Ho ho ho - where did the year go!? All of a sudden, the festive season has snuck up onto us once again, and if you're anything like us here at Mixdown, there's a good chance that you're probably incredibly disorganised. To prevent you from having to endure the agony of Michael Bublé churning out another frostbitten rendition of a Christmas carol down the aisles of your local department store, we've put together a comprehensive guide of all the hottest musical gifts to keep your eyes peeled for this festive season. Whether you're looking for a new audio interface, microphone, pair of headphones, studio monitors or even a PA, this is the list for you.
Focusrite – Scarlett 2i2 (Gen 3)
Distributed by: Innovative Music | Expect to pay: $289
Recommended For: The budding home producer looking for a no-frills interface to get them started on their craft.
Sound/Versatility: Focusrite’s Scarlett 2i2 audio interface has been a mainstay within the entry-level bracket for a minute now, and the third generation of this red box really does prove why it’s lasted so long. With high quality audio converters and two AIR preamp inputs on the front, you’re absolutely spoilt for what you’re paying here in the sound department.
Usability: This thing is so easy to use - simply plug in your instrument or microphone, use the front facing knob to adjust your monitor mix and input levels, then hit record on your DAW and you’re good to go. Can recording get any more simple? We think not.
Construction: The Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 is both sturdy and lightweight, with its compact dimensions letting you lug it around in a backpack for whenever a song may call your name. It’s also red, which means it goes faster - right?
Overall: Whether you’re a hobbyist or looking to pursue music as a career, you really can’t go wrong with a Scarlett 2i2. Focusrite have also bundled the third generation of Scarlett interfaces with some pretty nifty software, including a Pro Tools and Splice starter kit, letting you whip this thing out and make beats straight out of the box. Delightful!
PreSonus – Eris 3.5 BT Monitors
Distributed By: Link Audio | Expect To Pay: $249
Recommended For: Podcasters, gamers, content creators and entry-level producers.
Sound/Versatility: While they’re not marketed as studio monitors, there’s nothing stopping you from utilising the Eris 3.5 BT Monitors in your bedroom studio. They’ve got a great balanced sound, with the composite drivers allowing for a tight bass response that’ll remain clean even when blasted at high volumes, while the 1” silk tweeter output glimmering high frequencies without sounding too bright.
Usability: PreSonus aim to make their products as intuitive as possible, and the Eris BT 3.5 monitors certainly reflects this. Setting up the Eris BT monitors with your computer and audio devices is easy, and the inclusion of Bluetooth connectivity allows for even greater control via your smartphone. The acoustic tuning knobs on the back are a great touch to adjust the characteristics of your monitors for different rooms, too.
Construction: Rugged, lightweight and compact, these monitors will squeeze onto your desk space or bookshelf with ease. They also don’t look too tech-y, making the perfect companion for an entry-level turntable setup.
Overall: PreSonus have bagged a winner with the Eris 3.5 BT monitors. They sound awesome and are incredibly good value for money, and are perfectly suited for both creating content and listening casually.
Audio Technica AT-LP60-BT Turntable
Distributed by: Technical Audio Group | Expect to pay: $299
Recommended For: Novice record collectors looking to test the waters before diving in.
Sound/Versatility: The AT-LP60-BT Turntable is by all means a technological marvel – its main attraction is its wireless Bluetooth functionality that easily pairs to speakers, headphones, or other devices, doing away with all kinds of annoying wires and cables. Wired capabilities are also available, allowing the user to connect to more traditional speaker setups. Both 33-1/3 and 45 RPM playback options are available, with the package handily including the 45 RPM adapter for your vintage records if required.
Usability: Up to eight different Bluetooth devices are able to be stored in the AT-LP60-BT’s onboard memory. Operating the turntable itself is uncomplicated business – simply hit start to begin spinning some wax, and the function button to pair up your chosen device if desired. To further add to its convenience, the turntable’s fully automatic capabilities ceases playback and returns the tonearm to its resting nook at the end of a record.
Construction: The AT-LP60-BT is a DC servo-controlled, belt-driven turntable, with an aluminum platter. It features two sturdy feet to reduce surface vibrations, comes topped with a removable hinged dust cover, and has a choice of two colours: white or black.
Overall: This entry-level turntable is a fantastic option tailored for the new wave of millennial vinyl enthusiasts anxious to play their vinyl on something that won’t break the bank.
Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT Headphones
Distributed by: Technical Audio Group | Expect to pay: $379
Recommended For: Music lovers craving a pair of studio-grade wireless headphones.
Sound/Versatility: Audio Technica’s M series of headphones have been widely praised for their excellent sound quality, comfort, and reliability. The ATH-M50xBT is another step forward for the innovative company, adding Bluetooth capabilities to their acclaimed M50X headphones. A full charge allows up to 40 hours of continuous use, ensuring ample use throughout the week.
Usability: Aesthetically, the ATH-M50xBT retains all of its sleek and stealthy looks from its predecessor, in addition to its exceptional sound signature. What’s new are its earcups, which now house convenient buttons that handle calls, music playback, and volume adjustment. Touch controls located on the left earcup even provide easy access to your device’s voice assistant. The package also ships with a separate 3.5mm audio cable coupled with a single-button inline control for physically wired connectivity.
Construction: These headphones feature an enveloping over-ear design for stellar sound isolation. Both earpads and headband are lusciously padded and permit long hours of listening with ease. Sound is powered by a pair of 45mm large-aperture drivers, which deliver a balanced and accurate bass response.
Overall: You can never go wrong with a pair of Audio Technica Headphones. With terrific sound quality paired with both wired and wireless output, this may truly be the perfect gift to your loved ones.
PreSonus HD-10 BT Headphones
Distributed by: Link Audio | Expect to pay: $229
Recommended For: The everyday commuter who needs some peace and quiet in addition to great sound quality.
Sound/Versatility: The HD-10BT offers studio-grade sonic fidelity in a convenient, cable-free package. One full charge grants up to 16 hours of battery life, which is perfect for trips both short and long. The included hardshell case even packs a variety of cables and adapters, which allows this pair of headphones to be plugged into an audio interface, mixer, or a regular 3.5mm outlet. An inbuilt microphone even lets you answer calls with no extra hassle.
Usability: Apart from its excellent sound quality, the HD-10BT features intuitive touch controls for easy manipulation on the fly. It also offers Active Noise Cancelling (ANC), which reduces ambient noise by up to 18 decibels. This feature is an absolute life-saver on lengthy flights or train rides and allows you to enjoy your media without any unwanted intrusions.
Construction: These headphones are comfortably padded across all contact surfaces, ensuring utmost comfort over extended listening sessions. The excellent sound quality is powered by a pair of 40mm drivers that deliver balanced and great-sounding audio across the entire frequency spectrum. Additionally, the over-ear and closed-back design guarantees maximum natural isolation and minimal sound leakage.
Overall: If you’re looking for a new pair of headphones to treat yourself with this Christmas, look no further. With more and more phone manufacturers moving away from the headphone jack, the PreSonus HD-10 BT is an excellent pick for the foreseeable wireless future.
Mackie MC-250 Professional Closed Back Headphones
Distributed by: Amber Technology | Expect to pay: $229
Recommended For: Audio professionals looking for an affordable, high-quality set of cans for the studio.
Sounds/Versatility: With dual 50mm drivers and a frequency response of 10Hz – 20kHz, the Mackie MC-250’s are extremely transparent, making them particularly suited to mixing tracks in the studio. Delivering a punchy low-end response and crystal clear high frequencies, you’ll hear nuances you never knew existed while tracking, and if you’re a casual listener, albums and videos will sound better than ever.
Usability: Contrary to other models on the market which are packed with unnecessary features and functions, the Mackie MC-250 headphones are incredibly straightforward: just plug them in and you’re good to go. There’s no hidden tricks here – just studio-grade, high quality audio.
Construction: The collapsible fold-up design and rugged construction of the Mackie MC-250’s allows for ease of portability and storage, and the comfortable padded headband and ear pads let you wear them for hours without experiencing any fatigue. There’s also a nifty carry bag for when you’re on the go, which I thought was a very welcome touch!
Overall: Mixing is always a bit of a chore, but the Mackie MC-250 headphones do a great job of making the experience as pleasant and comfortable as possible, and if you’re looking for a pair of durable, high-grade cans for everyday listening, these ones are definitely worth considering.
Distributed by: Amber Technology | Expect to pay: $2249
Recommended for: Home recordists or podcasters who are ready to make that first leap into pro land (and without taking out a second mortgage). Anyone looking for a small scale version of that classic SSL sound.
Sound/Versatility: C’mon……It’s an SSL. Think crystalline clarity, a broadband frequency response and headroom for days! Named after it’s input channel count, the SiX is equipped with scaled down versions of the same preamp, EQ and routing circuits that made the brand the icon that it is today, all conveniently housed in a super mobile desktop configuration. The inclusion of a G-series bus compressor (a simplified variant of one the most coveted ‘glue’ compressors of all time) only sweetens the deal.
Usability: The SiX provides the perfect introduction to the broader SSL layout, with super flexible routing options, extremely intuitive eq/comp sections and the kind of audio quality that you’ve been missing all those years. Pair it with the right interface or A/D converter and you will be well on your way to world class capture.
Construction: Exactly what you expect from an SSL product- rock solid and sleek. The SiX comes off the back of over 50 years of servicing the professional studio and broadcast market and stays true to the lofty standards set by SSL consoles past.
Overall: A studio classic for the home or project space (and at a more than attainable pricepoint) the SiX should be on the wish-list for anybody looking to make that transition into the world of truly professional audio quality.
Apogee One Audio Interface
Distributed by: Amber Technology | Expect to pay: $459
Recommended For: Singer-songwriters in need of a high-quality device to get ideas out of their head and into the world.
Sound/Versatility: Don’t be put off by its size – the Apogee One is a serious piece of kit. With two impressive analogue inputs and outputs and a glistening 24-bit/96kHz AD/DA conversion rate, it’s capable of churning out studio-quality recordings straight out of the box. The built in condenser microphone is also surprisingly sufficient for recording vocal demos and acoustic guitars both separately and simultaneously when you're in a pinch.
Usability: I wish all audio interfaces were this simple! The Apogee One works fluidly with both Mac and Windows, and includes a connectivity kit to even hook it up to your iOS devices for portable recording. Navigating the unit is made easy by the oversized control knob, and Apogee’s included Maestro software gives you simple and intuitive direct monitoring.
Construction: Just like Bruce Springsteen, the Apogee One is born in the USA, featuring an eye-pleasing die-cast aluminum chassis that is both sturdy and lightweight. Its inconspicuous dimensions also make storage and transportation a walk in the park!
Overall: It mightn’t look like much, but the Apogee One is easily one of best bang-for-your-buck audio interfaces available on the market today, and if you’re a self-accompanied musician, it really is a no-brainer.
Apogee Duet Audio Interface
Distributed By: Amber Technology | Expect To Pay: $1099
Recommended For: Anyone looking to get their mitts on one of the most acclaimed audio interfaces in recent years.
Sound/Versatility: Favoured by the likes of Flume, Grimes, Jack Antonoff and Shawn Mendes, the Apogee Duet boasts a mean reputation, and it’s easy to hear why. Vocals, keys and guitars sound beautifully crisp through its world-class analogue preamps, and its discrete circuitry AD/DA converters means you’ll receive incredible results even in the dullest of rooms.
Usability: There’s nothing convoluted about the Apogee Duet: all you need to do is plug in and record. The touch buttons on the face of the unit are simple and effective, USB MIDI I/O makes connecting external keyboards and controllers super easy, and USB bus power means that you can power the interface with a laptop alone – although there’s a DC input just in case.
Construction: The Duet features a tough die-cast aluminum construction, and is just as pretty on the outside as the circuitry on the inside is. Definitely one of the most aesthetic audio interfaces you could treat your studio to.
Overall: I’ve never heard anyone speak ill of the Duet, and it’s considered an industry standard for a reason – it’s sleek, slim, sounds superb and works across multiple platforms. What more could you need?
PreSonus Studio 24C Interface
Distributed by: Link Audio | Expect to pay: $249
Recommended For: Musicians and producers of any level. The 24C acts as a great entry level interface for budding engineers, or alternatively, a great on-the-move solution for professionals that connects via USB-C to either Mac or PC.
Sound/Versatility: While only offering two inputs and two outputs (most likely used for monitors), as well as a separate stereo headphone out, the XMAX-L mic preamps sound great and the size of the unit offers great versatility.
Usability: Being of such small size but high quality, the 24C is a very usable interface packed into such a small package. It’s bus powered so doesn’t require annoying power cables and extra mess.
Construction: The 24C is an all-metal chassis, complete with metal knobs. It’s built for life on the road if need be! The rear panel features a Kaspersky lock to securely fix the interface to your desk or similar, and is small enough to be tucked away and out of the road so you can fill your studio and racks with even more gear to compliment the 24C.
Overall: The 24C is a solution for artists of any level, whether recording demos at home, or complex overdubs on the move, e.g. on the road, at rehearsal or in different studios.
PreSonus PX-1 Microphone
Distributed by: Link Audio | Expect to pay: $199
Recommended For: Singers recording at home, studio engineers. The PX-1 is a large diaphragm condenser mostly designed for vocals, but with a frequency response from 20Hz all the way up to 18kHz, can handle most applications.
Sound/Versatility: A quick look at the frequency response graph on the PreSonus website confirms that the PX-1 is one of the most balanced mics I’ve used. The frequency response is more or less flat until about 7kHz and it’s octave, 14kHz. This mic is ready to be coloured by creative micing or analogue preamps.
Usability: The balanced and uncoloured response make the PX-1 a great solution for almost any application, allowing colour to be added later in the signal chain or during mixing.
Construction: The PX-1, while being a robust microphone, won’t take well to be dropped or thrown around. The capsule is well insulated, the filter solid, however care should always be taken when handling a microphone.
Overall: The PX-1 is not only a great first ‘proper’ microphone for entry level producers, but also a great all-rounder for experienced engineers with much more expensive mics at their disposal. The PX-1 could easily find it’s way into regular use for any genre and instrument.
Distributed by: Link Audio | Expect to pay: $299
Recommended For: This product is recommended and designed for DAW users working primarily in the digital world, but miss or need the tactile feeling of a fader for either mixing, automating or recording.
Sound/Versatility: The Faderport is a single channel/fader that can be toggled between sends and returns, offering automation options for effects and parallel processing. It can be switched between different channels, offering a highly versatile tool for mixing and recording.
Usability: Being such a small product, the FaderPort can easily be stowed away in a bag and used on the fly or incorporated into a more permanent set-up at home or a professional studio.
Construction: The FaderPort is well built and laid out, offering a motorized fader, 360° encoder and 23 other buttons for play/stop, skip, panning, assigning automation with your DAW, and doesn’t feel over-designed or finicky for even a second.
Overall: The FaderPort is the single channel version that introduces users to the world of more involved DAW controllers, but would be endlessly handy even for engineers and producers with more channels at their disposal. The FaderPort would still come in handy!
Aston Stealth Microphone
Distributed by: Link Audio | Expect to pay: $599
Recommended For: This microphone is recommended for anyone who needs to record a source and wants good results. The Aston Stealth is a top-level microphone in a tidy, inconspicuous package.
Sound/Versatility: The Stealth is designed to be used with one of it’s four voices that alter the character and colour of the microphone. They’re designed for vocals, guitars and drums. This makes the Stealth a super versatile mic, offering four mics in one - and they’re believable voicings too.
Usability: Having different voicings at the flick of a switch makes the Stealth a super versatile microphone, as it can be used easily as a stereo pair for a stereo signal, or dual Stealth’s can alternatively act as completely different microphones on different sources.
Construction: The Stealth is a Class-A mic preamp and diaphragm encased in an internal Sorbothane shock mount. All of this is wrapped up in a metal chassis that won’t let you down. The chassis features side rejection, and a handy wheel to toggle between voicings.
Overall: The Stealth from Aston Mics is a no-brainer. It’s all rounder, it’s built to last and it’s built to be inconspicuous. It would be a great addition to any mic collection, even if you already own one.
Aston Shield GN Pop Filter
Distributed by: Link Audio | Expect to pay: $69
Recommended For: The Aston Shield is a product for anyone wanting to record vocals or other wind-prone instruments either at home or in a professional studio. Traditionally, op filters are used for vocals to prevent in removing unwanted air from hitting a microphone diaphragm, but equally for instruments such as kick drums or horns that move a lot of air.
Sound/Versatility: The Aston Shield is a well-made and re-designed version of a pop filter, featuring a stainless steel shield instead of the more traditional mesh (or stocking) that is used. The malleable gooseneck make it easily move-able and attachable, providing a super versatile product.
Usability: Thanks to the gooseneck clamp, as well as easy integration into a mic cradle with the Aston shock mount, the GN Pop Filter is incredibly usable.
Construction: The stainless steel filter is embedded into a solid frame and helps the filter retain a nice curve for supreme microphone isolation, session after session.
Overall: Something about small improvements to existing products really catches my attention, and the stainless steel shield seems to make sense while being more robust, less malleable and therefore tearable, and easier to clean.
QSC CP8 Powered Speaker
Distributed by: Technical Audio Group | Expect to pay: $849
Recommended For: The QSC CP8 is a total solution for someone looking to amplify sound in a medium to large space. The CP8 is designed and shaped to be ideal as a foldback wedge for a band, or alternatively as a Front of House speaker via the threaded mounting insert.
Sound/Versatility: At it’s peak, the CP8 can push around 1000 watts of air around, from 53Hz up to 20kHz. The balanced response, as well as QSC’s on board Directivity Matched Transition technology, make for a super versatile speaker.
Usability: While offering a lot of power, the CP8 remains a super compact speaker, measuring 411 × 273 × 256 mm and weighing just over 9kg. This makes it ideal for smaller parties aswell, as it can easily be moved around, mounted and secured without heavy lifting or strain.
Construction: The 8” low-frequency cone and 1.4” compression driver for highs are safely protected behind an 18 Gauge powder-coated steel grille. The grille itself is secured to a solid enclosure.
Overall: The QSC CP8 is a great solution to both installed and portable needs and applications. It can be safely secured to a pole, or used both vertically or horizontally as a monitor or main speaker.
Audio-Technica AT2020USB+ Microphone
Distributed by: Technical Audio Group | Expect to pay: $249
Recommended For: Audio Technica is a company always looking at the needs and requirements of it’s customers. The AT2020 was a first microphone for many, including myself, and the AT2020 USB+ is simply a more user-friendly version for modern needs. The AT2020 USB+ is recommended for podcasts, voiceovers, field recordings and foley, recording on the move and any other application where a standard XLR microphone won’t work.
Sound/Versatility: The AT2020’s in general offer a pleasantly even frequency response, adding little colour and providing a clear and concise pallet for colour and vibe to be added to at a later date. This makes the AT20202 USB+ a superbly versatile microphone, as it can capture can different signals with clarity and confidence.
Usability: The USB connection makes the AT2020, already an award-winning microphone, even more usable and practical. The AT2020 is light-weight, includes a tripod for mounting on desks or other flat surfaces and features a headphone out for latency free monitoring.
Construction: The metal chassis safely protects the microphone’s diaphragm from damage and the windshield fixed into the chassis ensure clear sound in almost all circumstances.
Overall: The AT2020 USB+ is a phenomenal solution for users where an XL microphone won’t work, would be impractical, or would require the purchase of another piece of gear. The USB output integrates easily into different systems, allowing easy and high-quality recordings on the fly.
Sennheiser XSW-D Vocal Set
Distributed by: Sennheiser Australia | Expect to pay: $599
Recommended For: The roaming live vocalist who needs the finest performance to match their onstage acrobatics.
Sounds/Versatility: Sennheiser make some of the best live performance microphones in the industry; that’s a matter of fact, not opinion. The XSW-D Dynamic Vocal Microphone is extremely transparent and boasts an eye-poppingly good low end, while its cardioid pattern makes it suitable for everything from husky soul vocals to distorted, brutal growls.
Usability: Connecting the XSW-D’s wireless XLR female transmitter to the male receiver is simple, and the 2.4 GHz digital transmission means you’re able to use it anywhere in the world without issue. Sennheiser have graced this unit with a whopping range of 75 metres, and its five hour battery life should be more than enough to get you through a few gigs without needing a charge.
Construction: The microphone included in the Sennheiser XSW-D vocal set is surprisingly lightweight, yet feels rugged enough to withstand a pummeling in live conditions. The transmitter and receiver are inconspicuous, and the included mic clip is similarly well-made.
Overall: Sennheiser’s recent wireless series has wormed its way onto stages around the world in a very short time, and it’s easy to tell why when you use the XSW-D Vocal Set. Tip-top quality suitable for the demanding performer.
Sennheiser IE 400 Pro
Distributed by: Sennheiser Australia | Expect to pay: $649
Recommended For: Professional touring musicians who require a precise in-ear mix while performing on noisy stages.
Sound/Versatility: The IE 400 Pro in-ear monitors are used by some of Australia’s finest session musicians on stages around the country, providing pristine, studio-quality sound even while performing at the rowdiest and ramshackle of festivals. They boast a crisp midrange, crystalline high frequencies and a hefty punch in the low end courtesy of the 7mm drivers, while the new TrueResponse technology ensures you’re never battling with pesky artifacts or distortion in your onstage mix.
Usability: These in-ear monitors aren’t complex to use, and Sennheiser bundle them with a bunch of foam and silicone tips in three different sizes and two cable types to make sure the IE 400 Pro monitors fit your personal needs – and ears.
Construction: I’m usually not one to use in-ear monitors due to how invasive they tend to be, but Sennheiser’s IE 400 Pro monitors are quite comfortable, due in part to their flexible, ergonomic design. There’s no chance of these bad boys coming lose mid-set, and the 1.3m cable length won’t tangle easily.
Overall: A practical solution for the touring musician, the Sennheiser IE 400 Pro in-ear monitors are a no-brainer for discrete monitoring in a live situation.
Sennheiser IE 500 Pro
Distributed by: Sennheiser Australia | Expect to pay: $1149
Recommended For: The highest tier of touring musicians and industry professionals. The IE 500 Pro in-ear monitors deliver a level of performance and quality rivaled by none.
Sound/Quality: Premium to the umpteenth degree. These in-ears deliver the highest level of audio quality available in such a compact package, with the dynamic 7mm wideband transducers delivering the finest sound reproduction I’ve ever experienced from a pair of in-ear monitors. Even under maximum sound pressure, the IE 500 Pros won’t come unstuck, with the TrueResponse drivers refining the natural strengths of the diaphragm for a scarily good audio experience, rivaling even the best over-ear cans on the market.
Usability: The Sennheiser IE 500 Pro in-ear monitors are about as simple in use as any old pair of headphones; the difference is, these ones are a zillion times better. Rock up to the gig with a pair of these, and the sound tech will love you forever,
Construction: Ergonomic and built with memory foam to ensure that they remain comfortable even after hours of wearing them, the IE 500 Pro monitors also feature impeccable shielding and a twist-free cable design for the ultimate onstage experience.
Overall: With the IE 500 Pros, Sennheiser prove that they’re the ones setting the standards in the IEM market – you can’t get much better than this.
Sennheiser HD 200 Pro Headphones
Distributed by: Sennheiser Australia | Expect to pay: $149
Recommended For: Casual listeners or producers or DJs on a budget who are seeking a reliable pair of cans that look sweet and sound sweeter.
Sound/Versatility: Even though their at the cheaper end of the Sennheiser spectrum, the HD 200 Pro Headphones still deliver all the high resolution and performance you’d expect from such an illustrious brand. The ambient noise reduction is a great feature for blocking out the drone of the outside world, while the headphones deliver a particularly mean low-end which would leave even the most seasoned of EDM and hip-hop producers weak at the knees.
Usability: The closed-back, padded design of the HD 200 Pros makes them suitable for extended listening sessions, and the extended two metre cable length, while posing the potential to be annoying for casual listeners using these cans in transit, give you more than enough slack to reach around your deskspace without dragging its contents with you.
Construction: Comfortable, sleek and compact, the HD 200 Pro Headphones are classic Sennheiser. A replaceable cable would’ve been a welcome touch, but you can’t win them all.
Overall: Boasting a formidable sound quality for their price range, the Sennheiser HD 200 Pro Headphones are the ideal option for any budding producer, DJ or avid listener.
Sennhesier HD 300 Pro Headphones
Distributed by: Sennheiser Australia | Expect to pay: $369
Recommended For: Musicians and producers who find joy in seeking out the most intricate of details in their mixes, or even just passionate music fans looking to discover nuances in their favourite records they’ve never heard before.
Sound/Versatility: From slinky neo-soul and warm lo-fi indie to pounding industrial techno, the Sennhesier HD 300 Pro Headphones deliver a level of quality that is certain to impress mixing professionals and producers. The linear frequency response of these headphones is quite incredible, ensuring a natural transparency that encourages intelligent mixing decisions and critical thinking, and if you’re simply just using them to listen to music casually, you’re in for a treat.
Usability: Whether you’re performing onstage, behind a mixing desk in the studio or simply traveling home on the train, the Sennhesier HD 300 Pro Headphones won’t feel obstructive or excessive, and require very little set up or thought in use. No secret tricks here.
Construction: Padded to the extreme, sleeker than a space ship and with a tough black finish, the HD 300 Pros are built to last and look good while doing it. The removable 1.5m cable is also perfect for clumsy users like myself…
Overall: A no-brainer for those working day-to-day in varying audio professions, Sennheiser’s HD 300 Pro headphones won’t let you down even on the tightest of deadlines.
KRK ROKIT 5 G4
Distributed by: Jands Australia | Expect to pay: $299
Recommended For: Beat makers, Home Producers, Project Studios, Purveyors of Low End.
Sound/Versatility: If you’ve been in a home studio in the last 15 years, than you know the sound. Impressive low frequency reproduction, punchy low-mids and headroom for days, it’s the same sound that has seen the Rokit series find favour with the Producer/Beatmaker/808 community, since day dot. This latest incarnation of the Rokit series stays true to the singular voicing and sonic character of its predecessors, but with some favourable modern tweaks in the power amp and port design, resulting in an even better low frequency extension and a sweeter sounding top end.
Usability: Having their design roots in what is in essence, a modern industry standard; these are extremely useful studio monitors, both for cross-referencing and as a primary near-field pair. With their powerful DSP/app integration and extremely high headroom, the Rokit 5 G4’s make for an extremely flexible and tweakable monitoring setup, perfect for any budding producer or beatmaker.
Construction: The G4’s feature that same bomb-proof KRK build quality that we’ve come to expect from the Rokit series, but housed in a slightly updated cabinet shape and port design for better recoil and definition. The iconic yellow drivers still remain.
Overall: Having influenced the sound of modern music for the better part of 15 years, the KRK Rokit series are definitely in the running for ‘modern classic’ status. The G4’s provide some of the best return on investment of anything in broader studio-scape and are the perfect gift for anyone with even a passing interest in music production.
Shure Portable Videography Kit
Distributed by: Jands Australia | Expect to pay: $549
Recommended For: Filmmakers, Videographers, Vloggers etc.
Sound/Versatility: The Shure Portable Videography kit is the perfect one-stop recording solution for the boom operator in all of us. With its high quality MV88+ USB-c microphone, tripod mount, windsock and a pair of Shure SE215 in-ear monitors, the kit itself contains everything you need to launch into the world of audio production for post/streaming and all recorded directly to your smartphone.
Usability: An extremely practical gift for anyone with even a passing interest in post production, the Shure Portable Videography Kit has everything you need to get out there and get creative. The sheer quality of the mic/monitor combo, coupled with the easy to use iphone app makes it perfect for beginners to attain very useable sounds with a minimum amount of experience.
Construction: Top notch. In typical Shure fashion, all components in the kit are built to last. Even the accessories like the tripod mount and windjammer indicate a certain level of build quality far beyond what you would normally see in a camera peripheral.
Overall: An ideal entry into the world of video/post audio, the Shure Portable Videography Kit is the kind of gift that really gets the creative juices flowing. With it’s easy to use interface, quality capture and top notch accessories, it really is the gift that keeps on giving.
Soyuz ‘The Launcher’
Distributed by: Studio Connections | Expect to pay: $349
Recommended For: Studio Rats, Creative Tracking Engineers, Horn players, anybody looking to add a bit of vintage charm to proceedings.
Sound/Versatility: Billed as a ‘pre-preamp’, The Launcher aims to put some vintage colour between mic and interface, providing an antidote to the somewhat clinical tendencies of the modern recording chain. Employing a boutique hand-wound transformer and a ‘secret analogue circuit’ designed to add vintage flavour to even the most plain-jane sounding microphone.
Usability: Extremely useable, whether for its intended purpose of making new equipment sound old, or to bring another colour to your ever-expanding sonic palette. Add a reamp box or effects chain to the fold and you are verging on limitless sonic options from your humble mic closet. An extremely useful tool for any recording setup.
Construction: It’s Russian, which is shorthand for tough.
Overall: An awesome present, for the old soul or the young at heart.
Mackie Freeplay Live Portable PA System
Distributed by: Amber Technology | Expect to pay: $909
Recommended For: Buskers, Street Performers, Spruikers, Bedroom Jammers, Public Speakers etc.
Sound/Versatility: Equipped with dual XLR/TRS combo inputs, onboard digital mixer and a ¼ balanced output for even more on stage flexibility, the Mackie Freeplay Live is a great collaborative PA solution for solo and small ensemble. It’s dual XLR inputs and flexible mixing options (either via onboard display or the FreePlay Connect app) make the Freeplay Live perfect for balancing dual sources and mixing on the fly. The dual tweeter design also give the Freeplay Live the kind of beautifully detailed top that really brings street performances to life.
Usability: Don’t let the minimalist aesthetic fool you, the Freeplay Live is an extremely musical PA, with the kind of flexible routing and EQ options that make it a an obvious go-to for Singer –Songwriters and acoustic type material. With its portable design, Bluetooth streamability and impressive audio quality, the Freeplay Live also doubles as an incredibly good mobile rig for small-scale personal address and public speaking.
Construction: Solid build quality, sleek enclosure. Everything we’ve come to expect from Mackie!
Overall: More than just a PA system for the troubadour/busking crowd, the Mackie Freeplay Live is a mixer that combines rechargeable portability with some very modern FOH inspired tablet/iOS/Android control protocol. It’s sleek looks and impressive audio quality also make it a great utility speaker for around the home.
Samson Expedition XP312w Portable PA System
Distributed by: Electric Factory | Expect to pay: $1429
Recommended for: Street Performers, Bedroom Jammers, Aerobics Instructors, Public Speaking types etc.
Sound/Versatility: With its broad dispersion, impressive throw qualities and handy two-band EQ, the XP312w is versatile enough to tackle almost any small scale PA/Musical application. It’s Bluetooth Streaming capabilities and wireless UHF integration are sure to make it a crowd favourite at Weddings/Parties/Anything.
Usability: Boasting 300w of power in a fully portable 17kg enclosure, the Samson Expedition XP312w is one of the most practical PA solutions out there. With its mobile design, impressive output and rechargability, the XP312w is an obvious choice for street performer and public address applications. The on-board 4-channel mixer and variable control reverb also make the XP312w a ideal candidate for small scale rehearsal applications/bedroom jamming. In short, Handy AF.
Construction: Lightweight but sturdy, the foldable handle, castors and pots are all of high quality.
Overall: A super versatile, extremely portable PA solution for the home or workplace. Probably one of the handiest gifts on this list, it would be hard to be disappointed with one of these under the tree.
Distributed by: Yamaha Music Australia
Expect to pay: $699.99
Recommended For: Drummers and percussionists looking to blend electronic drum sounds and effects with their acoustic kit to really spice up their performance.
Sound/Versatility: Love trap drums, but don’t want to switch out your vintage Gretsch kit for a TR-808? The EAD10 will be right up your alley. This intuitive electronic/acoustic drum module from Yamaha lets you integrate a wide array of drum sounds, ranging from thumping arena rock kits, snappy funk kits, classic 12-bit hop-hop sounds and many, many more, as well as a range of very practical effects, gated reverb included. Any Phil Collins fans out there?
Usability: The EAD10 is relatively straightforward to set up – simply mount the module, clip the sensor onto the hoop of your kick drum, plug in all respective cables and you’re hot to trot. A condenser microphone built into the EAD10’s module component picks up the nuances of your hits to trigger toms, hats, snare and cymbal sounds, while a host of retro looking knobs lets you find and tweak effects with ease.
Construction: The module component of the EAD10 looks inviting and is laid out to enable user convenience, while the sensor is deceptively hefty and built entirely from metal, because we all know drummers are prone to breaking things.
Overall: This one’s a winner. The EAD10 is great in the recording or rehearsal studio, and boasts the potential to be an extremely useful live tool.
Steinberg UR22c Recording Pack
Distributed by: Yamaha Music Australia | Expect to pay: $449.99
Recommended For: Comprising of an audio interface, microphone and pair of headphones, this one’s for beginners looking for an affordable entry into the vast world of laptop recording without compromising on sound quality. This pack is also perfectly suited to all those budding podcasters out there, giving you all you need to get your thoughts and feelings out on the airwaves.
Sound/Versatility: Steinberg’s UR22C audio interface offers 32-bit audio quality, letting you enjoy crystal clear recordings of guitars, keyboards and other audio sources, while the included ST-M01 condenser microphone is quite clear in the midrange and boasts a distinctive character best suited for vocals; if you’re into ASMR, you’ll vibe this one. The ST-H01 headphones aren’t too bad either!
Usability: It’s worth reading the manual if you’ve never operated or set up an audio interface or microphone before, but once you’re acquainted with its features, the UR22C recording pack is super straightforward. USB-C connectivity ensures that the interface is swift in operation, while the Loopback function is great for pairing high quality audio with a video source for streaming.
Construction: No complaints here. Steinberg are usually quite tight in the quality department, so it doesn’t surprise me that the UR22C Recording Pack is solidly built at all.
Overall: Whether podcasting, streaming, recording or mixing, the UR22C Recording Pack is one hell of a Christmas gift. Mum, I hope you’re reading this!
Distributed by: Studio Connections | Expect to pay: $585
Recommended For: Budding mix engineers, sound designers etc.
Sound/Versatility: With over 40 years in the biz, Drawmer are a name you can trust. Their dedication to transparency and pristine sound quality have made them a familiar sight in control rooms and studios around the world. The new CMC-2 continues this legacy and more. The CMC-2 is a multi-purpose active monitor controller for the modern studio, allowing for A-B switching, headphone monitoring and mono sub or check speaker routing.
Usability: If someone buys me a monitor controller for Christmas, they probably know me a little too well. Monitoring is such an important part of the creative process and being able to A-B multiple sets of monitors and headphones truly and transparently is an extremely empowering gift to anybody even remotely serious about mixing.
Construction: Drawmer is a name synonymous with quality. Build quality on this one is professional to the core.
Overall: While it might not be the most exciting addition to your studio, let it be said that a good monitor controller can make the world of difference to your workflow. The perfect gift for the coming of age engineer.
TC Helicon Blender
Distributed by: Amber Technology | Expect to pay: $299
Recommended For: Bands looking to explore the concept of noise-free, headphone based rehearsals, or even an amateur home studio operator looking for a cost-effective headphone splitting and talkback unit.
Sound/Versatility: There’s a lot to talk about here. Each individual user is able to set their own mix levels from six outputs with a built0in compressor adding a nice sheen to each input, while each user is able to set their own personalised mix using TC’s free Blender mobile application. It’s still a good idea to use a decent pair of headphones to receive the best mix possible, but the TC Helicon Blender still delivers a pretty decent audio quality.
Usability: The controls included on the Blender are pragmatic and flex well to suit the workflow of you and your bandmates. A talk button engages an onboard omnidirectional microphone to allow you to chat to everyone using the headphones, which is nice for cutting through the din of your over-enthusiastic bandmates.
Construction: While not exactly feeling particularly rugged, the TC Helicon Blender is definitely made to be played, and the buttons and rotary encoders feel tactile enough for most applications.
Overall: Save your ears from spiky frequency clashes – this is an investment you won’t regret.
Distributed by: Studio Connections | Expect to pay: $310
Recommended For: Guitarists or bassists with a bit extra cash to splash who crave something a little bit more out of their typical audio interface.
Sound/Versatility: Whether you’re recording trap beats, wonky electronica, straight rock ‘n roll or down-tempo indie-folk, the Audient ID4 interface won’t let you done. Its high performance AD/DA converters and analogue preamps ensure you’ll be receiving studio-quality recordings no matter where you’re tracking, replicating the gain stage of a classic valve amplifier for a distinctive studio sound.
Usability: The Audient AD4 features two inputs and two inputs, which should be enough for most bedroom producers. The nature of its built-in preamps make this better suited to those recording bass and guitars, but there’s no reason why you can’t track vocals with it, with built-in phantom power letting you plug in your favourite condenser microphone for crystal clear recordings. The ID knob can also double as a mouse cursor, which is an incredibly useful feature!
Construction: Designed in the UK and built in China, the Audient ID4 is study and compact, fitting snug on your studio desk with ease.
Overall: I’m surprised I haven’t heard more about the ID4; it really took me by surprise, and I think a lot of fretted instrument players will get a lot out of it.
Phil Jones Bass Bighead Pro HA-2
Distributed by: EGM Distribution | Expect to pay: $599
Recommended For: Audiophiles seeking the most pristine of headphone amplification systems to complement their high-end turntable or hi-fi setup, but want something they can also use to record ideas on the road.
Sound/Versatility: A step-up from the popular HA-1, the Phil Jones Bass Bighead Pro HA-2 is a rechargable 24 bit audio interface that doubles as a headphone booster amp, and can also be used as a preamp to drive power amplifiers. It features both passive and active instrument inputs to suit different pickup types, while a two-band EQ lets you shape your tones from something to nothing in a split-second.
Usability: With a line out, input, DC power port and voltage control on the back of the unit and a stacked EQ/volume/gain controls on the front side, using the PJB Bighead Pro HA-2 isn’t complex at all, and its rechargable lithum ion battery with eight hours of playback time means you can operate it unplugged to mass effect.
Construction: This thing is tough. It features a cool chrome chassis, and the design of the unit is strikingly sleek while remaining discrete.
Overall: The Phil Jones Bass Bighead Pro HA-2 headphone amplifier/audio interface is definitely the best gift an audiophile could ever wish for this festive season – and if you’re celebrating solo, it’s worth treating yourself to one. Go on – you deserve it.
EV Evolve 50
Distributed by: Jands | Expect to pay: $2728
Recommended For: People looking for the finest in Portable PA solutions
Sound/Versatility: With its huge volume, and pristine frequency reproduction,the EV EVOLVE 50 is as good sounding as portable PA’s get. Consisting of a sub, stand and Column unit and rated at 1000w, the EV Evolve 50 is sure to blow the socks of anyone who comes into contact with it.
Usability: Aimed at soloists, smaller lineups, DJs and venues, it could be the ideal solution for many. The ability to run two units expands options for bigger bands while still remaining super compact. Plenty of headroom, quick to set up, easy to manoeuvre and ultra-portability means you can easily fit the system in the back of your car or move it away for storage. The I/O is concise, but does allow for some expansion if you want to run additional sources or into further backline. Most importantly, the EVOLVE 50 sounds damn good, with the sub and column combination creating clean volume and a great spread.
Construction: Professional quality from start to finish. Bravo.
Overall: The EV Evolve 50 is a premium portable PA solution for those who need a bit of clean volume in their life. With a stunning tonality and headroom for days, it is the column PA for those who feel like getting serious.
Prodipe M-85 Lanen Vocal Dynamic Microphone
Distributed by: Drum Partners/Music Partners | Expect to pay: $149.95
Recommended For: Singers, Engineers, Home Studios, people looking for incredibly well designed gear that won’t break the bank
Sound/Versatility: Prodipe are a French Audio company with a purpose; to produce legimitely Pro products that come in (well) below traditional ‘Pro’ pricing. Employing the same level of R’n’D and design nous as many of the better known prestige manufacturers. The M-85 is their flagship handheld vocal mic and boy does it deliver. With a rich fullness and silky top, it has a robustness of tone that never seems to cross the line into muddiness, even at close proximity.
Usability: The M-85 is the kind of utility microphone that will never go out of styleIt’s impressive gain-before-feedback properties and solid sensitivity readings, mean it compares favourably to any mic out there, and it’s broadband capture and classy fullness mean that it is likely to get plenty of use.
Construction: Solid as.
Overall: A perfect first microphone for anybody ready to turn it up, the M-85 is an exquisitely designed, professional quality microphone at a pricepoint so low, it looks like typo.