We humans really like to bang on stuff. When we’re young, it’s usually pots and pans – but in our dreams it would be something like the Korg Wavedrum. A synthetic drumpad about the size of a frisbee, the Wavedrum has the ability to imitate literally thousands of sounds. Want to jam with a conga beat? Check. How about a tambourine? Got it. Just like whacking a real drum, you can make different sounds depending where you hit the Wavedrum. You can use your hands or go for drumsticks to pound out sound. Of course, you will need an amplifier – which makes it a little more high-tech than those pots and pans.
Yamaha’s Tenori-on is what would happen if a LiteBrite had a musical love child with an Etch-a-Sketch. Strange and yet cute, the Tenori-on is a maker of musical soundscapes. electronic instrument that combines a small synthesizer with a sequencer that renders visually. The Tenori consists of a hand-held screen made up of a sixteen by sixteen grid of LED switches, any of which can be activated in a number of ways to create an evolving musical soundscape. The switches are held within a magnesium frame, which has two built-in speakers located on the top of frame, as well as a dial and buttons that control the type and tempo of sound. It can produce weird music, cool music, but never ordinary sound – which is why all sorts of new musicians love it.
When the lights go out on the audience, you don’t want to lose hold of your drumsticks, do you? Enter Hip Trix, the glowing sticks for smashing drums. At $24.99 a pair, the sticks will last a little while. They need to be charged with exposure to a light source – the company says blacklights work best – and then they glow all night. They’re made out of synthetic materials that are supposed to keep their luminosity for a long time. Of course, drummers are always tossing their sticks to the crowd – at least now the audience can see where it’s headed even if the visibility is low. Safety first!
Vox AmPlug Cabinet
Amplifiers on the run? For $50, you can pick up this portable amplifer cabinet. The amPlug plugs into an electric guitar like a regular cable and, with the use of headphones, makes for a very portable, private and enjoyable practice session. These powerful preamps produce high-quality sound, says VOX, without disturbing the people around you anywhere you practice. The three-inch speaker, which weighs in at only 0.65 pounds, can add on and let you jam on the street or anywhere. Powered by a 9-volt battery, the unit lets you jam for 10 hours at a time. It makes the practice of music-making at lot more portable.
Korg Sound On Sound
Recording equipment has recently been bumped up with new tech design – like this Korg Sound on Sound unlimited track recorder. It’s not available until April, but the pocket-sized touchscreen recorder allows you to overdub your recordings as many times as you want. The recorder has many cool features, like the ability to playback speed of your recordings without affecting the pitch. There is an external microphone jack, dedicated guitar input, and line input for an external audio device – as well as an internal mic. More than 100 effects can be layered onto tracks both during and after recording. The SOS will sell at $400, which is pretty fair for all the possibilities in the tech.
USB Condenser Microphone
With a name like Yeti, this microphone shows it’s got something to say – and for good reason. Blue Microphones is out in front of the pack, being the first company to produce a THX-Certified microphone. The Yeti comes in four options (Omni, Cardioid, Stereo, Bidirectional) for “incredible versatility and superior results in any situation”. It also includes studio-quality performance and features, with zero latency, amplified headphone monitoring, microphone mute, and hardware-based gain adjustment. The Yeti has a driverless installation and works with both PCs and Macs. It is estimated to retail at $150 when it comes out this spring.
Carbon fiber Ukulele
Guitar maker Blackbird is trying to reinvent one of the sweetest little instruments around. They have a proprietary design for a completely carbon fiber ukulele with a hollow neck. For those wondering why anyone would ever want a stringed instrument made out of anything other than wood, apparently carbon fiber is supposed to be more acoustically efficient than wood – as well as being more resistant to humidity, which is the bane of all wooden instruments. Blackbird Guitars calls its light-yet-powerful uke the “ultimate travel instrument”. You can check out the difference yourself when it debuts in Spring 2010 with a street price of $999.
AKG Perception 120
These days, USB microphones are hot like Lady Gaga. Audio maker AKG’s first foray into the USB arena is the Perception 120 , which debuted in the fall and costs $99. The Perception is an excellent plug-and-play device that will deliver performance for everything form podcasts to voice-overs and studio-quality rehearsal recordings without much hassle. It plays nice with both Macs and PCs, and includes an integrated high-quality analog to digital converter – which sets it apart from many of the other USB microphones on the market now. The Perception also comes with an integrated pop filter, a switchable bass cut filter and an attenuation switch.
Black Sparkle Silent String Quartet
Yamaha is not afraid to push musical boundaries with these crazy-looking silent instruments. In honor of the company’s 50th anniversary of making musical instruments in the United States, Yamaha introduced instruments that make no music at all. Well, they do actually bing and bong – but you’ll have to plug in an amplifier or strap on headphones to hear them. Each piece features ebony fittings, a maple neck and body, and “the look and feel of acoustic instruments,” according to the company. I’m not so sure about the sound, but this is definitely the look of the quartet I want to play at my space-age Titanic party. The whole set can be picked up for around $7,110 in May 2010.
Elation Platinum Spot 5R
Some things you can just depend on: a rock show will always feature tight pants, loud drums – and bright lights. That final piece of the equation got an update this year in the Platinum Spot 5R, a moving head that utilizes the new Philips lamp technology. While it blsts an output comparable to a 575-watt fixture, the 5R takes up only half the space, sucks up half as much energy, and weighs just a quarter as much as typical stage lights. Its 2000-hour rated lamp life is twice as long as a conventional 575-watt fixture. It operates on 16 DMX channels and can pan 540 degrees with a tilt of 265 degrees and a beam angle of 17 degrees. The 5R hit the market in the fall and retails at $2799.95 – a little steep for your backyard show. It’s still good to know that everything can be improved. Now to adjust those skin-tight britches …
Ritmo Advanced Sound System
Moms are always looking for new ways to introduce their babies to the musical stylings of the future. Ritmo is the most recent in a line of baby-mommy music gadgets, and by far the most futuristic. The system connects to most audio devices and has four speakers and a controller, the size of a deck of cards, which fits comfortably into a tiny pocket. Ritmo says it “utilizes Nuvo’s patented Safe & Sound Technology to regulate the output of sound to a safe level for a baby to hear in-utero, regardless of how loud the sound was recorded or the volume that it is played.” Because no embryo wants to hear Gene Simmons’ scream at full volume. In addition to music, Ritmo can let a baby in the womb listen in on the sound of their siblings’ voices, a book being read, or hear how much Daddy has annoyed Mommy by going out every night. The system retails for $129.99.
Voice Band App
Voice Band can make a rock star out of almost anyone. When you sing into your phone (in private, please!) the app converts your voice into the sweet sounds of ten different instruments in real time. Basically, your voice becomes code that is used to layer instrument sounds into a multi-track song. You can leave your musicians behind for this gig and just employ your voice to become the sounds of guitar, bass, sax, synthesizers, and drums. The app just came out for the iPhone for $3, and there's even a pro version coming out in the future that will output your vocal input tracks as MIDI.
New York Philharmonic Music Box
If you have $12,000 to drop on a musical box, this might be the best gift ever – a handcrafted music box made of valvona, birch and maple burl that plays Dvorak. The Reuge and New York Philharmonic Orchestra Music Box is a work of art, displaying its music-making innards in a beautiful violin-shaped case. For that price, it should include a couple of seasons worth of box seats to see the Phil, but hey – music is what sets the heart free. Except it’s far from free.
The PolyTune from TC Elecronic is one of those gadgets that makes perfect sense – it gives musicians a way to tune all their guitar strings at once. It's a polyphonic tuner accurate to 0.5 cents, which is good enough for most ears, and works with both guitar and bass. Just strum all the strings and the reader will tell you which ones are out of tune. There's also a standard needle mode and two chromatic modes, as well as a real-time stream mode that shows you pitch changes as they happen. The gadget will be available in March 2010 with a retail price of $150.
One major difference between digital pianos and the real deal is the feel – and sound -- of the hammers vibrating against the strings inside. Up until now, digitail pianos could deliver on the sound but not the feel of those hammers. Yamaha is changing all that with its AvantGrand, which uses three strategically placed resonators to recreate the tactile vibrations created by a concert grand piano used to record the AvantGrand's digital samples. Yamaha clearly paid close attention to the pedal action, carefully duplicating the spring, friction, and inertia of a real concert piano. The piano debuted this fall with a pricetag of $20,000 – which is more than enough to buy you a real grand piano if you so desire.