With an iPad and few accessories, these days anyone can have a functional recording studio in their home for less than the cost of a Mac. Whether you’re just getting started and want a modest iPad recording setup in your living room, or you’re looking to setup a full-blown home studio with your Mac, our comprehensive gift guide below will walk you through all the essentials and save you some cash in the process.
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AUDIO INTERFACES |
IK Multimedia iRig PRO – $150 ON SALE: $130
The iRig PRO is a universal audio/midi interface for iPhone, iPad, iPod touch and Mac.
With the XLR/1/4″ combo jack you get mic, line-level and Hi-Z inputs (along with the midi input), making this an MFI interface that works great for singer/songwriters, electronic musicians, keyboard players, guitarists and just as an all around solid, mobile/home recording device. It also includes +48V phantom power (which requires an included 9V battery) so everything from a beginner’s mic to a studio quality condenser will work with the iRig PRO. It ships with Lightning, 30-pin, USB and MIDI cables, so it will work with older and newer Macs and iOS devices. To sweeten the deal, IK has thrown in a pretty impressive suite of free software including AmpliTube Free, SampleTank Free, iGrand Piano Free, VocaLive and iRig Recorder.
Apogee has long been a leader in digital audio interfaces and have some of our favorite hardware at price slightly higher than the iRig setup above. The JAM Lightning ($85 / Reg. $100) is a great MFI option for guitar players who just need a single input, and it comes with a Lightning cable so it will work great with the new iPhones and iPads. The Duet ($550 / Reg. $650) and Quartet ($1185 / Reg. $1400) interfaces offer full range music recording suites with multiple high quality instrument and mic pre-amps, making them excellent options for home studios and singer/songwriters looking for a true analog to digital conversion.
Another great option, especially for those just getting started or for those who are specifically looking to get Pro Tools software, is the Mbox family. Ranging from the $149 Xbox mini w/ Pro Tools Express to the $499 Mbox and $999 Mbox Pro, all are solid and trusted hardware options that come with some great add-on software on top of Pro Tools Express and Pro Tools 11 respectively.
KEYBOARDS/MIDI CONTROLLERS |
Novation Launchpad Mini midi controller: $99
Based on the design of its larger predecessor, the Novation Launchpad Mini packs the same 64 pad, 8×8 grid as Novation’s flagship controller, but in a much more compact and convenient size. It is also quite a wide ranging device, it is compatible with Mac and PC as well iPad. The tiny, but powerful controller, is great for home/studio use as well as on the road, its smaller and lighter than an iPad and is bus powered, so there’s no need to drag around bulky power cables.
The Launchpad is great for experienced Ableton Live and FL Studio users, but its also a quality and affordable point of entry for anyone interested in midi controllers or electronic music production. It ships with some nice software as well, including Ableton Lite for new users as well as the Launchpad App for iPad, which comes pre-loaded with some nice sounds to get you started.
IK Multimedia iRig KEYS: $99 ON SALE: $85
iRig KEYS has 37 keys, which is not to small to play at home, but still a nice size to be transported. It also has many of the bells and whistles audio programmers are looking for like modulation and pitch bend wheels, assignable volume/data knob, octave selection and a SET button to recall 4 full custom setups. It works with Mac/PC and iOS devices through included USB and 30-pin cables, and now IK has released a Lightning cable add-on for newer iOS device support. It comes with some software as well, like the SampleTank FREE and iGrand Piano FREE apps as well as SampleTank 2 L for Mac.
AKAI: If you want to spend a little more than the options above, our favorite mid-priced options come from AKAI. The MPK series for your standard MIDI controller, and the MPC and MPD series for drum machines. A good place to start is the AKAI 49-key MPK49 ($254) and the MPC Renaissance ($849).
DJ CONTROLLERS |
Native instruments Traktor Kontrol Z1: $199
Considered one of the best iOS DJ controllers available, even at $200 it’s hard to ignore Native Instruments’ Traktor Kontrol Z1. Ultra portability, a deep feature set, and complete integration with world class DJ software, maybe the only thing the Z1 is missing is the most obvious, jog wheels.
What it does have is dedicated controls for two channels with a 3-band EQ for each, headphone monitoring controls, filter FX toggles/rotary knobs and not only does it work with the Traktor DJ iOS app but also with Traktor Pro 2 for Mac. It’s great for aspiring DJs that want to get into NI industry standard software, as well as for veterans who want to add a new toy to their setup.
After purchasing, you can register your hardware with NI and receive a $50 E-Voucher towards any downloadable software at the NI Online Shop. Add that with the 50% off promo NI is running on RAZOR, and you’ve got yourself one of the best virtual synths on the market for free.
Other iOS DJ Rigs…
For those that do want a more full iOS DJ set-up and aren’t necessarily interested in going all the way up to the pro $700+ rigs, here’s a quick list of some of the best options available:
Numark iDJ Live II for iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch, Mac: $100 (Reg. $200)
Includes Lightning, 30-pin, USB cables, iPad stand, and Algoriddim’s djay LE software for Mac, and features seamless integration with Algoriddim’s djay and vjay iOS apps (sold separately), USB bus-powered, no power adapter required.
Pioneer Pro DJ DDJ-WeGO2: $284 (Reg. $430)
Included iPhone/iPad/iPod touch cable with Lightning connector enables quick connection of the unit to an iPhone 5 or iPad “djay 2” application provides instantaneous access and playback of music stored in compatible iOS devices.
Numark iDJ Pro for iPad: $269 (Reg. $700)
Fully incorporates any iPad’s touchscreen into a DJ control surface as pictured above…Works seamlessly with Algoriddim’s award winning djay iPad app and other apps for software…Capacitive touch-activated platters, plus Hot Cues, Loop, and Effects controls.
Every musician needs software, so we have put together some suggestions of where to get started. We have industry leading production apps for the Mac and iOS from Moog and Native Instruments, as well as DJ software and a Pro SoundCloud subscription to upload and share all of your creations. You’ll also find some big discounts on some of the essentials in the Deals section below.
Logic Pro X: $199 Mac
Our go-to DAW that is slowly taking over the industry standard Pro Tools, Logic Pro X is the latest release of Apple’s professional audio suite. The latest release represents the best value yet (around $500 less than Pro Tools) and we can’t say enough great things about it. Our full review is here.
GarageBand: Free iOS
There are a lot more complex audio suites available for iOS, but for most Apple’s now free GarageBand for iPhone and iPad will suffice. Inter-app audio and Audiobus support mean you use ton of great software instruments and effects from the App Store right in GarageBand, and with an iOS compatible audio interface from above you can easily record a full band right on your iPad. If you’re looking for something more on iOS, we’d suggest looking at Cubasis ($49) or Auria
Audiobus: $5 iOS Universal
Inter-app audio routing system for iOS. Use Audiobus to record a synth app into GarageBand or other DAW, apply effects apps to virtual instrument apps, audio tracks, and much more.
Popular Traktor DJ software from Mac is also one the best DJ software around for iOS.
Moog, synthesizer, get it.
$5 $2 iOS Universal
Play and record drums on the 16 pads, jam a melody on the keyboard, sing on top of your loops via the built-in audio recorder, or create your own unique sample banks from any source
Native Instruments Komplete 9 Ultimate: ON SALE: $799 (reg. $999) Mac
A must have for electronic and hiphop producers and one of the most popular suites for virtual instruments, plug-ins, and effects, Komplete 9 Ultimate gives you just about every piece of software Native Instruments makes.
65 products in total, with 370 GB of samples…Over 16,000 sounds created by top sound designers…Includes the uncompromising new MONARK synth and the completely redesigned powerhouse drum sampler BATTERY 4
XLN Audio Addictive Drums: $149 Mac
If the new Drummer feature from Logic Pro X isn’t cutting it, Addictive is really similar but packs in much more.
Headphones can be a tricky suggestion to make, as many people have different opinions and different needs depending on the application and the experience of the particular individual. Many times headphones can be as much a fashionable choice as anything, but for this guide we will be sticking to models specifically focused on sound quality for music production at home or on the go.
The Sennheiser HD650 ($444 / Reg. $500) closed back or the HD-280 PRO headphones ($99 / Reg. $150), and Beyerdynamic’s DT-990-Pro ($150 / Reg. $300) set can be great options for a nice monitoring set-up. You’ll also find some great options from the AKG K-series and the Audio-Technica ATH M-series. For those looking for something with a little more of a focus on a mobile set-up or something you will be answer calls with at the same time, Logitech has a wide range of products that are very highly rated and sound great like the UE 6000s ($100 / Reg. $200) and the wireless UE 9000s ($240 / Reg. $400).
Like headphones, microphones are something that really depend on your ears. They range from $100 to $10,000+, and after years of trial and error you’ll ultimately decide on a mic that’s right for whatever you might be recording. For now we’ll stick with some go-to vocal mics with a few of our top picks in various price ranges:
Here are a few music production related deals that are running right now. You’ll find plug-ins, software and hardware on sale from some of the biggest names in the industry like Apogee, Native Instruments, Waves, Ableton, Moog and Universal Audio:
Pro Tools 11:
The industry standard Pro Tools 11 is on sale for almost $200 off today. Regularly $699, you can grab the latest version of Pro Tools for $500 for a limited time. It’s still, however, $300 more than Logic Pro X…
The company’s must have Komplete 9 Ultimate Bundle is on for $200 off through Amazon (reg. $999). You can also grab 50% off Komplete instruments and Effects as well as Maschine content and Traktor Pro 2 until 12/07/2013.
Get up to 15% off on the latest Apogee products including JAM, MiC, ONE, GiO, Duet, Quartet until 12/01/2013
Get 50% off Thunderbridge with the purchase of various Symphony I/O configurations for a limited time
Up to 80% off various Waves plug-ins and bundles this weekend only
Grab a FREE copy of Waves Renaissance Bass plug-in this weekend only
Up to 60% off storewide, over 20 plug-ins under $100
Buy a 6176 Vintage Channel Strip and get a FREE UAD-2 QUAD DSP Accelerator until 12/01/2013
Save 50% on all individual plug-ins including Compressor G, CompressorBank v5 and FilterBank v5 until 12/08/13
Save 20% on all Ableton Software until 01/15/2014
10% off all Camel Audio plugins and sound libraries for new customers until 12/31/2013.
Get 50% off on all ADpaks using code “BLKFRI13” (for existing Addictive Drums customers) until 12/02/2013
10% off FL Studio and all Image-Line plug-ins for new customers until 12/31/2013
up to 60% off select virtual instruments until 12/31/2013
$75 and $100 instant rebate with purchase of Minitaur and Slim Phatty at authorized retailers until 12/31/2013
Buy SONAR X3 Studio or Producer, get free Overloud VKFX Delay until 11/30/2013