10 Music Studio Tools Under $100 – Belkin RockStar, Arturia BeatStep, Chord Wheel, iConnectMIDI +

In this article, we round up 10 music studio tools for under $100 that can help your workflow and won’t break the bank.

10 Music Studio Tools - Sparkfun, Belkin, Arturia, Sennheiser PX 200 II

Also check out a similar roundup that we published in 2012 – 10 Tools Under $100 That Can Help Enhance Your Home Studio Productivity. 

Audio and USB Cables ($0.99 and up)

Cables. You know you need them. Remember that time when you found some cool new effect to run your gadgets through and then – gah! You’re out of cables. Avoid this moment and be prepared by stocking your studio with audio cables from Monoprice, our favorite shop for cheap cables. Monoprice also sells a lot of other inexpensive audio / visual gear that is well built. Recommended for producers on a budget.

Cerberus_USB

On a similar note,we are often struggling to find the right USB cable for a given piece of gear and SparkFun’s Cerberus USB cable offers three types of USB connection on one cable for $5.95. Highly recommended for computer producers on the go.

Belkin RockStar ($15)

Belkin_Rockstar

This small gadget is honestly the most exciting $15 audio device I have found in recent months. Here’s why: Say you have a few Korg Volcas on the desk and you want to rock out in the headphones. How do you hear them all playing together?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iMF2eZz8v7M

This $15 Belkin RockStar is a headphone splitter that also works as a 5 input (1/8th inch) passive mixer. This won’t work as well with just any headphone splitter. Belkin has designed this device to work with audio passing in both directions. This is also a valuable studio tool for when you need a few more inputs during a recording session.

The Chord Wheel ($15)

chord wheel

If you are learning your way through music theory (or simply trying to put some chords together), The Chord Wheel by Jim Fleser will show you how chords relate to one another and (more importantly) which keys will play well with other keys and chords. We’d like to mention that you can also find this information for free online (search for “circle of fifths”). But sometimes it’s nice to have a good book / chart to refer to instead of gong to a website.

Tenuto Music Theory App ($4)

Tenuto

The Tenuto iOS app from musictheory.net is an excellent way to sharpen your reading and writing skills, or simply just improve your music theory knowledge. Dubspot’s Lamin Fofana tells us,”this is perhaps the only music app I’ve been using on my phone for the last year. Tremendously helpful.”

Korg Nano Series 2 ($59)

Korg’s Nano Series 2 USB MIDI controllers offer incredible value for price and the amount of control you get in a very small space. The nanoKEY2 is equipped with 25 velocity-sensing keys while the nanoPAD2 offers 16 responsive pads and an X-Y touchpad. The nanoKONTROL2 provides knobs, switches, faders and transport control. It should be noted that the nanoKONTROL 2 plays very well with Ableton Live by way of included templates and it also works with Ableton’s Mackie Control template. 

Furman Power Conditioner ($59 – $99)

Furman_M8LX

This device might not be the sexiest device in your rack and you may not think to spend $59 on a power strip, but a Furman Power Conditioner could save you lots of money down the road. As your music studio grows, you will inevitably wind up with some rare and prized possessions. Protect those synths, drum machines, samplers, effects processors, and computers with a power conditioner that will stabilize the electricity flow in your studio and help stop power surges that can damage your gear.

Sennheiser PX 200 II ($69)

Sometimes your significant other doesn’t want to hear that amazing bass line that you created when you’re lying in bed. For these moments you need some portable headphones to find the groove in a private space. If you’d like to get some good sound on the go but don’t want to break the bank, I recommend the Sennheiser PX 200 II headphones. They are light, the sound fantastic and they fold into a creative pocket-sized shape to take with you. While the have much smaller drivers than the HD-25, the sound of these cans far exceeds their looks. Crisp high end sound is complimented by clean bass with minimal distortion.

(Looking for headphone recommendations? Check out our DJ Headphone roundup for more options)

iConnectMIDI 2+ ($89)

The iConnectMIDI 2+ ($89 at retailers) is one of the most useful MIDI devices we have ever used. It’s is a small, powered MIDI hub that sports two sets of your normal MIDI in/out connections in addition to two USB ports in a compact interface. The iConnect MIDI can act as a MIDI hub for your iPad or iPhone and creates a seamless connection from any iOS device to your computer, or from your iOS device to other pieces of MIDI gear. It also supports multiple MIDI controllers and provides very low latency, making it an idea hub for multiple types of MIDI connections.

iConnectivity explains, ”iConnectMIDI is an enhanced MIDI interface that enables communication between 5 pin MIDI, USB MIDI, Mac, PC and iOS devices–all at the same time.” In addition to MIDI connectivity, the iConnectMIDI 2+ also feature new “audio through” technology, which will send audio signal through your USB cable along with MIDI information.

If that sounds confusing, consider this setup. I am using the older version of iConnectMIDI, but it’s essentially the same as this new version. I have a Korg Electribe connected as a master clock to the iConnectMIDI, and it’s sending signal to an OP1 (which only has a USB input), as well as a computer running Maschine and a few other drum machines. It’s become the brain of my MIDI operation. The above video shows a very similar workflow with the iConnectMIDI.

xenyx1002

Behringer Xenyx 1002FX ($99)

Behringer may not be the most expensive brand around but that doesn’t mean their products should be ignored. If you are on a budget you can find a mixer like the Behringer Xenyx 1001FX (currently 99 dollars at Sweetwater and other retailers) for under $100. An analog mixer can fulfill many needs – from combining audio signals to processing sounds. A mixer is also the heart of dub-style mixing and production, so we also recommend them as an entry point into making dub music. To get an idea of what we mean, check out this interview with Goth Trad from last year where he explains his live performance setup.

Arturia Beatstep ($99)

Arturia’s Beatstep device is a new controller that the company announced at NAMM and we’re especially excited about. Arriving in March at a street price of approximately $99, the Beatstep is a USB controller that doubles as a 16 step hardware sequencer with CV and MIDI outputs. This means if you power it with a USB power cable, you can use the sequencer (without a computer) to sequence hardware synths and drum machines. We have never seen a step sequencer with this much control (USB, MIDI, AND CV!?) in a package at this price.. well, ever. Sweetwater is currently taking pre-orders and we imagine they will have no problem selling. We can’t wait to try one.

Arturia’s Beatstep offers a new degree of functionality and performance for a portable pad controller. BeatStep is highly versatile, capable of triggering clips in such applications as Ableton Live, playing drums in conjunction with such applications as BFD or EZDrummer.  But BeatStep is also a 16-step analog sequencer for creating all kinds of musical phrases to be sent to analog synthesizers, MIDI drum machines, MIDI keyboard devices, or computer programs. –Arturia

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