Justin’s holiday gift guide: accessories to amplify your Mac set-up


Don’t worry, all of our favorite good looking accessories, iPad docks and Bluetooth speakers are on the way. For now its all about how to amplify your home Mac set-up and integrate it with iOS. Mainly geared towards Mac/iOS musicians, here are some of my favorite pieces of gear to crank your home studio/office up a notch:

Apogee ONE Audio Interface for iPad & Mac

There are certainly less expensive audio interfaces out there besides Apogee’s, including the $80 Focusrite iTrack and IK options, but it’s hard to beat the sound quality. The recording industry has used the company’s A/D converters for many years, so its no surprise Apogee’s more affordable home/mobile options sound as good as they do.

The Apogee ONE Audio Interface for iPad & Mac goes for $349, so it isn’t cheap, but you get a lot of interface for your money here. Not only does it work with both Mac and iPad over Lightning (included), it also has a built-in omnidirectional condenser microphone, high end 24-bit/96kHz A/D and D/A conversion and a breakout cable that allows for two simultaneous channels of recording (instrument + built-in or external mic). ONE also doubles as a charging station for iPad and as a headphone amp/DAC for “audiophile quality” audio.

Apogee ONE Audio Interface for iPad & Mac $349

KRK Rokit 5 Generation 3 Powered Studio Monitors

All home studios need a good set of monitors and KRK’s Rockit line is a great place to start. We’ve talked before about how KRK’s pro VXT Series line of powered speakers has been used by recording industry professionals for many years now, and the Rockits offer that same pedigree but in a much more affordable package.

They come in several sizes, increasing in price along the way. You can pickup a pair of 5-inchers (w/ the XLR cables included) for around $299 or less. Some other notable mentions in the sub $300 category include the JBL LSR305 Professional Studio Monitors and the Presonus Eris E4.5 2-Way Powered Studio Monitors.

KRK Rokit 5 Generation 3 Powered Studio Monitors (pair) $279 (Reg. $150+ each)

SanDisk iXpand 32GB USB/Lightning Flash Drive in silver/black

Mini USB flash drives are everywhere, but now with Lightning options available, the popular stocking stuffer is getting new life with iOS users.

The Sandisk iXpand recently hit the market in 16, 32, and 64GB variations and also includes a free iOS app. The companion app allows users to stream stored media content onto iOS devices using the physical Lightning connector. Having your own cache of stored movies, TV shows, music and other content available on iOS with no internet connection needed, can come in handy in more ways then one. For example, long plane rides and simple, quick transfers between iOS and Mac, come to mind.

It boasts a flexible Lightning connection for easy access, and read/write speeds of up to 14MB/sec. (over USB 2.0), and a durable metal enclosure.

SanDisk iXpand USB 2.0/Lightning Flash Drive (Silver/Black) 16GB: $59.99, 32GB: $79.99, 64GB: $109.99

Akai Professional MPK249 MIDI keyboard controller

Just about every musician uses some form of controller and in many cases it’s a MIDI keyboard. There is a wide range of products out there from inexpensive 25-key semi-weighted options, to fully-featured 88-key behemoths with weighted keys, pads, and a host of customizable control knobs/faders. I have tried a fairly wide selection of the various manufacturers out there and tend to favor Akai’s MPK line. While many MIDI keyboards tend to feel like plastic toys underneath your fingers, the MPKs are durable and well built instruments.

They come in a number of sizes: 25, 49 and 61 keys (as well as an 88-key model from the previous generation MPKs) and start at around $400 for the newest models. But you’ll find the equally as capable (in my opinion) previous gen models for even less. Some notable mentions that are even more affordable here are the M-Audio Keystation 49-key (2014) USB Keyboard MIDI Controller for $99 (Reg. $150) and the Akai Professional 25-Key MPK MINI MKII for $99.93 (Reg. $200).

Akai Professional MPK249 MIDI keyboard controller $399.99

Audio Technica ATH-HPH300 Headphone Hanger

There are many ways to store headphones when not in use, from the carrying pouch they came in to the many stands available out there. Personally, I like the somewhat industrial look of the desk clamp style. I have to admit some of the desktop stands from Grado and even budget options from Cosmos look nice, but I tend to sway towards the Sennhieser and Audio Technica clamp options.

They keep the headphones themselves off the desk and out of the way when not in use, and I just happen to like the more studio focused look. You can grab the Sennheiser Headphone Holders for around $49.95 on Amazon, but the Audio Technica Headphone Hanger for just over $30 is my favorite option.

Audio Technica ATH-HPH300 Headphone Hanger $32.80

Jamstik: The guitar for your iPad

Not all musicians are keyboard players and that is where the Jamstik guitar for iPad comes in. There is a ton of pad and grid controllers out there, but options are very limited when it comes to stringed instruments.

Whether you are an experienced guitar player or just learning to play, Jamstik is a great way to get full wireless MIDI transmission on both iOS and Mac. Jamstik offers real guitar strings and frets in a small mobile package along with free educational apps and real-time feedback for those looking to learn how to play guitar (certainly, something wish I had when I was younger and learning to play). Experienced musicians can hook this thing up with Logic Pro X, Pro Tools, Animoog or any of the popular Mac and iOS plugs out there to get full stringed MIDI control (string bends and octave switching included).

Jamstik will run you $299.99 and certainly be one of the most unique and interesting gifts a Mac/iOS musician will get under the tree this year. You can find them on Amazon and the official site with some extra goodies thrown in.

Jamstik: The guitar for your iPad $299.99

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