What do live sound engineers want? We ask this question every year and of course, the best answers are intangible: More sleep, a little respect, and a living wage. None of those fit in a stocking, however, so here’s our fourth annual gift guide on what to get your favorite live sound pro for the holidays.
To compile this list, we looked for items that would be good for audio pros working local gigs or cranking it out on a 22-bus national tour. Everything had to be small enough to fit in a road case without using a sledge hammer to make it fit, and most importantly, it had to be useful—except for the goofball stuff that was too good to resist.
• Personalized Sharpies: Everyone steals the engineer’s markers, so short of gluing them to his hand (which would make it hard to mix), this is the best way to make sure they don’t walk. Put any text you want on them, there’s eight colors to choose from, and prices start at $12 for a half-dozen. mysharpie.com
• ETY•Plugs: These earplugs use a tuned resonator and acoustic resistor to reduce levels, not sound quality. PSN editor-in-chief Frank Wells had them at Japan’s Summer Sonic festival: “I was really glad to have a 'full fidelity,' -20 dB plug. You could still hear the music, unlike with conventional plugs.” $12.95 etymotic.com/ephp/er20.html
• Leatherman Wave: The top-selling multi-tool of all-time, it features 18 goodies, including wire cutters, pliers and knives that can be set out with one hand. FOH engineer Chris Barclift told us on Facebook, “I can't count the times that having one has saved my [gig].” $80. leatherman.com
• Universal Bier Remote Control: It may not be a Leatherman, but it’s an equally crucial tool for the well-equipped tour bus—a TV remote control with built-in bottle opener. $15. urbanoutfitters.com
• Kaltman Cable Coiler: This motorized handheld unit wraps up a cable in about as long as it takes to read this listing, and its sister product, Cable Slap Ties, clips the resulting coil in no time flat. On Twitter, engineer @SlauBeSharp told us it’s a “brilliant device.” Prices vary. kaltmancreationsllc.com/coiler.html
• iOS Guitar Effect Simulators: Know a roadie with a travel guitar? Put a Peavey AmpKit Link (peavey.com/ampkitlink) or IK Multimedia iRig (ikmultimedia.com/irig) in his stocking; these devices turn an iPhone or iPad into a virtual pedalboard to help get one’s shred on. Check out the Pro Sound News blog for in-depthreviews of each. $39.
• The Duddha Rug: Amazingly, there’s no Spinal Tap 2011 calendar—a shame since it’s gonna be the year that goes to eleven. In lieu of that, abide by this choice item for your favorite cult movie fan/audio Dude—a Big Lebowski-inspired 3x5-foot rug that really ties the mix position together. $300. billgreenstudios.com/products-page/misc
• Mosh Potatoes: Just because they’re called Road Dogs doesn’t mean the crew likes table scraps, so give ‘em this cookbook, featuring fare from famed foodies Megadeth, Type O Negative, Queensrÿche, Dream Theater and more. $15. moshpotatoescookbook.com
• Grado Pro Series SR60i Headphones: A favorite of the audiophile crowd, Grado headphones can run anywhere up to $1,700, but these, sporting an upgraded driver design and improved mass distribution in the plastic housing, will set you back less than a C-note. $79. vintageking.com/Grado-SR-60i
• Etch-A-Sketch iPad Case: Your giftee has been blowing people’s minds by using Yamaha’s new StageMix iPad app to remotely run an M7CL console. Make it even more surreal by giving him a case that makes his Apple toy look like the classic plaything. Added bonus: The crowd won’t ask “Do you really know what all the knobs do?” $39. getaheadcase.com
• Ion Audio Tape Express Plus: Another year has gone by and your pal still hasn’t converted that old box of board tapes because he/she/it’s always on the go. Get him this Walkman-style tape player with USB outputs and software for MP3 conversion, and he can copy tapes anywhere he takes his laptop. $59. ionaudio.com/tapeexpress
• Blue Mics Mikey 2G: If that guitar-toting pal is strictly an acoustic player, give 'em this second-generation mic with two custom-tuned Blue capsules, which plugs into an iPod, iPod Touch or iPhone to work with any recording app. $79. bluemic.com
• SensoGlove: If there’s two things tour engineers love, it’s analytic data and golf. Combining them both is this digital golf glove, whose sensors read the user’s grip pressure to analyze and hopefully improve one’s golf swing. $89. sensoglove.com
• Healing Back Pain: At PSN, our pains manifest themselves as something we call “Deadlines,” so we can’t attest to the effectiveness of Dr. John Sarno’s book, but the folks at Oradell, NJ-based audio vendor Boulevard Pro (blvdpro.com) told us they swear by it. $13.95. healingbackpain.com
• Laptop Defender SE-0210: Gigs can take audio pros into pretty dodgy areas sometimes—and then they have to pull out expensive, high-tech gear! Help your pal protect a laptop with this credit card-sized gizmo sporting a motion sensor and skull-splitting 100 dB alarm. $29. dobermanproducts.com/SE-0210.htm
• Zadro Nano UV Disinfection Scanner: Just for fun, guess how many people have used that microphone? Ewwww. Zap 99.99 percent of the germs on it--and any other surface--with this cell phone-sized unit. Not for use on humans or animals (not even the drummer). $79. zadro.biz
Have a few suggestions of your own?
Share them below in the comments section!