I am a gear head. That should surprise nobody given the staggering amount of research and development that I am involved with constantly. I am hesitant to embrace a "magic bullet" gadget, but there are some real gems that can add enjoyment to your work.
These are my own opinions for the best metronome, best drone generator, and other best horn accessories , I hope they are useful!
Best stand light- Aria Stand Light (arialights.com)
This is one of my favorite things, ever. I have trouble concentrating in the dark, and this light really helps in the pit! If you are going to buy one, splurge on the cordless model. A full charge gets you about four hours.
Best horn stand- Soft Stands (softstands.com)
Soft stands went away for a bit but they are back! Most of us use some version of a guitar stand and we just hope nothing bad happens. The soft stand was invented for use with horns and is not only safe, it's portable. Available in a few different materials from $85- $95.
Best hand guard- Leather Specialties Hand Guards (leatherspecialtiesco.com)
I use these guards exclusively on my horns. They are simply the best made straps and guards. Larry Black makes an excellent product and these guards don't have the problems with tannin leach and gum formation that other leather straps do. Don't let the overwhelming number of options on his website dissuade you, just email him and he'll get you what you need. I personally prefer lace up models to velcro, but the sizing needs to be just right for it to not feel loose.
Best metronome- Franz LM-4 Metronome (Ebay)
The Franz LM-4 Metronome hasn't been produced in a long time, but it is my favorite metronome and can be found with an Ebay search for $10- $20. Metronomes that beep or have an electronic click have a length associated with the tone of the metronome, which can hide timing problems. The Franz LM-4 and LM-5 (wood version) make a "snap" sound by tapping the side of the metronome with a brass slug. It's incredibly precise and remarkable how much more it will reveal about your timing. The downside is that it is not portable, but it is a great addition to your practice space. If you buy one off of Ebay, check the bpm with another metronome, the numbers on the dial aren't always right. A screw on the front of the LM-4 can adjust the bpm of the metronome to match the printed numbers.
Best drone generator- Scale Master App (ITunes $0.99)
If you are still using a tuner, you're probably leaving some intonation precision on the table. A drone is a much more effective way to tune than a tuner, and I'm not the only one to think so. I've tried many drone creating tools and my favorite is an app by Gil- Estes called Scale-Master. Not only can I connect the app to my bluetooth speaker bar at home, I can use headphones and use it in the pit before a show just to check my pitch level at whatever temperature the hall happens to be that night. The best thing about this app is that it allows me to add an interval to the drone (I usually like to add a 5th).
Best mute accessory- The Iltis Dämpfer Mitt (dampfermitt.com)
I am an active freelance player and I always take this with me to play in the pit and the recording studio. I don't often use it for Symphony work, or pieces with just one or two mute changes, but in musicals and opera it is indispensable. There are a few different product that are similar in function, but this is the one that I have experience with. (Plus Peter Iltis is a nice guy who does good work researching embouchure dystonia.)
Best musical chair- Adjustrite (available from Amazon)
I paid $180 for a chair. That's right. I did. Worth every penny. As a tall person (over six feet), I rarely can find a chair that will put my thighs parallel to the floor and take the round out of my lower back. I can sit for long practice session, or long runs in a pit with this chair and not hurt my back. Additionally, each leg is individually adjustable so I can tilt the seat forward and sit straighter, more naturally. A fellow who I play regularly with used to tease me about this chair, until he started to show up with one of his own (sheepishly, I might add).
Got a favorite of your own? Great! Music can be a tough business and anything that can increase your edge is worth exploring!