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The modern home studio

There are plenty of new computer-related products that will make a music aficianado’s heart beat just a little bit faster. Here’s a sampling for your next shopping list.

Some pretty interesting computer-related music products have come down the pike lately, so I thought this month we’d recap some of the more notable new products out there.

Topping the goodie list are a pair of products from Magix. Music Studio 2004 is a combination multitrack recorder and music file editor. It has a lot of features that are initially eye-catching (such as a virtual vocoder and a vintage-amp sound simulator), but those are ultimately not much more than gimmicks that detract from the program’s real strengths: up to 100 undos, real-time effects, a simple drum loop function, up to 64 stereo tracks, and a built-in tuner and metronome. With an MSRP of $79.99, Music Studio 2004 is a very good buy for the musician whose pocketbook can’t quite manage ProTools or a comparable top-shelf recording product.

Music Studio has audio restoration tools built in, but if you’re more comfortable with a standalone product, Magix Audio Cleaning Lab 3.0 is a bargain at $29.99. It has the usual array of noise reduction and equalization features for spiffing up analog recordings being transferred to CD, but is much more comprehensive and user-friendly than most similar programs. My favorite feature is being able to preview any changes I make to a recording before applying them. Too much declicking and dehissing can rob a recording of fidelity, so it’s a luxury to hear what you’ll be getting before committing to it.

Before, transferring sound files you’d been working on from one computer to another meant lugging a laptop or wasting a CD on one or two files. No more. Trek’s Thumbdrive Elite should run about $100, but it holds 512MB of data–most of a CD.

Speaking of teensy drives, how about an MP3 player that you can slip onto your keychain? The three-inch-long KanguruMicro MP3 is a USB flash drive and MP3 player, with models that start at 64MB in capacity and go up to 512MB. Putting files on the KanguruMicro is drag-and-drop simple, and the unit itself is easy to operate (though, alas, no volume control). This gadget starts at $70 MSRP for the 64MB edition.

A bit on the gimmicky side is the Mousecaster Digital Radio Receiver. It’s a PS/2 wheel mouse with a built-in digital radio receiver. No Internet connections is required, and it comes with recording software so you can capture what you hear. That isn’t quite worth 35 of my dollars, but it might be just what you’re looking for.

Finally, Broderbund’s NTI CD-Maker 6 Platinum is one of the more versatile products of its kind. It helps you encode and decode MP3s, burn video files that play on most DVD players, create mixed CDs that contain both audio and data, and record live audio onto CD. It also features all-new DVD burning, VCD and SVCD menuing, and WAV editing. Best of all, it’s been reduced to $39.99 MSRP.

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