Hello and welcome to the first installment of Recording Essentials! In 1983, I picked up a Fostex X-15 four-track recorder and have been hooked on home recording ever since. Although my first multi-track perfomances were terrible, I was not deterred. In the subsequent decades I have had the chance to work with some truly amazing people, each of whom poured their knowledge and experience into me with boundless enthusiasm. I truly treasure the opportunity to share what I can with you, and what better way to kick that off than with a giveaway!
Over the years I’ve had a chance to use, review, and demo a massive range of gear. Along the way there were certain products that stood out for an array of reasons. The Home Recording Essentials Giveaway (see Page 10) afforded me the rare opportunity to assemble a KILLER home studio to give away based on that list. Here is the why behind the what…
Apogee One Interface for Mac and iOS
In addition to leveraging Apogee’s expertise in A to D conversion, One is a multi-track interface that works just as well on an iPad as it does on Mac laptops and desktops. If you’re looking for a great sounding, go-anywhere interface that will fit in your shirt pocket, this one is for you.
The AT-4033/CL was the very first vocal mic I bought for my home studio. I’ve used it on a ton of recordings along with an ever-increasing selection of AT mics. Audio-Technica’s 40 Series mics are highly regarded by pros and novices alike because of the high fidelity and value they deliver. If I were starting over I’d still buy this mic.
My first studio headphones were also Audio-Technicas. In addition to the zero-hype frequency response, they are super comfortable, and not prone to falling off when tracking. They also have excellent isolation. This is particularly important for eliminating headphone to mic bleed when recording vocals and acoustic instruments, as well as checking your mix on your phones without having to “dim” the track.
Speaking of bleed, room bleed can be every bit as toxic to your tracks as headphone bleed. When using mics, you are almost always going to capture some of the sound of your room. The Auralex Mudguard isa powerful tool for helping isolate your mic’s from the natural reverb and EQ of your recording space.
When I made the move from analog tape to digital, I started using Pro Tools and haven’t looked back. While there are lots of great options out there, the sheer number of professionals using Pro Tools is an undeniable factor for a number of reasons. Although you can collect “stems” of your individual tracks to take in to mix at a larger studio, being able to take entire Pro Tools sessions is far more convenient. It is worth noting that one of the reasons I got hired as a Guitar Hero session player was the fact that I was Pro Tools literate.
Because bass connects the dots between the rhythmic and melodic elements of a song, getting a great bass sound is vital to getting a great mix. Before I started using the various Brainworx bass plug-ins, I had to use a compression plug-in to contain the bass dynamically and a drive plug-in to give it some life. It is an unfortunate reality that the deeper you go in a mix, the more you start gobbling up CPU. The bx_bassdude plug-in sounds amazing and helps reduce the number of resources required to build my mixes.
Over the past several years, manufacturers have shifted to using USB ports and cables for passing MIDI data. At the same time, a number of us have also started using iPads as part of our production workflow. The ability to communicate with my iOS and legacy MIDI devices is a problem I’ve been using iConnectivity products to solve for several years. They work great out of the box and are “midiot” friendly.
Try playing with the headstock of your guitar against a sheetrock wall and you’ll see how much surface energy transfer matters. The reason sax players sometimes face a wall when practicing in a loud venue is so they can hear the sound reflecting directly back at them. IsoAcoustic stands have become the gold standard for getting your speakers physically isolated from your environment and pointed exactly where they need to be – your ears.
Long before most people knew them by name, Mogami built their iconic reputation in the studio world, which is where I first heard about them. While I admit that I am a bit enamored by the cachet of using Mogami cables in my studio, the fact is they make rock-solid cables that sound amazing. I like the physical feel and weight of their cables, and I’ve never had one fail.
Back in the day, Digidesign (now Avid) required you to use both an authorized interface and an iLok to run Pro Tools. While forcing people to use an authorized interface was off-putting to some, I still appreciate the fact that Avid is serious about piracy. Owning two iLoks allows me to run both current and legacy versions of Pro Tools on my production computers at the same time. ZDT (Zero Downtime Coverage) is a valuable service that allows you to get temporary licenses should your iLok get lost or stolen.
Positive Grid has done an outstanding job of creating great guitar-centric apps and plug-ins for mobile and desktop devices. BIAS Amp Professional features a ton of killer amp models, access to a massive library of user-created tones, as well as Amp Match which allows you to accurately capture the sound of your own amps for use in the plug-in. Using BIAS Amp as a plug-in with Auria makes guitar-driven multi-tracking on your iPad a rocking reality.
My home studio is key to both my artistic expression and how I make a living. Given all the great gear options out there, I’d have to say that no other single piece of gear is more valuable to my mixes than my monitors. Eris E8 powered studio monitors sound great and retain their flat response at any volume, key to getting a great mix. They also feature a range of controls specifically designed to compensate for the listening environment challenges that many people face with home studios.
When it comes to tracking loud instruments like guitars and drums, you can’t go wrong with an SM57. They’re affordable, nearly impossible to destroy, and they sound great. If you track a lot of guitar, a great place to start is by focusing the mic on the edge of the dust cap of your speaker at a 90 degree angle, an inch or so from the grille. Moving the mic away from the center of the speaker will reduce treble response, while moving it a bit closer to the cabinet will make your amp sound fuller due to the “proximity effect”.
EZdrummer takes real drum performances and translates them into MIDI files that trigger drum samples via a user-friendly interface. You don’t have your DAW open to use it, which makes writing or jamming along with great sounding drum loops that much more immediate. The drag and drop functionality, ease in editing the loops, and style-driven expansion packs make this application an invaluable part of my production process.
This amazing plug-in features a ton of iconic speaker and cabinet impulse responses, as well as a host of poweramp emulations. This allows you to capture the sound of your favorite amps by running out of the preamp out on their effects loops directly into your DAW. When setting your tones I’d suggest keeping the master volume on your amp off so you’re only hearing what you’ll be tracking. If volume permits, once you have your tones dialed, try bringing your amp up a bit so your guitar can respond to it as you track.
If you have an iPad and are even remotely interested in multi-track recording, this is a must own app. When I first used it, I was nothing short of blown away by what it allowed me to do. While it stands to reason that you should be able to multi-track on an iPad, most people have no idea that you actually can. This application is intelligently designed, wonderfully robust, and allows you to create professional multi-track recordings anywhere you go. I would also suggest using Dropbox if you need to move your files to and from your iPad.