Roundup: Build a Studio for Any Scenario

Choose Gear that Fits the Music You Make
Author:
Publish date:

Get the gear that fits the kind of music you make

WITH SO much reasonably priced recording gear available, it’s easier than ever to set up a studio that matches your musical needs. However, the increasing number of options in each category—mics, monitors, mixers, and software—can make determining what’s right for you and your budget confusing.

With that in mind, the editors at Electronic Musician chose three genre-neutral ways we make music—solo songwriter, solo DJ/producer, and 4-piece band—and designed studios around the basic requirements of each. We presume that each artist already has a computer with a CPU fast enough to handle music production software, so we didn’t include them in our virtual shopping spree. Additionally, accessories such as cables, pop filters, and adapters are not included because there is such a wide variety to choose from. (However, we do recommend that you never skimp on cables of any sort; purchase the highest quality models you can afford.)

SONGWRITER STUDIO

By Gino Robair

WHETHER YOU'RE sharing your ideas with other songwriters and performers or submitting demos to industry professionals, the recordings you hand out must have highquality sound. But that doesn’t mean you have to spend a lot of money to get it: With a few choice pieces of gear and careful attention to gain staging and mix levels, you can achieve pro results for a very reasonable outlay of cash.

My studio is designed for the singer/songwriter who is just getting started with a recording system (or upgrading from something older) and wants the technology to stay out of the way of his or her creativity. The goal, however, is to be able to record and mix songs with efficiency and professional results, while remaining small enough to fit into any casual environment—home, apartment, office space, or hotel room.

The artist’s main instrument in my dream studio is acoustic guitar, with some keyboard chops thrown in. Therefore, we need a mic that sounds good on voice and guitar, and a keyboard controller and software instruments for fleshing out backing parts. The interface must have at least two XLR inputs so I can, for example, record voice and guitar simultaneously to separate tracks.

I will suggest two scenarios: One is a low-cost, prepackaged option that provides the basic tools necessary for capturing inspiration when it hits; the second is a modular configuration, giving the artist room to grow into bigger projects and collaborate with others.

The Package Deal When it comes to low-cost/high-value products, PreSonus is hard to beat. I’ve been a fan of their high-quality mic preamps for years and have found their recording and concert gear to be user friendly, well built, and great sounding.

For that reason, my first studio is based around the PreSonus Music Creation Suite ($399.95), which includes nearly everything you need to get your ideas to hard disk with minimum fuss. The system is based around the AudioBox USB, a USB bus-powered desktop interface with a pair of phantompowered mic inputs on the front panel. However, the inputs are on combo jacks that accept instrument-level signals—perfect for times when you want to record guitar parts directly into the computer.

The Music Creation Suite includes the M7, a large-diaphragm condenser mic that will work well for tracking voices and instruments, as well as a pair of HD3 closed-back headphones for monitoring. A 9' mic cable and desk stand are also included. Balanced 1/4" TRS monitor outputs, a 1/4" headphone jack, and standard MIDI I/O are on the interface’s rear panel.

To capture your work, PreSonus includes Studio One Artist 2 (Mac/Win), a complete digital audio workstation for recording and editing audio and MIDI. The DAW includes a wide variety of plug-in effects and virtual instruments, and 2.5 GB of loops and other audio content. On top of that, you can flesh out your songs with the killer orchestral library included in Notion, a full-featured music notation program that comes with the Music Production Suite. The included sample library was recorded at Abbey Road Studios using the London Symphony Orchestra. Notion is also great for creating lead sheets in standard notation or tablature.

To take full advantage of your system’s virtual instruments and scoring capabilities, PreSonus adds the PS-49, a 49-note USB keyboard that offers velocity-sensitive keys, seven assignable controllers, and pitch and modulation wheels. They even throw in a powered USB hub that can handle the keyboard controller as well as the audio interface.

To promote and sell the music you’ll be creating (as well as tickets and merchandise) PreSonus offers Nimbit (nimbit.com), which has three levels of pricing (including a free level). In fact, you can take advantage of Nimbit whether you buy the Music Production Suite or not, so check it out.

Now all you need is a good set of closefield studio monitors to accurately evaluate your work. I suggest we stay with PreSonus and add a pair of Eris E5 ($125 each) active monitors. The E5 has a 5.25" Kevlar woofer and 1" silk-dome tweeter, and provides 80W of power using Class A/B amplification. It has acoustic tuning controls so you can match the speaker response to your mixing environment, and the input options include RCA, XLR, and 1/4" TRS (perfect for use with the AudioBox USB).

Songwriter Studio
Package DealPreSonus Music Creation Suite $399.95PreSonus Eris E5 (pair) $250 Total $649.95A LA CARTE STUDIO

Image placeholder title
Image placeholder title
Image placeholder title

Apple Logic Pro X (Mac) or Sonar X3
Studio (Win) $199/each
Yamaha MG10XU $199
Samson Graphite M25 $79.99
Mackie MR5mk3 (pair) $300
Audio-Technica AT H-M40x $99
Blue Microphones Bluebird $299.99
Shure SM57 $99
Primacoustic VoxGuard $99.99
Auralex MoPad $44.99
OnStage MS7701B EuroBoom stand package $39.99
Total $1,370.97
Primacoustic VoxGuardAudio-Technica AT H-M40xYamaha MG10XUBlue Microphones BluebirdShure SM57Apple Logic Pro XSamson Graphite M25

Image placeholder title
Image placeholder title
Image placeholder title
Image placeholder title
Image placeholder title
Image placeholder title
Image placeholder title

Studio Smart, a la Carte Of course, every musician has different needs, so I’ve assembled a more modular studio based around a core of solid products, many of which can be added over time if need be. The concept behind my choices remains the same; this is the studio that focuses on your creativity and not the technology.

Software For the DAW, I’ve selected different products for each OS. On the Mac side, it’s really hard to beat Apple Logic Pro X ($199). The workflow in the latest version has been significantly streamlined while the feature set remains top-notch. Whether you’re recording audio, sequencing soft synths and samplers via MIDI, editing, scoring with notation, mixing, or mastering, Logic Pro X delivers pro-level results.

For example, I love the intuitive way that Drummer, Logic Pro’s new drum-sequencing toolkit, can be used to create realistic parts for a song. (As a professional drummer, I don’t offer such praise unless it’s earned.) And with Drum Kit Designer, you can customize the selection of instruments your virtual drummer plays to suit the song. If you have an iPad, you can control Logic Pro X from anywhere in the studio—exactly the kind of thing you want when you’re recording yourself.

Windows users are not out in the cold as long as Sonar X3 is around. I’ve chosen the Studio version ($199) because it’s priced the same as Logic Pro X while offering plenty of high-quality content. Recording, sequencing, mixing, mastering, sound for picture—Sonar X3 does it all.

Sonar is well-known for the fine sound of its virtual instruments, including Session Drummer 3, Roland Groove Synth, and Z3ta+ Classic; you get 19 instruments in all—and plenty of effects for every aspect of production. Yet, if you want to keep it simple and focus on your art, Sonar X3 will stay out of the way.

Interface/Controller Whether you’re on a Mac or a PC, you need a pro-quality interface. The setup I’ve chosen makes room for writing partners, session musicians, and any other guest that can add something useful to a project. Rather than choose an 8 or 16-channel rackmountable interface that would have a software front end, I decided to take the admittedly old-school, hardware-based approach: The Yamaha MG10XU ($199) is a 10-channel, USB 2-based analog mixer/digital interface offering 24-bit, 192kHz resolution. The unit provides four Class A mic preamps, as well as six line inputs (in stereo pairs) for use with hardware synths, samplers, drum machines, and output from external mic preamps. Two of the mic channels have built-in compressors, and all four mic inputs include a pad and low-cut switch. EQ controls are available on every channel, as are Send controls for the built-in SPX effects engine. The MG10XU has a small footprint, is lightweight, and offers good sound quality and plenty of I/O. That also makes it perfect for stage use, when you need it. And at this price, it won’t break the bank.

My USB keyboard controller for this studio is the Samson Graphite M25 ($79.99), which is action-packed for its size. It offers 25 velocity-sensitive mini keys, 8 assignable rotary controls, and 4 velocity-sensitive pads with Aftertouch for recording virtual drum parts.

Mics/Monitors Of course, we also need transducers on either end of the recording chain. On the input side, I’m including a no-frills large-diaphragm, cardioid condenser that sounds fantastic for the price—the Blue Microphones Bluebird ($299.99). I’ve heard this used on dozens of recordings and it never fails to capture the tone and transients of the voice and acoustic instruments remarkably well. I realize it’s one of the most expensive items in this studio, but the vocal mic should be one item you don’t skimp on.

I’m also including a Shure SM57 for the simple fact that it’s a great bargain at $99. Its cardioid pattern and unique frequency response make it perfect for instances where a dynamic mic is required, such as guitar amps and percussion. And despite what you might think, it works very well for miking acoustic guitar, depending on the musical style you’re working in.

One suggested accessory that will be helpful when using the mic for vocals is the Primacoustic VoxGuard ($99). Because there’s so much ambient noise (hard drives, computers, etc.) and odd room reflections in the home-studio environment, it’s helpful to have something that you can use to isolate your mic from external interference without adding too much weight to the mic stand. Speaking of which, let’s throw in the OnStage MS7701B EuroBoom stand package ($39.99) so we have a pair of booms, which we can use at home or at gigs.

A pair of Mackie MR5mk3s ($150 each) are the monitors I want in this studio. With a total of 50 watts of output per monitor, the 5.25" woofer and 1" tweeter deliver a very accurate, non-hyped sound during playback. And it includes all the mod-cons I may ever need, such as three different inputs (XLR, TRS, RCA) and EQ controls to compensate for acoustical anomalies in the room. To get the most out of these monitors, I suggest placing them on a set of Auralex MoPads, which will only set you back $45.

Despite the ability to work with collaborators in my studio, I am only selecting one set of headphones; visitors must bring their own! The Audio-Technica ATH-M40xs ($99) are not the cheapest set of cans out there, but they certainly sound the best for the price. And, just as importantly, they’re comfortable, which is what you want when overdubbing or editing for hours on end.

BAND STUDIO

By Mike Levine

THIS SETUP is designed to allow the members of a 4-piece band (e.g., two guitars, bass, and drums; or one guitar, one keyboard, bass and drums) to record at the same time. It would also accommodate a fifth person, a singer, if he or she didn’t play an instrument. In addition, my studio offers two monitor pairs for mixdown, with the ability to switch between them. The items were chosen with both quality and economy in mind. I saved money where I could on products that wouldn’t compromise sound quality or the studio’s capabilities.

DAW/Interface For the DAW, I chose a native version of Avid Pro Tools 11 ($699), which can run on either a Mac or PC. Although more expensive than other DAWs out there, Pro Tools offers what many consider to be the best audio-recording-and-editing feature set around. Its Elastic Audio, Elastic Pitch, and Beat Detective features are extremely useful tools. And although its MIDI capabilities are not as finely developed as its audio features, they are solid enough for bread-and-butter tasks.

While Pro Tools 11 includes a decent plugin collection, I’m supplementing it with the plug-ins available in the Universal Audio Realtime Analog Classics bundle, which is included with the Apollo Twin Duo ($899), one part of the two-audio-interface tandem I’ve selected for this studio. Plug-ins included in the bundle are the UA 610-B Tube Preamp and EQ; Softube Amp Room Essentials (guitar and bass amp modeling); the Teletronix LA-2A Legacy; the Pultec EQP-1A Legacy; RealVerb Pro; 1176SE/LN Classic Limiting Amplifiers Legacy; and the CS-1 Precision Channel.

The second interface is the Focusrite Saffire Pro 40 ($499.99), which offers eight mic preamps, ADAT optical connectivity to connect to the Apollo Twin, and MIDI I/O.

Why two interfaces? While there are many single interfaces with eight mic inputs on the market, that configuration is not sufficient for this studio, which needs the capability for six drum mics, along with inputs for two guitars, a bass, and a reference vocal while tracking. Connected via their ADAT ports, the Apollo Twin and Saffire Pro 40 create a 10-mic-input system.

Universal Audio’s Apollo Series is appealing because of their quality mic preamps, the aforementioned UAD2 plug-ins, and the ultra-low-latency hardware monitoring. The Duo version has two SHARC processors, allowing you to open a fair number of plug-ins at a time. The preamps in the Saffire Pro 40 are solid performers and well-priced.

Because the Apollo Twin only runs on a Mac, I’m specifying an alternate interface setup for Windows users that includes two Saffire Pro 40s, connected together via ADAT Lightpipe. To make up for not having the UAD2 plug-ins, I’ve added the Metric Halo Production Bundle ($449), which has a nice selection of plug-ins including a channel strip, transient shaper, reverb, multiband dynamics processor, multiband expander and analog signal-path modeler.

Mics, DIs, and More This studio needs enough microphones to capture a drum kit, guitar amp, and vocal at the same time. I’m counting on the band being able to put the guitar amp in another room and, if possible, the reference vocalist in another, to reduce or eliminate bleed into the drum mics. If that’s not possible, the guitar can go into DI through one of two Radial ProDI boxes ($99.99 each) that I’ve included. (The bass will go through the other.) I have also included a Radial Reamp JCR ($199) to give the band the flexibility to reamp guitar and bass parts, if needed. Although Radial’s products are not the least expensive out there, they offer excellent quality and are built like tanks.

For drum mics, I chose the Audix FP7 ($499) drum-miking kit, which Electronic Musician gave a very favorable review to, in the May 2010 issue. The FP7 kit features dedicated snare and kick mics, three tom mics, and a pair of overhead mics. I’m assuming that most of the time the band will record with six mics on the drums (kick, snare, two tom mics, and two overheads), but this allows for the option of a seven-mic setup. For miking the guitar cabinet, I chose the tried-and-true Shure SM57 ($99).

For vocals and miscellaneous miking tasks, I chose another classic mic, the AKG C 414 XLS ($899). It’s not only solid for vocals, but handles virtually any other miking application you throw at it. The C 414 offers a total of 9 polar patterns, providing plenty of options, and it includes a pop filter.

Monitors/Headphones I chose two pairs of studio monitors: the PreSonus Eris E8 ($400/pair) and the Yamaha HS5 ($400/pair). It’s important to be able to switch between different monitors when referencing a mix. To facilitate that switching and to provide talkback, I included a Mackie Big Knob ($299) monitor controller.

The Eris E8 has an 8” woofer, allowing it to cover the bass frequencies well. It’s a smooth-sounding monitor that offers accurate reproduction in all frequency ranges. And for the price, the pair is an excellent value.

For the second pair, I chose the smaller Yamaha HS5 ($400/pair) monitors. The 5” woofer gives a different perspective on the audio during mixdown compared to the Eris. Electronic Musician reviewer Michael Cooper gave the HS5 kudos for “unsurpassed clarity, detail, imaging, and transient response in its price range.”

To further aid in mix referencing, I included a must have plug-in, Sample Magic’s Magic AB ($50.30), which makes it easy to A/B your mix with existing recordings—an important capability, especially in an untreated studio.

Each band member will need headphones for tracking, so I chose four pairs of Audio-Technica ATH-M40fs ($49 each). With its circumaural (over-the-ear) design, the ATHM40fs provides the isolation that the band needs during tracking. One lucky band member will get to use the Shure SRH940 ($299), which is designed for sonic accuracy when mixing. If you’re counting, you noticed that I included five pairs of headphones for a 4-piece band. Having a spare pair is always handy in case one breaks, and it also allows me to add that vocalist, or have a non-band member (friend, producer, etc.) listen in during a tracking session.

To provide the headphone feed, I’ve chosen the ART HeadAmp6Pro ($199), featuring six outputs, balanced main inputs, and separate EQ and level controls on each channel. Because it’s rackmountable and heavy, it is less likely to be pulled over by the headphone cables than a tabletop model, even when it’s not actually rack mounted.

Stands A setup like this is going to need a lot of mic stands. We’ll start with an On-Stage Stands MS7701B Euro Boom Microphone Stand Package ($129), which includes six boom stands. That will take care of the vocal mic, snare mic, two rack tom mics, and two overheads. I added another single MS7701B ($24.95) stand for the floor-tom mic. For the kick and guitar cabinet mics, I included two low-profile boom stands—On-Stage Stands MS7920B Bass Drum/Boom Combo stands ($28.95 each).

We also need monitor stands. I’m assuming that the studio will have a table for the computer, with room for the Yamaha monitors, which will sit on IsoAcoustics ISO-L8R155 ($99.99/pair) stands. These stands offer isolation and adjustable height and angle. The PreSonus monitors, which are larger, will sit on Argosy Classic Speaker Stands ($169), which are floor stands that are 42 inches in height.

Band Studio

MAC SYSTEM
Avid Pro Tools
Apollo Twin Duo
Focusrite Saffire Pro 40
Radial ProDI (x2)
Radial Reamp JCR
Audix FP7 7-piece drum microphone kit
Shure SM57
AKG C-414 XLS
PreSonus Eris E8 (pair)
Yamaha HS5 (pair)
Mackie Big Knob
Sample Magic Magic A/B Software
Audio-Technica ATH-M40fs (x4)
Shure SRH940
Art HeadAmpPro6
Onstage Stands MS7701B Euro Boom microphone stand package
Additional Onstage Stands MS7701B boom stand
On-Stage Stands MS7920B Bass Drum/Boom Combo Mic Stands (x2)
IsoAcoustics ISO-L8R155 Speaker Stand (pair)
Argosy Classic Speaker Stands (pair)
Total $6,218.12Windows System
Avid Pro Tools
Focusrite Saffire Pro 40 (x2)
Metric Halo Production Bundle
Radial ProDI (x2)
Radial Reamp JCR
Audix FP7 7-piece drum microphone kit
Shure SM57
AKG C-414 XLS
PreSonus Eris E8 (pair)
Yamaha HS5 (pair)
Mackie Big Knob
Sample Magic Magic A/B software
Audio-Technica ATH-M40fs (x4)
Shure SRH940
Art HeadAmpPro6
Onstage Stands MS7701B Euro Boom microphone stand package
Additional Onstage Stands MS7701B boom stand
On-Stage Stands MS7920B Bass Drum/Boom combo mic stands (x2)
IsoAcoustics ISO-L8R155 Speaker Stands (pair)
Argosy Classic Speaker Stands (pair)
Total $6,268.11Art HeadAmpPro6UA Apollo Twin DuoRadial ProDIMackie Big KnobAvid Pro ToolsPreSonus Eris E8 (Pair)Yamaha HS5AKG C-414Shure SM57Shure SRH940Audio-Technica ATH-M40fs

Image placeholder title
Image placeholder title
Image placeholder title
Image placeholder title
Image placeholder title
Image placeholder title
Image placeholder title
Image placeholder title
Image placeholder title
Image placeholder title
Image placeholder title

THE DJ/PRODUCER STUDIO

By Markkus Rovito

PRODUCING AND DJing electronic music creates such a beneficial feedback loop that it’s almost loony to only do one or the other. If you make recognizable, dancey jams, someone will book you to DJ whether you can do it well or not. And it’s nearly impossible to reach the next level of DJing without said recognizable dancey jams.

In order to set you up with a killer rig for both producing and performing dance music, I take you down the paths of the two most adopted digital DJ platforms: The Serato path pairs you up with Ableton Live software and gets you ready to step in front of some of the most commonly-seen equipment in big-club DJ booths; the less expensive Native Instruments Traktor path may be better for those of you who will create a personal DJ workflow and are likely to take their own DJ rig with them to gigs.

You can certainly mix and match enticing items from either setup. And depending on your computer, you may need to add a powered USB hub.

THE ABLETON/SERATO PATH

DAW and DJ software The Ableton Live 9 Suite + Push bundle ($1,198) is my choice for the setup. Ableton Live is the most mature, flexible, and powerful software product that combines a full-featured DAW with a platform for structured or spontaneous live performances. The suite includes all of Ableton’s effects and virtual instruments, Max for Live, and a huge 54GB soundware collection.

The suite also includes the Bridge for Serato Scratch Live. With the Bridge, you can load a Live set onto a deck of Scratch Live, as well as record Scratch Live sets straight into Live for editing and post-production.

Serato Scratch Live (normally $499, but included in the price of the Rane mixer below) offers four decks, a sample player, and tempo-synced DJ effects. It has become the favorite of DJs who rely on vinyl and virtual turntable control, and it is the most common in-house software at top clubs.

Audio Interface Rane’s Sixty-Two (2-channel, $1,999) and Sixty-Eight (4-channel, $2,599) are the modern marvels of DJ mixers. Both include Serato Scratch Live and Serato DJ software.

Aside from being top-shelf scratch mixers, they include dedicated controls for the effects, loops, cue points, and track browsing in Serato software, and two USB ports for switching DJs seamlessly. For studio recording, take advantage of their six stereo record channels and four stereo playback channels.

DJ, Pad, and Keyboard Controllers The combination of Serato software with Pioneer CDJ multi-players has become a club favorite for digital DJ booths. Two CDJ-850’s ($1,798), will give you the club-standard Serato control surface, or a pair of CDJ-2000 Nexus ($3,998) units will add large color displays that show Serato’s track info. Both of them playback compressed and uncompressed audio files from CDs or USB sticks and work as an integrated USB HID controller for Scratch Live or as MIDI controllers for other software.

There are many great controllers that integrate with Live 9, but the Ableton Push (normally $599, but included in the DAW bundle above) button-grid controller goes beyond simple clip-launching and beat tapping. Because it can also be used for playing and sequencing melodies and chords, as well as sound design and mixing, it has become an indispensible tool for the studio and stage.

The new Akai MPK261 ($499) keyboard controller features out-of-the-box integration with Ableton Live, providing four banks of MPC-style pads, eight knob/fader/switch strips, and 61 semi-weighted keys with Aftertouch. Included synths and grand piano instruments from Sonivox add more fuel to the fire.

Synths and Effects Let’s supplement Live 9’s instruments and effects with a couple of excellent low-cost plug-in bundles. The Acustica Audio Nebula 3 Pro Bundle ($192) includes more than 400 hardware emulations of preamps, compressors, EQs, filters, reverbs, and time effects. The DiscoDSP Synth Bundle ($275) drops an awesome virtual analog synth (Discovery Pro), PM/FM synth (Phantom), additive synth (Vertigo), and sampler into your plug-in folder.

With its two oscillators, sub-oscillator, and beastly filters, the Novation Bass Station II ($499) hardware, keyboard monosynth emits bowel-shaking rumble, as well as lead tones. Patch memories, extended programmability, an arpeggiator, and USB and MIDI I/O make this an attractive modern monster.

The Rane mixer’s amazing FlexFX section lets you utilize its internal effects, software effects, and an external effects loop all at once. The Pioneer RMX-1000 Remix Station ($799) collates a devastating collection of time-based effects dedicated to the building up and breaking down of energy in a DJ set. It has several types of hands-on control, including a touch-pad, and an included plug-in version offers the same effects for studio use, turning the hardware into a dedicated plug-in controller.

Monitors/Microphone Even when producing bass-heavy club music, transparency is the most important thing you want from your monitors: The Yamaha HS8 ($700/pair) concentrate on just that. The HS8s are active, bi-amped, near-field studio monitors providing 120W per speaker, and they blast out a clear and focused sound that lets you hear every detail. XLR and 1/4" inputs mirror the master and booth outs of the Rane mixers.

For the largely in-the-box production of electronic music, you typically need one good vocal mic, so go with one that can also double for live use during your DJ sets. The Shure SM58S ($104) is the most trusted and the best value for professional studio and live vocals. The SM58S model adds an on/off switch over the regular SM58, which will come in handy while DJing.

THE NATIVE INSTRUMENTS TRAKTOR/MASCHINE PATH

DAW and DJ Software Cockos Reaper ($60 discounted; $225 full commercial license) presents perhaps the greatest value in the world of DAWs. It specializes in efficiency and stability, but gives you a formidable feature set for multitrack recording, audio and MIDI editing, plug-in support, and a well-rounded suite of effects.

Traktor Pro 2 ($99, included in the price of the controllers below) has done the most to transform the way DJs perform, making the loops, triggers, and effects of the software the instruments, rather than turntables. It has the most diverse and flexible effects sections and samplers (called Remix Decks) of any DJ software.

DJ, Pad, and Keyboard Controllers With Native Instruments Maschine MK2 ($499) you get an excellent hardware/software music production system for recording and performance. Maschine is not a complete DAW, but contains its own sequencing, instruments, sounds, and effects, and it works as a standalone or plug-in program. It can also sync to Traktor through virtual MIDI. The monster Maschine Studio ($999) has a deluxe interface, but is much bigger, which is something to consider if you want to use it live.

All about expression, the Korg Taktile-49 ($349) is a 4-octave keyboard controller featuring a Kaossilator x/y pad that is able to generate notes and scales or double as a trackpad mouse. The arpeggiator includes its own rhythm patterns, and the 16 illuminated pads can be used to play chords in the scale of your choice. It also has eight knob/fader/switch strips and semi-weighted keys.

Native Instruments’ two all-in-one Traktor controllers offer the tightest integration with the software on the market, excellent sound quality and output levels, and full licenses for Traktor Pro 2. For 4-channel mixing and more hands-on control, go with the Traktor Kontrol S4 MK2 ($699); the 2-channel Traktor Kontrol S2 MK2 ($449) drops some features but still controls Traktor’s Remix Decks.

Audio Interface Consider this optional. If all you need is vocal recording, you can use the mic input of the Traktor controllers.

However, for more extensive recording of external instruments, the Focusrite Scarlett 18i8 ($349) gives you respected sound and up to 18 inputs, including four mic preamps, in a small package.

Synths and Effects There’s no better way to round out Maschine’s sounds and effects than with Native Instruments Komplete 9 ($499). It includes NI’s flagship products like the Kontakt 5 sampler, Reaktor modular synth, Guitar Rig 5 Pro, Massive, FM8, Absynth, and Battery, as well as many effects and 120GB of samples. For even more of everything—including 370GB of samples, a hard drive, and NI’s best tools for cinematic production—go with Komplete 9 Ultimate ($999).

If you decide on the optional audio interface, breathe a little analog life into your music with the Arturia MicroBrute ($299), a great-sounding mini-synth that you can take with you anywhere. It features a patchable modulation matrix, USB MIDI, and a built-in step sequencer.

Monitors and Microphone For a budget set of monitors, the KRK Rokit 6 G3 ($399/pair) gives you a wide sweet spot, consistent sound at high SPLs, and a balanced sound across the frequency range. In addition to XLR and TRS inputs, the RCA inputs let you use these speakers with the Traktor controller’s booth outputs.

As with the Ableton/Serato path, the Shure SM58S ($104) mic won’t steer you wrong. If you really need to pinch pennies, go for the slightly more consumer-oriented Shure PG58 ($54), which also has an on/off switch.

DJ/Producer Studio

The NI Traktor/Maschine Path (Low End)
Cockos Reaper, discounted license $60
NI Traktor Kontrol S2 MK2/Traktor Pro 2 $449
NI Maschine Mk2 $499
Korg Taktile $349
NI Komplete 9 $499
KRK Rokit Powered 6 G3 x2 $399
Shure PG58 $54
Total $2,309
The NI Traktor/Maschine Path (High End)
Cockos Reaper, commercial license $225
NI Traktor Kontrol S4 MK2/Traktor Pro 2 $699
Focusrite Scarlett 18i8 $349
NI Maschine Studio $999
Korg Taktile $349
NI Komplete 9 Ultimate $999
Arturia MicroBrute $299
KRK Rokit Powered 6 G3 (pair) $399
Shure SM58S $104
Total $4,422
The Ableton/Serato Path (Low End)
Ableton Live 9 Suite and Push bundle $1,198
Pioneer CDJ-850 (pair) $1,798
Rane Sixty-Two/ Serato Scratch Live $1,999
Akai MPK261 $499
Acustica Nebula Pro 3 $192
DiscoDSP Synth Bundle $275
Novation Bass Station II $499
Pioneer RMX-1000 $799
Yamaha HS8 x2 $700
Shure SM58S $104
Total $8,063
The Ableton/Serato Path (High End)
Ableton Live 9 Suite and Push bundle $1,198
Pioneer CDJ-2000 Nexus x2 $3,998
Rane Sixty-Eight/ Serato Scratch Live $2,599
Akai MPK261 $499
Acustica Nebula Pro 3 $192
DiscoDSP Synth Bundle $275
Novation Bass Station II $499
Pioneer RMX-1000 $799
Yamaha HS8 (pair) $700
Shure SM58S $104
Total $10,863
Cockos ReaperNI Traktor Kontrol S2 MK2NI Maschine Mk2Korg TaktileKRK Rokit Powered 6 G3NI Komplete 9Shure PG58, Shure SM58SPioneer CDJ-850Focusrite Scarlett 18i8Acustica Nebula Pro 3Novation Bass Station IIDiscoDSP Synth BundleArturia MicroBruteRane Sixty-EightAbleton Live 9 Suite and PushPioneer RMX-1000Akai MPK261Yamaha HS8Pioneer CDJ-2000 Nexus

Image placeholder title
Image placeholder title
Image placeholder title
Image placeholder title
Image placeholder title
Image placeholder title
Image placeholder title
Image placeholder title
Image placeholder title
Image placeholder title
Image placeholder title
Image placeholder title
Image placeholder title
Image placeholder title
Image placeholder title
Image placeholder title
Image placeholder title
Image placeholder title
Image placeholder title
Image placeholder title
Image placeholder title