HEY, YOU deserve it. Or maybe a friend or significant other deserves it. It’s the end of the year, and you’ve survived 2012— the Mayan calendar turned out to be just a calendar and not a Prophet of Doom, you’ve cleaned all the mud off your shoes from stepping in political campaign commercials, guitars are still cool, the music business is showing signs of figuring out some new directions, and it’s the holidays! Sure, your employer is too cheap to give you a bonus, but no worries—you can find yourself some pretty cool stuff for not a lot of bucks.
Following is a list of 22 worthy stocking-stuffers, arranged alphabetically by manufacturer; in recognition of what we’ll euphemistically refer to as “economic realities,” all of them cost $100 or less. To arrive at that price, we dispensed with the usual MSRP, MAP, “street,” and other weird numeric variants in favor of listing how much money you’ll actually need to buy something (excluding taxes). But it’s still a good idea to shop around—you might find some of these on sale. Happy holidays!
Whether you’re a laptop DJ, use a laptop for remote control in the studio, or need to save space on your desktop (the physical one, not the one with the cute little icons), a laptop stand is just the ticket. Akai’s enigmatically-named Laptop Stand is, well, an affordable and sturdy laptop stand.
AMERICAN RECORDER TECHNOLOGIES
Talk about adapters: TRS to XLR, 1/8" to TRS, 1/8" to RCA, TS to RCA, RCA to XLR, dual banana plugs, rackmount screws, cable ties . . . you get the idea. Think of it as gig insurance for all of those times, when you’re trying to fit a round peg into a square hole. Or jack.
Give your iOS device the gift of good audio with a stereo condenser mic that plugs into the device’s digital connector, thus bypassing the onboard audio preamp and converters. It even has a line/guitar/mic-friendly input and sensitivity switch.
It’s a contact cleaner, conductivity enhancer, it dissolves oxidation and corrosion, and does your laundry. Okay, it doesn’t really do your laundry. But if you’re tired of hearing crackles when you turn a switch or insert a plug into a jack, this is the droid you’re looking for.
GrooveTech Guitar Player Tech Kit
What a difference a good guitar setup makes— assuming you have prolevel tools, and a guide to tell you how to do it. This kit has both: tools include 11 hex keys, truss rod adjuster, thickness gauge, ruler, capo, cutters, string winder, and 6-in-1 screwdriver. The tools are lifetime guaranteed, too.
If you have to ask what it is, you haven’t been paying attention: invented in 1969, it remains the coolest guitar accessory since the vibrato tailpiece. Formerly available only direct, you can now find the EBow at Sweetwater, Guitar Center, and various distributors worldwide.
iKlip Studio Desktop Stand for iPad
With the iPad becoming an increasingly popular studio accessory, where do you put it? This desktop stand holds the iPad securely, whether in portrait or landscape mode, at your choice of angles for convenient finger-pointing and swiping.
I use this all the time because I use batteries. From checking a 9V battery for my beloved DriveTool Junior pedal to replacing the AAA cells in a wireless keyboard, the Batt-O-Meter doesn’t just let you know if the battery is alive, but tells you its type and remaining capacity.
NANOKONTROL2 Slim-Line USB Control Surface
Korg makes a bunch of cool stuff for less than $100, so this was a tough choice. But if you don’t have some kind of control surface for tweaking virtual instruments, effects, and fader strips in your DAW, this hits the sweet spot between “I can actually use it” and “I can actually afford it.”
IEC(F)-3 Prong(M) Power Adapter
Uh-oh . . . you lost the IEC cable for your rack gear or keyboard or whatever. Carry one of these around, and you can plug your gear into any available AC extension cord. Someday you’ll need this; might as well pick one up now.
2 LED USB Light
It’s a DJ favorite, but any time you need to work with a laptop under low-light conditions, this light . . . uh . . . shines. Just plug it into your laptop’s USB port, and two white, bright LEDs can light up the keyboard. It’s also great for illuminating the back of computers and other gear.
Cable Station Pedalboard Cable Kit
Pedalboard cables come in two popular sizes: too short and too long. So why not make your own? It doesn’t matter if you hate soldering or are all thumbs, because the Pedalboard Cable Kit has enough jacks and wire to make five sturdy, high-quality, custom cables in minutes— without soldering.
TriPad Mic Stand Isolator
Primacoustic comes up with a lot of products that are so simple and obvious that no one ever thought of them before. Case in point: TriPad. Put these on your drum mic stands, and cut way down on vibration transfer. Cheap, cheerful, and effective.
KS-18Z Keyboard Stand
While keyboard stands are common, this one handles up to 198 pounds and accommodates 88-key keyboards. It weighs only 17 pounds, and folds up for convenient transport. I presume I’m not the only one who finds the words “sturdy” and “easy setup and tear down” appealing.
Meteor USB Mic
USB mics are handy. USB mics like the Meteor with a fold-up stand, a headphone jack with volume control, and zero latency-monitoring are even more handy. And, if you want to strike up a lively conversation with TSA agents, just stick this cool-looking USB mic in your carry- on bag.
Yes, it’s a classic mic. Yes, it’s been used on thousands of recordings. Yes, it handles abuse amazingly well. And yes, it actually is a $100 mic, so it’s Shurely worth having this baby (or the Shure SM58, its $100 relative) in your mic locker.
Guitar Case Roadie
This stupid-simple clever device lets you carry Two Things That Aren’t Too Thick with Handles, like guitar cases, keyboard cases, gig bags, etc. So you can carry two guitars into the gig with one hand, and have a hand free for opening doors, scratching yourself, or fighting off adoring fans.
CMC-PD Pad Controller
Although four of Steinberg’s CMC controllers are Steinberg-specific, the CMC-QC Quick Controller and CMC-PD Pad Controller work with pretty much anything and include software editors for assigning controls. The CMD-PD is aces for groovemeisters—especially since the software has that 4x4 pad matrix we all know and love.
Home and Studio Guitar Keeper
You want your guitar easily accessible while recording, but a guitar stand takes up space, and you don’t want to keep putting your axe into a case and taking it out again. So, put your wall space to use and hang your guitar. String Swing even handles headstocks with single or uneven heels.
PDX-11 Portable iPod/iPhone Player Dock
We understand: You don’t want to carry around the Behringer iNuke Boom (unless you also plan to live in it). Fortunately, Yamaha has a much more manageable alternative—an iPod/iPhone player dock that gives your iOS player a big voice with a portable package.
iXZ Audio Interface for iOS Devices
You carry your iPhone with you; now you can carry a way to record pretty much anything into it—the iXZ has XLR with phantom power (really), an instrument input, and headphone/line out. It also looks cool, and is small enough to fit in the average pocket.
1 SPOT Space-Saving Adapter
This global AC adapter takes up only one spot on a barrier strip, can power multiple effects (1700mA maximum), and replaces a Boss PSA, Boss ACA, Danelectro DA-1, DOD PS-200R, Dunlop ECB- 03, Ibanez AC-109, Korg A30950, Morley 9V, or Zoom AD-0006. What’s not to like?