Brandon’s Bulletproof Recording Gear List

Bulletproof Recording Gear

I’m ALWAYS being asked about what gear I recommend. Sometimes (particularly in the arena of microphones) I encounter so much grey area, so much subjectivity, and so many individual-specific needs that it’s hard for me to say, “You need THAT!”, unfortunately. I can’t think of one mic that blows my mind all the time, no matter how much I’ve spent.

Other times, however, I have no problem flat-out recommending a piece of gear. That’s what this page is all about. This is gear that I flat out have no problem endorsing as an absolutely exceptional product.

Voxengo Elephant

I’ve tried a zillion trillion brickwall limiters. Some have been hyped to no end by famous dudes. I’ve never found one that sounds as good as Voxengo Elephant. Try the demo. Make sure to try the “Max” mode.
Website: http://www.voxengo.com/product/elephant/
My Review: Voxengo Elephant: The Best Damn Brickwall Limiter Plugin

T-Bone

T-Bone

T-Bone is an exceptionally fast, and simple EQ plugin. You want it darker and thicker? Twist it the left. You want it thinner and brighter? You twist to the right. T-Bone is an exceptionally fast way of dealing with the most common of EQ needs. It makes dealing with masking radically faster and extremely intuitive. Highly recommended!
Website: T-Bone @ BozDigitalLabs.com
My Review: Boz Digital Labs T-Bone

Sasquatch Kick Machine

Sasquatch Kick Machine

Sasquatch Kick Machine is my first call whether it’s resurrecting local band kicks, snares, and toms or creating enormous drums for electronic music from scratch. Everyone should give it a try. It’s NOT for meek and it’s certainly not even close to subtle.
Website: Sasquatch Kick Machine @ BozDigitalLabs.com
My Review: Sasquatch Kick Machine

Shure SM57

Shure SM57
This one is so obvious to me that I almost forgot to put it on here. The Shure SM57 is definitely bulletproof. Not only did we prove this in Is The Shure SM57 Really Bullet Proof?, but everyone already knew it anyway.

The rumor is the first Van Halen album’s guitar sounds were captured with a single Shure SM57. If that’s true (and I believe it is), we can stop right there. If a guitar sound doesn’t rock with a single Shure SM57, it just doesn’t rock. Fix it. It ain’t the mic’s fault. The SM57 is my first choice for snare top, snare bottom, tom tops (with anti-bleed measures in place), electric guitars, and probably a bunch of stuff I’m forgetting. I’ve even had some good luck with them on acoustic guitar.
Website: Shure SM57
My Review: Yet Another Shure SM57 Review

ADK Vienna

ADK_Vienna
Website: ADK Vienna
My Review: Coming Soon
The ADK Vienna large diaphram condenser microphone is the first vocal microphone that truly satisfied me on vocals. I’ve owned mics that cost 9x as much…. (Soundelux U99, Neumann TML27)….mics that cost 4x as much (Peluso 2247, Peluso 22 251), and many more that cost quite a bit more money.

Running the ADK Vienna through my super secret $51 preamp has been an absolute gold mine for me. After using the review unit for 2 months, I bought two with my own cash.

Voxengo Voxformer

Voxformer
Website: http://www.voxengo.com/product/voxformer/
My Review: Voxengo Voxformer Snags Bulletproof Award
I wasn’t too excited about (once again) trying out another channel strip. It turns out that Voxengo Voxformer has one of the best compressors on the planet and I’d be shocked if there was a faster way to mix. It’s absolutely sensationally thought out and makes my life easier. All with the whopping price tag of $69. Buy yours before I convince Alexsky to crank up the price!

iZotope Trash2

Trash2 EQ
Website: More Info On iZotope Trash2
My Review: iZotope Trash2 Review

While promising to be a hell of a tool for mangling audio in revolutionary ways, Trash2 may have just stumbled on to being the best channel strip on the market. It’s an absolutely sensational tool that I have no reservations 100% endorsing. Well done! Very well done.

Voxengo Soniformer

Voxengo Soniformer
Website:  More Info On Soniformer
My Review:  Voxengo Soniformer: The Greatest Secret Since The Kennedy Assassination

Voxengo Soniformer is one of those tools that let’s me sleep better at night.  I can now deal with random, intermittent mud without excessively thinning out my tracks.  I can make a track as bright as I want without sibilance problems (although I still like a hardware La3a for that).  Soniformer has the ability to catch the narrowest peaks in ways that I had never seen before in a multi-band compressor and is the kind of tool that EVERYONE should have around.  Outstanding plugin!

Audio Technica ATH-M50s Studio Monitor Headphones


Note: I just bought 4 more of these. They have changed and are not nearly as good as the older versions. My older version had a coiled wire and sounded great. These new ones….let’s just say I regret buying them.

As anyone who’s read Killer Home Recording knows, I believe studio monitoring is that one single step/piece of gear/whatever that is holding back practically every home recorder. While headphones aren’t 100% perfect for monitoring, they rule out the room acoustics factor. This suddenly makes them a lot more perfect, particularly as a second listening device.

These particular Audio Technica headphones are outstanding for mixing and not a mix goes by where I don’t at least double check a mix on these. They are nice and bright, which means that sibilance and excessive brightness will be highlighted and you can make sure you never crank out a thin mix again.

The best $109 I’ve ever spent. I liked them so much I ended up buying 5 of them and use them for tracking.

Read My ReviewMusician’s Friend

Superior Drummer 2.0

When it comes to the world of drum recording, things have changed in a big way in recent years. There’s no excuse for lame drum sounds at home. In fact, I’m hearing many, many flat out pro sounding recordings of drums that were done in ridiculously unideal conditions.

There are many great drum samples out there. The Steven Slate stuff is absolutely brutal. The Ocean Way Drums stuff is cool. However, when it comes to absolute flexibility, reliability, ease of use, and speed of use, nothing I’ve used beats Superior Drummer 2.0.

I’ve never had the program crash on me even once….and I’m REALLY great at getting programs to crash! Their proprietary method of sample loading is the fastest I’ve ever seen. Interfacing with electronic drums is a breeze. The included MIDI loops rock. Basically, this company has their crap together. Period. Hell, they are descendents of vikings. What do you expect!

As for sounds, I’ve found Superior Drummer 2.0 to be excellent for everything from metal to country. If the stock sounds aren’t enough, their add on packages offer a wide variety of tones at very reasonable prices. Even their Electronic EZX is awesome!

I use Superior Drummer 2.0 by MIDI programming, electronic drums, and sample layering. Superior Drummer 2.0 is AWESOME for sample layering. When a real drum kit is almost there, using something like KtTrigger to get MIDI data out of a human performance and triggering Superior Drummer, is about as powerful as it gets. The less-comprehensive sample packages work well when you need simple, but when something is missing in your real drum sound, it’s hard to find a one-size-fits-all sample that will always solve the problem. Superior Drummer 2.0 gives access to all mics. Let me explain.

Let’s say are snare has plenty of meat, but is a little lifeless. By layering in a snare via Superior Drummer 2.0, we can pull down the snare close mic (with all the chunk) because we already have it and use more snare bottom to add the high end sizzle. We can forget the close mics entirely and use just the overheads and room mics. We can ditch the overheads and use just the close mics and the room mics. We can compress each portion of this individually to get exactly what we are missing in are drum sound. This is one of the best features of Superior Drummer 2.0, but one I find that isn’t talked about enough.

The best part is the price. I’ve seen this thing dip down to as low as $149, which is insultingly low considering how damn good this thing is.

Musician’s Friend

Native Instruments Komplete 6

Not everyone has needs for comprehensive virtual synths and samples. Those of us that do often struggle to find one single package that does EVERYTHING. Well, I’m not entirely convinced that Komplete 6 does every single thing under the sun. You could certainly find SOMETHING it can’t do. However, for a person that does a huge range of styles, I think you are going to have a hard time covering all your basis any better than this.

Included synths and samples:
KONTAKT 4
ABSYNTH 5
GUITAR RIG 4 PRO
BATTERY 3
MASSIVE
FM8
REAKTOR 5

If you have anything you choose to get robo critical about (particularly real instruments in which you would use samples), you will want to purchase an over-the-top package that comprehensively nails it. Otherwise, Komplete 6 is incredible.

On the synth front, the combination of FM8, Massive, and Absynth 5 is going to cover pretty much everything I can think of for techno, trance, hip hop, rock keyboards, techno movie scoring, and just about anything else I can come up with. Absynth 5 does the ultra modern thing from the prettiest stuff imaginable to something that belongs in the movie Seven or a Nine Inch Nails production.

Battery 3 offers tons of electronic drums, real drums, and everything in between. I prefer Superior Drummer 2.0 for real drums and I really like Electronic EZX for techno drums, but Battery has some awesome sounds I’ve not heard in either that are very useful. It’s a straight forward little gadget and super fast and easy to use.

Guitar Rig 4 is one of the two guitar emulators I consider ready go to go (for 95% of us). Is it going to replace recording your real amp? My answer: maybe.

Reaktor 5 is a sound design thingy that can get ultra complex but allows you to do some ultra ridiculous processing in ways most of us would never imagine. This is very cool for techno stuff.

Kontakt 4 is the latest generation of what I consider to be the top sampler on the market. You are SUPPOSED to go out and buy the samples you want and load them into Kontakt 4, but the included samples sound exception and give me a nice foundation of sounds to play with that is bigger than you may think. Again, you may want to add your own, but this is a great start.

I find the Native Instruments stuff to be great sounding, reasonably priced, and very very reliable. They take excellent care of their previous customers. (I upgraded from Komplete 3 to Komplete 6 for $80!)

18 responses to Brandon’s Bulletproof Recording Gear List

  1. You should have the ever popular SM57 up here. It really doesn’t get more bullet proof than a 57.

  2. So what headphones do you recommend now??

  3. Great question, Bill. I’m gonna have to figure that out. I’ve been mixing lately entirely on Audio Technica ATH-m50s and my results have not been good. With that said, I’ve really become a fan of having multiple monitors to switch from. Of course, those multiple monitors need to be carefully selected and do certain things that actually help. (That could take a chapter to explain, really.) So, I really don’t know.

    I know that Shure has an ear bud style monitor with the flatest low end I’ve ever seen. The ATH-m50s may be a nice piece to the puzzle, but I suspect a person would need a total of at least 3 headphones to get a picture that exposes, pushes, and pulls a mix. I may need to do some homework on this one.

  4. When do we get the bulletproof monitor award?

  5. What DAW is your go to and what would you suggest for the home recording mostly metal/rock guitarist? I’m having trouble with my old version of Cubase and I just was given a full on copy of Pro Tools 8. I use Superior2.0 and The Metal Foundry with Line 6 Ux2. Am I on the right path?!

  6. I don’t really have a “go to” DAW because I don’t think there is one. Cubase is still my main DAW, but I’m weening myself off of it for a planned switch to Reaper. I don’t feel that Reaper is better (or worse) than Cubase. For me, it’s mostly about cash. I’ve got a home studio (mostly for fun) and my real studio (for cash) and I don’t want to shell out $500 for Cubase 7 on my home laptop and another $300 to update my main setup. In the long term I’m going to pay quite a bit for Cubase and I’ve decided that I’d rather put that cash in my back pocket.

    Keep in mind that there aren’t really too many “worse” DAWs. If you are looking for a DAW that will give you some kind of competitive advantage, good luck. There are a few features that are handy in every DAW, but none stand out in global discussion.

    Pro Tools 8 is old school. You’ll be lacking automatic delay compensation (among others). This was a deal killer for me when I tried 3 years ago, but I guess everyone has a different view on that one.

    Superior Drummer 2.0 is still excellent although there many great alternatives. The Line 6 Ux2 is a fine tool. Good luck!

  7. Dennis Shupert May 13, 2014 at 1:43 pm

    HeyBrandon, even though I’m still leaning toward an sE Electronics sE2200a II C (because of the outrageous ratings I’ve read AND the low cost) I wanted you to know I found this ADK for only $279 at http://www.frontendaudio.com/ADK-Vienna-Mk8-Microphone-p/9999-03141.htm so now I’m reconsidering…sure wish there was a way to test ‘em both side-by-side before laying down the ca$h! Thanks for all you do, man!

  8. Hey Dennis,

    I’ve heard really good things about the SE 2200 myself. The odds are strong that it is every bit as good as the Vienna MK8. I am a fan of the Vienna and I’ll put it up against everything I’ve ever used, but I could probably say that about other mics by similar companies. I don’t necessarily recommend anyone who’s already got X to switch over or anything. I think the Vienna came to me at a time when I had ditched “processing guilt” and embraced the notion of colored/tinted preamps.

    So for all you out there who are starting from scratch or maybe hate your current mic, I recommend the Vienna Mk8. However, I really doubt if this one single change is going to be a game changer.

  9. Brandon,

    Out of interest, have you ever used or tested any Red5 stuff? They mainly do mics of good spec but cheap prices, but have recently branched off into monitors and some accessories.
    Be interested in hearing your opinion of them.
    I own an RV6 “Budget large Diaphragm” mic that cost £80 (including shock mounts, windshield and flightcase!). I think it’s pretty good, but I am very much an amatuer. It’s had a fair bit of use over the last few years and is still going strong. Bet they’d send someone like yourself some review samples…

    Inothernews: ace site.
    Good egg.

  10. Hey Matt,

    No, I’ve never tried out the Red5 stuff although I’ve seen it online. I’ll have to get a hold of ‘em and bug ‘em. Thanks for the reminder.

    We are at a point now where a shockingly high % of gear passes all objective tests. This wasn’t the case 15 years ago. Shootouts with $100 condensers and U87s don’t have the obvious winners like they used to. It doesn’t take too much creativity to invent reasons why a person may prefer a $3,000 Neumann over a $100 mic, but less and less are those reasons actual sound. I love it when someone says, “Oh, but X mega star uses Y mega mic”. When you take a listen you hear a sound that has been processed so heavily that the importance of the mic can be debated….particularly in pop and hip hop.

  11. Brandon, I’ll be doing a small mic shootout between several ADK mics within the next few weeks, namely the A6, Vienna, and Hamburg editions. Larry at ADK is really nice to work with, too. I’ll keep you posted.

  12. Great! I always love shootouts especially when they involve my favorite mic company.

  13. Brandon, I did my shootout with three ADK Mics, and have posted clips here:

    http://www.soundcloud.com/bronze-gate-sound/sets

    I tested three ADK’s – the A6, The Vienna Edition, and the Hamburg Edition. I’m not a mic expert by any stretch of the imagination. I was looking for a multipurpose mic that would be suitable for acoustic as well as vocals. I decided on the Hamburg edition. In the 5 – 6kHz range, sat in between the A6 (low) and the Vienna (high). For me the Vienna was too shiny and the A6 was a little dull overall.

    I also have vocal and acoustic spectrum pics for the test here:

    http://www.facebook.com/bronzegatesound

    Sorry this isn’t a polished shootout. Maybe one day, I’ll learn how to shoot video and provide a deal on YouTube.

    Steve

  14. hello the incredible Brandon Dury.Great work u doing here.can i bother u for a minute?pls whats ur take on the behringer c1

  15. I think I used it in The Interrogator Sessions for Killer Home Recording at least some of the time. I’ve only toyed with the Behringer C1 for a few minutes. While a person COULD fight through it with quite a bit of EQ, I don’t remember feeling that mic was all that pleasant. It’s a sibilant booger with lots of 5k (ish). Could that be EQ’d to sound good? My gut says probably. I remember feeling fairly disgusted when I put the mic back in the case.

    Behringer has a handful of winners: ADA8000, all their rack mount headphone amps, and their X32 all come to mind as exceptional tools. I don’t put the C1 in that ballpark.

    If you are looking for an inexpensive condenser mic, take a look at the used ADK mics on Ebay.

    Brandon

  16. hey Brandon i’m new to delving into the home recording hobby. I was wondering if you could tell me of any cheap online classes I could take real quick, I heard something about askvideo.com. and I was also wondering if I get an audio interface for my pc if I can hook a preamp up to it even tho that sounds stupid to ask I just want to be 100% positive before I dish out the cash

  17. Hey Mike,

    What are you wanting to learn? How to track vocals? How to mix?

    Askvideo does make some excellent videos, but I’m only familiar with their videos on teaching recording software (DAWs).

    Most audio interfaces these days have preamps built in that are PLENTY adequate. For example, the Focusrite Scarlett series has fantastic preamps. You really don’t get any better. Just different. Seriously. I had $15,000 in preamps once. They aren’t missed. SMILIE Some audio interfaces do not include mic preamps. As long as they have a line-level input (often a 1/4″ TRS input) you should be just fine plugging the output of the preamp into that line input.

    Another option is to run an external preamp into the preamps on the audio interface. There’s a lot of voodoo on this one. It’s voodoo because the preamp thing is generally so subtle that it’s not overt whether the fancy external preamp’s audio is “ruined” by the cheap preamp following after wards. Since it’s not overt, obviously the sound is not ruined but most people just don’t like the idea. Oddly enough, these same people almost never have a problem with a hardware compressor with a makeup gain knob. That knob is basically the same thing as a mic preamp. The redundancy there doesn’t seem to bother anyone.

    Brandon

  18. thanks for the quick response Brandon,
    and basically I want to learn everything. I want to know all about the recording process, putting them on tracks, making my own beats, the whole producing shebang. I come from a not so big town where there’s a ton of talent around and i’d really like to help these guys most of them my friends with out having for them to go spend 100$ and hour just to produce one song at a studio (plus this highly fascinates me). but like I said i’m almost complete newb to all of this and if you could point me in the right direction any help or recommendations would be greatly appreciated.

    Mike

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