Mixdown’s Instrument Gift Guide – Part One

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Mixdown’s Instrument Gift Guide – Part One

Words by Mixdown Staff

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

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.

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!

If you’re interested in any of these products, enquire to the respective distributor for pricing!

Fender Noventa Telecaster

Distributed by: Fender Australia.

fender noventa telecaster

Recommended for: Rock dogs, guitar nerds and novice shredders alike.

Features: The Noventa is stripped-back, simple design that does not compromise on having a fat, powerful sound, complete with that classic tele spank. It’s unembellished yet powerful, and can conjure some non-typical tele sounds due to its modern playability, midrange bite and splendid highs, characteristic of the all new Noventa pick-up. A dashing bonafide rock-machine, its tonal eclipse ranges from woody bell-like tones to throaty, lively harmonics. The Noventa Telecaster’s simplicity lends itself as the perfect vehicle for experimentation on clean or overdriven amps, making it a killer favourite go-to for any expert or budding player.

The components are straightforward, with one P90 single coil bridge pick-up, a master volume and a tone control. With the standard telecaster old-wood body, glossy polyester finish, neck profile and maple neck, it also has 21 medium-jumbo frets for easy bending and a “cut” telecaster bridge with 3 brass barrel saddles. The design is classic, combined with the minimalist electronics, the half pickguard and the eye-catching vintage colours such as fiesta red, blonde and a warm 2-colour sunburst.

The Noventa Fender is the perfect gift for anyone who is a fan of the classic Fender sound laced with a whole lot of unique character. It’s also a great option for anyone who is a fan of sleek, simple user parameters and design, as well as a punchy punk-rock single-pickup experience. As a pure, honest instrument that delivers a powerful, dynamic performance, any lucky recipient of this axe is likely to fall hard and fast in love with it.

Overall: A delightfully versatile take on a known classic.

Find out more.

Vox SDC-1

Distributed by: Yamaha Music Australia.

vox sdc-1 mini

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.

Find out more.

Pioneer DJ DDJ-200

Distributed by: Jands.

pioneer dj ddj 200

Recommended for: Budding DJs, social butterflies, music lovers.

Features: If you’re totally new (or looking to dip a semi-serious toe) into the world of DJing, than look no further than the DDJ-200 from industry kingpins, Pioneer DJ.

Boasting connectivity with iTunes, Spotify, Deezer, Beatport Link and SoundCloud Go through apps such as Djay, WeDJ, Edjing and Rekordbox, the DDJ-200 offers vast media options, while the classic Pioneer 3-band EQ and two channel mixer layout (w/ crossfader and performance pads) is a crash course in Pioneer tactile functionality-something that will more than pay dividends as you move from booth to booth, onwards and upwards.

Should you fall off the grid (and as a beginner, this is inevitable) the beat and phrase sync functions are always there to help keep things musical, while the eight performance pads allow you to trigger samples and FX, giving you a whole host of transition and mix options from track to track.

Overall: With both Bluetooth and USB operability, the Pioneer DJ DDJ-200 is the perfect entry into the exciting world of DJ’ing and mixing for the floor.

Featuring the ubiquitous Pioneer layout, vast streaming capabilities and with built in FX and sample pads (all housed in a unit small enough to fit in your backpack), it’s the ideal entry point-perfect for honing your craft, whether at house parties, social gatherings or locked away in your bedroom while your family celebrate Christmas without you (don’t worry, we’ve been there too).

Find out more.

Rock-N-Roller Multi Cart

Distributed by: Amber Technology.

Recommended for: Gigging musicians, logistics experts.

Features: Rock-N-Roller are award winning designers of small scale porter solutions and transformable utility carts, with an eye clearly on the music and events industries. They are the leading innovator and manufacturer in the field, combining flexible design with road-ready efficiency and durability as well as a bunch of handy, muso-adjacent features that (quite literally) take the weight off your shoulders. 

Boasting an ant like ability to support up to 226kg from its diminutive 9kg frame, the Rock-n-Roller Multi-Cart is sure to impress in its ability to overdeliver in the strength department. Rock-n-Roller themselves say it reduces time and effort by 50% per cent or more, which means 50 per cent more time to focus on the task at hand (playing an awesome show).

With its clever ability to change its dimensions and layout, providing everything from basic dolly’s, right through to semi enclosed, high stacker style setups and platform/luggage options, the Rock-n-Roller covers plenty of ground in terms of application.

Overall: In practice, the Rock-n-Roller is one of those products that might not always be front of mind, but after exactly five minutes of using it, you will be wondering how you ever got by without it. Guitarists and bass players have been expounding the virtues of casters on cabinets for years. The Rock-n-Roller is that concept cranked up to 11 and the obvious upside is sure to put a smile on any musician’s face. The perfect gift to make someone’s life that little bit easier. 

Find out more.

Fender Acoustasonic Telecaster

Distributed by: Fender Australia.

Recommended for: Songwriters, folk-rockers, Telecaster completists, apartment dwellers.

Features: Over the last few years, Fender have slowly been rolling out their highly touted Acoustasonic range, and in doing so have really pushed the guitar forward from a flexibility/workflow perspective. This, the new Acoustasonic Tele, combines all the awesome versatility of Fender’s previous Acoustasonic incarnations (the American made Acoustasonic Strat, the Acoustasonic Jazzmaster) into a more affordable offering, perfect for anybody looking for a multi purpose daily guitar with a familiar body and neck from which to translate their ideas from the bedroom to the studio and live stages.

Boasting a robust and full acoustic sound from its slim mahogany body, loaded with the N4 magnetic pickup in the bridge position and a saddle-positioned Piezo, being designed for that authentic hum-free Fender electric tone. These can also be blended with an acoustic voice or even a mic on the body itself, in turn allowing players to create a whole array of new sounds and textures.

Overall: Breathing new life into a familiar classic, The new Acoustasonic Tele is a masterclass in combining two existing guitar designs in the one unit and whether unplugged or amplified, is capable of mustering tones unlike anything else out there. It’s neither an acoustic or an electric – it’s the exact middle ground and in that regard is the absolute perfect songwriting/in-studio companion for the utilitarian player, or for the more experimentally minded – the perfect vehicle for weirdness.

Find out more.

Line 6 POD GO

Distributed by: Yamaha Music Australia.

Recommended For: Tone hounds, shredheads, Johnny B Goode-types, guitarists of all types.

Features: Already a favourite amongst the guitar-playing fraternity, the POD GO is the perfect all-in-one, amplifier/cabinet/FX solutions for the six string inclined. Sporting an 11cm colour LCD display, the GO is prized for its intuitive onstage navigation, versatility of application, and quality of its amp emulations, but it’s really the ‘Snapshots’ feature which elevates this piece of gear to a higher plane, allowing seamless switching between tones without audio drop outs. 

The GO includes all of the classic guitar effects with amp and cabinet modelling as standard, which are all drawn from the award-winning HX stable of processors. It also has third party cabinet impulse responses available for unlimited cabinet options. Old school chorus and modern ambient reverb effects are nicely paired and the amp/cab simulations are varied, warm, and believable. Likewise, the super crunchy overdriven tones available are extremely luscious and loud. 

The POD GO also comes with access to its own edit app for easy preset editing and backup. The unit also has a stereo effects loop and TRS expression foot pedal/dual footswitch input. For professional recording capability, the Go also includes 4-in/4-out 24bit/96khz audio interface.

Overall: Compact and easy to use and navigate, while adding classic guitar tones to your performance, the POD GO is a tight, well thought out package of sounds and amp/cab models. The layout is simple, the versatility commendable, and the addition of some special user features makes it a winner.

Find out more.

Chateau Valencay CAS-22 Alto Sax

Distributed by: KJ Music.

Recommended for: Beginner to intermediate saxophonists and students.

Features: The perfect introductory sax, the Valencay CAS-22 Alto boasts a ribbed construction which heightens the overall strength of the saxophone making it ideal for the daily haul from locker to school bag.

Visually, it boasts a striking gold lacquer finish providing that classic brass look, an engraved bell and body with the Chateau logo featuring on the bell, and mother of pearl finger buttons to avoid your fingers heating up while playing as some plastic finger buttons will do. 

Internally the sax boasts the super-reliable Pisoni pro pads to prevent air leakage, and Italian blued steel springs to ensure attentive response. This alto sax is in the key of Eb and features a high F# to extend the player’s range meaning even more versatility in the hand.

Like Chateau’s equally cool Chenonceau Alto, the Valancay CAS 22 also comes with a zippered backpack case, mouthpiece, cap, and ligature to attach the reed to the mouthpiece.

Overall: This saxophone will be a great gift for intermediate saxophonists or music students looking to be introduced to the wonderfully slick instrument. Its playing features instills reliability to those looking to take the next step in their sax playing, while ultimately acting as the perfect introduction with its durability and strength with the playing quality a bonus. 

If your child thinks they want to learn a different instrument to be ‘cooler’, just get them to check out saxophonists in any jazz ensemble, the coolest cat there!

Find out more.

Gretsch Gin Rickey Acoustic/Electric

Distributed by: Fender Australia.

Recommended for: Blues or roots folk, travelling guitarists, porch-pickers, apartment sojourners.

Features: Fun, flip and finely crafted, the Gin Rickey features an X-braced basswood body with a powerfully resonant voice, a “C”-profile nato neck that joins the body at the 12th fret, a smooth walnut fingerboard with 18 vintage-style frets and pearloid dot inlays, a top-load walnut bridge with compensated synthetic bone saddle for even intonation all along the neck, and more. 

The soundhole pickup allows you to play acoustically or electrically. Importantly, the Gretsch Deltoluxe acoustic magnetic soundhole pickup reproduces a crisp yet throaty voice, providing the ultimate flexibility for your guitar playing.

It contains an aged white body binding and an aged white “G”-graphic pickguard, a gold and white soundhole rosette with gold double-line top striping, nickel hardware, vintage-style end-pin strap buttons and open-gear die-cast tuners, and a hot smokestack black finish.

Overall: Drawing inspiration from the older Gretsch Rex parlor guitars, the Gin Rickey transports you back in time and to another world for those who are more blues or roots inclined, but that inspiration also provides greater accessibility for those looking to play on the move or more easily around their dwelling.

Whether it is for bluesy porch pickin’ or on the couch, the G9520E Gin Rickey Acoustic/Electric with Deltoluxe Soundhole Pickup is truly a versatile classic guitar.

Find out more. 

Artiphon Orba

Distributed by: Koala Audio.

Recommended for: Experimentalists, gadget lovers, fidget spinning musos.

Features: Every so often, a musical product will break onto the market that really makes a splash – and not just among musicians. Audio units that are compact, feature-packed and quirky in their delivery generally tend to captivate the attention of mainstream consumers, and thus serve as an affordable gateway for many young minds to first experience the joys of musical creation.

It mightn’t look exactly like a conventional musical instrument, but the Orba by Artiphon could very well be the next biggest thing on the market. This pocket-sized device functions as a synthesiser, looper, MIDI and MPE controller, and heavily incorporates motion sensitivity into its operation; like a Wii remote, but far more musical.

Eight capacitive-sensing pads are placed on top of the unit to control the Orba’s internal synth sounds and drum pads, with velocity control allowing you to create more organic sounding loops with ease. 

Obviously, the Orba’s biggest drawcard is its motion sensitivity, which is performed via its accelerometer and inbuilt gyroscope. By making one of ten simple gestures – including tap, press, spin, radiate, tilt, shake, slide, vibrato, move, and bump, you’ll be able to modulate parameters such as volume, filters, envelopes and LFOs, as well as a number of other effects such as tremolo and pitch-shifting. Definitely one of the most hands-on and tactile synth experiences you will come across. 

Overall: One of the funnest products in this year’s gift-guide, the Orba is both an extremely powerful and haptic instrument for serious composition and a cool little nick-nack to keep on your desk when you need something to fiddle with. Incredibly addictive.

Find out more.

Fender California Mini Series Acoustics

Distributed by: Fender Australia.

Recommended for: Junior guitarists, travelling folk, people of petite stature etc.

Features: The California Mini series features an incredibly beautiful lineup of four guitars (featuring two distinct body shapes), designed with quality, stowability and convenience in mind. 

The Sonoran features a 24.1-inch scale length and is three-quarter sized, with a scalloped “X” bracing. Coming in both a clean spruce finish as well as an all mahogany finish, the natural neck, slim-taper “C”-shaped profile and a walnut fingerboard are a pleasure, both in the hand and on the road. 

The Redondo similarly comes in either a spruce top and mahogany back and sides but with an optional sunburst finish this time around. It’s even smaller, with a 22.75 inch scale length and features the same nato neck with slim-taper “C”-shaped profile, walnut fingerboard and bridge, and six-in-line headstock. Each guitar comes with a Fender soft-case.

Overall: The ideal gift for the junior or aspiring guitarist in your life, as well as those experienced guitarists who are after some flexibility with their couch noodling or playing while traveling. The neck shapes and small scale makes them an absolute breeze to either fly around playing leads or to quickly switch between complex chord voicings. 

Whether you’re looking for a good recording guitar, a daily whip to have around the house whenever inspiration strikes, or a guitar to take on trips without getting in the way, the Fender Californian Mini Series more than fits the bill.

Find out more.

Check out print edition #318 for our full gift guide!