For millions of years, people have been listening to music. But now, thanks to new technology, they can actually make music as well. At CES, I came across a few items that made my inner musician geek out, including a self-tuning guitar and a pretty sweet drum synth pad, plus a couple of new recording gadgets for capturing your awful performances of “She Bangs” on the go.
Pics and stuff after the jump.
Belkin Podcast Studio
At last year’s CES, Belkin introduced the TuneStudio, a 4-track recording mixer for your iPod. This year, they busted out a 2-track version aimed at podcasters called Podcast Studio, but it’s still killer for musicians on the go who want to record direct to iPod. It’s way smaller than the TuneStudio, and you can use the built-in mics or your own via XLR or 1/4-inch sockets or 3.5-mm line inputs. Hopefully it won’t take them a year to get it on the shelves like with the TuneStudio, but don’t expect it before this summer. If the recording quality is anywhere near that of the TuneStudio, I’m getting one. Unfortunately only two prototypes exist at the moment.
I love the idea of recording my gigs on a laptop, but it takes time to set up and there’s always the danger of a crash. Roland’s CD-2e recorder is way easier to use and has virtually zero setup time, recording 16-bit 44.1kHz WAV audio direct to CD via a slot-loader on the side or to an SDHC slot on the other. It’s got a lot built-in, like on-board effects, stereo mic, instrument and line inputs, and stereo speakers, all in a 3-pound package that’s only 2 inches thick. It runs on AC power or 6 AA batteries and costs about $600. The killer app for this is recording live shows and giving out CDs immediately afterwards.
Gibson Robot Guitar
Although it was introduced a little over a month before CES, this was the first time I got to check out Gibson’s Robot Guitar in person, and I freaking love it. Gibson had some dude playing “She Talks To Angels” by the Black Crowes in standard tuning, which is no problem up to a point (those little harmonics don’t sound right in standard tuning). But on the recording, they use open E tuning, which means you’d have to sit there and totally retune your axe. So I watched the guy spin a dial and press a button, which made the tuning pegs turn by themselves… and put the guitar into a pretty well-tuned open E. He replayed the song (correctly this time), and it took me right back to 1990. A limited run went on sale in December for $2499 a pop. Soon retrofit kits will be available so you can convert your existing guitar to use the Robot tuning mechanism.
A couple of musician/engineers developed a sturdy drum synth pad that connects to your computer called Mandala and some software that lets you get different sounds from a single pad. You use the software to divvy up the pad into rings (called zones), so you can get up to 128 different sounds on a single pad. The sounds are truly awesome and include just about everything you can think of, or you can make your own. The pad and software goes for about $350, and you can use as many pads as you want. I tried it out, and it’s a lot cooler than I thought it would be, given my experience with Roland’s way more complex V-Drums. This is intended for home recording musicians who don’t have a lot of space but have way too much free time.