Concept:Console digital piano with hammer-action keyboard.
Big deal:Eight stereo sounds including grand, upright, EP, strings, and organ. CD or MP3 connection through 1/8" stereo input lets you play along with favorite songs. Splittable keyboard and included sustain pedal. Can connect to iPad via Apple USB adapter.
We think:At this price, Alesis could have a hit on their hands in the home digital piano market.
List: $699 | Aprox. street: $500 |alesis.com/cadenza
IK MULTIMEDIA iRIG MIDI
Concept:Compact CoreMIDI interface for iOS that connects any MIDI device to your iPhone, iPod Touch, or iPad.
Big deal:Three MIDI ports. External MIDI control for sound modules, DAWs, and lighting systems. Micro USB port keeps you powered during long sessions. Includes mobile version of SampleTank.
We think:Enough iOS MIDI interfaces are turning up that it’s beginning to feel like roundup time. Stay tuned. . . .
Concept:Portable, personal arranger keyboard.
Big deal:Can load samples for voices and drums, and make them available from Flash memory without reloading on power-up. Offers MegaVoice (articulation) enhanced Styles found on higher-end Yamaha arrangers. Nine non-Western scales.
We think:There’s a good deal of musical muscle here, and you can take it anywhere.
AKAI EIE PRO
Concept:Audio/MIDI interface with USB hub.
Big deal:Four inputs on XLR combo jacks. Phantom power switchable in pairs. Records at 24 bits and sample rates of 44.1–96 kHz. Three USB type A ports in addition to computer (type B) connection. Cool VU meters.
We think:We love the retro look and the extra USB ports to connect MIDI controllers, copy protection keys, and the like. We’ll let you know about the sound when we try one.
Concept:Micro-size multitrack recorder—lots of power in your pocket.
Big deal:Eight tracks, each with eight virtual take tracks. Built-in dual condenser mics, plus eBand mode for learning licks, play-along, or onstage backing tracks. Includes 1GB SD card but supports cards up to 32GB. Bundled with Cakewalk Sonar X1 LE.
We think:We let our summer intern have first crack at it. He disappeared, then showed up at the end of the day and said, “This is the coolest freakin’ thing ever.”
MEINL PERCUSSION FX-10
Concept:Sampling drum pedal—a whole percussion kit in a box.
Big deal:Ten sound options, including kick and cowbell. Stereo or mono output.
We think:“More cowbell” with the touch of a toe? Yes, please.
List: $335 | Approx. street: $199.99 |meinlpercussion.com
PRESONUS STUDIOLIVE 16.0.2
Concept:Digital mixer for live performance or recording.
Big deal:Compact. Eight mono input channels and four stereo channels; 12 Class-A solid-state mic preamps. Built-in DSP effects. Remote control via iPad.
We think:The bigger StudioLive mixers sound great and are the easiest digital mixers to use we know. Now they have a little brother for smaller studios and combos.
List: $1,599 | Approx. street: $1,299 |presonus.com
iZOTOPE T-PAIN EFFECT
Concept:Collection of three music-making tools: the T-Pain Engine, the T-Pain Effect, and iDrum: T-Pain Edition, all of which bring the Pain to your track.
Big deal:Make beats, record vocals, arrange patterns, and upload tracks easily to SoundCloud. Add subtle or intentionally exaggerated pitch correction, just like T-Pain. Play the virtual drum machine preloaded with hundreds of sounds.
We think:However you feel about T-Pain or his vocals, this collection is inexpensive, intuitive, and . . . well . . . hella fun.