It's that time of year again! Every Christmas Mixdown brings you our ultimate gift guide for musicians. This year we're packed to the brim with gift ideas to suit any musician. In this installment we look at gifts between $250 and $500. Handy presents that would find their way into the arsenal of any musician worth their salt. Take a look, we're sure you'll find something you love.
LEHLE LITTLE JULIAN
PRODUCT TYPE: EFFECT PEDAL
DISTRIBUTOR: EGM DISTRIBUTION
RECOMMENDED FOR: Those looking for a versatile boost/EQ for shaping their sound. Maybe you have a vintage guitar and you don’t want to change pickups, or maybe you want sophisticated EQ control for a lead tone or recording.
SOUND AND VERSATILITY: This boost and parametric EQ lets you do anything from subtly refining your tone to emulating old-school treble boosters or those tweaked and hyped Frank Zappa lead guitar tones. There’s also 15db of clean boost or cut while lets you control the pedal’s interaction with your amp or recorder.
USABILITY: The knobs are small and fiddly and they’re also hard to see: not the kind of thing you’d want to control on the fly during a gig. The option to select between hi/lo impedance and true/buffered bypass is handy though.
CONSTRUCTION: An oddly shaped unit that feels more ‘desktop’ than ‘floor,’ but is certainly strong enough to stomp on. The jacks and impedance/bypass mode buttons are well protected on the back of the unit.
OVERALL: Great for those who want to explore really out-there tones or to fine-tune more straightforward ones. Physically it feels a little un-pedal-like but it does its job well.
ERNIE BALL MVP VOLUME PEDAL
PRODUCT TYPE: ELECTRIC GUITAR VOLUME PEDAL
DISTRIBUTOR: CMC MUSIC AUSTRALIA
RECOMMENDED FOR: Players looking for more control over their volume in a stage situation, or who want to pull off cool volume swell and pedal steel effects.
SOUND AND VERSATILITY: It doesn’t really have any sound of its own, but it does maintain the clarity of the high end, but you can also effectively use it as a clean boost for getting your tube amp to work harder.
USABILITY: The minimum volume control lets you set the lowest point, while the Maximum Gain control can be used as a boost if you wish. Think of it as a high-quality transparent clean boost and a great-sounding volume pedal smooshed together into a single pedal. There’s also a dedicated tuner output.
CONSTRUCTION: A very roadworthy unit. The pedal is powered by either a 9v batter or an AC power adapter (not included). Ernie Ball claims there's no frequency loss at any volume, and it can work with either active or passive signals.
OVERALL: The MVP really is the ultimate volume pedal. Not only does it have a nice smooth taper and musically useful level control, but it's also able to actively impact on your tone in a positive way if you choose to goose your amp with the boost.
PEARL CENTIGRADE CAJON
PRODUCT TYPE: CAJON
Distributor: AUSTRALASIAN MUSIC SUPPLIES
RECOMMENDED FOR: Percussionists or anyone after a value for money Cajon that’s easy to play, looks good and is uncomplicated in design, whilst being durable for regular use.
SOUND AND VERSATILITY: The fibreglass shell does a great job of providing projection and cut. There’s significant low end and a good snare sound when you get it right. The sound is fairly classic and would suit many situations.
USEABILITY: This Cajon needs some getting used to, in order to find the best tone/strokes, but get it right and the volume and clarity is certainly there. The angled faceplate allows for a relaxed posture and an ease of use.
CONSTRUCTION: The Centigrade Cajon features a fibreglass shell with a striking Mango Cherry Burst Gloss finish. The faceplate is made of Asiatic hardwood and features two small snare wires on the inside. The most noticeable feature on the Centigrade is the 100-degree back angle on the front, the molded rear bass port and rubber feet.
OVERALL: There’s simplicity to the design – no fancy bits, just the basics to what you need on a gig. Be prepared to be noticed though! The sound isn’t the only loud part of this Cajon.
NUMARK TT250USB DIRECT DRIVE TURNTABLE
PRODUCT TYPE: TURNTABLE
DISTRIBUTOR: ELECTRIC FACTORY
RECOMMENDED FOR: For both DJs and home vinyl enthusiasts, this is ideal for not only controlled playback and scratching, but digitizing records with the aid of a computer and the USB connection.
SOUND AND VERSATILITY: With pitch control and other features as expected on a DJ turntable, you get the playback your vinyl deserves. The addition of the AD converter and USB output are a real bonus.
USABILITY: Recording vinyl is now a breeze. Connected to your computer, you can transfer your records into audio files and save them forever for easier playback. The high-toque platter ensures quick start-up and consistent speed on playback.
CONSTRUCTION: This is a solid turntable, and although tough, isn’t quite as heavy as similar models I have used in the past. The platter is solid and the tone arm is tough yet still very agile when adjusted correctly to match the head shell weight.
OVERALL: I don’t see enough new turntables these days, so this is a refreshing rebuild of a classic design that I welcome with open arms. Numark continue to prove why they are the biggest manufacturer of DJ gear with great ideas like this.
KRK ROKIT 4 G3 STUDIO MONITORS
RRP: $279 (each)
PRODUCT TYPE: REFERENCE MONITOR SPEAKERS
DISTRIBUTOR: GIBSON AMI
RECOMMENDED FOR: Whether it’s a professional studio looking for a compact addition to their monitoring range, or a home studio after a space saving monitoring option, the newest in the KRK Rokit line is here.
SOUND AND VERSATILITY: Whilst missing some of the lower frequencies of the larger models in the range, the Rokit 4s still deliver a clear, focused sound that allows you to hear what is going on in your mix.
USABILITY: The small build of these speakers makes them ideal for home studio configurations, able to be set up on your desk next to your computer monitor, you can make the most of nearfield monitoring in cramped environments.
CONSTRUCTION: Like all the speakers in the Rokit range, these are built into the same rugged cabinet, with front porting that allows the low end to be evenly dispersed without unnecessary chuffing as air is pushed from the box.
OVERALL: This is what the Rokit range has been needing to really round out the options. They are going to take a place in the home studio that the 5 inch version wasn’t able to and come in at a new lower price point that’s very appealing.
RED WITCH ZEUS FUZZ/SUBOCTAVE PEDAL FOR BASS
PRODUCT TYPE: EFFECTS PEDAL
DISTRIBUTOR: MUSICLINK AUSTRALIA
RECOMENDED FOR: Bass players looking to dirty it up and move away from their ordinary tone, or bass players that are just looking to stand out.
SOUND AND VERSATILITY: In my experience, fuzz on a bazz guitar can work well, especially in smaller bands where the bass sound needs to add a bit more character to the overall mix. This Redwitch pedal will give you that character without compromising that vital bottom end. The pedal also doubles as a suboctave pedal, in case you want to generate a really grizzly and ominous rumble.
USABILITY: The pedal is designed for bass players, and not simply a guitar fuzz with another sticker slapped on top. It’s designed to minimize the bass roll off, stay sharp and on point, and remain entirely intuitive. The two effects are very easily blended together or used independently of one another.
CONSTRUCTION: The housing of the Zeus is strong, and it doesn’t take long to work out how to get the best out of this pedal. It has true bypass switching too.
OVERALL: Bass is a tough instrument to get clear effects out of, but when you get what you want, you effects can be super effective (pun intended). This is a very intuitive pedal that will help you get your bass to the place it needs to be.
M-AUDIO CODE 25 MIDI CONTROLLER KEYBOARD
PRODUCT TYPE: USB KEYBOARD CONTROLLER
DISTRIBUTOR: PRO AUDIO GROUP
RECOMMENDED FOR: For someone looking for a lot of control in a compact device, this is going to deliver plenty of options and in a portable casing.
SOUND AND VERSATILITY: This unit is more like a control surface that happens to have 25 keys stuck on the side for good measure. There is so much going on, from the drum pads to the transport and edit functions, you really don’t need to rely on your mouse much at all.
USABILITY: A big bonus on this control surface is the XY pad that allows you to achieve interesting results with a range of plug-ins and effects that previously couldn’t be achieved with other hardware control surfaces.
CONSTRUCTION: This is a good looking keyboard. It’s pretty sturdy in its build, although it might be a stretch to try and keep it clean if it is going to travel around with you a lot.
OVERALL: A cool looking, easy to operate controller that gives the user more ways to interact with their software than most other MIDI controllers in its class do.
APOGEE GROOVE HEADPHONE AMP AND DAC
PRODUCT TYPE: HEADPHONE AMPLIFIER / DAC
DISTRIBUTOR: SOUND DISTRIBUTION
RECOMMENDED FOR: This is the ideal solution for anyone using a computer for audio production when a high quality audio headphone monitoring solution is needed.
SOUND AND VERSATILITY: Sound quality is what this device is all about. You notice the difference straight away when going from the headphone out of your laptop to the Groove. The extended frequency response and definition in the sound is what you should want to hear.
USABILITY: Very simple to set up and install, it acts as an inline volume control and extension for your headphones, but can also greatly improve the quality of any speaker system that may have been run from the headphone output of your computer.
CONSTRUCTION: This is a really solid little device. The rubber underside keeps it stable on a desktop and the volume controls offer a firm, but definite click when depressed. The included pouch and short USB cable make it ideal for portable use.
OVERALL: This is such a simple idea that has been executed very well. If you don’t need a large interface for monitoring only, then why have one? The Groove gives the user just what is needed in a very compact device. Very clever indeed.
PRODUCT TYPE: KEYBOARD
DISTRIBUTOR: YAMAHA MUSIC AUSTRALIA
RECOMMENDED FOR: Ideal for a first keyboard, as well as experienced players looking to develop their sound. The vast range of high quality voices, real-time control knobs and pitch bend, and a sophisticated arpeggio function cater for those seeking advanced functionality. The PATTERN function also makes this keyboard the perfect instrument for DJ’s, with a wealth of powerful beats and loops now at your fingertips.
SOUND AND VERSATILITY: Hundreds of realistic voices provide an arsenal of both acoustic and electric instruments at your disposal. A built-in 2-way speaker system with bass enhancement ensures each sound resonates with depth and range. 200 accompaniment styles replicate realistic instrumentation and tone.
USABILITY: The arpeggio function offers Hold Mode and Allocated key-range to free your hands, allowing for improvisation over a specific pattern. With the AUX IN connect to an external audio player and play along to the song of your choice. While settings and songs written on the keyboard are never lost with the USB To Device Terminal enables them to be saved, loaded and transferred to a USB.
CONSTRUCTION: The 61 touch sensitive keys are made with playability in mind, while the 6.8kg weight makes it suitable for gigging, transferring to lessons and portable for any of your playing needs. The steel colour finish ensures a professional and sleek look.
OVERALL: This keyboard bridges the gap between the beginner-intermediate player and the professional player. The significant tally of voices and accompaniment styles is something that we have come to expect from Yamaha, however the additions of real-time versatility, iPhone/iPod/iPad connectivity and the PATTERN function ensure it meets all the needs of the modern musician.
PST3 CYMBAL PACK
PRODUCT TYPE: CYMBALS
DISTRIBUTOR: YAMAHA MUSIC AUSTRALIA
RECOMMENDED FOR: These cymbals suit the drummer who is ready for their first upgrade, developing their sound beyond their starter cymbals, looking for a more refined sound a touch of sophistication in their sound quality. This set is made for multi-purpose playing, with a balanced feel and versatile range made for regular use.
SOUND AND VERSATILITY: The 14” hi-hats emit a medium bright sound that is clean and full. The 16” crash is energetic, full and focused with a lively intensity, while the 20” ride is warm, full and clear with medium range. All three pieces are controllable and receptive to a variety of applications. The overall clean mix, with the versatility for defined attacks and a nice bell on the ride make for a balanced sound.
USABILITY: The soft to loud volume, medium to medium long sustain, and the powerful, pronounced sound character of these cymbals make them suitable for all musical styles. They are easily applied to a range of settings.
CONSTRUCTION: The PST3 cymbals are made for an especially selected MS63 brass, copper-based alloy that creates a mellow sound, that is at times complex rather than rich.
OVERALL: These cymbals represent a significant improvement from starter cymbals, and will meet the needs and playing requirements of drummer moving past the beginner stage, where they are pushing their sound and technique to more intermediate areas. They allow more responsive interplay from stick sound, volume and intensity, and while they lack the overall vibrancy and malleable feel of higher ranges, are the prefect combination of great sound and superb value.
SENNHEISER CLIPMIC DIGITAL
PRODUCT TYPE: LAPEL MICROPHONE
RECOMMENDED FOR: For anyone wanting to use their iPhone or iPad as an audio recorder for presentation and video recording, this is one lapel microphone worth considering.
SOUND AND VERSATILITY: The ClipMic Digital delivers a clear and crisp capture of the voice of the person wearing the device and little else. It doesn’t capture unwanted environmental noise and only gives you what you want to hear.
USABILITY: Although slightly limited by the Lightning connection, not allowing older devices to be used, this is still a very workable unit. It mounts easily and doesn’t take too much adjustment to get the target sound source clearly heard.
CONSTRUCTION: With a Sennheiser microphone capsule and an Apogee audio converter, you know that what you are getting in this unit is going to be excellent quality. It’s compact and lightweight, yet well put together and ready for the rigours of location work.
OVERALL: This is a very tidy little solution to location recording with an iOS device. It offers high quality audio capture and AD conversion for both speech and singing. I would hazard a guess that you could even use it as an instrument microphone in a pinch.
CORDOBA MINI M TRAVEL GUITAR
PRODUCT TYPE: TRAVEL GUITAR
DISTRIBUTOR: ZENITH MUSIC
RECOMENDED FOR: Guitarists who are as keen on travel as they are on music. Especially those heading abroad, or travelling without their own car.
SOUND AND VERSATILITY: Though this is a small guitar, and plays more or less like a guitar that’s tuned up a 4th, but with a tone that sits more or less between that of a guitar and a ukulele. The construction is sound, and the neck feels great.
USABILITY: As you can probably extrapolate from the name, this guitar is aimed at travellers, but the unique sounds that come with the smaller body might make it an interesting instrument for the folk, country or bluegrass guitarist that likes to experiment with different sounds.
CONSTRUCTION: This features a solid spruce top with mahogany back and sides, but is available in rosewood and ovangkol variants.
OVERALL: This is an interesting instrument. It’s not suited to everyone, but it’s the perfect gift for the people it is suited to. Incredibly portable, but with a surprisingly booming voice, if you have a friend who’s heading out on the road for a while, this might be the perfect instrument for them to sling over their shoulder for the ride.
SENNHEISER HD25-1 II DJ HEADPHONES
PRODUCT TYPE: DJ HEADPHONES
DISTRIBUTOR: SENNHEISER AUSTRALIA
RECOMMENDED FOR: For all DJs working in the home studio, in clubs or at festivals, that are looking for the best sound and comfort in a workhorse set of headphones.
SOUND AND VERSATILITY: Precision is what the HD25-1 II headphones deliver. You get to hear everything in the mix and with plenty of volume too. There’s a reason why similar headphones from Sennheiser are used by pit crews in F1 racing. High SPL without distortion is what’s on offer here.
USABILITY: The lightweight, adjustable frame allows you to position one or both cups over your ears for the ultimate monitoring freedom. They feel like you aren’t even wearing headphones, making them ideal for long stints in the booth.
CONSTRUCTION: These are built pretty tough, but the lightweight nature of them means some care still needs to be taken. You can’t be too rough on them, I know from past experience, but if cared for; they will perform well for years.
OVERALL: This has been a go-to set of headphones for many DJs for the last two decades. The reason for this is simple; they are excellent headphones that deliver what they promise, more than justifying their price-tag.
PRODUCT TYPE: POWER SUPPLY
DISTRIBUTOR: EGM DISTRIBUTION
RECOMMENDED FOR: Anyone who owns a pedalboard and wants to feed their stompboxes with nice clean power.
SOUND AND VERSATILITY: No tone to speak of unless you count nice filtered clean sound with no extraneous ground loop noise.
USABILITY: Selectable input voltage of 115v or 230v. Mounts conveniently underneath all Pedaltrains apart from the NANO and MINI models. Requires some drilling of your pedalboard to install, but Pedaltrain supplies a custom-designed mounting template. No mounting brackets necessary. There’s also a 9/12/15/18v switch for pedals designed for it.
CONSTRUCTION: A very chunky-feeling power supply with good positive connections for its various power outlet jacks. There are eight sockets all up including four 9v @ 500mA total, three 9V @ 210mA isolated, and the 9-18v @ 150mA isolated out.
OVERALL: All your power needs for multiple pedal types in one handy unit, with nice clean power to keep your signal clear and clean apart from your dirty, dirty distortion.
APOGEE MIC PROFESSIONAL MICROPHONE FOR IPAD AND MAC
PRODUCT TYPE: MICROPHONE
DISTRIBUTOR: SOUND DISTRIBUTION
RECOMMENDED FOR: All iPhone, iPad and Mac users out there that want a high quality audio recording microphone that is simple to use and delivers results without the need for external devices.
SOUND AND VERSATILITY: The studio quality condenser microphone capsule in this microphone sounds fantastic. Although rather small in diameter, it still delivers a very full sound in the lower frequencies and offers a crystal clear high end response.
USABILITY: Very easy to install and operate. There is no need to supply external phantom power as it takes this from your device through the USB, Lightning or 30-pin iOS cable, all of which are included.
CONSTRUCTION: Made in the USA, this is a very well-constructed device. Even the packaging is tough, with the microphone held into place in the plastic packaging by a locking screw to ensure it ships safely. It’s over the top and leaves a lot of catching up to do by any competitor.
OVERALL: With an added microphone stand adaptor and a miniature tripod for desktop use, this is about all you need for simple, quality compact recording to your iOS device or Mac.
SHERLOCK ANGRY ANT
PRODUCT TYPE: AMPLIFIER
DISTRIBUTOR: SHERLOCK AMPS
RECOMMENDED FOR: Players who want a lot of tone in a small amp. And also appreciate good design style when they see it.
SOUND AND TONE: You can easily dial in a Vox-like clean tone with full, fat mids, or with a few quick control-twists you’ll find deep, lush jazz tones and even twangy country. But turn up the Gain and you’ll get an overdriven tone that is capable of being either smooth and creamy or more edgy and crunchy.
USABILITY: There’s an art to dialling in different tones with different ratios of Master and Gain control, but once you figure out the best way to approach it it will all become very intuitive. Really it’s the key to unlocking the amp’s inherent flexibility.
CONSTRUCTION: Dale Sherlock has used only the finest components in this amp: Orange Drop caps, carbon resistors and ceramic tube sockets, Carling switches, Cliff sockets and Alpha pots fitted with chicken head knobs. The Chassis is 1.6mm aluminium extrusion with machined sides, and the transformers are high-quality hand-wound models using vintage transformer winding techniques, and with grain-oriented steel for sound quality and reliability.
OVERALL: A small amp that can do a lot of things very well and yet do them very simply. It’s flexible, reliable and surprisingly loud for such a small unit.