Welcome back, and welcome to the last month of this year! It’s finally time to start winding down throughout the month in preparation for not just a good, well deserved rest, but also to eat as much as a bear getting ready for hibernation. Unlike a bear, however, I will be still going strong throughout the month to keep you all entertained with this blog (although, sleeping until Spring does sound great…) as we have finally come to our final focus topic, which if you haven’t guessed yet is simply our Year-End Wrap-Up.
To get us started off, I wanted to help out the many partners, wives, girlfriends, and as well as all of you reading this, by compiling a small Xmas list with gift ideas under £/$100. There's a bunch I’ve thought of, so let's not waste time and dive right in!
I am always asking for these at this time of the year, simply due to it being my most replaced item costing a lot once it builds up throughout the year. Guitar and Bass strings are often neglected or placed as an afterthought, when they should be in your routine to change at least once a month.
I usually try to buy in small bulk sizes, say 3 packs at a time, to save on cost per pack which works out nicely. There’s also a plethora of string makers out there so try to direct whoever it might be on the receiving end of this Xmas list with the brand name and the sizes you’re after (for example, I use D’Addario XL strings and I like the 11 to 52 gauge packs).
As many of you know, we have a range of accessories available in our store now, including the new Vintage Series shockmount that was released this year; but the most popular product by far is our Pop Filters - and for good reason I might add! For the everyday engineer, Pop Filters are another afterthought, especially when starting out, and so the cheapest option is usually seen as the best option as long as it solves the problem. The major issue is that most of them aren’t well made, or they have a fabric style design that can tear easily or simply just degrade quickly.
We designed our Pop Filter with all this in mind, and wanted to eliminate the necessity of replacing over and over again, a poor design that never withstands the test of time; and so our design utilizes metal, with a robust and road ready construction for use every day without deteriorating over time. We also added a unique take on how the actual filter design should be in order to have the best possible effect on reducing plosives, with a wave mesh pattern and a pin in the middle giving the best desired outcome. Having a great Pop Filter is a must for your Xmas list this year, trust me!
I recently had to replace my wireless after I lost it when playing abroad, which is one of the main reasons I’ve added it to this list. I was dreading the fact that the end of the year was coming up which is always expensive, and I simply couldn’t afford to spend as much as my last wireless system cost without breaking the bank - an even bigger issue was that I had a show in 5 days when I decided I needed to solve this problem!
What I found, however, was that the technology has advanced inexplicably in the time between buying my old one and this new one, and not only can you find super compact systems, but they cost far less than I expected! In the end, I actually went with the Behringer AirPlay AG10 not just because it cost a lot less than more advanced systems available, but because it has 4 different bands available paving the way for my guitarist and bassist to invest in their own when the time is right, as well as having a long life battery that can be charged by using one cable for both batteries. It also clips together when not in use and fits snuggly in my guitar case; and when in use, it’s so small that there’s no way it can become intrusive or cumbersome. Did I mention that it can also transmit and receive up to 100ft, and it costs less than £70…?
I think it goes without saying, but if you weren’t already aware, having your instrument in tune before you start playing is highly recommended. But, all jokes aside, having a good tuner for both in the studio and on the road playing is so important, and for me, software can sometimes get it very wrong or not even recognise that there is signal coming through.
There’s 2 options I’ve always relied on for my tuners which are the Korg Pitch Black Tuner and the TC Electronic Polytune. Both of these options have a good set of LED lights to indicate both the perfect note and also how far away from it you are, as well as featuring a built in buffer which is a must for any of you that has a large assortment of pedals on your board with 30ft of cabling between them to connect everything together!
Hosa Pro XLR Cable
It came as quite a surprise when I first started investing in my XLR and Jack cable collection, just how expensive they were when buying a few at a time. The biggest problem, however, was when I was first buying cables, I assumed that they were all the same, so to keep cost low, I bought sub-par quality cables to just get me through in a pinch. That was a fool's errand I was to find out shortly after buying them, and at this time I didn’t have any soldering skills either; so when they inevitably broke after a couple of uses, they were properly broken until I learnt how to fix them.
Now though, I’m a much wiser man, and so I know that buying good quality anything is likely to last longer, and my cabling situation is no exception. I stumbled across Hosa Pro about 5 years ago and now just about every cable in my studio is made by them for 2 reasons: 1. I’ve not had to replace any cables in that 5 years (yet), and 2. They legitimately sound far better quality than the poorly crafted ones I had previously been using. Even if you are the world's best solder technician, I would recommend adding an XLR or two on your wishlist this year to save you a lot of time, money and hassle!
Last on this list is the most obscure one; a mobile phone audio interface. It sounded silly to me at first a few years ago, but since owning one it’s made many areas of my life much easier and saved a couple of shows from being canceled that my band otherwise would’ve had nothing to play though. I actually first bought my interface when I was on tour in Switzerland near Zurich, and I needed something to help with my guitar tech work I was doing. I ended up purchasing one when I realized one of my normal guitar tuners wasn’t working as intended and needed something to plug into in order to use my guitar simulation apps I had on my phone at the time.
Since then, my Line6 Sonic Port has been in my toolkit ever since, and it has not only been a game changer for warming up before playing a show but also a lifesaver when we needed a guitar rig on the fly after something broke in our main one. There’s so many guitar and bass amp simulation apps now available as well as actual mobile phone DAW’s that you can create entire albums now,needing nothing more than this sort of interface. It seems my Line6 variant is very hard to find currently so I’ve included the iRig 2 interface instead which is my 2nd go-to for this product line!