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Rode NT1-A review: the perfect microphone for a home studio project

They say that you will never find a professional microphone under $500. In order to prove everyone wrong, Rode decided to create the perfect microphone for a home recording studio at half the price. Even more, the mic comes with a lot of physical features that will definitely worth your money.

If you plan to make a solid investment in your home recording studio microphone, Rode NT1-A is probably the first mic you should take into consideration. This large diaphragm condenser microphone with cardioid polar pattern has the same quality and performance of mics found at prices over $1,000 but you can actually buy it for $229. But before going into further details, let’s talk about the physical aspects of this exquisite microphone.

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Best microphones for a home recording studio

Finding the best microphones for building a home studio could become a real challenge! I still remember the first time I’ve ever built a home recording studio. I was around 16 and I had a dream of becoming a musician. Man, the audio equipment was so expensive at that time (at least for my budget), so I had to do a lot of improvisation. Time flies and recording studio equipment got cheap, I mean really cheap! New audio interfaces and microphones were released on the market, older premium mics got cheaper, everything was one click away. What’s even better, you can get informed before actually making the purchase. This will ease the process, especially if you are on a tight budget.

If you want to upgrade your recording setup or you want to build your first recording studio, you are in the right place. I am going to recommend a list containing the best microphones you can buy this year. These studio mics are perfect for a home studio or any kind of audio project you can think of (podcasts, Youtube videos). The mics presented here are in no particular order and prices may vary, but one thing is certain: they are affordable and they will bring a great deal of value to your recording setup.

Best microphones for a home recording studio

Before starting with the greatest microphones on the market, I want to say that this list does not contains the cheapest mics you can buy. These microphones are affordable, but are not necessarily cheap. When I compiled the list, I had in mind the best ratio between price and quality. When you buy any of these mics you know that you made the best possible acquisition for that price.

Great microphones - Rode Nt2-a condenser microphone

Rode-NT2a
Rode is a condenser microphone that is produced in Australia. This version, the NT2a, falls into the NT2000 line, which was greatly praised by the customers. You will learn that it features a large variety of selectable polar patterns, pads and switches that are incorporated directly into the device.

But, Rode NT2a is more than that, because in no matter what application you will use it for, it will capture the best possible sound. It is perfect for vocals! If you want to record instruments (a guitar) you will be very pleased with the results. NT2a is very quiet when it comes to self noise. You will enjoy the perfect mid-range response, the clear low end and it has a great presence. Rode-NT2a can be found in most online stores priced under $400, which is definitely a bargain.  You can’t buy anything better in that price range – maybe the ACK C214 microphone that’s feature later in our selection. You can check this great recording setup that I love with its older brother, Rode NT1a.

AKG Perception 420

AKG Perception 420
Let me start with this: Perception 420 has the legendary quality of AKG mics, and it is the latest edition of the much praised Perception line of ACK microphones. This mic features a -20dB pad switch and a bass cut filter switch that allows you to record your vocals without those unwanted low frequencies. The frequency response is between 20Hz and 20KHz and 3 positional modes that are switchable: cardioid, omnidirectional and figure 8. It can handle sound pressure levels up to 158dB, which is fairly high. According to some of the reviews, it works great on overheads on drums but also on guitars. You will probably be amazed by how nicely it capture sound details. In the box, you will also find a shock mount and nice case.

This mic is priced under $200. In that price range, it’s the best choice you can make.

Great microphones on the market - Neumann TLM 102

Neumann TLM 102
TLM microphone brings the German engineering and quality into the world of recording studios. Let’s not forget that the legendary Neumann U87 is a trend setter and represents the standard for most recording microphones released today. But U87 is not cheap at all (around $4000), and most of us can’t afford it. That’s why Neumann has decided to build a line of cheaper mics while still trying to maintain the sound quality of U87. The TLM 102 has so many features and it’s hard to talk about all of them in a brief description. The most important feature is the boast of the maximum sound pressure of 144dB, which allows you to record record very loud sound sources like drums and percussion. TLM 102 really shines when it comes to vocal recording. With a frequency response of 20Hz – 20 KHz, it’s clean, quiet, and it captures the real presence of the voice with high accuracy. The maximum SPL is at 144 dB and the impedance is of 50 Ohms. Buying this mic is not cheap, even for a home studio ($699). But if you want quality, you will have to go the extra mile and get this mic.

Besides the microphone, the box contains the mic mount, the mic stand adapter and the documentation. In terms of build quality, TLM 102 feels like a premium microphone. It will absolutely up your game to a whole new level.

The greatest microphones on the market - ACK C214

AKG C214
If you have a budget of $400, and if you want a better mic than Perception 420, you should consider ACK C214. ACK manufacturer is building quality mics for over 50 years, and they finally decided to release a line of affordable mics for us, the home studio owners. C214 is the little brother of the well known ACK C414, a mic used by many professional studios out there. The ACK C214 combines the Back-Plate Technology created by ACK with the dual-capsule system found also in C414. I was reading few reviews for this particular microphone, and that combination of technology it’s not just for show, because everyone seems to have only good words about it. The only negative element I could find in the reviews was the low end recordings, and folks say that sometimes they seems thin. But that can depend on the audio interface they are using.

Great mics for a home studio - AT4040

Audio Technica AT4040 Condenser Microphone
Although AT4040 is cheaper than the mics above, it needs to be in this list with the other great microphones of 2017. It was created for professional recording but also works great on live performances. It’s externally-polarized and its large diaphragm captures smooth, natural sounds. Ultra low nose, no low-frequency distortion.

MXL V69MEDT Large Diaphram Condenser Tube Microphone

MXL V69MEDT Large Diaphram Condenser Tube Microphone

Are you ready to try something different?  MXL V69MEDT is a one-of-a-kind mic since features a vintage tube sound. The grill is plated with 24K gold. If you plan to upgrade from a cheaper mic but you don’t actually have to money to buy a $600 microphone, this is definitely your best best.

Best Mics on the market: Final Verdict

If you plan to buy studio equipment for your home studio, you will learn one thing. You are able to get poor quality mics at prices between $75 and $150, or you can spare extra dollars and get something that will really make the difference. For me, investing $400 in a quality mic is nothing compared to the love I have for making music in my own studio.

For many people, it’s not about finding the best microphone for your studio, it’s all about the budget. I understand that perfectly. If you can’t squeeze the budget, you just can’t, and you should get whatever you can afford. Better something than nothing, right? But if you can afford to spend that extra $100 bill, you will have the tool to enter the big league!

Remember that all the condenser mics in this list require a source of power (+48V Phantom Power) and a preamp. You should probably get a recording studio package for it: a XLR cable, a mic stand and a pop filter.

Which microphone is your all time favorite and why? Let us know in the comment section below!

Cheap Home Studio Keyboards and Midi Controllers for Music Producers

Building a home recording studio is not all about buying microphones and audio interfaces. We need ways to create our own instrumentals, beats, music lines, songs. There are producing programs out there that allows you to create your music line using a virtual keyboard, but you will never get the same touch and feeling by doing this. I have tried it for myself, and I could never get the song done, because everything felt so digital and fake. When it comes to creating instrumentals, I’m always staying with my Akai midi-controller. It never failed me so far.

Fact: Home Studio Keyboards are cheap these days, so you can buy a MIDI controller under $200 and still get quality and practicability. Let’s see some of the best pics that I like. I’m targeting keyboards in the price range of $100-$400.

Cheap Home Studio Keyboards

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Affordable setup for a home recording studio

How to create a home recording studio? Here is an affordable setup

The first thing you need to do when you assemble your home studio is to get a computer with enough RAM (minimum 2GB of RAM) to sustain the producing and recording process. I assume that you already have one, but if you don’t you need to acquire one right now! MAC or PC, Desktop or Laptop it does not matter, though the laptop gives you more freedom of movement. If you got that out of the way, it’s time to buy the actual items required for a recording studio

  • The Condenser Microphone
  • The Microphone Stand
  • The Pop filter
  • An Audio Interface
  • Optionally, you can add a microphone preamplifier, compressor, etc

nt1a[1]

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Best Tools for a Music Studio

Building a Home Studio around $500 might not get you enough equipment needed for the job. Sometimes you need more stuff to help you around in your home studio or to improve your recording/mixing experience. Keep reading until the end because the best things comes last!

SanDisk Ultra Fit CZ43 64GB USB 3.0
Hi-Speed ​​USB Memory Stick

Although the USB Memory Stick is a fairly common accessory in a home recording studio, you need to take into consideration the possibility that Hi-Speed ​​USB Memory Hi-Speed Sticks can be used for back or even to carry all your home studio data on it: studio-on-a-stick. You can store all your VSTs on it, instrumentals or things that you do not wish to leave in the studio computer. Basically, you have the entire collection (with very few exceptions) of VST’s and sequencer on a stick that moves really fast. SanDisk Ultra Fit CZ43 64GB USB 3.0 stick is able to run multi-track (besides Reaper and VST’s directly from it), though still limited to 6-8 channels to write speed. That’s pretty good for a stick, right?

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How to make a music studio with a budget of $500

If you ask me, making music is more than a hobby, is a passion for art that needs to be cultivated and promoted more often these days. Some people are lucky, and being able to make a living out of it is not that hard to achieve these days. Making music like a pro in your own recording studio is not a faded dream, it is something that can be achieved with a proper (but not that large) budget. All you need is a voice, an idea and a… recording equipment. Before searching for recording studio equipment for sale, you should know exactly why you need a recording studio.

Why build a home music studio?

Because, before becoming a huge star, you need to be noticed. In order for you to be noticed, people need to hear one of your songs. And for that, you need a home recording studio. From this point on it’s all about being creative, write the best lyrics you can write, compose/acquire the best instrumentals.

So, in this regard, I will present a home recording studio setup priced around $500:

mxl-condenser-mic

Microphone

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A short tutorial on how To Master a Song or Album [video]

Ok, so you have seen what “Youtube” says about mixing and mastering. I will give you my fast recipe about this topic. Before going into details, you need to know there is no ultimate tutorial on how to mix and master a song, because there are many factors involved, and the raw recordings will always sound different. There are so many mics, so many soundcards, it’s impossible to create a recipe that will work for every each one.

The Mix

First, you need to lay down your vocals. That’s the first thing you should take care of. Try to have the best performance ever, if you notice a mistake remove that recording and try again. Don’t think that the mixing will “save the day” because you will end up with a mediocre project. After you have your vocals in the multi-track software, you need to clean them. Use the cut tool and remove the parts before the actual voice and the large silence parts. It should be an easy process. Once you have your vocals cleaned, the hook/chorus is in place, you need to apply effects to each track. What I like to do here, is to create a Group or a FX channel and send the output of all these tracks to that group. This way, you can add the effects to a single Group/FX channel and it would be easier to work and to control. If you need additional effects for chorus, you can use a secondary group or FX channel for that group. And if we are talking about chorus, you should know that the chorus needs a different mix in order to stand up and be noticed. What I like to do is apply a stereo effect on it (adding a small delay to the left channel) or pan the chorus vocals in original mix, one to the left, one to the right and live the third one as it is. I presume that you have at least three vocals for the chorus. That should give you a nice stereo effect.

Mixing effects

I like to add the following VST effects on the vocal group: EQ (to cut down frequencies below 150hz), compression (max 4:1), de-esser, reverb. Sometimes, if you add the reverb before the first EQ, you will notice that the vocals may stand better in the mix. You should experiment with all these effects, depending on your music genre. At this point, you should watch the overall output levels of the song. Make sure there is no clipping (usually marked by red).

Mastering a song

Once the mix is done, you need to add mastering effects. I like the Wave SSL for mastering and I try to use effects that are transparent and clean. Add a small touch in the high frequencies (optional), stereo pan (optional), a mastering compressor add a maximizer (L2 or L3 is nice). You should listen to your final song on different sound systems and make sure there is not to much compression there. What I like to do is compare the sound levels and audio quality of my song with another song that’s hot right now on TV. That should give you an idea on what sound mainstream producers are going for.

Most of the audio effects plugins used in this video come from the Waves SSL 4000 plugin. You should the package is not cheap, but it’s used by audio engineers all over the world. There are many free or cheaper alternatives, but Waves plugins are the best.