Performer’s Annual Holiday Gift Guide 2023

For our annual Holiday Gift Guide this year, we thought, “What’s the best way to approach recommendations for today’s musicians?” And from there, it was easy: if we were setting up a home studio rig from scratch, what sorts of things would WE put on our wish list?

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With our friends at AKG, JBL and Soundcraft generously letting us test out their gear throughout the year, we knew we had a killer mix of products in mind for the musical loved ones on your list (or hey, get a little something for yourself while you’re in the festive mood).

EVEN BETTER! We’ve enlisted the help of a diverse group of artists this year to test out the must-have JBL 3 Series studio monitors, which we’ll be showcasing on our YouTube and Instagram channels via video demonstrations, exclusive song premieres, a streaming Bandcamp sampler plus the coup de grace: a physical cassette release featuring new tracks using the JBL monitors we shipped to our participating artists (see last year’s video compilation HERE)!

Whew!

Without further ado, let’s get into this year’s picks for our Holiday Gift Guide. We hope it helps inspire some ideas, and even more – inspire some great music to be created!

Once you’ve recorded your tracks into your DAW, you’ve got to hear them played back, right? When monitoring your mix, there are a ton of options out there. We’ve been SUPER impressed by the entire 3 Series lineup from JBL when it comes to home studio monitors.

Jeshua Marshall helped us demo these in a 4-part video series that you can watch on our YouTube.

The 3 Series comes in a few flavors, including 5-inch drivers (305P MkII), 6.5-inch drivers (306P MkII) and 8″ with the 308P MkII. Whichever size makes the most sense for your space, the entire 3 Series family design leverages over 70 years of JBL acoustic expertise to create refined studio monitors that deliver outstanding value.

WANT TO GO LOW?

The 3 Series also features the LSR310S subwoofer, which extends the low end of your mixer to really enable you to hear the entire soundscape from the ultra-high to the most thumping lows you can conjure up.

The AKG P Series

The P Series of microphones from AKG serve a wide range of applications, from vocals to acoustic instruments to drum overheads and everything in between. Need to mic a loud guitar cabinet? They’ve got you covered. Want to capture the perfect sound from your acoustic’s sound hole? Check. And how about the grand piano and vocals for that tender ballad? Again, the P Series has everything you need — so much so that we challenged Theresa Jeane from The Nearly Deads to record a new track using the P Series exclusively in what we called the AKG MIC LOCKER CHALLENGE!

We’d be remiss if we didn’t give a quick rundown of our faves from the P Series, so you can prioritize your shopping list this season.

AKG P120this is our go-to for an ultra-affordable, do-it-all mic if you’re just getting your home studio’s mic locker in order, and want killer sound at a good price. The P120 delivers crystal-clear vocals, so you can use it for all your vocal needs and even for the budding podcaster inside you.

AKG P170the P170 is the perfect place to start if you need a few high-quality instrument mics that you can place on drum overheads, inside your acoustic piano, on your acoustic guitar, and even on your cabs. They’re supper durable, fit just about anywhere because they’re small and are accurate enough for even the most discerning home studio user.

AKG P220 — stepping up to the P220 gets you a few nice options, including a handy bass-cut filter and pad, plus it comes with a nice shock mount and travel case. If you’re thinking of upping your stage game, a few of these on some loud sources would do wonders in a live setting, as well.

AKG P420 — The 420 is one of our absolute faves, all around. It’s a dual-capsule design, offering up even more sonic flexibility, and it’s just as warm on vocals as it is on instruments, which makes it one of the most versatile mics in this range.

AKG P820 — and here we have the grand-daddy of them all, the killer tube P820 which is our absolute top choice for amazing vocals. The multi-pattern tube microphone is an excellent tool for highlighting lead vocals, brass instruments, electric guitars and drums. With its dual one-inch diaphragm capsule and the advanced ECC83 dual-triode circuitry, the P820 Tube delivers real tube sound and raises the bar in its class of affordable tube microphones. BONUS — it even comes with a shock mount, carrying case, and remote control unit to select the polar patter, pad and cut settings.

AKG C214

The C Series from AKG presents an ideal solution to high-end commercial studio sound, even for the home studio user.

The C214 professional large-diaphragm condenser microphone has been designed as a cost-effective alternative to the high-end C414 family. Like the C414, the C214 offers a supreme one-inch capsule on an integrated suspension to reduce mechanical noise. A switchable 20dB attenuation pad allows recording of loud sources of up to 156dB SPL. A switchable bass-cut filter allows close-up recording with almost no proximity effect. The C214 captures sound by combining one capsule of the legendary C414 dual-capsule system and the patented AKG Back-Plate Technology, resulting in an outstanding performance close to the famous C414 XLII.

LEARN MORE at https://www.akg.com/Microphones/Condenser%20Microphones/C214.html

Again, we put the mic to the test with Jeshua Marshall in his home studio, as he used it to record a new track from scratch. Watch below!

 

We’d be remiss if we neglected one of the most important aspects of your rig: the mixer. Luckily, we’ve been hands-on with the Notepad series from Soundcraft and can totally recommend each of these units as not only a standalone mixer (awesome for keeping that ever-growing synth rig manageable) BUT ALSO an easy-to-use audio interface to record demos, rehearsals, podcasts as well as full band mixes. The coolest thing about the Notepad series is not just the small size, but the powerful feature set: each model, regardless of channels, features USB I/O for connecting to your DAW plus the 8FX and 12FX have cool Lexicon effects built-in, too. As a mixer and interface in one, it’s a smashing combo.

This year we had the amazing band First to Eleven check out the Notepad in their rehearsal space for a 4-part series we did on essential gear for your practice room.

It doesn’t matter how many channels you choose (5, 8 or 12), we were suitably impressed with each Notepad’s mic preamps and control layout — the knobs and faders were all smooth, and the mic pre’s offered supreme clarity for all our spoken word and musical needs. We recorded one of our podcasts with them, and even scratched out some demos for another past project with one of the Notepads we got on loan from Soundcraft — so we can speak personally to the quality-to-dollar proposition on offer here.

Not only were the mic pre’s excellent, the echos and reverbs we had access to on-board were perfect for our needs (no plug-ins required!) and we could easily create an aux send mix for any outboard processing. The Hi-Z channel for our guitar was a nice bonus, too — it meant we could go direct into the board without miking it up OR record an extra direct signal in addition to our amp.

From all of us here at Performer, we wish you the warmest, happiest holiday season. We hope you get everything on your wish list, and are able to make the best shopping choices for the loved ones in your life, as well!

And when you do end up creating some new music, be sure to send it our way!

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