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10 essential stocking fillers for music techheads
Gift-buying for the high-tech musician can be tricky – chances are that most of the stuff they want is either outrageously expensive or so ridiculously geeky that you don't even know what it is.
However, MusicRadar has come up with ten eminently affordable things that will put a smile on any studio-tanned face.
These products aren't listed in any particular order of preference - just take a look and pick a present that suits your taste and budget.
Blue Microphones Icicle $60
OK, a cartridge-shaped gizmo that converts a standard XLR mic into a USB one might not sound like the kind of product that's going to get anyone's Christmas bells jingling, but just consider its usefulness. A phantom powering option means that it can handle condenser as well as dynamic mics, and it's called the Icicle for God's sake – what could be more festive than that?
Buying your beloved a new hardware synth might be out of the question this credit-crunched Christmas, but this is a fine budget-friendly alternative. The re-issued Stylophone sounds just like the original, but comes with a volume knob, three different sounds, a vibrato function and the option to plug in your iPod and jam along to your favourite songs. Bundle with a false beard for Rolf Harris-related tomfoolery on Christmas Day.
AQ Interactive Korg DS-10 £30
Stylus-related fun of a more hi-tech nature can be had with this Nintendo DS-based version of Korg's MS-20 analogue synth. In fact, it gives you two synths to play with, plus a drum machine, a sequencer and an effects section. This being the case, you can use the DS-10 to create complete tracks, and if you add a plastic straw into the mix, you've got your very own talkbox.
It's not going to get the crowd going at your office party, but this delightfully packaged concept album is a fascinating historical document. Each of the 20 tracks was created exclusively by a different synth from a different year, and the accompanying full-colour booklet features notes on each by Ben 'Benge' Edwards himself. Chin-strokingly wonderful.
Let's face it, TV at Christmas is usually awful – far better to turn off the idiot box and play a nice relaxing card came. We're not talking about a few common-or-garden rounds of Canasta, though – with a deck of Vintage Synth Trumps, you can use your knowledge of classic hardware keyboards to top the stats on your opponent's card and win it for yourself.
Perfect for anyone who wants to take their music making back to the really old school, this music box has a two-and-a-half octave range and can play both chords and single notes. Sound is generated by feeding a hole-punched strip through the device using a hand crank – you get two blank strips in the box and more can be purchased separately.
What do you buy for the person who eats, sleeps and drinks music technology? We're not sure about the eating and drinking (although perhaps a crate of Ableton Live beer could take care of the latter?), but when it comes to sleeping, it has to be the 808 pillow. That said, we're not quite sure what any potential partners might think of it – that big knob looks like a bit of a passion killer.
Korg nanoSeries controllers from £49
You've heard plenty about these in 2008, but that's only because they're exactly what many laptop-based musicians have been waiting for. Actually, we'll qualify that by saying that the nanoPad (drum pad) and nanoKontrol (mini mixer) are what they've been waiting for – these are great, but the severely comprised nanoKey keyboard should be approached with caution.
At this time of year, a gadget that lets you make music and keeps your fingers warm has got to be a winner, so say hello to the Piano Hands. Designed to let you play one of eight instrument sounds on any hard surface (each finger corresponds to a different note), they also feature 30 rhythms and an adjustable tempo control. Phalange-related fun for all the family.
Blue Mikey $80
Another tempting gizmo from Blue Microphones, Mikey is a stereo condenser mic that plugs straight into your iPod (though touch and iPhone models aren't supported). It's perfect for anyone who wants to record their song ideas or capture real-world sounds (there are three user-selectable gain settings) and the fact that there's a speaker onboard means that you can hear recordings without plugging your headphones in.