Key differences between Chorus, Flanger & Phaser Explained

If guitars were rifles, pedal effects would be ammunition.

There’s only so much you can achieve with a clean guitar sound, and it’s more than safe to say that effects such as Chorus, Flanger, and Phaser are capable of completely shifting and changing your tone, for better or worse.

Now, skilled guitar players instinctively know the differences between various pedal effects, but most of the time people are more concerned about where and when they can use a certain type of sound rather than wreck their heads trying to explain ‘how and why’.

Today we are going to attempt to thoroughly examine some of the key differences between chorus, flanger, and phaser effects, so buckle up and stay for a while.

Chorus in a nutshell

The ‘chorus effect’ is easily one of the most iconic pedal effects among guitar players.

We could go as far as to call it ‘choir-us’ mainly because it’s supposed to make the guitar sound much bigger than it actually is.

It’s ideal for single-guitar bands, troupes, and performers who want to duplicate (or triplicate) their sound in a live setting and for studio musicians who don’t particularly like laying down numerous tracks where they can achieve the same effects with a pedal as simple as this.

How it works

The Chorus effect modulates the pitch of your tone ever so slightly; it basically reproduces the exact signal of your guitar’s vibrations but at a slightly different pitch and time.

The potential of the chorus effect is vast, which means that it can subtly enhance the depth of your tone or it can simulate another live guitar, depending on how you set its parameters.

In a bit more technical terms, the chorus effect is achieved when the pedal takes the signal before melding it with pitch-modulated copies of the original signal.

Depending on the model and parameters, the post-produced signal copy can be singular or there could be numerous. The more ‘layers’ the pedal makes, the bigger your tone will become. 

How to use it properly

Essentially, it’s a straightforward effect that doesn’t exactly require much skill and experience to be used, although it’s kind of addictive in the sense that it may leave you with the feeling that you always need ‘more’.

It’s a modulation pedal, which basically means that it’s supposed to sit at the back end of the signal chain, right after wah-wahs, compressors, overdrives, or distortions.

Due to the fact that chorus pedals aren’t necessarily the most intricate contraptions and feature only a handful of control knobs, you’ll typically only have depth and rate to worry about.

Set these parameters low to enrich your sound in a subtle, delicate way; when set at halfway you’ll add plenty of character to your tone while going anywhere beyond this point is not recommended if your signal chain is encumbered as it is.

Flanger in a nutshell

The flanger effect is one of the most enigmatic guitar gizmos to this day; it was artificially created (by accident) in old-school studios back in the tape-recording days (4-track and 8-track machines) by touching the flange (the rim of the tape), although nowadays the process of ‘flanging’ has been tamed and digitalized.

The ‘flanger’ effect sports characteristics of numerous other pedal effects – it’s based on delay pedals, but its unpredictability often leads it towards phasers, overdrives, and distortions, obviously depending on its parameters.

Furthermore, this effect was created by playing two tracks at the same time, which further means that it also shares some similarities with choruses to some extent. As we’ve already discussed, chorus pedals modulate and blend the altered signal with the original one, which is partially what happens with the ‘flanging’ effect too.

How it works

Flanger works in the same way as most modulation pedals do; this pedal splits the signal in 2 identical paths where the original is untouched and the second one is just slightly delayed (measured in milliseconds).

The tweaked signal is then modulated both by speeding it and slowing it cyclically. The ‘modulated’ signal is then blended with the original signal.

What’s most important to understand about flangers is that their altered signal is actually tweaked at ‘random’ unpredictable intervals whereas other modulation pedals offer more control and precision.

The randomness of this effect is the reason why some people use it as their go-to pedal and other guitarists avoid it.

How to use it properly

Flanger pedals are by default wild and pretty hard to tame, but there are more ways than one by which you can gap the small obstacles they present.

The most intimidating parameter of typical flangers is the ‘manual control’, which basically allows guitarists to pick and choose which frequencies they want to alter.

When untouched, the pedal will automatically calculate compatible frequencies and reinforce them (incompatible frequencies will always nullify each other), leading to a slightly clearer tone without sacrificing the punchy feel.

Most flangers typically feature ‘resonance’ or ‘intensity’, both of which relate to the same thing. This parameter affects the effect’s intensity by clipping or feeding a portion of the delay straight back to the original input.

By increasing the ‘intensity’ you’ll add more grit to your tone and achieve a more distorted high-gain sound.

Phaser in a nutshell

Phaser pedals sound almost identical to laymen and beginner guitarists, but in actuality, they share more differences than similarities.

This effect can potentially be used to achieve a mild flanging effect only if its parameters are basically untouched and set on ultra-low settings.

A well-known fact among veteran guitar players is that the phaser effect was introduced to the scene around the same time when flangers came to be. This is probably the reason why new-school players typically don’t make a clear distinction between the two.

In a nutshell, Phasers create a swirling-like sound, much akin to a plane taking off with the only difference being that it is constantly circulating in the fashion of stereo speakers.

One of the most notable benefits of Phaser pedals is that it allows guitar players to create a much bigger atmosphere and ambient, even with smallish amps and relatively mediocre gear. 

How it works

Flangers and phasers operate on similar principles; the original signal is divided into two paths, one path is modulated and the other is completely untouched.

The modulated signal path passes through a series of all-pass filters, which shift the signal’s phase revolving around a variety of (pre-calculated) frequencies. In this regard, the Phaser is not as unpredictable as the flanger, but it’s not as controllable as the chorus.

The modulated signal path is later mixed with the untouched signal path, which results in the ‘swooping’ circular tone.

How to use it properly

The Flanger effect is significantly less punishing towards beginner players; its parameters are not as sensitive, and it’s a bit more versatile altogether.

As far as we’re talking about the signal chain, most people don’t use both flanger and phaser pedals, so you should ideally place either of the two near the end of the chain (after distortion, equalizers, compressors, delays, and choruses).

Typical phaser pedals (such as MXR’s Phase 100) feature simplistic tone controls like Intensity and Speed. The ‘intensity’ basically governs the number of phased stages whereas the ‘speed’ affects the rapidity of signal shifts.

In simpler words, the ‘intensity’ knobs allow you to create different ‘geometric’ signal patterns while the ‘speed’ knobs are there for you to finalize and shape them in more concrete ways.

Similarities between Chorus, Phaser, and Flanger

Essentially, Chorus, Phaser, and Flanger pedals belong to the ‘modulation effect’ category.

Aside from this little formality, they’re also meant to be used in similar ways and operate under similar principles.

All three of these effects divide the original guitar signal path in two after which they alter it in different ways. Although the outcomes are vastly different, these split signals all utilize delays to modulate the frequencies.

From a more practical side, all of these effects have been made available in both pedal and plug-in formats.

The initial modes of achieving chorus, flanger, and phaser (particularly the last two) were almost unwieldy and required a dose of technical expertise, whereas today these effects are beginner-friendly and suitable for use by immediate beginner players.

In technical terms, these pedal effects always leave one signal path completely untouched, which means that at least ‘half’ of your tone will remain exactly the same as it originally was, even though this is not entirely a quantifiable matter.

Even though there are numerous minor other similarities, the most crucial and highlighted ones are:

  1. Chorus, Phaser, and Flanger effects all belong to the ‘modulation’ category
  2. The same method of operation and functional principles
  3. The unfiltered signal path is always non-modulated and identical to the original
  4. All three effects utilize delays to affect the filtered signal path
  5. Modern-day pedals have made these effects more accessible to beginner guitar players

Differences between Chorus, Phaser, and Flanger

Now that we’ve touched upon the similarities between Chorus, Phaser, and Flanger it’s time to dig into the main course – the key differences that separate them.

Though there are many dissimilarities between them, we’ve plucked out the most notable ones and grouped them in the appropriate categories, starting with…

Sonic differences

The Chorus effect is, essentially, much different from Phaser and Flanger, at least sound-wise. It’s ‘mellow’ tonally whereas Phaser and Flanger are closer to overdriven types of sounds.

Even when the parameters of a Chorus pedal are set to their extremes the end result still boasts clarity when isolated. However, choruses are seldom used as standalone effects.

This pedal effect is more of an ‘adhesive’ type in the sense that it extends itself across the spectrum of other effects used in the chain. Phasers and Flangers tend to dominate the chain with their grit.

Differences in application

Distortion effects are commonly associated with rock & heavy metal while chorus, phaser, and flanger effects can be used in pretty much any music genre and can fit into any playing style.

These effects are as versatile as the player’s creativity; in that regard, they can be used in almost any song or performance piece, although exceptions should be obvious.

Since phasers and flangers affect the frequencies of the guitar’s signal in a relatively similar way, they almost cross each other out.

In simpler words, most guitar players use either a phaser pedal or a flanger; rarely both.

Differences in versatility

In this particular scenario, ‘versatility’ refers to the flexibility and freedom as far as tweaking with control knobs and parameters are in question.

Tuning up all the knobs to their extreme would make any sound muddy, but especially so in the case of phasers and flangers.

As mentioned before, these effect types tend to dominate the signal chain, which oftentimes diminishes the presence of other pedals and effects.

In that regard, Phasers and Flangers are slightly less versatile than choruses.

Obviously, Phase and Flange pedals are fairly different between themselves too. Phasers are slightly easier to control, but more importantly, they offer a more calculated and more predictable approach to tone-tweaking.

 On the opposite end of the spectrum, Flangers don’t affect the tone so drastically and can be used for extended periods of time without compromising the tone’s integrity.

The swirling of Phasers makes them ideal for song parts that need to be accentuated (particularly solo sections) whereas Flange pedals can easily substitute for overdrive and distortion when need be.

Conclusion

Every pedal effect type is different. Moreover, every model is different from another; two different pedals that belong to the same category can be so strikingly different that some people would assume they serve different purposes.

Even so, the contrasts between Chorus, Flanger, and Phaser are undeniable and to a certain extent obvious.

From the variance in sound, over dissimilarities in application to differences in application, by now we hope that we’ve helped you make a distinction between these pedal effects.

Famous Synth Emulations- Classic Hardware Without All The Hassle

Iconic analogue synthesizers are either too hard to find, too pricey, or both.

Even though we’d all love to have beautiful beats such as Steinberg’s E or Roland’s SH 101 physically present in our workspace, the age of technology provides far more convenient and compact alternatives.

Today we are going to talk about some of the most famous synth emulation programs; replicas that are true to the originals in terms of aesthetics and performance, and plugins that are incomparably cheaper. 

Cloud Jupiter 8

The Jupiter 8 is, without any shadow of a doubt, one of the most eclectic synthesizers Roland has released, and it’s now available in a software format called the Cloud Jupiter 8.

It’s an exact replica of the original, sporting all of the features that Jupiter 8 comes supplied with, and it’s a perfect choice for people who are looking for a highly versatile and almost perfectly designed synth.

It offers eight polyphony voices, compatibility with VST, AAX & AU, total hardware control via USB connection to the Roland’s proprietary System 8, and a broad spectrum of configurable parameters, knobs, sliders, and faders.

Starting from the very top, the Cloud Jupiter 8 sports a customizable wavetable packed in the LFO section, a comprehensive modulator panel, two individual VCOs, and two identical envelopes.

Furthermore, it comes outfitted with the classic arpeggiator controls and five assignable modes.

The option to blend different patches, being one of the key elements of the original Jupiter 8 synth is also present.

The effects section is isolated, sitting right next to the 5-octave keyboard.

Even though it’s quite modest, it’s true to the original Jupiter 8 and sports effect type configuration, delay time, and revert type knobs.

Obviously enough, Jupiter Cloud 8 is perhaps not as versatile as some up-and-coming VSTs and plugins, but we should not forget that it’s been the industry’s standard for quality of sound for nearly 40 years straight.

Regardless of whether you’re looking for the Jupiter 8 specifically or simply are in need of a strong, well-rounded synth VST, we can safely say you won’t regret trying it out.

Korg ARP Odyssey

ARP’s Odyssey is almost a decade older than Jupiter 8, which can easily be discerned by its design and features.

Even so, it was a groundbreaking synthesizer at the time, and it certainly garnered quite a following in the old-school rock and alternative world.

Korg’s recreation of this remarkable synth is true to form down to the tiniest of details, but there are a couple of obvious differences.

For example, the original Odyssey has a different method of accessing the patch library (analogue) whereas Korg’s version allows you to do that in a much simpler and faster way.

Another striking difference is the fact that the original Odyssey is pretty small and the Korg’s recreation of it can be ‘stretched out’ a bit, which would make the features a bit more visible and thus easier to use as well.

Starting from the top, the first section is dedicated to a split between FM and wavetable-based features.

There are two frequency modulators that come supplied with the same sliders, only in different color.

The sections that follow are meant for fine-tuning of parameters such as key sync, tempo, cutoff, modulation, and such.

There are only a couple of simplified LFO settings on the table, although the Odyssey makes it up for you with a rich VCF section.

One of the biggest features of the KORG Odyssey is the massive EQ section, sporting sliders in different colors for easier organization and navigability.

Lastly, it packs a 3-octave built-in keyboard, which is excellent for electronic music, but not so much for slightly more complex genres.

EFM Sc P5 (Prophet V)

In a nutshell, EFM’s SCP5 is a free VST that aims to recreate the performance of the heavily acclaimed Prophet V designed by Sequential Circuits back in 1970.

It doesn’t resemble it aesthetically, and it only borrowed a couple of its main features, but on the upside it’s completely free to use.

It did not ‘dress to impress’, rather the layout of its features is as such that whoever’s using it can expect to quickly navigate between the oscillators, envelopes, and arpeggiators, which is the reason why it’s suitable for both professionals and beginners.

Nearly all of the sections that SCP5 is outfitted with sport a multitude of control knobs and selectable modes (such as synchronization, filters, external oscillators, unison, and such), with the exception of the dedicated Filter, Mixer, Amplifier, Delay, Chorus, and Master sections, which offer control of the most basic parameters.

Using the SCP5 certainly has its downfalls too; it does not come supplied with a built-in keyboard, nor does it have any kind of wavetable editorial features; again, it’s a free plugin that does offer access to some of the most important Prophet V features, which makes it worth checking out.

Adam Szabo Access Virus Viper

Viper is the recreation of the infamous Access’s Virus, which is one of the younger top-shelf boutique synthesizers that came out back in 1997.

It offers a mixture of authentic and brand-new features, but its performance is definitely based on the actual performance of the original Virus.

Viper offers an all-encompassing wavetable editor, three oscillators, three LFOs, eight effects (all of which can be used simultaneously), twin filter sections, and a smallish Matrix board. It also sports a very versatile mixer board, as well as onboard amplifier controls.

Should you want to boost the well-roundedness of your Viper software, you can also download Phazor free of charge too.

Basically, this is a complementary plugin that offers stage-selection, an additional mix knob, a basic EQ section, and another LFO.

It was specifically designed to be gentle on CPU usage, and it can even be used as a standalone feature, although it’s pretty basic and offers minimal mixing options.

It fills the gaps in AS’s Viper performance, though, and given the fact that it’s a gratis downloadable feature, there’s no reason not to try it out.

Best Moog VST- The classics, updated for 2020

There’s a lot to be said about Moog, but in short words it’s the longest-running, best-performing synthesizer that stretched from the realms of analog to the world of digital, increasing its already-massive versatility.

Nowadays with such incredible advancements in technology, Moog’s performance and well-roundedness can be tweaked, refined, and sharpened to cater to the needs of individuals with even greater precision via VST (virtual studio tools).

Today we are going to talk about some of the best Moog VSTs in 2020, so without any further ado, let’s get straight to it.

1. Arturia MiniV

Truth be told, when it comes to Moog VSTs it doesn’t get much better than the Mini V.

First and foremost, Arturia is a massive brand, and you should feel free to set your expectations sky-high before checking out its specs and features.

Speaking of which, the highlight feature of Mini V is the fact that all of the original’s MiniMoog keys and control knobs are authentically positioned and replicated onto this software.

The main screen of the MiniV is separated into five main parts, including Controllers, the Oscillator Bank, a small mixing console, modifiers, and output.

Now, the controllers are pretty simple and straightforward; here you’ll be able to tweak the Glide, Tune, and the overall mixing controls; the Oscillator bank features three separate oscillator knobs, each featuring its own control knobs; the mixer is the essential component of the MiniV, although its features are pretty simplistic.

The Modifiers section is absolutely brilliant, as it offers separate Filters and Loudness contour controls; here is where you’ll spend most of your time if you’re into production and mixing more than actual recording and playing.

Last, but not least, let’s not forget the 4-octave keyboard that sports built-in glide, decay, legato, and bend controls. All things considered, the MiniV is a compact feature-packed VST that is an absolute necessity for all Moog enthusiasts.

2. Synapse ‘The Legend’

Just like its name implies, Synapse’s Legend is an iconic VST that boasts unparalleled versatility and unequaled mixing capabilities.

Given the fact that Moog features some of the most authentic sounds that are virtually unattainable via digital software, we daresay that The Legend is one of the very few exceptions.

This VST is perfect for studio engineers who have a couple of years of experience under their belt (to say the least), as it is not as simple and straightforward as our previous pick.

It features multiple mixing, oscillating, and filtering control knobs, all of which are incredibly responsive.

The largest chunk of The Legend’s display is taken up by the Oscillator controls.

Basically, there are three separate Oscillators while each has its own set of fine-tuning controls, including 7 waveform presets, range-warping parameters, and semitone pitching.

The Filters section is relatively basic; it features Cutoff, Resonance, and Keytrack controls, all of which are pretty easy to use with a bit of trial and error.

Next up is the Filter Envelope, featuring four built-in effects that can massively alter your tracks; here you’ll be able to tweak Attack, Decay, Sustain, and Release after you’re done shaping the waveforms and recording the initial tracks.

The Legend is not super-cheap, but luckily you’ll be able to download a free demo, which will allow you to familiarize yourself with its features and decide whether or not it is worth the money.

3. GForce MiniMonsta

The ‘MiniMonsta’ is true to its name only in regards to its relatively tiny features; this is a fully digital VST that comes packed with dozens of presets and built-in samples, as well as a fully customizable keyboard, all of which will definitely come in handy while experimenting with tracks regardless of your preferred music genre.

One of the biggest differences between MiniMonsta and other Moog VSTs we’ve covered so far is the fact that it has a digital mixer (instead of an analog one).

This means that it’s significantly more forgiving to beginners and intermediately skilled producers and mixers, as all you have to do is simply choose the samples you want to use from the massive built-in library.

The upper section of the MiniMonsta is also digital, and it features LFO, XADSR, and MIDI controls, again all of which are incredibly easy to use.

There are dozens of analog control knobs too; the Controllers, Oscillators, Mixing knobs, modifiers, output knobs, filters, and the overall settings are all analog and remarkably responsive.

In simple words, the MiniMonsta offers affordable means to spice up your Moog experience; it’s versatile enough to cater to the needs of seasoned veterans, but its most basic features are plain enough to be rewarding to beginners too.

4. Syntronik Instruments ‘Bully’

Our final pick is the ‘Bully’, which is a vehement juggernaut of a VST that can easily overpower most of its competition with dirt-cheap price, accessibility, and sheer simplicity.

Now, this is the first beginner-based VST for Moog on our list, and that does not necessarily mean that it’s not as versatile as its more feature-packed counterparts. 

Basically, this is a digital representation of a fully analog Moog mixer that features simplified FX, oscillators, filters, and volume controls.

This VST features two separate oscillators with Tune and De-tune controls; a relatively basic LFO with 5 built-in waveform samples, pitch, pan, and rate controls; an old-school loudness envelope section with Attack, Hold, Decay, Sustain, and Velocity faders, and lastly, one of the simplest Filter sections laden with a plethora of fader controls.

Although it does not feature a built-in keyboard, it’s supplied with a wonderful array of customization controls, sliders, and faders that more than make up for this little shortcoming.

All things considered, it’s twice as cheap in comparison to most popular VST plugins, and it’s certainly well worth the buck.

Conclusion

In all honesty, Moog is so iconic and authentic that most people don’t quite want to ‘defile’ it with VSTs.

However, we have your back covered for the other topic as well, so make sure to check out the Best VST Synths 2020 rundown. Stay safe!

Shure SM58 vs Sennheiser E835

Sennheiser and Shure are the names most musicians who are worth their salt have heard already; these brands are ‘responsible’ for numerous groundbreaking instruments and gear pieces that have graced the shelves of both physical and virtual marketplaces worldwide, and today we’ve decided to take a gander at SM58 and E835.

These are, in essence, two low-end microphones that boast performance levels which greatly surpass their price tags.

They sound awesome, they’re pretty versatile, and we aim to delve deep into details that could explain their exact value for the money.

Without any further ado, let’s get straight into it.

Shure SM58 in a nutshell

In simple words, Shure’s SM58 is a dynamic microphone with a super cardioid pickup pattern; it boasts a frequency response range of 50 Hz to 15 kHz; its output impedance is measured at 150 Ohms, and it is light as a feather with only 0.66 pounds of weight.

It sounds great, especially given the fact that it’s barely more expensive in comparison to an average budget microphone, and it’s certainly built to last.

It kind of looks a bit basic, though, and it’s only available in one color style option.

Sennheiser E835 in a nutshell

If it weren’t for the color and size, most people wouldn’t be able to tell the E835 from SM58.

This is a dynamic microphone with a super cardioids pickup pattern (exactly like Shure’s SM58), and it weighs almost the same (0.73 pounds).

The frequency response range of the E835 is a bit broader, spanning from 40 Hz to 16 kHz, and its output impedance is almost twice as strong in comparison to the SM58 (350 Ohms).

Design and aesthetics

Just like we’ve mentioned a second ago, Sennheiser’s E835 and Shure’s SM58 share the same type of design; they’re both dynamic microphones with super cardioid pickup patterns; this makes them extremely versatile for musicians; at the same time, it makes them really hard, and maybe even a bit unwieldy for podcasters, influencers, YouTubers, and such.

In terms of aesthetics, the Sennheiser’s E835 features a grey finish with a black screen whereas Shure’s SM58 has a black finish with a silver screen.

This is entirely a matter of subjective preference, especially given the fact that these are basically the only colors available.

All things considered, we have an obvious draw; both microphones are designed the same, and they look pretty much alike.

Durability, size, and weight

The dimensions of Shure’s SM58 measure 6.3 inches by 2 inches while the dimensions of E835 measure 7.08 inches by 1.88 inches. Obviously, the SM58 is just slightly smaller, but the difference is so small that it’s negligible.

In terms of weight, the SM58 weighs 0.66 pounds while E835 0.73 pounds. Again, we see a bit of a difference, but it’s too small to be discerned unless put under a ‘microscope’.

Now, as for the durability part; Shure’s SM58 is built to last, just like the vast majority of Shure microphones. It features a robust metal construction, and it pretty much feels durable to the touch.

The windscreen also excels in this particular field of performance, which is the reason why many live performers lean on it as their go-to instrument.

The situation with Sennheiser’s E835 is not much different; it’s made of almost exactly the same materials, which provide it with almost the same level of durability. In fact, even the windscreen is as robust as the one that SM58 comes supplied with.

Again we don’t have a clear winner; it’s obvious that there are little differences that set these two microphones apart, but none that are significant enough to actually have an impact on their overall performance.

Frequency response

The first actual difference between SM58 and E835 is their frequency response range. Let’s remind ourselves – Shure’s SM58 has a frequency response range that spans from 50 Hz to 15 kHz while Sennheiser’s E835 has a range of 40 Hz to 16 kHz.

Now, even though the SM58’s range is way better than average, Sennheiser’s E835 beats it by hair’s length. Its range is extended in both ways, which means that it can pick up on even lower frequencies (by 10 Hz) and even higher frequencies (by a full kHz).

Performance in action

These microphones are similar in a plethora of ways, and that includes their intended application.

Both SM58 and E835 are excellent-quality microphones for both on-stage performing and recording.

The main reasons why they are so versatile are that they come supplied with top-shelf features and excellent frequency response ranges.

Price

Ironically, these microphones cost almost exactly the same. In fact, the difference might be a couple of cents, but they’re in the exact same price range, without even a full dollar separating their price tags.

Similarities

It probably would be easier to point out the differences first (since they are in smaller number), but for the sake of formality, let’s number the many similarities that these microphones share between themselves:

  1. Same design (cardioids)
  2. Similar aesthetics
  3. Almost the same price range
  4. Both are great for live performances and studio work
  5. Both are built to last for decades
  6. Excellent sound quality
  7. Phenomenal screens
  8. Adequate impedance levels

Differences

It was pretty hard figuring out which difference between these two microphones was actually the most important one, but after taking the fact that there aren’t so many into consideration, we’ve figured it’s the frequency response range.

Basically, the only edge E835 has over SM58 is the fact that it has a slightly broader range (both lower and upper); it might be worth mentioning that SM58 is slightly lighter, although both are basically equal in terms of durability.

Conclusion

Although E835 is slightly better than SM58 in a couple of performance aspects, they’re very much alike.

In fact, most people wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between these microphones, aside from bands that are tuned in either super-low or super-high tunings.

Overall, you won’t make a mistake by picking either one.

Best Prime Day 2020 Music Promotion Deals

It’s (kind of) finally here- The shopping season is upon us and as always, retailers are starting off with a bang with amazon’s prime day.

Although pioneered by Amazon, several brands have joined in on the fun and have started offering up to 90% off their products.

And, as always, we’re here to guide you through the best deals and freebies

VST Plugins Prime Day Deals

Waves

As usual, Waves is running a series of crazy discounts. They are marketed as black Friday deals, though we’ll include them here are they are still on time for prime day.

We still consider their subscription to be one of the best deals out there, especially because it includes a free trial period of 1 month– more than enough to produce several award-winning tracks.

Scheps Omni Channel- 74% off (38.99$)

The Scheps Omni Channel gets its name from the brilliant Andrew Scheps- engineer to jay z, Adele, Metallica, and many others.

This channel strip is a staple of any modern producer, and it’s now 74% off!

Vocal Rider- 86% off (35.99$)

Vocal rider is known for its simplicity and effectiveness. It will adjust your vocals automatically with great results.

It’s at 86% off for a limited time.

Waves Tune Real Time- 82% off (35.99$)

If you run a studio or record vocals frequently, this is a must have VST. It allows singers to stay in tune in real time. It’s basically a magic box that makes anybody a great singer.

At this price, this is a great tool to just play around if you ever wondered how your voice would sound if recorded professionally.

There are a bunch more waves plugins heavily discounted at the waves website, these are only the ones that caught our attention, for a full list, click on the link below:

WAVES DEALS

Plugin Boutique

W.A Productions Back to School Bundle- 95% off (9.99$)

For the price of an expensive coffee, you’ll get WA Babylon, instascale and instachord.

It’s a no-brainer.

Soundspot Union & Expansions sale 90% off (16$)

IK Multimedia

Total Studio Max 2- 75% off (249.99$)

17 synths with over 2000 presets, 2 400 instruments, 34 effects, 39 high end audio processors, guitar amps, samples, and much more.

All this for 249.99$ (Down from 999$). What more can we say?

Sample Tank 4- 50% off (149.99$)

Included in Total Studio Max 2.

This is a huge sound library of over 260GB with a beautifully designed interface.

IK Multimedia is running a couple of other promotions, which you can check in the link below:

IK MULTIMEDIA

Musical Instruments

Amazon U.S Prime Day Music Deals

Amazon’s prime music deals are too many to list in one single post.

So feel free to browse headphones, musical instruments, and home audio using the link below:

AMAZON DEALS

Best Vocal Mic under $300 reviews

No matter how beautiful and strong your voice is, you’ll need a quality microphone for it to project properly outward.

Some people assume that you’ll need thousands of dollars on a professional microphone, and that might not necessarily be true.

We’ve taken the gander at what the current market has to offer and have come up with a list of the best vocal microphones under $300.

Best Vocal Microphones under $300

Heil Sound PR 35S

Heil Sound’s PR 35S is the best-rounded handheld microphone in the budget section of the market. It sports a three-position roll-off button, an excellent balance between size and weight, and its performance excels at all frequencies.

Speaking of which, it boasts a 40 Hz to 18 kHz frequency range, which is fairly great for a low-cost professional microphone.

What’s more, you’ll also receive a complementary leatherette case that can be used for storage or carrying.

Pros:

  • Excellent frequency response range
  • Ideal balance between size and weight
  • Simple features; easy to use

Cons:

  • A bit more expensive than other microphones in the review

Sennheiser Pro Audio SKM 835

Sennheiser microphones are generally among some of the finest, best-performing models, and we’ve included a handful of them in our review of the best vocal microphones under $300.

The first on the list is Pro Audio SKM 835.

This is an all-purpose tool that will help you out in virtually every scenario possible, be it recording in a studio or performing live.

Although its top end of the frequency response range is a bit lower than average, its versatility is unparalleled in this price range.

Pros:

  • Small and fairly light
  • Exceptionally durable construction
  • Perfect for both recording and performing live

Cons:

  • The slightly inferior upper end of the frequency response range

Sennheiser MD 46

Next up is Sennheiser’s MD 46; in comparison to our previous pick, the MD 46 is slightly heavier and a bit longer, but it’s still considered as lightweight.

It features a double-layer grille basket and a cardioids capsule that excels at picking up the barely audible sounds at the lowest frequencies.

One of the best things about this microphone is that it boasts both wired and wireless connectivity modes, providing you with extra flexibility when determining how you’ll approach using it.

Pros:

  • Built to last
  • Wired and wireless connectivity modes
  • Exceptional performance at the lower frequencies
  • Pretty versatile overall

Cons:

  • A bit heavier and longer than average

Sennheiser E935

The last Sennheiser model in our review is the E935. Just like our previous pick, it boasts wired and wireless connection modes, although it’s strikingly smaller and lighter.

This microphone is perfect for live performers who struggle with on-stage noises, as it eliminates nearly all ambient sounds pretty easily.

Its metal chassis is almost completely impervious to physical damage, and E935 is by far one of the most durable microphones under $300 you can find on the market.

Pros:

  • One of the sturdiest microphones around
  • Excellent for both live performance and recording
  • Top-quality insulation
  • No interference with signals from other amps and instruments

Cons:

  • The heavier head might present problems regarding balance

Saramonic HU9 UHF Microphone

Here we have Saramonic’s HU9 ultra-high frequency microphone; if you’re a gigging musician who’s mainly playing bigger events, such as arenas and larger venues, you might want to check this model out.

Its frequency range is grand, and it actually provides pristine clarity even at super-loud volumes.

The Saramonic HU9 is a wireless microphone that boasts up to 100 meters of operational range while out in the open, and up to 60 meters if there are obstacles present.

It also packs a clearly visible LCD that allows you to see the remaining battery level, active channel, and active effects.

Pros:

  • Excels at handling ultra-loud sounds
  • Tremendous frequency response range
  • Clearly visible LCD
  • Massive operational range

Cons:

  • Potential problems with static interference

Audio-Technica AT2010 Cardioid Condenser Handheld Microphone

Audio Technica’s microphones are designed for professionals by professionals, and this applies to their budget models just as much as it does to top-tier boutique microphones and other pieces of gear.

The AT2010 is one of the most popular cardioids available on the market, as it offers a full package of pristine sound clarity, a balanced and highly durable construction, and a decent frequency response range.

It also sports corrosion-resistant contacts and a high-quality grille design that provides superb protection against physical damage and plosives.

Pros:

  • Extended frequency range
  • Highly durable construction
  • Corrosion-resistant contacts
  • Excellent sound quality and clarity

Cons:

  • Heavier than it looks

Shure SM58-LC

Shure’s microphones invariably find their way into the hands of beginner singers and vocalists, mainly because they sound great while being available at very attractive prices.

The SM58 LC is a true representative of Shure quality, as it offers a frequency response range that spans from 50-15,000 Hz, a pneumatic shock mount system for additional robustness, and a uniform cardioids design that isolates main sounds from ambient noises.

We highly recommend this model for live-performing musicians, although it might not be the best choice for studio recording sessions.

Pros:

  • Optimal frequency response range
  • Works great for rehearsals, band practice, and live performances
  • The built-in spherical pop filter
  • Shock mount system

Cons:

  • Not the best microphone for recording

AKG Pro Audio Perception P5

Let’s wrap it up with AKG’s Pro Audio Perception P5; if you’re looking for a budget high-quality microphone, this might be what you’re after.

It sports a durable wire-mesh cap, as well as a body made of top-shelf metal that can withstand years of use and abuse.

Its sound quality is slightly inferior in comparison to average $300 microphones, but it gets the job done nevertheless.

Pros:

  • Tremendous value for the buck
  • Made of top-quality metal materials
  • Complementary zip bag
  • Integrated windscreen

Cons:

  • Inferior sound quality

Conclusion

Generally speaking, microphones under $300 will get you set for a couple of shows; you might be able to pull off some amazing vocal lines while making records too, and you’ll manage to rise above louder drummers and guitarists, but that’s pretty much it.

However, with some luck, you might end up with a quality microphone that could even potentially become your go-to instrument.

We hope you’ve liked our selection of the best vocal microphones under $300 and wish you all the luck in finding what best suits your needs.

Audiotechnica AT2020 vs AT2035

It’s not uncommon for a world-class brand to release several models in the same series that serve different purposes, and such is the case with AT2020 and AT2035.

That’s exactly the reason why you maybe want to give them both a chance, especially if you’re a sound engineer or a technician that likes to experiment with different toys in the studio.

Essentially, both of these microphones are Cardioids that feature a standard frequency range, a slightly different dynamic range, and pretty decent STR; however, they also have a very recognizable set of hardware that puts its own imprint on the end result.

You’ll find that no matter how similar these microphones are, you’ll get different sounds and tones with them while sticking to the same parameters.

Now, what we’ve set out to do today is compare AT2020 and AT2035 in action; they’re both mid-range microphones that offer tremendous value for the buck, and given the fact that they’re so diverse and eclectic we also wanted to show you when and why you should consider each of them.

Without any further ado, let’s get straight to this versus match:

Audiotechnica AT2020 specs in a nutshell

Basically, the AT2020 is AT2035’s predecessor, and in that regard it can be considered a bit ‘obsolete’ since the fresh, new AT2035 comes supplied with improved features and technologies.

This is a cardioid microphone that sports 20 Hz to 20 kHz frequency range, 124 dB dynamic range, 100 Ω impedance rating, -37 dB sensitivity rating, and 74 dB STR. It’s also nearly half the price when compared to its successor, but it’s still relatively expensive on its own.

The AT2020 is also a relatively small microphone that can be used in a variety of situations; its lightweight, compact size allows it to be used handheld or mounted pretty much anywhere.

However, the field where it shines the brightest is in a studio room next to cabinets and amps, waiting to be used for recording of acoustic and electric instruments.

Audiotechnica AT2035 specs in a nutshell

Overall, the AT2035 is also a cardioid microphone with the same frequency range as its predecessor, but that’s pretty much where their similarities stop spec-wise.

In terms of size, it’s roughly as ‘small’ as AT2020, and the good folks at Audiotechnica didn’t really touch its design much as far as durability and construction materials are of concern.

There are obvious differences regarding its ergonomics, as it features a brand new stabilization pad that offers a bit more flexibility and reliability.

As far as its general specs are at stake, AT2035 boasts an enhanced dynamic range that spans up to 136 dB; the impedance rating of 120 Ω, superior STR (82 dB), and a slightly chipped sensitivity rating of -33 dB.

It’s as light and portable as AT2020, although it is also much crisper when compared to it; furthermore, its enhanced dynamic range, impedance, and STR also provide a drastic boost to clarity, meaning that it will bring out the most from acoustic instruments.

Design, dimensions and durability

Both of these microphones share the same type of design – they are cardioid microphones.

Essentially, a Cardioid mike’s sensitivity is focused on its front side while its rear side is the least sensitive.

This dictates the game plan for recording in a studio, although other applications allow for more flexible approaches.

The dimensions of AT2020 measure 9.76 inches by 9.6 inches by 2.6 inches, and it weighs approximately 1.32 pounds; obviously, this is a small, very portable microphone that can be either handheld or mounted.

The dimensions of AT2035 measure 9.75 inches by 9.75 inches by 2.75 inches, and it weighs 0.8875 pounds.

That being said, these mikes are roughly the same size, although AT2035 is clearly lighter and a bit easier to use in general.

Even so, both are considered tiny and portable in comparison to similarly sized microphones of the same type.

Performance

Now, even though most studio engineers and technicians use microphones such as AT2035 and AT2020 to record instruments, these two models are also great for podcasting, streaming, and such.

The minimal sensitivity coming from the back and sides reduces the amount of noise that can be picked up from ambient sounds (for example, the humming of the pc, noises in the house, and such), which is why gamers and influencers tend to get the most out of them.

Live performing musicians can also safely rely on these microphones for the exact same reasons.

The noises coming from the audience fall short if these microphones are positioned correctly.

Even so, we must say that AT2020 fares just slightly better in such environments due to its superior minimal sensitivity rating (-37 dB versus -33 dB of the AT2035).

On another hand, AT2035’s STR rating is also a bit better, which means slightly more clarity and substantially less undesired noise.

Knowing this, professional musicians will always pick AT2035 over AT2020, even though the former is a bit pricier.

As a home microphone used in online communication and amateur sound recording, we’d have to recommend AT2020 simply because it’s available at a far more approachable price.

The AT2035 could do the same job (potentially even better), but some of its features are overkill in such a scenario.

Impedance, Frequency and Dynamic range

Now, this is the part where things get a bit more technical, so let’s start from the very top.

Generally speaking, Impedance (in this particular context) refers to the ability of an electrical contraption to utilize, filter, and ultimately ‘accept’ different amounts of electrical current.

High impedance is necessary for power-starved microphones to function properly, so in short – the more, the merrier applies here perfectly.

The impedance rating of AT2020 is 100 Ω while the impedance rating of AT2035 is 120 Ω.

However, the difference of 20 Ω is barely even noticeable when put under a sonic ‘microscope’; both of these microphones are considered as low-impedance mikes.

However, they were engineered in such a way where they don’t actually require more juices in this field.

The Frequency range is basically the coverage of the lowest and highest audible noises; the higher the range is, the louder and chirpier the sounds are that can be picked up on (and vice versa).

Both AT 2020 and AT 2035 have the ‘average’ frequency span of 20 Hz to 20 kHz.

Lastly, the dynamic range is a bit more complex; in a nutshell, it refers to the microphone’s ability to convey information while also representing the difference between its noise ‘floor’ & SPL (sound-pressure level).

This is where AT2035 is superior with 136 dB (as opposed to AT2020’s 124 dB); its performance remains consistent and clear of ‘gain’ at higher volume levels.

Price and Value

Price, given the fact that it is the ultimate, most defining factor for pretty much everyone, does not always correlate to the amount of value you will be able to squeeze out of any given product.

Now, when we’re talking about Audiotechnica’s AT2020 and AT2035, this is beyond obvious, as these mikes are staggeringly more valuable than they are expensive.

While the AT2020 belongs to the middle section of the mid-range, the AT2035 hangs around the borders of the upper section of mid-range, leaning towards the boutique price point category.

Although it’s beyond clear that AT2035 is nearly twice as expensive, it does come supplied with vastly improved and largely different features and technologies.

Similarities between AT2020 and AT2035

First and foremost, both of these microphones belong to the same price point category, even though they’re not exactly in the same sections of the same price range.

Furthermore, they’re both Cardioids, and they are made of the same materials.

The last similarity they share between themselves is their frequency range, which spans from 20 Hz to 20 kHz.

Aesthetics-wise, most people wouldn’t be able to tell the difference though.

Differences between AT2020 and AT2035

Everything aside from design and frequency range is different when we’re talking about AT2020 and AT2035.

Starting with dynamic range – AT2020 offers 124 dB while AT2035 offers 136 dB; the impedance rating – AT2020’s level is 100 Ω while AT2035’s level is 120 Ω; the STR – AT2020’s signal to noise ratio is 74 dB while AT2035’s is 82 dB, and so on.

Additionally, the AT2020 doesn’t have the customizable pad, filter controls, or the shock mount while AT2035 has all three of these features.

That being said, AT2035 is clearly much more versatile than its predecessor, and it can be used in a much wider array of fields and scenarios.

Final Verdict

At the end of the day, AT2020 and AT2035 are two completely different microphones; unlike their names suggest, they in fact do not share many things in common, although their biggest and most notable similarity is that they are both microphones of tremendous quality.

It’s pretty safe to say that whichever you choose you wouldn’t be wrong; it’s just that they are supposed to be used in different settings and scenarios, which makes them even harder to compare.

Best Tremolo Pedal

Musicians all around the world are always in search of the perfect, most exquisite, and unique tone. Some resort to their ability to manipulate different sounds, others resort to using different kinds of gear.

The truth is somewhere in the middle. A good musician knows his limits and aims to compensate his weaker points with better instruments and amps.

However, the best musicians are constantly challenging themselves, pushing the boundaries, and are consistently improving and upgrading their arsenal.

Truth be told, the diversity of instruments, accessories, and gadgets a guitar player could introduce to his rig back in the day wasn’t as eclectic.

There were only a couple of renowned brands, and the price ranges were substantially narrower.

There were cheap pieces of gear, and then there were expensive, boutique models available to the most prestigious players via sponsorships and endorsements.

Nowadays, luckily, a guitar player can easily morph and shift his (or her) sound with even the most heavily limited budget.

You may need a couple of months to save up enough money for a
decent amp; you may need a couple of weeks to save some cash for an instrument upgrade; luckily, you’ll need much less time to come up with even money for a new pedal.

The vast majority of guitarists already have at least a couple of pedals in their rig, most likely a distortion/overdrive, a delay pedal, and maybe a basic compressor.

What we recommend to players who are looking for a new way to approach their instrument is a quality tremolo pedal. If you don’t know where to start your search for one, you’re in the right place:

J. Rockett Audio Designs Tour Series Mr. Moto Tremolo Pedal

Even though J. Rockett might not be as famous as Boss or TC Electronics, you can rest assured that the quality of pedals this brand has released is equally strong.

Mr. Moto is a highly customizable, fairly sensitive pedal that can accommodate pretty much every musical style or genre.

It packs two standard control knobs that govern the tremolo’s depth and speed, but it also allows you to modify the actual shape of the tremolo effect with the ‘wave’ function; at the same time, you can also introduce a fully independent reverb effect with the ‘Verb’ knob.

Although this is a highly versatile pedal, its straightforward design makes it ideal for both beginners and experienced guitar players.

Walrus Audio Monument V2 Harmonic Tap Tremolo Pedal

If you are a skilled player who’s into classical styles of music as well as into experimental and improvisational genres, we strongly believe you are going to love the Monument V2.

Essentially, this is a highly versatile pedal that features two separate sets of Tremolo modes – harmonic and standard.

This pedal will allow you to tweak the volume, the division, rate, depth, and shape of your tremolo, but it will also allow you to completely alter your guitar’s voice with as much as a flip of a switch.

You may need some time adjusting to its responsiveness, but you can rest assured that the rewards are guaranteed.

TC Electronic Pipeline Tremolo

TC Electronic is one of the industry leaders in the guitar accessory department, and their Pipeline Tremolo pedal is a true representative of their quality.

At first glance, this is a relatively plain pedal that has a small footprint and is easy to use, but looks can be deceiving.

As a matter of fact, the Pipeline Tremolo is as eclectic as can be; it features six pre-set tremolo shapes as well as a custom bank, and it rocks depth, speed, and volume control knobs that offer superb well-roundedness.

Furthermore, you’ll be able to switch between vintage, tone print, and square tremolo voices; this makes this pedal an excellent choice for both starter guitarists and veterans.

Ernie Ball Expression Tremolo Pedal

Beginner musicians have heard of Ernie Ball’s strings; more experienced players have probably played on the Music Man guitar while those who’ve really dug deep know that this brand also offers a variety of instruments and accessories.

The Expression Tremolo pedal features the design of a wah-wah pedal with a ramped foot platform, a built-in spring reverb complementary effect, and five pre-set tremolo waveforms, including slow-rise, slow-fall, harmonic, square, and sine.

What’s more, it’s actually not even that expensive, even though it offers substantially more versatility and unique features than typical mid-range guitar pedals.

EarthQuaker Devices Hummingbird V4

Pedals designed by EarthQuaker Devices are not for the faint of heart. Most of their models offer wild, often unpredictable results, which makes them perfect for experimental musical endeavors.

The Hummingbird is one of the chirpiest and grittiest tremolos in the middle price point category that offers a ton of different voices, ranging from old-school vintage-like timbres, over classic and nostalgic tones, to modern, new-age hues.

This pedal features three different active modes, adjustable rate, depth, and level. In fact, out of the myriad of EarthQuaker ‘Devices’, the Hummingbird is actually the most consistent and reliable one.

BOSS TR-2 Tremolo Guitar Pedal

Boss is arguably one of the most iconic names in the guitar pedal world, and here we have their TR-2 Tremolo pedal.

Essentially, this is a vintage-sounding pedal tailored for musicians that have an eclectic taste for all things sonic, and it’s packed in a neat, very familiar casing comprised of solid, stainless steel.

It features Rate and Depth control knobs, as well as wave-adjustment controls that are as easy to use as they are sensitive.

JHS Tidewater Tremolo Guitar Effects Pedal

Let’s pull down the curtains with JHS Tidewater, which is one of the best tremolo pedals you could possibly find while on a cash-strapped budget.

It’s one of the tiniest pedals on the market that could easily fit in any kind of pedal rig and its versatility is more than you’d bargain for the money.

It offers volume, mix, and speed control knobs, as well as a 3-way mode switch. Even though it might be a bit clunky due to its peculiar (crowded) design, it’s still among the best-sounding, best-rounded tremolo pedals out there.

Guitar Pedal Guide- When and Why to Use each One

The search for tone is a never-ending quest most musicians embark on after trying out a couple of different instruments and amps.

Most of tonal ‘originality’ is in the fingers of the players, though, but there are other means by which you can influence how your instrument sounds like.

Not many people are in such a position where they can afford to buy dozens of amps and guitars, so the best alternative is to shape up your sound with guitar pedals.

Today we are going to talk about when and why you should use different kinds of guitar pedals, which work in harmony, and how to create the ultimate setup in the easiest way possible.

A foreword about guitar pedals

Guitar pedals are meant to introduce ‘effects’ that directly influence the behavior of the instrument.

Some alter its tone slightly while others drastically change it, and knowing which pedal to use will mean the difference between shaping up a unique set of voices and ruining your guitar’s tone.

The smartest way to approach guitar pedals is to get to know your instrument a bit better and see which models will complement your axe the most.

Guitar tonewoods & pedals that work best with them

Guitars made of alder and basswoods are in a very balanced position on the tonal spectrum, sitting right in the middle between warm and bright.

Pedals that drastically affect the tone will have a slightly diminished effect on them, but on the upside, these guitars typically work great with every guitar pedal type.

Mahogany-made guitars are dominant in the lower-end price point categories; cheap guitars typically feature these tonewoods and are much warmer than, for instance, guitars made of Walnut.

Maple is one of the brightest-sounding tonewoods while Rosewood is one of the warmest.

The reason why you should consider the composition of your guitar is quite simple; axes made of bright-sounding tonewoods typically work best with overdrive and distortion pedals, pitch-shifters, and phasers while warm-sounding guitars tend to get the most out of wah-wah pedals, delays, and other ‘cleaner’ effect types.

At the end of the day, you can always even out the differences your guitar has with tone knobs on the amp you’re using, but it wouldn’t hurt to go with the flow rather than trying to ‘swim upriver’.

Guitar amps & pedals

There are far more amp brands and manufacturers than there are guitar tonewoods, which makes the issue of choosing the perfect pedals for your amp a fairly complex question, so let’s stick with the basics for the time being.

The most common types of guitar amps are analog and digital amps. In short words, tube amps lend their unique tone and tonal versatility to pedals while digital amps are basically meant to be used as they are.

Regardless of whether you have a solid-state or a tube amplifier, analog amps will help you find a ‘starting’ tone, which you will be able to shape even further with guitar pedals. Think of an analog amp as a sketch of a painting that requires the finishing touches.

Digital amps normally feature ‘artificial’ presets based on analog amps. Even though you’ll be able to make tweaks and adjustments on them, a good deal of your pedal’s tone-shaping potential will be lost on them.

In conclusion, you should avoid major tone-altering pedals, such as distortions, phasers, and pitch-shifters if you are using a digital amp, whereas you are free to use any pedal you like if you own an analog one.

Types of guitar pedals and when to use them

Let’s get started with the main course – when and why to use each guitar pedal type. In this section, we will briefly explain the most notable characteristics of each guitar pedal before stating where they can be efficiently used, where they should be avoided, and why.

Distortion effects

Whenever there’s talk of guitar pedals, most people immediately picture a distortion pedal.

Basically, distortion effects form a category that consists of various sound-distorting effects, such as overdrive, fuzz, crunch, and obviously, distortion effect pedals.

What all of these pedal types have in common is that they ‘clip’ the guitar’s audio signal; this way they are reshaping the structure of the instrument’s waveforms by adding warm and bright overtones at the same time.

Plainly speaking, distortion effects add ‘grit’ to the tone in varying intensities. Overdrive and fuzz pedals are a bit ‘weaker’ than rock-hard distortion pedals, but they’re all meant to recreate the sound of a high-gain analog amp.

Interestingly enough, these pedals work perfectly well with analog amplifiers, and you might think ‘why do I need a high-gain amp sound if I can already achieve it on my amplifier?’; basically, gain ‘stacks’, and you will be able to merge different gain stages of different gain frequencies this way.

When to use:

You should use distortion, overdrive, fuzz, and crunch pedals to add punchy overtones to your tone, and this can be done in any number of scenarios. In mellower musical styles distortion effects are used to pronounce solos or dynamic bridges whereas these pedals are active non-stop in genres such as rock and metal.

Distortion effect pedals are clear-cut and very pronounced, so they generally don’t leave much space for experimentation with music genres they aren’t already popular in. 

When not to use:

On the flip side, there are certain music styles where distortion effects would work against you. Genres such as polka and pop music, as well as musical styles that do not have the guitar in their spotlight wouldn’t welcome distortion pedals with open arms.

You may hear faint and weakly distorted guitars in certain pop songs, but you may not necessarily need a distortion pedal to achieve such sounds and timbres. Usually, a mediocre analog amp is all you need, provided that it has at least a 3-band EQ.

Amplitude effects

Amplitude effects alter the dynamics (volume) of your guitar. Several types of pedals fit into this category, including Booster pedals, Compressors, and Noise Gates. Since these three serve three distinctly different purposes, let’s address each of them separately.

Boost pedal

Boost pedals (boosters) enhances the audio signal’s amplitude. In simple words, it ramps up the volume, exceeding the limit of the amp.

When to use:

Boosters are ideally used for guitar solos, as they can be used to immediately strengthen your guitar’s volume without any signal loss.

When not to use:

Prolonged use of booster pedals will inevitably make other players struggle to keep up with the audio output, so it shouldn’t be overused.

Compressor

Compressors are basically catalyst pedals that balance rampant sounds and noises. They are capable of taming punchy lows and calming thundering highs automatically. Generally speaking, compressor pedals ‘crop’ the dynamic range of your instrument, preventing the sounds from leaving the pre-configured bounds.

When to use:

Compressors are a necessity in complex, multi-pedal signal chains where the signal is all over the place. These pedals create a safety net that will prevent the tone from becoming unexpectedly warmer or brighter, which makes them perfect for any kind of pedal chain.

When not to use:

The only time you don’t need a compressor is if you are not using other pedals, to begin with.

Noise gate

Noise gate operates in a way that is completely different from compressors; rather than containing the frequencies, they keep background static and hum at a minimum.

In that sense, noise gates actually ‘expand’ the guitar’s dynamic (lower) range, allowing the quietest, barely audible sounds to replace bass-driven tones.

To put it plainly, noise gate pedals do not ‘eliminate’ hums, hisses, or static; they simply replace these sounds by even quieter ones that can’t be perceived by human ears.

When to use:

If you are standing close to your amp on stage, or if some of your pedals are creating feedback or static, a noise gate pedal will be able to take care of the issue.

When not to use:

Sometimes static and feedback sounds are what musicians are after, especially in rock and metal music genres. Noise gate pedals will prevent you from finding these sounds.

Filters

While dynamic-altering pedals set frequency-based ‘borders’ around your tone, filter pedals strengthen or weaken different frequency regions.

While dynamic-altering pedals are generally active all the time, filter pedals are passive most of the time and are only activated when such effects are needed.

The wah-wah pedal is a perfect example of a filter pedal; it alters the entire frequency spectrum of the guitar when activated, creating unique and peculiar noises.

When to use:

Filter pedals change the guitar’s tone drastically, and they are best utilized when you want to accentuate certain parts of the song, such as the ending of a solo for example.

When not to use:

Filters rarely work well when used as standalone pedals, so you shouldn’t rely on them too much if you don’t have a quality distortion/overdrive pedal in your rig as well.

Modulators

Modulator effect pedals change the strength of the signal, by either mixing it with another signal or by splitting it in two. Some of the most popular modulators are chorus pedals, flangers, phasers, tremolos, and vibratos.

Generally speaking, all of these effect pedals affect the strength of your guitar’s signal, creating different variations in terms of pitch.

Chorus pedals aim to replicate the effect of actual choirs or string orchestras; these pedals split the signal into numerous smaller fragments, each being slightly different than the next in timbre.

Flanger pedals create artificial effect sounds that resemble those that airplanes make; phaser pedals are quite similar, but instead of mixing two distinctly different signal parts, only one part is actually altered (phased).

When to use:

Modulation effects can be dramatic or mellow, dramatic or subtle. They can completely change the dynamic and feeling of a song, or they can simply add nuanced details, making a riff a bit fuller, but unchanged.

These pedals are generally great to use in practically every scenario as they enrich the guitar’s tone and timbre by adding extra layers to the signal.

When not to use:

Modulators are very difficult to master, and oftentimes they can lure musicians into thinking that they need ‘more’. Actually, ‘less is more’ applies here perfectly, especially if you don’t have a well-shaped idea of what fragments of the song you want to modulate.

Time-based effects

The pedals that fall under this category are so different that a general definition wouldn’t be able to encompass them all.

What they all have in common is that they all change the time at which the signal ‘hits’, whether it be by delaying it, making it ‘echo’, or playing it back as a ‘loop’.

Delay pedals ‘duplicate’ the signal, playing the second one back right after the initial one. The duplicated instances and the speed at which they are emerging after the original signal can be specified with most pedals.

Loop pedals are basically used to create ‘backing tracks’ or better said, ‘backing riffs’. Musicians can record a lick with them and play it back within a repeating cycle.

Reverb pedals can be used to simulate sounds that would have otherwise be produced in acoustic spaces, like for instance halls or churches. 

When to use:

Just like modulators, time-based pedals can be used to fill in the sonic gaps in your guitar’s tone regardless of the situation. They can make your tone sound a bit fuller, and they are perfect for experimentation with other guitar effect pedals.

When not to use:

Time-based effects create ambiance but take away the ‘clean’ bit of the song. They shouldn’t be used with hooks and parts that are meant to be ‘catchy’.

Conclusion

Guitar pedals are wonderful tools that can completely reshape how an instrument sounds and projects through the amp.

We hope that we’ve provided you with useful tips on how different types of pedals can be utilized, and keep in mind that these are only pieces of advice; you are free and even encouraged to experiment and think outside of the box. After all, that’s what music is all about.

Cheap Synthesizers for Beginners: What to Buy in 2020

Sound engineers, mixers, producers, and artists know that a cheap synthesizer wasn’t always an option.

High-quality sound engines used to be premium hardware for only the most dedicated and well-equipped studios.

Now, keyboards, modules, and even pocket-sized synthesizers can be purchased for a relatively low cost.

The size of the synthesizer, whether it’s analog or digital, the features it offers, and the reputation of its brand all play into which cheap synthesizer is the best for beginners.

Since not all beginners are the same, there may not be a one size synthesizer to fit all sound engineers.

That’s why we compiled this list of the 5 best cheap synthesizers for beginners, including their pros and cons and main features.

We also made a buying guide to help you compare the major features between not only these brands but also any that you may find on your own.

The best synthesizer is a combination of your needs with the value you can get on your budget. This list should help you narrow it down.

5 Best Cheap Synthesizers: Reviews

Arturia MicroFreak Hybrid Synthesizer

Arturia is an innovative company and this hybrid synthesizer is our top pick all around for beginners.

It’s not the cheapest synthesizer on this list or the most portable, but it has a balance of features and high-end technology that makes it a great pick in general.

This 25-key paraphonic synth has a modern aftertouch keyboard. The hybrid hardware features a ton of high-end options for mixing and producing, including a wavetable, digital oscillator, modulation matrix, and analog filters.

The touch plate offers an unconventional way to control compositions but the options for sound palettes and sonic templates are amazing for the price.

Among these modes are enough software options for any beginner to try out different things and get the feel for their new synth. These include Harmonic OSC, KarplusStrong, Texturer, and Superwave.

The Arturia MicroFreak Hybrid Synthesizer is versatile in both its hardware options and its sound output.

Real-time sequence creation, randomization, and an arpeggiator are just a few key options that let composers get an incredible range of sound out of this cheap synth, with enough variety to make it a perfect pick for beginners.

Pros

  • Expressive touch plate
  • Hybrid software options
  • Wavetable and digital oscillators
  • Analog filters
  • Small size

Cons

  • Touch sensitive keyboards aren’t for everyone
  • Factory presets are a bit outdated

Korg MS20 Mini Analog Synthesizer

We couldn’t do this list without an entry by the upscale synthesizer manufacturer, Korg.

However, you should know that this mini analog synthesizer is the priciest on this list, which is why it’s our premium option out of all the “cheap” synthesizers out there.

Beginners that want to come out of the gate with a big investment in their mixing or composing career should consider the Korg MS20 as the most expensive beginner’s synthesizer they should be looking at.

The Korg Mini Analog Synthesizer has self-oscillating high and low-pass filters with an external signal processor and flexible patching system.

It plugs in with a USB MIDI as well as a 5-pin MIDI. Those who are familiar with the Korg MS-20 should be familiar with its reputation – this is the same tech in a smaller package.

The same vibrant leads and resonant bases can be produced with the same premium features, including two VCFs, two VCAs, a noise generator, and more.

If you’re a beginner who knows they want to get into premium analog mixing and feel like you’ll shell out for a premium model eventually anyway, this Korg MS20 Mini is the cheapest of the high-end premium options from the company that makes it the best of the best.

Pros

  • Vibrant leads and resonant bases
  • Adaptable mixing technology, including two VCFs and two VCAs
  • Two ways to plug in
  • High and low-pass filters
  • Noise generator

Cons

  • Premium price for the cheap list

Roland TB-03 Bass Line Boutique Synthesizer

This cheaper version of a full-size Roland TB-303 Synthesizer features the same realistic recreation of the TB-303’s baseline features.

This portable version, however, features an LED display, MIDI control, overdrive and delay effects, fine tempo control, and other pattern creation modes.

Other than that, the Roland TB-03 Bass Line Boutique Synthesizer has the same sound and user interface as the original version, with hands-on control over parameters like resonance, envelope mode, cutoff, decay, and accent.

This synth is battery powered and can send its control information to a studio controller via a USB or MIDI port while also functioning as an audio interface.

With similar but smaller construction and the same features as the premium TB-303 synthesizer from Roland, this portable analog synthesizer should work perfectly for beginners.

Pros

  • Sturdy construction
  • LED display
  • A variety of programmable effects and creation modes
  • Portability and multiple interfaces

Cons

  • The accent isn’t as good as the premium synth model

IK Multimedia UNO Portable Monophonic Analog Synthesizer

Portable Monophonic Analog Synthesizer from IK Multimedia has 2 oscillators and a multimode filter. It can be easily programmed with 100 presets and taken on the go anywhere.

It has a 2-octave multi-touch keyboard, which is ideal for a portable synth, and it comes with an arpeggiator and step sequencer.

The IK Multimedia UNO Portable Monophonic Analog Synthesizer can be used on the go or plugged into a computer sound station or MIDI keyboard in the studio. It can be battery or USB-powered as the need arises.

IK Multimedia is famous for its hands-on programmability and advanced synthesis features.

Multiple independent VCOs, different waveforms, real-time sequences, an editor app optimized for Mac, PC, and iOS, onboard presets, and a 2-pole multimode filter with band-pass filtering round at an inclusive package for a beginning sound designer.

Pros

  • 2-oscillator monophonic system
  • All-analog audio
  • Multi-mode filter
  • Arpeggiator and step sequencer
  • Intuitive touch keyboard

Cons

  • No lit buttons or display

STYLOPHONE GEN X-1 Portable Analog Synthesizer

For those looking for the cheapest and most completely portable synth out there, this Portable Analog Synthesizer from STYLOPHONE is a perfect pick.

It has two interfaces: a mini keyboard to play notes and a sound strip that can slide between pitches. Battery operated and with a built-in speaker, this synthesizer is the ultimate choice for portability.

It has an audio line out for headphones or speakers as well as a low pass filter, envelope effect, and LFO. It can be switched between octaves and modulated with a pulse width switch to create a chorus effect.

The STYLOPHONE GEN X-1 Portable Analog Synthesizer is a great portable secondary model for a professional or a budget pick with some great features for a beginner.

Stylophone is an iconic model and this cheap, portable version of its next-gen technology is a great starting point for anyone’s music design gig.

Pros

  • Rich sound with effects features
  • Portability
  • Internal speaker
  • Sub octaves
  • Two interfaces
  • Budget price

Cons

  • Stylus wire is too short

Best Cheap Synthesizers for Beginners: Buying Guide

In order to buy a synthesizer that’s perfect for your needs, you should compare the features you value and your personal budget against the models we listed.

They feature a range of prices and technology, so one of them is bound to be a good fit for beginners looking for cheap synthesizers.

Technology

Each synthesizer comes with different modes, presets, mixes, and features. We tried to summarize them for you in the individual product reviews.

Since you’re a beginner and don’t know exactly what you want, you should choose a synthesizer with a ton of presets and different manipulation modes.

Being able to freely control the music mode and the mix is essential when you don’t know exactly what you’re buying.

We chose respected brands so you would have a pick of well-built technology with different wavetables, digital oscillation, modulation matrices, and analog filters.

Interface

The interface factors into the technology but should be its own separate concern for beginners. Some synthesizers have a touchpad keyboard and others have a regular keyboard.

Some feature two full octaves and others switch between them. Since the interface will allow you to mix and design music, your creative flow depends on an intuitive setup.

We listed good options for either interface in this article, but since you can’t get both, you may just have to guess what you will prefer.

The ability to plug into a studio computer or external speakers also makes a difference in terms of the interface, and thankfully that’s much easier to plan for just by looking at the specs.

Construction

You want a sturdy synthesizer, especially if you plan on making it portable. The size of the device factors into the kind of work you hope to do, whether you plan on mixing with headphones on a car or plane ride or prefer to keep the synth at a workstation in a studio.

We put options on this list for both preferences so that no matter where you plan on using this synthesizer, it will work for you so long as you keep this criterion in mind.

Construction and portability also factor into the power source. Some synthesizers are battery-powered and some can run on USB power, which makes a difference if you want to take it on the go.

Some are pocket-sized and some are full keyboards: it just depends on what you’re looking for.

Analog vs Digital

Digital synthesizers have some advantages of technology and can be hybrid devices, like our top pick, the Arturio MicroFreak.

In general, digital synths have more complicated interfaces, more advanced displays, and lit keys.

This isn’t the general recommendation for beginners since they can be more complicated to operate and can run more expensive.

We recommend saving on cost and on headaches with the interface to opt for analog synths or hybrid models.

For those that aren’t positive what they’re doing, analog synths should prove more efficient.

Cost

The cost range on this list is large: from less than a hundred dollars to over five hundred.

We did this so you could find something for your needs no matter your budget, whether it’s a cheaper pocket synthesizer or a full studio-ready model with displays and all the bells and whistles of hybrid analog and digital technology.

The Takeaway

A synthesizer is an indispensable piece of equipment for a budding sound designer, producer, mixer, or composer.

These machines can run into the thousands of dollars, however, and beginners need cheap options so they can make a name for themselves and maybe buy the big stuff later.

This list of 5 options offers any beginner the chance to add quality sound equipment to their studio without breaking the bank.

Some are more budget-friendly than others, but we tried to give you a heads up on where each one fits into the market spectrum and the features they offer.

For many beginners that don’t know which features they need yet, prioritizing a good interface and a ton of modes could be the best bet.

That’s why we chose the Arturia MicroFreak Hybrid Synthesizer as our best overall pick for cheap synthesizers for beginners to buy in 2020.

Its after-touch keyboard is slick and modern while its hybrid hardware offers a ton of premium features at a mid-low budget range. These include a wave-table, digital oscillation, modulation matrix, and analog filters.

Once you’ve discovered which features are important to you, you may be able to shell out for a more premium synthesizer.

Until then, use these budget options to find your feet, gauge how much optimization you need, and get your audio mixing, composing, or designing career off the ground.

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