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Best Headphones For Mixing

Best headphones for mixing

The Best Headphones For Mixing

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Hey everybody, this is a list of the best open-back headphones for mixing. I personally own a few of them and have listened to almost all of them. Everything you’ll find here is based on my personal knowledge and experience. I hope you’ll enjoy and learn from it.
Headphones Calibration Plugins: Sonarworks | Waves NX

Sennheiser HD600

I’m an avid Sennheiser user for years and they never let me down. This time is no different. I’m a big fan of value for money and these headphones bring a lot of value for a lot of money, but it’s definitely worth every penny! Sennheiser always delivers a classic design which a lot of people love. Sometimes you don’t want to sit at your computer with a spaceship on your head. When I listen to the HD600 I can’t help but think about the sound of the Yamaha NS10 monitors. It is very mid-range biased, clear and gives a very detailed sound. The low end is also very accurate but not too “out there”. You will need to use one of the plugins I’ve mentioned above on the master channel if you want them tailored exactly for your needs. But I believe that any headphones will need that. The HD600 feel amazing on the head. Clearly, it’s built for long sessions. The materials feel very natural on the skin and this is a very big factor in mixing headphones.

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AKG K701

All you have to do is just mix one song completely on the K701 and then go listen to the mix on a few pairs of studio monitors and other headphones. You are going to be surprised at how little you want to change in your mix. This is a big deal guys. As for the design, I’m not a big fan of that double bow that AKG implements in all of their pro headphones but the grey color is captivating. Feels a little vintage. The price is not that attractive but like with the HD600, it is worth every penny. These didn’t feel like a studio reference headphones due to the fact that they just sound beautiful. I usually don’t trust beautiful things, always prefer the ugly truth. But AKG had an amazing achievement with these headphones, they sound beautiful and they are flat!

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Audio-Technica ATH-AD700X

Ok, It’s like that: If you want a studio reference headphones for the smallest price, these are for you. I’m a heavy Audio-Technica user, especially when it comes to microphones. They are L.E.G.I.T and these headphones definitely meet the high standard of the company. “Value for money,” you ask? Value – lots. Money–well it’s very cheap! 

You can work for long hours without even feeling like you have these headphones on your head. Happened to me. With the ATH-HD700X you’ll get an impressive amount of details across the whole spectrum. You won’t get a boomy low end but then again, I highly recommend one of the headphones calibration plugins mentioned above to avoid the lack of low-end information. It’s there, you just need to push it up a little bit.

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Beyerdynamic DT-990 Pro

Many say that this is the king of all mixing headphones. I partially agree with that. The Beyerdynamic DT990 Pro is a classic and considered to be an industry standard. They are built exactly like the DT 770 but with an open back design. The mix of grey and black is great and the headband is made out of metal which makes it more rigid and gives more confidence when handling. The DT990 are a bit on the larger side and is not designed with portability in mind. They have a consistent frequency response but like most open back designs they lack a little bit of sub bass. Nothing you can’t fix with a calibration plugin, though. The DT990 has a tendency to make you forget they are on your head after a while of using them. They will always give you a lot of details and very accurate special perception. They are not exactly flat in my opinion but once you know them well enough you can get very sweet results.

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Shure SRH1840

I’m an admitted Shure fan. I always feel like these headphones don’t get enough credit. Shure products have some sort of magic about them. These headphones are not different. The SRH1840 are very lightweight, that’s why they don’t need a lot of clamping force to hold them on your head. This design is very clean and simple and that is a good thing for all of us “head spaceships” haters. As expected, the SRH1840 deliver a breathtaking amount of details. The sound is very clean and flat across the whole spectrum. They are not bass heavy, just as studio reference headphones should be. The bass is definitely there and you can hear the different bass notes but if you know a thing or two about mixing you know that this is how it’s supposed to be.

The only thing I don’t like about this model is that it has a cable connection on each driver while most of them out these use only one connection going to the left driver. But it’s nothing you can’t live with. Bottom line – the Shure SRH1840 is a clear winner for me. The price is definitely up there but if you ask me, it’s completely worth it.

 

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How To EQ Vocals Professionally

How To EQ Vocals Professionally

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Hello, my EQing friends! If you’re looking to learn the basics of professional EQing, stay right where you are because I’m going to show you a lot of cool things that will help you improve your vocal sound by the end of this post! The EQ is like a sharp knife to a decorative salad. This is the only tool that will help you cut and arrange your veggies on the plate like a pro. Now let’s try to understand it from the basics all the way to the pro tips.

First! a quick EQ lesson from the great Dave Pensado

How Important EQ Is?

Although EQ is a very basic tool and one of the first audio tool that was ever invented, it is still to this day, the most important tool of any audio project. I can get a mix to work and even sound fantastic, using only EQ! You can’t say that about any other audio processor and I don’t care what tool it is. That’s how important EQ is.

What is an EQ?

As we all know, in our physical world, audio is made out of different frequencies. The higher the frequency, the higher the tone. The human hearing In general ranges from 20hz to 20Khz. EQ is the one tool we use to boost or cut any frequency on the spectrum and this is the only audio tool that does that. Any other tools that do the same have EQing abilities built into them. For example, with only an EQ we can turn a boomy vocal into a decent sounding one, and a muffled voice into a bright, airy and angelic vocal. The other most important tool in the audio processing world is of course the Compressor. You can learn more about that here >> How To Use a Compressor On Vocals

What Are The Main Uses For An EQ?

Cutting stuff out, adding stuff in, fixing a specific frequency problem, shaping a signal source, giving character to a flat source and even completely change the way it sounds. Much like a sculpting tool for a sculptor. We can take a shapeless stone and turn it into something we recognize and even love.

Where Do I start EQing?

A real audio pro knows that EQing doesn’t start with an EQ but with the recording method at the beginning of the process. In the case of vocals, the first thing we have to think about is what microphone are we using and what character does it have. Learn more about how to make your voice sound better when recording.

In general, Dynamic microphones and Ribbon microphones have a tendency to sound less bright, with an emphasis on the low end and a sensitivity to how close are we from it, it’s called the proximity effect. A condenser microphone in most cases will sound a lot brighter, it will be much more sensitive to every little sound we make and will sound more bright and detailed.

Basic Rules We Don’t Always Follow But It’s Good To Know Them

In most cases of using an EQ, we will cut more and boost less. It’s easier to cut out things from a source than to add things to another one. This will keep the source sounding more natural. That’s the right way to go about it, but as I said, no rules. 

The other thing we always do is filtering. The human ear has a natural filtering system. If you’re a kid with good hearing, you can probably hear all the way from 20 hz to 20Khz and in the top and bottom, you’d have your natural filter. You probably won’t be able to hear above and below that. With EQing an audio source we will cut the head and the tale of any source. 

Let’s say you have a female vocal that rarely goes lower than 100hz, you don’t need the information that’s been picked up by the microphone under that frequency. It’s the same with the top end, we usually cut the super high frequencies because we don’t really hear them and they might interrupt other critical things in the mix.

 

EQ Basic Features

  • Cut – Lowering a selected group of frequencies.
  • Boost – boosting a selected group of frequencies.
  • Low Cut (High Pass)  – Cutting out everything BELOW a selected frequency.
  • High Cut (Low Pass) – Cutting out everything ABOVE a selected frequency.
  • Slope – How many DB’s per octave we cut after the selected frequency point.
  • Shelf – A shelf shape cut or boost at the edges of the spectrum. High shelf, Low shelf.
  • Bell Width (Q) – Determines how wide will be the frequency range we want to work on.
  • Frequency Band or Select – Selecting the fundamental frequency of the range we want to work on.

Different Colors On The Spectrum 

Every area on the frequency spectrum has a different character, I’m going to give you some general guidelines for how to emphasize or to blur a certain feature in the human voice. I’ve made a basic chart just to get you in the right direction.

Low Cut –  Cut from that point and down.

1. Fullness – Boost to give low-end body to a vocal.

2. Boominess – Cut to get rid of low-mid boomy sound and mud.

3. Warmness – Boost to make a vocal sound warmer.

4. Midrange Bite – Boost to make a vocal cut thru the mix.

5. Presence – Boost to give a vocal high-frequency clarity.

6. Air & Details – Boost to give a vocal air and openness.

High Cut – Cut from that point and up.

Dynamic EQ

I won’t go too deep on dynamic EQ’s but I will talk about the basic form of it, and it’s the mighty De-esser. Many times, after boosting a vocal’s high range, there will be some side effects. The Sibilance, high frequencies that jump out every time the singer uses the letters “S” “T”, will come out and poke holes in your eardrums. This is the perfect time to drop a De-esser on the channel and set it up to compress the problematic areas. Usually, it’ll be between 5Khz and 8Khz, depending on the singer.

Mix With Your Eyes

Sometimes using a frequency analyzer can help you find a certain problem a lot faster than if you were using only your ears. A lot of EQ plugins these days has that feature and I definitely recommend using it. 

But be careful, these tools can easily get you deep into the lazy zone and before you know it, you’re trying to make a whole mix with your eyes, and that won’t cut it. Trust me. A frequency analyzer is only a tool that helps to get you in the right direction and the real secret is to work with your ears and with your eyes at the same time.

Bell Width “Q” – How Wide Should It Be?

As a general rule that’s not written anywhere, you want your boosts to be wider and your attenuations to be narrower. Somehow the when you boost with a wide Q it sounds more natural.

Shelf EQ

“Shelving” is a term used to describe a boost or a cut from a certain frequency by the same amount. Shelving is done in the higher or lower edges of the spectrum, this gives it the shape of a shelf. 

Sometimes we tend to use shelving EQ when we want to create a high-frequency boost, but that’s the wrong way to do it. 

If you want to boost the high end of a vocal, it’s smarter and more natural sounding to use a band EQ and just work with the bell width to determine the range of frequencies that will get affected by the boost. That’s how you don’t just boost a bunch of high frequencies that you don’t even hear and your mix is better off without them. Here you’ll find 19 mixing tips that you must have.

Cut When You Need To Boost

Many times we feel the urge to boost the highs to give a certain vocal more air or to make it sound more detailed. But the thing is that when you have a tendency to boost every time you lack some information on the track, you pay for it with sacrificing other precious frequencies on your track. So my suggestion is before you boost the highs, try to cut the lows first. And only then boost the highs accordingly. This will give you a more natural sound. Especially with vocals.

Always Filter

No matter what vocal you mix, you always have two ranges of frequencies you don’t want in your mix. These frequencies are on the edges of the spectrum. This is where we use the filters. A low cut filter on a vocal track alone can save a whole mix. Under a certain frequency, depending on the singer, you’ll only get that low rumble and unnecessary low-end information. It’s the same with the high edge of the spectrum. Take a look at my charts and find out exactly where to place the cutting points.

Sweep For Gold

These next two tips are very important if we want to learn how to eq vocals professionally. Sometimes boosting a specific frequency in a vocal can bring out hidden magic you didn’t even know exists. The way to find this lovely magic frequency is to do a frequency sweep. In most cases, you’ll find this hidden magic spot between 500Hz and 8Khz. How to do a sweep you ask? You just boost a certain band by 5 to 10DB and drag it across the spectrum. In the first sweep, everything might sound cool and you’d want to boost it all, don’t do it. Just pick one spot out of the whole range and give it a touch. Then click the band On and Off and see if you like the difference. If you like it, great! If not, sweep again. It’s ok to not find the golden frequency. It just means you have a well balanced vocal recording and a good vocalist.

Sweep For Dirt

The same as sweeping to find the golden frequency, you can also sweep to find problems in the vocal track. Here the problem can be everywhere on the spectrum. It can be an annoying frequency, a weird overtone that clashes with the song key, or any unpleasant tone somewhere along the spectrum. Again, you boost a certain band by 5 to 10db and you just drag it across the spectrum. If you hear something you don’t like, just cut it. In most cases, a 1 to 3db cut will be enough to balance it out. You might find more than one problematic spot on the track. Do it with as many bands as you need. I usually open a separate EQ instance just to fix the problematic frequencies on a track. But make sure to not get dragged into a “fix fest” where everything sounds like it needs to be fixed. If you do that, you can easily take the life out of a track. If it’s a decent recording, you won’t have to fix more than two or three problematic areas.

Check It On Headphones

Here you can find a lot of information about Mixing On Headphones. If you really want to be on the safe side, double check everything you do on a good pair of headphones. Sometimes an unbalanced room or the wrong monitor can cause us to make faulty decisions along the way, so always double check your mix on more than one reference source >> Best Headphones For Mixing

What EQ should I Use?

Different tasks require different tools. In general, digital EQ types are good for fixing stuff in the vocal track, Finding the gold and taking out the dirt. Every vocal track can use a good surgical treatment with a digital type EQ. For “coloration”, “vibe” and “mojo” on the other hand, it’s much cooler to use an analog emulation type EQ. So I’ve made a list of the best EQ’s that I’ve ever worked with and that I recommend using.
The list >> Best EQ Plugin For Vocals

Practice Practice Practice!

Like with any craft, practice makes perfect. The more you do it, the better you get. With EQ, at some point, you’re not even looking at what you’re doing because your intuition and ears are getting so good it becomes second nature to you. Just keep doing that more and more and the whole EQing process will get almost completely automatic.

Thanks for reading and happy EQing guys.

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How To Make Your Voice Sound Better When Recording

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How to Make Your Voice Sound Better When Recording

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Hi everybody, here are some basic things you need to know for getting good vocal recordings. Since I’ve been a teenager I’m recording myself playing and singing. My friends and I had a rock band in high school and since then I’m making music every day for myself and for others. That passion and drive for making great recordings led me to be what I am today at age 37, a music producer and sound engineer. As in every article I write, I’m giving you all this knowledge based only on my own experience.

The human voice is one of the most complicated “instruments” to record.
It is very rich in terms of tone, wave shape, dynamics, and overall sonic qualities.
Luckily there are few basic rules that will help you achieve great vocal sound in most real-world situations. In this article I’m going to teach you a few things:

1. How to prepare yourself for a good sounding vocal recording.

2. Basic technical rules for getting a good recording.

3. What microphone and accessories to use in different situations.

4. How and what to process on the computer after you finish recording.

Most of the process is not rocket science. You place the microphone in front of you, hit record and go. And you will probably get good enough results. But here are the things you can and should do in order to make it even better. So let’s start with number one.

1. How to prepare yourself for a good sounding vocal recording.
If the vocal recording you are about to do is important to you, I suggest a vocal warmup.
Just like before going to the gym, there are a few things you can do before you start recording to get your vocal cords in the best shape for the task.

It’s important to know that climate control is a critical factor for a good performance.
I suggest you set the AC to a neutral temperature for your body. with most people, it is about 26 degrees Fahrenheit.
Sometimes it is a personal preference. If you’re about to do a vocal recording session of a few hours you might change the temperature according to your stress level. Simple as that.
Make sure to not set it to be too cold or your vocal cords will get affected by it and the session will be over sooner than planned.

It’ll be a good idea to put a glass of water in the room temperature next to you and drink a little during the session. Not only for your body but also for your mouth moisture. If your mouth is dry it’ll be hard to move it and sing flawlessly.

Before we start singing there are a few vocal exercises we can do to make the session a lot easier.
It’s a little hard to give you an example in writing so here’s a good starting point video.

how to make your voice sound better when recording.

2. Basic technical rules for getting a good recording.
I won’t get into room acoustics on this article because this is an article subject all by itself. So assuming you have the right environment for the recording we go on from here. Should I sit or stand when I record my vocal? This is a very good question that is brought up every once in a while.

My personal opinion on that subject is simple. If you sing an energetic song it will be much easier to sing while standing up. But in my experience, most of the best vocal recordings I’ve ever done was when I was sitting down in front of the microphone. I find it easier to let the body loose and work only the singing muscles. Basically concentrate on the muscles that are working the hardest. Most of them are located in the centre of your body, throat and mouth.
I found out that sitting down gets me a little less stressed about the performance and allows me to last longer while recording.

https://www.maxpixel.net/Equipments-Audio-Condenser-Microphone-Close-up-1839126

Always use a pop filter.
Even when singing to a dynamic microphone it is highly suggested to use a pop filter.
It gives a more controlled signal in terms of dynamics in the high and low frequencies and I use it all the time.
Never the less if you are using a condenser microphone.
I’m also all about shock mounts, it’s very important to use one.

When standing or sitting close to the mic stand’s legs, make sure to turn the legs away from your legs as far as you can. this might sound weird and not important but I promise you, you will kick the mic stand while recording your best take! it happened to me so many times 🙂
With that, of course, put your phone on silent mode and get it far enough from unbalanced cables in your system because your mom WILL call you at the most critical moment in the session and you WILL get that funny cellular noise in your recording that no plugin will ever take out.

3. What microphone and accessories to use in different situations.
This can probably come down to a personal preference. I personally like to use a good condenser microphone for 95% of the time, but sometimes I will want to use a dynamic microphone such as Shure SM 57\58, SM7B or similar.

Every time I use a dynamic microphone I get something interesting in terms of some kind of magic in the sound. It works best on loud male vocals, hip hop, rock etc.
Sometimes a less known microphone from a good company can surprise you very much.
For example, I had this dynamic microphone lying around for ages, and never actually used it because I had an SM 58 for every time I needed a dynamic mic.

One day I’ve decided to give it a try and recorded a whole song with it. It was amazing! dare I say better than the SM 58? YES! I love it and use it to this day.
This was the JTS NX8

IMG_E7696-nvpt1gu56vv2h4kt62ptlpcwv5inyjgjn2em6gq7js

What external gear do I need more than that? Of course an audio interface and a preamp.
In most cases, you will have a mic pre on most audio interfaces. You can have nice quality even without a 3000$ preamp, altho that would have been nice to use one.

And last, a good cable can make a real difference in your recording.
I remember when I started recording I used whatever cables I’ve had lying around at that time.
One day I a friend gave me a very expansive cable to try out and I could really hear a difference in sound quality. it was not a huge difference but meaningful enough to get me out and to the store and buy the most expansive XLR mic cable out there 🙂 This was a good investment no doubt.

4. How and what to process on the computer after you finish recording.
There is some sort of magic in the moment you stop recording and start editing your materials.

I also love the raw sound that you get straight from the microphone, the cable, the preamp, and audio interface.
After I finish recording I first make a backup of the whole library and files I’ve just recorded.
And then I take a big break of a few hours or even a whole day to let my mind and ears rest a little bit. It is very important to start editing and shaping the end result with “new ears”.

Basics
Choosing the right takes for each part of the song can take a lot of time and can be a very tiring job.
Eventually, it’s over and you start “mixing” the vocal into the playback.
Usually, I start with an EQ, automatically creating a low cut and a high cut.
At what frequencies? it depends on the source material. But with male vocals, cut at 60hz and 17khz. With female vocals, it’s about the same only the low cut point is a little higher, depends on the singer.

After the EQ I use a compressor to control the dynamics, I’m a sucker for controlled levels.
I don’t like it when things are too “loose”, after the compressor I can use whatever I like to shape the vocal sound. De-esser (If needed) Exciters, Multiband compressors, Analog emulations for coloration and more. I will have another article and video expending about this subject.

EQ & Dynamics are the two most important factors for a good sounding vocal.
If you’re new to this I suggest you get good at those first before you do any other manipulation on the signal. You can do almost everything just with EQ and Compressor, I promise.

Final output levels
After you finish shaping the vocal sound you should get the overall levels to a nice place in terms of levels. There is nothing more frustrating than to hear something in a low level, it requires you to turn up your levels too high and forget you did that. After you finished listening to whatever that was, your system gets kicked by crazy sudden volume from the next track on the playlist. Please, guys, get your levels up, it’s easy, just use any simple limiter. I’m not even calling in mastering.

So this is a very simple and basic article for dealing with vocal recordings.
I hope you got even one good tip out of it. Have a good day and enjoy your recordings guys 🙂

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How To Use A Compressor On Vocals

How To Use A Compressor On Vocals

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Let me tell you a little secret that most sound engineer will agree on, The best compressor for vocals is a good vocalist! But since we are not talking about vocalists here, I will give you some of what I know about compressing vocals and show you a few of the compressor plugins I work with.

The more I know about compressors the more I do less with them. When we’re beginners, we overdo pretty much everything. I also like to over compress from time to time and use it as an added effect to a vocals track. But it shouldn’t be our default. 

The Hammer

If EQ’s are the sound engineer’s sculpting tool, then compressors are the hammers! Sometimes a good hammer can take a vocal from “ok” to pretty much amazing. Even though I always say don’t over compress anything, the only way to learn what a compressor really does is to over compress things. It’s like putting your hand on the stove to learn that it’s hot and getting to the conclusion you don’t want to do it again. 

What Really Is  A Compressor?

When I was in sound engineering school, I remember my teacher’s (The great Yoram Vazan) first words: “A compressor is only an over glorified volume fader”. This got stuck in my brain and every time I work with a compressor I think about the statement and it helps to remind me of the most basic things about it.

Compressor – How Does It Work?

Don’t worry, I’m not going to give you the whole preach about the basics that bloggers usually do. All we need to know for now is that a compressor receives a signal and run it thru a few parameters when the end result is a dynamically reduced representation of the source. The compressor’s job is to compress the dynamic range of the signal. That means that it controls the channel’s volume based on a few pre-defined rules.

Compressor Features

These are the most basic features you’ll find in most compressors. Some of them will have more, some less but these are the most basic ones:

Input – The level of input gain goes into the compressor.

Output – The level of output gain goes out of the compressor

Attack – Determines how quick the compressor starts compressing since the signal goes above the threshold.

Release – Determines how quick the compressor stops compressing once the signal goes below the threshold.

Ratio – Determines how many compression will be applied to the signal once it goes over the threshold.

Threshold – Determines the specific spot on the level meter that tells the compressor when to start compressing. In some compressors, the Threshold is determined by the input Knob

Types Of Compressors

All of these compressors do practically the same but each in its own unique way. I won’t get too technical on you but I’ll give you the highlights of each type and go over their sound characteristics.

Optical compressors – (Opto Compressor) These basically work with an electrical light element that determines how much of the signal will get compressed. These have a smooth sound, slow compression and natural sounding behavior. The optical compressors usually shine on vocal tracks. With their slow features and a smooth overall sound, they’ll sound good on almost any vocal source. A good example of an optical compressor is the legendary Teletronix LA-2A, which had almost too many virtual plugin versions. Two of my favorite virtual replicas are made by Universal Audio and Waves. Use an Opto compressor if you want your vocals to sound smooth and natural.

FET Compressors – (Field-Effect Transistor) This is a compressor that uses transistors. Its characteristics are the opposite to the Opto compressor. It’s considered to be fast, flexible, colorful and punchy. The FET compressors are used a lot to control drums and any instrument with fast transients. With vocals, the FET compressor allows very accurate results due to its very fast attack and release. The most famous FET compressor is the classic Universal audio 1176 which a lot of plugins today are modeled after. Use this type of compressors if you need your vocal to be 100% dynamically controlled and full of character.

VCA Compressors – (Voltage Controlled Amplifier) This compressor is based on relatively modern technology. As with the FET compressors, it also gives you control over the attack, release and ratio parameters. The VCA is a versatile animal that can tackle pretty much everything. From shaping a snare sound to controlling a very dynamic vocal. The most famous VCA compressor is the mighty SSL G series Console Bus Compressor which is responsible for a lot of timeless recordings. These behave pretty much like FET compressors but to me, they sound a little less aggressive. So I use them when I want something to be very controlled and without too much coloration and harmonic distortion. This is just how I perceive it.

Variable Mu Compressors – These are tube based compressors. We all know tubes are characterized by warm, slow and colorful sound. This is a very old technology that was first introduced in the 50s. These compressors are commonly used for bus compression although it’s been used for pretty much every sound source we can think of. From breathing new life into electric guitars, squashing a vocal or tightening a whole mix. The most famous tube Compressor is the legendary Fairchild 670 which is maybe the most expensive piece of audio gear today. If you want coloration and vibe, this is the way to go. Most of the Fairchild emulations I had the chance to work with, sounded amazing. So it doesn’t really matter which one you use to give your vocals those majestic colors.

How To Use A Compressor On Vocals

What To Do When I First Put A Compressor On The Vocal Track?

I assume that you already know what each and every parameter does, so when I use the known terms you know exactly what I mean. Now, if you’re looking for rules and guidelines in that particular subject, to be honest, there are none. All I can do is tell you what I personally do and look for when I first put a compressor on my vocal channel. So the first thing I look for in a compressor is the initial introducing of the “character” and how it affects the vocal. Every compressor doesn’t matter if it’s a plugin or a hardware compressor, has a “sound”. Especially the ones which are modeled after the old and legendary hardware units. So I’ll try to give you a basic starting point.

1. LA2AWaves LA2A CompressorIf it’s a classic LA2A for example, I first lower the output and increase the input to hit the compression circuit harder to be able to point out the effect for myself. If I like the effect, I keep playing with it until I hit a sweet spot. With the LA2A most of the parameters are controlled by the level of the source going into the circuit so it’s relatively simple, you just play with it until you reach a sweet spot. 

2. 1176 With FET type compressors, such as the 1176 I start with lowering the output again, increasing the ratio to a high enough spot, and the input until it shows compression on the VU meter. Then I play with the attack and release knowing that I’m controlling the dynamic envelope of the vocal. It’s very important to learn what each an every parameter does so you can look for the change in the right places as you’re playing with the compressor.

3. Ratio – With LA2A type compressors you don’t have a separate ratio knob. You change the ratio by simply increasing the input gain into the circuit. With a 1176 type compressors you start with increasing the ratio. 5:1 is good as a starting point. Always look on the gain reduction meter. This whole thing is just pointing out the obvious because a compressor is a simple device, but it’s important to know what you’re doing because it’s so easy to take your beautiful vocal recording and turn it into pure shit, with a bad compression setup.

4. Gain Staging – Remember, gain staging is one of the most critical parameters for getting a good output out of any audio device. Make sure your input signal sits in a good place around the 75% more or less. This will put you in a safe place, far enough from the noise floor and not too close to the algorithm’s level ceiling where it starts digitally distorting, and we all know how a digital distortion sounds.

In the early years, I used to over think every little change on the compressor. Today the whole process of compressing vocals is much more intuitive and done almost subconsciously while I hover with the mouse over the whole plugin to find it’s sweet spot. All this will come in time as you gain more and more experience.

One Channel, 3 Compressors

I usually use more than one compressor on the main vocal channel. To be exact, I use 2 compressors with a limiter at the end of the chain. So the first compressor handles the heavy duty. The second one is there to round the edges and sometimes to add another color to make the vocal sound a little more 3D and harmonically interesting. The last compressor I use on a vocal channel is actually a limiter. I love controlled vocal channels. This still doesn’t say I compress too much. It only helps me to achieve what I hear in my mind without sounding too processed. This is usually followed by tons of meticulously crafted lines of automation all across the channel.

Digital Compressor Plugins

There are those plugin compressors that are not modeled on any hardware device. Some of them are really good and although digital in nature, they are not lacking on mojo. 

These are some of my favorite digital compressor plugins:

Waves C1 Compressor

I absolutely LOVE this compressor, it sounds great, and it has tons of character. There’s something special in how it handles transients. Very snappy and accurate. as far as dynamics go, I can get exactly what I need with only this compressor alone. I like it on side chain applications. For example, compressing a bass guitar channel that’s being triggered by the kick drum.

Waves Renaissance Compressor

Another amazing digital compressor from Waves?? hey, they’re great, what can I say? This one is even better, visually. Its design is pure genius. The gain reduction meter is brilliant, and it shows me exactly what I hear, which is amazing and not that common. It has a few modes, Electro, Warm and Manual. Each one of them makes the compressor sound a little different.

McDSP Compressor Bank CB303

AUDIOSTREETS.COM
This is an ol’ trusty dog. It’s a part of a pack of three different compressors that sound so good! I’m proud to tell you I have a lot of mixes based almost entirely on McDSP plugins. Compressor Bank is one of the most impressive digital compressors I’ve ever laid a mouse on. With all the newest plugins that are coming out each year, I can’t seem to give this old dog up. If there is such a thing as “Classic vintage plugin”, this is definitely one of the few ageless plugins out there. These days its price is so low (No justice) it’s a no-brainer. Just go out and get it!

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Use iPhone as a Microphone

Use iPhone as a Microphone

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You can definitely record a professional sounding vocal with today’s iPhones. I did it myself! It’s important to note, I’m not talking about recording ON your iPhone but using it as a microphone to record on a computer or any other recording device. Of course, you can record a good vocal using an App, but this is not today’s topic. All you really need to do is to download an app that lets you monitor your output in real time and a cable to connect your iPhone to your Input on your recording device. In this case, your computer. I used a MacBook with Logic Pro X on it and the built-in input jack. You need the right cable for that. iPhone’s output to your laptop or any audio interface. So let’s start!

Can you believe it? Use iPhone As a Microphone and Record a professional sounding vocal?? no way… Yes, Way!
Hello to all my readers, Avi here, audio engineer and music producer for more than 15 years.

Not long ago I found myself away from my studio equipped only with my laptop with logic, small per of in-ear headphones, a cable and my trusty iPhone 6s.
I had a song I really needed to record a vocal for. I thought about recording on my iPhone just like I’m recording my little demos and immediately dropped the idea.
Later that day I thought to myself “why the hell not? I hooked up my iPhone with a small PL cable to the input on my MacBook, downloaded a small free app called “iTalk” that allowed me to use the iPhone mic with real-time monitoring and started recording the first takes.

I was blown away and so surprised by the results that I immediately decided to send audio samples to all my producer friends and asked them what mic it is in their opinion.
All of them told me that it sounds like a legit condenser microphone from a good company. This was really amazing.

I then continued my recordings and finished a whole song. This wasn’t in a studio or in an acoustically treated room. Of course, my mom called 3 times during this session and then I realized I need to put my phone on flight mode 🙂 At this point, I still can’t believe I can Use an iPhone as a microphone.

Eventually, I finished the session and started comping and editing.
During the whole session, I had a weird feeling that I can’t really trust it and it is going straight to the trash. But the deeper I got into the editing session the stronger was the feeling that I’m on to something really interesting here.

Finally, I had a finished lead vocal for my song. I was so excited by this that I finished working on the production mix and half of the mastering on that specific day. So this song eventually meets the finish line and I felt like a true hero.

I think that this experiment proves a few simple stuff:

1. You don’t have to break your bank to have a good sounding microphone, It might be in your pocket.

2. Never underestimate your gear, whether it is cheap or not.

3. Apple proved themselves again as the greatest company ever! Just kidding don’t kill me for being an Apple boy 🙂

I did not use a pop filter and a microphone stand, I just stood in the middle of a small bedroom and sang to my phone.
I held the phone with the microphone on the bottom of the device pointing to my mouth from the side so I won’t be needing a pop filter.

Because this is an omnidirectional microphone, meaning it picks up audio signals from all directions, I had to close all the windows, turn off the AC and record only between noises of passing cars outside the window. I remind you it was a non-isolated or acoustically treated room.

Final conclusion

I liked this setup so much that I’m looking for stupid reasons to get out of the studio and record demos on the beach, in the field near my home, in my car, in vacations and in every opportunity I have to use my lovely iPhone as a microphone again.
But I have to be honest, of course, I won’t record my clients with an iPhone. It was a nice adventure and a really good thing to learn. I still use my Audio-Technica and Neuman mics.

Here’s another article I wrote filled with tips on how to make your voice sound better when recording.

Thanks for reading

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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.

RME
 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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How To Record Vocals In Logic Pro X

How To Record Vocals In Logic Pro X

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Hey everybody, In this article I’m going to give you my take on vocal recordings in Logic Pro X. More specifically vocal recording for a typical pop song.
Logic is known for its amazing midi capabilities but it also offers a few cool features when it comes to audio recording and editing. Comping in logic is one of the coolest features. I seriously can’t go back to edit any other way.

Quick video guide, keep reading for more info

So this is how I do it.

1. Creating a great basis for a vocal recording session.
2. Choosing the best takes using comping.
3. Fixing the timing.
4. Pitch correction.
5. Work with B vocals, doubles, and harmonies.
6. Importing all the vocal channels back into the main project.

So let’s start

1. Creating a great basis for a vocal recording session.

First I open a project specifically for the vocal recording session. I usually prefer to have the vocals recorded on a clean project and not on the song’s main project. It gives me a clear view of what I do and it also helps the computer work more flawlessly and glitch free.

Then I create the setup for a full vocal session. It means that I open all the needed tracks with most of the plugins already on them. The tracks are as follows:

A. Lead Vocal
B. Lead Left (Double)
C. Lead right (Double)
D. B Vocal Left
E. B Vocal Right
F. Monitoring channel
G. Playback Channel (Stereo bounce of the playback)

After that, I choose the main basic plugins I want to use for the recording session.
Usually, the plugins are EQ & Compressor. During the recordings, I use the plugins with the shortest delay time because I need them to react to a real-time signal.
>> Best EQ Plugins For Vocals
>> How To Use A Compressor On Vocals

In 90% of the times, I like using Logic’s own EQ & Compressor for that.
The signal is being recorded on the engaged channels but played thru the Monitoring Channel.
This way I can use the same plugins and have the same sound for all the recording session.
When I playback the recordings I hear the recorded signal going thru the plugins that are open on each of the channels. I also add a reverb & delay sends if needed.
>> These are my favorite Delay plugins

That’s it, we have all the takes we need for the lead vocal and a few takes to choose from on each of the other channels. Now we are ready for my favorite part, THE COFFEE!


You must let your ears and brain rest for a while to regain your strength and your ability to concentrate.
Sometimes I even save the post-recording stage for the day after.
Note: after I finish recording, I make a backup of the whole project to another hard drive.
DO IT BEFORE THE COFFEE and thank me later.

2. Choosing the best takes using comping.

In this stage, I start with listening and working only on the lead vocal while all the other channels are muted. The reason for dealing with the lead vocal first is because this channel is our guide for all the other vocal channels. Yeah, this is common sense but I guess I still feel the need to point out the obvious.

When the lead vocal will be ready, all the rest of the channels will sync to it in terms of take selection, timing, and pitch. So that way we can get one strong and accurate vocals wall pushing the front row of the song.
This is a general rule of thumb for a lot of pop genres.

So, I like to divide the song and work on each part separately. I start with the first verse in most cases even if the song starts with a chorus. This gives me a sense of a fresh and new beginning.


I start with listening to the whole verse and then I listen to the first sentence on all of the takes and choose the one that sounds and feels best to me. After that, I listen to the second sentence and then the third and so on.
That’s basically the whole process of choosing the right takes for each part. Before I “Flatten” the whole track I always open a new channel and copy the whole open comp on it and then hide it. You can never know when you’d want to go back to it.

3. Fixing the timing.

This is the part where you want to get rid of all the takes you didn’t use and leave only the chosen once. On logic this option is called “Flatten” and it is located inside the comp’s menu.

Now you are left only with the regions you’ve chosen. This is the right time to start tightening the timing.
I usually turn on the click for this part and listen to each separate region by itself to make sure it is exactly synced to the playback and click. 

I love this part because I have a huge thing with vocals sitting on the beat with perfect timing. On this opportunity of working on the separate regions, I make sure that there are crossfades between them, placed on silent parts only. It is very important not to cut breathing noises and little natural sounds in the human voice.

After I have the whole channel done I consolidate it or how it’s called in Logic, “Bounce in place”.
This will take all the regions and export them to one long file. Before you do that make sure to place a small region part on the exact point where the song begins on the grid. That way after you’ll have the lead vocal file no matter if it moved by mistake, it’s starting point will always be on the grid and in sync with the song.

4. Pitch correction.

Ok, in terms of tuning and having everything right on the money I consider myself a complete FREAK. I like everything to be in perfect pitch but still sounding very natural and human. This is a very demanding task. Of course, I can just throw an Autotune plugin on the channel which I commonly do but this is only for the online tuning part of the vocal. Some of the heavy lifting are done with offline tuning before the signal even goes to the Autotune.

In Logic Pro X there’s a feature called Flex Pitch. This is very similar to Melodyne in nature but is embedded in Logic’s audio engine so it is much more flexible then Melodyne in my opinion. I must add the as for this version, Melodyne’s algorithm still sounds a little bit better than Logic’s Flex Pitch. So you can choose whatever is best for you. I find that if using lightly, Flex Pitch sounds just as good as Melodyne so it’s good enough for me.

Remember, the offline tuning must come before the online tuning in the signal chain.
But I always do the offline tuning while the Autotune is working on the channel in a relatively slow response time and every once in a while I turn of the Autotune to get a sense for what is going on with the signal just with Flex Pitch activated.
This allows me to find the perfect sweet spot between offline and online tuning.

After I finish with the tuning and pitch correction, I bounce the track to a clean channel once more to print all the process I did with Flex Pitch on the offline tuning. This way I can turn off the Flex Pitch option and save my ass from possible glitches in the future.

So what do we have now? We have a PERFECT VOCAL TRACK ready for the mix.

5. Work with B vocals, doubles, and harmonies.

This part is usually like the second born child, this is much less stressful for me. Now all I have to do is to make sure I choose the right takes out of all the doubles and harmonies in relation to the lead vocal.

I do it pretty fast and it always comes out perfect. every once in a while I need to fix the timing for specific parts but it’s not a big deal. On these channels, I only use online tuning. One Autotune plugin for each channel with the right settings and it works like magic.

All the extra vocals are going to one bus channel on the mixer so that way I can control it’s levels and automations in one strip.
Of course, I also do ‘bounce in place” to all the B vocals to have them organized in single files and not have every channel scattered across multiple files. So that way I have one final vocal file for each channel.

6. Importing all the vocal channels back into the main project.

Now that we have all the vocal channels, tunes, timing perfected and organized we can import them back into the production’s main project and continue to mix the song.

We do it by opening the main production project and importing the vocal channels from the vocal recording project. Easy.

THAT’S IT.
Thank you for reading.

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Best Analog Synth Plugins

Best Analog Synth Plugins

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These are the plugins I like the most,  my personal favorites. 
Hey everybody, Avi here. This is one of my favorite subjects to talk about.

I have been a synth collector since childhood. I’ve had synths from Yamaha, Korg, Roland, Nord, Access Virus, and even a custom made 303 style synth which I loved and shouldn’t have sold. 

In the last few years soft synths are getting SO MUCH BETTER. That’s not an easy decision to just sell all the hardware and join the future. I was heartbroken for a while, I’m not going to lie, but just like with love, you are most likely to find a new one eventually. 

In this article I’m not going to get too much into technical details, because you can get them wherever you want on the web. So expect only my own personal take on this subject.

MS20 by Korg

So this is one of my first eye openers and it’s the Korg MS20 Plugin. This guy had me sitting for hours and hours listening to every little knob and patch. It is simple and complicated all together. First, I used it for all kinds of analog parts, and then it was my go to bass synth. I love the rawness of it. I’m also a big fan of design, and the Korg MS20 had always been a great looking beast.

After I realized the power of this synth for bass parts, I could do anything I wanted with this, and I always ended up with a big psychotic smile on my face. I must admit that I never thought it sounded even remotely close to the hardware version, it was pretty small sounding. But I could get it to sound very good and crazy big with EQ, Compression and stereo tricks. One thing this synth did amazingly well is to get me deep in the creating zone. It is very inspirational, and this is one of the most important factors about synths. 

I think not enough people are talking about this. This synth has the ability to get your creative juices flowing, especially if you’re a real synth head like me 🙂 Korg’s analog synth bundle is pretty much amazing. I loved all their stuff back at the time and use them to this day. I think it’s ok to say that these are the real first “vintage soft synths” of our time.

In the meantime, I got my hands dirty with some cool sounding synth plugins like: Vanguard, FabFilter one, Synth1 (NOT Sylenth1), Reason synths, and more,  then I stumbled upon this.

Zebra by u-he

This amazing synth plugin had introduced me to a whole new generation of audio engines. It sounded so good that I could swear it almost sounded better, fuller, and richer then my friend’s virus C at the time. 

At first glance, this modular synth looks very intimidating and complicated. I started only with presets and downloaded a bunch of them. This was enough for couple cool parts in few of my tracks. Then I started learning this synth, and it was amazing. 

The only problem I had with it on my mac was that it wasn’t too stable. It crashed too many times in the middle of projects, and that made me really angry until eventually I dropped it. I must say that this was an original version, not cracked. But anyway, times were changing for me and I needed faster simpler synths that I could just twist two knobs and create magic.

Sylenth1 by LennarDigital

OK,  Everyone knows this guy and I can’t add anything to it. I was in love with this synth. I did almost everything with it. I filled a whole external drive with demos of this synth. So much inspiration, so many sounds, banks, presets… literally endless. 

I once compared it with Virus Snow and the snow killed it 🙂 But it wasn’t enough for me to drop it and get the Snow,  Nope. The Sylenth1 opened me to a new EDM genres. These were the years of Avicii, David Guetta, Zedd, big dance hits, catchy euro drops, and but choruses,  I was hooked. 

Remember I talked about synths that spark creativity? The Sylenth1 was the soft synth that got the most amount ideas for songs out of my head at the time. I still have demos that I’m in love with today. Don’t ask me why it’s not out. Most of the songs I produced were for other people. 

The only song I ever produced for myself with mostly Sylenth1 was this. I was very influenced by Zedd back then 😉 This wasn’t promoted or signed anywhere. I just released it for my own fun.

With the Sylenth1, I started also playing with Massive, which was very special sounding but very weird for me to work with. I couldn’t fall in love with the interface, and you already know how much it’s important for my creative juices. But one thing I have to say about Massive, it is the most natural sounding beast. 

It always sounded like a quality hardware synth to me. I also played a lot with the big Romplers like Nexus & Omnisphere. In between, I had small romances with Rob Papen’s synths which I really like.

Spire by Reveal Sound

Spire is my 3rd synth plugin love. Now, this is a synth that can get my creative juices flowing so easily. 

BEST leads, CRAZY PADS, Amazing BASSES, and all this yummy stuff under a super friendly and beautiful interface?? 
GIVE ME MORE! I spent too many nights with headphones going thru the amazing preset banks I had. My girlfriend, who was sleeping in the other room sometimes asked me to turn my headphones level down!

After some time in this new age EDM of tomorrow land 2016, I felt like it’s getting too boring, too much like everybody else. I stopped trying to create the next mega hit and turned to little productions that I like to do. 

I wasn’t trying to impress anybody. I didn’t have to have the best, sharpest mix in the market, I just wanted to go back to the simple analog minimal, but emotional productions. So I started looking for new emulations of old synths. So I found this:

Diva by u-he

This gave me a few synthesis colors under one beautiful interface. This synth is, without a doubt, the most heavy on the CPU synth. It has few resolution modes so you don’t have to work with the highest one, but while offline exporting a song it is very recommended to put it on the highest quality mode. This is a very impressive sounding synth, and I remember the first time playing with this and comparing it to other synths on my system, it sounded otherworldly.

TAL V2 U-NO-LX

Now, this is a weird one. At first, I didn’t realize how good it sounded until I watched a video that compared it to the real synth that it is modeled after, the Roland Juno 60. It is very minimalistic like the original. It has a small polyphony, so it requires you to be very selective with the part you’re playing. 

I like that, especially in my minimalistic age. If I remember correctly, there’s a controller that works perfect with this synth. Sounds amazing.  It has round analog bases, lush old synth strings, and a lot of very cool and usable sounds to work with.

ImpOscar 2 by Gforce

This beautiful synth is also based on an analog hardware synth that had found itself in almost every production I’ve ever done,  even if it wasn’t electronic by nature. This synth made itself right at home next to electric guitars, bass, and live drums. It was a bit unstable on my specific system, but it was worth every little crash I’ve had with it. This also has very warm and deep pads, beautiful stereo basses, really amazing cutoff filter, and very good effects section. I just wish they did the interface a little bit bigger.

Mini V by Arturia

Ok, I feel like when I speak about this company, I have to bow down like a kung fu student. Since the first Mini Moog emulation, I was fascinated by the sound engine and the designs they were able to create. The hardware, Moog, was a legend I always wanted to own, and I could never really get to buying this expensive synth. This is where Arturia worked their magic on me. Every time I’ve played with this synth and closed my eyes, I could smell its wood and old plastic knobs under my fingers. It’s just beautiful.

Modular V by Arturia


This one has always got me a little scared. No, let me rephrase it, I was SHIT SCARED to even look at it. To me an A modular synth is the most terrifying creature out there, and Arturia made it even scarier. So, I must admit I almost never changed the existing presets. Maybe only a little bit with the filter and that’s it. But this synth has the most beautiful synth bass sound I’ve ever heard! And conveniently, it is the default preset that opens with the first loading of the plugin. It is pure magic. Go try it.

Prophet V by Arturia

I don’t have a lot to say about this synth other than AMAZING. I really love it. A pure classic; beautiful, simple, and inspiring. It sounds magical. I would go there and say that it sounds very close to the original hardware version.

Kick by Sonic Academy & Nicky Romero

This one is a kick synth. After getting to know this weird, hybrid, sample based synth, I stopped wasting my life searching for the right kick sound in my never, ending sample libraries. This is a life saver. I stopped looking for kick sounds. In 95% of my EDM productions and demos, I just use this plugin, change the presets a bit, and BOOM. A great sounding kick that JUST WORKS.

Lounge Lizard EP-4 by A.A.S

Yeah I know this one is not a traditional synth really, but it’s a tool I use in so many of my productions. I love the unique fusion of synth sounds and electric piano. So, this one has really cool sounds and colors that can give you the fullness and emotions of a big and warm chord wall that is not too heavy on the mid and high range section of your production. It is warm, authentic, and natural. So, if I want to create a “Chords Hug” as I call it, I just play the chords on the Lounge Lizard EP-4 and I’m all set.

That’s it for now guys. In the future I will give you more articles with more synth love stories 🙂 Thanks for reading.

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BEST MIDI KEYBOARD FOR BEGINNERS Small

Best Midi Keyboard For Beginners

BEST MIDI KEYBOARD FOR BEGINNERS Large

Best Midi Keyboard For Beginners

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KEYBOARDS! How I love midi keyboards!

Hi everybody, Avi here. On this post, I give you a list of the best midi keyboards for beginners. Every beginner has its own style of music creation so I tried to touch every genre of music and which midi keyboard is best for it. I’m sure you will find a midi keyboard you like on my list.

First, I’ll tell you that the midi keyboard is the king of all instruments for music production. Most music producers are starting with a keyboard and that is a great thing. You can not play drums and strings on your guitar. If you’re a real producer, you need to be very comfortable around the black and white keys next to your computer keyboard and that is a hard fact.

What Is Midi

MIDI – “Musical Instrument Digital Interface” is a language. It is not notes or sounds, it is just data, transmitted by digital instruments and audio systems over to digital instruments and audio systems. The data that is transferred is telling the receiving device what to play and which parameters to change. A midi keyboard sends this data to the computer which sends it to the receiving instrument, whether it’s a virtual synth, any outboard device, plugins or DAW’s. A midi controller or a keyboard usually doesn’t have sounds of its own.

The History Of Midi

Midi was first developed in the 80s, which was a very interesting decade to grow up in for us music producers and electronic musicians. The midi standard was offered to all the major companies and in an act of unification and for the greater good of all of us, they started implementing it in all of their instruments. Midi has changed the music world for ever. With the introduction of Midi technology, a lot of musicians could create new styles of music and complex sequences without the need of actually playing the instrument.

Different Midi Keyboards

Basically, you can use any midi keyboard to make almost any kind of music you want. But there are some keyboards that are more suitable for certain styles of music. For example, if you want to play a piano part, it will be best if you pick a midi keyboard that most resembles the size and feel of a real piano. That’s how you can get the closest result to the original instrument. If you’re an electronic music producer on the road for example, you would want to travel light and maybe go for much smaller instruments. 
On this list you would find the best midi keyboard for your needs.

Best Midi Keyboard For Beginners

Mini Size, Mini Keyboards

Akai MPK Mini mk2

The MPK Mini mk2 is a great little portable controller that you can easily fit into any backpack, along with your laptop and take it with you around the world. It requires only a usb cable to work. It is also a brilliant controller to have on a busy studio desk. Sometimes you just want to record small and simple parts. Or just go over presets and sounds and you just need a little keyboard to trigger them and still have enough space for your coffee cup or other small controllers and instruments. The MPK Mini mk2 also has a beautiful design. I love this mix of red and black colors, hey just look at my logo. A visually good designed instrument helps you feel more creative and have more fun while making music. As for the price, the MKP is a very low-cost solution for music production on the go.

Main features:

 • 25 Mini Keys
 • 8 Backlit Drum Pads
 • 8 Assignable Knobs
 • 4-way Joystick
 • USB Powered Only
 • Software Package Included

Check latest price on Amazon

Arturia Minilab MK2

This sweet little keyboard is special, It is made to be the perfect companion for “Analog Lab”, Arturia’s synth software, but it works with any music software.

The Minilab is a full-featured MIDI controller designed to work with any music software that supports Midi or DAW. It has a brand new pitch and modulation touch strip controls. It takes a little time to get used to it but eventually you get it and it allows you to do things you can’t do with a regular pitch and modulation control. This keyboard has the best feeling mini keys I’ve ever tried on a mini keyboard. You can actually play complex music parts on this keyboard and get a very good feel out of it. The design is pretty special and it reminds me a little bit of Access virus snow which I LOVE. The Minilab mk1 had bigger wooden cheeks that give it a more organic look. On the mk2 version, they made the wooden ends a little smaller but they’re still there along with a few added features and upgrades.

Main features:

 • 25 Mini Keys
• 16 Endless Rotary Assignable Knobs
 • 8 Backlit Drum Pads
 • Touch Pitch & Modulation Control
 • Analog Lab Included
 • USB Powered Only

 

Check latest price on Amazon

Normal Size Keys, Small Keyboards

Alesis v25

Simple, built to last and super affordable. These are the Alesis v25’s main strong points.

This is a straight forward device, the design is very simple and cool. All black with blue lights. I also like the Alesis big logo on the back. First, the v25 is in the standard size keys category. It has two octaves of velocity sensitive 25 keys. It is a little bigger than the mini keys keyboards so it is a little harder to fit into a backpack but it’s definitely possible. The Alesis v25 needs its software in order to fully assign all of its controllers. The 8 backlit drum pads have very good sensitivity and the keyboard is pretty good also. Overall the Alesis v25 it’s just a keyboard you wouldn’t expect for this money.

If you like this keyboard but want more keys, you can check out the 49 and 61 versions of the Alesis V series.

Main features:

 • Compact USB controller for controlling plug-ins and virtual instruments
 • Full-sized, synth-action keys with a square front
 • 8 velocity and pressure sensitive backlit pads
 • 4 illuminated, assignable knobs and 4 buttons
 • PitchBend and Modulation wheels
 • USB bus powered
 • Includes Ableton Live Lite Alesis Edition

Check latest price on Amazon

Akai Professional MPK225

Now, this is a small keyboard for big boys, it is a complete midi workstation for the working producer, a professional product, it’s literally the model’s name. Although its price tag is aiming for professionals, I think this is a perfect 25 key midi controller to start with if your budget allows you. Ok let’s start with the design, the Akai Professional MPK225 is a beautiful midi controller. Again, Akai’s colors are amazing, and this mix of black and red is so cool in the studio. The keyboard is pretty big and sturdy and the built quality is superb. If I remember correctly, this is the first product in the professional series that has an LCD screen. The MPK225 has a backlit RGB drum pads, which means that they change colors according to the application they’re connected to, and work hand in hand with Ableton Live. The keys are semi-weighted which means that their mechanism is built a little stronger and they feel a little heavier. Akai’s professional series products also come with a NICE software bundle. Overall, the MPK225 is a cutting-edge production tool that will last for years to come and will have very few limitations in the studio. If you like it and you’re interested in more keys and controls, check out it’s bigger brothers, the MPK249 and the MPK261.

Main features:

•LCD Screen
•25 Full Size Semi-Weighted Keys
•After Touch
•8 Backlit RGB Drum Pads
•4 Assignable Knobs
•5 Pin MIDI In&Out
•Pitch & Modulation Wheels
•Foot Switch & Expression Input Jacks.

Check latest price on Amazon

Normal Size Keys, Small Keyboards

Novation Launchkey 61 MK2

Novation is a classic name in the music production industry. They are responsible for few of the most classic and famous products out there. The Lunchkey 61 MK2 has a great set of features and controls. It comes in a very cool black body and blue base and 16 backlit RGB pads. The pads support color feedback from Ableton live and they are also velocity sensitive. The Lounchkey is a great companion for your DAW. The Lounchkey has what’s called Synth-weighted Keys which is similar to semi-weighted keys and they’re also slightly narrower than the standard size keys so it may take some time to get used to. The keyboard has very high-quality keys, knobs, and faders. This is a great Midi controller and not only for the relatively low price. If you like it, you should know it also comes in 25 keys and 49 keys versions.

Main features:

•16 Touch sensitive multi-color launch pads with RGB-LEDs
•2 Launchpad control buttons
•8 Rotary knobs
•9 Faders
•LED Display
•Transport control
•Transpose-keys
•Pitch and Modulation wheel
•Backlit mode keys
•8 Mute/ solo keys
•Connections: USB
•Sustain pedal
•Dimensions: 990 x 120 x 320 mm
•Weight: 3.5 kg
•Including: Novation V-Station and Bass station software, Loopmasters Sample-Pack and Ableton Live Lite

Check latest price on Amazon

M-Audio Code 61

I am an avid M-Audio user for a long time in the studio. I always liked their instruments and the Code 61 is no different. It is a great controller for the studio producer and also for the live keyboard player. It is lighter than other big M-Audio midi controllers from the past but still built just as strong. There is something different, special in the design of the Code 61. First, it is a beautiful keyboard. The first visual thing that pops up is the square overall shape of the keyboard. M-Audio used to make rounder designs but I guess they went for a new look, and you know what? It’s very cool and I like it. The drum pads on the Code are backlit RGB pads and they are big and sturdy. The pitch and modulation wheels are located in the upper left corner of the keyboard which is a little weird for me personally because I come from the old world of synths and midi controllers but I guess M-Audio are trying to promote a new approach. In the bottom line, this is a great midi controller for the price.

Main features:

•61-note velocity-sensitive synth-style keyboard
•16 full-color RGB backlit velocity sensitive drum pads
•Eight knobs
•Nine sliders
•Six dedicated transport controls
•Pitch bend and modulation wheels
•Two Octave/Transpose buttons
•7-segment 3-character LED display
•Two Track/MIDI Channel buttons

Check latest price on Amazon

88 Keys Midi Keyboards (Piano Style)

M-Audio Keystation 88 II

This 88 keys M-Audio is a semi-weighted piano size keyboard. It is on my list because it is great for beginners, It is simple and very budget friendly. It’s relatively light and easy to take with you to live shows without breaking your back. I like it’s USB single cable operation, which means it gets the power thru the USB and you don’t have to worry about another power cable to carry on with you. The M-audio Keystation MK2 has enough features for every basic need and a little more. Features like pitch and modulation wheels and transport control for controlling your DAW without the need to reach the mouse and keyboard every time you need to play, stop or record yourself.

Back panel includes ON\OFF switch, volume pedal input, sustain pedal input, 5-pin midi output, USB plug and of course DC power input.

•88 semi-weighted keys
•Pitch, modulation and other control sources
•USB power for convenience
•Use with your computer or iPad

Check latest price on Amazon

M-Audio Hammer 88 Weighted Keys

This thing is built like a tank! The Hammer 88 is a full size, fully weighted piano style midi keyboard. With this keyboard, you’ll have a professional product with a friendly price. It is one of the smaller fully weighted midi keyboards out there so it can be great for live shows and in the studio, it won’t take a lot of important space. The interface is pretty simple, only pitch and modulation wheels, 2 buttons for changing the octaves and a volume slider. Some will say you don’t need more than that if you’re a real piano player. Another important thing with piano style keyboards is they need to be quiet and this one definitely is. Very quiet. So if you don’t care about the weight and you need a real piano feel with an affordable price, this is definitely for you. 

Main features:

•88 fully-weighted, hammer-action keys
•USB-MIDI connection for playing virtual instruments, controlling music software, and more
•5-Pin MIDI DIN port for triggering external MIDI hardware
•Pitch bend and modulation wheels, volume fader, and +/- controls for expressive performances
•Multiple keyboard zones for layering, splits, and playing 4-note chords with a single key press
•Sustain, Expression, and Soft pedal jacks
•USB-powered; power adapter available separately for stand-alone use
•Class-compliant, no drivers required, plug-and-play connectivity with Mac/PC
•iOS compatibility via Apple Camera Connection Kit (available separately)
•Included Hammer 88 Controller Editor and premium software suite
•Music rest included

Check latest price on Amazon

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Best Drum Plugin

Best Drum Plugins

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Hey everybody, Avi here. FOR YEARS, I was looking for the best drum plugin, not an easy task, let me tell you that. I’m one of those producers who really prefer doing everything by themselves. I play the guitars, bass, keyboards, and yes, DRUMS! This is my favorite part of the whole production process. In this article, I’m going to show you the best drum plugins, in my opinion. These must sound amazing, authentic, and be easy to use. This is, of course, based on my own personal taste and preference. So, keep an open mind and look for what you think is the best sounding plugin out there.

First, I have to tell you that this is not a replacement for a human drummer, maybe only for acoustic drums. For me, personally, it’s way more than enough, and I even prefer it to a real drum recording in a studio. There’s nothing like the feeling of finishing a good drum track, built on a click and a guide track. It feels like going on a new adventure. So, whether you’re a keyboard drummer, as I used to be for years, or a V-Drums fighter, this is for you.

In a chronological order.

Addictive drums – Check out the latest version

This was the first plugin that made me go “mm, maybe I don’t really have to record drums in a studio”. In 2008, I started working on an Israeli, punk rock album by an artist called “Amir Lazarov”. This was a head-first jump to the sampled based drums and drum plugins. This was an 8-song album, in which I played all the drum parts on a Yamaha DD65, electronic drums pad, which is practically a toy. It started with saving money and turned into falling in love with this workflow.

Addictive drums 1.0 was my first option because it was easy to use, it had a great collection of great recorded sets, which I could mix and match between, and I was able to mix everything inside the plugin, which I loved back then.

You know what they say about almost any tool, It is only good until it’s not enough. After this album, I went on a crazy ride looking for drum samples and plugins. It was the start of an everlasting search for the best recorded sets and the best snare and bass drum samples. Back in 2008, my mix abilities weren’t the best, but I absolutely love the production to this day.

Studio Drummer (Kontakt) –  Check out the latest version

I was jumping for joy in my home studio when I first found out about Studio Drummer back in 2011. This was the start of a whole, new era; Non-stop rock productions, demos, and amazing sounds. This one is a Kontakt library, and it offered 3 main kits, recorded at Teldex Studio in Berlin. Out of the three kits, my favorite, and most used, was the Session Kit. I also used the studio kit in one of the Israeli songs I produced.

The Studio Drummer Library also came with a lot of Midi parts, played by a real drummer on an electronic drum set. I’ve never used the recorded midi drum parts included in most of the plugins. I knew how to think like a drummer, and always preferred my drum parts tailor-made for my productions. There were other drum libraries I tried back then, but they were not good enough for what I was looking for. Among them were libraries like Abbey Road, 70’s Drummer, Modern Drummer, and such. This was played on a keyboard with the Stadium Kit. Again, an Israeli song, written in Hebrew. Listen to the dynamics when the drum part is starting to play. It’s beautifully recorded.

EZ Drummer 2.0 – Check out the latest version

Although I’ve heard a lot about EZ Drummer 1.x, and even demoed it a few times, it never felt like a good enough tool for me. But then version 2 came along and changed the whole drums-in-the-box game for me. For months, I was trying every possible setup I used against EZD2, and nothing could beat it. It was the new, undisputed champion of my box. It offered a crazy good collection of toms, cymbals, hi-hats, and bass drums. But most of all, it gave me the best snare samples I’ve ever heard. At this point, I’ve already worked with V-Drums, an old TD9 that felt like everything I need to suit my purposes.

EZD2 also gave me the option to mix inside the plugin’s interface and gave me an amazing output. I actually feel like this plugin’s audio engine is on another level. Much more than Kontakt’s, Addictive Drums, or any other plugin sampler I’ve tried, and trust me, I have tried all of them. The big ones that I don’t mention in this article are the ones I’ve tried and never liked. EZD2 is definitely the Best Drum Plugin I’ve ever used.

And for those who are die-hard believers of recording drums in a big studio with a recording drummer, it is amazing, yes. I’m not taking anything away from it, but I love the choices given to me by the digital option. I can change everything whenever I need, and I never get stuck with one sound and one recording per song. This alone is a good enough reason to love these plugins and the endless possibilities they introduce. Of course, at the end, it is everybody’s own opinion about how it sounds, and whether or not it’s good enough for them. Also, not having to deal with bit detection and aligning those audio recorded channels to the grid is a big deal for me. I promise you that you have heard amazing drum productions on the radio before, that were produced completely in the box with plugins and samples, NO DOUBT.

So, since then, Toontrack brought us EZ Drummer 3, which is a dream for producers like me. I highly recommend that you try it for yourself and let me know what you think 😉

Drum Kit Designer
I can’t close the Best Drum Plugin list without this beast. This is a special one. Every time I wasn’t happy with some of the snares or bass drums on the other Plugins I used, I immediately opened another channel with Drum Kit Designer, and it totally saved my ass. I was using this, mostly, to replace drums in an existing set or add to it as an added layer.

This plugin is my go-to drum sampler for demos. It is very simple, quick, and sounds amazing!
I must add that this one is exclusive to Apple Logic, so you can’t use it on any other DAW, but it is a good enough reason to move over to mac and Logic, my friends 🙂

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Best Amp Simulator

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