Cheap Thrills - EMusician

Cheap Thrills

Musical inspiration from inexpensive gadgets. For this year's EM gift guide, we decided to take a slightly different tack: we searched for electronic
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Musical inspiration from inexpensive gadgets.For this year's EM gift guide, we decided to take a slightly different tack: we searched for electronic and battery-operated "impulse" items that offer useful - and often unusual - musical possibilities. After weeks of scouring local toy, department, and electronics stores - not to mention the Web - we came up with ten items we couldn't resist. Because of the eclectic nature of our editorial staff, the criteria for defining usefulness encompassed everything from a toy's ability to create feedback to the presence of great groove presets.

In a couple of instances, we found synergistic pairings for our toys. For example, we fed the output of a $40 keyboard through our $20 voice-processing megaphone. The results sounded as good as some of the DSP plug-ins that have crossed our desks. In fact, we found gadgets that, sonically speaking, rival professional instruments of years past; Marty found a drum machine for less than $150 that sounded much better than his first $400 8-bit professional device.

We had great fun with these toys, and each one inspired hours of musical creativity. Can you say the same for that last piece of high-ticket studio gear you bought? (Listen to tracks the EM editors created with these items by visiting www.emusician.com/emlinks.)