Our picks for the top monitors, plugins, microphones, and more this silly season
It’s that time of year already, where did the year go? We say that every year don’t we, but it’s suddenly the festive season once again, and if you’re anything like us here at Mixdown, there’s a good chance that you’re probably incredibly disorganised.
To prevent you from having to endure the agony of Michael Bublé churning out another frostbitten rendition of a Christmas carol down the aisles of your local department store, we’ve put together a comprehensive guide of all the hottest gifts to keep your eyes peeled for.
This year, there’s nothing more in vogue than studio gear. Whether it’s a pair of monitors, plugins, controller or even a portable vocal booth, we’ve picked through the bunch to bring you our favourite audio gift ideas to consider these holidays.
If you’re interested in any of these products, enquire to the respective distributor for more information!
Imperative Audio Portable Vocal Booth
Distributed By: Link Audio | RRP: $3,499
Recommended For: Recording enthusiasts, home studio dwellers, podcasting mavericks.
Features: Being able to properly record a solid, trouble free vocal performance whether it be for a podcast or broadcast voiceover, or singer (from the quietest to loudest of performer) can be a nightmare, particularly when working in less than ideal acoustic environments. Thankfully, Imperative Audio has created such a solution with the Portable Vocal Booth (PVB). Being able to reduce reflections down to as little as 0.07 seconds and providing up to -28.4dBa noise reduction, the PVB is highly effective in even the most unsympathetic recording environments. Often an issue with traditional gobos and other such acoustical treatment, height is set and non-adjustable, but the height-adjustable PVB allows for capturing seated performers (or even guitar amps) right up to 210cm at full height, keeping even the tallest of vocalists effectively covered with headroom to spare. Its lightweight aluminium cylindrical design is easy to manoeuvre, and the three layers of acoustical treatment keep the typical standing waves and acoustical anomalies of traditional open vocal booths at bay. Folding down to a respectable and convenient size makes the PVB ideal for smaller home studios and voice over spaces.
Overall: Imperative Audio has struck a chord with multiple users with the Portable Vocal Booth – meeting, if not exceeding, the specific requirements of even the most demanding of vocal recording duties.
Distributed By: Hit’n’Mix | Enquire for pricing
Recommended For: DJs, beatmakers, anyone with a penchant for multitrack extraction.
Features: Oftentimes we hear something in a track that hits us deep in the cockles of our imagination and desire for creative endeavours but are stopped due to our inability to isolate multitrack recordings or individual tracks. Hit’n’Mix and their new RipX DeepRemix software introduces a broader set of tools primarily for separating audio files into individual vocal, bass, drum, and instrumental stems, useful for guitarists in a swathe of ways. If you’re struggling to find a good backing track to practise improvising scales over, just grab your favourite drum or bass tracks and keep them on loop, not worrying about the video starting and stopping and YouTube ads. Speaking of YouTube, enough with some tutorial guy’s take on a guitar part you’ve been dying to learn, one that you know deep down isn’t what you need, hear it straight from the source and check your accuracy that way. Better yet, bedroom producers can get rid of the bootleg and scarce multitracks to drag in your favourite tracks, a la ESG’s genre defying instrumental masterpiece ‘UFO’.
Overall: Changing the game for sourcing guitar parts with a variety of uses. For over 10 years Hit’n’Mix have been on the forefront of refining this kind of technology and it shows in the attention to detail and impressive processing power of their latest offering.
PreSonus Eris E5 BT Monitors
Distributed By: Link Audio | RRP: $429 (pair)
Recommended For: Home studio hermits, content creators, podcasters, music lovers.
Features: Having a reliable, honest, and accurate monitoring system is the proverbial backbone of any studio big or small. PreSonus has always had a knack for manufacturing well designed and affordable products, as the Eris E5 BT monitors are no exception. These compact 5.25” monitors have plenty of guts with a peak of 112dB SPL (1 meter) and an impressive frequency response of 53Hz-22kHz. Wonderfully simple to operate, the rear panel of the Eris E5 BT provides simple low and high EQ controls centred at 100Hz and 10kHz respectively, balanced 1/4″ TRS inputs, RCA unbalanced inputs, a sub output (for being used with a subwoofer), and simple +/- connectors for connecting to the other passive monitor. The bottom of the front panel are controls for power, volume, headphone output, and aux inputs, as well as the Bluetooth symbol. Having the ability to use Bluetooth 5.0 on a studio monitor such as this definitely expands the possibilities of their use, making them a perfect pair for not such studio users, but for general listening purposes and being able to be taken and used in other spaces with ease.
Overall: A solid entry-level monitor with great features and honest sound reproduction. A sure gift for those looking to get their first pair of monitors or for those just wanting a decent pair of monitors that won’t break the bank this season.
Distributed By: Hit’n’Mix | Enquire for pricing
Recommended For: DJs, beatmakers, anyone with a penchant for multitrack extraction.
Features: In case you haven’t noticed yet, plugins and software have come a long way in recent years. Nowhere is this more apparent than in something like Hit’n’Mix’s awesome RipX DeepAudio, a professional stem extraction and audio manipulation tool with a host of nifty tricks up its sleeve. Featuring the same powerful AI Algorithms as the brand DeepRemix software, DeepAudio expands on DeepRemix’s ability to pull stems from fully mastered audio tracks, while also providing a host of additional editing and corrective tools to better perfect and prepare your stems prior to export.
The Harmonic Editor within DeepAudio allows you to manipulate the timbral content of your prerecorded material, while the ‘Draw Pitch’ function allows edit removal of notes within polyphonic vocal, instrument and percussion recordings, including Acoustic Guitar (which as many of you are probably aware, is a notoriously tricky task). Individual notes in a performance can be adjusted at the finest possible detail, and even be blended with other sounds, to provide you with an unprecedented amount of processing flexibility.
Overall: Equal parts corrective and creative, RipX DeepAudio’s revolutionary abilities as a one stop stem extraction and sound manipulation tool are second to none. Without question the cutting edge for this kind of processing. The RipX package may well be the most powerful and best suited tool for this kind of processing we’ve come across, I mean there is some serious voodoo going on here.
Gravity Absorber Pucks
Distributed by: Link Audio | RRP: $59 (four pack)
Recommended For: Producers, engineers, songwriters, mixers.
Features: Do you know how much acoustic energy you’re losing through vibrations? While we might painstakingly reference our mixes hoping they’ll translate onto other devices, setting up your listening space is one of the most important things you can do as a producer or engineer.
Monitors and speakers are designed for flat playback, but some of that energy is transmitted to a tabletop or speaker stand and never makes it to our ears. Gravity Absorber Pucks prevent this, ensuring monitors and speakers have the best chance at playing back every frequency we expect them to by absorbing sound beneath our monitors before it rumbles through the floor and into the ether.
Overall: Gravity Absorber Pucks are a simple, stylish, and affordable way of improving your monitoring, something you’ll notice in particular in the low mids of your mix now that the sound is moving towards your ears and not through your desk. The pucks are available in packs of four, and sit on the four corners of your monitors to prop them up off whatever surface they’re sat at. Your stereo image is more clear, concise, and accurate.
What’s more, four pucks can hold up to 36kg so you’d be hard pressed to find a monitor or loudspeaker that they can’t support. The Gravity Absorber Pucks are ready to be the smallest bit of kit you never knew you were missing.
Distributed By: Dynamic Music | Enquire for pricing
Recommended For: Musicians, indie filmmakers, podcasters, content creators, streamers
Features: This compact recorder can capture up to four independent tracks of audio from its built-in X/Y condenser mics and two external mic inputs, while also capturing crystal clear video in 4K resolution through its F2.8/150º wide-angle lens, which features five field-of-view (FOV) settings. If the included X/Y mics aren’t quite right for the job, interchangeable mic capsules allow for a variety of Zoom mics to be used with the Q8n-4K, making various types of audio capture possible. The right look and light of a shoot is made easy with scene presets for indoor, outdoor, night time, and concert lighting, or by simply using the auto setting for optimised lighting based on the environment. Great for on-the-go shoots, the Q8n-4K’s compact size makes either handheld or gimbal operation easy, while the included rechargeable Li-ion battery makes remote shoots hassle free, with the mini SD card slot able to hold up to a massive 512GB of data. Those wanting to directly stream high quality content to their favourite platform need not worry, as direct USB connectivity is possible, and the selfie mode of operation keeps all the essential details directly in front.
Overall: Those looking for a compact solution for capturing both high quality professional audio and crystal clear 4K video will find the Q8n-4K ticks a lot of boxes reaching the demands of most productions and sitting at a price suiting most budgets.
Making Music Production Book
Distributed By: Ableton | Enquire for pricing
Recommended For: Those in need of some creative production inspiration or who require an esteemed hardback on their coffee table.
Features: There’s an infinite amount of resources that cover all the technical elements of music creation, ala how to use a compressor, EQ a vocal, create a send and return for a reverb or side chain and kick and bass, but few (if any) such resources cover the actual process of making music. In Dennis DeSantis’ “Making Music – 74 Creative Strategies for Electronic Music Producers”, the delicate, often frustrating and sometime even intimidating process music creation is thoughtfully broken down, where problems (or roadblocks) are presented, and accompanying solutions or patterns are laid out to help overcome these creative barricades.
This can vary from the starting of a project, bringing organisation to piles of existing material or providing solutions in completing a project. What can be quite elusive concepts, Dennis breaks down in a clear and concise way, coming from decades of experience, learning and music creation.
Primarily aimed at musicians making music electronically with machines, this book provides real life scenarios that (it’s fair to say) all musicians will be related to in some way or another, opening up the conversation and delivering solutions for when the creative juices dry up and need a serious shake up!
Overall: A well thought out, detailed and solution based read that is both informative and inspiring. A book for all musicians, but especially those who create electronically. Who doesn’t need a hardback to impress the guests with.
Distributed By: Innovative Music | Enquire for pricing
Recommended For: The primarily in-the-box DAW user who craves the tactility of multiple faders for mixing and automation tasks with lightning fast workflow.
Features: The Avid S1 brings a sleek, elegant, and ergonomically designed compact control surface, boasting supreme build quality to be easily united into any DAW user’s setup. Featuring seamless control with instant physical and visual feedback, the S1 boasts eight hi-res motorised faders and rotary controls (assignable to control multiple parameters), OLED displays for instant visual feedback and matching colour coded buttons at the bottom of each fader to match track colours in sessions if so required.
There’s dedicated buttons for EQ, dynamics and more for quick operation, assignment and control. Mute, solo, and record enable buttons are above each fader allowing one to zip around any session without the need to jump for the mouse or keyboard. This not only frees users up to be more “hands on” with their mix, but alleviates getting bogged down with arduous click and drag tasks. Those wanting to set up with a tablet can take advantage of Avid’s Control app, taking the tactile nature of the S1 to new heights with even deeper integration and gorgeous visual feedback.
Overall: A truly versatile compact control surface, the Avid S1 offers unparalleled hands on control over a DAW session (with particular attention to detail in Pro Tools), allowing users to utilise and customise the many physical elements of this professional control surface, enhancing workflow and speeding up hefty mix sessions.
Sound Particles Space Controller plugin
Distributed By: Sound Particles | Enquire for pricing
Recommended For: Immersive audio mix wizards, virtual and augmented reality necromancers
Features: Who doesn’t love remote control panning of a sound source with your phone. Wait. What? Hold the phone! Yep, you heard. For those at all familiar with immersive audio plugins and workflows will feel instantly at home within the UI of Space Controller, with Cube mode for a more traditional layout and workflow or Sphere mode for full blown 3D immersive workflows such as Ambisonics and VR. Within the plugin, channel control ranges from a single mono sound source through to controlling multiple channels simultaneously, being able to move entire sound fields seamlessly with incredible accuracy and smoothness. The accompanying app is where Space Controller really takes off, with remote control panning from a connected phone iOS and android compatible via Bluetooth or Wi-Fi (in the studio version featured here). Multiple devices can be connected simultaneously, breaking the creative bounds of immersive audio completely, for seamless positioning of things like Dolby Atmos objects, all of which can all be written and automated to the sound source/s within a session.
Overall: This plugin and app have earned some serious kudos from pros in the immersive space and for good reason, the overall level of control, accuracy, and endless creative possibilities make this a must have for those working in the immersive fields but also for those who want to explore the boundless creative panning possibilities simply within the stereo realm as well.
Check out print edition #324 for our full gift guide!