10 Tools Under $200 That Can Help Enhance Your Studio Productivity

Looking for some new gear or production tool to inspire your studio sessions? We’ve rounded up ten pieces of inspiring tools that won’t break the bank and may provide some new avenues of thought and creation.

Korg Monotron Analog Synthesizer ($49)

Korg introduced the battery-powered Monotron a couple of years back and it was an instant success as one of the least expensive analog synths on the market. While the keyboard isn’t very easy to play (we suggest using a pen cap or stylus), the Monotron comes with the same filter that was introduced on the legendary MS-10 synthesizer and it can make some incredible sounds. This year Korg introduced two new versions of this instrument: Monotron Duo (which offers a second oscillator) and the Monotron Delay (which includes an old school analog space echo). Between the three of them you’ve got a number of ways to develop interesting sounds, and in the case of the delay, a very unique-sounding effect for under $50.

Behringer RV600 Reverb Machine ($49)

If you own any hardware synthesizers, drum machines or samplers, you can enhance the sound of your gear with hardware effects. While software effects are plentiful and sometimes cheaper than hardware, nothing beats some knobs to turn in the midst of a creative session. Guitar pedals are a long-standing secret weapon of many EDM producers as they provide a cost-effective way to build a unique signal chain (and therefore a unique sound). The RV600 Reverb Machine from Behringer is a great-sounding pedal and one of the cheapest ways to add a hardware ‘verb to your setup. This pedal is a re-creation of Line 6‘s popular Verbzilla guitar effect, but costs about $100 less than the original. While the outer casing of the Behringer pedal isn’t built to the same quality as Line 6′s, the sound quality is right up there with some of the best.

Shure SM57 Microphone ($99)

Shure’s SM57 microphone is an industry standard among recording professionals. It’s primarily used for recording instruments but it’s a well-rounded mic that can be used for almost any application. This microphone has been around since 1965 and is still highly regarded among producers. It was actually mentioned a few times in our recent survey of microphones with the Dubspot staff. The SM57 is a workhorse that can take a beating and still record anything you need. A valuable tool to have in your kit.

Akai MPK Mini USB MIDI Controller ($99)

At least a few of us on staff use this controller. Unanimously we love the portability and sturdy but lightweight construction as well as the combination of pads, keys and knobs that come in handy for many different applications. The knobs are low-profile and won’t snap off when packed into your bag, the pads are sturdy and can take a beating. The interface does lack pitch and mod functions (so if you need those, look elsewhere), but it packs a lot of other controls such as octave shift, sustain and arpeggiator onto the front of the device.  The MPK Mini is almost exactly the same width as a MacBook or MacBook Pro and runs without the need for a power adapter. It’s class-compliant, so you won’t need driver software and you should be able to use it with Mac or PC and with any music production software. If you’re on a budget and need a portable MIDI keyboard, the MPK Mini is hard to beat for the price.

iConnect MIDI ($179)

The iConnectMIDI is a small, powered MIDI hub that sports two sets of your normal MIDI in/out connections in addition to three USB ports in a compact interface. Now you may think – why do I need yet another MIDI device in my setup? Here’s why: First it acts as a MIDI hub for your iPad or iPhone (this is the primary function of the device) and creates a seamless connection from the iPad to your computer, or from your iOS device to other pieces of MIDI gear. It supports multiple MIDI controllers, two sets of standard MIDI in/out ports, and three USB 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.” That last part is the important part. While you can iPad into one controller with the Apple Camera Connection Kit, or use the iPad over Wi-Fi to control a computer, it’s usually a single connection from the iPad to another device. With the iConnectMIDI, you could have, say, a laptop, an iPad, and a few different MIDI controllers all sending signal to numerous pieces of hardware in your studio at near-zero latency. It’s quite a useful device.

MeeBlip SE Digital Synthesizer ($149)

MeeBlip is one of the coolest ideas we’ve seen recently, and a great start to learning your way around synthesis. The instrument comes in a few build-it-yourself varieties, the simplest of which will allow almost anyone to put the project together and learn how things work from the inside-out. Once constructed, the MeeBlip SE offers some meaty digital synth sounds and a plethora of knobs and switches on the front panel to affect your signal. The project was launched by Reflex Audio’s James Grahame and Create Digital Music’s Peter Kirn as an open-source kit that is meant to be hacked or built to your own personal specifications: “MeeBlip is a hackable, affordable digital synthesizer, made for accessible sound and hands-on control. It can be someone’s first synth. It can be a unique-sounding addition to your music setup, playable with MIDI hardware and software. It can be a synth you open up and modify, learning about sound creation, code, and electronics. Or it can be the basis of new projects and ideas.”

Arturia Analog Experience: The Player ($149)

Arturia is known for creating some of the best virtual analog synths in the business, realistic re-creations of classic synths such as the Arp 2600 and Mini Moog. The Arturia Analog Experience: The Player offers a very nice (but limited) collection of presets from their collection of soft synths, in the form of The Analog Factory software along with a dedicated 25 key MIDI keyboard for a mere $149. The collection features over 1000 synth sounds from a variety of classics, the only downside being that they are not quite as editable as the full versions you get if you buy each individual package. The build quality of the included MIDI controller is beautiful, with a nice weight and wood paneling bringing a bit of class to your setup.

Behringer BCR2000/ BCF2000 USB MIDI Controllers ($175)

Behringer’s BCR2000 and BCF2000 USB MIDI controllers have been on the market for over a decade now, one of the few controllers that has stood the test of time while other companies continue to update their products for each season. The reason for the longevity is a solid build quality, class-compliant connections and easy integration with just about every piece of software on the market. The BCF2000 offers motorized faders in a mixer-style setup while the BCR2000 offers 40 knobs with LED feedback. These are tried and true controllers that have been used by major artists such as Plastikman and Daft Punk in their live performances.

Mackie 802 VLZ3 Analog Mixer ($199)

Do you own a mixer? If you work in audio (or even as a hobby), you owe it to yourself to get one. There’s no better way to learn about EQ and signal flow, and you’ll find it solves many problems in production and recording situations. While there are many different brands on the market, mixers from Mackie and Allen & Heath come highly recommended for their quality build and clean sound. The Mackie 802 VLZ3 is an eight-channel mixer that has been a mainstay of many producers for a couple of decades now, and falls into our list at the $200 mark.

Apple Logic Pro ($199)

If you own an Apple computer, we have to recommend that Logic Pro from Apple may be the best $200 deal for music production at the moment. The robust music production package (which previously retailed for hundreds of dollars more) offers dozens of instruments / effects and enough capability to create any kind of music. Logic is also the cloth that GarageBand was cut from, so if you’re looking to upgrade from GarageBand, this may be the ticket. This is a program that has maintained a dedicated following for over a decade with many top producers touting its capabilities. If you’ve been curious about trying Logic, now’s the time.

Logic Pro Producer Certificate Program

Master Logic with our complete program of courses culminating in a four track EP ready for release. In addition to achieving a complete overview of the composition process in Logic you’ll also earn the Dubspot Producer’s Certificate in Logic Pro. After completing this program, you will leave with a new EP, a remix entered in an active remix contest, and a scored commercial to widen your scope.

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