Cubase 5 – Getting started, configuration, settings, how to record songs

In this tutorial, I am going to share some of the things I’ve learned over the years that may get you started with your recording sessions in Cubase. I am going to focus mainly on the preparation process, general settings, inputs and VST settings in Cubase 5. The following pieces of advice may very well work on any upper versions of Cubase like Cubase PRO 8.5, but I have tested them only on Cubase 5, since that’s the version I own right now. Let’s get started:

0. The obvious

Before getting lost in the following configurations, make sure that your audio interface is connected to your computer and it is installed properly. You can verify this by listening to a Youtube song or playing any type of audio file from your local disk.

Cubase 5 Getting Started Tutorial

1. Getting started

When you start Cubase for the first time, you should choose New Project in the pop-up window or from the File > New Project option. A new pop-up should appear, asking you to choose the type of template you are going to use. Choose “Empty” and then press OK button. Next, you are asked to choose the working folder, the folder that will contain all the recordings you make for this particular project. I like to be organized, so I keep a separate folder for each song, so things won’t get to mixed up in the process. In the end, your screen should like just like in the image above.

Cubase 5 setting audio interface setting

2. Setting the Audio Interface in Cubase 5

In some cases, Cubase will auto-select your laptop/desktop’s audio interface instead of your audio interface. In order to make sure the proper interface is set on your project, go to Main menu > Devices > Device Setup > VST Audio System and select your audio interface. Once you’ve done that, press OK/Save.

3. VST Settings for microphone in Cubase

By default, Cubase 5 allows you to record using a stereo input. In other words, you will get the left and the right source on the same channel (if you are planning to record on a stereo channel). But there might be a problem, since most microphones are mono, so you will be getting signal only from left or right, the channel containing only the self noise that’s coming the recording chain. In this case, you should make some changes in the VST connection settings in order to capture only the channel that’s active.

Press F4 or select Main Menu > Devices > VST Connections. Choose the “Inputs” tab, and select 2xMono from the Presets drop down. If there is no such options there, you have to do it manually: delete everything in the BusName table and Press Add Bus twice in order to add two Mono Inputs. Make sure each Bus Name has both Left and Right as device port settings. Now, you should have two mono inputs set, one for the left and one for the right channel. Close this window and return to the main window.

Adding new channel in cubase

4. Adding a new channel in Cubase

In order to add a new audio channel to your project, select Main Menu > Project > Add Track > Audio. A new pop-up should appear, allowing you to choose the type of audio channel you are going to create. Create a new Stereo channel by pressing OK. Alternatively, you can do this by right cliking in the bluish vertical area, just like in the image above.

setting microphone input

5. Setting the microphone as mono input in Cubase

Open the mixer window by pressing F3 or by clicking on the small mixer button under the main menu. There, you should see the mix-volume for your newly created audio channel and the mono1 (Audio 01 in the image above), Mono1 and Mono 2 input channels (Mono In and Mono In 2 in the image above). In the upper area of Audio 01, just above “Stereo Out” lies the input settings for the Audio channel you have created. See which mono inputs has an active signal and select it as the the source for your audio channel. In my example above, I have set MonoIn as the recording source. Close the mixer window, make sure the recording is enabled on this channel and press record. If everything works smoothly, you should be able to record your voice on the audio channel you’ve just created. If there is no sound on the recording, you should probably choose the other Mono input.

Troubleshooting and hints:

  • By pressing the small speaker on the audio channel’s controls, you should be able to hear live what the channel captures.
  • If the process fails and there is no input signal from the condenser microphone, make sure the 48V Phantom Power is activated on your audio interface.
  • I like to record mono inputs on Stereo channels since there are times when you want to add a stereo effect to a particular channel, and if that channel is mono then you won’t be getting the effect you want.

Best condenser microphones for a home recording studio in 2016

As I said before, building a home recording studio is not an easy job. The brand of the product you choose is really important, especially if you plan to get one of the best condenser microphones of 2016 in order to ensure the quality of your recordings. Let’s not forget that the ultimate goal is for listeners to hear all the frequencies of the artist’s voice, at the highest quality possible.

If we are talking about live shows, the best microphones are the dynamic ones, but when it comes to building a home recording studio, the condenser microphone is definitely the optimal solution. In most cases, connecting the microphone with the rest of the equipment can be done through a classic XLR connector. The following list contains some of the best condenser microphones that you can buy in order to build a great home recording studio. Here are my top pics for 2016!

Sanken CU-44X MkII vocal condenser microphone for home studios

Sanken CU-44X MkII Condenser Studio Vocal Microphone

Sanken CU-44X MkII is a microphone having a specially designed capsule that has two channels: one for bass and one for high frequencies. This unique design features two titanium diaphragms, making this a condenser mic that captures sound in high quality. The titanium membranes are immune to the effects of moisture and various temperature changes, resulting in a constant response, regardless of external conditions.

Sanken-CU-55-vocal-studio-recording-microphone

SANKEN CU-55 Condenser Studio Vocal Microphone

SANKEN CU-55 incorporates the latest technology in a small design that’s easy to install and use. Dedicated to recording studios, this microphone features a cardioid pattern and it was designed to capture wide frequency ranges, thus providing a natural and transparent sound. It is ideal for a wide range of recording applications, from vocals to acoustic instruments or orchestra solos. CU-55 has a frequency response between 40Hz and 20kHz for a maximum SPL of 137dB, with a very wide dynamic range. Like all SANKEN microphones, CU-55 condenser microphone is recognized not only for its performance but also for flexibility and reliability.

As we are talking about the best recording microphones for a home recording studio, we could not miss SANKEN CO-100K, the world’s first microphone with a frequency response between 20Hz and 100kHz. SANKEN has created this device in collaboration with NHK Science and Technical Research Laboratories.

Neumann U87 - Best Condenser Studio Microphones

Neumann U87 Condenser Studio Vocal Microphone

Neumann U87 is undoubtedly the most famous microphone in music history. Over the years, an impressive number of famous singers recorded their albums using this microphone. U87 appeared in the late 60s and soon became the company’s top of the range. It features two diaphragms and three polar patterns.

This mic includes a -10dB pad switched in that can be turned on and off according to your needs. It enables the microphone to handle sound pressure levels of up to 127dB without distortion. The low frequency response can be reduced to compensate for proximity effect.

Neumann U87 is definitely a microphone that’s ideal for recording vocals for all musical genres, but it can also be used as a main microphone for orchestra recordings (if you’re into this). This mic has proved itself over the years and I am sure that it’s still one of the best condenser microphones of 2016.

Neumann U47 Condenser Studio Vocal Microphone

Neumann U47 Condenser Studio Vocal Microphone

Neumann U47 condenser microphones are more than classic or vintage, they are a work of art. This particular model has two versions: one with a tube and one with the FET design, adding a modern touch to it. Although comparisons can be made, both versions offer high quality sound. U47 FET includes the K47 capsule and a high SPL, allowing it to capture crystal clear sounds even if you are recording noisy guitars or drums. The vocals recorded with this microphone are described as full, warm and round.

AKG C214 - best condenser microphone for home recording studio

AKG C214 Condenser Studio Vocal Microphone

AKG C214 is one of the most affordable microphones in this list. With a sound pressure level that’s particularly high (156dB), C214 manages to cope even with the noisiest vocalists that you can think of. In addition, this great condenser microphone comes with a 20dB attenuator that is replaceable, as well as a bass filter.

C214 has a wide range of frequencies for accurate voice playback, and it comes with a protective cover, wind protection and shock protection.
Audio-Technica AT5040 Cardioid - Best Condenser Microphones

Audio-Technica AT5040 Cardioid Condenser Studio Vocal Microphone

AT5040 is Audio-Technica’s premier studio condenser vocal microphone and it was developed as a vocal mic but it is also suitable for acoustic instruments such as piano, guitar or saxophone. This condenser microphone activates 4 rectangular diaphragms in order to provide profound realism and depth, presence and purity of sound. It has a frequency response of 20-20000 HZ and an impedance of 50 Ohms.

The best condenser microphones of 2016. Conclusion

Even if some of these mics were included in my last year top picks, I still think that they’ll add quality value to your recordings. Don’t forget that a great condenser microphone is not the only item in your recording chain, and you definitely need to pay attention to other items like audio interface, cables, mixers or studio monitors.

MXL MIC MATE XLR To USB Preamp for Condenser Microphone Review

MXL-MIC MATE XLR To USB Preamp for Condenser Microphones

If you are looking for a small device that can replace your recording chain then you should definitely check the MXL MIC MATE XLR To USB Preamp, a cheap device that’s specially created for standard and condenser microphones, a device that’s definitely worth the money and your curiosity. The portable USB preamp was designed with care, and it delivers so much that it appears to. Don’t get fooled by the cheap package it comes with, the Mic Mate is actually better than other solutions twice its price (or more).

The body
This little gadget is no bigger than a magic marker, having only 10 x 2 x 6 inches and weighting only 4.8 ounces. You should know that Mic Mate does not with an USB cable, so you will have to buy that separately. Although the above image may be deceiving, the harsh truth is that this portable preamp is made of cast-aluminum. Even so, after reading some of the reviews written by other customers I understood that the internal components seem to be made of quality materials. A plastic case is not a big problem as long as you don’t drop it on the concrete.

MicMate-XLR-to-USB-condenser-microphone

The features
The Mic Mate has three settings: the low setting, the medium setting and the high setting. After testing all of them, I seem to love the high setting, since it gives me more power and my voice lays better in the mix. As I said in the beginning of this review, this XLR to USB preamp comes with Phantom Power, so you can use it with a condenser microphone. I’ve managed to test it with my AT2020 condenser mic and everything went smoothly. I can also give you a tip in this regard: if you remove the end-piece from the XLR connector, you will be able insert that connector directly into the mic, without having the XLR cable in the chain. This way, the quality of your recording gets even better, because most XLR cables add their own self-noise to the recording. Just see the image above to understand what I’m talking about. The manufacturer brags about the “studio-quality” of this microphone. Not sure about that, but the low noise analog front end does seem to be well balanced. If you decide to buy this mic you will also get the Free MXL USB Recorder Software which allows you to get a 2-Track recording out of it. After testing this great condenser mic for couple of days I’ve included it in my home studio setup, as a backup for my Audio Kontrol 1 interface.

The price
Most online shops are selling this small device for $40 – more or less. As usual, I advice you to get it from the most trusted seller of them all, Amazon.

Conclusion
For a device that costs only $41.99 you get a pretty decent quality. No, scrape that. The quality is better than decent, and most of the users on Amazon seem to agree with that conclusion. Having 4 out of 5 stars, you can expect for a device that will get the job done at an affordable price. This microphone is perfect for home recording studios created on tight budgets, but you can also use it in podcasts, various voice recording projects or even live music performance. I know that I’m definitively adding it to my portable home studio setup.

Røde NT-USB microphone review

Rode NT-USB condenser microphone 1

Let’s face it, these days everyone is mobile so it’s just natural to pick a USB condenser microphone that’s perfect for recording songs on the go. This way, your recording studio is made of your smartphone, tablet, laptop and your USB mic. Every week, I am asked to give advice on recording microphones that are of great quality, affordable and they are compatible mobile devices. My past USB mic reviews got some attention, so I decided to expand my reviews with another one. This time, I will review the new Røde NT-USB studio microphone and I truly hope that this article will help some of my readers in their endeavor to build a home recording studio.

Setting a ‘pickup and use’ mobile solution is really easy, all you have to do is use a microphone with a built in USB interface. In the Røde NT-USB’s package you will find a pop-filter, a sturdy stand mount that is compatible with industry standard 3/8” thread, and a fine small tripod stand that allows you to record podcasting while you place the NT-USB on your desktop and you sit comfortable in your chair. Talking about this USB mic, you should know that it is a heavy microphone, weighing around 500g. In the package you will also find a 6m USB cable that should be just enough for common needs and a carry case.

Rode NT-USB condenser microphone

Getting to the technical specifications, you should know that the microphone has a cardioid pattern capsule that will handle audio levels of 110db, a 96dB dynamic range and a fairly dynamic response that offers a presence peak at 5.5kHz. If you plan to monitor what you are recording you are lucky, since the 3.5 mm headphone jack that’s present on the microphone allows you to do just that. In order to use the NT-USB condenser mic with a PC or laptop you don’t have to perform any special preparations. The device is plug-n-play and it also works great with Apple devices. If you plan to use it with an iPhone or iPad you’ll have to get a Connection Kit. You should find one at a reasonable price on eBay. Once you will use the microphone for a while, you will notice that the headphone amp has just enough power to get you through the recording sessions. The controls and knobs are made of metal and they work very smooth and easy.

I’ve used this mic for a week and I can tell you that I will probably replace my old non-USB AT2020 with this one for my demo recording sessions. The mic worked perfect with my multi-track software, allowing me to record my vocals without any problems. Too bad I was not able to get my hands on a Apple Lightning to USB Camera Adapter in order to test it with an iPad.

The price

If you plan to buy this USB microphone you should head to Amazon.com in order to find additional details, the price ($169.00) and user reviews. At this time, 59 customers gave Rode NT-USB 5 out of 5 stars.

The best USB MIDI Keyboard for a home recording studio

Akai Professional MPK MINI MKII  The best USB MIDI Keyboard for a home recording studio (1)

In the previous posts, I was focused on reviewing some of the best items that you need in order to record vocals and instruments. But building a home recording studio is not all about microphones and audio interfaces. Before anything else, you need to create the music. In this article, I will focus on a part that’s really important for any musician: the actual music. You can’t have an original song without an instrumental or a beat. Here’s Akai Professional MPK MINI MKII, the best USB MIDI Keyboard for a home recording studio, an important piece of equipment that will ease your work and will help you create great music.

Akai Professional MPK MINI MKII  The best USB MIDI Keyboard for a home recording studio (2)

Features
Akai has a long history of creating great products for music engineers and beginners alike. With this product, a product that’s classified by me as the best USB MIDI Keyboard for a home recording studio, they have managed to create an entry-level product that surpasses any expectations. It has an incredible cheap price and features that will probably convince you too: 25 synth-action mini keys, 4-way thumb stick, 8 backlit velocity sensitive MPC pads with Note Repead and Full level, 8 assignable Q-Link knobs for mixing. As a bonus, if you do decide to buy this product, you will also get a complex production software package that includes Akai Pro MPC Essentials, SONiVOX Wobble, and Hybrid 3 by AIR Music Tech. The product’s dimensions are 7.1 x 12.4 x 1.8 inches and it measures 1.6 pounds.

Akai Professional MPK MINI MKII  The best USB MIDI Keyboard for a home recording studio (3)

Akai Professional MPK MINI MKII is a groove/beat production device and sample-triggering software that allows you to make music like a pro, allowing you to use the MPC workflow in your creative process. Of course, you will need to have basic knowledge on music, but you will be just fine without it.

Where to get it

While I was reading the reviews on this product, I learned that most users considered it to be the Best MIDI controller on a budget! You may find it at your local music store, or you can head to Amazon and get it from there at a special price: $99. Nothing can beat that pprice!

Best microphones for recording music in 2017

Following one of the most popular articles on the great microphones for building a home studio in 2017, I have decided to compile a whole new list with some of the best mics that you can get for your home studio project in 2017. These microphones are all new, they were picked considering their prices and I have never presented them before on CoreMic.

The best microphones for recording vocals

Let’s begin the list with…

Best microphones on the market - Rode M3 condenser microphone

Rode M3 Instrument Condenser Microphone

Although this microphone was marketed as an instrument mic, there is no limit to what it can do. In other words, you can use it to record guitars, trumpets, drums, percussion and most importantly, vocals. As you may know, I love Rode mics due to their high quality and exquisite performances and the M3 makes no exception. It has just enough features to make you consider it as your first choice: high level of RF rejection, switched high pass filter, low handling noise. Oh, did I mentioned the price? Rode M3 costs just only $149.

Best microphones - SE Electronic magento condenser microphone 2017

sE Electronics Magneto Limited Edition Studio Condenser Microphone

I’ve mentioned sE Electronics mics in the past, but this one is a special edition at a special price – $99. It’s not that microphone that can compete with Neumann TLM 102, but it will do the job if you are on a tight budget.

Avant Electronics Avantone CR-14 condenser microphone 2017

Avant Electronics Avantone CR-14

Boys and girls, welcome to the big league of the best microphones on the market. Avantone CR-14 has an unique design, an affordable price and most importantly, it captures vocals and instruments with a character that reminded me of the very finest Ribbon microphones. Basically, you get the same quality at a lower price. Nothing can beat that, right?

Best microphones - Sontronics STC-2X condenser microphone 2017

Sontronics STC-2X

Finding this microphone is not easy, but you will manage to buy it from most online music stores; you may need to scout for a bit in order to find it. But if you decide to complete your recording music studio with it, you will learn that it is worth your money (and your time). Among many interesting features, it offers a two-stage attenuation switch and a two-stage low-cut filter. An omni-directional switch is also present, so it’s probably the best choice if you plan to record vocals coming from multiple subjects at one time.

Best microphones - Lewitt LCT240 condenser microphone 2017

Lewitt Authentica LCT 240

While we go further with our list, fresh microphones are unrelieved. This 2/3-inch diaphragm condenser microphone stands next to AKG’s C414 in terms of features, performance and versatility, but the good thing is that you can buy it at a lower price. LCT 240 sets a new bar in terms of performance and all round flexibility, allowing you to record warm, distorted-free and natural sounds, just like a pro. It costs around $200.

 Best microphones - Maroon MT100 condenser microphone 2017

Maroon Audio MT100

MT100 is the last microphone from the list and it might seem like the least probable to be picked, right? Well, you should know that MT100 is a valve (tube) condenser with a very warm-sounding character. Despite the looks, most users noticed how smooth are the vocals captured by this microphone. At this price ($430), you can’t get a better mic that will bring that classic feel to your tracks. Oh, I hope you’ve noticed the unique design, right?

One last word…
I hope that you’ve enjoyed this list with some of the best microphones that you can find right now on the market. Bare in mind that any condenser microphone requires a phantom power source and if you are on the topic you should also get a mic stand and a pop filter. If you do decide to buy any of these mics, let me hear a sample of what you will record with it. Enjoy!

Zoom R8: A standalone multi track SD recorder for your home recording studio

Although most musicians are using a computer to make music in their own home studios, there are many reasons why you should choose a classic standalone multitrack recorder for your projects. First, it provides that analog feel that’s hard to duplicate with a computer or a laptop. Second, it offers a portability and ease of use. Third, compared to making music with a software like Reason or Cubase, you will actually feel the buttons and the knobs, and you will add a “touch of real” on your recordings. Nothing beats that, right? And the fourth reason for choosing a standalone recorder for your home studio is the budget. Why pay $299 just for the software , when you can have the complete recording package for the same price?

Zoom R8 Multitrack SD Recorder Controller and Interface

Zoom R8 Multitrack SD Recorder Controller and Interface

While I was trying to suggest a list of stand alone multritrack recorders for a friend, I found the Zoom R8, a simplified version of their 24-track R24 digital recorder. I was familiar with the manufacturer, since I’ve already reviewed their Handy portable advanced recorders in the past and I know that they have a long history in creating outstanding pieces of hardware for musicians all over the world. So, while I was going through the reviews of Zoom R8, I discovered a device with features that are perfect for someone who wants a complete portable recording studio on a tight budget. And when I say tight budget, I mean it: the R8 is an all-in-one device like no other. You can create your instrumentals with it, you can record your vocals and you can export the complete songs in an MP3 format. Everything for under $300.

Zoom R8: The body

The device is not as large as you may think, but it is made of high quality materials. With dimensions of 10.1 x 7.5 x 2 inches and weight 2.7 pounds, it will easily fit in your backpack or your bag and it can be used at any time, since it’s powered by 4 AA batteries. The main side of the R8 has various hardware knows, buttons and levels for various options, controls and functions. There is also a basic display in the center that allows the user to perform complex tasks and functions like creating music patterns or sampling various sounds.

Zoom-R8-Multitrack-SD-Recorder-Controller-and-Interface-2

Zoom R8: Audio quality, audio effects

This digital recorder allows you to playback up to 8 track simultaneous and record using 2 channels at the same time. The device can record audio files at 24-bit and a sample rate of 48KHz, but if you are using it as an audio interface for a computer (yes, it can be used in that manner!) you can record at a sample rate of 96 KHz. When it’s used in standalone mode, the audio files are recorded on the SD card you choose to use (it supports SD cards up to 32GB). Another cool feature that’s present on-board is the possibility to add various effects (pan, reverb, EQ) during or after the recording.

Zoom-R8-Multitrack-SD-Recorder-Controller-and-Interface-inputs

Zoom R8: Inputs and outputs

You can use the built-in stereo microphones to record your vocals or you can use one of the two XLR inputs with Phantom Power support to connect a condenser microphone. Also, you can use one of those inputs to connect a guitar. You can use the USB port to connect the device to a computer and use it as an audio interface. Also, there is an jack output for headphones and one for the studio monitors / speakers.

Zoom R8: The price

As I said, the R8 is far from expensive. You will find it on Amazon for $299. If that price is not convincing enough then you should know that the package includes the Steinberg Cubase LE DAW recording software.

Conclusion

It will take me forever to explain the functionality of every button and know that’s present on the board, but if you do get this device you don’t have to worry about that. YouTube is packed with tutorials on how to use the R8 when you create a song. If you are not convinced yet, just check the following video with a short introduction to this digital recorder.

How to insulate a home recording studio

When folks start making a plan to build a home studio, they usually miss a component that’s really important for the way you record and you mix songs. I’m talking about the acoustics of the recording and mixing room. The online stores are packed with audio foam panels, but buying two or three such panels and placing them behind the condenser microphone is not enough. If you want to build a quality studio, you need to learn which type of panels to buy and where to place them. The final goal of insulating your studio is to have a recording/mixing room with a dead sound (where audio waves does not bounce around, where is no reverb), so you can manipulate it later in the mixing sessions.

Recording-Booth

The recording booth

The recording booth is a closed space (usually a small room) where the actual recording is performed. There, we have the microphone, headphones, other acoustic instruments and… that’s all. For most types of music, this room needs to be as quite as possible, and most musicians prefer to add common acoustic foam panels on 100% of the surface. Since this room is small, you will not use too many such panels. If you don’t have two rooms for your recording studio, you can always build a small recording booth in a corner of your mixing room by adding to fake walls. Just look at the image above to get the idea.

The mixing room

The mixing room is usually larger than the recording booth, and placing the acoustic treatment here is more difficult. If you mix your own songs, you will spend a lot of time in this room and the acoustics need to be perfect, so you can create the perfect mix. Basically, you need to treat the most important areas of the room: the space behind the studio monitors, the side walls, the corners and the back wall.

mixing room

The computer area should be the first place to start your work. Place some panels right behind the studio monitors in order to cancel the early reflections that are causing the cancellation and filtering effect.

bass trappers for recording studio

Next, you need to take care of the bass reflections in the room. For this, you should use bass trappers and you should place them in the upper corners of the room. This way, you sill still have enough place in the lower corners to use it for anything else.

side-walls-acoustic-treatment

The sidewalls are also important, and you should place the foam panels at the ear level. Let them breathe, by allowing some space between them, just like in the picture above.

diffusion panels

For the back walls, you should use two or four diffusion panels placed in the exact middle of the wall. Don’t place them in the same pattern, but rather use a pattern that’s similar to the one in the image above. If you are on a tight budget, you can skip the diffusers and get common foam panels.

If you plan to insulate your recording room so your neighbors will not hear any noise, the typical egg crate foam panels are not enough. They are great when you need to cancel the reverb of the room, but they are not so great at stopping audio waves from getting past the walls. For that, you need a material with a larger/denser mass. Maybe I’ll talk about this topic in a future post.

Don’t forget to get some type of foam panels adhesive. You will find everything in your local music store, or you can check my recommendations from the slider above.

source:  home studio foam

image source: auralex.com

How to buid a rap / hip hop home recording studio

These days it’s easier than ever to become a music star. Of course, there is a lot of “politics” in the background, but it’s never been easier to propel yourself from someone who is making music in the bedroom to a world wide phenomenon. The music industry knows it, the TV stations know it and ultimately, the music fans know it: the future of music is on the Internet. But don’t get the story twisted, in order to become famous on Youtube, you need talent and a way to record your music. I get many questions on music equipment and many of them are asking me to suggest equipment for building a hip hop home recording studio. As you know, I like to please my readers, so I decided to put together a low-budget setup that will get you started. This setup is great for other music genres, but especially for rap music.

Hip Hop home recording studio

How to buid a rap / hip hop home recording studio?

I will recommend a minimum setup of $300 that will get you started in your journey to build a hip hop home recording studio. This setup does not include the computer/laptop, since I guess you already have one. Also, you should know that this recording setup does not include the acoustic treatment of the room. If you want to go the extra mile, you should check this article on best acoustic foam products. So, let’s get started…

The microphone – $125
This is the first item in the hip hop home recording studio chain and you should not go cheap with it. For this type of low-budget recording setup, I usually recommend AT2020 as the best choice. But since its upgraded version, the AT2035 got so cheap recently (only $125 on Amazon.com), you should definitely consider the latter as the best choice for your home studio.

The audio interface – $109
The best possible choice for a low-cost audio interface is the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 ($109.00 on Amazon). I have reviewed this interface in a previous post and let my give you the short version of that review: it’s an awesome interface at a cheap price. Focusrite is known for its award-winning preamps that offers transparency and crystal clear analog to digital conversion.

The monitors, cables, mic accessories
Unfortunately, the $300 budget is too low to consider a pair of actual studio monitors, so you’ll have to work with the ATH-M30 Professional studio monitor headphones from Audio Tehnica ($39). They can also be used when you record your vocals, but also when you mix the songs. Also, don’t forget the mic stand ($15), the 20 foot XLR Microphone Cable ($5) and the pop filter ($7).

Other stuff that you can get for free
You can make your own recording area from large egg crates that are usually free. They work great as audio insulators. For recording, you can use the Ableton Live Lite 8 software + Focusrite plugins that are included for free in the interface’s box. Don’t get too mad because you don’t have the proper monitoring speakers. You can mix the songs on the headphones, export the song to mp3 and listen to it everywhere you can (in the car, on your sound system, give it to your friends and ask for opinion). You will notice what’s missing and what needs to be adjusted in order to make it perfect.

Promotion
Right now, Youtube is the main website to promote upcoming artists, but there are other alternatives like SoundCloud that are worth taking into consideration. Once you have a dope song, share it on Facebook, create a fan page, ask your friends to share it to their friends. If the song is good enough, you are one step away from celebrity. As Dr. Dre said in a commercial, “Good things come to those who work”. Don’t be disappointment if your first attempt doesn’t become a hit on the Internet. Get back in your studio and work harder, work later and put your soul into your music. That’s the ultimate recipe for success.

What’s your favorite rap studio setup?

Akai Professional EIE USB Audio Recording Interface Review

AKAI EIE audio interface

If you’ll ask me to make a quick recommendation of a great audio interface, I will probably have to pick Focusrite or M-Audio products. Although there are many other audio interface manufacturers out there, I really trust the products created by these two. Few months ago I was scooping in a music shop and I saw this USB interface with unique design. I’m not sure if it was the reddish design or the brand, but I wanted to learn more about it. So, here is my quick review on Akai Professional EIE, an audio interface like no other, with great features and affordable price.

The Body
Compared with other similar devices, the Akai EIE has a strong body made from durable metal that will endure drop shocks or scratches. The build quality is fantastic and you will agree with me once you get the chance to hold it in your hands.

Front controls
If you take a quick look at this interface you will immediately notice a feature that’s not encountered in similar products in this class: the inputs. Akai EIE has 4 front-facing XLR + 1/4-inch combination audio inputs along with mic/line switch and gain for each channel. Also, there is a 48+ Phantom Power switch for 1/2 inputs and 3/4 inputs. Instead of control LEDs, the manufacturer decided to implement to VU meters for input or output. Under the meters you will find the master volume, the mono/stereo switch, the headphones output and the headphones volume.

the back

The real panel
Here we’ll find the USB port, the MIDI In/Out, the DC controls, 4 audio inserts and 4 audio outputs. There is also a Power button that will switch off or on the interface. A cool feature of this interface is the three-port USB hub that allows you to connect various USB devices.

Features and functionality
Once you will see the features of this interface you will understand why it was priced so cheap. The maximum sample rates of 44.1kHz sampling rate @ 16-bit resolution are a bit outdated, since similar interfaces record at least at 96kHz and 24-bit resolution. The preamps are quite clean, even at maximum levels. The input/output meters are illuminated with white light that turns reddish once the signal clips, and this feature is really helpful when you record at high audio levels. The audio monitoring has zero latency thanks to a simple input/output balance control. The AD/DA convertors seem to work just fine considering the recording specs.

Price
As I said, the specs are a bit outdated, so the price was discounted from $300 to $150 on Amazon.com

Conclusion
Akai Professional EIE USB is an audio interface with a sturdy design and few pros and cons. I loved the 4 inputs, the metal case and the VU meters, but the audio recording sample rate is definitely a con. The overall quality of this product is not bad for its price, but if you don’t need to use 4 inputs at one time, you will find better products on the market. If you need to record at better audio quality, you should check the upgraded version of this interface, the Akai Professional EIE Pro 24-bit ($190 on Amazon)