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.
Read More

07 Oct

Steinberg UR22 vs Focusrite Scarlett 2i2. A short comparison.

A recent comment from DavidT inspired me to write an article about the similarities and differences between Steinberg UR22 vs Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 audio interfaces. If you find yourself in the position of having to choose one of these two devices and you need the ultimate reason to choose one of them, then the following comparison might be of help. I will try to point the main differences between these two audio interfaces but in the end, you have to make your own decision according to your own needs.

Background
I had the pleasure of working with both devices for different periods of time. I’ve tested the Steinberg UR22 for few hours at a friend’s house and I worked on Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 for a longer period of time. While my overall opinion on these interfaces may be slightly biased, the comparison will be made on actual features and real user reviews.

A short comparison between these two interface.

A short comparison between these two interface.

Build quality
The Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 is packed in an aluminum case that seems solid and resistant to shocks. The UR22 has a similar metal body, making it heavy and durable. Both interfaces have sturdy and superior level buttons. We have a tie here.

Sample rate and audio resolution
There are some features on the UR22 that may surpass Scarlett 2i2, like the sample rate: 96kHz on Scarlet 2i2 vs 192kHz on Steinberg UR22. This is not necessarily a definitive difference between these two audio interfaces, since most users record at 44.1 kHz or 48 kHz. For a home studio, recording at 96kHz is more than enough. The maximum resolution is the same on both interfaces: 24-bit. UR22 won this round.

Preamps
Included preamps are of great importance and they should weight a lot in your decision to buy an audio interface for your home studio. After testing both devices, I truly believe that Focusrite’s 2i2 is superior in terms of preamps, since it features the same D-Pre mic preamps found in their flagship device, the Liquid Saffire 56. While UR22′s preamps are pretty clean (I would say “common” is the right word to describe them), the preamps on Scarlett 2i2 are spectacular. As you may already know, Focusrite has an established 25 years history of manufacturing great audio devices with outstanding preamps. Focusrite Scarlett won this round.

MIDI in/out feature
This round is won hands down by the Steinberg UR22 interface, since there are no MIDI connectors on Focusrite Scarlett 2i2. UR22 won this round.

Software support
Again, I do believe that Steinberg UR22 is better in terms of software support and compatibility especially if you are working on Steinberg Cubase software. While I was using the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 with Cubase 5 I noticed rare crashes and buffer problems when I was using too many effects. The UR22 worked flawlessly in Cubase. Both devices have recording software included in the box, the 2i2 has the Ableton Live Lite 8 while the UR22 has the Cubase 6 software. I think that Cubase 6 is better for a home studio project. UR22 won this round.

Users’s reviews and price
Steinberg UR22 costs $149.99 and Scarlett 2i2 costs $114. In terms of users’ rating, the UR22 has 4/5 stars while the 2i2 has 4.5/5 stars. As you can see, 2i2 is cheaper and is has better rating (according to Amazon).

Steinberg-UR22-vs-Focusrite-Scarlett-2i2 coremic

My conclusion
As you can see in the feature comparison above, Steinberg UR22 could be seen as a better choice if you need an audio interface for your home studio. Now, I will share my own conclusion.If you plan to record vocals and you have an aditional MIDI port on other device in your studio then Scarlett 2i2 is a wiser choice. Its outstanding preamps will definitely make the difference. Users on Amazon have given this interface a better rating. If you need quality, go with Scarlett 2i2.

If you already own a great preamp in your home studio, then you should go for Steinberg  UR22, since it has better features and software support. Also, it has a superior sample rate.

What’s your favorite audio interface? Read complete review on UR22 and on 2i2.

05 Oct

A complete portable studio setup: Rode NT1-A Cardioid Condenser Microphone Recording Package Review

If you need a portable studio setup or you plan to build your own recording studio on a tight budget of $500 while still keeping audio standards up, you should probably take Rode NT1-A Recording Package into consideration as one of your best options. This package features everything you need for making music independently: one of the best microphones for a home studio, the Rode NT1-A cardioid condenser microphone, the Presonus Audiobox USB, Sennheiser HD 202-II Studio Headphones and an adjustable mic stand.
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