Can you believe that the year is nearly over? Have you done your holiday shopping? Missing something, but not sure what else to get perhaps? With so many options, it can be overwhelming. But fear not! Magnetic is here to help you out like we always do. It's been a hell of a year for product announcements and releases. Moog released their first poly-synth in decades, Xone finally updated their flagship mixer, and Ableton released Live 10. So then, where to begin? Below you will find my favorite tools of 2018, with categories and price-ranges for every wallet. Click the links to be taken directly to the product pages.
What: Phonon 4400
Why: I've said it many times before, and I'll say it many times again. This is the best portable headphone on the market. Period. They are insanely lightweight, and the sound they produce is simply unmatched. The newly updated 4400 is even more durable than the 4000s, and now has a longer cable. Read my previous reviews here and here.
Price: $275 (Use code Magnetic10 at check out to receive an exclusive discount)
What: Pioneer HDJ X5BT
Why: Pioneer has always been on their headphone game, and their new Bluetooth version of their X5 headphone allows you to transition perfectly from wireless to the DJ booth, ensuring you never miss a beat. Bluetooth headphones are all the rage these days, so getting a pair that's built for the DJ booth helps minimize your need for multiple pairs of headphones. A cool feature is that the wireless connection is turned off as soon as you attach the cable.
What: Behringer Model D
Why: When Behringer first announced they were going to clone the greatest synths ever, and release them at a price anyone could afford, most were skeptical they would pull it off, seeing as the company hasn't always been known for their build quality. I can safely say they have absolutely nailed it with their new line. It's built like a tank and sounds as close as you'll get to the real thing at a fraction of the price.
Why: Elektron has been on fire lately. Each product they put out is an instant winner. Known for their trusted analog machines, last year saw them dip their toes into the digital realm, with the release of their Digitakt drum computer. This year, they released the second "Digi" product, an FM synth called the Digitone. It's essentially FM synthesis made easy, and a perfect entry point into the Elektron world.
I know this is a 2018 list, and I put something from last year on it, but I put both of these on here because, since purchasing them, I've not made a single track without them. They have completely changed my way of working, and every session my love and understanding of them grow. Both have powerful MIDI routing capabilities, and can both be used as a soundcard.
Price: $699 (Digitone) | $739 (Digitakt)
What: Allen & Heath Xone 96
Why: Xone has been the choice of the world's top artists for over a decade. The legendary 92 changed the way people mixed their records, with its 4-band EQ and famous filter. But 12 years is a long time without any major update, and when Xone finally did announce it, DJs everywhere cheered with joy. Taking what made the 92 such a success, Xone has finally brought it to the modern age, with dual soundcards and separate headphone outs, and a dedicated 3-band EQ to perfectly tune your booth monitors. Perfection takes time, and it's safe to say the Xone 96 was worth the wait.
What: Ableton Live 10
Why: When Ableton finally announced the coming of Live 10, and all the new features it contained, producers everywhere couldn't wait to get their hands on it. The new wavetable synth, as well as new effects and other enhancements to its great tools, paired with a sharp and clean new look, made Live 10 a success.
Price: $99 (Intro) | $449 (Standard) | $749 (Suite)
What: Pioneer DJS-1000
Why: Sometimes, mixing records gets a bit stale. Adding an instrument or some other piece of gear to your setup can help you take your performances to the next level. The issue with this is that, if you're not sure what you're doing, it can quickly turn into a disaster. Pioneer took the success of its SP-16 sampler, and basically morphed it into a CDJ format player, seamlessly integrating into your traditional setup. I love it because it's a perfect way to get your feet wet with live performances. Its familiar layout is inviting, and the connection is the same as a CJD, with the addition of more connective possibilities. You can use it as a live sampler, a sequencer, or MIDI controller depending on your needs.
Why: Accurate monitoring is crucial to proper mixdowns, and is tough to achieve when you may not be in the most ideal environment. Sonar Works saw the need for a product that fixed this issue, and thus they created the Reference software. It measures your space via an audio test and then creates an EQ band that corrects your speakers to produce a flat response. On top of that, they also have a headphone correction specific algorithm, which allows you to take your mixdowns anywhere you go.
What: Moog One
Why: Moog needs no introduction. Their instruments have long been the standard in which other companies strived for, and they are undoubtedly the king of mono synths. But this year, they decided to mix things up and bring polyphony back to their lineup with the Moog One. The most advanced Moog ever, the One contains a powerful digital processor that allows for unmatched control over your sound shaping abilities, while retaining the massive analog sound Moog is known for. In fact, Eventide even put their reverb algorithms into it. The only issue is that is synth is extremely expensive and is not for the amateur producer.
Price: $5999 (8-voice) | $7999 (16-voice)
What: IK Multimedia UNO Synth
Why: IK Multimedia is perhaps best known for their iRig line of software and hardware, but this year they stepped into the analog ring with their super portable UNO Synth, a fully-analog synth and MIDI controller that runs on either batteries or USB. It's easy to use, and a perfect first synth for those looking to get outside the box.
Wonder what your favorite artists were stoked on this year? I asked them all that exact question, and they were happy to provide their picks. Take a look below. What will you be adding to your arsenal this holiday season?
Who: Blush Response
Price: $550 (Nerdseq) | $699 (Eventide) | $1349+ (Elektron) | $90 (Electro Harmonix) $179 (Fabfilter)
Who: Matt Lange
What: A locally made Cello.
Why: "It encouraged a different form of exploration and musicality that I didn’t already have."
Who: Greg Downey
Why: "Hands down THE most incredible plugin around, phenomenal! I have always wanted something to take my sounds to the next level and this is it. It's an amazing tool to enhance and add depth and character to your music."
Who: Setaoc Mass
What: Prophet Rev 2
Why: "It's just dope."
Price: $1299 (desktop) | $1499 (8 voice) | $1999 (16 voice)
What: Dave Smith OB6
Why: "It's just a really versatile synth. You can make anything from phatty bass patches, crazy arps to trippy fx, and that's just scratching the surface. I just think it's a well-rounded piece of gear."
Price: $2399 (desktop) | $2999
What: TDR Nova EQ from Tokyo Dawn Labs.
Why: "It's actually a free one and has the exact same features as the expensive ones."
What: Yamaha U3 Piano
Why: Adds realness to a digital world
Why: Check out our In Conversation where he explains why he bought two of these.
What: Fender Jazz Bass
Why: Because it makes me write something musical instead of atonal beeps on a modular.
What: Daily rigorous exercise
Why: "Because when my body is feeling fresh and energized I'm much more excited and inclined to work on music. Creativity started coming more frequently, and my passion was further ignited to write. So aside from gear and toys, this new extreme physical approach to life genereated a new drive in the studio that feels amazing."
Price: Free to extremely expensive depending on how you train.
And there you have it folks. Your favorite artists, and their favorite new tools. Are you surprised by any of the answers? Let us know your favorites.