Home Studio Tools

July 8, 2011

BACK IN THE EARLY DAYS OF THE HOME-RECORDING BOOM, option anxiety wasn’t much of an issue—at least regarding the available gear to track your house-made masterpieces. Great microphones and preamps were still expensive, so many home studios were populated with the same dynamic mic that was used for gigging, a budget hardware mixer, a couple of effects boxes (likely the same devices you used for your guitar), and a deck such as an Alesis ADAT or a Tascam cassette Portastudio. That’s a pretty simple signal chain: source sound to one mic to mixer to recorder. Done. Most of the magic had to happen between your fingers (and/or voice), your heart, and your brain.

Well, home recording circa 2011 is quite a different universe. Today’s recording musician can choose from multitudes of software and hardware options, and tons of fantastic studio tools are tremendously affordable. In the mid 1990s, they would have branded you as possessed by demons if you predicted that, less than two decades hence, a tube mic would cost $129, or that professional-quality, digital recording software would be offered up by manufacturers for free. Crazy.

Of course, the yang of this marvelously powerful yin is that a home-studio musician can lose himself or herself in an obsession with gear and technology, and allow their brains to backslide a bit on that ol’ humanoid magic. The glorious mess of creation is still critical to produce work that changes people’s lives, or even just makes them smile for two minutes and 42 seconds. Technology simply gets you there faster—if you don’t allow yourself to get lost in a Disney-inspired, wicked-witchconjured forest of thorns (i.e., “details”).

Sadly, the GP staff can’t compel you to terminate your obsession with minutiae, but we can provide insights into some of the fabulous recording products released this year. Since the January 2011 Winter NAMM Show, the editors have been hoarding some hip software and hardware with the intention of delivering a balanced roundup of recording gear. It’s impossible to include all of the “Class of 2011” in one roundup, so please look for more home-studio gear reviews in future issues. As always, we try to offer not just qualitative assessments of the products, but also point to real-world applications that might motivate you to try different techniques.

So, dig into the products on the following pages and see if any of them will make your studio life easier, or inspire you to produce better-sounding tracks, or enhance your already burning creativity. Please feel free to present your own reviews of any of the gear covered here in the Guitar Player Forum, and don’t forget to send us links to the tracks you record via Facebook, Twitter, or direct email to Editor in Chief Michael Molenda (mmolenda@musicplayer.com). You might end up being the next “under-the-radar” guitar star we discover!

More from this Roundup:

Avid Pro Tools 9.0.2 and Mbox
MOTU Digital Performer 7.2.2’s Guitar Goodies
Audio-Technica AT2022
Universal Audio EP-34 Tape Echo, Cooper Time Cube Mk II Delay, and EMT 250 Classic Electronic Reverberator Plug-Ins
Telefunken M80
Keith McMillen Instruments SoftStep MIDI Controller
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