By Sarah Griffiths Last updated
If you think you might be the next Tiësto, Rankin or perhaps a digital designer like Mary Katrantzou, it’s time to pimp your PC with the latest gadgets to unleash your creativity. We’ve rounded up the most exciting techie tools for DJs, photographers and designers that could not only cultivate a new hobby, but let you go pro with the help of the humble computer.
Denon DJ MC4000
If you dream of playing headline DJ sets in Ibiza, checking out the Denon DJ MC4000 is a good start. The controller works with Serato DJ software (a basic version is included) to allow users to mix and blend mp3 files stored on a PC. It features all the controls needed to put together a banging set, including long throw 100mm pitch faders for precisely matching beats, jog wheels for vinyl-style scratching and two high quality microphone inputs for whipping up the crowd into a frenzy. While it’s not super cheap, the MC4000 punches well above its weight, making it perhaps the ideal choice to take users on the journey from bedroom DJ to superstar selector.
Price: £339.00 | Buy Denon DJ MC4000
Palette Gear Modular Controllers
Musicians aren’t the only ones who get to play with faders and dials any more. Photographers who were tired of editing their photos by dragging on-screen sliders developed the Palette Gear Modular Controllers. Users can buy any combination of button, slider or dial modules which snap together in virtually any layout using super strong magnets – ideal for would-be Rankins and Baileys with some technical flair. Each module can be assigned to control functions in a range of software including popular programs Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom that are used by amateurs and professionals alike. The result for photographers is faster editing, precise control and a seriously cool looking work station. The starter kit includes two buttons, one slider and one dial to get you started.
Price: $199 (£160 + shipping) | Buy Palette Gear Modular Controllers
M-Audio Keystation 88 II
Before playing note of music through a PC, any musician worth their salt will need a decent MIDI keyboard. Whether you dream of becoming the next Ludovico Einaudi or even Elton John, the M-Audio Keystation 88 II is top of the bill for any performer just getting started. It has 88 semi-weighted, velocity sensitive keys and an input for an external sustain pedal, making it more like a proper piano than a plug-in keyboard for your PC. What’s more, it is lightweight and durable, ideal for the road, and comes bundled with software so that it’s ready to perform straight out of the box. A great way to get a band started without maxing out the credit card.
Price: £159 | Buy M-Audio Keystation 88 II
Contour Design ShuttlePRO v2
Many creative types dream of making their own documentaries, feature films or even reaping the rewards of becoming YouTuber superstars, but the sheer amount of work and time needed to edit material can be a big turn-off. Now vloggers, film makers, or anyone who has to edit lots of video can add some rocket fuel to their work-flow with the Contour Design ShuttlePRO v2. Instead of skipping up and down the timeline in video editing software using a mouse and keyboard, which can be clumsy and slow, the ShuttlePRO v2’s jog wheel offers easy multi-speed scanning. Future Steven Spielbergs or Zoellas can even do it with one hand. The handy device also features 15 programmable buttons that can be assigned to commonly used shortcuts, making short work of once tedious editing situations. This gadget has to make the cut for any home video editing set up.
Price: £89.99 | Buy Contour Design ShuttlePRO v2
Canon imagePROGRAF PRO-1000
While Instagram, Tumblr and YouTube may have transformed the creative landscape online, most artists will eventually want to step out from behind their usernames to enter the physical world of exhibitions and prints. Some Instagram photography stars have managed to cash in on their following with impressive print sales recently, but not without a decent inkjet printer. The award-winning Canon imagePROGRAF PRO-1000 is likely squarely in the frame for serious photographers looking to print big. The device can produce borderless A2 prints with faithful colour reproduction thanks to its 12-ink system. But such incredible results don’t come cheap and this printer is one for serious photographers looking to pull in the crowds at an exhibition.
Price: £978 | Buy Canon imagePROGRAF PRO-1000
DIY Synth Kit
If you fancy yourself as the next Daft Punk, you can get building you own synth machine and use it to create music on your computer. The DIY Synth Kit may not be the height of sophistication, but at less than £30 it's a lot of fun for kids and adults alike. Three different types of synth can be created simply by plugging the components into the main board, with no smelly soldering required. It's simple to add new parts and build upon basic controls needed to control the volume, pitch and frequency, as well as add a keyboard to hook it up to a PC.
Price: £24.99 | Buy DIY Synth Kit
In a brave new world for music videos and concerts, directors are using multimedia projectors to produce ever more creative visual effects. A quick YouTube search for projection mapping will reveal some of the stunning results from trippy space encounters to realistic crumbling buildings and impromptu fires. But anyone hoping to become a leading light in this new scene will need a projector with some punch. Epson’s latest and most advanced projector for home users is the Epson EH-LS10500, which combines laser technology, 4K resolution and now support for HDR content. Of course, when the creative juices have stopped flowing, it is also perfect for sitting back and enjoying a private screening of any movie available on Ultra-HD Blu-Ray.
Price: £5,999 | Buy Epson EH-LS10500
Wacom Bamboo Slate
Many great ideas have started life as a doodle or note on the back of an envelope, and many more of those pieces of paper have probably been mislaid or forgotten before coming to fruition. So don’t let your masterpieces go to waste! The Wacom Bamboo Slate and Bamboo Folio both ensure every stroke of genius gets digitally captured and stored in the cloud. The Slate is a slim smartpad that comes in a choice of A5 and A4 sizes, while the Folio is A4 sized, has an integrated cover and has room for other documents and business cards.
Users can make handwritten notes or drawings on any paper on top of the tablets and at the push of a button the devices will convert handwriting or images into digital files and upload them to the cloud. These files can then be downloaded to a PC to be edited, brought to life with colour, and who knows, possibly turned into the next big thing. At the very least, they can also easily be shared with friends who will have to admire them.
Price: From £124.99 | Buy Wacom Bamboo Slate
XYZ Da Vinci Mini 3D Printer
3D printing is tipped to transform how we live in the future and allow us to create anything we need, from kitchen utensils to spare body parts. But for now, there's a small model called the XYZ Da Vinci Mini 3D Printer that can be used to make petite, good quality plastic objects designed on a computer. While this is one for tech enthusiasts, it's promised to be relatively simple to set-up requiring the extruder nozzle and filament spool to be fitted, as well as software downloaded and the printer connected to a PC. Then it's a case of downloading or creating designs using the XYZ software and pressing print. While previous machines were prohibitively expensive, this one may help bring the 'maker revolution' to the masses.
Price: £262.99 | Buy XYZ Da Vinci Mini 3D Printer
Microsoft Hololens & SketchUp Viewer
Microsoft’s Hololens - the mixed reality VR headset that has notched up millions of YouTube views and wowed gamers with demonstrations of Minecraft, for example - is now finding uses in a host of other fields. Architects have started getting excited about an app developed for the headset called SketchUp Viewer. The app will allow them to explore their 3D designs in real world scale, viewing buildings from street level or walking around internal spaces. A bit like The Sims computer game, but a million times better. Users can even go one step further and walk through walls to inspect hidden structures of the building – a godsend for those who are sticklers for the finest of details.
Those in the business can expect a go soon, while the rest of us will have to wait, as the Hololens and SketchUp viewer app are currently available to business customers only. Still, hopefully the trickledown effect will mean a consumer version will be available soon so we can all sketch our Grand Designs.
Price: $4,500 | Buy Microsoft Hololens & SketchUp Viewer