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PSNEurope stocking fillers, part 2

Classy speakers, classic tracks, cassette converters and class A valves...PSNEurope presents its second serving of stocking stuffers for the holiday season.

Christmas is fast approaching and with less than two weeks to shop, here’s our second installment of ‘stocking filler’ ideas for you: Consumer electronics designer Hidden just launched their highly anticipated HiddenRadio wireless Bluetooth speaker. It features a very stylish minimal design, including an ‘interactive’ cap that serves as the power switch and controls the volume. The compact speaker weighs less than 500g, and reportedly gets 15 hours of playback from its lithium-ion battery, which can be recharged via USB. According to the company HiddenRadio is loud; its unique speaker drivers and cone design spread the sound evenly throughout the room to over 90dB. HiddenRadio is available in metallic silver, graphite black or pure white with pricing starting at £93. Sample Magic’s latest book, Richard Buskin’s Classic Tracks is now available and at £26.90 (RRP: £34.95) directly from the website, it’s a steal. The 400+ pages detail what really went on in the studio during the recording of 68, erm, classic tracks across all genres drawing on original interviews with producers, engineers and the artists themselves. Sex, drugs, tantrums, egos…its all here. In all, 31 leading studios from around the world are profiled. Starting with Les Paul (1951) and closing with The xx (2009), via recordings by David Bowie, Miles Davis, The Doors, John Lennon, The Sex Pistols, Donna Summer, Fleetwood Mac, Marvin Gaye, Jimi Hendrix, The Rolling Stones, Elton John, Madonna, Metallica, The Pogues, Rihanna, The Who, Justice and many more, Classic Tracks explores how some of the greatest songs of our time came into being. You’ll have to scour eBay for this handy gadget from the always weird and wonderful Hammacher Schlemmer as they don’t supply it anymore. Which is a shame, because who has time to recreate that classic mix tape fiddling around with iTunes? The cassette to iPod converter does what it says on the tin: it converts tape cassettes into MP3 files and stores them directly onto an iPhone or iPod touch via a free app. Simply insert a tape and press play. You can listen along using either the headphone jack or by connection the audio output to a stereo system. If you need a bit of musical inspiration over the holidays, you may want to consider the Otamatone by Japanese toy manufacturer Cube Works. First demonstrated at the 2009 Tokyo Toy show, the Otamatone is a cross between a Japanese musical toy, an actual instrument and a theremin. It creates “waaaah”-like singing sounds, which are produced by squeezing the ‘face’ at the bottom of the music note-shaped instrument. Sliding a finger up and down the neck of the instrument changes the note’s pitch. If nothing else, for the same price as a meal out (£24.99) you can have hours of fun ‘mouthing’ you way through your favourite tunes (alternatively, watch the YouTube videos online for free). For a more professional sound, you may be interested in the Alex BaSS; a unique new pre-amp/DI box utilising two dual triode valves in traditional class A mode, with an optical compressor designed to subtly smooth bass notes and add punch. Designed by audio engineer/producer/bass player Alex Burak (The Thompson Twins, Soft Cell, The Special AKA), each unit is hand-built in the UK and features an optical compressor, 3-band EQ (parametric mid band) and deep/bright switches for further tone shaping. It’s all encased in a sturdy steel chassis. Once again, we’ve asked David Davies to supplement our list, which he’s done with a fine musical selection: Hello Skinny, Hello Skinny: subtle electronic soundscapes mesh with crunchy live percussion and spectral woodwind. Beachwood Sparks, Tarnished Gold: the spirit of Laurel Canyon reborn. The spectre of Roger McGuinn and Crosby, Stills and Nash looms large…heavenly harmonies all the way. Scott Walker, Bish Bosch: that extraordinary voice more haunted than ever, set amidst songs of nigh-on operatic drama. Brad Mehldau Trio, Ode: pre-eminent jazz pianist of his age reaches new peak of melodic invention. Django Django, Django Django: recycles familiar elements – indie jangle, surf guitar, dance-pop – into a thrillingly original hybrid.