Take Your Mixes To The Next Level

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

10 Holiday Gifts For Musicians And Engineers

It's that time of year again when it's time to buy some gifts. It you're in a quandary about what to buy for that musician or recording engineer in your life, you're in luck. I have a list of recommendations that covers a variety of items and price ranges. Most of these products I use regularly.

1. Etymotic Reaserach ER 20 Hear Protection Ear Plugs
I personally never go into a loud audio situation without these little gems. They are soooo much better than foam or wax earplugs in that they cut the level down without affecting the frequency response. Since I found the Etymotic Ear Plugs I feel absolutely naked and scared when I don't have them on me. At less than $10, you just can't go wrong.

2. Musician's Roadmap to Facebook And Twitter by Ariel Hyatt
Ariel is the queen of Cyber PR and her roadmap book is essential reading if you're an artist and new to the ways of Facebook and Twitter. If you're going to learn, do it from the best. She's also offering a holiday special for $20!

3. Monoprice 8323 Headphones
It's shocking how good these phones are for about $22. They're pretty comfortable, have a really tight fit, and provide a surprisingly balanced sound. In fact, I would trust the low end on the 8323's more than on a couple alternatives that I have that cost 4 or 5 times more. Don't let the "DJ-style" in the description scare you, these are terrific for the price.

4. Books by Bobby Owsinski
Okay, so I'm a little biased, but if you're looking for a book for someone in the music business, you'll hopefully find one of mine that will hit the sweet spot. There's something for everyone, including books on mixing, recording, recording drums, mastering, being a studio musician or a touring musician, improving your band, producing, navigating the new music business (the newly released second edition of Music 3.0), studio building, guitar tone, and making videos. From about $16 to $30.

5. Etymotic Research MC5 Noise Isolating In-Ear Earphones
Etymotic makes a lot of really great earphone products, but I especially love these MC5's for listening to my iPad or computer on trips. They totally seal out everything around you, which is great for eliminating that plane noise on a long trip. Plus, they're a huge upgrade over the standard Apple earbuds (which aren't even in the same league). They're about 60 bucks, and well worth it.

6. NewerTech Voyager Q Hard Drive Dock
Granted, this is a little geeky, but a total boon to the hard working person on a DAW. Raw hard drives are so much cheaper than buying them already in the cases, but how to connect them? Use a drive dock, that's how. This version of the Voyager is the one I use every day. It allows you to hot-swap drives and connects to the computer via Firewire 400 and 800. eSATA, and USB 3, so you won't have any hiccups editing video or that project with 100 96k/24 bit tracks. It's about $75.

7. FMR Really Nice Compressor
Everybody wants big bang for the buck and you can't get a bigger bang than the products from FMR, especially their Really Nice Compressor. The RNC provides excellent high-quality compression complete with a special "Super Nice" mode that chains multiple compressors together internally for an especially smooth sound. At $175, it can't be beat. While you're at it, buy one of their Really Nice Preamps as well, a great sounding preamp for an amazing price.

8. T-RackS 3 Mastering Suite
Don't get me wrong, it's usually not a good idea to master your own stuff, but on those occasions where you must, T-RackS is the way to go. I especially like the fact that it can be used as a stand alone desktop app. It has a great metering package and a wide range of EQ and compressor options. A word of caution, it's best to stay away from the EQ if you're mastering yourself, but T-RackS is a great way to do one of the main jobs of a mastering engineer - setting all of your songs to the same relative level. You can purchase T-RackS 3 for $249. While you're at it, pick up a copy of the T-RackS official guide (written by yours truly) for some mastering tips and tricks.

9. Golden Age Project Pre-73
Everybody wants a Neve preamp but a lot of us can't spring for a couple of channels of 1073s. The Golden Age Project Pre-73 was built to sound a lot like the 1073 and it does a pretty good job of it. It's not the real thing, but for only $350 it's surprising how close it gets.

10. Royer R-101 Ribbon Microphone
There's now a number of cheap ribbon mics on the market, but let's face it, they sound like crap compared to the real deal like a Royer R-121 or a vintage RCA DX-44. Now you can own a great ribbon mic for a reasonable price thanks to Royer's new R-101. It's about 40% cheaper than it's big brother and just the thing for recording electric guitars and horns of all type. Plus, it's a real Royer.

That's it for this year. Hopefully there's a little something in the price range you're looking for. I probably could have written about 10 more gift ideas, but I think I'll save them for next year. In the meantime, don't you deserve a present too?
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