We talk a lot about studio gear on Pro Tools Expert. We love it! The problem is that some of the gear we talk about can often be expensive and out of reach for many users. Make no mistake, a boutique preamp worth £2,000 or a $1,000 microphone will always have a place in the market but this team article is going to list some studio products at the other end of the market. £50 studio products that we love and use in our workflows.
Let us know the low cost studio gear you use in your studio in the comments below.
Behringer Racktuner BTR200 - Dan Cooper
You might question this. "A tuner? That's not studio gear." In my opinion, it is. This £46 rack tuner helps me work with guitarists and bassists in the studio. There have been countless times in the past when recording a guitarist that the guitar has either not been tuned correctly before recording, or the guitar's tuning has slipped during the take. The Behringer Rack tuner sits in my rack where both the guitarist and I can see it at all times. If I suspect a string has slipped out of tune I'll ask the guitarist to play the string so that we can both evaluate the tuning of the instrument. I have found working this way means I can trust the instrument, that being the guitar being recorded, rather than trust the guitarist's ability to tune the guitar without me seeing their tuner.
There are so many types of guitar tuners. Cheap tuners have erratic displays resulting in poor tuning. So many guitarists do not usually invest in expensive tuners (such as Polytune products) in fear of losing them or having them stolen. The Behringer rack tuner is a quality tuner with a built-in microphone (also includes a DI input) and large LED display that clearly shows pitch wherever I am in the studio. This tuner is so easy to use and read that I also use it to setup the intonation on all my guitars. To top it all off, no batteries need replacing in this unit as it runs off mains electricity.
19" Rack Panel With Brushes For Cable Access - Mike Thornton
They are great for bringing cables out either from the back of a unit or for cable to plug in to equipment on the desk. In my image above there is a CAT 5 cable going to my Pro Tools Dock, the keyboard cable for my Pro Tools System an audio lead from a connector panel on the next bay and a spare USB cable which goes down to a hub so I can easily plug in any peripherals, like a MIDI keyboard when I need it.
Polytune - James Ivey
I'm with Dan on this one but my tuner is a mite smaller. I have two of these amazing TC Electronic Polytune Clip clip-on tuners that have a street price of around £49.95, just under the magic £50. There is nothing more frustrating that listening back to what felt like the perfect guitar or bass take to find it has tuning issues and is unusable. The Polytune clip works in 2 ways. It can work as a conventional tuner picking up sound from an internal mic. But things get interesting when you attach the Polytune clip to a guitar or bass headstock and strum all the strings. You can then see at a glance which of your strings are sharp or flat making accurate tuning quick and easy. It works equally well on both electric and acoustic instruments and can be swapped between instruments quickly.
Foldable Stand - Russ Hughes
If you've spent any time following my studio build story then you may have realised I care a lot about workflow and ergonomics in the studio. I like to have things to hand, and it's often the smallest things that can make the biggest difference.
It's easy to have a cluttered desk with different controllers and peripherals, in fact, it was driving me mad.
A couple of years ago I came across this low-cost stand on Amazon, that folds into various angles and even better folds flat when I need to store it. It costs less than £5, so I have a bunch of them.
Ikea Dagotto Foot Rest - Alan Sallabank
A £10 Ikea Foot Rest? Studio gear? If like me your office is your studio, then this very much qualifies and it's worth way more to me than £50 or indeed its tiny price tag.
I'll tell you why. I'm what is known in medical terminology as a "short-arse". As you can't adjust the height of most mixing consoles or studio furniture, it falls to devices like this to ensure I keep a correct posture and support while I'm working. Back & joint ache and circulatory problems can have a severe impact on how long you can effectively work for, and what comfort level you experience both in and out of the studio, but it's an area that's all too often overlooked.
It's the same rule as any other job - to be at your best your work environment has to be comfortable and have as few negative health impacts as possible. This is the best £10 I've ever spent on my studio and that was four years ago.
Dante Via - Julian Rodgers
Dante Via was a groundbreaking product when it was launched a couple of years ago but 2016 saw version 1.1 which lifted the 2 channel per application limit and raised it to 16 channels and added ASIO support. As the lowest cost point of entry into the Dante ecosystem everyone should have a copy.
Anyone who wonders what use a single copy of Dante Via would be to someone who has no other Dante equipment should definitely try it as, while it is true that with two or more copies it is possible to route uncompressed audio across standard Ethernet cables and switches and at relatively low latencies (10ms), a single copy of Via is still useful as a control for routing audio within Core Audio or to and from hardware and applications internally within a Mac or PC. Anyone who has ever had system sounds interrupt playback in public or struggled to route audio from a browser to Pro Tools will appreciate how useful this is.
Magic AB v2 by SampleMagic - Peter Barter
My Magic AB plugin from SampleMagic probably has deep vein thrombosis by now as its been permanently sat on my mix bus since its release back in 2013. For those that didn't catch Russ's review of v1 at the time this reference track comparison plugin enables you to quickly AB your mixes up against 9 different tracks of your choice.
I mainly use this plugin during the final stages of a music mix to check overall levels, EQ balance, stereo width and relative mono compatibility against tracks of a similar genre. Coupled with the incredibly useful duet display ios app I can now effectively have a level matched reference media player/monitor controller at my finger tips!
The recently updated Magic AB v2 comes with new invaluable features such as sync mode, meaning you can also load up previous mixes or pre mastered versions of your tracks for instant AB comparison synced to the correct point in your DAW!
Ive lost count of the times its highlighted issues and brought me back down to earth towards the end of a long day of mixing and with V2's new features and coming in at a very reasonable £49.95 I would not be without it.