5 Holiday Gifts Musicians Will Go Crazy Over 2016

by Scott Shpak

December 9, 2016

​Looking for some incredible gifts for you digital musician friend?

Well, you've come to the right place.

In this article, we will go over​ some great holiday gifts that 2016 provided us with.

Novation Launchpad and Launchpad Pro

So much of today’s new music comes from sources and devices unthinkable 20 years ago. In that time, for example, digital audio workstations emerged, first as emulators of recording studios.

Later, DAWs started to break out of the studio paradigm and ventured into wildly different places, based on performance rather than recording. Ableton Live was one of the first and it continues to hold a unique place in the performance DAW scene.

No other software DAW has as many dedicated third party hardware devices built specifically to enhance its performance. Novation’s Launchpad Pro is one such device, while the Launchpad offers a budget version with many of the benefits of its big brother.

Sixty-four backlit performance pads, arranged in a grid, surrounded by an additional 32 function buttons take over tactile control of Live’s major functions. The performance pads are velocity and pressure sensitive, perfect for creating beats and live playback of loops.

Even though it’s designed for Live, the Launchpad can be configured for any DAW able to read MIDI CC information. There are many, many Christmas trees not nearly as colorful as the Novation Launchpad Pro, and there are few gifts you can give a musician that will keep them giddy and giggly long past New Year’s.

Focusrite iTrack iPad Recording Dock

It’s no secret that iPads are serious music machines when fitted with the right apps. Where they fall short has always been physical interface. With a single connector and one headphone/mic jack, it doesn’t get any more Spartan when it comes to routing audio into the Apple tablets.

Many makers have tried to fire up our imaginations with docking stations that attempt to turn iPads into full-featured recording setups, going past the limitations of the tablet itself. Then, when an option or two appears, Apple changes size, thickness and connectors. The boat no longer fits the dock.

Focusrite’s iTrack is just a bit larger than an iPad Air and it cradles tablets on just two sides, with a sliding lightning connector to handle the various locations sported by each iPad model. While anything larger than an iPad Mini hangs over the edge, it’s nowhere near as precarious as it sounds.

The expansion converts an iPad into an amazingly capable portable studio base. Stereo audio comes in through either XLR or ¼-inch jacks. There’s phantom power available and a Hi-Z input for guitars on channel 1. Gain control, direct monitoring, audio outs and monitor level all add hardware capability to the touch screen goodness already on offer.

If the recording musician on your list has been particularly nice this year, consider the iTrack as a seriously exciting big gift.

Quantum Loops Archive Packs

So much music these days is assembled, for lack of a better word, and there’s no dishonor in that. The basic building blocks of loops serve as the creative impetus for new songs, DJ performances and live EDM acts. It’s an entirely new way to create music that doesn’t need years of woodshedding to master.

As the loop-based performer hones their art, the desire for new, novel and naughty tracks grows, stoking creativity like coal shoveled into a steam locomotive. This is the market that Quantum Loops serves.

The beat is the thing, and the 21 volumes of Quantum Loops’ archive cover beats galore, right across the range of EDM and urban music styles. Each pack is under $20 and packed full of ready to use loops.

Nor is it all drums. Volume 016 Deep Chords and Bass throws tone over the rhythm, while Volume 012 provides everything to create Moombahton styles with audio, FX and MIDI loops.

Professionally recorded, processed and looped, these archive collections pack full of new ideas, inspirations and booty shaking inspiration. Quantum Loops are popular because they deserve to be, but check with your artist in residence to make sure they don’t already own the pack you have an eye on.

At time of publication, Loopmasters.com has Volumes 001 to 021 on sale for the season.

Toontrack Superior Drummer 2.0

For time, space and volume, acoustic drums have always been the high-maintenance child of home recording. Bashing out beats takes a toll on resources and patience. And then there’s coping with drummers themselves!

It’s no wonder that analog sequencers, MIDI and loop technologies each revisited beat creation. There are any number of drum samplers out there, each vying to create believable drum tracks for bedroom producers who can’t have a bash on the kit at 3 a.m., when inspiration strikes.

Toontrack Music’s Superior Drummer 2.0 is one of the best in the business. Creating realistic acoustic drum tracks is easier than ever, with control over individual kit components and even mic positions. You can even dial in mic bleed, for incredibly natural sounding results.

Play the samples with MIDI loops, keyboards or drum pads. Expansion packs extend the basic package, so no worries about plugin burnout in three months. This is a gift that keeps on giving.

Another time-of-publication sale knocks about $100 off the price at Plugin Boutique.com. Even advanced users will have a hard time using all the functionality in Superior Drummer 2.0.

Waves Abbey Road Vinyl Plugin

If digital audio has a drawback, it’s the lack of flaws that contribute to the sound of vintage vinyl. That’s right, it’s the mistakes that make those LPs sound so good. These aren’t, however, accidental flaws but rather those arising from the process that goes into creating a vinyl record.

It’s all about warmth and Waves brings an aural day in the sun by way of the Abbey Road Vinyl plugin. This package adds back the classic sound of vinyl to today’s perfectly produced digital recordings.

Modeled on the vinyl cutting and playback station at London’s legendary Abbey Road Studio, this plugin does everything except output a vinyl disk. You’ll never know that by the sound, however.

All the idiosyncrasies of vinyl make an appearance here. Wow and flutter, phase distortion, cracks and pops and even turntable slow-down effects are at your fingertips.

This is not a plugin for everyone, but for the musician absorbed with an organic and vintage sound, the Waves Abbey Road Vinyl package is almost as good as a trip to Studio 2 while the Beatles are tracking.



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