livid Instruments Builder Box - $99.00
Fancy your own maker skills? Button Box from Livid Instruments includes everything you need to make your own MIDI controller, with 16 button pads. These have blue LED backlights, it’s USB powered, plug&play, sends and receives MIDI and will, of course, work with any MIDI compliant software. The Button Box is powered by the Livid Brain Jr. processor and you’ll just feel awesome having made it yourself!
Buttons/pads, not your thing? There’s the Fader Box with 8 faders for the same price too.
5. Teenage Engineering Pocket Operators - $59.00 ea.
Who’d have thought you’d be able to get hold of 3 very, very capable and fun to use synths that could fit in your hand for just $59 each? Well, you can!
Here are some quotes from our review: “Insanely fun to use. Actually sound massive. Excellent onboard effects. Sync together or to your DAW. Very affordable. Parameter locking is great. Really cool to play. Powers off two batteries. Ridiculously portable.”
6. Arturia BeatStep Pro - $249
The original BeatStep from Arturia was a big hit for those wanting to sequence synths and software and you can still pick one up for just $99! With its multiple CV outs and standalone capability, the Beatstep Pro is simply put, an amazing product with 2 sequencers and a drum programmer that is fun to use and really does what it says it will do as a standalone.
7. Les Paul Studio Monitors - from $599
These excellent sounding studio monitors fall into the marmite conundrum in terms of their look. You either love ‘em or hate ‘em. They certainly stand out when compared to other black or white monitors inhabiting 99% of all studios. But, aesthetics aside, we were simply blown away by the build quality, detailed midrange, excellent headroom and low listener fatigue (especially with the 4 inch version).
8. Audient iD14 Audio Interface - $299
This compact and solidly built interface offers excellent audio quality and is made using high-quality components (which you’d expect from a company with the reputation for its pro consoles). There’s also a friendly and flexible software control panel and it is priced appropriately. Oh, and its scroll wheel works nicely with supported DAWs.
9. Roland Boutique Synths - $299 ea.
These compact sound modules recreate classic renowned analog synths from Roland’s past. But the Ghost of Christmas past and the Ghost of Christmas present are here with the JP-08 (Jupiter-8 emulation), JX-03 (JX3P emulation), and the four-voice JU-06 (JUNO-106 emulation).
We reviewed the JX-03 which we loved very, very much. And we think the gift will be pretty impressed too.
10. Yamaha Reface Synths - MSRP $499 ea.
Don’t choke on the price just yet, the street prices for these 80s inspired reface synths from Yamaha sound really good. We’ve reviewed all four (CS, CP, YC & DX) and I personally have a soft spot for the DX if anyone is thinking of sending me a surprise present… ;-)
11. Blue Bottle Rocket Mic Locker - $1,699
If you really want to impress your recording musician or producer loved one, then you can’t go wrong with the Blue Bottle Rocket Mic Locker. Comprising of 4 swappable capsules, a sturdy shock mount, and an extremely high-quality case, this is one of the gifts that’ll keep on giving.
12. Novation Circuit - $329
Described in our video review as “The most portable thing ever” there’s little not to love about this compact, standalone music making machine. It’s battery powered and features a built-in speaker for on-the-go idea creation. And features excellent synth and drum sounds, is insanely tweakable, and allows you to record patterns and automation.
Then there’s the clever light-led workflow and Launchpad-style 32 pads. You can connect this mini beast to MIDI gear and experience true computer-free operation. Hugely fun and creative.
13. Akai Professional MPC Touch - $799
Designed to take the MPC to the next level, the MPC Touch (as its name suggests) feature a gorgeous high-res 7” color display, as well as the expected 16 AKAI velocity-sensitive RGB pads. You’ve got step sequencer input via the pads or the screen, phrase looper, performance controls and over 20GB of sound content!
Oh, and it’s also a 2-in, 2-out audio interface and could easily become the backbone of your production and performance setup.
14. SubPac M2 Tactile Bass System - $399
SubPac M2 offers creators and fans the most immersive personal audio experience to date, allowing them to feel the physical dimension of sound wherever they are, while being quiet to the outside world.
The SubPac M2 combines new proprietary tactile transducers and vibrotactile membranes with an all-new design to create an enhanced vibratory field for optimum efficiency, impact and comfort. A slimmer control box, Bluetooth receiver and high capacity Li-ion rechargeable battery allow the patent-pending M2 to go anywhere with ease.
Sound interesting? We’re currently reviewing the M2, but as we haven’t finished giving it a full in-depth test I’d like to point you to our review of the SubPac S2. Here’s what we thought of it: https://ask.audio/articles/review-subpac-s2-feel-the-bass-wherever-you-sit
15. Ableton Push 2 - $799
The original Ableton Push quickly became a much-loved controller/instrument for Ableton Live users. Its successor enhances the fluid, inspiring workflow of Push 1 with a fresh design and build. The integration with the new version of Simpler takes sample manipulation to a new level, the gorgeous display and elegant encoder integration virtually eliminates the need to rely on Live's GUI—or your mouse—when using Session mode. All in all, if your loved one swears by Ableton Live and doesn’t own a Push 1 or 2, then this is the ultimate gift for them.
BONUS: Ask.Audio Academy 1-Year Pass - $120
What’s the good of all this great gear if you don’t know how to use it, or don’t fully understand the techniques involved in good recording, composing, songwriting, arrangement, mixing, mastering… basically music and audio production.
With that in mind, whether you want to learn Ableton, Cubase, Logic, Pro Tools, mixing techniques, NI Maschine, Komplete, audio concepts, synthesis, recording, or anything in-between, then this is probably the best $120 you could spend.…
There’s 2–3 new video courses released weekly in The Academy, all created by industry professionals and watched by colleges, professional composers, synthesists, sound designers, producers, and those wishing aspiring to greater things.
A one-year pass to The Ask.Audio Academy’s online audio training might be the best gift you can give yourself.