Pimp your studio
Finally got the time to create your killer track? Score the digital-ready hardware to make it happen.
It’s a cruel irony that it takes time to make a living and it takes time to make music—it also takes some specialized and often pricey equipment. But electronic musicians and digital DJs are living in a golden age of sorts: Digital music gear has come down in price and gone up in quality. The boss might have cut your hours, but look on the bright side: You can finally record your innovative Baltimore-club-meets Tibetan-throat-singing smash. First, start with the right stuff.
You’ve got a good laptop—now dress it up with an (A) Iamhuman laptop cover—available in everything from teak ($45 at iamhumannow.com) to gingham ($30). They stick right on to give your computer an authentic layer of personality, because you’re a rebel.
Entering the world of digital deejaying has never been cheaper. Native Instruments just came out with the (B) Audio 4 DJ ($200 at bhphotovideo.com), a portable, powerful, high-fidelity interface that kicks your Traktor sets out to a club system at respectable volume (louder than most CDJs). It also doubles as a tool for transferring your vinyl to digital audio files.
There’s nothing more important than hearing what you’re doing, and Stanton just updated its (C) DJ Pro 3000 headphones. Producers with thin walls will notice these are still comfy after hours of programming or spinning at the local bar ($100 at midweststereo.com). If the neighbors don’t mind, look into powered studio monitors like the (D) KRK Rokit, which offer close-to-pro sound (the curved design helps) on a project studio budget ($400/pair for the Rokit 6 at music123.com).
Long-distance collaboration is commonplace these days; have a proper tête-à-tête with that MC in Jamaica you’ve been working with, your West Coast flame or dear old mom with the (E) Blue Microphone Eyeball ($99.99 through apple.com), a Mac/PC–compatible USB webcam that combines HD video with high-end audio and can hang on your laptop. It works spectacularly with Skype.
USB controllers are all the rage with digital DJs and performers using Ableton Live. Unsurprisingly, there are a lot of good ones. Stanton’s (F) DaScratch SCS.3d ($250 at midweststereo.com) looks rad, and its touch screen allows one to use typical DJ moves to run the show via your laptop’s DJ software. Korg’s (G) nanoPAD (a drumpad) is one of three portable, superslim digital controllers that bring the tactile experience to your freestyle digital set for a nice price ($60 at midweststereo.com).
For producers who want to record live performances for their tracks, the hardware options are limitless. A sturdy little interface called the PreSonus FireBox (not pictured, $300 at Sam Ash Music, 1305 Dundee Rd, Buffalo Grove, 847-253-3151) will bring out the best in your microphone—if not your singer. Need more tracks? You can chain the FireBoxes together. For the ambitious producer recording a whole band or performing live sets with a full mixer, upgrading to the new (H) PreSonus StudioLive ($2,000 at sweetwater.com), which works as both a professional digital mixer and a complete multichannel recording system, might be a good move. If your needs are basic or your songs need some polish, just plonk down for the no-fuss best-selling Blue Snowball Microphone (not pictured, $100 at store.apple.com), which plugs straight into your USB port.