Treat Yourself – Holiday Deals for the Personal Studio
So you've made the rounds holiday gift shopping for your loved ones and friends, and now it's time to treat yourself to some useful toys for your home recording studio. Whether you've got a small songwriter demo setup or an elaborate multi-track facility, you're still a studio owner, and by definition that means you're always looking for a good deal on recording gear. What we've done is scour our inventory for a selection of products available at B&H for our customers, and we've compiled an equipment list below representing that elusive combination of quality, value, and functionality that you'll be using on a daily basis for as long as you're using your studio.
Presonus is a company known for building innovative, moderately-priced products for both the commercial and project studio environments that sound expensive. The Bluetube DP, a dual-channel microphone preamp and guitar or bass DI, is a good example. The DP stands for dual path, meaning that each channel offers the opportunity to switch from a tube to a solid state signal path according to taste and the nature of the instruments and material being recorded. For example, the tube stage might work well for thickening a direct electric guitar or bass, or adding some velvet to a vocal track, while the shimmer of a 12-string acoustic guitar might be better served by the liquid transparency of the solid state preamp. Both channels are outfitted with a matching set of control switches, which include +48V phantom power, phase reverse, a -20dB pad, and an 80Hz roll-off filter. The Bluetube DP offers virtually unmatched sound and versatility in its price range, representing a viable a front end for any studio signal path, project or commercial.
Vocal channel strips are practically a requirement in the modern personal DAW studio, and the good stuff is often priced out of the reach of most owners. Enter Joemeek and the oneQ, a single-channel vocal processing unit that combines a mic preamp and a super-aggressive optical compressor with a musical 4-band EQ, a de-esser, and an enhancer. Though there's nary a tube in the entire chain, the oneQ sounds like it has a few, and big ones at that, graciously imparting sizable slabs of old-school analog chunk to any digital recording. And speaking of digital, the oneQ includes a Word Clock I/O, and a set of 24-bit/96kHz digital outputs supporting the AES/EBU, SPDIF and TOSLINK protocols. Big Boy sound with real character and twice the features, priced at a third of what its competitors cost.
The Multimix-8 FW offers yet another direct-to-computer recording alternative in the form of a highly compact 8-channel mixer with internal effects processing and a pair of FireWire ports. This friendly little unit is graced with four sweet phantom-powered preamps, four mono line inputs, a pair of stereo line inputs for keyboards, and a two-track I/O channel, along with a group of smooth three-band EQ's on each channel. For a modest desktop or location recording setup, the Multimix-8 is packed with inputs, and manages to save you lots of space and money at the same time. Highly recommended for desktop voiceover, multimedia, and podcasting production, or recording a saxophone on your laptop in that highly reflective upstairs hallway.
The Podcastudio FireWire is a complete desktop podcasting setup, minus the computer, an internet connection, and server space. If you'd like to get into podcasting and you're seeking value for the dollar, stop here. Open the Podcastudio FireWire box and you'll find a complete signal path: a miniature 8-channel mixer, a large-diaphragm condenser microphone, a FireWire audio interface for the computer connection, a decent and comfortable set of headphones for monitoring, recording software, and a desktop mic stand, along with the requisite microphone and FireWire cables. It's a veritable podcasting or general voiceover tool shop, and it's cheap, folks! Certainly one of our best deals.
The Keystation Pro 88 is another great deal if you're in the market for both a master MIDI/USB controller keyboard and a control surface for your DAW, since it does both very well and very inexpensively. This adventurous piece of technology is blessed with a high-tech appearance and a very playable 88-key, velocity-sensitive hammer action keyboard. The chassis is equipped with a large, bright, backlit LCD screen, pitch and modulation wheels, and one of the largest and most comprehensive sets of assignable controls we've ever seen on one surface, ergonomically displayed for your programming pleasure. You can use the nine sliders as drawbars for a virtual "Hammond" performance and then use the same sliders as faders for level control of a virtual, in-the-box mix. We can't think of any other controller keyboard or control surface in its price range that offers the performance and mixing functionality of the Keystation Pro 88.
Fostex is known world-wide as a popular manufacturer of musician-friendly multi-track recorders, speakers and headphones for studio and location recording purposes, proffering leading-edge technology and features in surprisingly affordable packages to a grateful public. They've done it again, this time producing an amazingly low-priced microphone kit for aficionados of stereo recording. What you get is a pair of cardioid condenser instrument microphones that exhibit a wide frequency response and dynamic range, along with a high SPL capacity. You also get a pair of shock mounts, a pair of plush foam windscreens, a pro-grade metal T-bar, and a durable carrying case with a deluxe custom foam-filled interior. An extraordinary deal, and our best-kept secret – until now.
The i-5 is a cardioid dynamic microphone with a frequency response and sound pressure handling capability superbly suited for recording snare drums, congas, hand percussion, and guitar or bass cabinets. This mic has been flying under the radar of the larger music community for a few years now, but it's gotten the unqualified endorsement of many top studio engineers, and could be on its way to becoming the new industry standard for the recording applications mentioned above. Oh, and it sounds pretty good on vocals, too. The i-5 comes with a really nice, lightweight telescoping microphone stand sporting a tripod base, good for the stage or the studio. Whether you'd like an alternative choice for your existing mic collection, or that one mic that'll do it all for your demo studio rig, the i-5 is an awesome addition to any arsenal that's priced just right.
Tube microphones are very popular and in-demand these days as a means of inducing presence, color and breadth within the sometimes flat and sterile confines of the digital recording domain. The Rode K2 is a multi-pattern, large-diaphragm condenser microphone that features a hand-selected valve, a very wide dynamic range and high sound pressure handling capability, full-range frequency response, and a nice, rich sound that combines the desired fat tube sound with Class-A transparency and detail. The K2's cardioid, omni, and figure-of-8 pickup patterns are all variable, as the mics remote power supply is outfitted with a sweeping selector knob. This can be a blessing for apartment-dwelling project studio owners because, combined with judicious mic placement, one can often "dial out" street or internal building noises by using the variable pattern knob to broaden or narrow the pickup. A multi-pattern tube mic with the sound, features, and eminently reasonable price of the K2 is a rarity indeed.
Plosives are a problem when recording vocals, whether sung or spoken, and personal studio owners are more aware than ever of the need for a good pop filter. We think that the PF-SS split-screen pop filter is among the most innovative and effective ones that we've seen and it costs way less than you'd think. Basically two nylon mesh screens separated by an inch and attached to a 6" circular rim, the first screen serves to diffuse the air causing plosive consonants, the space helps disperse air pressure buildup in the interior of the hoop, and the second screen filters any remaining plosives. The design, called Air Pressure Dispersion Technology (A.P.D.T. ™) is absolutely effective and completely transparent, with no perceptible frequency degradation or muffling. The PF-SS comes attached to a sturdy flexible gooseneck and a sure-grip stand clamp, and it should last you a lifetime. Superb value.
Proper headphone monitoring is such an important factor in the recording studio, and the DT770 Pro is hands down the best-sounding and most versatile set of headphones we've ever heard. They're very comfortable, ruggedly built, and they project phenomenal low- end punch down to 5Hz that you can actually feel, while delivering smooth and precisely detailed mids and highs, with top end air to spare. They're closed-back and sound-isolating, but free of the aural claustrophobia often associated with that design. And when you're finished working in the studio, you can sit and relax with your favorite CD in your stereo system and your DT770's on, and hear the colors, depth and imaging of the music in a completely new way. Audiophile stuff here, at half the price.