Since the rise of the internet, we've seen a Wild West for multimedia content creators: Comics lost the constricting borders of a paper's edge and became webcomics; Radio shows lost their set air dates and became podcasts. Even newspapers got in on the fun by losing their advertisers and becoming endangered (too soon?).
My point is: There's no better time to dabble in a new medium. You can post your results to the internet and receive immediate feedback. And if you have a friend who loves trying out new multimedia creative projects, the assortment of unique and useful tech on this list are just the thing to make for a fascinating last-minute holiday gift.
Hooke Verse 3D Audio Headphones, $240 [TechCo Approved]
This bluetooth head-mounted microphone array is designed to record and play back 3D audio. How can audio be 3D? You'll need to listen to 3D (or binaural) audio through a headset in order to experience the effect — here's an example — but it works by playing audio exactly as if it had already bounced off of your inner ear on the way to your ear drum. The final effect fools your brain into thinking the audio source is in the room with you to your left, to your right, or even directly behind you, all while actually being piped directly into your ear from a headset.
Chargeable through a mini USB port on the left ear bud, the Hookverse headset has an over-ear hook and nestles nicely into your ears. It captures audio wirelessly if you're using the free Hooke Audio mobile app, and comes with a cord to let you record on any device without the app as well. The audio recording quality, while not as great as studio-grade equipment, certainly gives you the 3D audio effect that you're looking for far better than any other headset available at the same price point. It's a fun way to spice up your next Snapchat video, to create a truly immersive podcast, or for any of your multimedia needs.
This online course can walk you through the concepts behind game development and any related technologies. Classes will detail subjects including 3D models and how to make them, 2D texture maps, and a variety of different game engines.
Given the high demand for game developers with the most recent skillsets — and the low demand for those without — picking up the basics makes sense as the starting point for a career in video games, and there's no cheaper method than this course.
The Portable Spire Studio, $350 [TechCo Approved]
Spire's portable recording studio helps any aspiring artists and soundmixers collaborate with ease — and without renting out a recording studio. The hardware allows you to record yourself playing instruments and singing anywhere, but the collaboration option is worth highlighting: Projects can be exported from one device to another, allowing someone to add a new track to the same project before sending it back and allowing you to import the collaboration once more.
You can read a whole lot more about the device at our earlier long-form review, but for anyone who loves recording and tweaking their own compositions, this portable studio will be a lot of fun.
All-Weather Bluetooth Precision Speaker, $30
Here's one for the outdoorsy creatives: A speaker to tote around anywhere you go. It's compact, water-resistant, and comes wrapped in a high-quality silicon case. You'll get about 8.5 hours with each charge, so you can use it to add a soundtrack to your day-long hike up the nearest mountain or excursion to the beach. It connects to your phone or your tablet through Bluetooth, allowing you to keep your cred as a music tastemaker anywhere you want.
Want a turntable to play all those vinyls you're picking up on thrift stores to boost your hipster cred? You can't beat the price for this all-in-one turntable and its built-in stereo speakers. It's also a one-stop multimedia file shop: The device can connect to your computer via USB, letting you convert records into digital music files, and a 1/8″ (3.5mm) aux input lets you do the same with cassettes as well. You can pick up a version in Glossy Piano Black or in Natural Wood.