The $100 (or less) Audio Engineers Gift Guide

Unless you've been living under a rock for the last year, you may have noticed that Christmas is just around the corner. And if you're anything like me, you've likely forgotten that and started panicking on what to buy!


Well, if someone you love has done exactly what I've done this year, and you'd like to offer some help, or you're simply looking for some ideas for yourself to gift others; I wanted to create a guide of the things I know are super useful, likely needed, and will act as wonderful gifts for any engineer.


Let's dive in!


DI Boxes / Reamp Box

There's only really one company I've chosen to use as a dedicated DI or Reamping box and that's ART (Applied Research Technology). Time and time again, live, in the studio, 3000 miles away from home at a festival, I've been able to rely on their build, quality and simplicity each and every time - in fact, my oldest one in my collection is nearly over 2 decades old, and despite some wear and tear, it works perfectly as if it was just taken out the box!


The Z-Direct is a passive option for those that don't need the option for a little extra signal or haven't used active DI's in the past - but if you want to have a low impedance, super low noise, and wide frequency bandwidth, the X-Direct is the active version that can be powered via either battery or what I tend to do, phantom power (48v from your interface).

The reverse of the DI box is the Reamping box (it really is that simple). There's only one I've trusted throughout the years and that is also from ART, called the Active Dual RDB. Not only can this send 2 separate signals to two separate amplifiers, but it's to my ears completely noiseless. There's a simple reason why I've never even tried other options and that's due to these doing exactly the job that I'm after, with no fuss, no breakage, and no need to replace them despite everyday use throughout the last couple of decades.

Good Cables (and patch cables!)

Good cables are underrated far too much and I'm here to put an end to it this Christmas! Seriously, I can impress enough how often I come across a terrible cable in another studio, or from show to show live, and It is literally the most frustrating thing day in, day out. Period.

I have basically only stayed with one brand from about the last 4 years now which if you’re a cable nerd you’ll already know: Hosa Technology. They don’t just last forever, they are triple shielded, incredibly well made and I’ve never had to replace one. If you are in need of a new cable (and don’t want to trade your house for one 30ft cable), Hosa Cables are your best option!


Spider Capo

Spider Capo’s are a phenomenon I’m still trying to wrap my own head around, but they are so good to have in the studio for creativity! The concept is simple: instead of a capo that will just lay across the entire neck of the guitar changing the node to say the 1st or 2nd fret rather than the typical open note; the Spider Capo will allow you to change each string, rather than the normal capo changing all strings when on.

The concept is rather simple, and yet, it took me years to even learn of its existence and in the studio it’s quickly become a mainstay tool on my desk, especially when short on creativity in some sessions and the artist and I are looking for new ways to improve the song, or something isn’t working - invariably, the Spider Capo will be one of those things I reach for first!

Tuner Pedal

In my humble opinion, the Tuner in a studio is not only criminally underrated, but critically overlooked when it comes to upgrading, or spending any good amount of money on new items to help during sessions. My particular favourite, the Korg PB05 Tuner Pedal, is not only the most accurate I’ve found, but the easiest to use spanning a variety of both guitar and basses, and never fails to pick up the signal or give an accurate reading of the the pitch of the lowest (and often trickiest to tune) strings, regardless of the instrument in question. Not only in the studio, however, has it allowed me to trust in the design of the pedal; Live shows, spanning different countries, in various bands, and various band members, it’s never once let me down. It also has the ability to daisy chain the power given to the pedal via the output on the back, letting you add another pedal using the same source of power - always a bonus!

JZ Microphones Pop Filter

The humble Pop Filter. When starting out and working your way into the world of recording, a simple fabric filter is typically one of the first things you’ll buy - but how often have you replaced or upgraded your filter?

Unsurprisingly, like most things made in the world, there’s always new technology, updated designs, and better products. The one I’ve personally found to be the most useful, easy to use and best sounding, however, is the JZ Mics Pop Filter; and many people agree with me. Thom Russo for example, literally takes his own Pop Filter in his luggage on flights to sessions all over the world and refuses to record any vocals without specifically our filter!


The design of this filter is what makes it so good to use. Everything from the wave design in the mesh, to the pin in the centre and the air pocket between it; everything has been purposefully designed to afford the best sound each and every time, in any session, on any vocal.


This holiday season, we’ve also made it even more affordable, allowing you to add it to your Christmas lists this year. You can grab yourself one while stocks last for under $100 simply by using the code: JZPF2021


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