Ableton Live 9 (from €80)
Ableton Live is our tip for anyone who's ready to move on from a basic recording app such as GarageBand. It's tricky to figure out at first but then so is every rival system, and Ableton wipes the floor with them all for versatility: it'll do everything from laptop DJing to MIDI sequencing and multitrack recording, and do it very well indeed.
Zoom H4n (£220)
Tried and tested for some years now, Stuff's H4n portable recorder has yet to let us down, which is amazing for something this affordable. Record up to four channels at once via its built-in mics or wired connections to a guitar, XLR or 1/4 jacks, or stereo line signals, going straight to MP3 or uncompressed at up to 24-bit 96kHz. There's even a built-in guitar tuner and various amp simulations.
Arturia MicroBrute (£260)
This is going to be the best Christmas ever for technoheads in confined spaces. The MicroBrute has a footprint a smidge bigger than a sheet of A4 but populates that with chunky knobs, sliders, a sequencer and a patchable matrix that combine to generate rich, growling, saturated analogue sounds. Connections for classic and current gear makes it extremely versatile too. We're testing it as we type this, so expect a review very soon.
TC Helicon Harmony Singer (£145)
Here's a clever box for singer-guitarists. It adds harmonies to your vocals by listening to the chords you're playing on your guitar. Plug your mic and guitar into it, add some reverb if you like, press the magic "Tone" button to squash all your rough edges into shape, and the Harmony Singer adds instant backing harmonies. Brilliant for both recording and live performances.
Words by Tony Horgan.