- Band Management
- Home Recording
- Live Sound
- Best Instruments
- New Music
It’s awards season, America! Well, I’m not sure if that’s exactly true (or if you’re even reading this in America), but if we’re putting out a special issue (and we happen to think this one is particularly special), then that means it’s time to hand out some awards. So let this buyer’s guide…ahem, guide you to the gear you need if you’re thinking about putting together a home studio rig for the first time, or upgrading some woefully outdated components that desperately need it.
We thought about giving these awards a catchy name, and since the name of the game is home recording, what more fitting tribute than to call them the Homebody Awards? Nice ring, huh?
So, without further ado, may I present our first-ever Homebody recipients…▼ Article continues below ▼
The Original. Remastered.
Building on the global success of the Scarlett range Focusrite recently announced the launch of Scarlett 4th Gen. The new range features the Solo, 2i2, 4i4, Solo Studio, and 2i2 Studio, offering greater audio specifications, enhanced creative capabilities, and unprecedented ease-of-use.
The new Scarlett range boasts better specs than any previous generation of Scarlett. Key features include Auto Gain, Clip Safe and a re-engineered Air mode, cementing its status as a giant leap for the acclaimed range.
For the aspiring artist, the Scarlett 2i2 offers two remote-controlled mic preamps and two Hi-Z instrument/line inputs for guitars, keys and groove boxes. The iconic 2-in/2-out interface delivers professional studio quality in a portable package. With powerful new features like Clip Safe, Auto Gain and Air mode, the 2i2 empowers artists to make release-ready recordings anywhere.
Focusrite has completely re-engineered the audio circuitry and introduced professional-grade converters for incredible performance. Scarlett 4th Gen uses converters from Focusrite’s flagship RedNet range to deliver a massive 120dB dynamic range. 2i2 and 4i4 now feature remote-controlled preamps with 69dB of gain to get the best sound out of every mic. A custom-designed headphone amp drives high-impedance headphones louder and clearer than any previous Scarlett. In addition, all models now have independent controls for headphones and monitors.
With Auto Gain, users will never have to worry about setting levels again. Just play or sing for ten seconds, and Auto Gain will set the perfect level for recording. Clip Safe monitors levels up to 96,000 times per second and automatically adjusts the gain to prevent clipping, allowing users to fully immerse in performing and not have to worry about their levels. The re-engineered Air mode takes a sound’s unique character and brings it to the front of the mix, for standout vocal or instrument tracks. Air mode includes the original all-analogue Presence mode, plus a new DSP-based Harmonic Drive mode for console-like richness.
The new design combines elegance, functionality and accessibility. Details include premium Neutrik connectors, spacious knob placement, and endless gain knobs on 2i2 and 4i4. Complemented by Scarlett‘s iconic red, the front panel showcases a sleek black finish and soft touch knobs.
The Dynamic Gain Halos make it easy to set and monitor levels. This update to the iconic Scarlett Gain Halos enables users to set the perfect level and get great results every time.
Loopback routes computer audio to DAWs with ease via Scarlett‘s virtual inputs. It can also mix Scarlett inputs and computer audio for sampling from other software, streaming and recording flexibility.
Focusrite’s Easy Start tool quickly guides users through setup, so they’re ready to record with the included Ableton Live Lite and three months of Pro Tools Artist recording software. To help users get the best results for recording, mixing and mastering, the Hitmaker Expansion software bundle provides a complete suite of iconic studio plugins from some of the industry’s biggest names, including Softube, Native Instruments, Antares, and many more. Also included are five free masters from Landr that can be used at any time, plus a two-month subscription to Landr Studio, offering and unlimited music distribution on streaming platforms such as Spotify, Apple Music, YouTube Music and TikTok.
We recently had the chance to get our hands on the new Duet 3 from Apogee and sent it out to a young artist for a video review, as well (stay tuned on our YouTube for that). We’ve gotta say, the hi-res recording capabilities and convertors are super solid, and crystal clear when it comes to laying down your tracks. The small format fits on just about any space-crunched desktop surface, and the optional dock gets the angle just right with the rear-accessible ports.
Duet 3 includes on-board hardware DSP that powers the Symphony ECS Channel Strip for zero-latency recording with FX. Tuned by Bob Clearmountain, the ECS Channel Strip includes presets custom crafted by the legendary mixer so you can dial in a pro recording sound instantly. Ideal for music creation, voice recording, streaming and even gaming, you can use Duet 3 with your Mac or Windows workstation in your studio or on the go. Take your Duet 3 to the next level with the sleek (and aforementioned) Duet Dock accessory for the ultimate ergonomic desktop experience.
We loved the small desktop version of the UNO Synth when it first dropped, and we loved the keyboard-equipped PRO model even more when that came out not too long ago. Now IK has upped their game even further with the mega-powerful UNO SYNTH PRO X, a deliciously souped-up mean machine that’ll make your other synths gather dust.
This powerfully analog synth features 3 wave-morphing oscillators for killer sound creation, a dual-filter design, 10 built-in stereo fx (yes, STEREO), a paraphonic sequencer that’s actually easy to program, a rad arpeggiator for you Stranger Things aficionados, hundreds of preset slots for saving your sounds and what we feel is a super-intuitive front panel design that ditches the need for endless menu-diving with a lot of knob-per-function attributes.
Pro Tip: match it with the UNO DRUM machine for a killer pairing that’ll basically give you an entire production suite for a few hundred bucks.
We were delighted when the recently released DPA 4055 Kick Drum Microphone showed up for review earlier this year. Having a dedicated mic on the kick is a huge time-saver when it comes to recording, since you’re not shuffling other mics around from your locker, or repurposing mics that weren’t really designed to handle the high demands of a punchy kick.
Setup is a breeze with the 4055 ― since it’s a condenser, we just fed it 48V via our interface and tested it in a few different common alignments. We’ve recorded kick drums with large dynamic mics in the past, which yielded decent results.
With the 4055, first we placed it on a low stand with the capsule right up inside the bass drum, but not so close to the beater on the other side that we were in any danger of blasting out our preamp. Depending on the genre you’re recording, you may or may not like the way this captures the kick—going just slightly off-axis in this scenario yielded very tight, punchy results that essentially helped isolate the rest of the kit to virtually eliminate annoying (and hard to edit out) bleed-through. On-axis yielded similarly good results.
The high SPL of the 4055 means that you can really throw some heavy hitters at it without worrying too much about going red, and the flat frequency response from 20-20 means that the bass drum track in your DAW doesn’t receive any unwanted color along the way.
Next, we tested it outside of the hole, again a little off axis, just to see how it would perform. The good news is that on- or off-axis still yielded excellent results, which again makes setup time go quicker. If you’re playing with a mic to get it perfectly “on” without any weird proximity effects, that just eats up session time. If you’re going for a two-mic approach on the kick (we normally do not), you may need to spend an extra minute or two with setup to mitigate any phase issues.
All in all, we gave the 4055 a decent workout in about four different positions on the kick, depending on whether we wanted to get boomy, tight and punchy, or to capture the snap of the beater along with some of the room and kit. In every setup, the 4055 performed like a champ. Mixing it in with overheads and a room mic on the kit was easy, especially without the 4055 sticking out or (again) adding any dis-harmonious color to the other mics. In short, it all gelled together like we wanted without any fuss. Sometimes the biggest selling point is when something simply works like you need it to. Those are the pieces that quickly become go-tos.
We must say, the 4055 is also pretty rugged. Based on what we saw in the studio, it can easily handle road duties as well. We thought it sounded fantastic and was built tank-tough, so we absolutely give it our recommendation. Add it to your mic locker and hear for yourself!
We know, we know. You may have some preconceived notions when you hear the words Auto-Tune.
Trust us, just like Auto-Tune alum T-Pain showed the world what he could do recently with his covers album (without the use of major pitch-correction effects), Auto-Tune Unlimited’s entire suite of vocal production tools will forever change your mind on just what Antares brings to the table in the world of home (and commercial) recording.
The Unlimited subscription packs in EVERY SINGLE vocal plug-in they make, not just those for affecting pitch and related techniques. Bottom line, this ain’t your grandpa’s Auto-Tune.
You get access to killer tools for choir effects, harmonic breath controls, vintage talk box sounds, double-tracking, harmony generators and TONS more useful add-ons that can really expand your vocal game – especially for solo home recording artists and songwriters sending out demo tracks for placement consideration.
Don’t just take our word for it, try it yourself and see just how sweet your old, boring vocal stems can become with a little extra “oomph” (tasteful oomph, even) in the right places.
If you’ve been around the guitar-playing YouTube-sphere in the past few years, no doubt you’ve encountered the claims certain influencers have been making about these heads and cabs. And we’ve gotta say, now that we’ve got our own, and put it in the hands of a trusted source for our own YouTube channel (one Mr. Kal the Guitar Hero, if you please), we echo those sentiments.
This head sounds MASSIVE, cleans up incredibly well, and yeah, it’s ultra-light for a tube amp. It’s 50 watts, so it packs plenty of POWER but that also allows for some generous headroom too when you don’t want to drive everything to full-tilt. You’ve got options, too, depending on whether you want a classic British crunch or a more traditional “American” tone, so kudos to the Blackstar crew for thinking of everyone on this model.
We recently shipped a pair of these to our friend Aaron Kellim to record some new tracks for our Bandcamp playlist and YouTube channel, and he was able to get them sounding amazing on his voice and his acoustic guitar, no problem. The TF11 features a compact, cardioid design, and is rugged enough to take out on the road, or baby in your home studio.
Equally adept on voice and instrument, you could mic up pianos, brass, strings, and even use a pair for drum overheads. Throw them on anything, and they sound amazing. In fact, we’re going to go so far as to say that for most home recording artists, you could invest in a pair of these and use them as your go-mic (read: only) mics for just about anything you’d ever want to record – they’re just that damn good.