Our picks for the top headphones, interfaces, microphones, and more this silly season.
It’s that time of year already, where did the year go? We say that every year don’t we, but it’s suddenly the festive season 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 gifts to keep your eyes peeled for.
This year, there’s nothing more in vogue than studio gear. Whether it’s a condenser microphone, audio interface, pair of headphones or even a set of multimedia monitors, we’ve picked through the bunch to bring you our favourite audio gift ideas to consider these holidays.
If you’re interested in any of these products, enquire to the respective distributor for pricing!
RØDE AI-Micro Interface
Distributed by: RØDE Microphones.
Recommended for: Nomadic broadcasters, Zoom frequenters, content creators.
Features: The newly released AI-Micro is a USB audio interface that boasts plug and play connectivity with Mac, Windows, iOS and Android devices. The interface can be used with the entire RØDE app suite including RØDE Connect, RØDE Central and RØDE Reporter and is compatible with any 3.5mm TRS or TRRS microphone (including their own VideoMics).
It features an ultra-compact dual-channel audio interface for computers and mobile devices, high-quality headphone outputs for zero-latency audio monitoring and playback, and it connects seamlessly to computers, smartphones and tablets via the universal USB output (USB-A, USB-C and lightning cables supplied).
High-quality microphone preamps and high-resolution (24-bit/48kHz) recording ensure crystal-clear audio capture on any device, with a headphone output for echo-free audio monitoring and playback.
Weighing less than 20 grams, the AI-Micro is extremely compact and lightweight. Just add two lavalier microphones and you have a complete, studio-quality recording setup that fits in your pocket. Perfect for interviewing in the field, on-the-go podcasting, and making video calls or live streaming at home.
Overall: Whether you’re interviewing, podcasting, presenting, or live streaming, record incredible audio anywhere with the AI-Micro.
The compactness of the AI-Micro is a marvel for content creators on the go, as you can record audio to your mobile device from literally anywhere. Weighing less than 20g, you’ll barely notice it in your hand or travelling with you, which is a good thing.
Distributed by: Innovative Music.
Recommended for: Pro Studio types, multi-device overlords, fans of premium quality audio and flexible I/O.
Features: Delivered by the folks at the forefront of the pro audio industry, it’s no surprise that Avid’s Pro Tools MTRX Studio is nothing short of a perfect all-in-one centrepiece for any working studio.
With its premium quality signal path, insane routing flexibility and a whole host of handy and thoughtful features like in-built speaker calibration and advanced Eucon control abilities, it is without question one of the most powerful standalone recording systems out there at the present juncture.
The onboard Digilink functionality allows for up to 64 Pro Tools channels (with the option to have either one HDX 64 channels system, or to split and share audio between Pro Tools A and Pro Tools B). Also of note is the presence of two of Avid’s own superb sounding current gen DI inputs, which are some of the best you will hear on an interface of this type – absolutely ideal for spot recording and drop-ins after the fact.
Pro Tools MTRX Studio is the perfect ‘one fell swoop’ solution for the modern studio, providing enough onboard I/O (16×16) for all but the most complex recording setups or mix applications. The level of scalability and routing flexibility on offer here, coupled with the incredible command of the Pro Tools proprietary control protocol, really has to be experienced to be believed. The fact that all of this is achievable in a 1U rackspace is akin to digital studio utopia.
Overall: A perfect gift option for any pro audio pals that crave the kind of versatility needed for a smooth, consolidated workflow when deep in the waters of their sonic temple. It is the sleekest of missing puzzle pieces, and a backbone of support when working with any ensemble of artists or audio gear. The perfect centre of operations for any functioning studio.
Bose L1 Pro8
Distributed by: Bose.
Recommended for: Singer-songwriters, buskers, wedding bands, portable DJs.
Features: When playing smaller venues such as cafes and coffee shops, having a PA system that reinforces sound effectively without taking up valuable real estate is integral to any gigging singer-songwriter, busker or portable DJ. Throwing out a max SPL or 118dB SPL and a frequency response of 33Hz – 18kHz, the L1 Pro8 immediately impresses. The layout of the eight 2” speakers within the array is able to produce a 180-degree horizontal dispersion, which is really quite impressive, producing a wide dispersion pattern, ideal for smaller spaces. The unique 7” x 13” RackTrack driver keeps the low-end thumping, despite it being a much smaller footprint compared to traditional round driver designs. The three channel mixer sports 2-channels with XLR / 1/4“ combo connectors for mic, line or instrument input sources, with both channels able to provide phantom power if required, and the third channel featuring 1/8“ input, 1/4“ line input or Bluetooth connectivity. An XLR line level output is provided for system expansion and the system effectively packs down and weighs a manageable 17.4 kg. System EQ, ToneMatch presets and reverb are available for tweaking tones of connected sound sources, with more connectivity and control available via the RJ45 connector.
Overall: If portability, full range sound, projection and connectivity are your thing the L1 Pro is sure to impress. Classic, elegant Bose design and feature set are all packed in here, aimed to meet the pro requirements of even the most demanding of singer-songwriters, live performers and smaller venues alike.
Distributed by: Innovative Music.
Recommended for: The primarily in-the-box DAW user who craves the tactility of multiple faders for mixing and automation tasks with lightning fast workflow.
Features: The Avid S1 brings a sleek, elegant, and ergonomically designed compact control surface, boasting supreme build quality to be easily united into any DAW user’s setup.
Featuring seamless control with instant physical and visual feedback, the S1 boasts eight hi-res motorised faders and rotary controls (assignable to control multiple parameters), OLED displays for instant visual feedback and matching colour coded button at the bottom of each fader to match track colours in sessions if so required.
There’s dedicated buttons for EQ, dynamics and more for quick operation, assignment and control. Mute, solo and record enable buttons are above each fader allowing one to zip around any session without the need to jump for the mouse or keyboard. This not only frees users up to be more “hands on” with their mix, but alleviates getting bogged down with arduous click and drag tasks. Those wanting to setup with a tablet can take advantage of Avid’s Control app, taking the tactile nature of the S1 to new heights with even deeper integration and gorgeous visual feedback.
Overall: A truly versatile compact control surface, the Avid S1 offers unparalleled hands on control over a DAW session (with particular attention to detail in ProTools), allowing users to utilise and customiSe the many physical elements of this professional control surface, enhancing workflow and speeding up hefty mix sessions.
Aston Microphones ‘The Element’ Bundle
Distributed by: Australis Music.
Recommended For: Literally anyone interested in studio of any kind. This thing is sick.
Features: The product of an industry-wide survey in which over four thousand producers, engineers, and musicians, gave their feedback after a series of blind tests, listening sessions and peer reviewed A/B shootouts with the very best of the competition, it was only after 18 months of critical listening tests, data collection, and voluntary feedback that the final design and voicing of the Element was settled upon.
The result is one of the most forward thinking studio mics we’ve ever encountered here at Mixdown, irrespective of price point. It’s a microphone that couldn’t be better suited to the modern guerilla style of recording, with its novel RidyonTM capsule technology, intriguing powered moving coil topography and Robin Hood pricing.
With a maximum SPL rating of 132dB and an equivalent noise level of 3.8 dbA (A-weighted), the Element can handle both ultra-loud and ultra-quiet recording scenarios without introducing noise or distortion.
The Element’s unique topography, ability to tame harsh rooms, and flattering but detailed frequency response means that it is sure to go down as a highly influential, evolutionary cornerstone for years to come.
Overall: The real MVP here is that awesome RidyonTM capsule and the extremely unique voicings that come with it. Both strangely familiar and yet at the same time, something completely new, it’s an awesome one to have in the inventory.
If you are someone who is at the point in their audio journey where they can hear differences in mic choice, you’ll get years of fun and use out of this guy.
Mackie CR3-XBT Multimedia Studio Monitors with Bluetooth
Distributed by: Dynamic Music.
Recommended for: Content creators, home office types, those after a small scale monitoring solution.
Features: The Mackie CR3-XBT Multimedia Reference Monitors are the 3” variant of Mackie’s CR-X series. A small footprint offering for the Multimedia set, these monitors are perfect for everyday listening and budding Content Creators alike, finding their stride in various civilian applications, but with enough clarity anfd to make them a handy tool for any mix environment.
The 3” driver is swift and nimble enough to provide ample transient response and speed for whatever small scale applications you require them for. This also has the added bonus of making them an awesome speaker for cross-referencing final mixes.
Featuring a specially designed waveguide for clarity and proper dispersion of high-frequencies.
The monitors feature an all-wood cabinet with a brushed-metal front panel, and a built-in Bluetooth receiver that enables wireless music streaming from your smartphone, tablet, or Bluetooth-enabled computer. Consisting of one passive speaker and one powered speaker; the CR3-XBT’s connect to each other via the included speaker cable. Each monitor also features a custom-tuned rear port that works to smoothly extend the low end.
Overall: The Mackie CR3-XBT gives you a pair of 3″ Bluetooth-enabled creative reference series monitors. Offering a compact yet effective solution for mixing, gaming, and casual listening. Powered by 50W of amplification driving 3″ woofers and 0.75″ tweeters; your CR3-XBT monitors will deliver adequate sound whether you’re creating content or just want high-quality audio.
Distributed by: Link Audio.
Recommended for: Vocalists, podcasters, High SPL enthusiasts.
Features: When it comes to bang for buck, those seeking professional features that some of the industry’s microphone titans can’t match, need look no further than the Presonus M7 large diaphragm condenser. Featuring a 1” back electret capsule, uniform cardioid pickup pattern and high SPL handling of 134db SPL, this incredibly affordable condenser is suited for numerous recording applications. Feeling equally at home in front of any singer, podcaster or content creator, the M7 also excels at various instrumental tasks, from capturing guitars (both acoustically or amplified) through to snare drum and beyond. It’s broad frequency response of 20Hz – 18kHz makes for a wide, full spectrum capture and remains relatively flat in frequency response up until around 5kHz, where a gentle peak is present which rolls off around 13kHz. Its 75dB signal to noise ratio and equivalent noise level of 19dBA and -38dB sensitivity figures place the M7 in a competitive spot when put up against other mics in its class, making it a worthy choice for a wide range of users and applications.
Overall: Presonus’s M7 large diaphragm condenser brings robust design, high SPL handling and ultimate versatility into one affordable microphone. So what’s the catch? Other than clarity and warmth, nothing, that’s just the Presonus way. Packing a lot of features and ticking a lot of boxes it’s hard to think of a reason why one wouldn’t pick up an M7 for that special someone this Christmas.
AIAIAI TMA-2 Studio Headphones
Distributed by: Innovative Music.
Recommended for: Studio stalwarts, DJ’s, Electronic Producers.
Features: The ultimate studio companion, the TMA-2 boasts a slew of features to ensure the greatest quality and comfort for the long evenings on the tools. The over ear closed-back headphones contain a large 40mm driver perfect for capturing broader frequencies while also being loud enough for DJ’s to accurately hear their mixes.
They’re lightweight and breathable for those long studio sessions, but it’s the bio-cellulose diaphragm that really sets these headphones apart. The bio-cellulose speaker diaphragm in S05 is made of a bacterial cellulose, an organic compound grown using certain types of bacteria. The biodegradable diaphragm differs from their stiff counterparts as it moves less like a piston and is less susceptible to flexing and harmonic distortion. In saying that, it is stiffer and lighter than regular PET speaker units.
These modular, professional grade headphones are designed to last featuring super soft and resilient Alcantara ear cushions which offer an unrivalled combination of sensory aesthetic and functional qualities.
Overall: A match made in heaven for the studio head in your life, these over ear closed-back headphones have had equally as much care put into the audio quality as the extreme comfort, resulting in the perfect studio-grade headphones.
If sustainable living is at the forefront of your product purchases as well, the 100 per cent carbon neutral Alcantara ear cup material is perfect for your environmentally-conscious choices.
Smart Acoustic TRANSPORTA 10 V1
Distributed by: Australis Music.
Recommended For: Social butterflies, party starters, town criers.
Features: Quite simply one of the finest portable PA’s out there at the moment, The 10” variant of Smart Acoustic’s highly acclaimed Transporta series is the perfect gift for the socially inclined.
With a frequency range of 60Hz – 20kHz, pushing out a more than respectable 118dB SPL, from its nimble 17.5kg footprint, the Transporta 10” is the perfect size for carting across parks and outdoor sporting events, with its inbuilt casters and its impressive throw capabilities and quality drivers providing enough coverage for most civilian parties.
Of course, connectivity is plentiful on this forward thinking PA,with a balanced XLR/TRS combo jack, two 1/4″ unbalanced TS jacks and another L/R unbalanced TS connection. Stereo 3.5mm input jack is also available, as well as USB (MP3) and Bluetooth connectivity, just in case you needed any more input options for your park party. The standard reverb and two band EQ also allow for some sculpting and tasteful vibes in the music context – for anybody looking for some small scale reinforcement for voice or acoustic guitar.
Overall: A thoroughly thought out, well designed all-in-one compact PA system, the Transporta 10 V1 is one of those products that you’ll have forever and will always find new ways for it to come in handy.
With the included wireless microphones for easy plug and play operation combined with its ability to power up via mains or the built-in batteries, it’s versatile enough for speeches and MC applications, while the audio quality is such that it makes for an awesome listening experience even just as the soundtrack to some social interaction.
Scope Labs ‘The Periscope’
Distributed by: Scope Labs.
Recommended for: Tracking engineers, steampunks, fans of industrial drums.
Features: Looks aside, The Periscope is an awesome and beautifully unorthodox microphone, perfect for running as an ambient drum mic, mono overhead, or room mic for live full band tracking or any other application requiring ample colour.
Handcrafted in Finland and looking like something out of the Life Aquatic with Steve Zisssou, The Periscope is unlike any other microphone you’ve encountered before, both in aesthetics and in sonic charm.
An omni condenser mic with a built-in compressor (and not the limp wristed kind), The Periscope is capable of pulling sounds in the open air that other microphones simply can’t. Whereas one might think that this may only be suitable in certain contexts, you’d be surprised how often it’s pumping, tweaked out capture is absolutely the perfect antidote for an anemic sounding track or source.
Perfect for providing glue over the kit or creating some rekt industrial vibes up close, The Periscope is sure to peak the interest of anyone with even a passing interest in electro-acoustics or sound design in the open air.
It’s omni nature (and lack of proximity effect) and of course the aforementioned compressor also make it an awesome mic for ragged, close miked vocals, if that is your vibe.
Already highly touted by a murderers row of recording royalty Butch Vig (Nirvana, Garbage, The Foo Fighters), The Chemical Brothers and Joe Barresi (Queens of the Stone Age, Tool, Kyuss), it’s one of the most interesting and exciting things happening in mic land at the moment.
Overall: TURN DOWN FOR WHAT.
Zoom PodTrak P4
Distributed by: Dynamic Music.
Recommended for: Podcasters, mobile broadcasters, travelling musicians.
Features: This compact and affordable number is capable of carrying your podcast to new heights with its mobile flexibility and professional audio quality.
Featuring four XLR inputs and four individual headphone outputs with individual volume control, gain control knobs, and mute buttons for each input, all in an extremely compact footprint.
The P4 is also a two-in and 2-out audio interface, allowing you to record directly to your computer, Android or iOS device. Additionally you can stream your podcast.
Accounting for mics of all denominations, there is phantom power for all XLR inputs, with all input sources having the ability to be recorded on separate tracks to give you that bit of freedom in post-production.
If you can’t use your Zoom P4 in person and need to rely on the online Zoom call, you can connect your phone to the P4 with a TRRS cable (adapter may be required), or connect to your computer via USB. The P4’s built-in mix-minus feature means distracting echo and feedback will automatically be eliminated
Additionally, you can trigger sound effects using four assignable sound pads with 11 preset sounds. You can export in 16-bit /44.1kHz audio WAV, as you record directly to SD, SDHC, and SDXC cards up to 512 GB. It boasts up to four hours of use with just two AA batteries or a USB power supply.
Overall: The PodTrak P4 is your one-stop-shop to record your podcast whether your setup is stable or mobile, boasting all the features you need to tidy up your recording and editing process.
Check out print edition #318 for our full gift guide!