25 Oct

Best studio monitoring headphones you can buy right now

You know those times when you get caught in the moment and the moment lasts all night? You are stuck in a long working session in your home studio and you don’t need any interruption. You definitely do not want your neighbors to hear your loud speakers and call the Police at 4 am, right? If you are living with your family or your friends, you don’t want to wake them in the middle of the night. At this time you are probably getting where I am going with this: you need a set of studio headphones that can be used for monitoring. Before getting into further details, you should know that it’s important to choose studio monitoring headphones that are comfortable and durable. Especially when you know you will use them every day for longer periods of time.

Although it is recommended to use a pair of studio monitors when you are mixing and mastering your songs, getting a set of studio monitoring headphones is just as important. This investment should be taken into consideration when you are building your home studio. Studio monitoring headphones come in different shapes, sizes and specifications. You will learn that not all are suited for a home studio. Just because they are advertised as “Studio Headsets” it doesn’t mean they are effective in that regard.

You will need to look for specific things like the manufacturer’s specifications, user reviews and you should test them before you buy in audio stores. With a pair of headphones, you can stay late in the night without any problems. More than that, they can be used as a primary or secondary source of monitoring in the mixing/mastering process.

Best studio monitoring headphones on the market

Let’s see which are the best pairs of studio headphones that are worth your attention.

Monitoring headphones Superlux-HD662-EVO

Superlux HD662 EVO

The first headphones that we recommend should be taken into consideration due to their extremely low price and high performance. Compared to professional studio headphones, these are 2-3 times cheaper. The Superlux HD662 EVO are suitable for audio monitoring and they are specially created for beginners that can not afford expensive equipment. Considering their price, these headphones are perfect for a home studio and they offer surprising performance. Superlux HD662 EVO are closed headphones with dynamic surround-sound and superior sound quality. The 50 mm speakers that offer 200 mW of power, enough for monitoring, audition and playback. At the same time, these headphones impresses with their durability. The headband is composed of two iron rods that fix the cups. Their impedance is 32 Ohms and it contains enough accessories in the box to compete with studio headphones that are way cheaper.

Pros:

  • Excellent quality in its price range
  • It can reach a frequency between 10 to 30,000 Hz
  • Speakers: 50 mm
  • High SPL: 98 dB
  • Includes an extra set of sponge made of detachable cable

Cons:

  • They are difficult to use for a long period of time due to the closed construction
  • Sometimes, the highs can be a bit annoying

Roland RH-200

Roland RH-200

The Roland RH-200 is a mid-range enclosed headphones set with a medium size. They were first introduced back in 2008 and people are praising them ever since. If you are looking for comfort for your ears, RH-200 is a good choice. Especially if we are talking about using them in long-term monitoring sessions. Roland RH-200 turns out to be a fortunate pick as well if you want to isolate external unwanted sounds. This way, you are able to focus on your music and nothing more.

These headphones are known for reproducing acoustic details with incredible accuracy, especially in the mid range frequecy. The frequencies are between 20 – 20,000 Hz and the acoustic pressure is up to 100 dB at a 65 Ohm impedance. Power is also an important factor, with the Roland RH-200 featuring 40mm speakers with neodymium magnets that push the air up to 1600mW. In this price range, Roland RH-200 are excellent, especially if you want to get more acoustic details.

Pros

  • Affordable price for a pair of comfortable earpieces
  • Comfortable to wear for long studio sessions
  • Great acoustic reproduction especially in the mid-frequency area
  • Golden plug connectors rotating cups @ 180 degrees

Cons

  • Nothing in particular

Studio Monitors Audio Technica ATH-M50X
Audio Technica ATH-M50X

Audio Technica ATH-M50X offers exceptional construction quality in combination with the audio quality required in any recording studio. They can also be used as monitors in your mixing sessions. The ATH M50X is present in most of the online studio headphones charts. They were designed to capture even the attention of picky customers, being capable of unmatched acoustic experience in mixing, DJ and auditing. These headphones provide great comfort and the cover cups do their job perfectly.

The cups can be tightened, rotated and pivoted up to 180 degrees, being extremely portable. Drivers have 45mm and 1600 mW at an acoustic pressure of 99 dB. The frequency goes from 15 Hz to 28,000 Hz with a 38 Ohm impedance. If we take into account their price, you get an unbeatable bargain and a great quality-price ratio. ATH M50X are probably the most popular monitoring studio headsets you can buy at this price and we recommend them at any given day.

Pros

  • Great audio quality
  • Very confortable when using for longer period of time
  • The cups ensures a great portability
  • You will find a protective case and cables in the box
  • Unbeatable quality-price ratio

Cons

  • The cable can be replaced only with Audio Technica spare cable.

Roland M-100 AIRA
Roland M-100 AIRA

These headphones were launched at the end of 2015 and they were designed for musicians who want to add real value to their recording studio. M-100 AIRA headphones offer quality that exceed the expected acoustic performance in their range price.

They feature dual 50 mm diaphragm drivers coupled with a superb response. The frequency ranges from 5 to 30,000 Hz. The acoustic pressure of 103 dB provides great monitoring quality. Besides the excellent sound reproduction, these headphones are equipped with a XL memory foam sponge for extra isolation and enhanced comfort, a 2 m heavy-duty professional cable with locking mechanism, Extra Share Play feature splitting an audio source with 2 pairs of headphones and a durable carrying case.

Pros

  • They offer clear tones both in high and low frequencies
  • The headphones set has a solid and durable construction
  • Sponge foam with memory lock mechanism
  • Cable sleeve with durable exo-skeleton
  • Lightweight and comfortable

Cons

  • The bass can be too powerful for some ears
  • It can be tiring for the ears after a very long listening session

A good pair of studio headphones will give you the sound quality you need to identify flaws in the mix and address them. This allows you to focus more on the hearing experience and less on the neighbors. Keep in mind that you should not mix and master a track entirely using headphones because the sound played on the headphones will be completely different from the sound on the studio monitors. This is especially due to the distance between the sound source and the ear. The sound produced by studio monitors interacts with the environment and that should be your main reference.

Studio Headphones: Final Verdict

These are the best monitoring headphones that you can buy right now. Of course, they are not the ultimate best, you can find better headphones at prices over $1000. We have tried to select headphones that are affordable while still maintaining the features and sound quality that’s required in a home recording studio. Keep in mind that all the headphones presented in this list can be used for mixing and mastering, but we strongly advice to use a pair of great studio monitors before publishing the songs online. Let us know which one is your favorite monitoring headphones set and why…

22 Oct

Best studio monitors that you can buy right now

Studio monitors are speakers or speaker systems that monitor the sound in a recording studio. They can be connected to the output source of mixers, masters, radio, TV, and more. In most cases, the monitors are extremely important in the mixing and mastering process, since the sound engineer tunes the sound of the songs according to what he hears in the monitors. That’s why I truly believe is equally important to get the best studio monitors you can afford when you are building your home recording studio. You want the final product to be as accurately as possible and to sound great on any audio system.

A crucial feature of studio monitors is the linear response in frequency. This feature allows the monitor to play the full range of audio frequencies, not necessarily to the liking of most people. Let’s not forget that the human ear is being more sensitive in the mid-range frequency. The linearity of monitoring comes from choosing the best monitoring system you can afford.

Best studio monitors for a home recording studio

Edifier R1280T Powered Bookshelf Speakers
Edifier R1280T Powered Bookshelf Speakers
There are two factors that should convince you to get this speaker for your home studio. It’s affordable and has plenty of features. It has 2 x aux inputs, it features studio sound quality, it has a remote control and a beautiful wooden design. If you decide to get Edifier R1280T Powered Bookshelf Speakers you will get 2 year warranty. It offers a transparent and rich sound reproduction that is faithful to the original source.

Mackie CR Series CR3 - 3
Mackie CR Series CR3 – 3″ Creative Reference Multimedia Monitors
This pair of studio monitors is ideal for mixing your songs in a home studio. The offer a frequency range from 80Hz to 20 kHz. It offers an aux input and a volume know that doubles as an on/off switch. Also, you can listen to music on these monitors via Bluetooth. Inside the box you will find cables, isolation pads.

KRK RP5G3-NA Rokit 5 Generation 3 Powered Studio Monitors
KRK RP5G3-NA Rokit 5 Generation 3 Powered Studio Monitors
These studio monitors offer large headroom and low distortion thanks to the bi-amped class A/B amplifier. The waveguide is optimized for superior imaging and it provides great bass response, pristine clarity and frequencies up to 35 KHz. From this list, KRK RP5G3-NA Rokit 5 Generation 3 are offering the closest sound you can get in professional recording studios.
M-Audio AV32
M-Audio AV32
Just like its name, this pair of studio monitor is all about portability. You may not get the quality of the the previous monitors in this list, but you will get a pair of affordable studio monitors that will do the job and they’ll still fit in your backpack. Designed for entry level, these 10-watt monitors offer RCA inputs for connecting mixers, laptops or audio interface. The frequency response is between 80 Hz and 20,000 Hz. The box contains the acoustic pads, power cable, stereo cable, 1/8” RCA cable, speaker wire, user guide and safety warranty manual.

If the mix sounds great on your monitors, it will eventually sound as good as Hi-Fi, PA (public address) in clubs or shows, boomboxes and PC speakers, headphones, phones, etc. That’s why everyone is trying to get that perfect sound on their studio monitors, and that’s why a cheap and rusty pair of monitors could down the sound quality of your song, even if you have recorded it on the best home studio microphone you can think of.

Another crucial factor when using studio monitors is the acoustics of the room in which you mix and master the songs. You really don’t want to mix your songs in a room that creates echoes, especially echoes from the monitors. The sound needs to be heard as clear as possible. If your room creates the echo effect, you should probably get informed about how to treat it acoustically.

Studio monitors: Active or passive?

Active monitors have a built-in amplifier. They have a separate amplifier for each of the speakers, depending on the frequency range played by the speaker. The advantages are that you do not need to buy a separate amplifier. The signal coming out of the mixer or audio interface can be played directly to the monitors. Active monitors are usually recommended for home studio setups.

Passive monitors do not have a built-in amplifier, so you need to buy a separate amplifier. The advantages are that you can use any amplifier, and you can change it later if you want with a better one. You can combine any monitors with any amplifier. One disadvantage is that the whole monitoring setup will need extra space on your studio desk, and you will need a set of extra cables (from the line output to the amplifier, then from the amplifier to the monitors).

Bass reflex vs. Sealed monitors

The monitors can feature ported (bass reflex) or sealed (closed cabinet designs). The bass reflex have an orifice that allows the air pushed by the speaker to circulate through. Both types sound good on low frequencies, but some will argue that sealed monitors sound better. I believe this is a personal choice, according to your own taste.

Nearfield vs midfield monitors

Depending on the way you have designed your setup, some monitors are located close to the sound engineer, others at a larger distance or medium. Depending on this factor, you can get a “nearfield” or “mid field”. You can also get monitors that are suited for larger or medium distances if you want to see how your mix sounds on high volumes. But in general, the nearfield monitors are the ones you should buy, especially if you are building a home recording studio.

Studio Monitors Placement

In general, the studio monitors should be placed on a special stand, symmetrically to the side walls of the mixing room. The head of the sound engineer should form an equilateral triangle with the nearfield monitors. The picture above is a good example in this regard.

Also, the mixing room should feature symmetrical arrangement of furniture, audio tools, and other elements. The mixing desk should be placed somewhere at 35%-40% distance on the long axis of the room, just like in the image above. The vertical or horizontal positioning of monitors is based on the manufacturer’s specifications and you will probably find those recommendations in the manual. If you are not following these known patterns of placement, you will experience a degradation of the stereo image, and thus you will have a lower quality mix. I am sure you don’t really want that.

Conclusion:
The studio monitors you decide to buy are designed to help you mix the song in a way that sounds better than the original recordings. That’s way it’s important to choose a studio monitoring system that’s accurate and transparent. It is hard to pick the best studio monitors that fits all ears. They have various features that does not appeal to everyone. Also, the style of music you decide to mix is a good reference when you choose the monitors for your home studio.

You should consider factors like the size of the monitors (4-7 inch), nearfield or midflield, passive or active, ported or sealed. We hope that the selection above gave you a good idea on what the market has to offer at affordable prices. Don’t forget to buy studio monitor stands for your setup! What’s your favorite pair of studio monitors?

image sources: crossfadr.com

17 Oct

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.

15 Nov

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, high pass filter, low handling noise.  Once you unscrew the bottom you will find another switch which has a 0 decibel,  -10 decibel and -20 decibel pad. Another cool feature of this mic is that you can add a 9V battery inside which will remove the need for 48V Phantom Power. In terms of frequency response, it has a response between 40Hz and 20 KHz, a cardioid polar pattern, a -40 dB sensitivity and 142dB SPL. The output impedance has 200Ω.

The audio quality of this condenser mic is absolutely amazing, its all metal construction has a nice feeling and once you’ll get to hold it in your hand you will definitely notice its decent weight.

The box contains the microphone, microphone pouch, mic mount, mic stand adapter, windscreen, the manual and a sticker.

Remember that it requires Phantom Power, either from the battery either from an external source! 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!

13 Feb

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

10 Jan

How to build a rap / hip hop home recording studio with just $350

These days it’s easier than ever to become a music star. Of course, there is a lot of “politics” involved in the process, 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 radio 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 regarding music equipment. Many of my followers are asking me to suggest the perfect 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. Oh, and it costs only $350!

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

I will recommend a minimum recording setup of $350 that will get you started in your journey to build a hip hop home recording studio. It may look like an impossible mission, but I am fairly confident that we’ll get through. Let’s begin:

Microphone and Audio Interface

The microphone – AT2035
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 the upgraded version, the AT2035 got so cheap recently (around $150) that it would be a shame to miss it. If you are lucky, you might even get it in a combo offer with an audio interface.

The audio interface – Scarlett 2i2
The best possible choice for a low-cost audio interface is the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 USB Audio Interface (priced around $150 on most online stores). 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 offer transparency and crystal clear analog to digital conversion.

Now, here comes the best part. At the time I am updating this article, both AT2035 microphone and Scarlett 2i2 audio interface can be found in a combo offer for $229. In addition, for that ridiculously low price, you will get an XLR cable and a pop filter.

Studio Monitors: Mackie CR Series CR3

The monitors, accessories
Unfortunately, the $350 budget is too low to consider a pair of expensive studio monitors, so you’ll have to work with the Mackie CR Series CR3 – 3″ Creative Reference Multimedia Monitors (Pair). They have great reviews and they will help you in the mixing process. At the moment I am updating this article, they are priced at $79. You will also need to buy a pair of closed headphones that will be used when you record the vocals. Tascam TH-02 Closed Back Studio Headphones is a good choice in this regard, and they are priced around $20. You may also want to buy a cheap mic stand that will cost around $20.

Other stuff that you can get for free
This setup does not include the computer/laptop, since I guess (hope) you already own 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. As an alternative to classic acoustic foam, you can use egg crates (which are priced close to $0). They work great as audio insulators. For recording songs, you can use the Ableton Live Lite 8 software + Focusrite plugins that should be included for free in the interface’s box or Ardour, an open source app that’s available for Windows, Linux and OS X. The monitors will do the job, and if you manage to handle the mix and master properly, you will be able to create music that’ll blow the speakers!

Promote yourself
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?

11 Dec

Yamaha Audiogram 6 USB Audio Interface Review

Yamaha has been building audio products for some time, and their Yamaha Studio Monitors are actually praised by a lot of musicians. This audio interface powered by USB has been designed with care (at least according to the manufacturer) and it actually packs surprising features. It should make your job on building a home recording studio easier, since it’s easy to install and easy to use. Although it looks like a mixer, it has the same common functions of a normal external audio interface found at the same price. But we’ll get into that later. For now, let’s talk about …

The body
Most users love the fact that this audio interface looks like a mixer. I’m not necessarily a big fan of this design, but I will admit that the body is light weighted, sleek and solid. I got my hands on a white model, and as far as I know, this is the only available color.

audiogram 6 usb

The controls, inputs, outputs
Once you take a quick look at the control area, you will learn that the device has knobs that control the preamps, the compression and the input level. You will also find a DAW control know and a master level. Just like most audio interfaces today, this Yamaha device has 2 microphone / Hi-Z inputs and additional 2 more stereo line-in inputs. The control panel has 4 buttons: two for switching between a microphone and an instrument, a mono/stereo switch and a Phantom Power switch for condenser mics. Every input has a red peak LED that will notify you when the audio levels are getting too high. There is also a stereo output and a headphone output.

The back panel
There is no actual back panel for this audio interface. You will find there just the USB cable slot that connects the device to the computer.

yamaha audiogram 6

Features and functionality
This is probably one of the audio interfaces that I would recommend for entry-levels musicians and folks involved in audio podcasting. One of the features that got my attention was the hardware compression. The other audio interfaces in this price range lack this feature, and it is one of the reasons you could think of getting this interface. Even so, having a single knob for compression seems too simplistic to be real, since audio compression is more than switching something to on/off. The preamps are ok, but I didn’t notice something spectacular in that regard. I noticed some pops and clicks when recording the vocals on multiple channels and I guess that working with USB 1.1 technology (12 Mbit/s) is one of the reasons for this issue. Yamaha should upgrade this interface to USB 2.0 (480 Mbit/s) technology. But again, if you’re using it for simple projects or for podcasts, this interface is great! I was curios about its compatibility with electric guitars, synthesizers and drums, so I scouted for some user reviews. No complaints there, as long as the projects were not getting too complex. There is no MIDI I/O on board and the maximum sample rate is 48 kHz @ 16-bit.

The Price
The Yamaha Audiogram 6 can be found on most shopping websites at prices between $130 and $200. For instance, you should look for it on Amazon.com for $129.

Conclusion
This entry range audio interface is not for the audiophiles. It’s based on an obsolete technology (USB 1.1), it has a feature that seems to be there just for marketing purposes (the compression) and it lacks the MIDI I/O. The package also includes the Cubase AI recording software which is not enough for make me place this device in a positive light. At this price, you can consider a better interface, like Focusrite Safirre 2i2.

15 Nov

Native Instruments Komplete Audio 6 Interface Review

If you’re looking for a great audio interface to use it as the core of your home studio then you are lucky because there are plenty of options to choose from. I still remember the first time I decided to go external with the soundcard: I got confused by all the options available, all the features, the prices and all the reviews. Finally, I decided to get the Audio Kontrol 1, the previous version of Native Instruments Komplete Audio 6. The two interfaces resembles a lot so you can say that I have some experience with both of them.

The body

Let me start with this: this audio interface does not feel cheap in anyway. Once you get to hold it in your hands you will immediately notice that it’s solid and weight balanced. It’s aluminum and black glass finish, it’s knobs and the main volume control looks great and professional. The device is not that big, it measures 11 x 4 x 7 inches and weights around 3 pounds.

Audio Kontrol 1 Audio Review

The front controls and inputs

If you’ve tested few soundcards and audio interfaces in my lifetime you know that you can tell a lot about the quality of the product if you test at the front controls, especially the knobs. For me, the knobs on Native Instruments Komplete Audio 6 are perfectly balanced, absolutely no wiggle here. Maybe I’m subjective, but I really loved this feature on any audio interface. The front face features two XLR combos, gain knobs for the inputs, volume level and switch for the headphone level. Using the button under the headphone level, you are able to switch between audio source 1 or audio source 2. There is no control light on the front face. All lights and main audio level wheel are placed on top, as seen in the above image.

Back Panel

The back panel

On the back panel you will find the Phantom Power button, the MIDI In/Out, the SPDIF connects, the output for monitors and the secondary balanced line input. The audio interface is powered through a USB cable that’s connected to the computer.

Functionality

As inputs, you can use the XLR microphone cable or a 1/4″ instrument cable. If you do use a mic cable, it will automatically detect microphone level signal. The gain control is very smooth and the quality is above average. Compared to Audio Kontrol 1, this audio interface has no programmable buttons, and the upper face of the interface was replaced by a big volume and control lights. For me, it seems like a waste of space. On the good side, this audio interface has a lot of pros like direct monitoring for live and for latency-free recording, the high-quality preamps and the solid construction. Also, the interface is really easy to setup and to work with. There were few complaints from users regarding crashes. I’ve also experienced this in my old Audio Kontrol 1. From time to time, the Cubase refused to play any sound and I needed to disconnect and reconnect the audio interface in order to fix things. This process was not long since the interface starts almost instantly (if you’re using the same USB slot).

The Price

You will find the Native Instruments Komplete Audio 6 in most online stores at prices between $220 and $250.

Conclusion

If you’re looking for an audio interface with solid construction, with plenty of inputs/outputs and with great preamps then you should definitely take your time to test the Komplete Audio 6 interface. If the hardware features are not enough for you, maybe the software package will convince you: Cubase LE5 and few cool plugins. Everything you need is right there in the box.

Do you already own it? What’s your own review on Komplete Audio 6 Interface?

02 Nov

A list of useful accessories for a home recording studio

Although in the last months I’ve recommended a lot of items that can be acquired in order to build a home recording studio, they are merely the core of it. Buying the proper recording equipment is not enough. If you want to create a complete studio, you need to get your hands on various accessories that will make the difference between a portable rookie studio and a real home studio.
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