Mixdown's Christmas Gift Guide: Assorted Gear

Assorted Gifts For Musicians

It's the most wonderful time of the year, and we couldn't be happier about it. But between listening to Christmas songs on repeat and trying to perfect our festive decorations, it's not always easy to make time to find a gift for the musicians in our lives. For those who don't want to see their Christmas cheer ruined searching for the perfect present in a crowd of shoppers on Christmas Eve, we've got you covered. Our Christmas Gift Guide is bursting with gear that we're sure your music mates will love, and this page is especially for anyone in need of a unique piece of assorted gear.

Vitoos DC8 Power Supply

DISTRIBUTED BY: Global Vintage

EXPECT TO PAY: $110

RECOMMENDED FOR:

People who paw over pedal porn and crave clean connections.

SOUND/VERSATILITY:

The only thing you should ever look for in a power supply where sound is concerned is a distinct lack of it. The idea behind isolated ports is to limit as much annoyingly omnipresent earth hum as possible. Vitoos’ design does so by bunching up the six 9V ports separate from the two variable ones, meaning that while A and B are chewing up as much juice as they can, their neighbours don’t go hungry.

USABILITY:

 I liked the fact that the 9V ports offer a healthy 300mA current draw and their variable compatriots have 1000mA for you to play with. This means that you’re not as limited to a bunch of low power pedals as you would be with many similar designs. The LED indicators help you identify problem units and return to power once the issue is resolved meaning less time troubleshooting.

CONSTRUCTION:

Tough as nails and just the right size to fit under any pedalboard on the market.

OVERALL:

A huge step up from a fraying, wayward daisy chain with a nod and a wink to the budget conscious.

 

Zoom H1 Handy Recorder

DISTRIBUTED BY: Dynamic Music

EXPECT TO PAY: $159

RECOMMENDED FOR:

Musicians looking for a compact and easy way to record on the go.

SOUND/VERSATILITY:

The H1’s built-in X/Y microphone produces great stereo recording. For such a small device, I was blown away by how clear and defined the sound quality was when recording a rehearsal. The Auto Level function was great for preventing clipping and distortion, and the low cut filter worked well to cut down the low end boom at the bass and kick drum.

USABILITY:

It’s perfect for a band/musician looking for a cost effective way to record demos and live sets. Not to mention that the H1 also includes a stereo mini phone that can take two mic signals. Two AA batteries give you up to ten hours of use, which is great if you’re taking it on tour and want to record a few shows.

CONSTRUCTION:

It’s small, yet sturdy. That said, don’t go throwing it around too carelessly.

OVERALL:

Good things come in small packages. Every musician should have one of these in their arsenal simply for those random moments of inspiration that you need to get on tape.

 

Zoom AC-2 Acoustic Creator

DISTRIBUTED BY: Dynamic Music

EXPECT TO PAY: $459

RECOMMENDED FOR:

People wanting the most out of their acoustic guitar.

SOUND/VERSATILITY:

The AC-2 is a DI. Not ‘just’ a DI though; it incorporates a preamp, reverb, EQ, tuner, anti-feedback circuit, boost, a range of input/output options, including balanced and unbalanced, a ground lift and options for pre/post EQ and USB connectivity.

USABILITY:

Coming in a slightly larger than standard housing, the focus seems to be on stage usability, although the AC-2 can sit nicely on a desk or on the floor for studio use. The front of the unit is raised, giving you access to mute/tuner and the boost function yet also means a stray foot shouldn’t alter the rest of the controls.

CONSTRUCTION:

Well built, although the faux wood look/exterior of the pedal will be a hit for some but not to my taste.

OVERALL:

The AC-2 is a great little unit. I was a bit sceptical at first of the modeling aspect, especially in terms of acoustic instruments, but it does seem to sound natural and perhaps add a little body to your tone. The tuning is clear and accurate, the reverb is usable and subtle at lower settings and the inbuilt boost is super handy.

 

Zoom Q2n Handy Video Recorder

DISTRIBUTED BY: Dynamic Music

EXPECT TO PAY: $399

RECOMMENDED FOR:

Musicians looking for a compact and cheap means to produce high quality video.

SOUND/VERSATILITY:

With a high-quality 160° wide-angle lens, the Q2n makes it exceptionally easy to shoot slick looking HD video right off the bat. Zoom’s tried and tested built-in X/Y microphones make it a breeze to capture audio with surprising detail and an expansive stereo spread — making it an exceptional tool for setting up on stage and capturing your band during a live set too.

USABILITY:

Under the hood, ten presets will get you up and running; designed to suit multiple room and lighting conditions. There’s options to suit concert settings, low-lit rooms, rehearsal studios, bars and outdoor areas without having to go in and fine tune everything to a pedantic degree every time.

CONSTRUCTION:

Portable and compact, although portability comes with the trade-off of a smaller display and interface 

OVERALL:

With a tool like the Q2n you’re one step closer to sharing your music and video content with the world. At a very justifiable pricepoint, this is a device well looking into for any working musician trying to break through to a wider audience.

 

Toontrack Superior Drummer 3

 

DISTRIBUTED BY: Sound & Music
EXPECT TO PAY: $519

RECOMMENDED FOR:

This is the ultimate drum plugin for music production, and should be a part of every music software collection for either home or professional studios.

SOUND/VERSATILITY:

From live recorded acoustic drums, to electronic drums and drum machines, there isn’t much that this program cannot achieve. But, best of all, it does it with an uncannily realistic sound quality, almost like the kit was just recorded there in the room.

USABILITY:  

Anyone who has used Superior Drummer before, or even Easy Drummer from Toontrack, will know how they focus on an ease of workflow. Drums can be a chore, so the whole point of this software is to allow you to create great sounding drums without the worry of timely programming and steep learning curves.

CONSTRUCTION:  

Supplied as a digital download when purchased in the box, you can be certain that you will always get the absolute latest version, with all up-to-date features and compatibilities for operating systems.

OVERALL:

There have been all number of drum programs available over the years and none have got it right quite like Superior Drummer 3. It’s a big upgrade from the previous version, so even existing users will want to look into this.

 

Apogee JAM 96k

DISTRIBUTED BY: Sound Distribution

EXPECT TO PAY: $145

RECOMMENDED FOR:

Anyone who needs to take a guitar or bass signal and shove it into a Windows PC or a Mac. 

SOUND/VERSATILITY:

This unit has direct digital connection for up to 96kHz/24-bit high definition recording, with a discrete Class A input for lifelike response and PureDIGITAL circuit design for no signal noise. It’s very transparent, so your amp modeling software can receive the truest signal from your instrument.

USABILITY:

The gain control helps you easily dial in the perfect input level, and it easily plugs into your device of choice. There are also versions for iPad/iPhone and iMac, and the JAM for iPad, iPhone and iMac, with a resolution of 44.1/48kHz.

CONSTRUCTION:

There’s something almost science-fictiony about the JAM 96k’s design. It’s very sleek and silvery and simple, and you can chuck it in your pocket without worrying about it.

OVERALL:

A very simple unit with simple applications and a lack of flash, but it can do great things for your recordings by getting a very pure, faithful reproduction of your guitar or bass’ direct sound into your recording software for further tweakage.

 

DV Mark Evo 1 Modeling Head

DISTRIBUTED BY: CMC Music

EXPECT TO PAY: $1695

RECOMMENDED FOR:

For guitarists wanting an all-in-one amp.

SOUND/VERSATILITY:

The Evo 1 sports two channels, each with a simple selection of six preset amp models covering everything from low wattage, bluesy classics like vintage Fender builds to the heroes of searing high gain, such as Hiwatt and Soldano. With just about every base covered in the easily malleable starting line up, I can see players plugging in and never needing to touch the accompanying app that DV Mark have designed to further your chances of achieving sonic nirvana.

USABILITY:

As with all of DV Mark’s builds, the walk through of the front face of the Evo 1 is as simple as they come. All of the models contained within this powerful 250-watt steel box are personalised by a simple three-way EQ stage. You have at your behest two independent high and low gain channels coupled with both active and passive input stages and a tuner/mute switch for simple, rack style chromatic tuning.

CONSTRUCTION:

Lots of punch in a very lightweight casing.

OVERALL:

All in all it is a great sounding and incredibly versatile unit.

 

Ernie Ball Paradigm Strings

DISTRIBUTED BY: CMC Music

EXPECT TO PAY: $38.95

RECOMMENDED FOR:

Heavy handed players.

SOUND/VERSATILITY:

Same classic Ernie Ball sound. Bright, clear and full.

USABILITY:

If string-breakage is a problem for you - or if you just don’t want it to ever be a problem for you - Paradigm strings are the perfect choice. Ernie Ball have really stepped up their game in terms of innovation over the last few years; they’ve always made great strings but currently they seem to really be concerned with 'How can we make them greater?', which is a very admirable trait.

CONSTRUCTION:

Ernie Ball’s new state-of-the-art wire drawing process coupled and patented RPS (reinforced plain string) technology dramatically increases tensile strength by up to 35% and provides up to 70% more fatigue strength than traditional strings. RPS is a different way of securing the string to the ball end which removes the issue of undue stress on different sections of the wire, including the crucial point right at the beginning of the lock twist where most strings break.

OVERALL:

A set of strings that can’t be broken? Perfect.

 

Markbass Little Mark Ninja Head

DISTRIBUTED BY: CMC Music

EXPECT TO PAY: $1895

RECOMMENDED FOR:

Bass players who want a compact head that packs a lot of punch.

SOUND/VERSATILITY:

Fat and punchy, the Ninja handles slap, extended ranges (five and six strings) and aggressive playing with fingers or a pick easily. It also responds nicely to traditional fingerstyle, adding some honk in the mids if needed, and with some extra EQ shifting thanks to the VLE and VPF controls. Great for a range of styles, it’s no wonder you see Markbass gear on everything from rock gigs to country, funk and jazz.

USABILITY:

Honestly, you probably won’t need 1000 watts if you’re just rehearsing quietly at home in an acoustic duo. You might not even need 100 watts if you’re playing rock gigs at a loud pub. However, one of the main complaints from bass players is that they get drowned out or lost in the mix at gigs/rehearsals, as they don’t have enough power. So for the size and price you can have that extra volume in reserve and retain your tone at louder settings, rather than it pushing your amp to the limit.

CONSTRUCTION:

Super compact and lightweight casing.

OVERALL:

Small, portable and packed with great tones and a tonne of headroom/volume.

 

Markbass Evo1 Modeling Head

DISTRIBUTED BY: CMC Music

EXPECT TO PAY: $1650

RECOMMENDED FOR:

Bassists from all corners of the music world.

SOUND/VERSATILITY:

The Bass Evo1 has a simple set of bonnet style knobs across its face. Twin three-band EQ and level controls wrangle both dirty and clean channels with familiar grace, while a flexible effects dial rounds out each rail. The head has two channels, and both have six presets to scroll through, populated by a greatest hits collection of bass amps from throughout the ages. You want that brand new SVT stomp? You got it. Looking for some of that '80s solid state girth? It’s all yours.

USABILITY:

One of the simplest and most useful features of the Evo1 is the mix knob. Anyone who’s ever listened to Converge or recorded bass in a professional studio will know the merits of blending in the clarity and accuracy of a clean, unfettered signal over the mayhem of bucketloads of fuzz. Mark knows this as well as anyone as said mix knob proves.

CONSTRUCTION:

The head is well constructed and surprisingly compact given how much punch it packs.

OVERALL:

The Evo1 is super versatile and easy to hone in.

 

Marshall 92 Litre Bar Fridge

DISTRIBUTED BY: Electric Factory

EXPECT TO PAY: $599

RECOMMENDED FOR:

Keeping you beers cool, and your aesthetic even cooler.

SOUND/VERSATILITY:

Is there anything sweeter than the sound of a freshly cracked, ice cold tinnie? If you agree with that sentiment, you'll find nothing sounds better than this bad boy. 

USABILITY:

Control knobs go to 11 on this thing – which is essential for any rock'n'roll fridge worth its salt. An adjustable front leg means you'll be able to alter the product to suit your living situation. A 92-litre capacity offers more than enough room to stock the fridge up with enough brews to cool off after a hot summer's day of rehearsing.

CONSTRUCTION:

Marshall make their amps with a construction quality that's built to last. Fortunately, this is no exception. Glass shelves make for a classy touch; an arctic blue interior LED lights things up for after-dark jam sessions and genuine logos and design are the icing on the proverbial cake. Plus, weighing in at a very manageable 24.6kgs, you'll be able to transport this with ease, if you so desire. 

OVERALL:

For the music lover in your life with a taste for all things rock'n'roll, you'd do well to set them up with one of these.

 

TC Electronic PolyTune 3 Tuner

DISTRIBUTED BY: Amber Technology

RRP: $219

RECOMMENDED FOR:

Anyone who wants to keep their instrument in tune, and thanks to the inclusion of TC’s BonaFide Buffer, you won’t risk losing signal strength.

SOUND/VERSATILITY:

PolyTune 3 builds on the feature set of the original pedal, with multiple tuning modes including polyphonic, chromatic, ultra-precise strobe mode and the ability to store alternate tunings. But it ups the stakes with the inclusion of TC’s acclaimed BonaFide Buffer.

USABILITY:  

TC Electronic has also included the ability to switch between buffer and true bypass modes, the idea being that the buffer model lets you keep the tuner in full operation even when your signal is not muted.

CONSTRUCTION:

PolyTune 3 has a super-bright 109-LED display with an ambient light detector that automatically adjusts the intensity to provide the perfect readout regardless of where you are.

OVERALL:

A very flexible tuner with a great sounding buffer that will make your life easier. Plus the size of the LCD screen means it has excellent readability in a variety of environments.

 

T-Rex ToneTrunk Pedal Board and Soft Case

DISTRIBUTED BY: Amber Technology

EXPECT TO PAY: $139

RECOMMENDED FOR:

The tonal tap dancer in want of a lightweight yet durable angle on pedal portability.

SOUND/VERSATILITY:

Sound doesn’t really come into the equation here unless you’re going to do your best Einsturzende Neubauten impression on the side of your pedal board. Versatility comes in spades though with four diverse sizes to choose from and plenty of room for any number of spatial configurations.

USABILITY:

The combination of heavy-duty padding, durable aluminium construction and two handy pockets is perfect for the self-sufficient road warrior.

CONSTRUCTION:

The bag is Kevlar tough yet padded enough to be comfortable to carry. The pedal board itself is lightweight yet near on bulletproof with an inch high step moulded into the design making it infinitely easier to access your second row of stompboxes.

OVERALL:

Another example of T-Rex taking a simple idea and perfecting it based on the needs of the everyday player. They have learned from the glaring exclusions of so many other designs resulting in a solid, performance ready base of operations.

 

TC Helicon VoiceLive Play Acoustic

DISTRIBUTED BY: Amber Technology

EXPECT TO PAY: $649

RECOMMENDED FOR:

Acoustic guitarists who perform solo or in a duo and need to fill out their sound while also presenting the best possible production standards in a simple format.

SOUND/VERSATILITY:

For acoustic guitar and vocals, this unit does it all. Vocal effects and harmonies, acoustic guitar effects, special processing to make your acoustic sound great, and the ability to share presets with other users.

USABILITY:

Plug in your guitar and a mic, start singing and playing, and the VoiceLive Play Acoustic will create harmonies based on the chords you’re playing. It doesn’t get any simpler or more musical than that, and yet if you want to get further into editing and preset-switching, you can do that too. The footswitches are easy to use in performance and a handy ‘Hold for Talk’ switch lets you strip out the effects between songs.

CONSTRUCTION:

A very hardy pedal with roadworthy construction and a lot of thought put into the user experience via bright screens and edit buttons.

OVERALL:

An indispensable tool for acoustic guitarists and vocalists who are serious about their live sound. You can also plug an external device in via the aux input and use the VoiceLive Play Acoustic as your live sound hub to bring together backing tracks, guitar and vocals. 

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