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It’s that time of year when people go into gift-giving mode.
We celebrate the holidays in multiple different ways and we call them by multiple different names.
Mine is called Jól, or Yule.
But regardless of what you call your holiday season there seems to be a big gift-giving trend we can’t seem to shake.
So if you can’t shake ’em, join ’em!
This year I’ve created a doozy of a wish-list for the audio engineer. I’ve updated and combined a few of my gear guides together into one big-ass list for all you to enjoy.
Parts of this guide were originally published in 2013 but I try to update it every year during the holidays to keep it as relevant as possible. It either includes updated audio equipment or brand new gear released during the year (when applicable).
How I Decide My Recommendations
- Personal Experience – If I use something myself and really like it, you’ll usually see it on this list.
- buy a heart lyrics User Reviews – If I don’t have experience with a piece of gear I try to find the highest reviewed gear. Crowdsourcing opinions via reviews is a great way to find find quality pieces of gear, something I talk about extensively in the Recording Strategies Shopping Secrets Video.
I’ve found out that there are three separate types of people that read Audio Issues:
- can you buy Lyrica over the counter The Home Recording Engineer – This is you if you have a completely separate room in your house that you call your studio. You have enough room to record multiple instruments at once and can allow yourself some flexibility when it comes to acoustic treatment and recording setup.
- click over here The Bedroom Producer – The Bedroom Producer is someone who is a little strapped for space and can’t go dragging drums into their room to record. You more likely to record through the computer and mix with smaller monitors or exclusively through headphones.
- On-Location Engineer/Live Sound-Tech – The On-Location Engineer is a cross between a live engineer and a recording engineer. You’re the person that bands call when they want to record in their rehearsal studios or onstage.
So what do we have for these three different personalities?
The Serious Home Recording Engineer
You’d preferably want to record multiple things at once so the PreSonus AudioBox 1818VSL USB Recording Interface can record a full band with 8 microphone inputs for drums as well as a bunch of line inputs to record scratch guitars, bass and vocals.
And it doesn’t hurt that it literally comes with all the cables that you’ll need and a drum microphone package to record drums.
Buying cables sucks so it’s awesome that they’re included, and with the drum mics you can get up and running recording drums in no time.
Updated for 2016: These packages are in short supply so if you’re interested in grabbing this all-in-one package I’d recommend getting them before they run out of stock. Alternatively you can also just get the stand-alone interface.
Other Interface Recommendations:
Clear monitoring is crucial for a great sounding mix. You can’t go wrong with Pair of Yamaha HS5 70W Powered 2-way Studio Monitors w/ MoPads and Cables and they even come with cables and MoPads.
They’re small enough to fit into any home studio situation but with a clear frequency response to make your mixes translate better.
I actually bought these monitors last year and love them. They’re honest so you can rely on them to tell you whether your mix actually sounds good. Highly recommended. The only downside is the lack of sub-monitoring but I fix that by referencing with my bigger monitors and my surround system with a subwoofer.
- Adam Audio A7X – I use these at a local commercial studio and they’re great.
Update for 2016: I bought the Behringer Behritone C50A last year and they’ve become an invaluable part of my mixing process. I start all my mixes with this monitor and mix in mono until the initial first draft of the mix is sounding good. It’s great as a second reference monitor.
If your mix sounds good on these you’re golden. I’m always blown away when I finish my initial mix on these and then send my mix over to my other monitors and flip it to stereo. It’s a great tool for making it a little harder for you to mix to begin with but paying off dividends in the long run.
That’s where the versatile AKG 214 stereo condenser microphone set comes in.
- Recording drums? No problem, just use the 2 mic Recorderman technique.
- Recording guitar? Easy. They’ll give you a smooth condenser guitar sound. Acoustic guitar? It’ll be even easier.
- Need stereo? Yep, they come in a set of two so you can mic anything you want in sweet stereo.
- Vocals? This mic was practically made for vocals so go ahead and throw anything you got on it. It has a great frequency response with a slight dip in 1 kHz to avoid any stray “nasal” sounding vocal tones so you’ll have less EQ’ing to worry about when you’re mixing.
The 214s are a great recommendation. I also love their bigger brother the 414 on vocals, acoustic guitar and drum overheads.
- Update for 2016: The Cascade ribbon microphones below seem to be all out of stock on Amazon but a quick search for medium priced ribbons with 4 star reviews can still give you some good ideas.
- Cascade Microphones Fat Head II – If you want something a little different, this ribbon pair can give you some diversity in your microphone selection. I’ve been eying these and will be looking to purchase them in the new year (don’t tell my wife).
- Rode M5 Matched Pair – If you’re looking for small diaphragm condensers, this Rode pair could be your next favorite thing. X/Y acoustic guitar, drum overheads or other acoustic instruments will fit well with these little guys.
Update for 2016: I’ve been using the Audix Drum Mic Pack at the Icelandic Embassy Studios to record all of my drum tracks. The D6 is a great kick drum mic and the i5 easily replaces the Shure Sm57 in my mic locker.
The Acoustic Treatment
Bare garage walls might sound great when you’re recording loud rock drums, but for mixing you’ll need to control those reflections a bit more.
The Auralex Project2 Roominator Kit has everything you need to control the area around your mixing area while balancing the sound bouncing around your recording room.
Acoustic treatment is incredibly important to getting a fairly balanced room. Although Auralex might get a bunch of flak for selling foam I think it’s more beneficial than having bare walls (or egg crates! Ugh…)
I don’t have any specific new recommendations for acoustic treatment, except that I highly recommend getting Auralex’s free analysis and possibly making your own to keep costs down.
For more information on that, check out my article: How to Get Free Expert Advice on Setting Up Your Acoustic Treatment (And Save $300+)
One quiet pair for recording like the Audio-Technica ATH-M50 Professional Studio Monitor Headphones and one open-back for mixing, like the AKG K712 PRO Open Over-Ear Reference Studio Headphones.
And for that last listening check, using your monitors, both headphones and your crappy computer speakers you can take the ultimate mix translation test.
Update for 2016: I received two new pairs of headphones for Christmas last year, after I had updated this guide for 2015. Musicians use my Sony’s for tracking in the studio and I use them for general listening. When I’m recording drums I use the heavy-duty Vic Firth isolation headphones.
Other brands I personally like are the Sennheiser and Audio Technica headphones for their brand consistency. I’ve created a list of the highest rated headphones with good sound isolation for recording right here.
The Bedroom Producer
As I said above, here are some recommendations for those of you who have limited space but still want to make the most of your music.
Something like the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 is all you need for the dorm room.
Two high-quality microphone at an affordable price is a pretty good way to make the Dorm Room Producer happy over the holidays and beyond.
The Scarlett is a great interface to record in a limited space. However, if you have the cash, Universal Audio’s Apollo is a great alternative, giving you some great microphone inputs, converters and access to the UAD plug-ins. I love mine and just have to recommend it.
Smaller is better when you need every inch of your desk.
Looking at monitors in the under $200 price range with four star reviews on Amazon, the Mackie CR3 stands out. They get more reviews than the previously recommended Presonus Eris that you can still check out below.
They seem to be a great choice if you’re starting out or you need all the extra space you can get.
They probably won’t compete against high-end monitors but they do the job really well for this kind of purpose.
The Rode NT1A Anniversary Vocal Condenser Microphone Package comes with a pop-filter, a cable and a shock mount.
It’s great value for money and is more than enough to start producing in the bedroom.
The Acoustic Treatment
Luckily, the Auralex MoPAD Monitor Isolation Pads can help decouple and isolate the sounds coming from the monitors to help you get clearer sounding mixes.
Another bet would be to get one of the many reflection filters available out there. I have the sE Reflexion Filter and I highly recommend AGAINST IT! It’s incredibly cumbersome and annoying to use. So much so that it stays permanently in my closet.
- CAD Audio Foldable Acoustic Enclosure
- Pyle Microphone Absorber Shield
- Pyle Compact Microphone Isolation Shield
Just like the serious home studio engineer, the dorm room producer needs a pair of great headphones.
But only this time, they need to be isolated so that he can record and mix while everyone else is asleep.
The Audio-Technica ATH-M50X (Updated for 2016) serves this dual purpose nicely.
The On-Location Live Engineer
For the live sound engineer that also likes to record we’ll look at a hybrid setup that combines the best of both the live sound aspect of his work as well as the need for recording.
My all-time favorite business model that I’ve never tried out all revolves around the Presonus StudioLive 16-Channel Audio Mixer.
You can hook it up to a P.A. to do a live gig but you can also record everything that goes into it straight to you computer.
That means you could technically record and mix a full band playing a concert and then upload their set to their website within hours of them finishing their set. How’s that for a fast turnaround?
The Portable Recorder
For any quick and dirty on-location recordings, this killer Zoom H6 recording package has everything you need to handle small on-location recordings.
It’s got a built-in stereo microphone along with two extra mic inputs.
Technically, that’s enough to record a lot of things, from interviews, garage demos to string quartets.
Here’s a really cool video on how you can use the Zoom H4N to make any room, even the Italian Saint Mark’s square, your live room, and you can use any portable recorded for the same purpose.
Update for 2016: If you’re recording interviews or videos using your smartphone then I have a cool tool for you to use. It’s the Rode Smartlav that plugs straight into your phone and lets you record professional dialog instantly. Great for videos, podcasts or interviews.
I told you about this earlier but it bears repeating: The Audix DP7 Instrument Dynamic Microphone, Multipattern is extremely versatile.
It has enough microphones to record a full drum-kit, but many of those mics, like the Audix i5, work wonders on electric guitars and rock vocals.
And it even comes with a stereo overhead pair that you can use for all your stereo microphone needs.
The Acoustic Treatment
But if you have something portable like the Auralex ProMAX Stand-mounted Acoustic Treatment you can set up baffles anywhere to get the best room sound in any situation. These are great if you have the cash to spare but I’ll remind you of my acoustic treatment article above if you want to jerry-rig your own and save some money.
Somewhere to Put Stuff!
One thing about on-location recording is that you have to lug a bunch of stuff around. And to record a whole band at once you’re going to need a few microphone stands.
Ultimate Support JamStands has a bundle of mic stands that takes care of this problem. Not the most romantic gift of all time, but practical.
Update for 2016: I highly recommend having at least one heavy duty mic stand when you need to record in awkward positions, such as over a drum kit. The extra weight of the stand makes it stay in one place without tipping over, something I’ve gotten very frustrated with when it comes to lighter stands.
Finally, for anyone serious about improving their skills, new equipment is only going to take them so far. A great educational tutorial about music production is worth more than spending a year at an audio school and it will teach you to get more out of the equipment you already have.
Here are some recommendations for both tutorials from Audio Issues Approved training, great music production books or (shameless self-promotion) some of my own products that are guaranteed to help you out.
Must-Read Music Production Books
To add to my list of “Must Read Books on Music Production and Engineering” I wanted to give you a few more that I’ve read that I’ve found extremely helpful:
- Unlocking Creativity: A Producer’s Guide to Making Music and Art – An absolutely AMAZING read. It’s fundamentally changed how I view my own production and how I listen to the art I’m creating. If reading’s not your thing take a listen to The Recording Studio Rockstars episode with Michael Beinhorn(Korn, RHCP, Marilyn Manson, Soundgarden). Fun fact and shameless name-dropping: I introduced them to each other so I’m taking credit for the creation of this episode 🙂
- Behind the Boards: The Making of Rock ‘n’ Roll’s Greatest Records Revealed – I’m still reading this one but it’s very insightful, full of fun stories and useful production insights.
- Songwriters on Songwriting – I like writing songs and I identify with songwriters so it’s very interesting to read interviews with songwriters about their methods. Beware: you won’t learn how to write songs by reading this book. Everybody seems to have a different method but it’s a blast to read everyone’s story.
Audio Issues Training
- Recording & Mixing Strategies – This eBook and video training product will give you tips, tricks and strategies to improve both your recordings and mixes. From setting up your acoustic treatment for capturing great sounding instruments to using a reference track to make your mixes more competitive, Recording & Mixing Strategies has you covered.
- Quick Mixing Using Stock Plug-ins – If you’re strapped for time, take a two hour journey with me as I mix a song from start to finish, stopping every 10 minutes to tell you exactly what I’m trying to accomplish with my EQ’ing, compression or effects.
- EQ Strategies – Your Ultimate Guide to EQ – EQ is your best friend when you need to create separation in your mixes. EQ Strategies gives you an overview over the frequency spectrum so you can find all those annoying frequencies that are making your mixes boomy, boxy, muddy or harsh.
- Live Sound Survival – Big Sounds out of Small Systems – For the live, on-location engineer, improving their skills should be their first priority. For live sound chops, my Live Sound Survival – Big Sounds Out of Small Systems eBook is a great place to start.
Audio Issues Approved Training
- Dueling Mixes – If you’re all set on learning how to use your mixing processors and just need some more multi-tracks to practice with, Dueling Mixes gives you new tracks to play with each month, complete with two tutorial videos from Joe and Graham that give you an inside look into their professional sounding mixes.
- The Pro Audio Files Training – The guys over at The Pro Audio Files have come up with some great training products on multiple genres. So if you need something very specific, like how to mix EDM or hip-hop, Matthew Weiss is your go-to guy.
What’s On Your Wish List?
Finally, I wanted to know what’s on your wish list? What audio related stuff have you been eyeing lately?
Anything special you’re hoping to see under the tree this month?