As if we’re not normally fantasizing about strange gear, electronics, t-shirts, software, and general oddities throughout most of the year, now is a special time when our thoughts turn to even more intricate rationalizations for buying great stuff for ourselves and our loved ones. If you’re looking for a last-minute gift, or just waiting until after various holidays to expand your studio, here are a few ideas. They read not only as a gift guide, but as a "Really Wonderful Things We’re Into" guide. And naturally, we don’t believe in throwaway consumption — readers on this site still avidly use Commodore 64s, after all. We’ve asked our contributors to come up with stuff they’ll treasure forever. Here are their favorites
Michael Una is an informant and writer for CDM on bent circuits, sound art, and electronic goodness; check out his interview last week with Beatrix*Jar and the results of the Circuit Bending Challenge.
Hip fashion for music geeks:
Moogs Not Missiles T-shirt, $20 from Etsy.com (above)
Synthi Blue Green T-shirt, $21.99 from Gear Addict @ Cafe Press
Bootsy Collins T-Shirts, $20.99 from rocktshirtspunk.com
Generate visuals for while you’re bleeping out:
Critter and Guitari Cellular Automata Video Kit $49.95 direct
Killin’ that hum during the staticky winter months:
Scosche Eso34 Ground Loop Isolator $17.61 from Amazon.com (above)
For turning your pad into the ultimate Space Disco haven:
K12 Audio to Light Modulator $13.25 direct from PAiA Corporation (above)
"This circuit controls the intensity of a light (incandescent bulb only, 200W max, not included) in response to the level of the audio input."
Still not sold?
"This kit should not be built by or for children!"
And the ultimate holiday gift for that person still seeking audio euphoria:
modPod Egg Chair $1899 direct from inmod
It vibrates the chair along with the Hi-Fi stereo output, and has .mp3 input. How can you go wrong?
Liz "Quantazelle" McLean Knight
Liz is a laptopist, producer, and independent businesswoman extraordinaire, as well as CDM’s Marketing Manager. Don’t miss her conversation with alternative controller-making Gustavo Bravetti, or tips on making demo discs and getting gigs.
For all those times you’ve shown up at a gig without the right (xx):
Electronic Musicians’ Emergency Adapters, $65 from FractalSpin
Ed.: I think this means you’re meant to slow down, or apply the emergency brake, or get some earplugs ready for some insane signal processing. Or something.
This DJ: Does Not Take Requests.
DJ Request Policy T-Shirt, $25 from FractalSpin.com
I love these little things for keeping earbug cables and firewire cable out of jumbled mess:
Cable Turtle, $10 from Amazon.com; see cableturtles.co.uk for the full line and free UK delivery (above)
I love this bag-it has a nice padded laptop sleeve inside that’s removable as well as a padded strap. And there’s a lot of room inside for extra hard drives, a pair of headphones, some demo cds, vinyl if you need analog…etc. LOVE LOVE LOVE!
And here are some nice, inexpensive VSTs. There are so many gems there.
Ohmforce Plug-ins, various, from ohmforce.com (above)
James Grahame runs the incredible Retro Thing blog, and aside from keeping us up to date on all things hardware did a terrific interview with Solaris creator John Bowen. I’m guessing these wishes are more practical than the DIY satellite, James?
My list is centered around building your own analog synth.
First up, the synthesizers.com ‘module a month’ system. $120 per month gets you a 22 space modular rack case, 8 modules and accessories. Receiving one part every 30 days gives you ample time to assemble and test the beast over the course of a year.
Entry System Purchase Plan, $120/mo from Synthesizers.com
The PAiA Fatman analog monosynth remains an unbeatable value. The kit is offered in rack-mount or table top versions for under $250. It has earned the honor of becoming the world’s most modded synth, and dozens of useful tweaks are available online for intrepid builders, including VCO hard sync and a subharmonic generator.
FatMan Analog MIDI Synth, $200.95 and up from PAiA Corporation
The Sound Lab Mini-Synth is a great bare-bones unit. You can purchase the PC Board for a mere $30, although you’ll need to scrounge up another $70 or so in parts to build your very own cv/gate controlled analog noisemaker.
Sound Lab Mini-Synth, ca. $100 from musicfromouterspace.com and self-bought from vendors
And, on the off chance that I win the lottery, here’s my dream synth for 2008…
John Bowen’s brand new Solaris keyboard synth offers a multitude of sound design possibilities. It’s now available for pre-order at $3399, with delivery starting in early 2008. The Solaris features vector synthesis, multiple filter models (Mini Moog ladder style, Prophet 5 SSM & Curtis emulations, comb filter), looping envelopes, six DADSRs per voice, effects unit, programmable espresso maker and so on. The initial production run will be a mere 100 units.
Solaris, $3399 direct from John Bowen Synth Design
And one more practical software selection…
How about Reaper 2? This little Windows sequencer is beginning to really grow on me. A non-commercial license costs only $50 and it even runs on Linux boxes using wineasio.
Reaper multitrack audio tool, $50 from Cockos Incorporated
W. Brent Latta
Brent does sound and music for games himself, but also stays on top of all things gaming for CDM. See his review of Audiofile Engineering’s Wave Editor, a tool he uses in his own work.
My wishlist, in no particular order…
Whether the $199 upgrade, or the $499 full version, this is bar-none my best value in high-end DAWs right now, and I’m dying to check out that new multi-delay!
I wouldn’t have heard about this gizmo without Peter’s coverage, but now I totally want one…or four!
Mandala 2.0 Drum Pad, $349 direct from Synesthesia Corporation
When you want to play guitar without actually having a guitar … Check out the ‘No Surprises’ video on YouTube, shown above!
Jam Sessions, $19.99 from Amazon.com for Nintendo DS
Okay – it isn’t a musical instrument, but with a ‘Blade Runner’ inspired soundtrack, this is going to be one of my favorite games of the year!
Mass Effect, $59.99 from Amazon.com for Xbox 360
Designed by one of my college professors, Terry Setter, I had the chance to check out the TS-1 microphones during an orchestral recording not long ago, and they held their own against a matched pair of vintage B and K microphones. The TS-2 looks like a GREAT vocal mic for the studio.
Heck, as long as we’re going BIG: One of the finest audio interfaces available for Mac/Logic users, this thing is dripping with class…
I’ve wanted a Prophet ever since I found out that it was a primary instrument on Peter Gabriel’s ‘Passion’. Now I can get one at an affordable price, and not have to worry about tracking down the MIDI-mod, or pay through the nose to get a vintage unit brought back to spec.
We haven’t heard from Lee Sherman as recently here on CDM, as he’s been busy with other tech journalism gigs, but he was one of our first contributors and is particularly dedicated to soft synths.
With Bob Moog sadly departed, someone has to fly the flag for analog and who better than co-traveler Dave Smith? It’s not surprising that it sounds amazing and offers tons of hands-on control. But a full-featured poly analog synth at a price comparable to a digital one? Priceless.
Dave Smith Instruments Prophet ’08
As emulations go, this sample collection stands out for its comprehensive collection of Moog sounds, which includes nearly every product ever to bear the Moog moniker, not just lesser known synths like my beloved Rogue but the Moog Vocoder, and Etherwave Theremin, all the way up to the most recent Moog, the Little Phatty, over 1,700 basses, leads, pads and effects.
What could be more fun than a battery-powered synth that fits in a pocket and combines the touch interface of the Kaoss Pad with Korg synth sounds and effects? I’ll take this over a Nintendo DS any day. (Ed.: Wait a minute, Lee. Kaossilator is cool, but uh, don’t take away my DS!)
Korg Kaossilator, $235 est. (not yet shipping in the US; video above)
There are other digital emulations that accurately model the lovely tape flutter and crunchy magnetic head saturation of vintage tape echos, but you’d be hard pressed to find one that looks this cool. And the 70s nostalgia goes just far enough. The Space Echo has been reborn as a more stage-worthy pedal.
… and Stylophones
mrMark came up with this groovy montage on Flickr.
Not entirely sure how it got started, but it seems all of us want a classic Dubreq Stylophone, the vintage miniature, stylus-controlled instrument popularized by the likes of Kraftwerk ("Pocket Calculator") and Bowie ("Space Oddity").
As it happens, there are several ways to get one:
Stylophone.com has reconditioned 60s- and 70s-era Stylophones, though the price is rather steep: GBP55 / USD119.
Firebox.com has the original Stylophone for GBP14.95, though you’ll have to put an IOU in a Christmas box, etc.: they’re sold out until the beginning of 2008. (I’ll wait.)
And there’s always eBay.
Got Wishes of Your Own?
Practical or impractical, we’d love to hear them. Let us know in comments.