Music isn't all strings, strumming and brassy blowing these days: the average geek can now produce the sort of tracks that would've previously demanded an Amon Tobin or Mr. Scruff. So what musical gadget should be on the workbench of any aspiring digital musician? Check out our top three picks after the cut, and a sneaky bonus for those on a budget at the end.
Alesis iO Mix
In its third incarnation, the iPad has demonstrated its chops as a musician's friend; apps like GarageBand are more than enough to create professional sounding music. What the iOS slate lacks is inputs, and that's where Alesis steps in. Slide the iPad into place and the $299 iO Mix turns it into a 4-channel recorder ideal for studio work and live performances. It's compatible with any Core Audio iOS music app.
Roland Jupiter-50 Synthesizer
Roland's latest Jupiter synth may not, at $1,999, be an impulse purchase for most but, in distilling the same sound engine from the highly-esteemed Jupiter-80 but at $1,500 less, it manages to be something of a bargain. The multi-colored buttons of classic Roland drum machines like the TR-808 nustle with the company's clever Behavior Modelling tech for mimicking real instruments, paired up with effects, USB connectivity for storage and hooking up your computer, and of course the awesome sounds that Roland is known for. If you want the benefits of a standalone workstation with the flexibility of integrating soft-synths and more, the Jupiter-50 has your back.
Korg Kaossilator 2 and mini KAOSS PAD 2
Twin music mangling gizmos small enough to fit in the palm of your hand, Korg's touchpad pair are descended from the estimable Kaoss Pad adopted by Muse, Radiohead and more, but tailored for mobile musos. Each priced at $160, the Kaossilator 2 is a combo synth and recorder that doesn't care if you don't know the black notes from the white, letting you pair up your digital twiddlings with vocals and external instruments, while the mini KAOSS PAD 2 lets you drop the remix with its 100 effects and integrated MP3 player.
… and the Budget Bonus:
Propellerhead Figure ($0.99; iOS) - Making music generally isn't something you do on the move, but iPhone, iPod touch and iPad users with idle fingers on the train or bus could be creating tracks in seconds with Propellerhead's addictive Figure app. Borrowing the sounds from grown-up soft-synths like Reason with a pared-back UI and easily applied effects, it's a musical scratchpad, ideas notebook and commute distraction all in one.
What are you favorite music geek toys? Let us know in the comments!