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.

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.

Best Reverb Pedals

While the electric guitar seems like a fairly simple instrument, there are a lot of things to consider with it.

Firstly, the electric guitar on its own requires an amp to work, as well as additional effects units if you want to make things more interesting.

From the earliest days of the instrument, one of the main goals for guitar players was to make them sound less “dry.”

Over time, guitarists and engineers started adding atmospheric effects using different methods.

In the present day, this comes as one of the easiest tasks since you can get your hands on some very simple and effective pedals.

And talking of atmospheric effects, reverb holds an important place in the world of the electric guitar.

The other alternative is the delay (or echo) but the discussion which of these two effects is better is still ongoing.

Reverb still has its strong following and will give your guitar tone just a slight “vintage” twist in there.

With all this said, we’re going to look into the best reverb pedals on the market today. Below, you can find something for everyone’s needs and set budget levels.

Electro-Harmonix Oceans 11

For many decades now, ever since the end of the 1960s, Electro-Harmonix kept pumping out great pedals.

Although fairly known for their impeccable distortions, they still have some other great stuff in other departments to offer.

For this list, we’re looking into their Oceans 11 reverb pedal that, as you might have assumed from its name, comes with 11 different reverberation presets.

But aside from this very versatile feature, we also have an additional mode switch that does further tone-shaping on each of these 11 presets.

There’s even an additional input on the side that lets you use an external switch for that “infinite” reverb that keeps on ringing out in the background.

Boss RV-6

Boss is hard to avoid on pretty much any list of pedals. No matter the effect or the era in rock music, there’ll always be mention of this legendary company.

As far as reverbs go, we’re quite fascinated by their simple, compact, and yet very potent RV-6.

But aside from its basic controls, you can also find a switch for different reverberation modes.

The pedal also comes with a special mode that combines delay and reverb, making a super-atmospheric tone for some of those mellow songs.

You can also use it as a stereo pedal and even pair it with an expression pedal for more tone-shaping options.

Boss RV-500

Now, Boss’s new 500 Series of pedals is just something else.

These are more than just the typical stompboxes that give you a few options and presets. Just take a look at RV-500 and all of its features.

This is like a very detailed and complex digital processing unit that’s focusing solely on reverb.

It would take a lot of time to explain what this pedal does exactly. This fully digital device comes with an impeccable sound resolution of 32 bits and 96 kHz.

There are 12 basic modes as well as 21 reverb types. You can also dial in some of those vintage-inspired tones that resemble tape delays.

There are also other features like MIDI connectivity for more control options.

MXR M300

And MXR also comes as another amazing example of a brand that manages to surpass its competition in many different aspects.

Although compact and simple, their pedals are quite useful, which is also the case with their M300 reverb.

Here, we have a straightforward approach with only three basic knobs and some additional controls that allow you to cycle through 6 different modes, including one that mimics those plate reverbs.

What’s more, you can add some diversity in there using an expression pedal. This is a very useful one for those who adore the reverb effect but don’t feel like using complicated pedals.

Walrus Audio Fathom

While the company is not that big and famous compared to some other that we mentioned on the list, Walrus still makes some of the best pedals on the market these days.

In their arsenal, we can find an amazing and very atmospheric Audio Fathom reverb.

It comes with four modes, all of which provide you with great spaciousness and detailed controls that let you dial in anything from subtle shimmering reverberation and up to those extremely long and psychedelic yet unique-sounding effects.

To add to all this, there’s even a switch that gives you “infinite” sustain when you press on it. It’s a compact pedal, but it’s a real playground for reverb lovers.

Donner Verb Square

When we’re talking about pedals of any kind, things often get really difficult if you’re operating on a budget.

Sure, all these pedals that we mentioned are great, but some of them can get rather expensive.

At the same time, it seems as if all the cheap stuff just isn’t worth it. This is where Donner steps in with their amazing yet affordable pedals.

This is exactly the case with their Verb Square reverb. Packed into a mini-sized casing, it comes with just the essential controls.

It’s not complex, it’s just a “stripped-down” reverb unit that will help you get what you need. Considering its price, this is more than a great deal.

Eventide Space

Lastly, we’d mention another one of those very detailed pedals. The unit in question is Eventide Audio’s Space reverb that comes with so many options that we wouldn’t be able to fit into an entire article.

And this one’s even more detailed and complex compared to Boss RV-500. There’s an abundance of controls, each doing different parameter tweaking depending on the reverberation mode.

It comes with 12 basic reverb algorithms, stereo mode, expression pedal connectivity, as well as USB connectivity for some serious tone-shaping options.

Best DJ Headphones to Buy in 2020

DJ headphones are a significant investment for any music mixer, designer, producer, or DJ.

It doesn’t matter if you’re an up and coming artist or a big name, you can always do with a little experimentation.

New gear, whether it’s to up your game or try something different, can be the difference between staying steady and making it big in your industry.

These 5 headphone models provide diverse picks for quality, special features, and low prices in DJ headphones for 2020.

No matter your needs or experience as a DJ, one of these pairs of headphones should be enough to enhance your work.

Even if not, you can use our buying guide to compare the main features between models for a more informed decision, even between brands you choose yourself.

Reviews of the Top 5 DJ Headphones

Sennheiser Pro Professional DJ Headphones (HD25)

The HD25 headphones from Sennheiser Pro are considered to be the gold standard for professional DJs by many professionals.

We can’t find a reason to dispute this reputation, which is why they lead this list as our choice for the best overall DJ headphones in 2020.

They’re built well – you can tell the difference as soon as you pick them up. They have a sturdy feel and perform at professional levels in sound reinforced, studio monitoring situations.

In that sense, the HD25 headphones are the best around for cameramen and DJs, with high sensitivity sound quality owing to its lightweight aluminum voice coils and its ability to take a lot of sound pressure without overloading.

For a career DJ, it’s also essential for their headphones to be comfortable during long work hours.

Thankfully, the Sennheiser Pro Professional headphones are light and comfortable even during the long haul.

They conveniently detach from a single-sided cable, work for single-ear listening modes, and feature a rotatable ear capsule for the purpose.

At a reasonable price, the HD25 headphones are the best overall pick for professional DJs and hobbyists in 2020.

Pros

  • Reinforced for studio monitoring settings
  • Sensitive sound quality
  • Lightweight coils
  • Comfortable construction
  • Rotatable ear construct

Cons

  • Some users recommend custom ear pads for extended use

OneOdio Professional Studio Headphones

These professional studio headphones from OneOdio can be used without an adapter for professional sound mixing and studio monitoring, as well as advanced 50mm neodymium drivers.

In its budget price range, the OneOdio professional studio headphones have stellar sound quality, with clear vocals, powerful bass, and crisp high notes.

Its ear cushions are made of high-quality padding to maximize noise isolation and comfort during long studio mixing sessions.

The 10-foot cord and standard plug let you use these headphones without an adapter. The headband adjusts to a range of comfortable angles and also swivels for single-ear listening.

Long sessions with the OneOdio studio headphones are cushy and free of fatigue. The headphones are compatible with iPad, iPhone, Android, iPod, and other audio devices.

With OneOdio’s shareport technology, you can connect multiple headphones to the same OneOdio pair without using any splitters.

These headphones are also collapsible for easy traveling, for listening or even mixing on the go.

With the extremely low budget price, the OneOdio professional DJ headphones easily make our pick as the best budget headphones available to buy in 2020.

Pros

  • 50mm drivers
  • Budget price
  • Clear vocals, powerful bass, and crisp high ranges
  • Comfortable noise-canceling earcups
  • 10-foot cord

Cons

  • Some users report that they could be smaller for easier portability

Numark HF125 Portable Professional DJ Headphones

Numark Professional DJ Headphones are cheap and ultra-light.

Those who don’t really know what they want from their DJ headphones can’t go wrong with these professional models from Numark, which have a padded headband and ear cushions even at the low price.

The Numark headphones have a hard wired cord with a 6-foot length, a 1/8” TRS connector, and a ¼” TRS adapter.

Pretty much any mixer you have will be compatible with these headphones. The headband has 7 positions and the 40mm Mylar speaker drivers are high-quality. These headphones should easily carry any DJ through a long mixing session with clarity and precision.

The Numark HF125 Professional DJ Headphones prioritize ease of use, cheapness, and portability. These small, light headphones are easy to carry with you on trains and planes to mix on the go.

Keep in mind that the ultra-low price comes with some concessions: some customers have reported that the headphones run a little hot and feel a little tight, despite the adjustable headband.

Regardless of minor setbacks, the Numark HF125 Portable Professional DJ Headphones are cheap, light, and extremely effective in their price range.

Pros

  • Low price
  • Lightweight construction
  • Wired 6-foot cord
  • 7-position adjustable headband
  • 40mm Mylar speaker drivers
  • Padded headphone cups

Cons

  • They tend to run a little hot in long sessions

Vogek Over-Ear DJ Headphones

Versatility and value are the name of the game with the Vogek over-ear DJ headphones.

They have a 2-in-1 plug with a standard 3.5mm and 6.35mm diameter, easily switching between them. Since you don’t have to buy another cable for different equipment, a DJ with a complex sound setup can make use of the Vogek’s adaptive cable.

The music experience on the Vogek headphones is ahead of the game in its price range, which is really low. 50mm speaker drivers give users a powerful bass range.

The HIFI sound range of the Vogek Over-Ear DJ Headphones can’t compete with models worth hundreds of dollars, but in the less than $50 price range, the Vogeks shine with professional-grade quality.

For those that like taking their headphones with them on the go, these stereo monitor Vogek headphones feature a 90-degree rotatable earcup. The 3-meter cable is flexible and strong.

With compatibility across instruments and devices, including electronic guitar and bass, drum, piano, iPhone, iPad, Samsung, Android audio devices, and iPods, the Vogek headphones offer DJs a versatile option at a great value.

Pros

  • 2-in-1 plug with 2 sizes
  • 50mm speaker drivers
  • Wide bass range
  • Comfortable, rotating earcups
  • 3-meter flexible cable
  • Versatile compatible across instruments and devices
  • Budget price

Cons

  • Some customers report that the Vogeks are mid-frequency heavy

Audio-Technica ATH-M50x Professional Studio Monitor Headphones

With both wired and wireless models, the Audio-Technica ATH-M50x Professional Studio Monitor Headphones are critically acclaimed by engineers, DJs, and audio reviewers for a reason.

The cable detaches from a 45mm aperture driver with copper-clad aluminum wire voice coils and rare earth magnets.

These headphones are priced at the higher-end of these commercial DJ headphones, but it shows in the fantastic circumaural contoured ear cups, which provide professional-grade sound isolation in even noisy environments, which any DJ should appreciate.

They provide excellent clarity, a deep bass response, and a wide frequency range.

The ear cups are padded for comfort and swivel 90 degrees for single-ear listening modes.

Top audio engineers support Audio-Technica with their reviews and purchases and we agree. They’re last on our list of top 5 DJ headphones but not at all least in comfort, sound quality, or versatility.

Pros

  • Extended frequency range
  • Accurate bass response
  • 45mm aperture drivers and high-quality detachable cable
  • 90-degree swiveling earcups

Cons

  • The manufacturer’s earcups can be fatiguing during long mixing sessions

Best DJ Headphones: Buying Guide

Use this buying guide to compare the main features between headphone brands to manage your needs as a DJ, no matter your experience level.

These features include comfort, sound quality, construction, appearance, and price.

Comfort

The comfort, rather than the sound quality, is the primary consideration of most audio professionals when they’re buying their DJ headphones.

The reason is that DJs mix and perform for hours either in their work as a DJ or their music mixing and design in their off-time.

The perfect DJ headphones need earcups and a headband that promotes adjustment and wearability over long sessions without causing fatigue in the user.

You may know that your ears or head shape requires a certain design to match your needs.

You want to look for headbands that are padded and adjustable. Those small comfort factors matter exponentially more for DJs that need to work long shifts at their job.

The headphones you choose not only need to withstand the work in terms of the sound quality but also in terms of comfort.

A fatiguing pair of headphones can seriously impair a DJ’s concentration.

Sound Quality

Different headphones have different sound qualities. This may be the feature with the widest range of quality difference in proportion to the price.

It also factors heavily into each DJ’s personal preference.

Some prefer a wider range of bass while others prioritize the natural highs and mids.

Sound quality also factors into the materials used to build the headphones. Rare metals, earth magnets, and the metal coils factor into the sound quality.

Higher priced headphones often have rarer materials, but it’s important to notice when headphones with a high price tag don’t back it up with the right metals.

Soundproofing also factors into sound quality for a DJ, since you’ll likely be working in a studio or a loud environment.

Sealed ear-cups that are built at the right size for your ears are essential here.

The material used to make the cups – whether they’re spongier or rubberier – can heavily impact the soundproofing and isolation. This can make a huge impact on your performance as a DJ.

Construction

Other than the metals used in the cables and the material composition of the ears, there are other considerations when measuring the headphones’ construction.

The headband should be cushy and adjustable with enough range to fit your head.

Earcups that can swivel 90 degrees can be used as single-ear listeners, which many DJs prefer both at work and in the studio.

Cables could be a different millimeter in diameter or detachable, promoting ease of use and versatility. The aperture drivers make a difference in their hardware compatibility.

The need for an adapter can also change how versatile the headphones are.

Appearance

The Appearance of the DJ headphones can mean more to a DJ than the ear cup design and cable construction.

More expensive models can be glossier and look more professional, with ears that have a metallic finish and an attractive headband.

For prestige DJs that want to put up a certain front, it can be beneficial to spend a little extra and get a nicer looking model.

Cost

The cost range of these DJ headphones is pretty wide, ranging from our budget picks as low as $20 to our luxury picks priced as high as $150.

You can pay even more for premium models available out there, but we wanted to keep the ones on this list affordable for normal users.

The main consideration for cost comes from the mix of quality construction and special features. However, DJs of different experience levels will interpret the cost differently.

Those who want to try out different features may opt for cheaper models to get a feel for what they want.

Those who know the special features they need can afford to choose a premium model built exactly for their needs.

The Takeaway

Professional DJs need the right equipment to shine.

Our buying guide prioritizes the features we think audio professionals need to consider to choose the right headphones for their experience level, including physical construction, sound quality, and especially the comfort level.

More than anything else, DJs need to design and mix for long sessions without fatigue. Comfort is paramount.

The HD25 headphones from Sennheiser Pro are our pick for the best overall DJ headphones to buy because of their comfortable construction, lightweight design, sound quality, and how reinforced they are for studio monitoring.

DJs of any experience level can get a lot of use out of the Sennheiser Pro DJ headphones and use them for long sessions without fatigue.

Whether you’re studio monitoring, designing and mixing music, or pulling long sessions as a professional event DJ, one of the models on this list should satisfy your needs.

Best Wah Pedals

For many decades now, the electric guitar has seen constant evolution and change when it comes to the approach of altering its basic tone.

It’s not only that we have plenty of different effects, amps, and other devices that help us achieve different sonic settings, but we even have improved versions of the old effects that take things to a whole new level.

And it goes both in terms of sonic qualities and in terms of functionality and features. And, of course, one of the most popular effects that pretty much changed the game in the world of electric guitar and modern music, in general, is the wah-wah effect.

This pedal, which adds voice-like qualities to your guitar tone, finds its use both in lead and in rhythm sections.

And, at the same time, it’s extremely fun to use, making your music quite appealing. At the end of the day, it’s one of the best expression tools that a guitarist can find these days.

However, with so many products available on the market today, it can get hard to find the right wah pedal for your needs.

We decided to dive more into this topic and bring you some examples of the best wah pedals that we could dig up online.

Going through these, there will be something for anyone’s playing styles and genre preferences.

Boss PW-3

Of course, no matter the type of effect, Boss is always one of the top brands to choose from. Although not that well-known for wah pedals, they still have a good one called PW-3.

And it’s a fairly simple pedal with straightforward features. But aside from the basic functions, we also have an additional switch for two modes. There’s the “vintage” mode, as well as the “rich” mode.

The “rich” one is pretty interesting as it brings more of that low end into the equation. On the other hand, the “vintage” mode is subtler and manages to keep things calmer.

Additionally, this pedal comes in a well-made casing.

To put it simply, it can handle even some rougher on-stage settings and you won’t really need to worry whether this pedal will give up on you, even after heavy prolonged use.

After all, it’s not like you’d expect anything less from Boss. PW-3 a simple go-to choice with some versatility added to it.

Dunlop GCB95 Cry Baby

In case you’re looking for that simple straightforward wah with a classic tone, then Dunlop’s GCB95 Cry Baby, or GCB95, is the way to go.

This is the original circuit developed back in the 1960s with just some minor changes added to it over the years.

With a simple toe-click action, you’ll turn it on and have your way into any lead or rhythm section that you need.

The casing design remains the same over the years, combining simplicity, practicality, and that much-needed roughness in handling.

In short, the pedal gives that classic and somewhat vintage-oriented tone.

However, the response it amazing and it can take you anywhere from subtle wah tones and right into those heavy lead territories.

It’s the ultimate simple wah that spans all genres.

MXR MC404 CAE

Of course, MXR is another big player in the game of guitar pedals, although not many people remember them for their wahs. Nonetheless, a piece like their MC404 CAE.

Now, this is a fully professional and very versatile wah pedal that you don’t see every day.

Aside from a great sweep and a very easy to control the rocking part, we have an option to choose between two different inductors.

This control completely reinvents the tone and helps you add some diversity in there, all while using just one pedal.

What’s more, we even have an internal Q control, as well as additional gain.

It’s a great choice for anyone who loves to play around with more features.

Morley Steve Vai Bad Horsie 2

Steve Vai is one of the best lead guitar players of all time, so it’s pretty obvious to have his signature pedal in this list.

And Morley’s Bad Horsie 2 is all about expression, just like Steve Vai is.

One of the main traits is that it’s an optical wah, meaning that there’s no switching. All you need to do is step on the rocking part and the wah is engaged.

Just move your foot from the pedal, and it will be disengaged.

What’s more, the pedal comes with additional tone-shaping controls for contour.

This wah can also add more boost to the tone, which is very useful for lead sections.

It’s a bit of a larger pedal, which may be a problem for smaller pedalboards, but it’s still an awesome pedal.

Electro-Harmonix Wailer

Electro-Harmonix is another somewhat unexpected pedal manufacturer that you’d not expect to see on a list of best wahs.

However, when you hear their Wailer, you’d be surprised at how amazing their capabilities are in this particular territory. In so many ways, it reminds us of those old school-oriented wahs, just like Dunlop’s classic Cry Baby.

However, it also has the company’s very unique circuit that gives it that “crying” or “wailing” tone, as its name already suggests. Additionally, this wah is packed into a very light yet durable casing.

It’s a very useful one for anyone who’s looking for a cheap, simple, and durable pedal that still delivers awesome tones.

Xotic Effects Wah XW-1

Lastly, we’d like to mention a high-end professional-level wah pedal that can work well for any setting and any genre.

This one is based on the well-known Italian-made Clyde McCoy wah pedals originally made back in the 1960s.

However, more versatility comes with bias, “Q,” bass, and treble controls that add some significant tone-shaping features in there.

But what’s also really exciting is that you can adjust the pedal’s tension, which you don’t quite see on any examples these days.

It’s not a cheap one, but it’s more than worth it.

Best Online Mastering Service [2021]

Wellcome to our article on the BEST Online Mastering Service! Mastering and mixing an audio track is a craft that takes years and years to master (no pun intended). However, improvements in artificial intelligence and music production software have made it so that this skill actually isn’t really necessary to learn anymore.

Today’s article will show you exactly how cheap and good some of the available INSTANT online mastering services are.

They obviously aren’t perfect. We are of course talking about on-the-spot instant mastering, and not just going and filing an order on-line for a human to master your tracks later. There is no human interaction with these online mastering service tools, you are the only human hearing them.

At the end of the day, there’s no way for these tools to know what your vision for the track is, and nothing beats the personal touch of an engineer.

Having said that, all of the tools tested in this article improved our track pretty much instantly at a very small cost. Some of the best online mastering service products were truly mind blowing, producing radio-ready tracks in a matter of minutes.

We have no doubt that these platforms will open the doors for hundreds of thousands of home producers and artists, allowing them to have good quality mixes in the time it takes to drink a coffee.

So here they are, our favourite online mastering services, reviewed.

NOTE: If you are on a mobile device, scroll to the right to see all picks and inside the cells to see all their content.

Product Name Main Features Export Formats available Rating / Pricing
Editor’s Choice
Landr
Distribution tool for spotify apple music, google play music, amazon music, pandora and beatport.

Collaboration / Feedback tool

Reference mastering

2 master controls: Style (warm, balanced, or open) and Intensity (low, medium, or high)
LO-RES MP3 (192kbps)

HI-RES MP3

(320kbps)

WAV (16bit)

HD WAV (24bit)
9.1
CHECK PRICING OPTIONS
Cloudbounce
26 different settings for the final mix.

Freebies included: A Crash Course in Mixing (PDF), a bunch of Ableton templates and a Logic Pro template

Manual mastering tool with Abbey Road Studios option
16 bit WAV

24 bit WAV

MP3
8.4
CHECK PRICING OPTIONS
Aimastering.com
Automatic video creation

Automatic Youtube loudness setting

Limiter, ceiling, oversampling, sound quality, sample rate, low and high cut controls

Easy mastering mode

Huge range of statistics on pre and post mastering track

API for developers
16 bit WAV

24 bit WAV

32 bit WAV

MP3.
8.4
CHECK PRICING OPTIONS

BEST Online Mastering Service – Editor’s Choice – Landr Mastering Review

Landr is a household name in the online AI powered mastering industry. Developed by the Canadian company MixGenius, it’s been around for a while and it keeps expanding its tools, now also offering distribution, collaboration, promotion tools, and even rent-to-own plugins.

The BEST service on the list, The LANDR Online Mastering Service has a really simple interface, loads of cool features, and keeps on improving.

We also found it to produce the best masters out of the tools tested. Here are our thoughts.

Landr Pros:

  1. Includes a distribution / release tool for spotify apple music, google play music, amazon music, pandora and beatport.
  2. Really clean and pleasant interface.
  3. Includes a collaboration tool which allows you to share masters and get feedback.
  4. Allows for reference mastering.
  5. 2 controls to customise master: Style (warm, balanced, or open) and Intensity (low, medium, or high)
  6. Different pricing models available (per mix, per month).

Landr Cons:

  1. Less than stellar customer support, according to several reviews.
  2. Distribution tool can take a few days to work.
  3. Limited master customisation options.

Landr: BEST Online Mastering Service – Our Rating: 9.1 out of 10

Speed: 9.2/10

The mix preview took about 5 minutes to prepare, whilst the actual mix took about 10 to 15 minutes. The app works in the background so you can close the browser and check back on it later.

Interface: 9.7/10

As previously mentioned, this was probably the most enjoyable interface to work with. Everything was where we expected it to be, and the layouts simply look good.

Quality of Mix: 9.3/10

We provided a rather low-quality, uncompressed hip hop instrumental track. The result was notably cleaner, louder, and overall quite impressive.

If you’re looking for a simple mix for the online platforms (spotify, beatport, etc), then Landr Online Mastering Service is more than suitable.

Playing around with the customisation controls (style and intensity) yielded slight differences in the mix, though the out-of-the-box mix ended up being our favourite. The reference mastering tool also caught our attention, though again, we didn’t notice a huge difference in the mix after uploading a classic hip hop track from our library.

If you’re looking for a more customisable Online Mastering Service, then you might want to keep on reading our reviews.

But overall, it kind of blew our minds. The final result was pretty much radio ready and was a huge improvement from the track provided. Some nuances, tones, and little tricks might have been added by a professional engineer, but the final result was very good- a no-thrills simple mix that was very pleasant to hear.

Additional tools: 9.4/10

The standout tool is undoubtedly the ability to release your tracks directly to the major streaming platforms.

This saves a ton of work and in our experience, worked relatively well, taking only a couple of days until the tracks were available in all the platforms. Some users have complained of slow release times, so we can’t guarantee that all users will have the same experience as us.

The collaboration tool was interesting, but in our opinion, not that useful, specially because the mix can’t be customised beyond 2 controls. So even if you manage to get great feedback on your track, there’s not much you can do with it.

Here’s a tip, you can actually try Landr, the BEST Online Mastering Service for free, so if you go ahead and sign up, upload your mix, and wait a few minutes, you’ll be able to judge for yourself.

-> TRY LANDR FOR FREE

#2nd Choice BEST Online Mastering Service – Cloudbounce Review

Second on our list is Cloudbounce. Having launched in 2015, they’re also a somewhat familiar name in the industry.

Unlike other Online Mastering Services in the list, Cloudbounce has a more stripped down approach to mastering, offering solely their mastering tool, and no other bells and whistles.

It’s interface also isn’t as shiny and clean as some other tools in this list, though it makes up for it with the additional controls and settings for the master sound that other tools don’t offer.

Cloudbounce Pros:

  1. Relatively cheaper than competitors (mixes start at 9$).
  2. Different pricing plans available (per mix, per month, per year).
  3. 26 different settings for the final mix.
  4. 3 output formats: 16 bit WAV, 24 bit WAV, MP3.
  5. Lightning fast.
  6. A pack of freebies are included with every account: A Crash Course in Mixing (PDF), a bunch of Ableton templates and a Logic Pro template file for your mixes.

Cloudbounce Cons:

  1. Interface was often confusing, with banners and footers obstructing buttons and menus
  2. No additional features besides mastering (ie no distribuiton, feedback, etc)

Cloudbounce: Our Rating: 8.4/10

Speed: 9.3/10

As with most tools in the list, the upload, preview and mastering took only a matter of a few minutes. This was perhaps the fastest service in the list. Throughout this whole experiment, the speed at which these masters are produced was what most surprised us.

Interface: 7.6/10

It seems like a small investment in a web designer could make this tool so much better, but unfortunately, it’s still quite clunky and unfriendly to the user.

Quality of Mix: 9.5/10

The out-of-the box mix (pre-customisation) sounded really good. In our opinion, a bit aggressive and with a lot of loudness and attack, but this was also due to the nature of the track. After correcting this with the many customisation options, the track ended up sounding great.

And here is where Cloudbounce Online Mastering Service really stands out. It has hundreds of different possible combinations between the two controls (musical genre and mastering controls) that allow you to play around until you find the perfect mix. It also sounds extremely well for what it is.

Whilst the first control (musical genre) is pretty straightforward, the mastering controls allows for much more customisation. It allows you to boost low, mid, and high sections of the music, add brightness, warmth, loudness, and more.

Due to this feature alone, we award Cloudbounce the highest grade in the list of BEST Online Mastering Service providers, in terms of mix quality

Additional Tools: 7.5/10

There was only one additional tool we could find, however, it’s one we quite enjoyed. After mastering the track, there is an upgrade available, which allows you to send the track to the abbey road studios for manual mastering by one of their engineers.

We thought this was pretty cool. This will cost you around 100$ and allows you to get a human touch on your AI powered mix.

This service will probably rely heavily on template files and presets, though its still a great way of improving the mix without investing that much.

-> Try CloudBounce for free

#3rd Choice BEST Online Mastering Sercvice – AImastering.com (by Bakuage) Review

Bakuage’s AImastering.com is a pretty unconventional choice for our list. You won’t find them in a lot of lists, and that’s really unfortunate, because we actually loved their AI.

If you have some technical knowledge of how to master a track, you’ll have a lot of fun with AImastering.com Online Mastering Service.

It includes a youtube loudness feature and automatically creates a downloadable video for your song, so if you use youtube as a promotion platform for your work, this is an absolute no-brainer. But our favourite feature was undoubtedly the “statistics” page of the mix.

After the AI finishes the master, it creates some very interesting statistics including “professionally”, which is how close the track sounds to a commercial track. This kind of “gamifies” your production and mixing skills and allows you to benchmark your progression as a musician- very cool!

There’s a bunch of other analytics provided such as loudness and waveform analysis that really allow you to perfect your track and compare pre-master and master versions.

It’s not all roses though. We did face some technical issues, hitting a 502 page when trying to download the master

AImastering.com Pros:

  1. Automatic video creation for youtube.
  2. Youtube loudness setting.
  3. Controls for limiter, ceiling, oversampling, sound quality, sample rate, low and high cut.
  4. 4 output formats: 3 WAVs, 1 MP3
  5. Option to preserve bass. Or not- might result in distorted bass.
  6. Easy mastering mode– focuses on loudness only.
  7. Statistics given: Loudness, RMS Peak, True Peak, True Peak(15kHz lowpass), Loudness Range, YouTube Loudness, Micro Dynamics Space Professionality, Acoustic Entropy, Ear Damage, Dissonance
  8. Loads of graphs and analytics provided.
  9. Relatively affordable– 1 free master, then 9.99$/master, or 29$/month for unlimited masters.
  10. API open for developers.

AImastering.com Cons:

  1. Some bugs were encountered.
  2. Docs could be better written

AImastering.com: Our Rating: 8.4/10

Speed: 9.0/10

AImastering took slightly longer than it’s competitors, though it was still very fast. Within 10 minutes, we had a great sounding mix.

Interface: 8.4/10

The interface, copy, and help docs could be improved. Their homepage simply states “Free Mastering is Available”, which might be a bit confusing for a somebody who stumbles upon the site. However, despite not being very flashy, the interface works well and everything is easy to locate.

Quality of the Mix: 9.3/10

Here, we’re considering the master produced with the standard options. Due to the many controls included in the tool, the range of tracks produced is huge. Therefore, we’re sticking to the “easy” mode of using AImastering.com

Overall, another solid mix. It’s really hard to set it apart from the other tools in the mix, though we find this track to have less loudness and bit more warmth out of the box.

Much like the other tools in the list, the final result was more than ready for distribution on the online platforms, which clip and compress a lot of the nuances of a track anyway.

Additional Tools: 7.0/10

In terms of additional tools we could only the video creator, which was pretty cool, but honestly not that useful if you’re not using youtube. And even if you are, you’d probably want to invest a bit more in a proper video.

MORE INFO

Landr vs Cloudbounce Online Mastering Service Comparison

After reviewing these first two BEST Online Mastering Services, we’ve gathered some thoughts and notes about they compared.

Here’s our rundown:

Landr is a better investment for artists looking to focus only on production and creation of music. There aren’t many ways to customise the mix, and it provides an easy distribution system.

If you want to eliminate the amount of decisions during these stages, then Landr is your tool. Create a track, upload it to Landr, have them distribute it, and go back to the studio.

Cloudbounce is more of a no-thrills solution that requires a bit more work.

You’ll spend more time customising the master, and you won’t be able to distribute or promote the track directly through the platform.

However, Cloudbounce is, in our opinion, the best solution if you’re interested exclusively in the quality of the mix.

It gives you way more style and mixing options, even allowing you to send it to a very reputable studio in case you’re not satisfied with the cloudbounce version.

eMastered vs Landr Online Mastering Service Comparison

Our final comparison is between Landr and eMastered. We got asked by one of our readers to compare the two, so we thought we’d give eMastered a try and see how it stacks up. Here are our thoughts:

eMastered offers more control over the mix, with 6 controls and the option to use a reference for mastering. However, the Landr AI is, in our opinion, superior a producing a clean and loud track.

When it comes to pricing, Landr starts at a way lower price point, almost a third of eMastered. This is for the basic subscription though. The advanced Landr sub is still cheaper, but the Pro will be slightly more expensive.

With that in mind, we choose Landr as the overall winner for BEST Online Mastering Service.

How much should mastering cost?

Mastering budgets live in a spectrum. A master from a top shelf studio will set you back several thousand dollars, whilst there are online mastering tools that are as cheap as 19$. But how should you decided how much to spend?

Like most things in life, you roughly get what you pay for. However, for a very small investment, you can get your track sounding pretty good, even radio quality. By very small investment, we mean under 100$, through an automated service such as one of the ones listed above. This represents the best return on your investment. If you’re uploading your track to youtube, or a social network such as instagram or facebook, a lot of the quality will be lost anyway.

And if you’re a professional musician, who expects to have their songs played on the radio or needs high fidelity masters, you should be ready to spend a few hundred dollars in a studio such as Abbey Road, who now offers an online mastering service.

Final Thoughts

And there you have it folks! Our favourite Online Mastering Services. If you made this far, we’re sure you’re ready to bite the bullet and try out one of the services on this list. At the end of the day, most services offer a free master as a trial, so you don’t have much to loose. And as always, if you have any experience with any of the softwares in the list, post your thoughts below!

Best MIDI Controllers to Buy in 2020

No matter what budget you’re working with, serious composers and music producers need a MIDI controller or keyboard compatible with their devices.

Home and mobile studios enable music producers to plug into their computers or work over Bluetooth, connecting to DAW software and VST synth plugins, as well as other installed programs that composers rely on to design their music.

From portable MIDI controllers to sturdy home setups, from minimalist designs to all the knobs and buttons anyone could ask for, composers and producers have a lot of options when it comes to MIDI controllers to buy in 2020.

This review list includes some that can be bought on a strict budget and others that are premium picks for high-end customers.

Either way, these are the best MIDI controllers available and provide the audio interfaces that any pro music developer needs.

Below the review list, we’ve assembled a buying guide to compare the main features that buyers need to be aware of when shopping for the best MIDI controllers.

Even if you don’t like the brands we’ve listed, you can use this buying guide to find your own, or compare the ones that you already have in mind by their main distinguishing features and compatibilities.

Reviews of the Best MIDI Controllers in 2020

Novation Launchkey Mini-Key MIDI Keyboard

Many MIDI controllers have synergy with apps and other subscriptions that music designers commonly use.

The Novation Launchkey Mini-Key MIDI Keyboard is no different.

It has an intuitive relationship with Ableton Live, one of the most popular pro design suites out there.

Ableton Live on the Novation MIDI keyboard provides recording, macro-control, MIDI capture, and clip launching software.

Novation’s arpeggiator is intuitive but it isn’t simple: it allows designers to control beats, patterns, octaves, and more.

The MIDI keyboard has a fixed chord mode that helps with transposition. 16 velocity-sensitive RGB pads, 8 rotary controls, sustain input, and pitch touch strips make Novation a versatile design and sound clip manipulation device.

The primary appeal of the Novation Mini-Key MIDI Keyboard is its portability.

You can take the keyboard with you physically but can also send program changes and apps to other hardware, as well as adding keys directly over MIDI.

An affordable price as well as a 3-year manufacturer’s warranty make the Novation Launchkey Mini-Key MIDI Keyboard the best overall pick for MIDI controllers in 2020.

Pros

  • Ableton Live support
  • Intuitive arpeggiator controller
  • Portable design
  • 8 rotary controls, 16 RBG pads, and versatile design devices
  • Low price
  • 3-year warranty

Cons

  • The layout is not optimized for live looping

Novation 49SL MkIII, 49-Key MIDI Controller

This second MIDI controller from Novation comes in 49-key and 61-key variations.

It combines MIDI hardware and CV/Gate synths into one piece of premium hardware, which is our pick for the best high-end priced MIDI controller available in 2020.

The Novation MkIII perfectly controls with Ableton Live’s software and integrates easily with your chosen DAW.

It has an internal 8-track pattern-based sequencer with a high-resolution sequencer and recorder that lets composers selectively play and edit separate sequences from the keyboard.

The keyboard on the MkIII is renowned as a premium synth-style keybed with a high scan rate, aftertouch, and semi-weighted construction.

Its arpeggiator can be set for different types, sync rates, lengths, and customizable pads and design rhythms. It has 1 routable clock for control across the whole system.

The Novation 49SL MkIII, 49-Key MIDI Controller has a high-end price but the full keyboard is pro-grade and sturdy. For advanced systems at a premium price, this is our high-end pick.

Pros

  • 8-track sequencer
  • Premium semi-weighted synth-style keyboard
  • Advanced arpeggiator system
  • 3-year warranty

Cons

  • Premium price

Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol S61 Mk2 Keyboard

The Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol S61 Mk2 Keyboard comes in 25-key, 49-key, and 61-key variations.

The Komplete Kontrol keyboard connects to most virtual instrument systems. The Fatar keyboard is professional quality, featuring after-touch on its 61 semi-weighted keys.

Its pitch and mod wheels have an ergonomic design and offer touch strip technology for expression control.

The set of KOMPLETE instruments and the Native Kontrol Standard instruments all have pre-mapped control on the Native Instruments Keyboard.

The Komplete Kontrol is portable, offering more keys than average on this USB 2.0 bus-powered keyboard. Its design features 8 capacitive knobs, a 4D encoder, and a full range of control over the various plugins, transports, and mixers used by the composer’s DAW.

Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol Keyboard has an intuitive OLED display for use with its Smart Play system. This allows composers to scale snap, trigger chords, and arpeggiate their tracks.

Being portable and configurable to most composition software, this MIDI controller keyboard is a fantastic high-end mini keyboard, though it has a premium price.

Pros

  • After-touch design offers intuitive control
  • Ergonomic touch-strip design
  • Completely bus-powered by USB 2.0
  • Compatible with plugins and various composing services
  • Configurable and portable

Cons

  • The mini keys aren’t for everyone
  • Above-average price

Alesis V49 USB MIDI Keyboard Controller

The Alesis V49 MIDI Keyboard Controller has 8 backlit pads that are pressure and velocity-sensitive that enable beat production and clip launching on a professional level.

Its interface includes 4 assignable buttons and 4 knobs that interface seamlessly with most music production software. Its buttons and knobs are lit for ease of use.

It has octave buttons that give composers access to the full pitch range, which can be modulated with control wheels that help the Alesis V49 MIDI Keyboard deliver more creative control over sound clips.

Alesis also includes premium software already integrated, which is impressive at its low-end price. This composition software includes Ableton Live Lite 9 and Eleven Lite, Mini Grand, ProTools, First Alesis Edition, DB-33, and Air Music Tech’s Xpand!2 virtual instrument software.

Alesis offers 3 sizes that increase portability, with 25, 49, or 61 full-sized square-front keys that are velocity-sensitive and ideal for various professional virtual instrument suites.

Pros

  • 8 backlit beat production pads
  • 4 assignable knobs and buttons
  • Octave keys
  • Portable design in 3 keyboard configuration sizes
  • Pre-uploaded premium software

Cons

  • The drum pads are not the most sensitive on the market

Akai Professional MPK Mini MKII MIDI Keyboard Controller

This USB MIDI keyboard has a portable design with 25 velocity-sensitive keys and an up/down octave switch so you can work in multiple ranges in the limited space.

For complete virtual synthesizer control on the go, the Akai Professional Mini MIDI Controller is last on this list, but not least.

A 4-way thumbstick gives you control over pitch and modulation.

Akai Professional controllers are built for customization with a built-in resolution control and arpeggiator.

Multiple design modes give composers and designers a range of options.

This keyboard controller requires no drivers, making it extremely portable. It’s powered by USB and backed by beat maker essentials, which are 8 backlit MPC drum pads with Note Repeat & Full Level control.

Control over virtual instruments and whatever DAW you’re using allows composers to trigger samples and take control of assignable Q-link knobs.

The Akai MIDI controller comes with different mixers, plug-ins, and pro production packages that include 1400 sounds.

Its suite is compatible with both Mac and PC and gives designers access to a wealth of design materials.

Akai Pro MPC Essentials, Air Music Tech, and SONiVOX Wobble are available for download with the Akai Professional MIDI Controller.

At a low price and a portable size, this controller is our pick for the best budget controller available.

Pros

  • Modulation and control options
  • 8 backlit MPC drum pads
  • Downloadable software suites
  • Portable size and velocity-sensitive keys
  • Budget price

Cons

  • Some Windows 10 incompatibility, with reports of scaling being a problem in simultaneous open programs in the Akai Professionals suite

Buying Guide for MIDI Controllers in 2020

This buying guide for the best MIDI controllers to buy in 2020 contains categories that should be compared between models to choose the best for any composer or sound designer’s needs.

These categories include features, construction, software compatibility, and cost.

MIDI Controller Features

There are many features unique to each MIDI controller in terms of design features and control.

It helps to know what kind of pitch and modulation control you need as a sound designer and what control scheme suits your work.

Some of these controllers have multiple control knobs and pitch controls, encoders, and plugins.

The Komplete Kontrol Keyboard even has an OLED display to help you use it on the go. Recording control, MIDI performance, drum pads, and rotary controls are all things to watch for.

The keys themselves should also be included in an assessment of the controller’s features since some have as few as 25 and some as many as 61.

Construction

The keys factor heavily into the MIDI controllers’ constructions as well. Whether they’re weighted or not can affect their sensitivity.

There are also touch strip-activated keys versus mechanical ones and this makes a huge difference depending on the designer’s preference.

Some of these controllers are portable, or USB 2.0 bus-powered.

If you like designing while you travel, it’s essential to find a sturdy MIDI controller keyboard that works on its own power or a long-lasting charge, with sturdy keys, and probably a shorter length.

Backlit knobs and controls can also be a concern when evaluating a MIDI controller’s design.

Control wheels, knobs, pitch controls, and pads differ between controllers so it pays to know what design features you prefer or what compositions you plan on manipulating before choosing a MIDI controller.

Software Compatibility

MIDI controllers are not always compatible with both Mac and PC. Designers that prefer one system over another need to know which controllers will work on their system.

Many of them also feature compatibility with various software suites, including ProTools and synergy with Ableton Live.

Downloadable sound packages and essential tools are available as software plugins on many MIDI controllers.

Those who want to work with specific suites can use this to guide their buying choices.

Designers that prefer a multifunctional design tool in their MIDI controller should research the software requirements and compatibility for their chosen brand of keyboard.

Cost

The cost of these MIDI controllers varies wildly, from just over a hundred dollars to nearly a thousand. Since the range is so great, music producers need to know the features they need for their work.

Often, a design suite, an extra range of keys, or a control knob can make a difference of hundreds of dollars in the finished MIDI controller model.

The Takeaway

MIDI controllers differ by construction and this affects functionality.

Some have 25 keys with octave up/down switches and some are full 61-key keyboards.

Some are touch-sensitive, velocity controlled, weighted, or semi-weighted. Knobs, controls, drum pads, and other physical features can dramatically differentiate your MIDI controller of choice as a design tool.

Some also come with production packages, including software suites, extensions, protocols, and integration with common DAWs and sound controllers, including the Ableton Live program.

Those who want to manage their sound design suites from one controller should check for compatibility with their intended software suites, including basic compatibility with Windows, PC, or iOS devices.

Portability also makes a difference, as some designers may want to set up a high-tech home studio while others will prefer to take their design tool with them in transit.

Our pick for the best overall MIDI controller keyboard for 2020 is the Novation Launchkey Mini-Key MIDI Keyboard.

For its Ableton Live support, portable construction, and multifaceted controls (8 rotary knobs, 16 RBG pads, and more), the Novation MIDI Keyboard is an intuitive all-purpose MIDI controller.

Its low price and 3-year manufacturer’s warranty round out an enticing package.

Regardless of which MIDI controller you choose, design features, software compatibility, portability, and other controls make a huge difference in how sound designers and music composers can use it.

Use this series of reviews and this buying guide to choose between the MIDI controllers listed here or any that you find on the market.

Best Audio Interfaces in 2020

As a music producer, songwriter, musician, or audio designer, an audio interface is a virtual workshop that can make or break your work.

Consider your computer the workstation and the interface as the toolbox where the quality of your audio and your options in mixing, synthesization, and production are determined by the quality of the interface.

Whether you produce music on Mac or PC, there are tons of options for audio interfaces to buy in 2020. These 5 choices should be enough to get any musician thinking about their options and comparing the price, features, compatibility, and aptitudes of each machine. The buying guide below these reviews compares the major features that should be considered when buying one of these audio interfaces.

This guide should help anyone looking for an audio interface in 2020 compare models based on their needs and expectations to choose the right one for their work.

Reviews of the Best Audio Interfaces

Audient iD4 High-Performance Audio Interface

The Audient iD4 audio interface has 2 inputs and 2 analog outputs (it has no digital outputs, in other words).

By offering a simple interface, complete with a mic preamp, phantom power for condenser mics, and instrument level DI for guitar and bass, the Audient iD4 is the best overall choice for an audio interface, especially on a budget.

The iD4 also has dual headphone outputs and an output for speakers.

The whole interface works on USB power and features compatibility with Apple’s camera connection kit, as well as mobile optimization for iPads and iPhones.

USB audio interfaces come in many shapes, sizes, and costs. Audient’s iD4 2-in/2-out USB interface is the best in its price range, with enough features to satisfy experienced audio producers and the optimization for Apple devices that many designers crave.

Pros

  • Simple interface with premium condenser mics
  • Dual headphone outputs and speaker output
  • Powered purely by USB connection
  • Affordable price

Cons

  • No digital connectivity

Universal Audio Apollo Twin MKII Duo

Featuring thunderbolt connectivity, 2 analog inputs, 6 analog outputs, optical Toslink digital connectivity, and an audio resolution of 24-bit/192kHz, the Universal Audio Apollo Twin MKII Duo is our pick for the best premium-priced audio interface available in 2020.

Its audio output and UAD-2 plugins have a quality second to none on this list, though the price reflects it.

The Apollo Twin MKII Duo is a desktop-format interface that connects to Mac or PC by Thunderbolt, rather than by cable, and has to be powered from a wall outlet rather than by USB power. This restriction may be a con for some audio designers.

The Apollo Twin MKII Duo can also power UAD plugin effects and comes with Solo, Duo, and Quad options.

The Unison pre-amps are also great emulation plugins for each of the Universal Audio Apollo’s input paths.

Real-time UAD processing allows designers to track audio through vintage tape machines, compressors, pre-amps, and guitar plug-ins with zero latency.

Premium preamps, line outputs, and real-time analog classics UAD plug-in bundles make the interface a premium design choice for songwriters and producers.

Its updated 2.0 software bundle includes a drag and drop interface, resizable windows, and channel strip presets.

For anyone who can afford it, the Universal Audio Apollo Twin MKII Duo is the premium choice on this list.

Pros

  • High-quality output with an array of options
  • UAD plugin effects
  • An array of preamps and emulation options
  • Real-time analog classics bundles and other extra features round out a premium package

Cons

  • Thunderbolt-only connectivity can be restrictive
  • Powered by wall outlets rather than USB
  • Premium price

Focusrite Scarlett Solo USB Audio Interface

This 3rd generation Focusrite Scarlett Solo audio interface features pro tools, USB connectivity, and a top of the line preamp.

The bright, high-quality sound output of the Focusrite Scarlett is due in part to its switchable air mode.

It also features two hum-free outputs and a guitar/bass input.

Its high-quality converters record and mix at a quality of 24-bit/192kHz, which is the industry standard for premium audio output. For those less experienced in audio interfaces, its quick-start tools help new users install and run the interface easily.

The Focusrite interface also features pro tools such as Ableton Live Lite, Softube Time and Tone Bundle, a plug-in suite, a creative pack from Focusrite, and other virtual instruments available through download.

Focusrite also offers an XLN addictive keys subscription and a Nugen Audio Monofileter Elements plugin. Focusrite Scarlett Solo’s integration with online subscriptions, as well as its USB-powered system, make it a quality modern audio interface for those shopping on a reasonable budget.

Pros

  • Pro Tools and other online subscriptions give users a lot of options for customization
  • Its converters and recorders are high-quality and industry competitive for audio output
  • Its plugins are available by subscription through many free services offered by Focusrite
  • USB-powered audio interface
  • Competitive price

Cons

  • Lack of compatibility for USB3 ports

PreSonus AudioBox Audio Interface

The PreSonus AudioBox Audio Interface is compatible with PC and Mac and bus-powered by a USB 2.0 audio and MIDI interface.

Pretty much any recording software that songwriters and producers use is compatible with the PreSonus AudioBox.

It also features a low budget price for designers that need a quality interface without putting up a ton of cash.

It features 24-bit resolution audio output and an array of kHz sampling rates, including 44.1, 48, 88.2, and 96. Its 2-combo mic and instrument inputs feature high-performance, high-headroom mic preamplifiers, and low-noise output.

PreSonus uses over 6 GB of third-party resources, including software and plugins like the Studio One Artist DAW software and the Studio Magic Plug-in Suite.

Its features combined with its high-quality output and add-ons make it the top choice on this list for budget-priced audio interfaces, for both PC and Mac users.

Pros

  • Compatible with PC and Mac
  • USB 2.0 audio output and MIDI interface
  • 24-bit resolution audio output
  • Third-party resources including pro plugins and add-ons
  • Low-budget price

Cons

  • Without a powered USB 3.0 hub, the PreSonus experiences some connectivity trouble

BEHRINGER Audio Interface

The Behringer Audio Interface features a 4×4 2.0 Audio/MIDI interface powered by USB.

Its professional audio has an output of 24-bit/192kHz. For those that want to design audio on many different recording software programs, Behringer’s audio interface works with Ableton Live, Avid Pro Tools, Steinberg Cubase, and other popular tools.

Behringer streams through 4 inputs and outputs, as well as featuring a MIDI I/O with ultra-low latency.

This audio interface is compatible with Mac and PC.

The Behringer has 4 modern MIDAS-designed Mic Preamplifiers with 48 volts of phantom power. The chassis on the Behringer is made of impact-resistant metal.

As a studio tool, the Behringer Audio Interface works with a myriad of plug-in microphones, instruments, and line-level sources for incredible studio flexibility. Behringer also flourishes with MIDI devices to improve control.

Pros

  • High-quality audio output
  • 4×4 2.0 Audio/MIDI interface
  • Powered by USB
  • Compatible with various audio interface tools from Ableton, Avid, and more
  • 4 inputs and outputs, as well as preamps with over 48 volts of phantom power
  • Impact-resistant casing

Cons

  • A single phantom power switch for all channels can detract from mixed audio sources

Best Audio Interfaces: Buying Guide

This buying guide for audio interfaces in 2020 compares the major features that will fall under fire when audio designers and songwriters shop for different brands.

Even if you don’t prefer the ones listed in this review series, you can still use this buying guide to compare models of your choice for their features, including audio quality and specs, hardware features, cost, software add-ons, and compatibility.

Audio Quality

The audio output quality is a huge part of any decision to purchase an audio interface for composers and audio producers in 2020.

Many of the devices on this list output at 24-bit/192kHz, which is professional quality for a personal studio.

Many also feature Audio/MIDI interfaces, phantom power, combo mics, high-performance instrument inputs, and other audio devices.

The most expensive model on this list, the Apollo Twin MKII Duo, has options for UAD plugin effects and comes with Solo, Duo, and Quad options, as well as other emulation and performance fixes.

Thankfully, you don’t always “get what you pay for” with audio interfaces since even the budget options on this list come with a ton of features.

There are some premium input and output options that you can only get at a high price, however, so audio engineers and producers that are looking for specific optimization features should prioritize the features most important to them when comparing interfaces.

Hardware Features

The hardware can make or break these interfaces. The number of audio in/out ports differs between interfaces.

The microphone input and the options for additional hardware compatibility differ as well.

The most significant difference in hardware between interfaces is the power source.

Some of these devices can be powered purely by USB input, which is desirable for most composers. Others require wall outlets to power, which can be less convenient.

A designer’s inputs are limited by the physical ports for plugins. Some interfaces, for instance, such as the Focusrite Solo, lack compatibility for USB3. It’s essential to know each interface’s compatibility before buying.

Cost

Comparing cost is a simple comparison between audio interfaces.

The models on this list range from budget options under $100 to $800 premium audio interface hardware.

The price isn’t always proportional to the number of features offered. Our top pick, the Audient iD4 interface, has a mid-low price compared to others on the market. However, the premium features offered by the high-end interfaces may be exclusive to that price range.

For general shoppers, our budget recommendations should easily suffice. Only those with specific premium features in mind should opt for pricier alternatives.

Software Add-Ons

Many audio interfaces come with access to other suites and program add-ons that can be purchased or even subscribed to for free (PreSonus is big on these).

These add-ons give users a range of compatibility options, as well as access to other audio mixing and design suites through their interface.

Ableton Live and Softube offer fantastic, multifaceted design suites that some interfaces can easily connect to and use.

Compatibility

Not all interfaces are compatible with certain design suites. Veterans of Ableton or other specific tools should check compatibility before purchasing an interface.

Compatibility also matters in terms of hardware. Not only are power and output options a concern, as mentioned, but software compatibility matters as well.

Some audio interfaces are compatible with PC and Mac, but some are not. This could narrow your list automatically.

Audio designers with specific programs they want to run also need to check compatibility between the audio interface and the suites, plug-ins, extensions, add-ons, and other performance features and subscriptions they may want to run through their new interface.

The Takeaway

A new audio interface can make sound mixing, composing, design, recording, and other audio engineering feats easier.

Many interfaces are compatible with software upgrades, add-ons, and other subscription services.

No matter how much customization a sound designer wants from their at-home design studio, there are audio interfaces out there that can provide those services and more.

Choosing the right one requires knowledge that we hope to provide in this review series and buying guide.

We reviewed several of the most popular and well-reviewed audio interfaces to compare their features and present the options for sound designers that want them.

Our all-around pick for the best audio interface in 2020 is the Audient iD4 interface, which has a simple design and a ton of compatibility with software plugins, despite being designed for Mac users.

In our experience, most composers prefer Apple devices anyway, but for those that are die-hard PC fans, there are options for them as well.

Comparing the hardware compatibility, power source, plug-in options, software interface, audio quality, and versatility should give any composer or producer in 2020 the options they’re looking for in the realm of quality audio interfaces.