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The Annual Rock Star Holiday Gear Guide

December 8, 2014

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Time to troll for markdowns on music and studio equipment. In this year’s holiday special feature, we asked 20-plus music-making pros to tell us what’s on their Christmas wish and gift lists. Each one revealed one “practical” choice and a “sky’s the limit” idea. Bearing in mind that one electronic musician’s “low-budget” may be pure fantasy for others, you’re sure to find some inspiring ideas to enhance your productions and your musical friends’.

Teenage Engineering OP-1 synth/workstation
Above and Beyond

Formed in 2000, this British EDM group also owns the record labels Anjunabeats and Anjunadeep. Members Jono Grant, Tony McGuinness, and Paavo Siljamäki also host a weekly radio show called Group Therapy. Their latest album is We Are All We Need.

“As a budget gift,” says member Jono Grant, “the Teenage Engineering OP-1 synthesizer/workstation [around $850] is a lot of fun and gets you thinking outside the box.

“Crane Song’s Avocet stereo monitor controller [around $3,000] may seem like an extremely expensive volume knob to some, but the excellent D/A converter ensures you’re hearing things correctly, and because most things are done “in the box these days, it makes sense to spend the money on the listening environment and monitoring tools.”

Rusty Soup Can microphone
Adam Hawkins

L.A.-based Grammy-winner Adam Hawkins’ varied discography includes engineering and/or production for recent releases by Switchfoot, Gary Clark Jr., Avenged Sevenfold, Regina Spektor, and Keith Urban.

“My practical choice would be the Rusty Soup Can microphone from Mead Guitars [around $24.99]. They’re made by a small company that sells them on eBay. These are just so much fun for odd drum, vocals, or guitar sounds. They give you unique sounds for small-sounding drum loops or a weird filtered kind of guitar sound without having to do any extra work. You just plug it in, see what it sounds like, and creatively it can inspire something you wouldn’t do otherwise. They’re dirt-cheap and everything they do is really fun.

“If the sky’s the limit, buy the nicest studio monitors you can afford, assuming you’ve already got a treated room. Nothing changes your work more than hearing more detail in your mixes. And there’s nothing like changing to give you a new perspective and a new way of listening to everything. Right now I’m on Focal SM9s [about $7,500/pair], and I like them because they don’t lie. If something sounds bad, it really sounds bad, and if something sounds good, it really sounds good. A lot of monitors I’ve tried seem to always sound good no matter what you do. You make an EQ change and you’re like: That sounds good, too. Which one’s right?”

Make Noise Shared System
Alessandro Cortini

Multi-instrumentalist Alessandro Cortini has lent his synth genius to Nine Inch Nails, both in the studio and onstage, on and off since 2004. He co-wrote some material for NIN’s eighth album, Hesitation Marks, with Trent Reznor; founded SONOIO; is a touring member of How to Destroy Angels; and has collaborated with the likes of Ladytron and Christina Aguilera. Cortini is preparing instrumental releases on Important Records (Forse 3 will be available soon) and Hospital Productions. (Sonno is available now, while Sonno II will be released soon.)

Cortini’s budget gift suggestion? A Korg Volca Keys analog loop synthesizer ($150). “It’s incredibly versatile and unique sounding, includes MIDI, and hackable, for only 150 dollars.”

His sky’s-the-limit gift suggestion: Make Noise Shared System ($3,330), a complete synth voice that offers highlevel, West Coast-style modular synthesis capabilities in a portable case that lends itself to live performance.

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