CHRISTMAS GIFT GUIDE: STUDIO GEAR

Studio Gear Specials

‘Tis the season for giving, and for letting the people around you know that you appreciate them. This recognition and confirmation of the strength of your relationships can come in many forms, but when it comes down to it, most musicians would prefer to get their hands on a new piece of gear. To that end, we have put together our annual Mixdown Xmas Gift Guide, to help you find the perfect gift for the music loving people in your life. On this page, let’s look at some of the studio gear specials we’ve had our eye on…

 

DARKGLASS MICROTUBES 900 BASS HEAD

EXPECT TO PAY: $1599

DISTRIBUTED BY: Bass Centre

RECOMMENDED FOR: Uncompromising bass players looking for a small-scale amp solution, without sacrificing tone.

SOUND AND VERSATILITY

Pristine clean to edgy rumble through to serious distorted tones. Tonnes of EQ flexibility with the ability to blend the Clean side of the amp with the ‘Microtubes Engine’ to add some dirt. Plenty of versatility and a host of ins and outs to give you options for live and studio work. A great sounding amp!

USABILITY

The Microtubes 900 front panel is well laid out with the ‘Clean’ section of the amp controls on the right and the ‘Microtubes Engine’ on the left. Otherwise it’s essentially plug and play with some added controls for active/passive basses and then various I/O on the back panel. Could easily be at home in a big touring rig, studio setup down to rehearsals or bedroom jammers.

CONSTRUCTION

Clean, modern and understated the Microtubes 900 looks slick and seems to be built tough. Like all the Darkglass gear you should have no worries putting it through its paces.

OVERALL

Darkglass have really been on a roll of late and the Microtubes 900 has been highly anticipated by the bass world. It’s finally here and players of all styles should find a sound they like. With its hip looks and smallish form factor it’s a damn cool package. 900 watts and plenty of EQ tweakability make it a serious contender in the bass head market.

 

For more information head to basscentre.com.au.

 

 

MARKBASS NANO MARK  300

 

DISTRIBUTED BY:  CMC Music Australia
EXPECT TO PAY: $950

RECOMMENDED FOR: Bass players looking to escape the burden on bulky gear without sacrificing an ounce of tone.

SOUND/VERSATILITY

For a little over a decade, Markbass have made a point of producing extremely portable bass heads that come packed with a punchy, yet versatile tonality. This newest and smallest iteration of their expertise is no exception; the Nano Mark 300’s voicing is clear and pointed with an incredible amount of projection for such a miniscule footprint.

USABILITY

Far from lopping off options in order to stuff everything into such a tiny package, the Nano Mark 300 has all of the tone-shaping abilities of its bigger siblings. Separate input and gain controls send your signal into the EQ stage at just the right temperature; dual mid-range dials as well as low and high end sweep allow ultimate tonal pliability and the master volume allows access to all 300 watts of power.

CONSTRUCTION

Weighing in at around 1.5kg and only 20cm across the faceplate the Nano Mark 300 is probably the most portable bass amp on the market.

OVERALL

Tiny yet mighty’ is the Nano Mark 300’s motto, and it more that lives up to this promise. Tonally precise and with more bark than a Jack Russell Terrier, these amps are perfect for the bass player with a long road ahead.

 

For more information head to cmcmusic.com.au.

 

Yamaha DGX-660B Portable Grand Piano

DISTRIBUTED BY: Yamaha Music Australia

Expect to pay: $1499

RECOMENDED FOR: Both beginner and intermediate piano players will enjoy this keyboard.

SOUND/VERSATILITY

The DGX-660B has both the natural feel of a piano as well as the sound, with a great selection of instruments in its memory bank and a range of rooms that can be selected. With the touch of a button your living room can sound like a concert hall with a grand piano in it. Also included is a 6.5mm microphone input to accommodate singing along with any of the tracks played from its library. There is also the ability to record both vocal and instrument to USB, so you can capture your performances. This makes the DGX a very powerful songwriting tool, and when coupled with the new wireless control option that pairs the keyboard, with an iOS device, this could be a big part of your studio setup as well.
 

USABILITY

The keyboard has a graded hammer action with a realistic piano-like feel to the 88 keys. They have a nice weight to them in both their depression and release, setting this up as not only a great beginner’s tool, but also as an instrument an accomplished pianist will enjoy playing.

CONSTRUCTION

With an installed speaker, sub-woofer, and tweeter as well as a professional cabinet stand, this is no lightweight construction job.

OVERALL

In all, this is a great stalwart of the Yamaha range that has had some very clever updates to bring it well into the future. 
 

For more information head to au.yamaha.com.

 

YAMAHA PSR-E353 KEYBOARD

 

DISTRIBUTED BY: Yamaha Music Australia

EXPECT TO PAY: $349.99

RECOMENDED FOR: Beginner-intermediate keyboard players or students.

SOUND/VERSATILITY

The PSR-E353 comes with many of the sounds you would expect from an entry-level keyboard, ranging from six variations of piano to organ, string voices and more. For students wishing to experiment with playing in different genres, there are 159 preprogrammed drumbeats, which will make sure you keep time, whether it be over a swing or a waltz. The weight of the keys give the instrument a piano feel that makes it familiar and intuitive to play, and the grand piano sound in particular is quite realistic. The keys are also ‘touch sensitive’, meaning the amount of weight you apply will affect the volume in a realistic manner, which adds to the playability of the instrument. The keyboard also supports MIDI, which opens up whole other range of possibilities for those wanting to use the keyboard in conjunction with their computer.

USABILITY

The keyboard’s functions are easy to navigate, with the rhythmic sound bank and controls laid out to the left and the keyboard bank sounds laid out on the right side of the keyboard’s surface. A small screen is located in the middle to visualise which functions have been selected.

CONSTRUCTION

The PSR-E353 is made of hard plastic with rubber buttons and is certainly durable enough for the home musician.

OVERALLThis is a very good keyboard for beginner-intermediate piano students and has enough versatility to allow you to begin experimenting with sounds and even layering them over one another with a two-track recording feature.

 

For more information head to au.yamaha.com.

 

PRESONUS AUDIOBOX ITWO STUDIO

EXPECT TO PAY: $349

DISTRIBUTED BY: Link Audio

RECOMMENDED FOR: This is a complete home recording solution for anyone looking to get started in recording their own music. It also represents great value if you were considering a new interface, as it offers so much more.

SOUND AND VERSATILITY

The M7 microphone included in the bundle delivers results for both vocals and instruments, whilst the HD7 headphones allow you to critically listen to your mixes and follow tracking during overdubs.

USABILITY

The Audiobox iTwo, the centrepiece of this setup allows for two inputs, either microphone, line or instrument and also MIDI in and out. It works with PC, Mac and iOS devices, and will operate with any DAW you might light should you not want to use the included software.

CONSTRUCTION

The Audiobox iTwo is built in a tough chassis that is more than sturdy enough for studio use, or hitting the road for recording on the go. The microphone and headphones all seem tough enough to handle the job too.

OVERALL

Of course, these hardware pieces are all brought together by PreSonus’s Studio One 3 Artist software, included in the bundle. This represents great value and the perfect starting point for anyone wanting to record at home.

 

For more information head to audioactive.com.au.

 

BLUE YETI PRO STUDIO MICROPHONE

EXPECT TO PAY: $559

DISTRIBUTOR: Amber Technology

RECOMMENDED FOR: This is the microphone that can do it all, for musicians, podcasters, engineers, interviewers and just about anyone else. Anyone serious about audio quality and looking for ease of use should consider this microphone.

SOUND AND VERSATILITY

For use in a range of applications, this is a beautiful sounding condenser microphone that delivers the tonal quality that we have come to expect from Blue. Used as a USB converter, or direct stereo out to an existing preamp, there are plenty of options.

USABILITY

The stereo XLR output allows for the Figure of 8 pickup pattern to be used in a two person recording situation with stunning results on two separate tracks. USB connection and monitoring makes it super easy to get great results into any software, like the included PreSonus Studio One Artist.

CONSTRUCTION

This is a heavy microphone, but don’t worry, it comes on a suitably heavy base so it will sit stable on any bench and can easily be angles to suit your recording needs.

OVERALL

A combination of traditional condenser and USB microphone, with the option of using either output forms; this is a very cleverly designed microphone that will bring great tone to any recording along with a range of options and possibilities.

 

For more information head to ambertech.com.au.

 

 

Shure MV5 Digital Condenser Microphone

DISTRIBUTED BY: Jands

EXPECT TO PAY: $220

RECOMENDED FOR: Recording vocals, acoustic instruments or voice overs.

SOUND/VERSATILITY:

This is a small diaphragm cardioid condenser that is available in three DSP modes, which are accessible from a convenient button, allowing you to switch between ‘instrument’, ‘voice’ and ‘flat’ modes. It can record at 24bit 48kHz and so is perfectly useful for those recording on a budget.

USABILITY:

Being a USB microphone, all you have to do is plug in and play. Although it can be attached the stand it comes with, the actual mic is a ball shape and so can be unscrewed, which allows you many more options for mic placement.

CONSTRUCTION:
It is a solid round ball of a microphone that you won’t have to worry about damaging, but will be easy to maneuver around whatever instrument you are trying to capture.
OVERALL:

This would be a very useful tool for the home studio musician. It is an affordable USB microphone that would be very useful when used in conjunction with an iOS device.

For more information head to jands.com.au.

 

 

SHURE MV88 DIGITAL STEREO CONDENSER MICROPHONE

EXPECT TO PAY: $299

DISTRIBUTED BY: JANDS

RECOMMENDED FOR: Songwriters, podcasters, sounds artists – essentially anyone who wants to be able to capture great quality recordings on the go without having to lug around any cumbersome gear or the fuss of a complicated set up.

SOUND AND VERSATILITY

This unit captures great sound. Make no bones about it. For most podcasting applications this not only suffice, but excel. The results you can get with it when recording an instrument are surprisingly good too.

USABILITY

The microphone can be adjusted up to 90 degrees to ensure you can get the best angle to record with and the plug-and-play design makes it easy to whip out and get going should opportunity strike when you’re out in a field somewhere.

CONSTRUCTION

The mic doesn’t come with any leads, instead it plugs straight into your iOS device’s Lightning port. It feels solid when connected, and rugged enough to cope with the rigors of field recording.

OVERALL:

On top of people looking to record for news or podcasting purposes, this will work best for those who are recording rehearsals or ideas, because while it won’t give you record-worthy fidelity, it’s a strong enough performer to adequately capture the nuances of a performance.

 

For more information head to www.jands.com.au.

 

SE ELECTRONICS X1A CONDENSER MICROPHONE

EXPECT TO PAY: $149.99

DISTRIBUTOR: Sound and Music

RECOMMENDED FOR: As a first microphone for anyone wanting to record vocals or guitar at home, or as an addition to an existing microphone kit, this is a great recording tool for all musicians and engineers alike.

SOUND AND VERSATILITY:  

The newly designed capsule on the X1A has a reduced self-noise to the original and still delivers great clarity and extended frequency response.

USABILITY:  

A no fuss condenser that offers a 20dB pad as well as a high pass filter. It is perfectly suited to the optional cradle available form sE Electronics too, for greater isolation and better sound.

CONSTRUCTION:

These microphones are built into a tough casing like all the models in the X1 range, so they will handle anything likely to happen within the home studio.

OVERALL:

There isn’t any secret trick to this microphone; it simply offers a great sound for an incredible price. This is the perfect ‘first’ microphone, and one that will last well into the future.

 

For more information head to sound-music.com.

 

 

PRESONUS CERES 4.5BT BLUETOOTH SPEAKERS

EXPECT TO PAY: $399

DISTRIBUTED BY: Link Audio

RECOMMENDED FOR: These are a great pair of speakers for anyone who ones a music playing device with Bluetooth. In other words, just about anyone with a smartphone of some sort will find a great use for these speakers.

SOUND AND VERSATILITY

The Ceres 4.5BT speakers were designed to bridge the gap between home hi-fi speakers and studio monitors. They come pretty close to doing just that, delivering a sound that is quite unlike what you would expect to hear from any consumer brand Bluetooth speaker system.

USABILITY

These are fairly easy to pair up with any Bluetooth device and stream music to from across the room without any drama. They can still be run with an auxiliary input if Bluetooth isn’t an option, so it means everyone can play their tunes through the Ceres monitors.

CONSTRUCTION

These are built into a sturdy cabinet which is well sealed with very few seems, just smooth lines and a sleek design.

OVERALL

I think we have reached a point where most of us are demanding high quality audio playback at all times. So, it just makes sense that you get that at home too. The Ceres 4.5BT speakers aim to deliver just that and bring the studio into your home.

 

For more information head to audioactive.com.au.

 

UR22 MKII RECORDING PACK

DISTRIBUTED BY: Yamaha Music Australia

EXPECT TO PAY: $449.99

RECOMENDED FOR: For solo artists, producers of engineers wanting to make or edit professional quality recordings at home or on location, without spending thousands of dollars.
SOUND/VERSATILITY

The UR22mkII USB Audio Interface transfers clean audio signal from its two XLR, line or MIDI inputs and works hand in hand with the included software. That program is a version of Steinberg’s Cubase 8, the Cubase AI 8, which is exclusive to owners of Yamaha hardware. The pack also comes with a ST-M01 condenser microphone, which has a surprisingly smooth response and would be perfectly suitable for recording vocals or guitars. There are also some Steinberg headphones included, which are perfectly suitable for recording instruments with.

USABILITY

Having been in the game for a long time now, Steinberg’s Cubase is extremely user friendly and easy to use, supporting up to 32 audio and 48 MIDI tracks simultaneously. The UR22 itself is similarly simple, it can connect via to your computer or iOS device – meaning it can turn your iPad into a pro audio recording device in seconds. and includes 28 effects185 instrument sounds

CONSTRUCTION

The interface itself is housed in a solid metal casing with ridged plastic pots that add to their grip. It feels very solid and could easily take a bit knocking around. The microphone is likewise housed in metal and does not appear fragile.

OVERALL

Given the similar features offered by other big brands that come with a much larger price tag, this is a bargain for anyone who doesn’t need to record more than two things at a time or at a higher rate than 24 bit/192kHz.

 

For more information head to au.yamaha.com.

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