We know--the keyboardists and musicians on your list have been dropping hints about the Korg Kronos, a vintage 1960s Hammond B-3 with matching Leslie in the rare fruitwood finish, and a new laptop with more processing power than the combined space programs that the USA and USSR had circa 1975. You can't blame 'em for shooting high, but here are some gifts you may actually get them. Happy holidays and merry music-making from all of us at Keyboard magazine!
STEINBERG CMC SERIES
WHAT Compact control surfaces for Cubase and Nuendo.
WITH Modules you can mix and match: drum pads, touch faders, knobs, transport controls, and more. Ultra-slick industrial design.
WHY Because Bang & Olufsen doesn’t make DAW controllers.
$199.99–$249.99 | steinberg.net
PROPELLERHEAD REASON 6
WHAT Latest version of the virtual studio rack, now with integrated audio recording!
WITH New audio time-stretching. SSL-style mixer from Record. Effects include Pulveriser, Echo delay, Alligator gate, and Neptune voice synth. WHY Again: Audio tracks in the sequencer!
$449.99 | propellerheads.se
WHAT Ultra-compact keyboard for learning and fun.
WITH A hundred sounds, 50 rhythms, and 8-note polyphony. Ten practice songs. Built-in speakers.
WHY It’s great for children but it’s not childish. $69.95 | casio.com
M-AUDIO FAST TRACK C600 and C400
WHAT USB2 audio interfaces.
WITH Major converter upgrade and 24-bit/96kHZ resolution. Multiple monitor control. Transport buttons on C600. Pro Tools SE with optional upgrade to MP.
WHY Add a USB keyboard, and you’ve got a great “my first studio” at modest wallet impact.
C600: $499.95 | C400: $309.95 | m-audio.com
WHAT Computer keyboard overlays for Mac OS music and media software.
WITH Covers for Ableton, Logic, Pro Tools, Sibelius, Serato, Traktor, Final Cut Pro, and more. Complete keyboards also available.
WHY So you don’t lose time remembering key-command shortcuts.
$19.95-$119.95 direct | kbcovers.com
SAMSON METEOR MIC
WHAT USB studio mic. WITH Big 25mm capsule. Records at 44.1 or 48kHz and 16 bits. Headphone mini-jack. Foldable legs. WHY Great for quick vocal overdubs, Skype, or becoming the next Chris Hardwick.
$149.99 | samsontech.com
WHAT Hackable DIY digital synth.
WITH Eight-bit brain. MIDI in. Lowpass anti-aliasing filter. Open-source hardware.
WHY Easy to build and gives you bragging rights for doing so. $139 direct | meeblip.noisepages.com
THINKGEEK SYNTH T-SHIRT
WHAT Playable synth-on-a-shirt.
WITH Five sounds. Eight-voice polyphony. Tiny belt-clip amp. Detachable electronics for washing.
WHY If you can play your shirt, so can others, which might break the ice at parties.
$29.99 direct | thinkgeek.com
BLUE MICS SPARK
WHAT Cardioid, solid-state condenser mic.
WITH Custom capsule. Class-A discrete electronics. Focus Mode for greater clarity and detail. Custom shock mount and pop filter.
WHY It sounds and looks way more expensive than it is.
$199.99 street | bluemic.com
WHAT Handheld four-track recorder.
WITH Adjustable-angle mics. XLR combo ins. Phantom power. Up to 96kHz/24-bit resolution. USB2. Overdub mode. Variable-speed playback. WHY For live recording, it’s perfect for capturing room sound plus a mixing board feed.
$279.99 | tascam.com
WHAT Mic bracket, audio interface, and pistol grip for iPhone 4 video.
WITH Two mics, but three inputs (with plug-in power) so you can use your own. LED level meter. Thumb wheel for input gain. Headphone out. WHY Because DSLR videographers shouldn’t get all the cool audio add-ons.
$199 | fostexinternational.com
ULTIMATE SUPPORT TS-100B
WHAT Speaker stands with lift assist.
WITH Internal air shocks that auto-lift speakers up to 50 pounds or require just a little help from you if they weigh more.
WHY If you ever set up your band’s P.A., these are your best friends aside from the bartender.
$219.99 | ultimatesupport.com
KEITH McMILLEN 12-STEP
WHAT Chromatic keyboard foot controller.
WITH Ability to play up to five notes per key. Poly-aftertouch and pitch-bend. Velocity sensitivity. Carbon fiber construction.
WHY You can play bass lines for way less than the cost of an organ-style pedalboard—even if you buy two units.
$289.95 | keithmcmillen.com
STEINWAY ÉTUDE 2
WHAT iPad app for learning, reading, and buying sheet music.
WITH Interactive scores. Cues for finger placement. Multiple view modes. Ability to hear varied-tempo playback. Piano-roll view. Built-in sheet music store.
WHY Why not? It’s free!
Free | etudeapp.com
BLEEP LABS NEBULOPHONE
WHAT Light-controlled stylus synth.
WITH Analog lowpass filter. Optical LFO. Six variable-rate arpeggio modes. Three-speed portamento. Open-source Arduino hardware. Programmable sequencer.
WHY Naked circuit boards that make sounds are cool.
Kit: $55 direct | Assembled: $85 direct | bleeplabs.com
DJ TECHTOOLS MIDI FIGHTER
WHAT Customizable MIDI controller.
WITH USB power. Mac and PC compatibility. MIDI Fighter Pro adds faders and knobs.
WHY It uses real arcade game buttons, which make it very fun to play.
Kit: $119.99 | Assembled: $134.99 | Pro: $349.99 | all prices direct | djtechtools.com
KORG MONOTRON DUO
WHAT Pocket-sized, ribbon-controlled real analog monophonic synth.
WITH Two oscillators instead of the original Monotron's one. Filter from vintage MS-20 synth.
WHY It's not just the ultimate synth hipster toy--it sounds really fat!
$70 | korg.com
KEITH McMILLEN BATT-O-METER
WHAT Universal battery tester.
WITH 1/4" plug to check battery without removing it from the pedal. Several types of terminals to check all battery types including 9-volt.
WHY Simply put, no gig bag should be without this.
$34.95 | keithmcmillen.com