GEAR RECOMMENDATIONS

These are just my opinion… take from it what you wish!

Best mics for recording good-quality vocals
(especially for rap & hip-hop)

Often, I’ll get questions via email from rappers and vocalists who always wonder exactly which mics sound best for recording vocals over hip-hop and rap beats…. here are my recommendations, in various price ranges:

LOW COST:

MCA SP-1 condenser mic ($60 from Amazon as of 2016)
Sounds great, but is a very sensitive microphone. If you are a loud or aggressive vocalist, make sure you do one of two things… either set the gain/input level on your audio interface reasonably low (especially if you like “eating” the mic when you’re recording your vocals), or set it around 9:00 or 10:00, and use a pop filter (and stand about 8-12 inches away from the microphone!). Condenser mics are always very sensitive and they pick up the smallest of details (but they’re much clearer than dynamic mics).

CAD GXL2200 ($60 from Amazon as of 2016) This little mic sounds great, and is totally worth the price of admission. Read the paragraph above for details on how to get the best sound from it.

MXL V67G ($90 from Amazon as of 2016)
Better than the two mics above… read the paragraph above the CAD GXL2200 for details on how to get the best sound from it.

MID-RANGE:

(your best bet, if you are a rapper):Shure SM7B ($350 everywhere, might be cheaper on ebay)
This is a great dynamic mic, most often used by radio DJs and at radio stations for broadcasting. But, it is a wonderful microphone for rap vocals… especially aggressive and loud vocals. It comes at a higher cost, but it is no joke.

E/V RE20 ($450 everywhere, might be cheaper on ebay)
Probably the #1 radio station/DJ broadcast mic. Been around for decades. Like the Shure SM7b, can handle a lot of loud and aggressive vocals. Priced high, but worth it.

*A highly recommended addition to a good mic is a good hardware compressor. You’ll need it especially if you are an aggressive or extremely dynamic (soft/loud) vocalist. I recommend the “Really Nice Compressor” (aka the “RNC”) by FMR Audio. Great price, and absolutely awesome hardware compressor.

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Best USB audio interfaces for the money (less than $200)

Focusrite Scarlett 2i4 (2 XLR/line in combo jacks, MIDI I/O, pad switches, headphone with dedicated volume)
$200 or less (look around)

Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 (2 XLR/line in combo jacks, headphone with dedicated volume)
$150 or less (look around)

Presonus Audiobox USB (2 XLR/line in combo jacks, MIDI I/O, headphone with dedicated volume)
$150 or less (look around)

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Best studio monitors

While the KRK Rokit series are incredibly-good-sounding speakers, I would not consider them real reference monitors, as they do not really have a “flat” response. They sound great, like hi-fi stereo speakers. I had a pair of Rokit 5 for several years (it’s tough to get a good mix on them). I sold them after I bought a used Logitech 2.1 system (for $80) with powered subwoofer (which to me, gives me a much more accurate/”flat” response, especially without the sub kicking).

While these speakers are all pricey, I recommend them above any current trend:

used Yamaha NS-10 or NS-10m (about $500/pair)

Mackie MR8 MKII ($500/pair)

Event 20/20BAS ($700/pair)

JBL LSR305 ($300/pair)

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Best MIDI controllers for the price

KEYBOARDS

Nektar controllers – unstoppable and unbeatable prices.

M-Audio Oxygen 49 or 61 ($150-200) – great keys, lots of knobs and sliders, looks great

PAD CONTROLLERS (16 pads)

Korg PadKontrol ($150) – the best pad sensitivity out of the box, cool XY pad, easy to program. They should make a MKII.

Akai MPD218 ($99 or less) – compact but great design.

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