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.
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.
My Review: Voxengo Elephant: The Best Damn Brickwall Limiter Plugin
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 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
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
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.
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!
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 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.
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.
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:
GUITAR RIG 4 PRO
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!)