Conductive Labs NDLR – opinion and ideas

conductive labs ndlr

So we have had this excellent Conductive Labs NDLR sequencer, or how we like to call it: the midi “brain” for quite some time now. And boy what a brain this is.

We have been comparing it a lot to the Torso T-1 sequencer (review coming very soon). It is different but not quite that different. As loopop said in it’s video, the NDLR is quite unique. Traditional sequencers allow you to input notes fast on a grid type structure. In turn, they allow you to listed to the idea that you have laid down pretty fast, and judge A. it’s own musical qualities and specifics and B. how it sits along with the rest of your tracks. Thus, sequencers are a very powerful creative tool, most of us techno and minimal heads consider them the centre of our creative process (mostly because we can’t be bother to take the proper time to learn to play keys properly).

Traditional sequencers vary in complexity and flexibility, from the very primitive ones that can be found in groove-boxes (like the old Roland drum machines and Korg volca line) to very sophisticated ones that can allow you to program velocity, note length, probability and all the other parameters that can be tweaked on that specific piece of gear (think Elektron with it’s parameter locks). At the top of the line of traditional, note-input sequencers is the Cirklon, which is a dedicated step sequencer that can do all kinds of fast, creative tweaks and has a great workflow that most producers swear by. Let’s not forget software, basically all DAWs have a sequencer, be it direct like fruity loops or a piano roll (which is a two-dimensional sequencer, with time and pitch in the same screen). Also, pad-style instruments like the Ableton Push and Novation Launchpad can be configred so that the pads work as a sequencer.

Conductive Labs NDLR: a non-traditional midi sequencer

Now, let’s move it up a bit. We talked about the traditional sequencer, what they all have in common is that they always start with a blank slate, a noteless sequence of 16 steps (usually). You place notes there in the order and pitch that you desire and you can instantly hear how that ‘sequence’ sounds. You can ajust the notes and hear changes, so you immediately get a feel for where you want to take the melody of drum tracks of your music.

Non-traditional sequencers differ because you usually input the ideas and the midi hardware takes care of the notes. For the NDLR, you input the key, the degree and if we are talking about chords, the type of chord that you want and it spits the notes on it’s own. There is swing of course (called “Humanization”) and there is velocity. For monophonic melodies, there are two aspects that contribute the most to your notes: the patter and the rhythm.

Conductive Labs NDLR: Motifs

So the way sequencers work is that they create a rhythmic pattern for your sound generators. With the NDLR midi sequencer you get two dimensions to control this: pattern and rhythm. The pattern controls the notes, or pitch of each step in the sequence. There are three types of patterns: scale, chord and chromatic. The values that each pattern step takes indicates the note in an imaginary piano roll: chromatic is in absolute terms, not keeping any scale, scale limits the values to notes in the selected scale and chord is like scale, functioning with limited note choices but also makes the notes relative to the degree of the chord that you choose from the main panel.

Rhythm is similar to pattern but the value per step actually indicates velocity. You can create ties and rests here. For both rhythm and pattern you can select clock division and total length, separately from each other to get extremely interesting sequences.

The way that NDLR presents the sequence pattern and rhythm that you chose this is truly unique. Instead of providing you with a blank slate for rhythm and pattern settings, it always provides you with a filled sequence. This is so you can get grooving A.S.A.P. There are 20 presets and 20 user generated rhythms and patterns. To mark the departure from traditional sequencers (which present the sequence is a straight line), NDLR shows the pattern and rhythm as a circle, going clockwise.

This is just a slight scratch on the surface for what NDLR can do. The way described above is called Motif in NDLR, and represents the monophonic sequence way. Other than Motifs (which NDLR has two independent ones), this midi sequencer can output two more midi sequences, which are polyphonic and independent.

The way it works is very simple, you just select the rhythm, pattern, the way you want it to be played (left to right, right to left, random 1, random 2), clock division, etc and just press play. The sequencer takes care of all the note placements, so you can start tweaking in real time.

Conductive Labs NDLR: Drone and Pad

While Motifs are the core aspect of the NDLR Midi sequencer and the most flexible parts that this tool has to offer, they are monophonic. We like monophonic sequences but there is much more composition possible than this. NDLR has two poly modes as well: Drone and Pad.

Drone is a very basic form of note generation. It can be polyphonic but also in mono. What it does is play the root note of the scale that you selected, and if you want, you can add a 5th interval, and then you can add an octave on top. It has a simpler rhythm section than Motifs, but it is there in case you want to go a bit deeper.

Pad mode is for chords. You have a bit more flexibility than Drone and also you can select which chord you want NDLR to play. You do this with the circle of buttons that is close to the centre screen. With the same buttons you select the degree of chord in that scale as well as the type of chord you want to play. This is especially useful for producers that do not know music theory. You can instantly listen to any chord progression that you want, with pushing a minimal number of buttons. You can have the option to strum the chord, playing each note with a small delay so that they individually stand out.

We said Pad mode is a bit more complicated than Drone. This is in part because you can set up the voicing by using some presets that in NDLR talk are called “spread”. There are a lot of spread types, and we fully encourage you to explore them as they can lead to extremely interesting harmony. You can also select the number of notes in the chord, which goes pretty high if your synth has the proper polyphony.

NOTE: There is no rhythm section for Pad mode, The Conductive Labs NDLR midi sequencer sustains the chord for as long as you don’t press the chord type/degree button. If you want to trigger the same chord again, press the same degree button.

For an in-depth feature and usability review, we recommend this excellent loopop video. It is from an earlier firmware version, but still pretty much on-spot:

very in-depth Conductive Labs NDLR review

Extra modulations and MIDI I/O

This Midi sequencer has a lot of modulation options, you can use a multitude of sources to modify any parameter that you want. There are LFOs and Randomisers as sources, and they can be synced to time as beat divisions or actual seconds. There are four modulation busses, so the possibilities are virtually endless.

As far as Midi I/O goes, the offering is diverse. You have four channels on midi USB mode. Then you have two midi ins and two midi outs. You can configure each NDLR output to your preference. There is no power connection and on-off switch, NDLR gets power from the USB. Below, you can find a setup suggestion, with the sequencer in the center, controling multiple hardware synths, courtesy of matrixsynths.com.

The Best Microphone for Podcasts and Youtube – Reviewed and Compared [2021]

So you are starting your channel and are in the market for the BEST Microphone for Podcasts and Youtube. Starting your own media outlet feels very nice, but not having the best gear can really ruin your day. Follow us further and we will guide you to get the best tools for your needs, without breaking the bank.

Editor’s note: This list is always updated to always reflect the status of the market, so make sure you bookmark it and come back for your future purchases.

You are going to need a couple of things, a good microphone, a great microphone arm, a sound card and a good computer that allows you to also record video on top of your microphone and voice. You should never overlook the basic stuff, like cables, internet connection and software.

The best thing about microphones for podcasts and youtube is that there are a lot of choices for you in the market right now. This niche is no longer narrow and expensive, and there are even some microphones that run on USB so you don’t need a sound card. We picked a winner for best performance and one for best value. Both our winners only have the USB audio option, so if you want a better sounding piece of hardware, be prepared to also pay for a sound card. If you are on a laptop and prefer to be on the move, then get an USB-only microphone as the value is extremely good.

Note: if you are on a mobile device, scroll left and right in the table to see all the entries, and up and down in the cells to see all the content.

Product Name Main Features Our Rating Price
Editor’s BEST Choice
Blue Yeti USB Microphone
– USB Only
– Excellent build quality
– Versatile microphone
– Small footprint
– Does not need arm
9.4 100$ – 150$
CHECK CURRENT PRICE
Editor’s VALUE Choice
Blue Snowball USB Microphone
– Does not need arm
– USB only
– Mini stand included
– Choose your own color
8.9 50$ – 100$
CHECK CURRENT PRICE
Audio Tehnica AT2020
– Accessible studio quality
– Very correct sound reproduction
– XLR/Audio connection only
– Does NOT come with XLR Cable
9.4 150$ – 200$
CHECK CURRENT PRICE
Shure MV7
– Built in Headphone Output
– May be too expensive for what you need
– Never needs an upgrade
– A lot of software control for it
9.8 Under 300$
CHECK CURRENT PRICE
Presonus Dynamic Broadcast/Podcast Microphone
– Made for podcasts
– Interesting design
– XLR/Audio connection only
– Good bang for buck
9.0 100$ – 150$
CHECK CURRENT PRICE

Microphone for Podcasts and Youtube – market overview

Over the last few years or so, we’ve seen the rise of famous YouTubers and it seems that many other people are trying their luck in this field. They, or at least the ones that aspire for greatness should be using good microphones in order to sound great, especially on headphones where a bad quality microphone can simply ruin the viewer’s overall experience. Especially true for podcasts and content where only the voice is heard.

We have rounded up our own little Top 5 of aspiring products for the title of BEST Microphone for Podcasts and Youtube. We have a varied selection, ranging in the 50$ to 300$, and all products can be found on amazon.com. Our overall winner is a flexible, trusted solution that sends audio signal straight to the computer via USB. If you want more sound quality though, you will have to go with an XLR connection and a sound card. But if you are travelling for interviews or just don’t have the space, an USB connection only microphone could be more attractive.

Luckily, we have an article on the BEST Sound card for Podcasts and Youtube here.

#1 BEST USB Microphone for Podcasts and Youtube – Blue Yeti USB Microphone

After much deliberating, we’ve decided to award the title of BEST Microphone for Podcasts and Youtube to the Blue Yeti USB Microphone. Yes, you will say that it is standard but it is there for a reason. We like the Blue Yeti product because it has USB audio, so you get to cut a lot of the costs associated with your podcast or youtube channel, that is has a very small footprint and that you don’t need a stand for it.

The microphone is extremely easy to use and sounds great because of the three condenser capsules it has. The microphone just sits neatly on your desk and captures your voice in good isolation. But if you also want to capture some background sound for any reason, you can have it do this as-well due to the shape selection switch.

The Blue Yeti USB Microphone has a headphone output and volume control on the front.

This microphone has four mic type patterns, depending on the way you want it to capture sound: Cardioid, Omni, Figure-8 and Stereo. Cardioid is recommended for just recording your voice, but if you want to delve deeper or require also ambient sound or effects, you can use it to capture more with ease.

#2 BEST Value USB Microphone for Podcasts and Youtube – Blue Snowball USB Microphone

This is somewhat of a cheaper product if you don’t feel like investing a lot of capital in great microphone right away, and want to try the waters first and see if you like doing podcasts or Youtube content. The Blue Snowball is the younger, smaller brother of the Yeti microphone as both products are made by same company.

Again, we have an USB-only audio connection. Fitting for simple setups, with limited budgets. Unfortunately, the DAC (the component that translates analog sound vibrating through the air into digital signal for your computer to process) is integrated into this cheap microphone. You don’t have the option to upgrade the DAC like you would a sound card so you are stuck with average sound quality.

The Blue Snowball Microphone for Podcasts and Youtube shines in the value department, you pay a small entry price into the world of content creation and you honestly get a lot for this cost.

Just like the Blue Yeti USB Microphone, the Snowball also has a selection of geometric modes, but sadly the “stere” one is missing. And if lighting is your thing, you can choose from up to six color styles with the brushed aluminium variant. If you don’t want vibrant coloring and are going for a more professional, refrained look, try the “Textured White” or “Gloss Black” finish.

XLR connection vs. USB connection

And now we would like to move to the professional segment. These microphones require a sound card with an XLR socket to function, they also require phantom power (supplied by the sound card). But having these things means actually means that there is more space in the microphone for actual sound components.

XLR connected Microphones for Podcasts and Youtube are always a better choice than USB ones.

This is because instead of having a DAC and a power supply built in (so it can take power and send direct digital messages to USB), they offload this task to the sound card so that they can pack a much better sound quality puch.

The downside is that you also need something to plug them into via XLR connection. This secondary device captures the analog sound signal from the microphone and transforms it into digital data for the computer to read. That is what the sound card does, and this is why you pay for it.

XLR connected Microphones and their soundcards cost way more than the USB option.

Still, these types of content creation microphones are very relevant to those that need sound quality, especially if you also create sound that is not voice based for your content and thus use instruments that you plug into your sound card as-well.

#3 XLR Microphone for Podcasts and Youtube – Audio Tehnica AT2020

This one is the first XLR product on our list. It represents a mid-range condenser microphone pretty well. We would always recommend this one as an entry level XLR microphone because it will introduce you pretty well to the dynamic nature of voice recordings. You will be able to sound more dramatic or more mellow depending on your content.

For this market segment we decided to award the Audio Tehnica AT2020 the title of BEST Value XLR Microphone for Podcasts and Youtube.

The battle was with another Audio Tehnica product that is a bit more expensive, the AT2035. We have a whole article about the AT2035 vs AT2020 them here. The article also explains the XLR standard to some extent, so you can understand analog sound specifications.

#4 USB+XLR Microphone for Podcasts and Youtube – Shure MV7

This one marks the entry into the high end market space. If you are here, you know what you want and you can specify it. The Shure MV7 is a mixed connection type microphone, it will take USB or XLR depending on your label.

It is fully advised that you if you can spare the money and don’t have a sound-card yet, get the Shure MV7 and use it on USB until you can afford it.

The specifications of this microphone look very good, and there are also a lot of “handling” features like an integraded headphone output, panel touch controls and the software suite you can use to process the sound on a desktop or laptop further. Imagine that this is three times more expensive that the BEST USB Microphone for Podcasts and Youtube, but believe us, it is worth it. We cannot recommend an upgrade mic to the Shure MV7 that doesn’t cost more than 1000$.

#5 XLR Microphone for Podcasts and Youtube – Presonus Dynamic Vocal Microphone

And we had to have a Dynamic microphone in our top because sometimes you don’t have the best studio out there and you want something that can just work in any conditions.

The Presonus Dynamic Vocal Microphone for Broadcasting and Podcasts is a budget XLR-only option that can deliver. Sure, it will lack mostly all the features that the 300$ option puts on the table, but at least sound quality is good.

We can recommend this microphone for content creators that already have a sound card for other projects, and want to describe their projects with a microphone. Just pay a small fee for this microphone, plug it into your sound card and start creating.

Final Thoughts on Microphone Choice

As you can see, the microphone market is very mature and options abound in 2021. Still, we stick to our internal way of thought, and would recommend an USB option if you want to start your channel pretty fast and don’t know how to operate audio equipment. We have provided two choices here.

If instead you know how to record audio and have a soundcard, we would recommend the high end or the budget option for XLR Connections.

Still, there is a third way, if you know how to record sound, but don’t have a sound card yet, buy the Shure MV7 since it has both XLR and USB.

As always, we welcome your feedback in the comment section.

5 BEST Mid-winter 2021 VST Plugin DEALS

Wellcome to our periodic round-up of the BEST DEALS available on music production VST Plugins. Here, we help you spend your hard-earn money on new toys and virtual gear. So without further ado, here is our list of five of the BEST DEALS on VST Plugins and their end date:

  1. Izotope Complete Your Suite Sale – up to 80% off. Yes you heard that right, up to 80% off select Izotope VST Plugins in order for you to have more of the same quality and usability. There are also offers for upgrades here. Deal ends February 16th 2021 and can be found here.
  2. Iceberg Audio – The Sub VST Synth – 33% off introductory price. This one is also on the usability side, and it’s a straightforward sub bass synth. For 33 Eur you get one envelope, glide and drive, so not that much BUT the sound quality is out if this world. It is an instant favourite our ours and the deal can be found here. It is only live until Februray 10.
  3. Native Instruments Komplete 13 – huge discount on bundles. If you’ve been waiting for a great deal to get into Komplete, now is the time. They have heavily discounted their bundles, including Ultimate and Collector’s Edition. They did this also for the starter packs, and you can get them for as low as 199 Eur for the Select bundle. The deal can be found here, and there is no end date specified, so go ahead and try your luck.
  4. W.A. Production has a 68% off sale on preset packs for the most popular synths out there like Serum, Spire, Sylenth and much more. If Techno and House are your things, then this is for you. All major VST Synths are supported on this preset pack, and the deal ends on the 28th of February. Shop here!
  5. 55% Off Eden2 by UJAM and Bassroom by Mastering the Mix. Again, if dance music, especially Techno and House are your things, These two tools are indispensable. I am particularly fond of Bassroom, it is very useful on the master channel to round out and smooth your bassline. UJAM is a very nice drum machine too. This deal ends on 14th of Februray.

So there you have it, enough to get you through the end of Winter. Make sure you subscribe to our newsletters for more deals:

Modular Synth workflow for beginners – Visualise patch cable voltage values

Building and having a modular synth can be a bit of a hassle. And when I say a bit, I mean a lot. Not being able to see any modulation values is one thing. Then, there is the fact that you will never be able to save a general patch due to the flexible nature of the synth. Also, another drawback is that stereo is close to non existent (unless you want to buy two of the same modules), not to mention polyphony (unless you want to buy six of the same modules to get a six voice synth).

But programming, or should we say patching a modular synth is so much fun. And you get a wonderful sense of freedom.

Still this alone does not make modular so attractive, especially if you are new to synths all along. Today, I will show you one product that makes entering this very distinct domain much more easy.

Yes, I am talking about Producertools’ new product, their Patchcables with Bi-color LED built in. This is a long time coming guys, for sure somebody would have done this by now. Now there is basically no excuse for you to not build that eurorack system that you wanted. This a pre-order program for now, delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Still, shipping is supposed to be in March 2021.

So basically with these patch cables you will be able to see the polarity of the voltage and a rough estimation of its value. The built in LEDs will glow red or green depending if the voltage is plus or minus, so if the envelope or LFO is basically negative sloped or positive sloped. Also, the light the LEDs emit varies in intensity. You can see how it looks in the video below:

There are of course drawbacks for now, but the manufacturer said that there is minimal interference with the Eurorack Control Voltage that passes through. They even had to design their own LEDs for this.

Still, a bit of voltage does get used by the LEDs so will not reach the source.

So don’t use it with signals that require precision, like controling the pitch of oscillators with 1v/Oct signals. Best use is for non random (S&H) LFOs and Envelopes, where you can just offset/increase send voltage in order to compensate for LED consumption.

Get your own set of Patchcables with Bi-color LEDs on the Producertools website here.

Amplitube vs Guitar Rig – a detailed comparison

As any guitar player knows, Guitar Rig and Amplitube are undoubtedly two of the most famous and popular guitar emulators available. They’re the best at what they do, but which one is actually better?

We have updated our article in light of the recent Amplitube 5 release, available on IK Multimedia’s website. Comparing to Amplitube 4, this one has been upgraded user experience department, being by far much more user friendly. It now suports Retina-displays and the GUI is fully-scalable. Also, in the new department you now have the option to do parallel effects, with the addition of the dry/wet control and a lot more devices to play with.

For those interested in an upgrade path from Amplitube 4 to 5, here is a sheet from IK Multimedia, explaining the differences and also listing the contents of the Amplitube 5 package.

And if you are interested in a music production laptop as well, we have an updated comparison article right here for you.

Today we’re going to talk at length about the differences and similarities between Amplitube and Guitar Rig, their pros and cons, features, specs, and ultimately decide which platform offers bigger and better benefits, so let’s begin with the most recent price, avaialble by clicking these buttons:

To be fair, we will compare Amplitube 5 to the “PRO” version of Guitar Rig – because the free version is in a league of it’s own. Sadly there is no free entry point to Amplitube, so we have to have an apples-to-apples comparison.

Guitar Rig 6 Amps

For the lack of better words, the selection of amps, cabinets, and effects stacked into the Guitar rig is absolutely incredible. Of course, its eclecticism and versatility mainly depends on which package you’ve opted for, but even the factory Guitar Rig 6 Player is better-rounded than the vast majority if boutique guitar emulators.

You’ll be able to choose between some of the iconic amps, such as Hot Plex, Citrus, Tweed Delight, Jazz Amp, Hot Solo+, and many others, although the bulk of these presets are reserved for Guitar Rig 6 Pro users.

The newest additions (in comparison to the Guitar Rig 5 Pro) are the Chicago, Bass Invader, and the Fire Breather amps, all of which bring brand-new and highly unique features to the table.

Overall, Guitar Rig offers surprisingly authentic, great-sounding amps.

Amplitube 5 Amps

Amplitube’s selection of amps is perfect for literally all kinds of music styles and subgenres. The Standard Amplitube 5 package has 34 devices while the MAX version has a whopping 107 items.

You’ll be able to use five British Stack amps, including Brit 8000 and Brit 9000, the Red Pig, Brit Valve, the Brit Silver, two American Tube amps, as well as a solid-state Bass preamp. The standard edition of Amplitube 5

If you want the full list of devices available, IK Multimedia has created this sheet, which also compares Amplitube 5 with the previous version.

These amps work wonders regardless of whether you’re looking for a poppy sound, a fuzzed jazzy tone, or a heavily distorted metal timbre. However, Guitar Rig’s selection of amps is just slightly broader.

Guitar Rig 6 Cabinets

Guitar Rig 6 offers matched cabinets for their amps, which is generally pretty great. Furthermore, you’ll be able to make great use of the Control room cabinets & mics features if you’ve upgraded to Guitar Rig 6 Pro.

However, the downside here is that you won’t be able to mix and match ‘unmatched’ cabinets like you would with Amplitube.

Amplitube Cabinets

As far as cabinets go, Amplitube 5 offers 27 models, while the MAX version comes equipped with a HUGE ARRAY of 101, including six 4 by 12s (matching the amps), one 1 by 12 Open Vintage cab, a 2 by 12 Closed Vintage cab, and a 1 by 15 Bass Vintage cabinet.

While Guitar Rig had the upper hand in terms of the amp selection, Amplitube does a bit better job in the realm of cabinets, offering more than twice as many models and presets.

In a nutshell, this is more than you’ll need to capture the sonic essence of the recognizable sounds of guitar heroes with ease.

Guitar Rig 6 Effects

There are almost more guitar effects aboard the Guitar Rig 6 platform than can be counted, starting with five delays (Twin, Delay Man, Psyche Delay, Quad Delay and Tape Echo), 12 Distortions (Fuzz, MeZone, Sledgehammer, Gain & Treble boosters, Cat, Demon, Skreamer and more), 10 Dynamic effects, 5 EQs, 7 filters, 8 modulation effects, 3 Pitch effects, 9 reverbs, and three ‘Special’ effects (Resochord, Ring Modulator and Grain Delay).

Barely a dozen of these effects are available as factory presets, though, which means that more than half of aforementioned guitar effect models are only available with the Guitar Rig 6 Pro package.

Amplitube Effects

The Amplitube simulator offers 10 different stompbox models, including choruses, flangers, delays, wahs, diode overdrives, volume pedals, graphic equalizers, compressors, tremolos, and acoustic simulators. With the new Amplitube 5 version you can run them in paralel with the dry/wet setting.

All of these effects are taken from actual analogue effect pedals and sound as original and authentic as can be. The same list of items contains an inventory of all the stomp effects contained.

The good and the bad of Guitar Rig 6

Basically, Guitar Rig 6 is free to download, which is a massive benefit in itself. However, the factory presets selection is modest, to say the very least, which means that it’s a pretty basic software with relatively poor versatility if you don’t upgrade to the ‘Pro’ version at some point.

Let’s discuss the positives and negatives of Guitar Rig 6 PRO:

Pros:

  • Decently affordable upgrade to Guitar Rig 6 free
  • Exceptional range of guitar amps
  • Quality analogue bass amp
  • Authentic sounding tools, models and presets
  • Unparalleled selection of effects
  • Decently easy to use, even by beginners

Cons:

  • The basic (free) package is not overly versatile
  • Difficult to mix and match cabinets
  • Almost no effect pedals and stompboxes to speak of in the free package

The good and the bad of Amplitube

Amplitube is decently approachable guitar software that packs a hefty selection of stompboxes, amplifiers, cabinets, speakers, microphones, effects, and rack units. With the new update to Amplitube 5, the user interface is extremely well built, scalable and looks great on Apple devices.

Obviously, it’s more expensive than the (free) Guitar Rig 6, but it is well worth the buck considering how beginner-friendly and eclectic it is. Some of the highlighted advantages and disadvantages of Amplitube are:

Pros:

  • Highly intuitive interface
  • Excellent selection of stompbox effects, amplifiers, cabinets and microphones
  • Several rack effects and speakers
  • Onboard tuners
  • Constantly expanding roster of amps and effects
  • Great for beginners and seasoned veterans alike

Cons:

  • Not available for free, although demo can be downloaded free of charge

Conclusion

The specs, features, and UI were some of the most notable parameters we took into consideration when comparing the performance of Amplitube and Guitar Rig.

Even though these guitar simulator programs are completely different, they actually do have a lot in common. Both programs are laden with a myriad of top-quality amps and effects, and both actually sound extraordinarily great.

Be it as it may, Guitar Rig tends to do a bit better only because there is a free version to which Amplitube cannot compete.

Without cutting Amplitube’s worth short, it’s amazing software that has enormous potential to usurp Guitar Rig’s throne in near future.

Laptop specs for music production

While the versatility and gear of actual studios are appealing, many people simply can’t afford $500/hour sessions and look for alternatives.

The idea of setting up a ‘home’ studio sounds like a lot of work, but actually, all you need is basic gear (instruments and a microphone) and a decent laptop.

Now, you shouldn’t just get any laptop – there are spheres of performance where investing more than a couple of hundreds of dollars is overkill, but then again, you don’t want to go cheap with things such as memory, processor, and such.

We are here today to give you a quick look at what laptop specs for music production should look like, so let’s dive straight to it.

Processor

The CPU is the single most important component of your laptop when we’re talking about music production.

Basically, processors are in charge of all the processing tasks, which include simple ones such as keeping your laptop running, over recognizing your plugins and software, to allowing the process to run smoothly.

It would be completely fair to say that the quality of your laptop’s CPU will determine more than 50% of the outcome of the production process.

Going with slightly cheaper options may result in lags and stutters; going with budget options may even lead to system crashes while opting for ‘stock’ (factory) CPU will simply result in you not even being able to run the spec-starved programs.

In essence, this means that this is the component you’ll want to invest in the most, but contrary to what most people assume, even the best CPUs won’t help much unless they’re compatible with other components.

The first things you’ll need to understand about processors are the cores and frequency they operate on.

Simply put, the higher the number of cores, the easier the CPU can distribute the workload; operating frequency basically translates to ‘how fast your CPU is’.

RAM

Random Access Memory – or shortly ‘RAM’ – governs the ‘working memory’ of your laptop.

This is where your laptop stores external information, such as data acquired and processed through plugins and other relevant programs.

Most music production programs ‘eat-up’ quite a bit of RAM, because otherwise, your laptop will take hours to load all the samples, presets, VSTs, and virtual instruments.

That’s why it’s imperative that you invest in RAM quite a bit, but not as much as in your CPU.

Simply put, RAM is ‘upgradeable’, which means that you can always return to this component later and integrate additional RAM cards in their corresponding slots.

Be it as it may, you still need at the very least 8 gigabytes to start with.

Another thing that you should concern yourself regarding RAM is how many upgrade slots your laptop has. Every manufacturer indicates whether the top limit is 32 or 64 (although certain units might go a bit below or above).

Storage space

Essentially, music production programs, VSTs, and plugins all require a certain amount of storage space, but so do your tracks.

The more you mix them and process them, the ‘heavier’ they get. That’s why you’ll need to be well-prepared with enough room for everything.

The difference in price between different hard disks isn’t that great, so ‘bigger is better’ in this sense.

However, you should also consider the ‘speed’ of your HDD.

‘Faster’ HDDs are the ones that reduce the load times and thus are fairly more expensive.

If you didn’t spend all your money on RAM and CPU so far, you should also consider buying a Solid-state-drive (SSD). SSDs are incomparably faster than HDDs, and to top it all, they reduce the load times for your system and other programs as well.

Operating system

You shouldn’t concern yourself too much about which operating system your laptop is supplied with; you can easily uninstall it and upgrade to the OS of your preference at a later point.

However, it’s certainly convenient to have a pre-installed OS on your laptop, which will enable you to start working right away.

The only thing that’s worth mentioning in this regard is whether you should go with a 32 bit or a 64 bit OS.

Needless to say, the vastly improved, faster, and superior 64-bit variations are always recommended.

Desktop versus Laptop

‘Is desktop PC better suited for music production than a laptop’ is a fair question, but also the one that can’t be answered quite easily.

Basically, a well-equipped laptop is just as great as a well-equipped desktop PC, but there are just a couple of things that set them apart strictly speaking from the standpoint of performance.

First and foremost, laptops are far superior in terms of mobility. Being stuck to your computer chair limits quite a few things, whereas you can always simply take your laptop anywhere you want; this is especially important for tasks that are meant to happen outside of your studio – collaborating with different musicians, recording vocals, and so on.

On another hand, laptops are inferior to desktop PCs in several ways. Primarily, most laptops pack non-upgradeable feature or a limitation of sorts in that regard.

For example, a good bunch of laptops supports up to 64 gigabytes of RAM. Even though this is a satisfactory amount of memory, the fact that you can’t improve it is a bit of a pitfall.

Additionally, certain programs (especially system software) sometimes perform in a very clunky way when installed on laptops, whereas most of the time they’ll run smoothly on a PC.

Last, but not least, if you have a low budget after spending most of your money on quality guitars, basses, percussion, and such, you should note that piecing together a PC is usually cheaper than buying a laptop with similar specs.

Conclusion

At the end of the day, you’ll need a decently strong and fairly expensive laptop if you want to start producing music professionally.

Luckily, you won’t need to spend a fortune, but knowing in which segments you need to invest more certainly goes a long way.

We hope that we’ve helped you decide which specs to focus on the most, and which are forgiving if cheap.

Best Android Music Making Apps

A couple of decades back all the gear that music producers had at their disposal was a measly 8-track machine and a bit of good will.

Nowadays it’s easier to record and produce tunes than ever; all you need is a smartphone and a decent quality app.

However, the market is overflowing with dozens and dozens of applications in this field; some are useful, some are not so much.

With this in mind, we’ve decided to compile a list of the best Android Music Making apps, so if you’re looking for one, you’re certainly in a good spot. Without any further ado, let’s dive into it:

Beat Snap

Let’s start off easy with Beat Snap; essentially, this is a free downloadable app that is best suited for beginners.

It includes some of the most basic composing functions, including beatmakers, virtual instruments, and drum pads, all of which are remarkably simple and straightforward.

To top it all, it can store more than 200 virtual instruments (from third party sources) and can hold up to 500 different sounds.

It even features six controllable and customizable effects that you can use to mold the tracks to your liking, as well as a looper sequencer and a metronome.

However, the only downside of this music-making app is that it’s not exactly a Hi-Fi one.

Its versatility leaves a lot of room for improvement, but it’s absolutely essential if you’re new to music production and compositional world.

Fruity Loops Studio Mobile

Thousands and thousands of professionals are using Fruity Loops Studios, but not many people are aware of the fact that it’s gone mobile.

The heavily acclaimed beginner-friendly FL recording software is now available on a mobile platform to all Android users, and we warmly recommend you to check it out.

It rocks an interface that largely resembles the one that the original FL Studio comes outfitted with; the only differences are that it comes supplied with fewer features and that it’s a bit smaller.

Needless to say, it’s packed with virtual instruments, plugins, and both preset and customizable presets, as well as options that will allow you to integrate your own FL banks and files into it.

MixPads

Although this is primarily a DJ application, MixPads offers a unique approach to making beats and loops.

It offers simple and straightforward features that are mostly aimed at producing pre-recorded tracks and MIDI files, so it’s technically not a music-making app, but it does feature over thirty different drum pads that can help you create authentic rhythms and grooves.

One of the things that most people who’ve used MixPads don’t know about is that it actually comes supplied with a voice recording feature too.

You can use this function to layer vocals on top of your drums and beats, which is again phenomenal if you’re a DJ.

SongMemo

Most Android-based phones feature a ‘notebook’ of some kind, but these features do not exactly allow you to memorize audio files.

That’s where SongMemo comes into play; this is free downloadable software that offers basic audio recording features, and more importantly, it even allows you to add multiple instruments to previous projects.

In a nutshell, SongMemo is a very simplistic music-making application that works best for sudden ‘Eureka’ moments, although it does seem a bit limited in the field of actual music creation as the features it comes supplied with are not exactly versatile in nature.

Soundtrap

Soundtrap is one of the few full-fledged music-making applications available on the market that actually features preamps, virtual instruments, and samples that people can use to compose unique music straight off the bat.

It rocks a minimalistic interface that is fairly easy to read, and self-explanatory functions such as ‘save’, ‘add FX’, play, record, and ‘instrument’.

Additionally, it can be integrated with your cloud storage, allowing you to properly secure your files and audio tracks at all times.

Last, but not least, it includes both strung and percussive instrument samples, so you will be able to record most (if not all) instruments with the tips of your fingers.

BandLab

Many people have seen the BandLab recommendation in their Play Store after downloading a couple of music-related games and software; this is only natural because this program is completely free and is readily available for people who are looking for a quality music-creation app.

It packs production-based essentials and offers simple modes of mixing, but the best thing about it is that it also allows you to share your tracks with a huge, well-established community of people who’re using the same app, which in turn provides you with an opportunity to share experiences with like-minded individuals and learn from them.

DrumPad Machine

Even though the DrumPad is not one of the most eclectic music-based apps out there, it’s easily one of the most practical drum beat machines that you can download on an Android-based phone.

It was basically designed to replicate a standard drum machine, offering simple customizable pads and features that optimize its arsenal of percussive instruments.

Dub Step Music Creator

Dubstep is easily one of the most influential music sub-genres of the decade, and many people are wondering how the songs that belong to this particular style are even supposed to be created.

A couple of years ago you would have needed to go into a regular studio and spend weeks with a producer if you wanted to search for authentic effects, but today all you need is an app.

The Dub Step Music Creator features an 8×4 drum pad, a 4-band EQ, and a small virtual mixer that allows you to create top-notch beats, utilize world-class effects, and toy around with numerous soundstage presets.

It’s one of the best choices for people who are looking for creative, yet simple means to record electronic music with their phone.

Conclusion

Although there’s a myriad of music-making apps on the market, there aren’t exactly many that are free, beginner-friendly, and easy to use.

Luckily for you, we’ve managed to dig up a couple after scouring the market; we hope you’ve liked our selection of the best Android music making apps and hope you’ve found what you were looking for.

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

How Much are Musicians Making from their Deals? Introducing the Record Deal Simulator

The music production twitter world woke up with a bang, as createsafe‘s latest app took the social media platform by storm.

If you’re not familiar with the app yet, the name should tell you everything you need to know: The record deal simulator allows you to input all the usual terms that go into a record deal (split, deal type, advance amount, etc) and returns total profit for the artist and label given a certain number of streams.

Pretty cool right?

Although record deals are on a downwards trends with more and more artists going independent, this is a pretty cool tool, mostly because there is lots of public information on record deals that can tell us exactly how much an artist and their label is making.

Take for example Kanye West. According to music journalist Cherie Hu, Ye would need to generate 3.2 billion (yes, with a B!) streams to generate 1$ in profit!

If the future of recording deals was already bleak, then surely this tool won’t help it recover.

If you’re considering signing a deal, we highly recommend checking out this tool.

Got any more cool simulations? Share them in the comment box below!

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.