Dynamic Microphones

10 Best Dynamic Microphones for Vocals – Live & Studio 2020

Dynamic Microphones

10 Best Dynamic Microphones for Vocals - Live & Studio!

As a musician, hearing your music played back is vital to improving your overall sound. The best way to make that happen of course is to record your sessions and play them back and, to do that, you’ll need a very good dynamic microphone. I would even call it a high-end dynamic microphone, which leads to the question; which high-end dynamic microphone is the best?

There are many dynamic microphones to choose from, and every musician has their favorite, which makes choosing the right one a bit difficult. Since you can use a dynamic microphone to record practically any instrument or vocal, from amplifiers to duets and everything in between, knowing a little about each is the best place to start when searching for yours.

That’s the best part about dynamic microphones actually because once you own one you won’t have to purchase another. Their versatility makes them an excellent investment, which is easy to see when you’re playing and you change instruments since you won’t need to change mics mid-session. Dynamic microphones are highly coveted by musicians, so read below to decide which is best for your particular style.

Pyle-Pro Professional Microphone

For excellent sound at an even better price, the Pyle-Pro mic is a great choice. It’s a handheld dynamic mic that comes with a cardioid pattern many musicians prefer because off-axis sounds are rejected before they can distort your clean sounds. Singular, no-disturbance recording is preferred by many musicians, and the Pyle-Pro leans into this preference by keeping both vocals and instruments clear while reducing background noise significantly.

Its heavy-duty design makes the Pyle-Pro one of the best microphones for constant traveling and also gives it excellent moisture resistance. It’s also one of the top mics for recording both live and amplified instruments, with an integrated windscreen and pop filter. This makes the Pyle-Pro Professional a great choice for a wide variety of recording situations and one of the most convenient models on this list.


  • Comes with an integrated pop filter and wind screen
  • Well designed and highly durable
  • Comes complete with cable

We Like the Pyle-Pro Professional Because:

One of the main reasons we like this mic is simply that, compared to other, more expensive and higher-end microphones, it comes with features they seem to lack. (Hello pop filter!) With an affordable price tag and high-end features, it’s easy to see why the Pyle-Pro made it onto Amazon’s Top 10 list of mics!

Check the latest price on Amazon

Audio-Technica ATR 2100

If you’re purchasing your very first mic and want to start strong, the ATR 2100 from Audio-Technica is a great choice. A handheld microphone, this model comes with an included USB output, making it easy to record digital music straight to your computer or laptop. If you’re going live you also get an included XLR output so that, during live performances, you can plug the ATR 2100 into a traditional mic input.

With a very smooth frequency and 2 variable outputs, the ATR 2100 is a great choice for recording everything from vocals to podcasts and, of course, instrumentals. The ATR 2100 is also perfect for both indoor and outdoor recording, making it a good choice for anyone trying to expand their musical horizons. Need to check your mic output and keep delays to a minimum? It’s no problem with ATR 2100’s built-in headphone jack and, with the aforementioned cardioid pattern, all unwanted noise from the front or back will be greatly reduced.

One last thing the Audio-Technica ATR 2100 comes with is a convenient mic stand and, with its ability to filter out all those unwanted noises and capture your music crisply and cleanly, it’s a great choice for 1st-time buyers.


  • Comes with USB output, headphone jack and mic stand
  • Provides a very clean, smooth output
  • Rejects unwanted sounds with a built-in cardioid pattern

We Like the Audio-Technica ATR 2100 because;

For live indoor and outdoor recording, the ATR 2100 is a great choice, especially if you’re new to the industry. With a crisp, clean output due to its cardioid pattern, this is one microphone that you’ll be glad you purchased and is an excellent investment in your music career.

Check latest price on Amazon

Shure PG58-XLR

Don’t let the lower price of the Shure PG58-XLR fool you. At a very reasonable $50.00 you might think it’s ‘cheap’ but you’d be wrong, as this mic packs a potent punch. If you’re looking for good quality at an affordable price, it’s a fine choice that’s been tailored to give great sound reproduction with an extended frequency that’s especially smooth for a microphone in this price range.

To pick up sound coming directly from the front while also ignoring any side and background noises, the Shure PG58-XLR uses a quality cardioid pattern that can handle aggressively high volume but still deliver a distortion-free sound that’s low on skewed noises.

The PG58-XLR also reduces your music very faithfully, from E notes at the high end down to a melancholic ballad with deep-end G. The PG58-XLR has been built to handle life on the road and is one of the sturdiest mics we tested at this price range.


  • Offers a solid, sturdy construction for heavy use
  • Has excellent sound capturing versatility
  • Superb price/feature combination

We Like the Shure PG58-XLR because;

If high-quality sound and sturdy construction are what you want in your recording studio (and who doesn’t), the PG58-XLR from Shure is a great choice. It will help you expand your musical horizons and give you sound and durability that are far above its price tag.

Check latest price on Amazon

Behringer Ultravoice XM 8500

With many of the best mics on the market, Behringer has an all-around appeal for musicians of all genres. The XM 8500 offers an excellent sound range, easily capturing both your vocals and instrumentals without interference or delays from unwanted noise and sounds. Plus, with its very reasonable price, the XM 8500 is an excellent choice for musicians on a tight budget, offering very good quality with faithfull recording and output abilities. As microphone investments go, the Behringer Ultravoice XM 8500 is a top pick.

In musician circles, you’ll find that the XM 8500 is highly praised because it offers a lot of features for a mic at this price. As a musician who’s just starting, or just beginning to play live, the Ultravoice XM 8500 is a very good choice and will serve you well for years to come.

For musicians that simply don’t have $500 to drop on a microphone but still want highly accurate sound reproduction, this microphone is a very good choice. We’ve seen it on sale for as low as $30.00! Just keep in mind that, once they hear it, your bandmates are going to want to steal it for themselves!


  • Excellent sound reproduction for a very low price
  • Sound output is very high-end
  • Comes with an included Mic mount

Why we Like the Behringer Ultravoice XM 8500

With the 2nd-place spot on Amazon’s ‘dynamic mic’ category, Behringer has shown the music world that lower-priced microphones still have a lot to offer. Many who purchase the Ultravoice XM 8500 are surprised that such a low-priced mic can deliver such high-quality sound and, for that reason, it’s become very popular.

Check latest price on Amazon

Shure SM7B


Already appearing once on this list, Shure makes microphones that are used by professionals in every facet of the music industry. Providing excellent quality, you’ll find that most Shure mics are a bit more expensive than the competition, but for good reason, as they will last through years of hard usage and give you the ultimate in HD sound quality.

The Shure SM7B is one of their best, providing an especially crisp and clean output with a flat frequency and very little if any, delay. There’s no need to worry that your mic will skew or distort your sound when you’re using the SM7B as it precisely reproduces both vocals and instrumentals. From belting out show tunes to letting fly on your electric guitar, the Shure SM7B will give you excellent sound reproduction with none of the distortion or background noise.

Some users may note that, in the past, Shure mics had a tendency to reproduce an electromagnetic hum, but that’s been solved with the SMB7 and, whether there’s a smartphone, monitor or any other device causing a hum, you’ll be completely shielded from it with the Shure SMB7.


  • A very wide frequency range
  • Reduced electromagnetic hum from other devices
  • Unwanted sound rejection using cardioid pattern

Why we Like the Shure SMB7

Shure has given the industry many great mics and the SMB7 is no exception. It captures your music crisply and clearly, with little to no disturbance or interference. Plus, with its removable windscreen, nearly all plosives produced by singing and talking are removed.

Check latest price on Amazon

The AKG D5


Overall one of the best microphone brands, AKG is also one of the most popular brands on the market today, delivering excellent sound quality for a very affordable price, an excellent combination for any musician both experienced and new to the recording industry.

Manufactured with a solid, durable construction, the AKG D5 will take a beating and keep on recording, every time, making it a great choice for taking on the road. The AKG D5 has also been re-released with a new cardioid pattern that makes feedback with high gain possible, making it perfect for female vocals or high-frequency sounds (although, truth-be-told, it’s not the best for male vocals and leaves them sounding a bit muddy).

With a wide dynamic range that delivers an outstanding balance of power, warmth, feedback, and clarity, the AKG D5 makes a great traveling mic, providing fantastic results at an affordable price.



  • Solid, sturdy construction for years of use
  • Clear feedback that comes through fast
  • Delivers a warm, clear and potent response

Why we Like the AKG D5

A dominant force in the music industry, AKG delivers another solid mic with the AKG D5. Very little distortion, a clear, warm response and crisp, smooth feedback set it apart from the rest, with a potent and powerful response that’s one of the industry’s best.

Check latest price on Amazon

Shure SM57-LC


Looking for a microphone bundle that will provide all the recording gear you need at an affordable price? Then look no further than the Shure SM57-LC! This is the perfect choice if you’re just starting in live performing, as the mic itself is excellent and it comes with a cable and stand, which means you won’t have to stress trying to find all of those devices separately.

Shure gives you several options to choose from so that you can ‘mix and match’ your preferred devices and accessories. You can choose from a bundle that includes a stand, windscreen, and cable, or a bundle that comes without a cable, and even a bundle that comes with an XLR to USB adaptor (as well as their standard, but superb, full mic bundle).


  • Bundles make it easier to choose the best combo
  • Excellent background noise reduction
  • Top-notch vocals and sound reproduction

Why we Like the Shure SM57-LC

Shure has made it much easier for beginners to get started with little or no stress finding the right combination of devices and accessories using their bundled options. In fact, for beginners, the SM57-LC is the best choice, with everything you need to get started recording and performing to a live audience already included. That and its durability make the Shure SM57-LC a top mic choice.

Check latest price on Amazon



Made to rival the biggest names in the microphone industry, MXL produces dynamic mics that are some of the most sought after in the music business. The BCD-1 is no exception, delivering a bright, warm sound while also instantly eliminating almost 100% of background noises. Any bounce back and side noises that might occur during recording are completely ignored by the BCD-1 while it focuses on the main source, whether that’s your voice or the instrumentals. For musicians playing in noisy garages, the MXL BCD-1 is a great choice that will ensure your voice and music are isolated from everyone else who’s playing.

One small drawback the BCD-1 does have however is that it was developed to isolate close-proximity sounds, making it a not-so-great choice if you’re recording, for example, a choir or quartet. That being said, the BCD-1 reproduces bass very well, and higher sound too, with very little unwanted noise or feedback. To keep it looking and working well for years MXL also delivers the BCD-1 with a high-quality foam padded case.


  • Rejects side and background noise extremely well
  • Very god main sound source isolation
  • Comes with a foam-padded case

Why we Like the MXL BCD-1

The BCD-1 is one of MXL’s top-rated mics, with excellent main sound isolation and rejection of side and background noise. Throw in a padded case and the MXL BCD-1 is a microphone that will serve you well for years to come.

Check latest price on Amazon

Shure SM58S


Another top entry from Shure, the SM58S can come with or without the on/off switch, cable and USB to XLR adaptor so that, like their other entries, picking a mic and accessories is much easier and faster. Simply choose what you need and Shure takes care of the rest.

The SM58S comes with an improved bass roll and midrange for greater accuracy, with a cardioid that isolates the main vocals or instrumentals well. The included windscreen and pop filter also help to deliver clear, clean and crisp sounds no matter where or what you’re recording.


  • Bundle options galore
  • Ultimate control with the on/off switch
  • Wind and pop filter included

Why we Like the Shure SM58S

With no delay and a smooth, clear delivery inside or outside, the Shure SM58S is a fantastic mic. Throw in the bundle options that get you started stress-free and it’s a fine microphone choice, especially for newbies.

Check latest price on Amazon

Sennheiser E835


One of the best in the music industry, Sennheiser has been producing excellent dynamic microphones that deliver top value and quality since 2005. (They also produce top-quality headphones.) With all the features you could ask for, the Sennheiser E835 also offers a cardioid pattern that ignores all useless and unwanted background and side noise, especially for those times when you’re directly in front of the mic. It also delivers a lot of raw power, something your bandmates might have to get used to if you’re unwilling to adjust the output rate.


  • Very powerful sound boosting abilities
  • Little or no distortion and/or delay
  • Smooth, clean and crisp output

Why we Like the Sennheiser E835

As microphone investments go, the E835 is the best of the bunch, with power to spare. Many customers report that their Sennheisers have gone 10 years or more without a problem, making the Sennheiser E835 an excellent choice for long-term performance, power, and durability.

Check latest price on Amazon


10 Best Dynamic Microphones for Vocals – Live & Studio 2020


No matter which of the above dynamic microphones you choose you’ll be getting a mic that delivers great sound quality and reproduction. We hope this article has given you the information you need to make the best choice for your musical needs, and invite you to leave questions or comments below.

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Audio Streets is a home for musicians, producers, sound engineers and pretty much anyone who wants to learn more about music production, mixing and mastering. 
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Music Inspiration

11 Great Tips! For Finding Musical Inspiration

Music Inspiration

11 great Tips For Finding Musical Inspiration

One of the most important things for any songwriter is finding musical inspiration. The inside of our minds can appear to be overflowing with inspiration. All it takes is a few minutes to be able to come up with a brilliant new idea.

However, sometimes that inspiration seems to ebb away, and no matter what you do in order to come up with new ideas for a song, everything remains blank. If you need help to keep that creativity flowing, I have written these tips to help find musical inspiration. 

To be inspired is so important for any creative person. This inspiration urges us to discover new ideas and keep our passion for our work.

Where Does Inspiration Come From?

I would like to first talk about what inspiration is before we talk about how to become inspired. Inspiration is this elusive mystery factor that always comes before any great piece of art. As if it’s something that appears from nothing. It comes upon us when we least expect it and suddenly everything becomes clear to us. 

It might begin with a new idea for a beat or even just one element out of a whole production. You may find yourself with it circling your mind right the way up to a crazy hit. Inspiration is and the beginning of something good in your studio will keep you up till very late hours or completely make you lose track of time. This is one of the most interesting phenomenons in the creative person’s mind. 

The problem is that our minds aren’t always prepared to think in a different way. We are so committed to our existing routines and habits of thinking. This makes it more difficult to find inspiration surrounding new experiences that cause our minds to think in a new way. I have put together some of my favorite techniques for creating inspiration for yourself in order that you can more quickly and easily write better songs.

1. Try A New Town

In order to find inspiration, you must break your mental habits and many of these habits can be tied up within the place that you live. 

Moving away from your regular surroundings can work wonders for the creative process. You change your location, you change the energy around you, and your luck is changing too. I’m sure there is a research on the subject somewhere, if you found it, let me know 🙂

There is no need to feel that you must go on a grand adventure. Heading to a new town isn’t about following a dream or excitement but more about moving away from what you have been used to.

Taking a trip to a town or city that you are not overly familiar with can give you the freedom to think more actively than you usually would.

New thoughts are sure to enter your mind such as where you might eat, if you aren’t familiar with any of the local restaurants, you’ll be sure that you are taking a gamble in any event.

You will have the opportunity to see new things and this will, in turn, create new thoughts. For example, seeing new faces around you, the way people dress, or just seeing a weird building that has a unique shape and wondering what it might be like to live there.

The great thing is that you don’t have to choose a town or city, it can be any new place that takes your fancy, a beach, the mountains, wherever you please. The point of the exercise is to remove you from your usual surroundings in any way at all.

This always reminds me of the great movie “Into The Wild”, where the guy just left everything behind in search of a new life.

Another idea is to spend some time in a part of your town that you wouldn’t usually frequent. Perhaps there’s an unusual café that you have never visited. Pop over there for a little while and see if any new lyrics spring into your mind.

To break your mental habits, you don’t necessarily have to do anything that is extreme or wild, the simple act of going to a new place that you aren’t used to will definitely make you think in a different way than you normally would.

2. Head Out For A Walk

I often find that going for a walk is one of the most effective methods for getting creatively unstuck. Something in the movement of the body, the increasing heartbeat, together with breathing new air and getting the blood flow going can be the only thing that separates me from my next great idea. It happens all the time. 

And I am not alone in this, a team of researchers discovered that the creative output of a person rises by up to 60% whilst out for a walk. Pretty amazing! I find, in my own experience that I feel less stressed about what I want to write while I am out walking. I’m, by no stretch of the imagination, a scientist or a researcher, but I would say that you become distracted by the physical activity just enough that it stops you from focusing too much on your work. Perhaps there is a nice local park if so, get out there and go for a walk!

I had some of my most proud songs come to me while out on a walk. It could sometimes be as though the wind were singing a beautiful, poetic melody into my mind as I walk. But sometimes it is not. I once wrote a folk song because I had that  thought, “What would it be like if my house was painted blue?” Have a go at wandering around your local area or a park. Ask yourself, whilst looking at houses, trees or the sky, what these things might sound like.

You don’t need to work overly hard at this. Sometimes you will find that nothing comes to your mind. But other times a song will come to you, inspired by your surroundings.

3. Educate Yourself More In Music Theory

So often, music theory can feel like the mind-numbing cousin of songwriting who you unintentionally began conversing with at a party. Music theory can actually be highly useful when looking for inspiration, despite sometimes being a bit dry. For example, if you have just been learning about Lydian mode, challenging yourself to use this to write something new will encourage you to create music that is totally different than what you would normally write. 

You might find that you don’t like what you write in Lydian mode and that your first try with music theory is not all you thought it would be. 

Having said that, there is a chance that you will discover something like a new chord change that you absolutely fall in love with. Then that new chord change may end up providing the inspiration for a whole new song. If you have an interest in learning more music theory, I would recommend trying Rick Beato. 

Rick Beato is an expert in music theory and he does an incredible job of turning complicated music lessons into ones that are easy to understand and easy to engage with. His focus is more towards scoring than songwriting but his lessons can be a valuable learning tool for all musicians.

4. Try Collaborating With A Friend

Being an introvert who is forgetful, I have to relearn this lesson at least every month. Being a creator doesn’t mean you have to work alone. Most of the time I do my work totally alone, in my room and most of the time that works well for me. Spending time with friends and making the effort to be sociable really is invaluable to someone doing creative work.

If you want to really expand your musical horizons then working alongside a friend can be an excellent way of doing that. 

Working with a friend means bringing different styles of music forward, this will challenge you into moving outside of your creative comfort zone. And, with the minds of two people adding to the message that the song brings, you may find that you will work on a subject that you wouldn’t normally give a lot of thought to. 

If you don’t have any musical friends then that is alright, you may find that the experience is something you will enjoy all the same. I have a very close friend who doesn’t know very much about music at all, but he is one of my favorite people to write with because he comes up with new ideas that I would never come up with on my own.

You might find that you and your friend don’t actually end up getting much work done, but it will still be a good use of your time because it is important to spend time with people that mean a lot to us. 

It is a great thing if you and your friend end up writing a hit piece of music, but even if you simply spend the time catching up with one another and hanging out, you will find that you are more likely to be happier than if you did all of your work by yourself, all the time.

5. Write With An Instrument That Is Not Your Usual One

A little lack of experience or getting out of your creative comfort zone can be very helpful for your music. Do you usually write on the guitar?

By trying a new instrument, perhaps the piano, or some exotic instrument like my favorite Kalimba, and switching up the way you write can be a refreshing change from using your usual instrument. Especially because it will be something that you aren’t as familiar with.

I wrote on the piano for the longest time. Until one day my brother gave me his old acoustic guitar and taught me how to play 3 chords. This has added a whole universe of music creation potential to my arsenal. Every new instrument you put your hands on, opens you to a world of new possibilities.

The guitar was totally free to me, there were no rules and no limits to what I could do. Each time I spread my fingers and made a random “chord”, things sounded so crazy to me, especially the random open chords I’ve mistakenly constructed. I didn’t know the names of the chords, I hardly knew the roots, but man did it sound beautiful… 

And coming from the very well organized piano, it took some time for me to wrap my head around the whole concept of the guitar, but once it happened, I knew that this relationship is going to last for a long time. 

22 years later and we are still going strong!

I was challenged to completely think outside the box due to the fact that I had no idea to play what I usually would on the piano. I forced myself to think outside the box. The habits that I had developed with the piano were totally thrown out and I was free to try out new sounds, that was completely exciting to me.

I would also like to point out that there are things that may be very easy on one instrument and almost impossible on another. If I had stuck to writing on the piano, I would never have discovered so many playing techniques that led to so many good songs.

Of course, I’ve never left the piano, it remains one of my favorite instruments to play. However, when you write with an instrument that you are not as familiar with, it can create a whole new lease of life on your music. You may find yourself doing it on a regular basis and getting cool results almost every time.

6. Write Music Based Around Fictional Characters

From the very beginnings of music and poetry, songwriters have been writing their pieces from the perspective of a fictional character. songwriting doesn’t always have to be based on your own experience or opinions. 

If you are struggling to think of something that has happened to you and incorporate it into your music, you could write a story.

You simply need to come up with a fictional setting that you would be keen to live in. Think about ideas, is the setting rural or urban? Is it day or night? Perhaps include politics or sports or some form of visual art. What is the setting known for? 

Next, you need to think about a character who is living there. Ask yourself questions about them. What do they do in their life? What is their life like?

Now that you have a good idea of who the character is and how they interact with their world, you are ready to make an attempt at writing a song about it. 

It may start off feeling less than sincere, but as you create the story, you will notice that it starts to really show your personality, after all, you are the one who has written it.

7. Laugh

This is not really a tip but more of a “life hack”. when we get stuck our minds are bound to a certain state. But when we start laughing our brain releases certain chemicals that help untie us from this state. Too me it’s a bit like adding oil to a dry engine. 

Things are starting to move much more easily and you find yourself in the creative process without even noticing that.

My favorite method is just to make a cup of coffee and watch standup comedy from my favorite comedians. After half an hour of laughing my ass off, the stress is just gone. I then go back to making music and things are just flowing. It works like magic.

8. 30 Push-Ups

Not kidding, this weird hack has proven itself to be very effective. This always gets my creative juices flowing. Do it without even thinking about is, just get and do 30 push-ups! Let me know if it works for you.

9. Meditation

If for some reason, going outside or doing some exercise or laughing doesn’t do the job for you, you can try meditation for 10 or 30 minutes. Some people have a very deep inner world and they can just dive inside their minds to change the channel on their consciousness. 

Or do real meditation by not thinking about anything. I find that after 30 minutes of deep meditation I’m almost a different kind of person with different creative forces. It’s super interesting.

10. Leave It For Tomorrow

Sometimes we have to remind ourselves that creating artistic stuff is not on-demand and not always available to us. Sometimes today is just not your day and the only thing you can do is just turn off the lights in your studio and come back tomorrow.

11. Take Time To Reflect And Relax

Always open yourself up to inspiration. Your attitude plays the most important part of finding inspiration. you might be a little more prepared to think creatively.

If you are stressed out the entire time whilst on a walk, the walk will not prove particularly useful. There is no need to get continually frustrated with yourself over your NEED to find inspiration RIGHT NOW.

The practices that I have described can all help but there is no guarantee that they will work all the time. It is important to make peace with the fact that inspiration will not come each and every time you head out for a hike. This makes it all the more important to try to make time to do these activities on a regular basis.

If no inspiration is found when you take your next walk, you can hopefully, at the very least, give yourself some inner peace and a happier mental state. The time after that, you can prepare yourself to think in a more creative fashion.

It is also worth thinking about the fact that different people find that inspiration works differently for them. The ideas that I have talked about above may help a lot of people but they are certainly not the only things that will work to help you find inspiration.

It is a good idea to look back and remember the times that you felt excited about doing work on a particular project and try to draw inspiration from that as well.

Ask yourself the following questions;

Where were you at the time?

What activity were you doing?

Were you with other people or were you on your own?

If you can find answers to these questions, you will be able to find out from where your inspiration comes and what situations cause you to be more creative.

What should I do if inspiration for a song disappears?

Inspiration may be an integral part of music writing, however it isn’t a permanent thing.

The spark of excitement that happens within us is often the cause of inspiration to begin a new project. But you are going to need more than this to finish writing a song. Sooner or later that initial excitement that comes with the beginnings of a project, will fade away.

When this happens, it is easy to start doubting. You might start to think about the idea you had in the first place and whether it was ever any good. You must remain dedicated and have faith in what you can achieve in order to be able to finish the project.

It is perfectly normal and ok to wonder how good your work really is. But it is important that you push through these feelings and finish what you started. If you don’t do this, you will be stopping yourself from improving and you will never find out how good your work is.

If you are unhappy with the end result, that doesn’t mean that you have failed. Even if a song doesn’t turn out the way you had imagined, you will have learned something from writing it in the first instance.


How to find musical inspiration?

Inspiration is all about changing your mental habits. Try these tips every time you get stuck and there is a very big chance they’ll help you find a way back to your creative state. Other than that, time heals everything, just give it more time. I believe in you.

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Audio Streets is a home for musicians, producers, sound engineers and pretty much anyone who wants to learn more about music production, mixing and mastering. 
If you’re looking to improve your productions, learn new tips and techniques then Audio Streets is the perfect platform for you. Here you’ll find great articles, tools and gear reviews.

Add AudioStreets to your favorites and don’t forget to sign up for our Newsteller and be updated with new posts,  reviews and new cool things we put out every once in a while.

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27 Mixing Tips That 113 Engineers Wish They Would’ve Learned Sooner

27 Mixing Tips That 113 Engineers Wish They Would’ve Learned Sooner

Hi everybody, Avi here. 

I went and researched in Facebook groups about the best mixing tips that sound engineers wish they would’ve learned sooner. I was expecting the same old regular things, but I was very surprised to find out how helpful their tips actually were! So this is the list I’ve made for you.

1. Learning About Crest Factor

The Crest Factor is defined as the ratio of the peak to RMS value of the signal.

In simple words, it is the distance between the highest RMS and the highest peak of the signal. When you have a high Crest Factor value, it means that the signal is more dynamic. When you have a low Crest Factor value, it means that the signal is more squashed or compressed. It affects the way we perceive loudness. Keeping a good RMS to Peak ratio might help you get higher levels while still keeping the dynamics intact.

For example, in low frequencies like bass, a high crest factor value won’t mean you have more level or more energy, in fact, when you have high-level low frequencies you might lose some of the overall perceived loudness. But low RMS to Peak value in the mid-range will increase the overall perceived loudness. A well-balanced Crest Factor across the mix will give you the best results. It takes some time and practice but in the end, you will nail it. This will allow you to get clear and loud mixes without sounding squashed and lifeless.

2. Don’t Mix In High Levels

Most of the time, we want to crank up the volume to enjoy the music while we mix. This will probably be a bad idea, and here is why:

* You get tired very soon without noticing, a great recipe for a bad mix. 

* The music gets compressed just by the physical limitations of your speakers so you don’t really hear the actual source.

* Room acoustics problems and unwanted resonances become very significant and distort your perception, leading you to wrong judgment and eventually bad mix.

* Protect your ears by mixing in low levels. Over the years you will lose big parts of your hearing that will never come back. So you better delay it by not exposing yourself to high levels daily.

3. Bus processing and Groups

This will not only save you a load of mixing time and CPU but it also makes things a lot simpler. For example, If you’ve got multiple “background vocal” tracks, for instance. Route them all to a bus and do your processing (EQ, compression, etc) on the buses instead of the individual channels, same with ad-libs, harmonies, doubles, etc.

Of course, you can always do SOME processing on the individual channels, but you won’t end up with 7 plugins on each channel and this will save you a lot of CPU and a lot of headache.

4. Gain Staging

This is something we all have a tendency to forget. Every plugin, and every outboard equipment is built to have a “Unity Gain” or a “sweet spot”. This is the spot where this particular device will sound the best. This means that if a certain device has an input, you want it to be set high enough and away from the noise floor to give a healthy signal but not too high in order to keep it far enough from distortion. This “sweet spot” usually sits between 60% to 90% gain.

Even plugins and DAW’s have these “level sweet spots”. when it comes to inputs in general, you want your signal to also live between 60% to 90%.

With outputs it’s a little different, you can even get it to 10% and still be ok. 

So when you’re mixing, it’s important to build a good gain structure and make sure every device or plugin on your chain will work at its sweet spot. This builds up along the mixing process, giving you clarity, punch, and overall more professional sound.

5. Mixing Templates

Basically, the idea is to have a template with all your routings, plugins, sends, aux’s and groups already laid out for you, so you won’t have to spend the time to create them from scratch with every mix you start. Don’t be lazy and do it on your next project. Start with a list of what you use every mix, open a new project on your DAW and start building your first mixing template.

6. Subtractive EQing

I believe that this is the right way to work with an EQ for at least 80% of the time. The idea is to listen to a source and start with taking out the frequencies you don’t like instead adding frequencies that you do like. The thing is when you subtract some frequencies from a source the things you do like about it are almost automatically come out without you having to boost them. This leaves you with a more natural sound overall. Subtractive EQ may also help create more space and room for other things in your mix.

7. Less is More

Just because you have tons of plugins doesn’t mean you have to use them. Some mix engineers feel the need to use tens of plugins to finish a mix, this can’t be further from the truth. Most of the time we can use one or two EQs, and two or three compressors and one delay and one reverb and this is more than enough as our bred and butter. It works the same for almost everything in the music production and mixing world. You don’t have to EQ or compress everything, you don’t have to emphasize any little channel in your mix, it’s ok. This is what I’m saying to my OCD self every time I start a new mix.

8. Multiband Processing

Think about it, you can do multiband distortion, multiband saturation, multiband compression, multiband delay… you can pretty much divide any source to multiple bands and shape each and every one of them separately. If this is not the ultimate control, then I don’t know what is. Back in the old days when we were using mostly hardware, it wasn’t the easiest thing to achieve, but today, when everything is virtualized, the possibilities are literally endless. even though I’m a minimalist, I can use a cool ninja trick here and there every once in a while.

9. Mid/Side EQing

The Mid/Side EQ is the mastering engineer’s best friend. Most of the applications I can think about with this method are mastering related but there are things you can use it in mixing. Let’s say you have a stereo piano channel. This piano is playing a part that is very midrange biased and it happened to clash with the vocals a little bit. Of course, we can just poke a hole in its frequency spectrum with a regular EQ and make a lot of room for the vocal. But we can also do it only on the center channel and leave the stereo’s midrange “open”. This will make room for the vocals while leaving the stereo’s midrange untouched. If this is not having our cake and eat it too, then I don’t know what is, I love cake!

10. Mixing In Mono

I refused to do this for such a long time, didn’t see the point in that. If everybody is already listening in stereo why would I care about how will it sound in mono?? Well my friends, as musicians we have to keep our minds wide open. In your next mix, try to switch the master channel to mono from time to time and stay there for a while. After a few minutes, you’d start to hear what is missing in your mix. I’ll let Graham do the rest, watch his great video.

11. Stop Overthinking

Just go with your guts, let the universe mix for you, I’m completely serious. I have hours and hours of obsessing and feeling bad about my mixing abilities and we all have that. Especially when you compare yourself to grammy-winning, world-renown mixing engineers. Don’t do that! Just mix. Use your intuition and your instincts to quickly find the right place for all the elements in your mix, it is totally possible.

Some of the best engineers I know are not even tech guys, they are using there intuition and gut feeling more than everything. Of course, you have to have a lot of experience to get to this point but trust me, if you practice enough you’ll get there in no time.

12. Invest In Good Equipment

Yeah I know, we always hear how equipment is not the most important thing and it’s true, but when you get to that high enough level you’d be able to actually understand the difference between the cheap stuff and quality gear. This is why I always suggest not to start your music-making journey with high-end equipment. If you work with cheap and even bad equipment, after a while you start to feel like it’s not enough for your needs anymore. This point in your mixing evolution is priceless! The minute you decide to buy a new preamp, or new monitors, or a new microphone, or even better cables, and developed the ability to actually hear the differences… this is exactly why we enjoy and appreciate quality gear. Some of us can’t stop the obsession and become collectors of quality gear and I know at least 4 guys that are crazy like that 🙂

13. Make a List

It seems very simple and you would think that just listening to the mix over and over again would be enough for you to remember exactly what to fix. It may be right but I promise you that writing down some things will save you a lot of precious time. So this is how I do it, I keep a pen and paper on my studio desk and making a list listening only to my exported files. You can do it with a text file opened in the background and just make a list there. This might seem like a small thing but it’ll greatly improve your workflow.

14. Keeping The Rough Mix As Reference

I’m sure you’ve heard it before. Sometimes there’s a certain magic in the first mixdown we do. It’ll be a smart move to keep the rough mix, and not just the mixdown file but the whole project. That way, if you lost your way during mixing you would always have an older basic version to roll back to. Just like time machine backup for your mix.

15. A Good Input Will Grant You With Good Output

Well, it’s kind of obvious but it’s something we need to remind ourselves from time to time. Our output quality can only be as good as the input. Making sure you check all this list will help keeping you in the safe zone.

* A good room acoustics

* Good microphone, DI or pickup.

* High-quality cables.

* High-quality connectors.

* Healthy input level into the preamp.

* Good input level into the audio interface.

* Keeping a good gain structure throughout the whole signal path.

16. Always Keep Your Sub Bass Information In Mono

The very low frequencies are nondirectional, meaning, you can’t easily detect where the sound is coming from, left speaker or right speaker. So it doesn’t make a lot of sense to keep this information in stereo. Usually if you focus your sub 100hz information to the center channel (mono), it’ll help you get a more solid low range. better kicks, more focused bass sounds and equal distribution of energy across the stereo field.

17. Use Automation To Boost Specific Things

This is one of the best things you can do to emphasize emotions in your song. As a music producer, you create a lot of small ear candies inside the production that help increase the emotional impact of the song. These things are often get hidden behind the big and basic things. For example, a pop song is composed of drums, bass, harmony element and a melody element. This is practically what holds the song and makes it what it is, the pillar elements as I like to call them. With these basic channels, you add a lot of little things that are adding a lot of value and even magic to the song. It can be samples, percussion sounds, background vocals and add-ons, small melody parts like guitars, synths and even a cool riff in the bass channel. All these sweet things are making our song a lot more interesting and fun to listen to. With automation, you can boost these things and bring them to the front of your mix to enhance the listener’s experience and make it richer.

18. Solo Things Less

Sometimes when we mix we have a tendency to obsess over one random channel. we try to make it perfect as we listen to it in solo mode. But after a while it might lose its place inside the mix, it might clash with other elements or just get out of context. A lot of mix engineers believe that if you use the solo button less you will never lose your way inside the big picture. I like this tip because it’s not that obvious and it might have a big impact on the end result.

19. 10-20Hz Is Useless For Music When Trying To Go Louder

Ok, let’s tell the absolute truth about it, no one can hear these frequencies but the system itself. There is no benefit in keeping them, they’re only a waste of important energy that can be invested in more audible frequencies that are actually valuable to the production. To be honest, when I’m working on a master I just cut everything under 25hz without even thinking about it. And if I want to go louder I cut even more. That’s just me.

20. Listen To Your Mix OUTSIDE of Your Studio

Yeah, I’m not just saying listen to your mix on more speakers or more headphones, this is too obvious. When you get to the final stage of your mix try taking it out of your studio. Listen to it in your car stereo, try different headphones, try a friend’s studio, try your mom’s car, your girlfriend’s phone speaker, and try every possible system you have available around you. Also try to listen in different locations. It’s all about human perception. The human mind is very complicated and you always find new things when you change the viewing angle. Make sure to make a list of everything you find and want to change or fix, this alone might drastically improve your mix.

21. Good Usage Of Panning

Panning can not only create width but also consequently creates focus in the sum image. Try to create the stereo feeling with high-frequency content channels. Things you can throw to the sides are percussions, high guitars, high strings and high-frequency channels in general. 

With the lower frequency channels you should be more careful and not drift too far to the sides, this might create a “too much weight on one side of the boat” effect and throw your mix off balance.

Tip: Try to pan things to the sides based on energy. That means that low-frequency content channels won’t go too far away from the center unless you have another channel that is similar in content to pan over to the other side. This will make sure the your mix will stay well balanced.

22. Master Bus Processing

Most mix and mastering engineers will tell you to not touch the master channel and they won’t be wrong. But when you reach a certain level as a mix engineer you can allow yourself to do that with confidence and be sure your mix will sound better. If I feel like doing some master bus processing I make it very subtle. Usually, I only use a special compressor that fits my mix in character and style. And even then you can hardly see the reduction needle moving. Sometimes I might use a nice EQ to gently boost some nice high frequencies, just for the extra added color and “glue”. Remember, all master bus processing is done very lightly.

23. Parallel Compression

These days we don’t have to fiddle with complicated routing to get a parallel compression, almost every compressor has a Dry\Wet button. Life is GOOD! Parallel compression is not an obvious effect, it takes a lot of practice to actually be able to hear the differences. I remember my first time doing it, I expected a lot more. But after an hour of testing I started to really notice the differences and learned to create it the right way. The idea is to “compress very hard without compressing at all” I know this makes zero sense but it’s exactly what it is. In simple words, you create a mix between very compressed and very dynamic versions of the same signal. Somewhere in the mix, you’ll find a magic sweet spot that will allow you to enjoy both worlds, simply put, you’d have a super compressed channel with nice dynamic properties. It’s so freaking cool!

24. Range Allocation

This is a fancy name for a very simple thing. Range Allocation is one of the most basic concepts behind mixing music. The idea is to find the right place for each instrument on the frequency spectrum. I’ll let this great video explain this for me.

25. Saturation

Something very interesting and unique happens when the signal passes through a good saturation plugin. In my ears, the light distortion effect brings out some hidden qualities in the signal that you didn’t even know were there. Sometimes you’d like the effect and sometimes you won’t but you should try regardless. Some plugins are not even designed to saturate but they have this feature just because it’s a part of their overall sound. Plugins like analog emulations of old hardware EQs and compressors. There are a few dedicated saturation plugins that give you a range of different colors to choose from. You should try them and go with what you like best. Remember, we don’t have to saturate everything, if everything is special then nothing is. Use it wisely.

26. Pushing The Bass Notes Forward

Putting the bass notes forward, slightly off the grid. That helps to make room for the kick transient helping it cut through the mix a lot easier. The very short delay on the bass channel is not noticeable and that way, it doesn’t clash with the kick. You don’t have to do it on any bass part, only on the parts which the bass and the kick are playing notes at the same time.

27. Don’t Over Quantize!

When we start making music it’s so easy to hit that “Q” button and have “perfect timing”. In some cases, this is exactly what we are going for, but in most cases, especially when it’s a real player, playing a real musical part with real human groove, the quantize feature might suck out the life out of the piece. If you didn’t play tight enough, just do another take but try to get it as good as you naturally can. It makes all the difference. 

Tip: You can also use under 100% quantization. It means that when you hit that Q button it won’t stick the notes to the grid but give them a little wiggle room. So you can make it 70% accurate, or 80% or however you like it. It’s a great feature that helps you tighten up a part without completely sticking it to the grid.

That’s it my friends, happy mixing! 

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Audio Streets

Audio Streets is a home for musicians, producers, sound engineers and pretty much anyone who wants to learn more about music production, mixing and mastering. 
If you’re looking to improve your productions, learn new tips and techniques then Audio Streets is the perfect platform for you. Here you’ll find great articles, tools and gear reviews.

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Top 5 Musician Earplugs on the Market 2020

Top 5 Musician Earplugs on the Market

If you’re a musician making a living playing an instrument or using your voice, congratulations! A music career is rewarding, exciting and fun! There is one small problem however that, while preventable, many musicians still fail to address; hearing damage. 

The fact is, thousands of musicians have ignored the health risks associated with being exposed to continuous, extremely loud music, playing for years and even decades without proper ear protection. Brian Johnson of AC/DC is a prime example, being forced to give up touring because of the damage done to his ears over years of playing with no protection. 

Scientifically speaking, loud noise, including music will degrade your hearing ability slowly but surely, causing tinnitus as well as hearing loss. Even worse, once your ears are damaged and your hearing impaired, there’s no cure to get it back.

What that means is that, if you’re a musician looking to sing (or play) for your supper as a career, finding a well-made, comfortable set of earplugs is imperative. (Also, if you’re an avid concertgoer, you need earplugs too!) 

To that end, we’ve put together a list of the Top 5 earplugs for musicians, below, that will help you, as well as 3 Key Features that they must have in order to provide the best protection for one of your most precious 5 senses, your hearing.

Key Feature #1 - They Must Reduce Noise Sufficiently

The main reason to purchase a set of earplugs is to reduce the amount of noise that reaches your inner-ear and prevent damage. This amount changes from model to model and should be based on the type and location of music you’re playing. 

Playing hard rock or heavy metal at a nightclub? Then you’ll want earplugs that substantially lower the volume coming through. On the other hand, if you’re jazzing it up with a small group of friends in your garage, earplugs that let more volume through should be fine. 

Note that the average sound reduction on most brands of earplugs falls between 15 to 30 dBs and, with this in mind, choose the best earplugs for your musical situation.

Key Feature #2 - They Must Provide Excellent Sound Quality

Truth is, most musicians don’t use earplugs because, well, they ruin the music. It’s tough to know if something you’re playing sounds ‘right’ if you can’t hear it well and, if you have a low-quality set of earplugs, it can turn a joyous experience into something just plain awful. 

The good news is that there are several earplug models (as you’ll see below) that allow you to protect your ears but still hear your music well, providing a flat response that attenuates equally all the frequencies coming through. In short, they give you the ability to turn down the volume but still hear the musical nuances, protecting your ears while the music shines through.

Key Feature #3 - The Best Earplugs Must Be Comfortable to Wear

Let’s be honest, if the earplugs in your ear are causing you pain and discomfort, you’re going to take them out, defeating their purpose immediately. That’s why any pair of earplugs you buy must fit well and provide a good seal inside your ear. 

Knowing this, it’s a good idea to try on several models of earplugs so that you purchase a set that provides a good seal, reduces noise sufficiently, provides excellent sound quality and feels good when worn for hours, days or weeks at a time.

The Top 5 Earplugs for Musicians (in no particular order)

Etymotic ER20xs - The Best Musician Earplugs for Excellent Sound Quality

A highly acclaimed audio company, Etymotic is known as one of the best earplug makers in the industry, and one of their standouts is the ER20xs. 

Firstly, their flat response is excellent, allowing all frequency ranges to come through without lowering any one more than another. Wearing them allows you to turn down the volume without shutting out the true sound. Even better, they feel like there’s almost nothing in your ears. 

The ER20xs also does a very good job of blocking volume at 20 dBs, enough for a raucous band rehearsal or even a concert. They provide plenty of ear protection but allow you to still hear the music well. 

One drawback the ER20xs does have, however, is that they only come in sizes regular and large so, if you’ve got a particularly small set of ears, they may not be the best fit for you. 

Take a look or purchase them today on Amazon.

DeciBullz - The Best Musician Earplugs for Sufficiently Lowering Volume

At 31 dbs of volume reduction, the DeciBullz earplugs take the volume way down, even at the loudest of concerts. One of the reasons they’re so good at this is that, unlike other models, DeciBullz can be self-customized to fit your ears perfectly.

To do this you simply pour or dunk them in very hot water for a few seconds, which makes them softer and more pliable. While hot (but not too hot) you then place them in your ears, where they’ll mold to them like a cat molds to your lap. 

Voila! You now have earplugs that fit your ears perfectly although, truth be told, they do get a little harder once cooled and so might not conform to your comfort level. Plus, while better than most average plugs for hearing protection, the DeciBullz aren’t exactly the king of sound quality. 

In any case, if sheer volume reducing power is your goal, the DeciBullz fit the bill to a ‘T’. 

You can take a look or purchase them on Amazon, today.

LiveMusic HearSafe - The Best All Around Musician Earplugs

With 2 filters and an impressive 29 dBs of sound reduction, the LiveMusic HearSafe earplugs are the most well-rounded, and affordable, earplugs we’ve reviewed. 

They come in 2 sizes so you can pick the size that fits you best, deliver a relatively flat response so you can still hear all your music in high-def, and they’re excellent concert earplugs as well, letting great sound in while keeping your ears safe and sound (no pun intended). 

Another bonus of the LiveMusic HearSafe plugs is that, since they’re made from non-toxic, hypoallergenic silicone, most users won’t have any type of allergic reaction to them. In other words, they won’t itch while you twitch (to the music). 

All of this and a great price make the LiveMusic HearSafe earplugs our pick for best all-around. 

Take a look at them on Amazon to see for yourself.

Alpine MusicSafe Classic and Pro Earplugs - The Best Musician Earplugs for Fit and Comfort

Created using a softer, more malleable material, the Alpine MusicSafe Classic and Pro Earplugs collapse inward upon insertion, expanding into your ear canal to give you a snug, comfortable fit. They do this using a special insertion tool that, while a bit awkward, allows you to place them deeper than most other models, creating an excellent seal that lowers sound leakage considerably. 

The main difference between the Alpine MusicSafe Classic Earplugs and the Pro Earplugs is that the Classic comes with 2 sets of filters while the Pro comes with 3 sets. The Classic attenuates up to 22 dBs of volume while, with 3 filters, the Pro attenuates up to 27 dBs, both of which give you much more control over the amount of sound that gets into your ears. 

On the downside, both Classic and Pro models tend to cut high and low ranges more than mid, giving the impression of a louder midrange, something many musicians find annoying. 

But if fit is your most pressing concern the Alpine MusicSafe Classic and Pro Earplugs are a great choice.

Check them both out on Amazon to see if they’re the choice for you.

Custom Made Earplugs - The Very Best Musician Earplugs, No Hold Barred

Above you’ll find 4 sets of earplugs that, as you’ve seen, are very high quality and deliver excellent hearing protection. That being said, if protecting your ears like Fort Knox while getting the ultimate in sound is your goal, a pair of Custom Made Earplugs is what you need. 

To get them means seeing an audiologist, simply because they are the only people capable of creating the ear molds needed to get custom earplugs made. It also means your earplugs will cost upwards of $350.00, give or take a few bucks, so it’s a relatively large investment. 

That investment, however, will deliver protection and audio quality beyond most off-the-rack earplugs, because the seal will be perfect. With no leakage you’ll get true high-definition, with minimal change to the music that’s entering your ear plus customizable filters that allow you to raise or lower volume to your perfect level. 

If you’re a working musician, or you want to get the best concert experience while making sure your ears stay healthy, custom earplugs are your best choice, even if they are a little bit pricey. To get them, we suggest Googling ‘audiologist’ and seeing one close to your location.

Enjoy your music longer by protecting your ears with one of these excellent earplugs 

Music, whether playing it yourself or simply listening, is one of life’s greatest joys. To make sure you can listen as many years as possible, do your ears a favor and purchase one of the best earplugs for musicians, above. 

With any of them in your ears you’ll get the protection you need and still be able to hear all of that wonderful, soul-soothing sound, so pick up a pair today!

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Audio Streets is a home for musicians, producers, sound engineers and pretty much anyone who wants to learn more about music production, mixing and mastering. 
If you’re looking to improve your productions, learn new tips and techniques then Audio Streets is the perfect platform for you. Here you’ll find great articles, tools and gear reviews.

Add AudioStreets to your favorites and don’t forget to sign up for our Newsteller and be updated with new posts,  reviews and new cool things we put out every once in a while.

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Best High End Audio Interface For Home Studios

Best High-End Audio Interface For Home Studios

Best High End Audio Interface For Home Studios

Best High-End Audio Interface For Home Studios

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These days you can look under a rock deep in the forest and probably find some kind of generic audio interface. This is not what we’re doing here. In this post, we will talk about the highest quality, the best analog-to-digital conversion, the best dynamic range, best signal-to-noise ratio, best onboard preamps, and best design and usability.

Disclaimer: This is not a technical review, only my personal experience with these companies and some of their products.

After over 15 years of looking for that “PRO SOUND”, I can confidently say that the little percentage of difference in quality makes up for the disproportionate difference in price. To put it simply, there are a lot of romantic sound engineers that think their talent is all that is needed to get them inside the HIGH-END SOUND CLUB. So, yes. Your talent is the best quality tool you have, 

but if we’re talking about that small difference that will put you up there with the best, this is coming straight from the tools you’re using along the process.

Analog To Digital Conversion Quality

Every company has its standards. I will always go with the biggest names that were strong enough to give us the best quality products and not lose their pants in the process. So I’ve tried a lot of low-priced devices that gives an ok quality that you can work with, but on this post, you won’t find those.

How Many Inputs & Outputs Do I Need?

This is simple. If you already make music and you know your style and genre, then you know exactly how many ins and outs you will need, if you’re not yet making music, I’m not sure this is for you.

You have to earn it through years of experience on shity equipment so you’d be able to actually tell the differences

I really believe that. So this will be short. There are multiple quality audio interfaces out there to give you exactly what you need. If you’re not producing music yet, it is ok to start with an audio interface for beginners.

Output Quality

A few engineers and producers I’ve met in the past had the idea that the output quality is the same on all the audio interfaces. This is not true. After years of sitting in great quality studios with the best output chains in the market, I know that when you reach the final part of the mixing or mastering process, you can hear even the smallest changes in compressors, EQ’s, reverbs, delays, phase shifting and even the smallest change in level.

To be able to actually hear these small changes in that last critical stage of your mix or mastering, you need a very good if not high-end output chain. This means great room and acoustics, great monitors, great cables, great connectors, and of course a great audio interface. Without those, it will be a lot harder to get inside the HIGH-END SOUND CLUB.

The reality is, you can be the Stig itself (Top Gear’s driver) but you won’t be able to enter a Formula 1 race with your Prius and that is a fact.

Can I Get a Pro Setup for a Consumer Price?

First, you need to know that if you want high-end gear, you will need a decent budget, that is also a fact. We can’t and don’t really want to change it. Designing a high-end audio product takes the best human resources and the best quality physical components.

So is it possible to get a lot closer to the high-end sound club without breaking the bank? HELL YEAH! 

Fortunately, several years ago a few of the high-end companies have realized that the market is changing rapidly and decided to give us high-end level audio interfaces that are just inside the average consumer’s budget. If you consider yourself a pro or one who’s striving to sound like a pro, you better be smart with your purchases.

Start with a Good Input Chain

A good input chain consists of a good 
microphone, good cables, a good preamp and a good A\D convertor inside of a high-quality audio interface. I always suggest starting your budget planning with those.

Times Are Changing

I’ve started making music on ancient Macintosh computers from the ’90s. It was so much fun to record through the onboard audio interface, I felt like I got the world by the balls. But no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t get “That” sound on my system. Thank god, these days are long gone.

Best High-End Audio Interfaces For home Studios

Everybody knows Apogee Electronics. They are one of the leading companies when it comes to high-end audio interfaces. In 2008, they completely changed the game for us home producers when they introduced the Duet 1, which was wonderful and still is to this day. I bought it without even trying it or thinking about it. I wanted these Apogee converters in my studio.

Apogee Duet 2

Second-gen is obviously better, although I’m sure there are many people who prefer the sound of the original. The Duet is portable, beautiful inside and out, and for some people, it’s more than they’ll ever need. Oh yeah, and it only works on Apple systems.

Check latest price on Amazon

When it comes to quality products, no one does it like the Germans. RME is a German company founded in 1996 and since then they are giving us nothing but the best.

The first RME interface I’ve ever used was the RME HDSP 9632 back in 2003. Before that, I was using an M-Audio interface. This is when I first realized the difference in quality between the different companies. After the M-Audio, the RME immediately sounded more robust, it gave me more details, and the recordings sounded a lot more like what I was getting when directly monitoring out of my mixer. Over the years, I’ve had the pleasure of working with the mighty FireFace 400 and FireFace 800 which were beautiful. The sound quality you get out of these units is amazing, and the built quality is second to none. They literally last forever.

 Babyface Pro

The Baby Face Pro is just as impressive as its bigger and beefier brothers. It started with the first generation of the Baby Face which I think was very much inspired by the Apogee Duet 1 in style, in portability, and in quality. it also was a small desktop style kinda interface made of very good materials. The first generation was pretty good but the Babyface Pro is a whole different story. It’s obviously aimed to be a serious tool for professionals on the go, or producers and sound engineers with small professional studios who are not willing to compromise on sound quality.

Check latest price on Amazon

This name does not need an introduction but I’ll try, Some of the best timeless classics come from Universal Audio. Over the years they proved themselves to be one of the most respected names in the business. Some of the best plugins and analog outboard gear on the market come from UA. Their audio interfaces and technology are exactly what you would expect from them.

Universal Audio
 ApolloTwin MKII

This one is sexy as hell. The design, the look, the sound. This cool interface is built to last for years and years, that’s for sure. It is the successor to the ApolloTwin that came out in 201* and made a lot of good noise. The ApolloTwin MKII is giving us a lot of connectivity and functionality, amazing preamps and overall great sound. Also, those 2 mic inputs feature the upgraded analog to digital converters coming from the much more expensive Apollo 8p. But what’s special about is it’s equipped with a quad-core processor that is a powerhouse for running UA Plugins which is a big one on the pros list.

Check latest price on Amazon

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If you’re a synth lab rat like me you are going to love this one. In this list you will find the coolest small size synths available today. Some people can take cool little machines like these and create real magic. This is what we’re here for. First, there are no rules and no guidelines other than the price.  These are the coolest synths you can find under 500$ according to Audio Streets. So let’s start.

Roland JD-Xi

So much sexiness in one little machine. Roland had done it again. Somehow everything they do comes out so sexy, or is it just me?? Anyways, this little beast is a frankenstein style fusion of:

  • Analog Monophonic Synthesizer 
  • Digital Synthesizer 
  • Drum Machine
  • 4 Track Sequencer
  • Digital FX Power House
  • Amazing Vocoder

It has a super nice sound engine that is capable of delivering deep low basses and beautiful and punchy sound across the whole frequency. I also think that this synth is beautifully designed and well built with great and durable materials. It can easily stand the test of time and make it to Roland’s wall of fame.

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Take a good look at this one, It’s weird, it’s interesting, it’s unique… well, it’s a MicroFreak. This is a Paraphonic synth that’s based on Arturia’s analog modeling technology. Its most interesting feature is definitely the keyboard. It feels like playing on a touch screen but it has a 3D feel to it. The MicroFreak is a hybrid, it has digital oscillators and analog filters. It’s a very sweet sounding synth, most of it’s presets sound very lush and sweet. So if you like to make electronic music that is not too aggressive and sharp, you might like the MicroFreak.

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Korg Monologue

Get ready for a true analog beast that has the classic character of the most amazing Korg synths out there. It doesn’t have any problem shooting you like a canon ball straight to the 70’s. Everything about the Korg Monologue screams quality. It is a close relative of the Korg Minilogue and It’s a monophonic true analog synth. That means real analog oscillators, filters and lots of analog components that directly affect the sound. It comes in several different colors: black, blue, red, silver and gold. The design is perfect and it also has a wooden panel which is always welcome.

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Novation Mininova

This is an ol’ trusty dog, it’s based on the older and bigger Ultranova. Novation synths have something very special about them. Solid design, easy to use, aggressive sound and excellent built quality. The Mininova is no different. It also comes with a microphone that connects through an XLR on the front panel which you can connect any dynamic microphone to it. It has great vocoder sounds. The Mininova comes with dedicated software for editing and controlling all its features through an easy and convenient interface. This is a brilliant synth.

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Behringer Model D

When I started making music back in the mid-’90s, Behringer wasn’t a name to call home about. But it seems that things are starting to change for the company. The quality of the Model D is nothing short of amazing. The design is clearly based on Moog synths but although looking like the Minimoog, the Model D holds it’s own in the category. So what do we have here? a great and familiar layout, easy to use interface, great built quality, and the sound is pretty much amazing. The Model D gives us the full analog experience at it’s best in a fraction of the price of its competition. Give it a try, you are going to love it.

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So many analog components in such a small and cute box. But don’t be confused by the small form factor, the SE-02 is a complete analog beast and it will undoubtedly give you Roland’s goodness at it’s best. This one is a collaboration between Roland and Studio Electronics, so it has an impressive legacy. It is controlled digitally but the sound itself comes from all analog high-end components. This will obviously remind you of the Minimoog but it has its own thing. The box is based on Roland’s boutique series, only it’s not a digital recreation of other old analog synths, it’s the real thing. It has amazing bass sounds, warm and lush leads, beautiful filters and overall very nostalgic sound. At that price point, the Roland SE-02 is definitely a must-have.

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I don’t think that there is one producer on earth that doesn’t know the MicroKorg. It’s considered one of the most popular synths in recent history. The MicroKorg has created a name for itself by standing the test of time. It was first introduced back in 2002 and is selling like crazy to this day. This is a digital-analog synth, it has a great sound engine is it’s capable of creating amazing deep analog-style sounds. Its interface is very special and unique but very simple. You learn how to use the synth in your first half an hour of playing with it. It has relatively big knobs and buttons which is very convenient. 37 micro keys that cover 3 octaves, and not surprisingly, it’s very nice to play on. The design is also very special, the grey or light green with the wooden panel on the sides give it an old punch and a wonderful possession feeling of a good quality product. The MicroKorg also has a nice vocoder which you can play thru cool presets or create your own. It’s also an FX power station, you can plug in any external audio source and run it thru the MicroKorg’s internal effects that sound simply amazing. I really believe that the MicroKorg is special enough to have in any working studio.

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Roland SH-01A

Remember the amazing, crazy, heard in countless hit songs, beautiful monophonic Roland SH-101? The SH-01A is kind of its advanced digital son. It’s more capable, more flexible and still sounds amazing! I sometimes judge a synth by its ability to wake your creativity up and get your creative juices going. The SH-01A is doing exactly that. It has a smooth interface, with cute little faders that are based on the design of its father, the SH-101. One of the new features that I really like is the gliders for pitch, modulation and other custom-configured features. The SH-01A is a polyphonic synth and it can play up to 4 notes at the same time. It has a rich sound and if you own one of those you will definitely enjoy it for years to come.

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How To Use a Multiband Compressor Like A Ninja – 9 Tips

How to use a multiband compressor like a ninja

How To Use a Multiband Compressor Like A Ninja - 9 Tips

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Everybody knows what is a Multiband Compressor so I’m not going to get too deep on what it is, but I am going to help you use it like a pro.

The thing about Multiband Compressor (MBC) is that it’s like a ninja sword. It’s not the smartest move to start using it until you’ve mastered the wooden sword first.

In this post, you will learn everything there is to know about the MBC- how to use it on vocals, different instruments, and more. It is the perfect tool for controlling and even somewhat automatically mastering a lot of different sources. That’s why it has taken its first steps at radio stations.

Real Quick – What Is A Multiband Compressor?

AudioStreetsYeah, I know I said I’m not going to teach you what it is, but this is only a short section for the new guys. Basically, a Multiband Compressor is a 3 or 4 (or more) compressors in one plugin, spread over the whole frequency spectrum.

Each compressor is working at a different frequency range, giving you the ultimate dynamic control over the channel. You can also think about it as a type of dynamic EQ that allows you to separately compress each and every frequency range.

It’s all About Control

The Multiband Compressor is a great tool for controlling and shaping a simple or complicated source with one tool. For example, if you want to shape and control a vocal channel and you want to surgically compress every frequency band while getting a very specific result, the MBC is the best tool to do it with.

Think about compressing a single vocal channel; You can compress the low range in 5 db to get a very controlled low end while leaving the mid and high bands a little bit more loose. 
It’s an express lane straight to dynamic heaven.

Getting Your Channel Ready For Process

I always suggest starting with leveling the dynamics for the whole channel. Sometimes it takes a little pre-fader automation work or changing the levels for each event on your channel, which is my preferred method.

The goal is to create a stable RMS level for the whole channel and work your way up from there.

After that, I add a regular digital and transparent compressor for a little more control over the dynamic range. This compressor is shaving the top 2 or 3 db- that’s it. Only do that if you feel like the raw vocal is all over the place dynamically.

The Channel Is Now Balanced – Great!

This is the part where you throw in your favorite MBC on the chain. Keep in mind, I don’t suggest going with “The best sounding Multiband Compressor” but with the one that you are most familiar with. This is important.

First, try looking for problems. If you need to, you can open an EQ plugin before the MBC just so you can find problems by easily swiping across the frequency range.

For example, if you find a harsh high mid frequency, you can immediately set up one of the high-frequency bands on the MBC to shave 2 or 3 db’s off of it.
Remember, everything we do with a Multiband Compressor should be done in a corrective manner and very subtly, unless we’re looking for something else other than control.

After that, you can put a regular LA2A or a 1176 style compressor and get an overall processed and controlled vocal. I think I did that on almost every vocal I’ve ever mixed in the last few years.

For me, the trick with multiband compressing is not to overdo it.
It’s best if you use it only to dynamically shape your source and, only then, maybe do some heavy lifting with a regular compressor and a limiter after that if you feel the need for it. When you’re done processing your vocal channel, bypass only the MBC, does it sound like you lost some of its magic? Great, you did a good job.

In some cases, it’ll sound better without the MBC, even after hours of fiddling with it. In this case, turn off your ego and the MBC and move on to the next channel in your mix.

In most cases, a regular good compressor would be just fine.


Now that you have control over the different frequency bands across the whole range, you can use it to shape and create a certain color for your channel. It’s very similar to an EQ shaping of the source but it is more dynamic and alive.

You can create a bottom-heavy guitar sound without crowding the entire low range, or a vocal sound with a nice bright character that cuts through the mix without it being too harsh. You can add in the pretty stuff and cut out the ugly and unnecessary garbage.

Do I Have To Use All The Bands All The Time?

Of course not. As a matter of fact, in most cases, you won’t have to use all the bands because you’d only need to shape and control one or two areas. Let’s say you want the mid-range section to breathe and be free while you do want the low and high ends to be tighter. Easy- go for it.

Multiband Expander

AudioStreetsAs we all know, in most Multiband Compressors you can also expand certain frequency ranges. 

In short, an expander will expand the dynamic range of a source once it goes above the threshold. 

Let’s say you want the high band to be compressed and controlled, the midrange to bite and be more aggressive, while the low mid is compressed and the low end is pumping and kicking you in the stomach- You can do that. It works beautifully with bass guitars, different synth sounds, and with almost any other source, really.

The real secret in expanding is finding the sweet spot for the attack and release. 

Every source needs its own settings and, once you find it, you can make an electric guitar or bass much punchier and help them jump to the front of the mix more easily. On vocals, you can really affect the performance and give it more bite and aggression with the right settings.

It’s important to know that there are no specific settings for each source, you just need to tweak and find it for yourself.

Tip #1 – Multiband Sidechain

This is a cool one- I call this “compressing without compressing”. Meaning, the processed channel will not get affected unless something else covers it. Let’s say you have a cool electric guitar riff that holds the song and you want it in the middle of the song together with the vocal but they are both sitting on the same frequency range and you don’t want them to clash for the whole song, this is what you do.

Step 1
Send the vocal to a parallel bus and the bus to trigger the sidechain in the MBC on the guitar channel, it’s easy to set it up. It’s a little different on each digital audio workstation application but the idea is pretty much the same.

Step 2
Look for the frequency range where most of the vocal sits and set the sidechain on the guitar’s channel right on that same range. Now, every time the vocal plays, it triggers the compressor for that same frequency range on the guitar channel and compresses the guitar without losing it in the parts where there’s no vocal. Lovely.

Tip #2 – Adding Punch To A VocalMultiband Compressor

I can only tell you how I personally do it, Here it is. First, you have to get the overall dynamic of the vocal settled. You don’t want the RMS to get too crazy because you need a steady level going into your Multiband Compressor. So you do a basic compression on the vocal before it goes to the MBC.

Make sure to keep it loose, meaning slow Attack and fast Release. After that, you need to set the bands to expand instead of compress. Usually it’s only changing the Ratio parameter to a positive value. This tells the band compressors to create a boost every time the signal’s going above the threshold.

You don’t have to engage all the bands. You only need one or two, sometimes three.

If you use more than that, the source might break and not be as powerful, if that makes any sense. Most of the “punch” power is located in two ranges: it’s the low mid and high mid. I don’t usually touch the middle of the range, because that is where the natural fundamental is living and I don’t like changing it.

So if it’s a deep male voice, the “low punch” is between 80hz and 300hz and the “high punch” is around 2k to 5k.

Try these ranges as a starting point for every male voice. If it’s a girl, the highs are pretty much the same and the lows are a bit higher- let’s say from 150hz to 350hz. Turn off all the other bands. Now, solo the low band and set the ratio to an exaggerated value like +6db, the Attack on 30 milliseconds, and the Release on 70. This is just to put you in the ballpark.

These parameters will probably change along the way as you’re searching for the sweet spot. Let the vocal play and start lowering the threshold. At some point you will start to hit the point and the meter will show a few db’s of gain each time the threshold is being crossed. It will sound like the peaks are jumping out of the monitors- this is what we’re looking for.

When you finally find the exact timing for the Attack and Release, set the threshold to be a bit higher, and set the Ratio to 2-3 db max, depending on how aggressive you want it to be. Do the same for the High section.

Usually the Attack and Release will have to be shorter because the higher frequencies are faster. This also works great on synth channels, basses, and guitars. I don’t recommend doing it on acoustic guitars, although I’m learning new things every once in a while so never say never.

Tip #3 – Balance A Drums Overhead Stereo Channel

When you record drums, the overhead microphones will pick up more highs than lows. To me, the idea is to get the overhead channel to sound almost like a full range drum set. Yes you can do it with an EQ and leave it there, and you can also use the MBC for a little more dynamic result that sounds a bit more “Alive”. This is how I do it.

I don’t compress before the compressor. I just do a high cut and low cut with an EQ before I send it to the MBC. Now you start with “EQing” with the Multiband Compressor. Yes, you heard right. You can shape the channel’s EQ curve with the gain feature on every band. After you do that, you start compressing a few db’s on every band. Play with the Attack and Release until you like how it sounds. Remember, these are fast sounds, so shorter Attack and Release will get you there more easily.

Make sure to work in solo mode on each band and take your time with it. Remember to be gentle, we are not trying to break the source, only to make it sound a little bit more alive. After you finish processing, try to switch the MBC in and out and look for what it does against just doing the same with an EQ. If you like what you hear better with the MBC, we did good 🙂 Next.

Tip #4 – Shapeing A Rhythm Acoustic Guitar

You’d be surprised to know that acoustic guitar is one of the hardest instruments to mix, let alone record. Of course, you can use an EQ and compressor to process an acoustic guitar, but how about having both of them in the same plugin and work their magic in a much more intelligent and dynamic way? Ok, the truth is that a rhythm acoustic guitar channel is made up of few different processors so the MBC is just a small part of it but still, it really helps the guitar to find its place in the mix.

This is how I do it- I start with an EQ to give it a basic shape and high and low cuts. Then, throw in the Multiband Compressor and start working on the “dynamic shape” of the guitar. You can make an acoustic guitar breathe and move naturally on the spectrum with no sudden peaks or crazy holes in the frequency range.

Let’s take a rhythm acoustic guitar for example. With the right process, you can make it sound like a steady warm acoustic wall of chords that wraps the whole song in sweet harmony. So we use all the bands and we start with the ratio for all the bands on 5db. From there, we start lowering the threshold until we see some compression. At this stage, we can already hear what the MBC is doing to the guitar.

Now, this is a big one for me- although we compress each band separately, I still find it very important to keep the same Attack and Release values on all the bands. If we don’t do that, in some cases the guitar might break and lose it’s energy and drive because we messed with its internal dynamic properties, which we don’t want.

We only want the whole frequency range to be consistent and balanced. With a rhythm acoustic guitar, you’d generally want to have a fast attack and a slow release, Play with it until you find the right timing for your acoustic guitar part. You don’t have to work on each band in solo mode. Remember, the goal is just to have balanced rhythm acoustic guitar across the whole song. When done the right way, it can make a world of difference in the final result.

Tip #5 – Compressing A Ballad Piano

In cases like this, where the piano takes a really big place inside the song, it’s very important to control its dynamics and use it as an emotional ground for the whole song. This is the perfect scenario for using a Multiband Compressor. Again, we are using all the bands here and we start with the main section for the piano which is the low mid to mid frequencies. Most of the energy in pianos is living between 150hz to 2Khz, so we can start there.

As a starting point, we set the Ratio to 5db on all the bands and lower the threshold to see some compression. If the part is consisting of long chords, you want the Attack to be around 50ms+- and the Release to be around 200ms+-.

You should always play with these parameters and not take these numbers as gospel. The reason for that is that every piano has it’s character and unique properties. The main goal here is to find the right inner groove for the instrument and the way it plays. It’s very important to set the Release to the right value. You don’t want the piano to “Pump” out of rhythm or be too lose. You have to look for the right timing.

When working with Multiband Compressor on a piano, you don’t want to stay in solo mode all the time, because you’re EQing and compressing at the same time, so you want to know exactly what you’re getting out of your speakers. Also, make sure that you keep the same Attack value for all bands so you won’t “break” the energy of the piano. As for the Release, here, you have much more freedom because of the nature of the piano.

The lower notes tend to sustain longer and have more energy, so you can try and set the release for higher values.

After you find the right timing for the Attack and Release, make sure to find the right Ratio. I, personally, don’t like to squash the piano too much, so, for me, it’s between 2 to 3db of gain reduction on each band. It is very subtle, but inside the mix it makes all the difference.

Tip #6 – Reduce Bad Frequencies On Acoustic Guitar

As I said in the last acoustic guitar tip, it is one of the hardest instruments to mix, and even the most experienced audio engineers and producers will sometimes struggle with that. Sometimes acoustic guitars can have unpleasant and shrieking high content frequencies, especially when the strings are new. You can fix that with an EQ, but when you just create a hole in the guitar’s natural frequency response you might just lose good information. You want to fix that in an automatic and intelligent way. Of course, the MBC to the rescue.

Usually, these shrieking frequencies are between 2Khz to 8Khz.

Tip #7 – Adding Energy To A Mix

So, it’s going to be very simple. First, yes, this is a mastering tip, but you shouldn’t be afraid of it if you’re not yet at that level. Assuming that you have healthy levels and good balance across your mix: no distortions, no clipping and you’re entering the final stage of the mixing process, throw in your favorite MBC on the mix bus and start here. It might change from genre to genre, but it’ll give you a good starting point. E

ngage only 2 bands, the lowest frequency range and the highest frequency range. Bypass all the others.

Low Band
Set the Cross-over point to 150hz. Set the Ratio to 3db, Attack around 50ms, and the Release at around 120ms. Now, start lowering the threshold in solo mode. Now you see and hear a little compression. If you feel that it’s not enough for you, try increasing the Ratio. Remember, don’t get the threshold too low or compress more than 2 or 3db’s, because you might break the energy for the whole mix. After you get the required compression, increase the gain for the low band in 2db. That should make your lows more collected and controlled.

High Band
This band should range from 2k to 10k. Set the Ratio to 3db. Attack – 3ms, Release 6ms, and start lowering the threshold to see some compression. Once you have reduction, increase the gain in 2 to 3db to compensate. Again, try to play a little bit with the parameters to get the timing right. Remember, it should be very subtle. Bypass the MBC on and off to hear the changes. If you like it, we did good.

Techniques for Mixing with Multiband Compression

Tip #8 – Controlling An Audio Channel From A Video Shoot

Yeah, it’s not a music production tip, but we all do everything these days, and it’s a pretty amazing tip, so I’m not going to leave it out. It’s simple, assuming that you have healthy levels, no distortions, no clipping, and you’re entering the final stage of the mixing process, throw your favorite Multiband Compressor on the channel and engage all the bands. Now, look for the busiest part in your signal and set the ratios on all the bands to 8db. Next, look for the right threshold level for your signal until you start seeing some compression. Do it on all the bands and let it go.

Try to look for unpleasant peaks in the signal and work from there. This is not a steady and repetitive audio source, like music, so it’s all over the place. But it’s enough to have 8db of gain reduction on all the bands, and you already have good dynamic control over the signal. Some MBC’s have an automatic Attack and Release control. This will be the perfect application for that.

Tip #9 – Getting Rid Of Painful Frequencies In Female Voices

It’s a little funny, but some female singers have some kind of an annoying high frequency that makes them unpleasant to listen to, and it might ruin the whole performance. I don’t like to name names, but I think one very good singer that has an annoying high-frequency thing in her voice is Jorja Smith. She is a great singer, but if you listen to her natural voice on her show in Tiny Desk Concert, I couldn’t take more than 2 minutes. It’s just painful.

So what do we do?? Easy! We drop an MBC on that joint 🙂 Usually, the annoying range is right between 3k to 7k.

How do we find it? We first open an EQ on the channel and create a narrow band with a boost of 10db. Then, we sweep across that range to find the painful spot. Once we’ve found it, we set one of the high-frequency bands to live right on this area with a narrow band if possible. This is a good starting point:

  • Ratio – 4db
  • Attack – 50ms
  • Release – 100ms
  • Gain compensation – Increase accordingly

Again, start lowering the threshold to see some compression and go from there. Make sure you’re not overdoing it, because you don’t wanna kill the natural character of the vocalist. It is important to understand that every MBC is working a little differently, so you might get different results on different MBC’s. That is why you should play with the parameters around those starting points to find the sweet spot for your source and your Multiband Compressor.

Fix Muddy Guitars – Great Tips

Always Be Comparing

Don’t forget to compare your work with the work of others from the same genre. It makes a world of difference if you’re aiming to the level of other professionals.

Switch It On & Off

Remember! Always switch the MBC on and off when you finish editing, it’ll give you an overview and let you know if you like the result or not. There will be some cases where it’ll not work, don’t fight it. Switch it off and go on with your mix.

Let’s Wrap It Up

Play with it, have fun with it, tweak for hours until you’re able to use the MBC like playing an instrument. As a matter of fact, this should be your way of thinking throughout your whole musical journey.

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Audio Streets

5 Best Delay Plugins For Vocals (Videos Included)


5 Best Delay Plugins For Vocals

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The delay is the ultimate tool for creating space, depth and excitement to any music production. It helps you create dimension around any element in your mix. It does it by repeating the signal one or many times, along with manipulating the repeats in various and unique ways.

One of the best things about delay plugins is that they work in perfect sync with your DAW. There are a lot of delay plugins today and some of them are truly incredible.

Types Of Delay

Tape Delay – The history of delay effects started with the invention of the tape. The signal is being sent to the output and to the recording head of the tape inside the delay box. It is then being reproduced by the playing head a short time after the original signal has been played, which creates the delay effect. The number of recording heads inside the delay box will determine the number of repeats.

Analog/Digital Delay – The first digital delay unit started with a chip called BBD (Bucket Brigade Delay IC). It was originally created to delay signals in the old telephone technology. Over the years the technology got better and found its way to the music world. Years after that, the delay finally arrived to the computer-based music production and it is getting better and better ever since.

The Delay Based Effects Family

There are more effects you can achieve with a delay that does not fall under the definition of “delay”. These effects result from the delay effect playing the repeats a lot closer to the source, few milliseconds, and these are the Chorus, Flanger, and Phaser.

Using Delay To Create A Reverb Effect

A Reverb is practically a delay only with bigger repeats number. Sometimes when using a Reverb on very busy mixes, it creates information overload and gives the feeling of a crowded mix. Here we can achieve the same effect with a delay. The delay is much less dense because the repeats number is a lot smaller. So using a delay instead of Reverb will help you create dimension and space around the mix without overloading it with information.

I found that the most common delay setup is 1/4 note with approximately 5 repeats. It fits most 4/4 productions and it’s always a good starting point. There are absolutely no rules and you should do whatever sounds best to you.


A good plugin is one that’s been designed with a good interface in mind. The interaction with the plugin, ease of use and intuitive layout are very important factors. A good delay plugin is one you’ll find yourself using for years. My favorite delay plugin is the Waves H-Delay. It’s simple to use, looks great and sounds amazing. Works great for me.

Sometimes you would want to have a fancier delay plugin that will allow you to get much more advanced effects. 

The List

This is my list of the best delay plugins for vocals. I’m not going to give you all the technical information about these plugins, only my opinion, and feeling about them. That’s because all of them are doing pretty much the same thing with each one of them having its own twist. So it’s all about the feeling they give.

Waves H-Delay

I will open the list with my favorite delay plugin the great H-Delay. This is a cool hybrid of digital and analog delay. You can get a variety of different sounds and flavors out of it. The most important thing for me is the interface. It‘s very simple and easy to understand. It comes with a lot of nice presets and it works great on most genres. The H-Delay won’t give you the crazy delay effects that you sometimes here in heavy electronic music, it is more suitable for use in traditional genres like Rock, Pop, Hip Hop, and other simple applications.

Sound Toys EchoBoy
This delay plugin is also a classic in the plugin world, you can hear it on countless productions. What I like the most about it is the interface. It’s simple, very well designed and nice to look at. You don’t have to look so hard for every little feature. EchoBoy also sounds great and it gives you both digital and analog flavors.

McDSP EC-300
Now, this is a special one. If you read my blog you know I have a soft spot for McDSP plugins and the EC-300 is no different. It has the best tape delay I’ve ever heard, It actually sounds like tape and you can’t really say that about all the tape delay plugins. The design is kinda retro and based on an old tape delay machine from the 70s. The saturation knob gives a sweet and musical distortion you can probably hear on other McDSP plugins, although I’m not sure about it and it could be specific for this plugin. Either way, it’ll be a great addition to your spatial effects library.

FabFilter Timeless 2
I can’t tell you I’m dying for FabFilter’s graphic designs but I sure have a lot of respect for them, these guys know their craft. Timeless 2 is their take on quality delay plugins. The best thing about FabFilter’s plugins is that they are very detailed, crazy flexible and sound absolutely amazing. With Timeless 2 you can achieve almost any delay effect you can think of, and I can’t say this about all of the plugins on my list.

Slate Digital & D16 – Repeater
This delay plugin is an absolute beast! not only that it is a very flexible and detailed plugin, but it is also everything you can ask in a delay. The guys at Slate Digital and D16 had modeled 23 delay models to give us every style we can possibly think of. From classic tape machines to oil cans and digital delays. One of my favorite features in Repeater is the Analog modeled feedback circuit which sends all the repeats through a sweet analog algorithm. It sounds like the delay repeats are “melting” into the mix. It‘s incredible on vocals.

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Mixing A Vocal To A Beat

How To Blend Vocals With A Beat (Instrumental)

Mixing A Vocal To A Beat

How To Blend Vocals With A Beat (Instrumental)

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Mixing vocals to an already mixed instrumental and making it sound natural is not always an easy task but if you implement all the tips and tricks in this article, you might just get there. This is really not rocket science. Recording a vocal on an instrumental is very common in Hip Hop. There are a lot of very talented producers who send beats to rappers all over the world. First, we have to understand the steps you need to take and we’ll go thru them one by one.

Note: You don’t have to execute every recommendation I make on this page to achieve a good sounding mix. Instead, just go over the titles and try to understand what issues you need to address in your mix and fix them.

Instrumental – Reduce The Level

Of course you have to lower the instrumental in order to blend in the vocal properly. The problem is that every time you decrease the level of an instrumental it’ll sound like you’re losing quality. Don’t worry about it, most DAWs of today are mathematically built in such a way that low level is not your problem.

I found that setting the RMS level around -18db is a good starting point.


Creating Space For The Vocal

Ideally, you’d want the instrumental only mixed and not mastered or too compressed. That way it’s breathing and still has enough room for mixing in the vocal. But most times we would get a fully mastered instrumental without the vocal taken into consideration. In such a scenario, we have to start “massaging” the instrumental a little bit.

EQ (Mid/Side)

Although it appears pretty early on the list, EQing shouldn’t be the first step you take. So let’s say the instrumental sounds amazing and it’s mixed and mastered by a pro and we don’t really need to change anything in its frequency response. We should only create little pockets for the vocal based on the vocal itself. 

I would highly recommend you use a Mid\Side EQ and start digging in only on the center channel, mainly because the vocal lives in the center.

Example, if the vocal’s main energy is located on a specific spot on the frequency spectrum, you can cut a little bit out of the instruments just in that area to make the vocal sit nicely in that pocket.

EQ Matching

The instrumental and the vocal should live in the same neighborhood in terms of the frequency response curve. For example, if the instrumental is light on low-end frequencies and your vocal is too heavy on low-end frequencies, you should boost a little bit of low end on the instrumental and cut the same frequencies on the vocal channel to match them. Every production has its frequency response curve. 

Color Matching

match the tonal qualities of the vocal and the instrumental. If the instrumental is slightly distorted, add some distortion to the vocal track. That way they will have the same “flavour” and not feel disconnected from each  other.

 You can learn more about EQing here:


Levels (Mid/Side)

When reducing the instrumental level in general, you can risk getting a “disconnected” effect of the vocal from it. So that is a great opportunity to utilize the Mid/Side leveling method. You can lower only the Mid channel a little bit to make some more room in the center for the vocal without taking a chunk of energy out of the whole mix. 

The best way to do it is with a mid/side EQ, this tool allows you to reduce the midrange frequencies only in the center, where the vocal usually lives. 


If the instrumental is only mixed and not mastered, this is great because then you can just mix the vocal in and master everything together. But in many scenarios, this is not the case. I will talk about every situation and what to do in every one of them. You can use a Multiband Compressor to gain more control over everything.

>> How to use a Compressor on vocals
>> How to use a Multiband Compressor like a ninja

Scenario #1 – The Instrumental Is Not Mastered

If the instrumental is not mastered and not too compressed, it’ll be a good idea to compress it a little bit, just to get a more controlled dynamics that will allow us to mix in the vocal more easily. This is a great opportunity to use a bus compressor on the instrumental’s channel and work that bus compression magic.

Scenario #2 – The Instrumental Is Too Compressed

Sometimes the instruments will be so compressed that you can’t add even a pins head into it, let alone adding the final master compression, you’re going to end up with a squashed, claustrophobic and a non-professional result altogether. 

Here you can use certain methods to bring back or even create some of the original dynamics with tools like Expander and Transient Designer. Or just try to get a better-mixed version of the instrumental.

Scenario #3 – The Instrumental Is Well Mastered And Sounds Good

In this scenario, where you want to preserve the dynamic properties and the overall sound of the instrumental you can use it as a reference to every process you do on the vocal. 

Start with lowering the level to where the RMS is around -18db and continue from there to processing the vocals using all the tips I gave you on this article.



Using simple words, this tool works as a negative to the compressor. Instead of squashing the signal and reducing the dynamics, the expander expands the dynamics buy doing the exact opposite. 

It simply means that it recreates some of the dynamics by increasing the level of any signal that goes above the threshold. You have to use the expender very lightly, or else you’re going to mess up the entire dynamic flow of the instrumental.

Transient Designer

With this tool, you can rebuild a little bit of the lost peaks shaved out by the limiter. The subtle use if the expander and transient designer can bring back the livelihood to the track and make it sound somewhat similar to the original non-compressed version of the instrumental.

Adding Your Own Samples

Sometimes the instrumental is so dynamically squashed and practically not usable and no other version of this instrumental can be found, then you have no other option than to add your own drum samples into the mix. You do it by taking some time and digging in your samples library until you find a matching kit. 

In most cases, a snare and a bass drum will do the job. But the more you do to rebuild the production, the better final result you get. If you do that, make sure your instrumental and BPM are nailed to the DAW’s grid so you can place the samples with maximum accuracy. 

I also recommend using tools to check the phase to make sure you’re not losing anything in the process. 


It’s all about consistency. A great way to “mix” a stereo channel instrumental is to ride it with automation. Levels, EQ, Send Effects and anything you need to use in order to get a more controlled instrumental. You’re practically massaging the channel with all kinds of automation to get more consistent and professional output. 

Space Matching

If the production uses any Reverb, or a room simulation, you can try creating the same space and send the vocal over to it, to create the feeling that the vocal and the instrumental are “living” in the same space. This will also help to “glue” the instrumental and vocal together. 

Don’t use that method if you’re going for the “Vocal is disconnected from the instrumental” kinda sound. You can also EQ the Reverb return to match the tonality of the instrumental’s overall ambiance. In many cases you would want to use a delay instead, or in conjunction to the reverb. 

These are the best Delay plugins for vocals.

Don’t Mix The Vocal Too High

This is a very simple and straight forward tip and yet it’s very easy to overlook it. It also works with any element in any mix situation. If the vocal’s level is mixed higher than the instrumental’s, It’ll give the sense of the disconnection between the two. Make sure the RMS levels on both of them are not too far off of each other.

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How To Produce Music At Home

How To Produce Music At Home

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Hey everybody, I wish I had this article when I first started producing music, back in the mid-90s. If you’re just starting out, the only thing you need to have on your mind is that everybody starts somewhere. Yeah, I know it’s a cliche but it would’ve never been a cliche if it wasn’t true. I’m not going to tell you it’s easy or fast, it is quite a big project to take on but these days it doesn’t have to take years for you to master it. I really believe the world is progressing much faster, and with it, the young generation of new musicians.

Who Can Produce Music At Home?

The answer to this question is pretty simple; Anybody who really want to. Real passionate people who want to be musicians don’t wait for someone to give them a pass or any validation. They just get up and go for it. That’s exactly what you need to do. Hack, These days it doesn’t even cost you money. You already have a computer, and you already have a cool microphone on your phone if you really need it. So you already own a small studio.

How Long Is It Until I’d Be Able To Make Music?

Well, as you’ve already guessed it, it’s a personal thing for each and every one of us. The pace of progress is very individual. But if you want an actual timeline, I can tell you I’ve seen people who are making music for literally years and they’re only “ok”. And there are countless examples for kids only 17 years old that are making international hits on their laptops. 

When Is The Best Time To Start?

The minute you decide it with all your heart. If you’re not 100% crazy about it, don’t start because you’d get tired and drop it forever, It should be pure fun.

Is It Too Late For Me To Start?

I have a good friend who was a Gardner for most of his adult life. He’s playing guitar here and there and loves it a lot. At age 45 he decided to start producing music and doing live shows as an engineer. Today, after 5 years, he makes his living off of music production, mixing engineering and live shows. He’s very happy about it and has mowed no lawn for a long time.

What Tools Do I Need?

First, you have to decide what kind of music you would like to create. For most cases, if you have a computer, you’re already halfway there, and I’m totally serious. If you’re planning to make electronic music that is only computer-based, you practically need nothing else more than that to start producing music.

If you want to make your first recordings, really use whatever you have around you. If you have an Apple Macbook, you already have a very nice sound card. If you have an Apple iPhone, you already have a very cool Mic setup. iPhones have a brilliant microphone! Now don’t let it sound as if I’m an Apple fanboy. There are a lot of good phones and laptops from other companies.

If you think I’m kidding about the iPhone mic, you need to know that I’ve recorded a whole song and released it to the world using only my iPhone 6s Mic. This was long after I already had my studio with very expensive microphones and preamps. “Why”, you ask? I needed to make a point to myself and for some people who don’t really understand the power of these little microphones on our cell phones. Check out this post – Use iPhone As A Microphone

After you learn to record with what you have, it’s safe to buy more advanced gear. That way you’d be more appreciative about what you buy and you’ll know the difference right away. This is also an important growing stage. If you start with the best, you sometimes can’t appreciate what you have.

DAW – Free or Paid? 

This is not about money, it’s about your relationship with the tools. Let’s talk about marriage for a second here, finding the perfect mate is a real challenge. No one can promise you the first try will be successful forever. It’s the same with DAWs. You can try three or four until you find the one that’s perfect for you. 

To be exact, the DAW is a direct extension of your creative mind. So it’s very important for you to find that perfect correlation between your mind and your DAW. When I first started producing music I started with a little DOS application called “Impulse Tracker”. It was all I had, and I loved it! After that came new and much better applications and moved on and my creation got a lot better.

I guess what I’m trying to say is, learn and try few DAWs for a while, until you find the perfect match for you. For me specifically, it‘s Logic Pro and Cubase. 

Learn To Play The Keyboards

That’s your main instrument if you want to produce music. You don’t have to be a professional pianist, you just have to learn your way around the white and black keys. Just the basics. The better you get on the keyboard, the better you’ll get at understanding music. I wrote about it more in these two articles. 
Ear Training Methods
Music Producer Requirements

Can I Produce Music On My Phone?

Absolutely! I even think that limitation is a good thing for music producers. It encourages creativity and an open mind. Today’s phones are so much more than what the Beatles had back when they first started with a 4 track tape machine…

Don’t get me wrong, I’m one of those producers who like to have every possible tool in their arsenal. But guess what, 90% of the times I get stuck it’s because of too many tools in my toolbox. I often get myself creatively unstuck just by limiting myself with much fewer options. Trust me, it works. Check this guy out, he produced a song for Kendrick Lamar and used his iPhone as a DAW. 

Acoustic Treatment – Does It Matter?

As a matter of fact, it does. If you want to record live instruments and use speakers, you have to have some kind of acoustic treatment. I’m not going to get too deep on this subject because there’s a lot of information outside. 

But it’ll be a good idea to think about it and definitely do something with it. If you want to build an actual studio in your house, ok, go for it, even get a professional to build something specifically for you. If you don’t want to get into too many expenses you can start with a carpet on the floor, a sofa or a bad in the room can help. In general, the more you fill your room with stuff that breaks the sound waves the less reverb you have in your space and that’s a good thing.

You can also locate your setup in different places around the room to look for a good sweet spot. Treat the corner with bass traps would also be a very good idea. Make sure that the surrounding of the speakers will be the same on both sides. The whole secret for a stereo balanced setup is what you have around the monitors.

How To Learn Music Production? 

Well, this is really all down to personal preference. Some people can do everything on their own, some need someone to show them the way, and some can mix between the two methods. This is probably the best way to choose. 

You must be able to learn stuff on your own and poses that skill, but you can also save a lot of time by just learning from others instead of just taking years to learn on your own as I did. Back in the 90s, I don’t think we had a lot of sources to learn from. The best I had was music and audio magazines and my own personal trial and error.

I recommend purchasing online courses for the specific things you want to learn and all the rest just does your own thing. Of course in these cases, big ol’ YouTube is your best friend.


Starting making music is exactly like starting a hobby. If you enjoy it, you just start doing it and get better as you go. Some will only get so far and some will rise to greatness. The main point of this post is to get you to understand that it is not unachievable, and it’s not reserved only for the super blessed or the very educated. Some of the biggest producers and musicians started with zero formal music education or any academic knowledge. You can become a great musician or a producer or a songwriter if you really want to do it and work for it every day. It reminds me a will smith quote:

“You don’t set out to build a wall. You don’t say ‘I’m going to build the biggest, baddest, greatest wall that’s ever been built.’ You don’t start there. You say, ‘I’m going to lay this brick as perfectly as a brick can be laid. You do that every single day. And soon you have a wall.”

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