It’s the season to be jolly! – well, not yet, but it’ll soon be so you really have make up your mind and write that letter! Like me, I am sure that each one of our readers has a Pro Tools setup in his/ her head that he’s been dreaming about for years and still hasn’t put it together. With Christmas rapidly approaching, it is mandatory that we all take a moment to decide how we will be enhancing our Pro Tools setup this year.
Just Starting Out with Pro Tools? – The Focusrite Starter Kit
This cool starter studio bundle from Focusrite includes a condenser microphone, a pair of Scarlett headpones, a Scarlett Solo USB audio interface, a XLR cable, stand and mic clip. It also includes Pro Tools | First, Focusrite Creative Pack, Ableton Live Lite, Focusrite Control, Softube Time and Tone Bundle, Focusrite’s Red Plug-in Suite and 2GB of Loopmasters samples. What more do you need?
The Focusrite Studio Bundle
It’s a simple, nice package for anyone who is just starting out in the world of music production. A great interface, great DAW and plug-ins, good headphones and a basic condenser microphone. It is geared towards guitarists with a high impedance instrument input on the interface and a load of stomp-box and amp modeling plug-ins. Whether you just want to play around or you actually want to start learning music production this looks like a perfect starter kit to me.
Mixing Products for Pro Tools
When it comes to mixing it is always about plug-ins: the best, the most original sounding, etc. But what if there was a possibility to get an amazing combination of plug-ins that work beautifully with a hardware piece so that you don’t have to mix with your mouse anymore? You’re going to say: “What, a control surface?”. No. Not at all, actually. I am very surprised that this is the first time we mention this on our website:
Softube Console 1
Softube Console 1. The hardware unit on the bottom and the plug-in UI above.
The Console 1 is an amazing product. It is basically a hardware MIDI controller with rotary encoder knobs that works together with a dedicated plug-in also called Console 1 (which ships with the hardware). Now, the thing is that the default plug-in (that is without any upgrades) is an fantastically exact replica of an SSL 4000 E analog console. It was in fact endorsed by SSL, unlike other SSL copies on the market. It works in a very neat fashion. You insert the Console 1 plug-in across every track and suddenly you have basically transformed your session into a hands-on experience. After you insert the plug-in on every track you have absolute control of the tracks right from the hardware controller. EQ, Gate, Compressor and Drive that is – all of them very precise copies of the processing units you would find on an SSL 4000 E.
The Softube Console 1 Hardware Unit
Well, drive is something you did not have as a dial on the SSL 4000 E but you did get cool distortion by turning the preamp hot . You can also use the hardware unit to select between all the tracks and control input/ output volume and panning. It supports any number of tracks your computer will. And that is probably a lot since the CPU footprint of Console 1 is very small. If at any point you decide that the SSL 4000 E sound is not suitable, or you want to mix things up you can add any Softube EQ and compressor (that you own) to Console 1 from the plug-in interface or alternatively you can purchase the SSL XL 9000 K or the British Class A expansion packs for the Console 1.
For a while the only option you had if you wanted to control Pro Tools from a tablet was the Pro Tools Control app that is still only available for Apple products. That is not the case anymore since the release of TouchDAW, an excellent control app created by Humanic.
TouchDAW is a full-featured DAW control and general purpose MIDI control app for Android tablets and phones. It allows you to remote control popular digital audio workstation software just like a hardware control surface – and happily for us it also has dedicated support for Pro Tools. You can take control of the edit modes, the transport, the faders, the pan pots, solo and mute and you can also use it as a midi controller with the integrated pads and XY section which you can program to modulate parameters of plug-ins. You can even control it from a phone rather than a tablet.
Humanic TouchDAW UI.
Cool Setup Idea: As Console 1 does not have faders and is oriented more towards signal processing, what if you use it together with TouchDAW for a fully hands on, never-have-to-look-at-the-screen experience?
Production Tools for Pro Tools
There are so many cool new production tools out on the market that it is really hard to decide what to try and integrate into my setup. For me, it is essential to get tools that sound great but also help me get my hands off the mouse and keyboard.
The Roland Boutique Line Review
The JU-06, JP-08 and JX-03 standing next to their bigger brothers.
There is plenty for everyone in this new (well, not entirely new but a year is not that much) book-sized synth and drum machine product line from Roland. (Yes, they really are the size of a book) This line is comprised of sound modules that faithfully re-create some of the Roland’s most famous products. the line-up consists of: TR-09 – a TR-909 replica, TB-03 – a TB-303 replica, VP-03 – a VP-330 replica, JP-08 – a Jupiter 8 replica, JU-06 – a Juno 106 replica, JX-03 – a JX-3P replica and the A-01 – which is a controller (both analog and digital) and sound generator.
You can get one of these and use it as a sound module or buy it with the K-25M keyboard that attaches to the unit. Thing is that they really sound great and the size factor is just fabulous. If you are a producer with a home studio you know what I mean: desk space is really important. Every unit is 30 cm by 12.8 cm, so really small.
The great thing is that Roland did not cut back on sound quality when building this small – not at all. My favorite one of the series is JU-06, the Juno 106 replica.
Arturia DrumBrute Review
The Arturia DrumBrute.
Coming out November 17, the new analog drum machine from Arturia has everyone in the music production world really excited. The reason? 17 fully analog drum instruments, perfect connectivity, poly-rhythm sequencer and a filter to start with. In a true TR style design you can program the sequencer on the first row of pads and edit the drum sounds directly above the pads with rotary encoders. It can connect via USB, MIDI, Clock I/O and you can output each instrument individually.
The DrumBrute contains 64 sequences, with a maximum length of 64 steps each. It also features controls for Swing, Randomness, Step Repeat, Roller and Loop. It definitely seems like an awesome buy as it is surprisingly cheap compared to market alternatives.
NI Maschine Mikro Review
Native Instruments Maschine Mikro
If we are in the realm of beat-making this nifty little thing has to be mentioned. The Maschine Mikro is, as Native Instruments call it, a groove production studio – basically a workstation for creating beats. It is another great example of software + hardware combination. It ships with the Maschine 2 plug-in which comes with a sound library of, wait for it, 22 GB. And not only beats, but other Komplete Instruments and effects as well.
The hardware unit lets you control all of that and it is a really handy tool for creative beat making and music production. The sound library behind Maschine is simply awesome and is used by producers world wide. Sample, arrange and sequence away with this great little music production tool. the software integrates smoothly with other Komplete instruments and effects you might already own (version 10 or above) which is really awesome as you can open them directly with the Maschine software.
It integrates nicely in Pro Tools and you can switch between multiple instances of Maschine 2 right from the controller. It also gives you up to 16 audio outputs to Pro Tools so you can mix the sounds outside of Maschine.
Korg MS-20 DIY Kit
The MS-20 assembly kit.
Ever fancied building an analog synthesizer with your own hands but you know nothing about electronics? No problem, the good guys at KORG are here to the rescue with this full sized MS-20 synthesizer which ships in pieces and you have to put it together yourself. It features all the original analog circuitry: 2 VCO’s, 2 VCA’s, 2VCF’s, 2EG’s, 1 LFO, external signal processor and the patching system. It has USB and MIDI connections and it “replicates every detail of the original, down to the package binding and the included manual”.
So, who’s down for some DIY electronics on Christmas eve? Alternatively, you can get the all new Korg MS-20 mini which comes ready-built! 🙂
These are some ideas to make this Christmas special – if you have others please do not hesitate to leave a comment and maybe we are going to make a “Part 2” to this article. There is simply too much gear out there to put it all into one article but I am sure that the above products have at least sparked some ideas for you.