Does your gift shopping this season include an electronic musician, producer, or DJ with a technology obsession? Look no further–Dubspot rounds up the best holiday gifts for under $50, $100, and $200.
1. Bliptronic 5000 Synth / Sequencer ($49)
The unassuming Bliptronic 5000 is a small, battery-powered 8×8 grid-based synthesizer and sequencer that is sold exclusively by ThinkGeek (a site that you’ll want to bookmark anyway for unique holiday gifts this season). While the sounds and functionality aren’t quite the same as Yamaha’s Tenori-On or the Monome, this device is much more affordable for those wanting to try grid-based sequencing and music-making. Additionally, mod kits such as the Bliptronome ($69) offer open-source Monome emulation at a fraction of the price of an actual Monome.
2. Traktor Pro 2 DJ Software ($49)
Been waiting to get into the digital DJ game? Now’s the time to do it because Native Instruments is having a Thanksgiving sale that will last through the weekend, offering very attractive discounts on Traktor as well as many other products. They are offering 50% off a selection including Traktor Pro 2 (which brings it down to less than $50), all their Maschine Expansion sound libraries, and many of their most popular sampled instruments and effects from their Komplete line: Massive, Reaktor, Kontakt, the Vintage Compressors and more.
3. Studio Accessories from Monoprice.com
Monoprice.com has long been a go-to source of inexpensive computer cables and accessories, but if you’re gift-shopping for a producer you should know that they also carry audio accessories as well. Monoprice has some great prices on audio cables, studio stands, iPad stands and accessories and many other items that would be great stocking stuffers.
4. Shure SM57 Microphone ($99)
Is the aspiring musician in your house in need a of a microphone? Shure’s SM57 has been around for decades and is still an industry standard among recording professionals. In the studio it’s primarily used for recording instruments but it’s a well-rounded mic that can be used for almost any application, a workhorse that can take a beating and still record anything you need. A valuable tool to have in your kit.
5. EditorsKeys Keyboards / KB Keyboard Covers ($20 – $99)
Dedicated key commands are one of the best weapons in your DAW arsenal. There is usually a keystroke for every action you could want to do, the only problem is taking the time to memorize all of those commands. EditorsKeys, a music gear company out of the UK, aims to enhance your workflow in Ableton Live, Logic, Reason and other DAWs with their Audio Editing Keyboards ($96), custom keyboards with keystrokes printed on them for your DAW of choice. The company also offers silicone keyboard skin covers ($45) and sticker sets ($21) for those who wish to use their existing keyboard. In the US, KB Covers also has an extensive line of keyboard covers for Mac users.
6. iRig KEYS iOS/USB MIDI Controller Keyboard ($99)
A new and inexpensive MIDI keyboard caught our eyes recently, the iRig KEYS ($99) from IK Multimedia. This mini-keyboard, comparable in size to the Akai Pro MPK mini we have featured before, connects directly to the standard iOS 30-pin dock connector of an iPhone/iPad OR the USB port on your Mac/PC. (Note that the iPhone 5 now has a different type of connector, but you can still use the iRig KEYS with it if you get the proper adapter.) When hooked up to an iPhone or iPad, this mini keyboard can be powered by the mobile device itself, and for longer playing sessions it can be powered by connecting its USB port to a computer or power adapter.
7. QuNeo 3D Pad MIDI Controller ($199)
The QuNeo pad MIDI controller from Keith McMillen Instruments brings a fresh design philosophy to a market dominated by endless variations on the same common designs. While its pads appear superficially like those of an MPC or NI’s Maschine, QuNeo also adds touch recognition in multiple dimensions. The “3D” in its name refers to the fact that its sensors can send velocity, pressure, and location information in addition to simple on/off note triggering. The drum pads can send x/y axis parameters, or each pad can send 4 separate note/pressure commands, one from each corner, making the 4×4 pad array into an 8×8 grid of 64 triggers. Some pads can also send direction and width information. The QuNeo’s dimensions are also identical to an iPad’s, which allows you to use it with popular iPad stands and accessories.
8. iConnect MIDI
The iConnectMIDI is a small powered MIDI hub that sports two sets of standard MIDI in/out connections and three USB ports in a compact interface. It acts as a MIDI hub for your iPad or iPhone (this is the primary function of the device) and creates a seamless connection from the iPad to your computer, or from your iOS device to other pieces of MIDI gear. It supports multiple MIDI controllers, two sets of standard MIDI in/out ports, and three USB connections. iConnectivity explains,”iConnectMIDI is an enhanced MIDI interface that enables communication between 5 pin MIDI, USB MIDI, Mac, PC and iOS devices–all at the same time.” That last part is the important part. While you can connect your iPad to one controller with the Apple Camera Connection Kit, or use the iPad over Wi-Fi to control a computer, this creates only a single connection from the iPad to another device. With the iConnectMIDI, you could have, say, a laptop, an iPad, and a few different MIDI controllers all sending signals to various pieces of hardware in your studio–quite a useful device.
9. MeeBlip SE Digital Synthesizer ($149)
MeeBlip is one of the coolest ideas we’ve seen recently, and a great start to learning your way around synthesis. The instrument comes in a few build-it-yourself varieties, the simplest of which will allow almost anyone to put the project together and learn how things work from the inside-out. Once constructed, the MeeBlip SE offers some meaty digital synth sounds and a plethora of knobs and switches on the front panel to affect your signal. The project was launched by Reflex Audio’s James Grahame and Create Digital Music’s Peter Kirn as an open-source kit that is meant to be hacked or built to your own personal specifications: “MeeBlip is a hackable, affordable digital synthesizer, made for accessible sound and hands-on control. It can be someone’s first synth. It can be a unique-sounding addition to your music setup, playable with MIDI hardware and software. It can be a synth you open up and modify, learning about sound creation, code, and electronics. Or it can be the basis of new projects and ideas.”
10. Korg Monotribe (list price $340, available online for $199 from various retailers)
The Monotribe combines a (real) analog synth based on the Monotron pocket synthesizer and an 8-step pattern sequencer from the Electribe series. It’s battery-powered, portable and has a speaker on that back that sounds decent enough for tweaking out at home or in the park. There is 3-part analog drum sequencer as well, although the drums on this machine aren’t what you’ll be buying it for. The real interest here is an analog synth that uses the same filter as the classic MS-20 synth Combine this with a ribbon keyboard, selectable oscillator waveform, noise generator, versatile LFO and you’ve got a powerful little sound machine that can create thumping bass lines, metallic noise, 303-style acid lines (minus the accent/slide) and more. It’s a specific sound and aimed directly at electronic musicians but that sound is really nice for a box priced at $199.
11. Dubspot Gift Certificate ($125 and up)
Of course our roundup wouldn’t be complete without mentioning Dubspot Gift Certificates. Dubspot is offering a variety of gift certificates for music production and DJ courses to suit any aspiring producer or DJ on your gift list. Give the gift of music with a Dubspot Gift Certificate this holiday season! We offer courses ranging from one-off weekend workshops to longer in-depth programs, please check the link for more information. You can choose from one of the gift certificate ideas listed there, or pick from any of our course offerings and then call 1.877.DUBSPOT or email firstname.lastname@example.org to order.