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The best gifts to get for music producers in 2020

The best gifts to get for music producers in 2020

Disclosure: Audio Hertz is supported by its audience. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission.


Like it or not, the holidays are upon us again. Where did the time go? Oh yeah, I remember; they were spent locked in my apartment gripped with fear and crippling anxiety. Well, hopefully, the holiday season will be the start of something new and better. For one thing, we know we are close to the end of the year, and it couldn’t come any sooner. Regardless of how you’ll be spending the holiday season, it’s always a good idea to show the people you love that you’re thinking of them.

Is one of your loved ones a music producer? Do you need to buy them a gift? There’s good news! I’ve put together a comprehensive guide that will take all of the thinking out of it. Everything on this list is guaranteed to make any recording musician, audio engineer, or music producer excited. You can’t miss!

Here’s my list of the best gifts to get for music producers in 2020!

Improve their room

DIY Skyline Diffuser Kit

Do It Yourself Skyline Sound Diffuser
Improve their studio’s acoustics with this diffuser!

I’m sure if you were to ask most people what the best gift was, it would never be something that the recipient has to spend time building… but these wooden diffusers are extremely easy to put together as there are included instructions and everything comes pre-cut. If you want to be an even better gift-giver, you can build it for them! Diffusers of this quality will typically go for up to 3-4 times the cost of just one of these kits.

Cable Wrangler

Cable Wrangler Cable Organizer

Studios can get messy! Anything that will help me organize my space so I don’t have to worry about cleaning up as often is something I’m extremely interested in. I found this nifty cable hanger randomly and thought it was a great way to easily store cables. I currently go with some cheap cup hooks, but this design is pretty genius and makes a great gift for any musician. We all have a ton of cables lying around our room. It’s part of the job.

Gator Frameworks Wall Mountable Cable Hanger and Organizer

Gator Frameworks Wall Mountable Cable Hanger and Organizer

Recording studios have cables. Lots and lots of cables. It’s more difficult than it should be to store them easily. This wall-mountable cable hanger solves that age-old problem by making it easy to hang and retrieve your most used cables of all sizes.

Neewer NW-6 Vocal Booth Microphone Isolation Shield

Neewer NW-6 Vocal Booth Microphone Isolation Shield

There’s no replacement for treating a room properly, but these portable reflection filters definitely help and are great to have around any studio. These things make it easy to set up and record quality sounding vocal tracks anywhere you want. With a good reflection filter, you can be confident that your tracks will definitely be useable when it comes time for mixing. I also like these when I record vocals without headphones, as they do a great job at blocking out the sound from the speakers. They are well worth it for the price, and any producer with a home studio would benefit and appreciate having one of these around.

Poster from Analog Prints

Analogprints.net Analog Audio Music Production Poster
Analogprints.net Analog Audio Music Production Poster

Scott Iulianelli has been making some absolutely killer analog inspired art merch for the last few years. His work never ceases to amaze me and I would buy it all if I could. You can’t go wrong with anything in his store.

Music wall art from Gliss Prints

Music synth wall art from Gliss Prints

This classy sleek synth poster would look great on the wall of any studio or music room.

Recording and On-Air Lightbox Signs

Recording Lightbox
RCA Style Recording Lightbox

You really only see them in old movies and television shows, but I’ve always wanted one of these to hang in my room. This is the perfect accent for any home studio, and it’s something most wouldn’t buy for themselves, which makes it a great gift.

Handcrafted Guitar Amp Wall Mounted Key Holder by Droplight Ind.

Handcrafted Guitar Amp Wall Mounted Key Holder by Droplight Ind.

A musician’s solution to the classic dilemma that is misplacing your keys. These are hand made in the good ol’ USA and include 1/4″ plug keychains. Plug in your keys when you get home and unplug them when you’re ready to head out. The cherry on the top is that the jewel light really works when you turn it on.

Improve their workflow

External Hard Drive

You can never have enough hard drives. Give the gift of more storage space this year. The Samsung T5 and the WD My Passport are solid-state or SSDs. Solid-state drives are more reliable and have much faster read and write speeds than your standard hard drives. These are best used as work drives to save projects and sample libraries. The 5TB WD Elements is a standard hard drive, which, although it has slower read and write speeds, is more affordable and a better option for long term storage.

Samsung 1TB T5 Portable Solid-State Drive

Samsung Solid State Drive T5

WD 1TB My Passport SSD External Portable Drive

Western Digital 1TB My Passport Solid State Drive External Portable Hard Drive

WD 5TB Elements Portable External Hard Drive

Western Digital 5TB Elements Portable External Hard Drive

Backblaze Cloud Storage

Back Blaze Cloud Backup Solution

This is one I included on my list last year, and it will probably be on my gift guide every year for the rest of entirety. If you couldn’t tell from my emphasis on hard drives, backing up files is important for all audio engineers and producers. Unlike painters that have to store large canvas, as musicians, our art lives in the digital realm, and services like Backblaze make it easy to preserve our most valuable creations.

$5 a month for unlimited cloud storage! $5 lets you back up as many files as they can throw at it. The desktop application allows you to seamlessly back up your drives as well as set up an upload schedule. Whoever gets this will never lose another session again!

Shortcut keyboard covers for their DAW of choice

KBCovers Shortcut keyboard covers for DAW

Shortcuts or hotkeys are a combination of keys on a keyboard that perform a task on a computer or, more specifically for musicians, a digital audio workstation. Using hotkeys speeds up workflow drastically. Someone that is well versed in the hotkeys of their DAW of choice looks like a magician while they are mixing or editing, easily jumping from different tasks where it might take two or three times as long if they had used the mouse to do the same task. The only hard part about hotkeys is remembering them. It’s like learning another language. These keyboard covers put the hotkeys right in front of you. Not only is it a convenient reference tool, but it also teaches you hotkeys you might not have known before. If you’re buying this for someone, make sure you know what DAW they use and what type of computer they have.

Elgato Stream Deck – Live Content Creation Controller with 15 Customizable LCD Keys

Elgato Stream Deck Live Content Creation Controller

The Stream Deck is the future! Originally developed for streamers and content creators, the Stream Deck can be utilized to map tasks in applications to buttons. You can make your own shortcuts in your DAW of choice and map them to the 16 configurable LCD buttons. You can even put custom graphics or text on each of the buttons. The possibilities are endless with this thing. You have to see it to believe it. Check out this demonstration video below.

Protect their gear

Cases and dust covers. We hate to buy them, but we all need them, which means they make a great gift.

Analog cases

Analog case for UAD Apollo Twin

Decksavers

Decksaver Dust Cover for Audio Gear

Kaces Stretchy Keyboard Dust Cover

Keyboard Synth Dust Cover

Take them to school

How Music Works? By David Byrne

How Music Works by David Byrne

David Byrne is a musical Yoda. In his book “How Music Works,” Bryne’s elegantly explains how music is shaped by our surroundings. He also gets into the beginning of recording technology and the profound impact it has had on the world we live in. If you’re looking to open up a musician’s mind and have them look at their art form in a new exciting way, this book is the perfect gift.

The Mixing Engineer’s Handbook by Bobby Owinski

The Mixing Engineer’s Handbook by Bobby Owinski

My favorite book on mixing. It’s one of the only books I will go back to over and over again. Even after reading it multiple times, I’ll still pick up something new. Books make great gifts, and this is one every mixing engineer should keep on their shelf.

Mix with the Masters Subscription

Mix with the Masters

This might be the most valuable resource for any recording musician, music producer, or audio engineer. These well-made tutorial videos allow you to work right alongside some of the greatest minds in the industry.

Tools of the trade

Leatherman Multitool

Leatherman Multitool

Everyone needs a Leatherman. And by everyone, I mean every single person that exists in the world. Receiving your first Leatherman is a right of passage that all audio engineers need to experience. Trust me, it’s an incredibly rewarding experience; imagine walking around with a single tool that could do as much as 13 individual tools. Can you imagine the power you would wield? No, you didn’t just become Superman; you’re only holding a Leatherman. You can even store it in the included sheath and attach it to your belt, like it’s Excalibur.

Ibanez MTZ11 Quick Access Multi Tool

Ibanez MTZ11 Quick Access Multi Tool

This guitar multi-tool has everything you need to adjust guitars. Great for having around the studio in case any guitars need some fine-tuning.

D’Addario All-In-1 Restringing Tool

D’Addario All-In-1 Restringing Tool

Stringing a guitar is annoying. This tool makes it less annoying.

DeoxIT 5% Spray Contact Cleaner, 5 oz.

DeoxIT Spray Electronic Contact Cleaner 5 oz.

This spray can be found in just about every studio around the world. A little spritz of this stuff helps protect, lubricate, and improve the conductivity of electronics.  It also helps reduce intermittent connections, arcing, and RFI, as well as wear and abrasion. Not the sexiest gift but definitely something useful that anyone with a lot of gear could use.

myVolts Hot Tip

myVolts Hot Tip

This cool little gadget tells you if your AC adapters are working properly. Simply plug in a synth or guitar pedal power adapter to the hot tip, and it will light up if it is receiving the correct amount of power to the device. If you have a lot of AC adapters, you know that they don’t always last forever, the hot tip allows you to quickly check if an adapter is working properly.

Improve their productions

Radial EXTC-SA Guitar Effects Interface

Radial EXTC-SA Guitar Effects Interface

This guitar effects router allows you to use any guitar pedal as a piece of outboard gear. That means with this little orange guy, it’s possible to send anything you want out of your DAW to your favorite delay, distortion, or any other guitar pedal you may have laying around. Start putting those pedals to use on more than just a guitar!

Radial Tank Driver Reverb Interface

Radial Tank Driver Reverb Interface

This 500 series module lets you use the reverb tank on a guitar amp as a piece of outboard gear. Use the Tank Driver to send anything to a guitar amps reverb tank, record it back into a DAW for a truly authentic-sounding spring reverb. Pretty nifty.

Korg Monotron Delay

Korg Monotron Delay

This badass palm-sized, battery-operated synth is a real workhorse. The synth is made up of a ribbon keyboard controller, 5 knobs, and a single switch. The simplicity makes it easy to get started but the unit’s more advanced capabilities are truly remarkable. The included delay and original MS-20 filter put it over the top. I also love that it has an aux input, so you can use the filter on any source external source. It’s an incredible value and insanely fun little go-anywhere synth.

Vox amPlug 2 AC30 Headphone Guitar Amp

Vox amPlug 2 AC30 Headphone Guitar Amp
Vox amPlug 2 AC30 Headphone Guitar Amp

This little battery-operated amp sounds better than you probably think. Connect the amPlug to the input of your guitar and use the headphone output to hear that sweet vox tone. With this thing, practicing at night will no longer be a problem.

Jammy G MIDI Guitar & Controller

Jammy G MIDI Guitar & Controller

The Jammy G might have the worst name ever, but it is a great idea and extremely well done. This digital midi guitar can be used to control any software instrument or device in a DAW. The guitar has 15 frets with sensors that track your finger position, string muting, and bends. The built-in USB port allows you to connect it to ur computer easily. But the best part about this thing is that it has nearly zero latency, which makes playing it that much more seamless.

It’s definitely not a replacement for a guitar as the feel of the sensors takes getting used to, but once you do, it’s hours of fun and a legitimate production tool. It’s a new world being able to play my synths and software instruments like a guitar. As a composition tool, the Jammy G gives me a fresh approach to writing chord progressions and melodies. I’ll often find myself creating things I wouldn’t have been able to if I was using a standard keyboard or using my mouse to click in notes on the piano roll.

Zoom H4n Pro 4-Track Portable Recorder

Zoom H4n Pro 4-Track Portable Recorder

This 4 track portable recorder makes it easy to record anywhere on the go. Capture any sound you want quickly and easily. The built-in Stereo X/Y condenser microphones sound remarkably good and there are also analog XLR/TRS mic and line inputs.

Can’t miss industry standards

Everyone needs two of each of these. The Shure SM57 and 58 dynamic microphones are staples of recording. Every recording musician would be happy to have more of them! The Sony 7506s are the classic closed-back over-ear headphones with a pronounced mid-range. They can be found in just about every recording and broadcast studio around the world. The Radial Pro DI is a little green box that does its job and does it well, whether you’re using it to DI a bass guitar or a synth; there’s nothing I wouldn’t feel comfortable putting through this bad boy.

Shure SM57

Shure SM57

Shure SM58

Shure SM58

Sony MDR7506 Headphones

Sony MDR7506 Headphones

Radial Pro DI Passive Direct Box

Radial Pro DI Passive Direct Box

RELATED ARTICLES:

The best gifts to get for music producers in 2019
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What the f*ck is a Baxandall EQ?

What the f*ck is a Baxandall EQ?

Disclosure: Audio Hertz is supported by its audience. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission.


Dangerous BAX EQ

You’ve probably seen plugins, guitar amps, or stereos that replicate a Baxandall circuit, or maybe you’ve heard of the popular Dangerous BAX mastering equalizer. Peter Baxandall designed the Baxandall tone circuit or EQ in 1950, and they were then implemented into millions of audio systems around the world.

So what is a Baxandall equalizer circuit, and what makes it different than other equalizers?

The Baxandall equalizer is a shelving EQ, but unlike traditional shelving EQs, which have a steep rise or fall above the set frequency, the Baxandall shelving curve has an extremely wide Q curve, which creates a gentle slope. The broad curve can adjust a large portion of the frequency spectrum, but the gentle slope allows for a more natural sound and minimal phase distortion. The minimal phase distortion enables users to make more drastic boosts and cuts without imparting negative artifacts into the signal. This results in a wide, open sound that enhances the source’s sonic character that’s already there rather than imparting its own sonic character. These equalizers offer a subtle yet remarkably effective way of adjusting the frequency spectrum, which is why you’ll often find them being used on the mix bus and for mastering.

History

During World War II, Baxandall consulted for the Telecommunications Research Establishment in the Circuit Research Division. It was there he spent his time working on many different types of projects, including frequency transformers, powered loudspeakers, oscillators, high-speed tape duplicating equipment, high precision microphone calibration methods, among many more things. His hero, Alan Blumlein, who you might know for his stereo micing technique, also worked for the TRE.

Peter Baxandall

Lucky for us, Baxandall was enormously generous and patient with passing on his knowledge. He was also remarkably good at conveying very complicated topics in a simple and easily understandable form. He published his tone circuit in a 1952 article in Wireless World magazine. Have you ever seen the Bass and Treble knobs on a stereo? That’s likely a Baxandall EQ circuit. He never collected a single royalty while even a minuscule percentage would’ve made him an extremely wealthy man. This might be the greatest testament to his generosity; he genuinely wanted the world to sound better.

More History

The term equalization was likely derived from the various operators’ requirements at the time (phone, motion picture, broadcast, etc.) that were attempting to get their audio back to a flat frequency response or equal. Equalization, or filtering as it was also called, has been part of audio equipment since the beginning of the technology. Early radios came equipped with high frequency or top cut filters to remove unwanted noise or artifacts. Early telephone lines used equalizers to put back the high end that was lost in transmission. These equalizers were not fully adjustable like the parametric equalizers you’ll find in your DAW today.

Do you want to try a Baxandall EQ?

These plugins are available for free,
Acustica Audio Coral Bax-ter EQ
Kuassa BasiQ
Fuse Audio Labs RS-W2395C Baxandall EQ

Related articles:
What the f*ck is Linear Phase EQ?
What the f*ck is 32 bit floating?
Everything you need to know about reverb
What the f*ck is audio clipping?
The “your mixes sound bad in the car” phenomenon

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10 things you need for your recording studio that will make life easier

10 things you need for your recording studio that will make life easier

Disclosure: Audio Hertz is supported by its audience. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission.


Dry Erase White Board

It’s a lot harder to procrastinate your to-do list when it’s staring you in the face every day. When you wake up, there it is; when you change your clothes, there it is; when you go to sleep, there it is. These boards make it easy to write out lists or draw things to help plan projects or visualize techniques or concepts. Sometimes words are confusing, and it’s easier to draw a picture. Dry erase markers make it easy to add and change things as you go, and the scented ones smell good. I like to use whiteboards to track the progress of projects. It usually will take multiple sessions to complete projects. Adding a list of things I’ve done and things I still need to do makes it easy to stay productive and complete tasks.

Velcro Cable Ties

No cable shall be left untied! That is the vow I make every single day I step foot into the studio. It is my duty as a qualified, experienced audio engineer to wrap my cables properly and make sure they are tied!

But seriously, make sure your cables are tied! Velcro cable ties help you organize and manage cables, which make things look cleaner. Manging your cable clutter keeps your studio looking a little less messy. I’m not a massive fan of having an immaculate studio, but I emphasize cable management, as I’m a firm believer in a poorly run cable is an unhappy cable. Look up ways to neatly organize and manage your cables in your studio, so you don’t have to look at a big rats nest on the ground all the time; you’ll thank me later.

Wrap your cables and velcro them together for optimal storage and transportation. No more tangled wires!

Label maker


You get a label! And you get a label! Everything gets a label! I’m the Oprah Winfrey of labeling things. I love knowing exactly what is in a box when I look at it. You’d be surprised how much time it saves when you’re looking at something and can tell what it is right away. Labeling can save seconds or even minutes, and those can add up. I also like to label any switches or buttons. For instance, I have a passive speaker switcher from Coleman Audio, so I label each button with the corresponding speaker. Now anyone that comes into my studio knows what button engages which pair of speakers. Labeling everything is especially necessary if other engineers or producers are going to be using your studio.

Another beneficial way of using the label maker is to label ends of cables. Labeling both ends allows you to know where each cable goes quickly regardless of which side you look at. This is extremely useful when making long runs where it can get confusing fast.

Console Labeling Tape

You might think this looks like regular old masking tape but go and try and use masking tape to label your gear. Good labeling tape is thick enough to write on with a sharpie and isn’t completely translucent; it also doesn’t leave a residue when you take it off.

I use labeling tape for the obvious uses, such as temporarily labeling a mixing console, switches, cables, and other gear. I also use it to write passive-aggressive notes around the studio such as “HANDS OFF” or “DID YOU PUT IT BACK WHERE YOU FOUND IT?”

Gaffer Tape

I don’t know what I did before I found gaffer tape. If you’ve worked in Live Sound, Theatre or Film, you’re likely already familiar with the magic that is gaffer tape. I literally will use the stuff for everything. If anything needs holding in place, I grab the gaff tape. Gaff tape is like duct tape, except it’s way better. The main difference is gaff tape is made with cloth instead of vinyl, and the adhesive comes off easier and leaves little to no residue. One of the most common uses of gaff tape is to adhere cables to the floor, so they’re not tripping hazards. I recently had some blinds on my bedroom window that didn’t want to close all the way– a little gaffer tape and that problem was solved quickly and easily, albeit maybe not the most attractively.

Sharpie Permanent Markers Fine Point

Because you can never have enough sharpies! Sure, you can label things with your new label maker, but you’ll also need to mark things on the fly that are temporary. After applying some artist tape to the console, I use sharpies to label each channel.  I also use Sharpies to label the end of cables. You can see I like to label things. Labeling helps you stay organized, and being organized saves you time and helps you work more efficiently.

Small Foldable Table

Control rooms and recording studios can get weird. You never know when you might have twelve percussion instruments, a vintage tape delay, and three laptops that you need to put somewhere. Foldable tables and chairs of all sizes are life savers when it comes to times like these. It also prevents accidents when someone decides to put something expensive on a window ledge, and it falls as soon as the drummer hits the kick drum.

Clip-on light

Because everyone needs light! I like to keep my studio somewhat dark and vibey, and clip-on lights allow me to easily grant my clients the ability to illuminate whatever they want at the drop of a hat. Throw one on a music stand, your desk, pedalboard, amp, or synth. Whatever needs illuminating, one of these babies has got you covered!

1 to 4 Outlet Power Splitter

We’ve all been there– you have two pieces of gear that need power and only one outlet. Do you play the ol’ ‘let me unplug the one I don’t use as often now and then when I need it I’ll figure it out’ game? Just kick the problem down the road to the future you? No! No, you don’t!

With one of these 1 to 4 outlet power splitters, you can turn a single outlet into 4. It also helps when you have a couple of fat wall warts (fat wall wart shaming is allowed) that need some extra space that your surge protector, power conditioner, or UPS doesn’t have. They also make these 1 to 2 or 1 to 1. I like to have a few of these lying around, so I never have to worry about fat wall warts spoiling the party.

Alexa Smart Plugs Wifi Remote Outlets

Turn anything on or off from your smartphone using an app. You can control these devices when you’re not at home or put them on a schedule or timer.

I’ve found a lot of uses for these. I have one connected to a fan in the live room, and now when someone forgets to turn it off, I can do it from my phone. Instead of asking one of my clients or an intern to go into the live room to turn it off before we start recording, I can open an app on my phone and tap a button. It’s incredibly convenient, and I’ve found other one-off uses for these as well that have made them a handy tool to have around the studio.

Indoor Smart Home Camera

I don’t think many people know this, but indoor security cameras are incredibly cheap and work pretty damn well. If you have people at your studio, especially if your studio is in your house, it’s not a bad idea to get a few of these so you can monitor what’s going on remotely. This one even has a motion detector so you can set to start recording when it detects movement, and it will then immediately upload it up to a cloud storage service. I’ve been fortunate that I haven’t dealt with many thieves or dishonest clients. Still, it’s always good to plan for the worst, and a camera is an excellent way to ensure your studio and possessions’ safety if anything does happen.

12 in 1 Cable Tester

Maybe it’s the cable? I’ve probably heard that a million times in my career. Spoiler alert! It’s usually not the cable, but at least a cable tester will give you a quick and easy way to find out if it is. These are also especially vital if you make your own cables and check to make sure everything is wired correctly. I’ve wired a few XLR cables backward in my day. The cool part about this tester is it does 12 different types of connections commonly found around a recording studio. This device can test for other types of connections: USB, RCA, Speakon, Banana plugs, DIN, RJ45, and more.

Sandbags

Microphones can be heavy. I like to have sandbags around to help weigh down any stands that may seem a little less stable than I’d like. A few sandbags on the bottom of a stand will help ensure your stands stay where you want them, so you don’t go slamming the original Neumann U47 on the floor of your studio.

Backblaze

Backblaze Cloud Storage

Backup your files, back up those files, and then back up those files. I used to be really careless when it came to storing old projects and files. It turns out those files meant a lot to me, and having them in just one place wasn’t a good idea. There is nothing worse than losing a project or session. You’ll never get it back.

It would be best if you always had everything important backed up at least three times, with one of those backups being in a different location than the other two. If any of your data is only in one place, you’re at risk of losing it. It’s essential to have not only local backups of your files but also off-site or cloud backups. If there is ever a fire or natural disaster and the location where your drives are stored is damaged, you won’t be able to retrieve your files no matter how many copies you have. This is why having a cloud storage service like Backblaze is so crucial if you’re serious about keeping your data forever.

Backblaze is a cloud backup service that automatically backups every one of your drives for only $5 a month. If you ever lose a hard drive or a file, you can download it or have them send you a hard drive with the same files on it. I’ve lost some of my old music that I wish I still had. I will never make that mistake again. With Backblaze, I’m guaranteed to have my files no matter what happens.

Related articles:
The best gifts to get for music producers in 2019
The “your mixes sound bad in the car” phenomenon
20 quick and easy tips that will improve your productions
5 mixing mistakes that I used to make… and how to avoid them

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The best gifts to get for music producers in 2019

The best gifts to get for music producers in 2019

Disclosure: Audio Hertz is supported by its audience. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission.


NEW! The best gifts to get for music producers in 2020

The most wonderful time of the year is upon us… or the most annoying time of the year, depending on your holiday spirit. Regardless of how you feel about the holidays, most of us still need to succumb to the gift-giving traditions passed down by our great ancestors. I mean, what better way is there to show someone that you love them than spending money on them?

Finding gifts for your loved ones can be a horribly daunting task. The truth is the best gifts aren’t the most expensive. It’s the thought that counts! The perfect gift is something that the recipient needs and can use, with bonus points added if they normally wouldn’t buy it for themselves. The purpose of giving a gift is to show the person that we care about them.

If one of your loved ones is an audio engineer or music producer, the good news is that I’ve put together this comprehensive guide that will take all of the thinking out of it. These are all gifts that every single recording musician would be glad to receive this holiday season! You can’t miss!

I separated this list into different categories based on how they would improve the recipient’s life, and I tried to keep the cost below $100 with some exceptions.

Here is my list of the best gifts to get for music producers in 2019.

Improve their room

Hipster lamps

These cool Edison bulb lamps aren’t just for hip coffee shops. Spice up any studio with a few of these and help give the room a more rustic industrial look that’s sure to impress anyone from Brooklyn.

Color changing LED light strips

These LED lights have become a staple in studios around the world because they are an extremely cheap and easy way to add interesting accent lighting to any room. These come as adhesive strips, making it easy to run along the studio’s edges and corners. They also include a remote, so you have the ability to change colors based on your mood.

Color changing light ball

It’s an 8 inch LED ball. Buy a few and spread them around your room for those futuristic vibes.

Decorative string lights

Wood trim panels for their favorite pieces of gear

What’s sexier than an analog synthesizer with wood trim panels? Nothing. The answer is nothing.

Aromatherapy essential oils diffuser

Spending long amounts of time locked in a studio can get the air smelling a little funky. With an essential oil diffuser, they can start recording with the sweet scent of peppermint and eucalyptus wafting in the air.

Improve their health

Air Purifier

Like I said, a recording studio can get funky! Make sure the air their breathing is so fresh and so clean.

Better chair

MARKUS from Ikea

The desk chair is the heart of the studio. We spend the majority of our time sitting on it! I see many engineers posting pictures using expensive pieces of outboard gear while they sit on a hand me down desk chair that’s falling apart. The MARKUS from Ikea isn’t cheap, but with a 10-year warranty, it should last those long nights and obese clients.

Earplugs

Protect their ears with a pair of these Eargasm earplugs for musicians.

Improve their workflow

Backblaze subscription

$5 a month for unlimited cloud storage! That’s right! $5 for one computer and as many files as they can throw at it. The desktop application automatically backs up their drives and stores them in the cloud. They’ll never lose another session.

Sonarworks Reference 4

I can’t say enough good things about Sonarworks Reference 4. It’s an absolute game-changer, and I honestly wouldn’t be able to work without it. For $300, you can make a drastic improvement to the monitoring situation of any studio. This gift will make you a hero to any music producer.

Shortcut keyboard covers for their DAW of choice

Shortcuts are a pain in the ass to learn, but these keyboard covers from KBCovers.com make it a lot easier. They have covers for every DAW and MacBook keyboard style; just make sure you buy the correct one.

Improve their productions

Teenage Engineering PO-33 KO

This little calculator looking device is really a super-powerful sampler that includes a built-in microphone with sound quality that’s good enough to use in your productions. These are really fun to play with but are also a legitimate musical instrument to create with.

Stylophone

Invented in 1967, this stylus-based analog synth is a fun time for the whole family! Okay… Maybe not for the whole family, but they definitely are a fun, cheap toy that can actually be used as a real instrument.

Korg Volca FM

Considered to be the portable version of the famous Yamaha DX7, you can really get some tasty synth sounds with this thing. The Volca series has a bunch of exciting synthesizers, but for me, the FM is the standout and something that every studio could benefit from having around.

Subscription to Splice

This subscription service gives you monthly credits that allow you to download samples. The desktop application makes it easy to search for new samples to download and drag and drop on to your sessions.

Take them to school

Subscription to Mix With The Masters

Mix With The Masters is such an incredibly valuable resource for engineers and producers of all skill levels. For the first time, we get to sit in with the industry leaders and see how they think and the techniques they use to create the songs we know and love.

The Mixing Engineer’s Handbook by Bobby Owsinski

This is the only book on mixing anyone needs and the only one I would recommend gifting. Bobby Owinski nails it.

For more gift ideas check out 20 unique things for your recording studio on Etsy.

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What the f*ck is a power conditioner?

What the f*ck is a power conditioner?

Disclosure: Audio Hertz is supported by its audience. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission.


Furman M-8X2 Power Conditioner
Furman M-8X2

We’ve all seen them. Those black units at the top of just about every single rack of gear. Sometimes they even have cool lights that pop out and an outlet on the front so your buddy can easily charge his JUUL. But what do power conditioners really do and when is it worth it or beneficial for you to buy one for your studio?

Rack of audio gear with a power conditioner

The goal of a power conditioner is to filter, clean and stabilize incoming AC power. This, in theory, should preserve your equipment as well as improve performance. There’s an overwhelming amount of varying opinions on what exactly a good power conditioner is. A common sentiment on internet forums and messages boards is that most cheaper and more commonly used power conditioners are nothing more than an expensive box with a surge protector in it. A surge protector is used to prevent a power surge from causing damage to your electronic devices where a power conditioner is used to prevent noise and voltage fluctuations from causing issues.

Even an opinion piece on a supposedly reputable website like Computerworld.com, in which the author attest to the benefits of using a power conditioner, still come with no definitive proof. Just reading the author’s choice of words exude uncertainty, like he’s not even sure what the truth is.

“I can’t say with certainty that it [power conditioner] has improved the service life of my electronics, but I haven’t suffered a power related failure in the past 15 years”

Not exactly the best commercial for Team Power Conditioner. In fact, if I was making a commercial for a power conditioner and that was one of the customer testimonials, I’d probably leave that one out.

The author then goes on to cite a specific instance when he heard a hum through his guitar amplifier and his power conditioner was able to instantly remove it, claiming this as proof of the magic powers of his power conditioner. The only problem with that is that hum is usually caused by a ground loop and a power conditioner doesn’t have anything to do with that.

So what’s the truth? Are the thousands upon thousands of audio professionals using the base model Furman power conditioners stupid for wasting their money? That seems unlikely but it was still hard to find a clear definitive answer because the internet is littered with contradicting information and opinions. There seem to be four different schools of thought on how to properly power professional audio gear. I’ll explain each way and then I recommend you make your own educated decision depending on your situation.

Rack of audio gear with Furman Power Conditioner

The first school consists of people that believe in using a power conditioner. These people believe a conditioner is an effective and necessary tool that allows you to get the most out of your gear as well as preserve its components by providing the unit with consistent, stable, and clean power. They believe it reduces stress on their gear from things like brownouts and voltage sag.

The second school is made up of people that don’t believe anyone in the first school. They believe that any power conditioner within a few hundred dollars is not really conditioning anything and is nothing more than a rack mountable surge protector. Because of this, they choose to buy a $10 surge protector power strip, or a $30 rack mountable power strip and call it a day.

The third school believes in using a pure sine wave UPS (they almost always include a built in a surge protector). It is important that you look for a UPS that puts out a pure sine wave as many of the lower priced units use a simulated sine wave, which can cause some power supplies to buzz and are not recommended for professional use.

The last school believes you really need to use a voltage regulator. Voltage regulators, which are also made by Furman, can run you well over $1,000. It seems that many people believe their power conditioners are regulating the voltage when that’s not actually the case. The Furman P-1800 AR Advanced Level Voltage Regulator/Power Conditioner, claims to offer “True RMS Voltage Regulation delivers a stable 120 volts of AC power to protect equipment from problems caused by AC line voltage irregularities.”

There are obviously some other ways of going about powering your audio gear and you can certainly combine all three schools of thought for the ultimate peace of mind, but these three are definitely the most common.

As for proof on what inexpensive power conditioners are really doing and if they work? Sorry, I can’t help you with that. That will continue to be debated by audio nerds for decades to come, right alongside “Do cables make an audible difference?”

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20 unique things for your recording studio on Etsy

20 unique things for your recording studio on Etsy

Disclosure: Audio Hertz is supported by its audience. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission.


Robotic Drum Kit from RobotRickshaw

We all hate drummers. Well, now we don’t need them anymore! You can buy this silly robot for the low low price of $3,865. That’s all it takes to rid yourself of drummers forever! Small price to pay, if you ask me. #drummerjokes #drummersarestupid

12-Bit DIY Arcade Sampler from DigDugDIY

If you asked me last week what a 12-Bit DIY Arcade Sampler was, I would have given you a blank stare. Well, not this week! This week I can tell you exactly what a 12-Bit DIY Arcade sampler is. But you know what? I’ll just show you this video instead, why waste time writing out an explanation. This thing is fucking cool and you’ll want one. Check out the DIY artist collective DigDugDIY based out of Rochester in upstate New York. They make some super unique synth instruments and effects.

Hand-wired stereo rack mountable spring reverb unit from RecoveryEffects

I’ve always wanted a real outboard spring reverb unit. In plugin land, we have access to thousands of reverb algorithms and impulse responses. What we don’t have is real genuine physical reverb, waves bouncing against a spring, plate or room and fed back into your mix buss. Real is exactly what you get with a spring reverb unit. The Endless Summer Deluxe Reverb, not only sounds great but is also very reasonably priced. I wanted to build my own at one point but for this price, there’s no way I’d be able to build anything of this quality for the same price.

Altura Theremin MIDI Controller

This one isn’t as much a professional tool as it is something that’s fun to play with and would be an interesting talking point. This little device converts Theremin data into MIDI. Have hours of fun waving your arms and controlling whatever you want in your DAW! I haven’t bought my own yet but when I do I’ll report back on whether it’s possible to pretend you’re conducting an orchestra while also adjusting the levels of faders.

Wood diffuser wall art

Who doesn’t want a sunflower sound diffuser in their control room!? Alright, so maybe sunflowers aren’t your thing, well you can find a ton of different options on Etsy for cool looking wall art diffusers that will spice up your studio. There are funky ones like the sunflower, but also others that are more suitable for non-sunflower lovers.

Sunflower sound diffuser from Pixelood
Handmade from reclaimed wood diffuser from LiamReidlinger.

Guitar pedals built into funny housings from IndianolaLabs

You can put a guitar pedal in anything these days and that’s exactly what Indianola Labs is doing. Find fun guitar pedals in all types of things like a band-aid container, E.T. lunchbox, or a doll head.

Circuit bent anything and everything from Psychiceyeclix

I just want one of these so I can have a Furby and Buzz Lightyear phone in my studio.

Who wouldn’t want this creepy circuit bent Furby?
Or this Buzz Lightyear phone?

Wooden Eurorack suitcase from ModularSynthLab

If you’re like me then you’ve dreamed of bringing a suitcase to work every day. Now we can! If you show up to the studio with a beautiful wooden suitcase full of eurorack modules you’re going to be an absolute legend. Don’t you want to be a legend?

Wooden eurorack case
Imagine walking into work with one of these?

Weird synthesizers

This fuzzy pedal looks like that fiberglass insulation in walls that you’re not supposed to touch but hey, it sounds cool and will definitely draw some attention.

The interesting looking fuzzy exterior of the M1 from TinyDiodes.

The Drone Jar optical synth responds to light from MichaelRucci.

Passive Filter by MichaelRucci

This simple but potentially life saving device will help filter out any instrument of your choice, passively, for only $25.

Weird microphones

Hand-wired Telephone Microphone and Preamp from Recovery Effects

Wasaphone MKII Live Lo-Fi Microphone

Tin Can Microphone from FunWithHands

Turn a can of Hunt’s Manwich Sloppy Joe Sauce into a unique lo-fi microphone. The mic comes attached to a top that fits just about every tin can you have in your pantry. You can listen to a vocalist using it at a live show here.

Make your own instrument kits from Bestzimo

Build your own instrument kits. I don’t have anything funny to say about these.

Make your own violin kit

Weird guitar hangers from GuitarGrips

Hang up your guitars in style! Why put your guitar on some stupid old guitar stand or wall mount when you can gently place it into a copper hand or tree stump? Come on now, this isn’t rocket science!

Antique copper hand guitar hanger
Lumpy tree stump guitar hanger

Homemade cigar box and oil can guitars

Etsy was made for Cigar Box Guitars or CBGs as the kids call them. There’s a whole community of people that love these things. They sound horrible but I guess there’s something interesting about them, if you like that type of thing or if you’re on a farm and there’s no way you can get to a Guitar Center and Sweetwater or Amazon won’t deliver to you.

Korg MS20 pillow

It’s a pillow that looks like a synth. Pretty cool, right?

Just think about how good you’d sleep if your head was resting on one of these bad boys.

Tape machine that was turned into a lamp

It’s not cheap but this lamp made out of a Telefunken Magnetophone 201TS tape machine is a great way to light up any control room!

Audio engineer bobblehead

Your studio doesn’t have enough audio engineer bobbleheads, trust me, you need this. Some even claim it makes their mixes sound fuller.

Also a great gift for Mother’s Day.

Die cast aluminum iLok case

You don’t want to lose your iLok… Trust me. I had the wonderful experience of misplacing my iLok a little while ago and had to email all of the developers I had purchased plugins from to ask if they could resend authorizations to my new account. Some companies even charge you for this. This nifty alumbium box adds some weight to that valuable USB stick and also looks pretty damn bad ass.

It’s also bulletproof! Ok, not really but that would be cool.

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Classic recording consoles: SSL, Neve, and REDD

Recording console

Disclosure: Audio Hertz is supported by its audience. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission.


Classic recording consoles SSL, Neve, and REDD

Classic recording consoles are extremely sought after for the hands-on workflow and larger than life sound quality. There’s nothing like riding the volume of a vocal, having your fingers on a real fader while being able to easily reach to an immaculate sounding equalizer and compressor on every channel. With all good comes some bad, and using a console has its fair share of cons. For starters, they are huge. It requires a lot of space, energy, and patience to run and maintain such an enormous piece of gear properly.  Still, the ability to touch a console with your fingers and express your sonic desires physically, moving faders, twisting knobs, and pushing buttons, cannot be emulated with a computer or touch screen.

Everything started with analog gear and recording consoles, and today’s DAWs take direct influence from the past. Large format consoles have thousands of switches, transistors, capacitors, relays, and other components that make the elaborate device work. These large intricate, and complicated tools are true marvels of electrical engineering. Today it’s easy to take for granted just how remarkable consoles are. Techniques previously only accomplished with a console, tape machine, and meticulous editing are now easily done within a computer.

I’m not here to debate if analog or digital is better, I’ll leave that to Gearslutz and Facebook groups (spoiler alert: it doesn’t matter, and you should use whatever works for you), but I am here to honor the great recording consoles that paved the way for modern recording techniques. I made a list of some classic consoles that have been heard on countless hit records (and even more that weren’t hits) and decided to write about their history and what makes them unique. Some people like to experience the nostalgia of classic cars, clothing, toys, or art; well, I like consoles and audio gear.

SSL 4000-E/G

Classic recording console SSL 4000B

Solid State Logic, better known as SSL, was founded in 1969 by Colin Sanders. The company’s first products were switching systems for pipe organs that used FET switches to communicate between the keyboard and the electromechanics of the pipes. These switches replaced older unreliable relays, solenoids, and thick interconnecting cables.

Colin began designing and making consoles for his studio in his home village of Stonesfield, Oxfordshire, England. The first console he made was called the “A” series, and it was continually improved upon until he decided to build six to sell to other studios and institutions. These became the 4000 B series, and he eventually sold them to studios around the world, including Townhouse Studios in London, where it was used to record the famous drum fill (and the rest of the song) for Phil Collins’ In The Air Tonight. The B Series was the first desk to integrate a studio computer system with a console.

They continued to revise the 4000 series and, in 1979, changed the game with the breakthrough 4000 E series, which was unlike anything the industry had seen before. It was the first console to have a dedicated dynamics section, which added a compressor/gate/expander on every channel. It also included the company’s famous fully parametric equalizer, which allowed engineers to boost and cut frequencies with incredible detail and accuracy. These two things, coupled with the console’s flexible routing was the catalyst for what I consider a renaissance in the art of mixing during the ’80s. These feature-packed consoles allowed engineers to explore new creative techniques to hone in on more modern, polished sounding productions. Gated toms, reverbs, scooped mids, a ton of compression, and layering were all new techniques that were only possible because of SSL consoles new features. This flexibility gave access to a whole new palette of colors for engineers to paint with and changed the way music would be heard forever.

In 1987, the company introduced the 4000 G Series console, which had a slightly different EQ section. The G Series equalizer used steeper filter slopes and incorporated a variable proportional-Q design, which automatically adjusts the Q value as you boost or cut.

In this video, Tony Masteri compares the Waves version of the two types and describes the G to be more midrange forward and better for rock and roll and the E to be rounder sounding and better for Pop, R&B, and Hip Hop.

Over the years, the company has gone through multiple owners and now resides as part of the Audiotonix Group along with Digico, Calrec, Allen & Heath, and Digigrid brands. They continue to make consoles, although they have put more effort into live and smaller hybrid analog/digital consoles.

Neve 80’s series

Very few people have had as great of an impact on music technology as Rupert Neve. Every single recording studio has some form of Neve clone, plugin, or original preamp or compressor. The name alone has become synonymous with high quality, extremely musical sounding pieces of recording gear. Their consoles have something unique about them. Whatever the magic is, there’s no arguing that Rupert Neve had an incredible ear and genius for designing audio gear. Preamps, equalizers, and compressors designed by him have lasted the test of time and are still extremely sought after.

Rupert Neve learned how to build and sell radios from a very early age. During WWII, while serving with the Royal Signals, he was able to hone his skills building radios and pa systems further. He went on to build a mobile recording studio in a US Army Dodge ambulance where he was able to record hours of opera concerts, music festivals, and public events directly to 78 RPM lacquer discs.

Classic recording console the first ever Neve desk
The first Neve console

After working for a few small radio and transformer manufacturers, he started making bookshelf loudspeakers and selling them. In the mid-1950s, he was commissioned to build a console for Desmond Leslie, a professional composer of Musique Concrete. This new experimental style of music required the use of multiple tape recorders that were playing loops with different pre-recorded sound effects. Leslie needed a way to mix his tape machines, thus giving a reason to commission the first-ever Neve console.

Pictured is German Musique Concrete composer Karlheinz Stockhausen
Pictured is German Musique Concrete composer Karlheinz Stockhausen

In the 1970’s Sir Rupert Neve entered his golden years where he was designing and producing some of his finest consoles. The 80’s series consoles are what most consider when referencing a vintage Neve console. There were many iterations of 80 series consoles through the 1970s and 1980s; each console was custom made to order, specifically for their buyer.

The majority of the 80 series consoles included entirely class A mic preamps; the 8028 included the famous 1073b while the 8058 and 8068 included 31102 mic/pre EQ modules, which are very similar to the 1073 with a few design differences and some additional hi-frequency EQ points.  Many of these consoles included the very sought after 32264a compressor/limiter. Like all Neve compressors, these use a diode bridge circuit based design, which outputs a very desirable thick, warm, smacking tone.

The 8058 and 8068 are almost the same except for an additional four channels on the latter. Another key feature that sets these desks apart from earlier consoles the company made is having eight aux sends, allowing for more flexible routing. These consoles were staples of some of the best studios in the 70s and 80s.

Classic Recording Console Neve 8058
Neve 8058

1978 saw the first 8078, which their first large format console and featured up to 72 channels. The 8078 is the last hand-wired analog console to be produced in the 80’s Series. These consoles usually come loaded with varying numbers of 31105 microphone/line preamp and EQ modules.

If you want that Neve sound and don’t have $5,000 to shell out for a single channel of the original, you can buy one of the bazillion clones that vary drastically in price and quality. If the price is not an issue, the BAE 1073’s are some of the best around. If you’re on a little bit of a smaller budget, check out the Vintech X73i. And if you’re on an even smaller budget and have a Universal Audio interface, check out the UAD unison plugin version.

REDD.17, REDD.37, and REDD.51

Beatles Abbey Road Classic recording console REDD.17
REDD.17

The Record Engineering Development Department (REDD) was established in 1955 by Abbey Road Studios’ technical engineer Lenn Page. Within a year, they had produced the REDD.1 console, which was their first dedicated stereo mixing system. At the time, EMI/Abbey Road made just about everything in house. Mass-produced consoles didn’t exist yet, so everything was designed and built for their specific needs.

The REDD.17 console was developed in 1958 and was one of the first modern-style consoles. Interestingly, this was also around the same time that Tom Dowd was in America at Atlantic Records, wiring up his first modern style recording desk. It’s up for debate as to which one came first, but the consensus is they both created these desks around the same time independently. Therefore, both should be credited.

The REDD.17 was designed by Peter Burkotwitz, who was based in EMI Electrola in Germany. This console was created in sections and pioneered modular designed systems that just about all large format consoles use today. The entire console could be broken down and shipped in five individual pieces.

The REDD 37 was the second version of the console, and only two were ever made. This new model added outputs needed to accommodate the studio’s new four-track tape machines. There were 8 inputs, 4 outputs, and treble and bass EQ adjustments on each channel.

All REDD consoles are vacuum tube-based, and the 17 and 37 models used Siemens V72S preamps. The V72S is a tube preamp that has a fixed gain level of 40 dB. Suppose you need less gain than you’ll have to move the microphone or use an attenuator. The REDD 37 is commonly known as the Beatles board; however, it was only used until 1964 and then again on their Let It Be album (when Magic Alex conned the band into commissioning him to build a console that was never completed).

EMI originally wanted eight of these desks built, but only three were actually completed. One console wound up as a prototype and found a home at Kingsway Hall, another EMI recording facility. The other two were slightly upgraded models of the prototype and became actual production models. Those both landed at Abbey Road in Studio One and Two.

REDD.17 Beatles Abbey Road Recording Console
REDD.51

In January of 1964, EMI replaced the REDD.37 console in Studio Two with the brand new REDD.51. The main difference between the 51 and previous models is the amps used; instead of using the V72s like the 17 and 37, this console used REDD 47 amps. These new amps were built in house and offered lower distortion and more headroom than the V72s. Only four REDD.51 desks were made, and they were eventually phased out in the late ’60s for the transistor-based TG series. Today there is only one known REDD.51 in existence, and it is located at British Grove Studios in London.

Both the 37 and 51 featured 14 painton quadrant faders (and yes, those are the ones that look like space ship levers). The levers controlled the eight mic channels, two aux channels, and the four central faders controlled the master outputs to the 4-track tape machine.

Also found on the console are dedicated echo sends and returns, different styles of pan pots, and a unique spreader control, which allows for adjustment of the stereo image.

If you’re looking for that vintage REDD sound, you’re in luck, Chandler Limited has cloned the preamps very well. A-Designs also makes the super fat sounding REDDI tube DI box, and Kush has a great plugin version of it.

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5 of the rarest and most unique synths ever made

5 of the rarest and most unique synths ever made

Disclosure: Audio Hertz is supported by its audience. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission.


The following five rare and unique synthesizers weren’t very popular, but their scarcity and uniqueness make them even more valuable today. Being a newly, self-declared synth geek, I’m enjoying the process of learning a new instrument. It’s nice to know there is even more money to spend on audio gear than I had previously thought.

We’ve all heard of Junos, Prophets, Arps and DX7s but what about the synthesizers that weren’t as popular? I think it’s fascinating to think about the smaller run projects and how they were all at one point the culmination of someone’s imagination.

Unfortunately, not all synths had as much widespread appeal as some of the industry staples I mentioned earlier. There are many reasons a synthesizer might not do well commercially, whether it be faulty components, a bad user interface, or just failed marketing efforts from the company, most of the time it has nothing to do with the actual sound of the instrument.

Wersi EX20

Wersei EX20

Wersei is a German digital organ maker who is still in business today. They were one of the first Organ manufactures to embrace digital technology. After ten years of producing Organs, they decided to try their hand at synthesizers and entered the market with the EX20 module, a digital 20 note polyphonic synth. The sounds from this synth are based on an arrangement of modules such as wave, pitch-envelope, amplitude envelopes and analog effects to produce fourier, waveform sample, and modular synthesis.

There’s also an EX-10 model that looks similar and uses cartridges; however, the cartridges are not cross compatible and are extremely difficult to find. Owners and users of this unit say they are incredibly challenging to program and nearly impossible without the manual which is entirely in German.

Wersei made some other unique synths that are just as rare including the Bass Synthesizer and the Stage Performer Mk1.

Wersei Bass Synth
Wersei Bass Synth

In this interview with talented synth programmer Wolfram Franke of Waldorf Synthesizers, he talks about the ES20 and some of the unique features.

When asked about what synth started his journey into programming his own, he directly mentions the ES-20 from Wersei,

“It’s from the German organ company Wersi and it is called MK1 (Series III). It was a 20 voice, 8 part multitimbral additive synth with up to 32 harmonics, an integrated chorus/ensemble effect, and only one VCF, but that one was a copy of the Moog 24dB VCF plus a good-sounding overdrive.

It had a lot of very interesting features that you won’t find in any other synth like modular envelopes with 8 stages where each stage could hold a module that did something like generating random steps, vibrato, linear or exponential ramps or simply holding the level for a certain time.

If you ask why we didn’t put something like this into our Waldorf synths, I can easily answer that I was probably the only person outside of Wersi who could program this thing!”

Beilfuss Step Synth

This synth is part folklore, part reality. There are videos of it so it must exist, but mentions of this on the internet go back to 1996 and others have claimed to have seen advertisements in Keyboard Magazine even years before that. The company has self-declared this unit as “the first ever Step Synthesizer,”

The first unique thing that sticks out about this synth is its 93 keys which are just two 4-octave synths connected.

The Beilfuss Step Synth was developed by Keith Williams who also goes over the instrument in depth in this video posted to YouTube in 2011,

Using the way back machine, I was able to find the now-defunct single page Beilfuss website which gives some more info on the synth,

“Unlike any analog or digital synthesizer’s controls, the patented tone control consists of sixteen steps simply outlining the waveform as set by the Signal Controls you see at the left of the control panel. Similarly, the envelope and filter contour transients and their time intervals are also set by the Signal Controls for rhythms or extended notes. You may easily add prompted, parallel voicings, combining settings of both sides for complex notes.

There are 32 controls and 142 switches for direct programming. Dedicated LED switches always read out their side of the full eight octaves, split keyboard. Five octaves of transposition is possible.”

ASI Synthia

ASI Synthia
Early promotional material for an ASI Synthia

Synthia was a very rare “all in one” high-end synthesizer released in 1982 by Adaptive Systems, Inc. These units started at 20,000 which may be why there aren’t many people that have ever seen, let alone played a working one. There aren’t even any sound clips or video demos posted online anywhere.  I wish there were videos or recordings of this one so I could verify this claim, but I guess I’ll just need to use my imagination.

These premiered in the form of two prototypes at the 1982 NAMM show. The prototypes did not sell and soon after manufacturing ceased. The synthesizers are currently not functioning and sitting in the basement of the inventor, Mark E. Faulhaber.

One unique feature that would warrant the incredibly high price tag was the touch responsive plasma screen which at the time was very new technology but is now seen in just about every modern all in one keyboard.

The plasma screen followed the user’s finger which could be used to adjust bar graphs that controlled the different adjustable parameters on the synth like harmonic content, envelope parameters, controller assignments and more.

Most of the information on this synthesizer is from the book Vintage Synthesizers by Mark Vail.

Hammond NovachordHammond Novachord

The Novacord is considered to be the godfather of the modern polyphonic synthesizer. The Hammond company debuted the instrument at the 1939 World’s Fair only four years after the invention of the tonewheel organ. These synths included many features that are now standard in polyphonic synthesizers, like the use of subtractive synthesis.

This behemoth of an instrument was truly a marvel including more than 150 vacuum tubes, over 1,000 custom-made capacitors, two 12” speakers and a power amp. Everything was housed beautifully in a wood cabinet similar to that of the more popular B3.

The Hammond team found a way to derive a full keyboard from just 12 tuned chromatic oscillators. They accomplished this by using a divide-down architecture which became standard in later synthesizers. This principle gives the Novachord its 72 notes of polyphony

Due to the demands of World War II and the lack of sales and parts, c production of Novachords ceased in 1942.  One of the reasons it did not translate well during the time was organists and pianist had a hard time playing it as it was better at making more ethereal sounds rather than recreating the more familiar sounds of a piano or organ.

An estimated 200 Novachords are still in existence and even less are operational.

Ensoniq Fizmo

Ensoniq Fizmo

Ensoniq was an American synthesizer and sampler manufacture that was founded in 1983 and eventually acquired and merged with E-Mu and eventually discontinued entirely in 2002.  One of their more unique synthesizer released by the company was the Fizmo. Developed in 1998, the synth uses a “digital acoustic simulation Transwave with 4 MB of ROM, up to 4 voices per preset, each voice with two oscillators, independent LFOs and FX: 48 voices maximum, with three separate FX units built in. “

The name F-I-Z-M-O comes from the five real-time control knobs on the unit, “F” adjusted the effect modulation, “I” adjusted wave modulation, “Z” adjusted filter cutoff, “M” adjusted the detuning, and the “O” parameter changed based on the preset.

Problems with the synth that lead to its demise were the unfinished operating system, clunky user interface, and issues with the power supply. Another problem was the look of the unit made people think it was similar to the other analog synthesizer of the period, but it was challenging to create classic “analog” sounds. The Fizmo was mainly known for its atmospheric and ethereal sounds.

500-2,000 of these synthesizers were estimated to have been produced.

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The story of Dr. Bini and the Binson Echorec

The story of Dr. Bini and the Binson Echorec

Disclosure: Audio Hertz is supported by its audience. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission.


BinsonEchorecThe Binson Echorec is one of those magical, mystical, undeniably beautiful sounding devices. It’s the kind of gear that makes you appreciate its existence– that some genius was able to design something so incredibly inspiring. It almost hurts me to write this now, knowing that I don’t have one of my own. It’s the holy grail of all guitar and delay effects units, and it’s not just hype. Praised for years by guitarists all over the world and made famous by legends like David Gilmore and Jimmy Page, the Echorec was the brainchild of Dr. Bonfiglio Bini.  Dr. Bini was an Italian engineer and the founder of the Binson HiFi Company. For Dr. Bini, quality was of utmost importance. Every single component, for every single unit, was made in house. When asked if it would be cheaper to use a third party for cases,  Dr. Bini replied, “sure it would have been cheaper, but then it would not be Binson stuff anymore.”

The Effectrode pedal company has more in-depth articles about the Echorec, but I’ve decided to summarize some of the information I’ve found there and other sources to help tell the story of a truly marvelous piece of gear.

Dr. Bini began manufacturing radios in 1940 from his first factory in Milan, Italy. He later moved on to television sets, before making guitar amplifiers, which led to his major seller: The Binson 3°. Over the years Binson made many different items from mixers to reverbs, to microphones and PA speakers. They even made an organ called the Binsonett (although it’s hard to find much information on them other than a few pictures). Most of these products are difficult to find today, especially if you live in the United States. Without a doubt, they are most famous for their Echorec delay units. During a time when studio effects were limited to tape delays, plate, and room reverb, Echorecs used a new technology developed by the founder, Dr. Bini, and the principal engineer, Mr. Scarano Gaetano. The two undertook a massive research effort to find a better medium of storing delay signals than magnetic tape. The result was the Echorec delay unit and their memory disc technology.

Echorec utilized memory disc technology, which used a drum recorder instead of a tape loop; this allowed for a better overall frequency response and did not leave the negative artifacts of tape, such as wow and flutter. The drum was meticulously wound with a steel wire and then milled flat. A motor drove the drum, and the heads placed in different spaces around it. Dr. Bini spent a lot of time figuring out the best position for each of the heads. Each was chosen so that the delay times were extremely musical.

The unique memory disc technology was the main contributing factor to the lush delays these units were capable of, but you can also attribute some of that to the preamp and internal electronics. These units were so well-made that just running it through the preamp without the delay engaged would enhance the tone of the guitar.

Echorecs were extremely expensive, some costing as much as a Fender Strat and more than an AC30. Think about that… You could either buy a new Fender Stratocaster or a Baby Binson, that’s how expensive these units were.

Check out this great video of the guys from That Pedal Show demoing a real Echorec vs. a few different modern clones,

Although Dr. Bini stopped production in 1986, he still stuck around the factory and in his free time would give tours. I can only assume this was truly a labor of love for the man, offering tours, even after retirement, shows that he genuinely enjoyed his work, his factory, and his legacy. His reputation confirms that. He would even sell off the leftover stock of the Echorecs– amplifiers, and mixers that remained.

David Gilmour
David Gilmour

David Gilmour is the most famous user of the Echorec, and it was arguably the thing that defined his sound the most. Syd Barrett, the original singer of Pink Floyd, was the first to use an Echorec. The story (as told by Gilmourish.com) goes, Syd went to watch an experimental electronic band named AMM and saw them using one. Enamored by the syncopated delay patterns and almost mystical warm sound, he began to use one himself. When Gilmour joined the band, he took Syd’s set up and expanded on the use of the device. The most famous song you can hear utilizing the Echorec is Pink Floyd’s “Time.” Gilmour toured with multiple Echorecs for years, but they were delicate and not the most practical for the rough life on the road. Each unit requires frequent maintenance, and many included a unique holder right on the case for lubricant.

So I’m sure you might be wondering… how do I get an Echorec? How expensive are they now? Are they still difficult to maintain? Are there any modern pedals that can emulate an Echorec?

Well, yes Echorecs are still expensive and even more difficult to maintain due to the ever-dwindling supply of parts and the expertise needed to repair them.

Value for Echorecs have a wide range and there were many different models for which the price varied drastically. The Echorec 2° is the most popular model and yields the highest demand and cost which usually averages around $3,000.

Echorecs are definitely for the most dedicated collector who will stop at nothing to achieve the ultimate guitar tone and doesn’t mind spending time and money along the way. Frankly, I can’t blame them as that’s a pursuit that I’m sure most of us can agree is worthwhile.

If you don’t have $3000 to spend, you’re in luck. Auditory has a plugin version that sounds really good. It only cost $£49 and is worth every penny.

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What are the different types of compressors?

Racks of audio gear

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FET, Opto, VCA, Vari-MU…..you’ve probably heard these names to describe types of compressors, you sort of know which type is right for what, but what do they really mean? Each name represents a different type of circuit design that the compressor uses to react to the signal you put through it.

Before I list each of the types and what they do, know that compressors all serve the same function. You can use them as a leveling device or just for tone or saturation. However, you choose to use a compressor, know that each style is like a different flavor. It takes time and ear training and a lot of A/B comparisons to distinguish between each.

Here are the 6 most common types of compressors used in music production

Universal Audio 1176 -- Different types of compressors

FET

Field-effect Transistors, or FETs,  use an electric field to control the gain of the unit. The most popular example is the iconic 1176. FET style compression has a super-fast attack and release capabilities, which really allows you to shape the transients. This makes them a favorite on drums for many engineers.

The drawback to their fast speed is there isn’t much range. A fellow engineer once described the release settings to me as being either “fast or faster.” The fastest release setting on an 1176 is 50ms, and its slowest release is 1100ms. The fastest attack time is a blazing fast 20 microseconds, and the slowest is a not-as-blazing-but-still-pretty-damn-fast 800 microseconds. Regardless of the lack of flexibility, it still sounds great on just about anything you put through it. Guitar, bass, vocals, drums, keys have all found their way through an 1176 with great results.

The 1176 is synonymous with FET compression, but some lesser-known FET compressors include the Daking FET III, Chandler Little Devil, and the popular 1176 Clone by Warm Audio, which I’ve heard great things about.

Universal Audio LA-2A

Opto

These compressors use a photocell as a detector and a light bulb or LED to determine the gain reduction. The light will glow depending on the strength of signal passing through it and reduce the gain accordingly. These compressors are much less sensitive to transients and peaks due to the lag experienced by the photocell. Contrary to what it might seem because of how fast the speed of light is, opto compressors are considered to be slow and smooth.

Most opto compressors don’t have total control over the attack and release settings, like the LA-2A which is arguably the most well known and highly regarded compressor of all time. The attack time is frequency dependent which is very likely the main reason these units have such character.

Popular optical compressors include the Universal Audio LA-2A and 3A, Avalon AD2044 and Warm Audio WA-2A.

SSL Bus Compressor

VCA

If you could choose one compressor to use for the rest of your life, your best bet would be a VCA style compressor. Known for their fully controllable circuits allowing you to really fine-tune each setting. VCA compressors are valuable in every aspect of production, whether it be tracking, mixing, or mastering. They can be entirely transparent while still adding the glue a mix or drum bus needs. Drums sound great through these compressors because they are very good at transparently taming sharp peaks.

VCA stands for voltage-controlled amplifier, but one VCA doesn’t necessarily sound like the next. Since parts can be sourced a lot more cheaply than the other compressors on this list, most low quality/prosumer units use a VCA circuit.

Legendary VCA mix bus compressors include the iconic SSL G Series and the Empirical Labs Distressor.

Variable-Mu

In a Variable “Vari”-Mu design, the gain is being controlled by a vacuum tube. The first types of compressors were Vari-Mu and were designed for use in broadcast. The need came from trying to level out inconsistent speech on the radio. Usually, going from a whisper to yelling would require an engineer to ride the fader live, and human reflexes are only so fast. It wasn’t until later that the studio adopted the use of compressors.

The unique quality of Vari-Mu compressors is the ratio of the gain reduction is increased as you hit the unit harder; this is musically pleasing when you lay into it more aggressively. Vintage Variable-MU compressors are also great for saturation as the tubes and large iron transformers all have unique qualities. Popular vintage Vari-Mu compressors include RCA BA-6A, Altec 436, UA-175. The most popular modern Vari-Mu is the Manley of the same name, which is used very prominently in mastering studios across the world.

Neve 2254

Diode Bridge

Diode bridges have been used in radio for automatic level control for a long time. Diode bridge audio compressors offer fully configurable parameters. Some compressors designed in the ’60s used this basic design, but you don’t see many used in modern compressors. Units that aren’t designed well can be noisy due to the diodes’ low signal level.

Diode bridge circuits allow for the compression curves and the attack and release to be designed independently of the compression element. These compressors are tonally distinctive because of the diode’s harmonic distortion. These designs are flexible and can add a pleasant, colorful character.

Famous examples include the Neve 2264, Neve 33609 and newer examples include the Rupert Neve Shelford Channel Strip compressor.

Fun fact: The 33609 we have at Sabella Studios was incredibly taken from HBO studios when they decided to throw them all out and go digital.

Great River PWM 501, one of the few modern units that use a PWM design.

PWM, or Pulse Width Modulation

I admittedly didn’t even know what a PWM compressor was before writing this article. Gregory Scott, a compression guru from Kush Audio, recommended I add a section on Pulse Width Modulator circuits. After a bit of research, I found out why I had never heard of a PWM or used one… because not that many exist. According to Scott, “there are only a few because you truly have to be a rocket scientist to design one, aka Dave Hill or whatever geek at Pye did theirs.”

A Google search turned up an essay written by Dave Hill of Crane Song. In the essay, Dave explains that all compressor circuits have good and bad characteristics. He goes on to say, “in designing a compressor with as few artifacts as possible, the gain control choices are limited. PWM has been used in vintage compressors and also modern devices. If one takes that idea and uses the latest technology, it is possible to build a compressor with very little negative sonic artifacts.”

VCA’s let a percentage of energy through depending on the control voltage. The problem is that when the control voltage changes, you start to hear bad sounding artifacts. If there were a switch to control the energy on the output, you’d be able to give a more accurate average control voltage, which would lead to a more sonically pleasing unit. The PWM circuit turns the control voltage into a high-speed variable-width switch that controls the energy that is outputted.

Bonus:

What is the difference between hard and soft knee?

Soft knee compression gradually attenuates the signal after it has passed the threshold, while hard knee compression attenuates the signal immediately after it has crossed the threshold. Soft Knee compression is thought to be more musical because it’s not as abrupt and abrasive; hence the name soft.

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