Here at B&H, we’d like you to celebrate the pro-audio people in your lives, so we’ve compiled a list of stocking stuffers for the studio supplicant in your circle, whether that person be a musician, an engineer, or as is usually the case these days, some horridly undercompensated combination of the two.
Pro audio gear can be quite expensive; it’s not uncommon for engineers to spend hundreds—if not thousands—of dollars on some essential product that won’t even look cool or make any sound whatsoever (I’m looking at you, room treatment). Thus, for our purposes, we’re considering anything around or under $100.00 to be a thoughtful, useful gift. We’re also going to divide this list into two separate categories: gear that is primarily fun, and gear that is primarily useful. This isn’t to say the two don’t overlap—just that they don’t tend to. Whichever route you go for your pro-audio peeps, they’re guaranteed these gifts will be a whole lot more satisfying than a pair of socks.
Okay, let’s start with something fun.
Teenage Engineering Pocket Operator Synthesizers
True Story: The first week I came to B&H, we were passing these synths through the aisle to mess about with—and that was an hour of work down the drain right there. See, these little guys might look like toys, but the sounds, patterns, and effects they generate are capable of inspiring great creative work. Essentially, they are minute synthesizers, powered by AAA batteries and small enough to fit into your palm.
The PO-128 Mega Man and PO-133 Street Fighter are two of my Pocket Operators. Each synth features authentic samples from the original arcade games, as well as drum slots, punch-in effects, a step multiplier, and more. You can also record additional samples via the built-in microphone or a 3.5mm input. Tweak, transpose, and modify your samples into new patterns and sequences to create fun, unique beats and melodies. These are great fun for producers, composers, and audio engineers.
Okay, now that we’ve given you some pie, let’s get the vegetables out of the way. Here are the not-so-fun-yet-still-highly-necessary gifts to consider for pro-audio friends.
As an engineer, I can tell you, we are always running out digital real estate. A hard drive will always be much appreciated. To keep costs down, we recommend this WD 4TB My Passport USB—sure to fit nicely into any gift box (or USB dock)!
In accordance with the Second Law of Thermodynamics, cables, like everything in the universe, degrade over time. To help test cable continuity down to the individual pin, we recommend the Kopul CBT-12, which can help your friends troubleshoot 12 different kinds of cables. This is not something they would necessarily think to buy for themselves unless they had to, so this gift might go over well.
Engineers can always use more cables. I’d say XLR cables (for microphones and monitors) and TT cables (for patch-bays) are probably the handiest. So, either of these would make a good buy. Some engineers might require a whole set of TT cables for patching external gear. If that sounds like someone you're shopping for, check out this set of TT cables from Hosa.
Your average audio-holic is going to spend a lot of time screwing things, unscrewing things, wrenching things into place, stripping wires, cutting plastic ties, and even taking apart computers to add RAM. For these needs, we think your friend will find this Platinum Tools Precision Screwdriver Set, this Leatherman Sidekick Multi-Tool, or this OWC 5-piece Computing Tool Kit a welcome gift.
For Gear Maintenance
As mentioned above, things tend toward entropy when left to their own accord. Add humans to the mix and the speed of degradation only ramps up. In that spirit, perhaps you might want to gift-wrap some sprays for your friend. Consider this Hosa Technology CAIG DeoxIT kit, which provides two different deoxidizing solutions, cloths, swabs, and brushes for cleaning oxidized components. Use this kit to fight contact noise, leakage, or overall signal problems. If they have singers over at their studio regularly, then they’d definitely appreciate this can of microphone sanitizer to keep their capsules fresh and bacteria free.
For Incoming Musicians
These items can help your pro-audio pals handle issues with musicians tracking in their studios. For instance, these replacement strings can be useful for guitarists who snap their own, and these drops and sprays are quite suitable for singers who often double as full-time hypochondriacs.
For the Room
I have never met an engineer who was actively looking forward to shelling out cash on room treatment. As evils go, it’s about as necessary as they come. Spare your friend the headache, and pitch in for some Aurelex Diffusion Panels or Bass Traps. Caveat: they’ll be too large to fit in a standard gift box.p
Back to Funsies!
Hey, here’s a gift that falls into both the fun and useful category: The Shure SM57, a microphone no working engineer should be without—and luckily for you, quite wallet friendly!p
If your buddies are recording drum kits in their studio, home, or in front of a live audience, then these microphones might be a fun gift for any occasion. Both these units mount on almost any drum hoop. Once set up, they capture the sound of the drum and deliver a signal that can be easily turned into a sample—either live (via various Roland drum modules) or in post (via the Roland TM-2 Trigger Module), during mixing. The RT-30K is for kick drums, while the RT-30HR works equally well with toms and snares.
Or you could buy your friend this Makala mako-blue Ukulele—especially if your buddy lives in Brooklyn. Really, if any of your pals live in Brooklyn, they’re going to need an ukulele. It’s an ordinance thing now. In some countries, officials might stop you on the street and ask for your papers. In Brooklyn, they ask for your ukulele. If you produce a banjo instead, you’ll be banished to Queens. True story (full disclosure: not a true story).
Well, that’s it for our suggestions for great and useful gifts for that pro audio person in your life. We hope your friends enjoy them, and if you have other ideas, please share them in the Comments section, below.