Mixdown’s 2020 Christmas Gift Guide: Instruments
09.12.2020

Mixdown’s 2020 Christmas Gift Guide: Instruments

Words by Mixdown Staff

Our picks for all the best guitars and other instruments to get these holidays.

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.

If you’re planning to make these holidays one to remember, there’s nothing that beats the experience of receiving a brand new instrument. Whether you’re after a travel-sized guitar for a beginner, a new bass, a saxophone or even something totally different, we’ve put together a guide to all the best musical instruments to consider in-store or online this month – dive in!

Faith Nomad Series Travel Guitars 

Distributed by: CMC Music | Expect to pay: $995

Recommended for: Musicians on the go who aren’t willing to compromise on projection, tone and clarity.

Features: Comprised of the baby-jumbo shaped Neptune and the slightly smaller, square-shouldered Saturn, the Faith Nomad Series provides players with two small-bodied acoustics that punch way above their weight. 

While their dainty size might lead you to assume that they’re built for children, these guitars are nothing short of the real deal: both the Neptune and the Saturn are constructed from solid tonewoods such as spruce and mahogany to provide a classic tone and feel, while their 23.3” scale makes playing chords and single-note runs a walk in the park. 

In action, the Neptune and Saturn just sing, with both guitars delivering plenty of projection and clarity thanks to their X-brace design and solid construction. They’re suited for strummers and fingerpickers alike, with the all-mahogany Neptune being a particularly good fit for anyone looking to pluck out arpeggios up and down the neck. 

Storage is also made simple with Faith’s inclusion of a custom gig bag for both guitars, and to put the cherry on the top, both guitars in the Faith Nomad Series are loaded with a Fishman Sonicore Pickup and Isys T preamp, letting you plug in onstage and tweak your tonal settings with ease prior to a show.

Overall: Whether you’re road-tripping around the country or simply warming up backstage before a show, a small-scale guitar can prove to be a very welcome companion on your travels, and Faith’s Nomad series certainly won’t disappoint.

2021 Sterling by Music Man StingRays

CMC MUSIC | EXPECT TO PAY: SUB – $1150, SHORT-SCALE – $1650 

 

Recommended for: Any bassist who demands a punchy, mid-heavy tone to own their space in the mix, all within the confines of a classic design.

Features: New to their 2021 range, Sterling by Music Man are expanding their family with the addition of two new StingRay models: a SUB Series StingRay Ray4HH, and a cool new short-scale StingRay. Both of these basses are slick as hell and priced incredibly reasonably, providing a viable option for anyone looking to pick up a new instrument this Christmas. 

Let’s start with the Ray4HH. This instrument puts a bit of a twist on the classic StingRay sound by offering not just one, but two humbuckers, with a five-way pickup selector switch and active preamp letting you tap into both vintage and modern bass tones. A basswood body and maple neck make navigating the instrument a breeze, while a fully adjustable bridge ensures the bass can be set up exactly to your liking.

For smaller hands – or perhaps a more distinctive tone – the Sterling short-scale StingRay should do the trick, squeezing the classic sound of Music Man’s flagship four-string into a quaint 30” scale instrument. A push/pull volume knob provides a passive boost, while a three-way rotary control to flick between parallel, true single-coil, and series modes to let you access an even broader palate of sounds. 

Overall: The StingRay is a classic bass guitar, and with these two 2021 players, they’re now available at a much more affordable price to suit the requirements of every player. 

Vox SDC-1

Distributed by: Yamaha Music Australia | Expect to pay: $309

Recommended for: Kid shredders, Angus Young wannabes, buskers, lonesome travellers.

Features: With a healthy dose of miniature and traveller style acoustic guitars out there, it’s a treat to see that the electric guitar shredders haven’t been left out to dry. The Vox SDC-1 is every bit a riff monster as any full sized counterparts, all be it a little small, more portable and suitable for kids and adults alike. Its clever design allows for playing and tuning just like a standard size electric but in a 479mm small scale format.

No corners have been cut when it comes to hardware, with the specialised high gear ratio tuning heads allowing for accurate tuning every time, which are specially designed for a short scale setup and a bridge built like a tank to hold everything in place.

Body, neck and fretboard are all top notch being poplar, maple and purple heart woods respectively, sporting 19 medium jumbo frets 42mm nut a singular mini humbucker pickup and controls for volume and tone. A standard 1/4” output in exactly where it should be, and included accessories are wrench for neck adjustment and a soft gig bag, with the guitar being available in Red, Black and White finishes.

Overall: Prepare for riff carnage when a SDC-1 in put in the right hands. A perfect gift for kids or adults that require all the goods a standard electric offers, but in one red hot, pocket sized package.

Château Chambord CAS-50

Distributed by: Tenon Industries | Enquire for pricing

Recommended for: Jazz juggernauts, Classical cats, brass lovers

Features: Château certainly know how to stand out in a crowd of brass, with their Chambord CAS-50 being offered in a variety of luxurious finishes, with exquisite engraving on the bow and bell, mother of pearl key pads and Pisoni HT pads. These prominent features deliver maximum magnetism for those who so desire an instrument that radiates both beauty and painstaking craftsmanship.

Striking aesthetics aside, the CAS-50 sounds every bit as beautiful as it looks, with its brass construction, F# tuning, ribbed construction and most of all its big bell; boasting increased volume, resonance and projection. A piece of pure artistry that has to be seen and heard to fully appreciate its allure.

Overall: A unique and striking take on an instrument that can at times can look a little same same. With a standout finish and increased volume to boot, the Chambord CAS-50 will ensure those sax solos won’t go unnoticed, ever again.

Château Versailles CAS-90

Distributed by: Tenon Industries | Enquire for pricing 

Recommended for: Jazz heads, Avant-garde expressionists, handcrafted copper connoisseurs.

Features: Château have pulled out all the stops with their exquisitely tantalising Versailles CAS-90 series. The handcrafted 92% copper composition speaks with the most professional voice and its Air Channel Focus system on the neck keeps notes concentrated, smooth and sensual, just as a sax should sound.

The high F# tuning, full body flower engraving, Adalone shell key buttons, Pisoni pro pads and Italian blued steel springs all come together to make one truly breathtaking instrument, entirely constructed by one specialised maker, so one can expect on the highest of build quality, and lead time to match. A one of a kind sax offering the truest of musical expression, finesse and meticulous attention to detail, that will fit right into the hands on any pro player seeking something remarkable.

Overall: A one of a kind sax that beams with beauty and voluptuous tones. A fastidiously handcrafted sax sure to turn all the heads of the smoky jazz bar of which it was born to be played in. Take a breath and prepare get swoony.

Meinl Jam Series Cajon

Distributed by: Electric Factory | Expect to pay: $179

Recommended for: Percussionists, Drum Circles, Recording Nerds

Features: Percussion instruments make great gifts for a variety of reasons. 

Firstly, they are inclusive in a way that gets people involved in music on a peripheral level, with very little investment. 

Secondly (and for the nerdier crowd), they lend themselves to all kinds of interesting composition and sound design techniques that are great for getting the brain working. 

Thirdly (and perhaps most importantly), they look nice in an arts and crafts kind of way, which is sure to get the nod from any non-musical types to whom you are forced to share living quarters.

The Meinl Cajon ticks all of the above boxes and more, with Dual internal fixed snare wires, a beautiful baltic birch construction and a diminutive physical footprint. Most importantly, it sounds freakin’ sweet.

Overall: Whether young or old, everyone likes percussion. It’s fun, physical and can be the secret ingredient to getting a track moving in all the right ways. 

The Meinl Jam Series. has great low end punch (especially when played near the centre) and dishes out snare drum “slap” sounds when striking the top corners, giving you a bunch of different textures and tones to play with. A real crowd pleaser.

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