Cheap Thrills

November 25, 2011 12:37 PM

We're heading into gift-giving time so I thought maybe we could share some cheap thrills and stocking stuffers that could brighten up your holidays, musically speaking. I love cheap gear, but it's always a bit of a coin toss, so I'd love to know what works for other folk.

I thought of this mostly because I just got the ridiculously cheap MXL R40 Ribbon Mic ($70) and the equally ridiculously cheap ART PAC pre-amp/compressor ($99), both of which completely rock in different ways.

The R40 is nothing short of stunning on guitar amps. It's easily the best guitar sound I've ever recorded. It's also nice on vocals but you have to roll off a lot of bass and you need a lot of gain on the preamp, which can be noisy if your gear is anything like mine. But on loud guitars -- hoo boy!! So much better than my amp sims or the SM57/8 that I usually use.

It would probably also be terrific on bass, cello, kick drum, that kind of stuff.

The PAC is equally amazing on vocals. I put my Studio Projects B1 through it (it's already a nice mic) and it totally blew me away with this thick, velvety, incredible present tone. It has an opto compressor in it which sound terrific.

I also recently bought the Satson plugins ($39) which are somewhat obscure but basically emulate the sound of a vintage console in your DAW. There's one plugin that sit at the top of every channel, with gain, LPF, HPF, metering and some saturation controls, and a second plugin which sits on every buss, and just has meters and some options. The same guy has a free EQ available which is also excellent. Between them, I quite often don't need any other FX on a channel except maybe compression.

Finally if you have an iPad/iPhone, AC-7 Core gives you a virtual control surface that works with almost any DAW. It's $8 for the iPad version and $5 for the iPhone app. I've tested it with Logic and Presonus Studio One and it works great.

posted by unSane (9 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

The KORG Monotron is a great little thing that you can carry anywhere, literally in your shirt pocket (and obviously, easy to drop into an actual Christmas stocking!). They're lotsa fun. I used it for all the sounds (excluding drums and vocal) on this legendary MeFiMu track!

And BTW, looking at that KORG link, I see there are 2 new models I didn't know about. Wheee!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:10 PM on November 25, 2011 [2 favorites]

Those monotrons are on sale for $29 from Long & McQuade right now in Canada! I almost bought one the other day...
posted by unSane at 6:13 PM on November 25, 2011

Flapjax's recent posts have renewed my longing for a full set of bass boomwhackers, which are fairly inexpensive, and I suggested to my brother, to get for me, an enrollment in Bang on a Can's "Cantaloupe Club." That way, it's a gift that keeps on more awesome avant garde music.
posted by askmeaboutLOOM at 8:59 AM on November 27, 2011

Here's another cheap thrill for ya: a $25 speaker stand I just made. Two pieces of 5/8" ply, each with a toilet flange attached, and a 33" piece of 4" sewer pipe joining them, filled with sand and glued with regular ABS pipe cement. The speaker sits on three little trim nails hammered almost all the way into the top piece of ply. Took me all of half an hour two make two of them. I had the wood lying around but if you get the hardware store to cut it and the pipe, literally the only tool you need is a screwdriver.

I did it mostly to clear a bit of space on my desk but I cannot BELIEVE how much difference this made to the sound. I feel really stupid for not having done this before.
posted by unSane at 1:15 PM on December 2, 2011

I bought myself an EBow a while back. They're about $100, are small enough to stuff into a stocking, and are pretty cool little gadget.

I use mine pretty sparingly (I only use it on 1 song I play with my band), but it's a cool thing to have around in the right situation. It feels pretty unnatural at first, but once you get the finer points down it sort of works itself out.
posted by Pecinpah at 3:20 PM on December 2, 2011

Ha, here's another one for you.

The Sterling ST77 large diaphragm condenser is basically the same microphone as the $1500 Oceanway st6050. It usually retails on MF for $500 but right now they are knocking them out for $200, apparently because Sterling are repositioning themselves. Here's the Gearslutz thread with some more info.

So $200 for a $1500 mic, not bad eh? Ships internationally too.
posted by unSane at 5:07 PM on December 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

heh, and add the coupon code couponcabin11 at checkout for another $20 off
posted by unSane at 6:34 PM on December 3, 2011

And another. These $30 Pyle speakers are a decent subsitute for the $240 Avantone mixcubes which are industry standard for checking how shit will sound on a radio and setting mix levels etc. Or for $100 you can get them with a little amp which are sort of the equivalent of the $450 active mixcubes...
posted by unSane at 9:19 AM on December 5, 2011

Okay! One more. And it's a doozy. I've had a love/hate affair with amp sims -- I've tried 'em all and I stick with Guitar Rig but it never really sounds right to me, although better than the others. But just recently I got pointed to Scuffman S-Gear. $75 and it freakin' rocks. It's easily the best software sim out there. All the user reports I've read indicate that it's as good or better than the $2000 AxeFx which has recently become the Big Name Standard.

15-day free trial is really worth the download.
posted by unSane at 8:02 PM on December 8, 2011

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