Every year disguising presents from the members of my householdbecomes increasingly difficult. Often a simple shake of a wrappedpackage is all it takes to reveal the contents, which has forced me torepackage presents in oddly shaped boxes to keep them a secret as longas possible. The perfect accomplice in discreet gift giving is thestocking.
It may seem that a stocking can hold only relatively small,inexpensive items. However, to crafty gift givers, stockings offer agreat place to hide an expensive gift from a wily recipient.
For this year's EM holiday gift guide, I decided to focus onsmall but practical items that anyone with a personal studio wouldenjoy. But unlike previous years, I have increased the price range toinclude as many of the latest gizmos as possible.
Let the wish lists begin!
A Studio in Your Stocking
- Every studio needs a multitrack recorder. For a pocket-size personaldigital studio, look no further than the Korg ToneWorks PXR4($500). This miniature 4-track records directly to SmartMedia cards andoffers 32 virtual tracks, a multi-effects processor, amp and micmodelers, and rhythm patterns. The editing features include trackbouncing and time compression/expansion. The PXR4 also includes abuilt-in microphone and a ¼-inch input with a high- andlow-impedance switch. Korg USA, Inc.; tel. (516) 333-9100; Web www.korg.com.
- Soundman Microphones OKM II K Classic Studio ($325) is a pairof miniature omni mics you wear in your ears. The mics are light andfit comfortably in the ears, and the result you hear is a binauralstereo recording. Soundman offers seven models to cover a variety ofrecording situations, including rock, jazz, and classical music.Soundman Microphones/Independent Audio (distributor); tel. (207)773-2424; e-mail email@example.com; Web www.independentaudio.com.
- Whether you are practicing complex time signatures or laying down aquick click track, you can't top the Boss Dr. Beat DB-88 ($195).The DB-88 is a programmable metronome that offers five divisions of thebeat, a simple tuner, tap tempo, and two stereo headphone jacks. Theunit runs on a 9V battery or a wall wart and can be attached to acymbal stand. Roland Corporation U.S.; tel. (323) 890-3700; Web www.rolandus.com.
- Every studio needs a pair of reference headphones. Grado's PrestigeSeries SR125 headphones ($150) are the choice of manyprofessionals. They offer excellent sound reproduction and a frequencyrange of 20 Hz to 20 kHz. Their lightweight design makes themcomfortable to wear, especially during long sessions. Grado Labs; tel.(718) 435-5340; e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org; Web www.gradolabs.com.
- The Peterson VS-1 Virtual Strobe Tuner ($329) can tuneeverything in your studio. Accurate to 1/1,000 of a semitone, the VS-1has a built-in mic, a ¼-inch input and output, nine octaves ofreference tones, historical temperaments, and a reference A adjustablein 0.5 Hz increments. It runs on three AA batteries or a wall-wartpower supply. Peterson Electro-Musical Products; tel. (708) 388-3311;e-mail email@example.com; Web www.petersontuners.com.
- Roger Linn Design's AdrenaLinn ($395) is a filter-processingstompbox that puts your guitar through a looping sequence of filtertones or LFO modulations in sync to an internal drum machine or MIDI.Also included are auto-wah and other classic filter effects, ampmodeling, and tempo-synced delay. Roger Linn Design; Web www.rlinndesign.com.
- If you've ever wondered whether the sound of an analog recorderdiffers from that of a digital one or if a 24-bit recording soundsunlike 16 bits, the A/B CD ($34.95) is for you. The A/B CDoffers useful side-by-side comparisons of a number of competingtechnologies: how analog and digital mixers treat a mix, howsolid-state and tube mic preamps color drums, and how high- andlow-priced cables affect your sound. A/B CD; tel. (866) 877-ABCD;e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org; Web www.cdbaby.com/abcd.
- Whether you are tweaking the filters on a synth or adjustingparameters in a DAW, you will get better results using a real knob.Doepfer's Pocket Dial MIDI controller ($229) has 16“endless” rotary controls and four banks for a total of 64virtual knobs. For the desktop musician who has little open desk space,Pocket Dial's size makes it a winner. Doepfer MusikelektronikGMBH/Enport (distributor); tel. (402) 398-0198; e-mail email@example.com; Webwww.doepfer.com.
- From C-Mexx comes MIR ($365), which stands for MIDIInteractive Remote. The space-age controller features a five-buttontouch pad, three control knobs, and a 2-by-16-character LCD fordisplaying the parameters you're working with. MIR fits easily in thepalm of your hand or mounts conveniently on a stand. It is programmableand can import settings from other controllers. C-MexxSoftware/X-Vision AudioUS (distributor); tel. (330) 747-3857; e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org; Web www.mircontrol.com.
- Controlling virtual faders with a mouse is rarely satisfying. That'swhy Encore Electronics created the Slidemate MIDI controlsurface ($249). Slidemate features eight faders, four Group buttons, aScene button (which also serves as a panic button), and MIDI delay. Thedevice is fully programmable and can send continuous controller andSystem Exclusive messages. Encore Electronics; tel. (925) 229-8875;e-mail email@example.com; Web www.encoreelectronics.com.
- The Sound Devices USBPre (Mac/Win; $695) proves that greatthings do come in small packages. This 2-channel device includes a pairof balanced mic preamps with phantom power and a 15 dB pad; ¼-inchand RCA inputs; S/PDIF I/O; and a pair of headphone jacks. The USBPreuses 24-bit converters and has a frequency range of 10 Hz to 22 kHz.Sound Devices, LLC; tel. (608) 524-0625; e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org; Web www.sounddevices.com.
- Building on the success of its low-latency Hammerfall PCI card, RMEhas created the Hammerfall DSP Digiface (Mac/Win; $650). Thisportable half-rack digital interface gives you 32 channels of MIDI I/Oand 24 channels of 24-bit, 96 kHz digital-audio I/O. The connectorsinclude front- and back-panel MIDI ports, three Lightpipe inputs andoutputs, S/PDIF I/O, word-clock I/O, and an ADAT sync input. RMEIntelligent Audio Solutions/X-Vision AudioUS (distributor); tel. (330)747-3857; e-mail email@example.com; Web www.rme-audio.com.
- No multichannel USB audio interface is smaller or sexier thanEmagic's emi 2/6 (Mac/Win; $499). This translucent blueinterface provides two analog inputs, six analog outputs, and S/PDIFI/O in a case the size of a VHS cassette tape. A host of top-panelstatus LEDs keep you in the know during a session, and the emi 2/6 canbe operated at 44.1 or 48 kHz at a resolution of 16 or 24 bits. Itcomes with ASIO drivers for Mac and PC. Emagic USA; tel. (530)477-1051; e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org; Web www.emagic.de.
- Griffin Technology's PowerMate (Mac/Win; $45) is adeceptively simple USB device for controlling nearly any function. Thepolished aluminum knob has a smooth and solid feel when turned orpressed. It measures roughly one-and-a-half inches tall and two inchesin diameter, so it can be placed just about anywhere. The skid-freebase glows blue when your computer is on and pulses when your computeris sleeping. Griffin Technology, Inc.; tel. (615) 399-7000; e-mail email@example.com; Web www.griffintechnology.com.
- If you want to listen to ten hours of music from a player that fitsin your hand, look no further than the Archos Jukebox HD-MP3Recorder Player (Mac/Win; $349). It has a 6 GB hard drive, connectsto your computer with a USB cable, runs on four rechargeable AAbatteries, and comes with a carrying case, headphones, Mini Stereo/RCAadapter, and MusicMatch MP3-encoding software. Archos Technology Inc.;tel. (949) 453-1121; e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org; Web www.archos.com.
- The Computer Sound Morpher (Win; $49) from Intel Playfeatures a handheld recorder that can capture four minutes of soundwith its built-in adjustable microphone. You can transfer the sounds toyour computer using the supplied USB cable. The Computer Sound Morpherincludes Windows 95/98 — compatible software for editing andsyncing your audio to animated onscreen images. You also get more than90 sound effects to get you started. Intel Corporation; Web www.intelplay.com.
- Effexon ($329), the latest in the Technosaurus line of SmallMonsters, is a single-channel effects processor that combines two bandsof parametric EQ with a voltage-controlled oscillator, ring modulator,and overdrive circuit. The overdrive circuit is normalized between thetwo EQs, so you can add severe squawk to almost any source material.Technosaurus/Drum Machine Museum (distributor); e-mail email@example.com; Web www.drummachine.com.
- The Metasonix TM-1 ($399) processor is unique for its sizeand for its functions. It combines a vacuum-tube ring modulator withthe tube-based waveshaper from the TS-21 Hellfire Modulator, in astompbox-size package. It's also designed to fit into the frame of aSynthesis Technology MOTM analog modular synth. Sounds processedthrough the TM-1 are just as distorted and unpredictable as you wouldexpect. Metasonix; tel. (707) 263-5343; e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org; Web www.metasonix.com.
- From the United Kingdom comes Rosedene Audio's appropriately namedPocket Theremin ($150). Although small, the battery-powered,space-controlled instrument includes a pitch antenna, a built-inspeaker, an RCA output jack, and a sensitivity knob. Run it through afew effects devices — the TM-1 and Effexon will do just fine— for some screaming new sounds. Rosedene Audio; tel.44-174-782-0536; e-mail email@example.com; Web www.fullerton.demon.co.uk.
- Whether you want to back up a hard drive or make a demo, everystudio needs to burn CDs. Ahead Software's Nero 5.5 (Win; $69)supports 74-, 80-, and 90-minute media, has drag-and-dropfunctionality, and comes bundled with an MPEG-1 encoder for creatingVCDs; Cover/Designer, a program for creating inserts and labels;and Toolkit for testing and modifying the speed of your CD-ROMdrive. Ahead Software AG; tel. 49-724-891-1800; e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org; Web www.nero.com or www.ahead.de.
- MES iSynth (Mac; $79) is a fun and easy-to-use software synththat includes a step sequencer, a mixer (with mute automation), anarpeggiator, and effects. The sounds are generated by a pair ofsamplers, a bass synth, a mono synth, and a drum module. One-barpatterns can be chained together to create songs, and you can controliSynth in real time via MIDI using OMS. MES/Cycling '74(distributor); tel. (415) 621-5743; e-mail email@example.com; Web www.cycling74.com.
- With Plasma (Win; $69), Cakewalk offers musicians interestedin loop-based composition and remixing a set of multitrack audio andMIDI tools taken from its flagship program, Sonar. Besides itsbeat- and pitch-matching features, Plasma accommodates DirectXInstruments software-synth plug-ins, such as DreamStation (bundled withthe program), and includes FXPad, a plug-in that lets you use ajoystick to control DirectX effects. Cakewalk; tel. (888) CAKEWALK or(617) 423-9004; e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org; Web www.cakewalk.com.
- Magix PlayR Jukebox XXL (Win; $49.99) offers the buddingremixer a chance to edit and combine audio and visual material in realtime. You can set your music to a JPEG slide show or marry it to a livevideo feed. PlayR Jukebox XXL includes an audio editor, audioand video effects, and much more. A CD of 1,100 sounds is alsoincluded. Magix Entertainment Corp. USA; tel. (888) 866-2449 or (310)656-0644; e-mail email@example.com; Web www.magix.net.