Sometimes it’s the little things in life that count
While we spend a lot of time and money maximizing the high-profile parts of our rig—amplifiers, microphones, monitors, preamps, compressors, interfaces—we don’t always pay enough attention to all the stuff that goes in between. Stands, cables, and other accessories can easily be the weak link in your system if you’re not paying close attention. Do you really want to connect your classic mic and vintage preamp using a $10 cable?
This month, we focus on a range of accessories for studio and stage that are designed to improve sound quality and workflow without emptying your wallet—from smartphone and tablet stands to gadgets that make recording more convenient. (Prices given are MSRP unless otherwise noted.)
AirTurn Manos Mount
AirTurn offers a variety of products aimed at musicians who use mobile devices. One of the newest is Manos Mount, a universal stand-mounting system that was designed to mimic the way your hand grips objects between the thumb and fingers. As a result, the Manos Mount can hold anything from a smartphone to a 13-inch tablet.
Manos Mount attaches to the top of a mic stand. The two arms have grips at either end that you open by squeezing their outer edges. Once you’ve clamped your device in place, tighten the side-screws on the arms to secure it. Your screen can be rotated 360 degrees, letting you use your screen in landscape or portrait view. In addition, the mount can be tilted back to make the screen easier to read whether you’re sitting or standing.
AirTurn also offers Bluetooth-enabled wireless, digital page-turning devices so that musicians can keep their hands on their instruments while reading scores. Because drummers also use their feet when playing, the company created AirTurn Tap, a special pad-based interface that reacts to being struck lightly by fingers or sticks.
The pads, which utilize piezo sensors, can be used to turn pages in either direction, start and stop a metronome, or trigger sound files, among other things. Tap’s Bluetooth system is based around the company’s BT-105 tranceiver, the same device used in its pedal-activated systems.
Short for “professional gobo,” the ProGo-26 is a lightweight and portable two-sided absorber panel that can be used to control reflections, alter room ambience, or increase isolation between instruments when recording. Measuring 2'x6'x8", the panel has a fabric cover that is available in 12 colors and a base laminated with Melamine that can be fitted with casters.
If you need something that covers a greater horizontal area, Auralex offers the ProGo-44 ($789), a 4'x4'x8" panel that can also be fitted with casters.
$299 per pair
For even greater portability, the Auralex ProMax provides a pair of 2'x4'x3" panels made from the company’s proprietary Studiofoam material. Designed to be easily stand-mounted and placed anywhere, the ProMax panels have an absorptive side and a more reflective, cloth-wrapped side that provides another option when treating room ambience.
If you want to improve low- and midrange definition, as well as the imaging you get from your close-field monitors, you need to decouple them from the surface on which they’re placed. The ProPad is Auralex’s top-of-the- line speaker isolation product for monitors with woofers up to 8".
Available in pairs, the ProPad’s design incorporates three layers of material. The base is made from a 0.75" layer of Melamine-wrapped MDF, which is coated with a thick covering of IsoPuck, Auralex’s proprietary isolation material created from recycled rubber. Next, an 0.38" ISO-Plate provides a slip-resistant area to place your speakers. The included foam wedges sit under the ProPad and allow you to position your monitors flat or at an angle.
Auralex also offers the ProPad XL ($299/ pair street), which is designed for larger, twin-woofer monitors, or when you want to lay your speakers horizontally.
ClearSonic SKT3 Sorber Kick Tunnel
It’s not uncommon for engineers to build a cave around a bass drum and its mic in order to reduce cymbal and tom bleed while attempting to capture the full low-end frequencies of the kick. The Kick Tunnel provides an elegant and appropriately tuned solution that is designed to reduce upper and mid frequencies while reducing bleed from external sound sources.
The Kick Tunnel uses four ClearSonic Sorber panels, made with 1.5" compressed Fiberglas. You get three S3 panels (33"x22" each) and one S2 panel (24"x22"), which are connected with the included Velcro straps. The Sorber panels are available in light or dark gray. (The Kick Tunnel is semitransparent in the photo to show typical mic placement.)
ClearSonic AmpPac 10
A number of amplifier enclosures for concert and studio work are available from ClearSonic. The AmpPac 10, for example, is designed for small combo amps and speaker cabs (such as a 1"x10" or 1"x12"). The pair of included S2 Sorber panels (24"x22") are intended to sit behind the amp cabinet, while an A2-4 amp shield is positioned in front of the speaker to provide a significant reduction in volume outside the enclosure.
For greater sound isolation, the AmpPac 11 ($324) adds an S3 Sorber panel, which is intended to be placed on the top of the enclosure.
Goby Tablet Frame Thingy Deluxe
Goby has upgraded its Tablet Frame Thingy to the Deluxe level, providing new clips designed to hold Apple iPads from the second-generation version on up to the iPad Mini. The device mounts to a mic stand using the closed-loop pole grip.
Tablet Frame Thingy Deluxe also comes with a base that allows you to place the tablet on any stable, flat surface.
Hosa USB-300 SuperSpeed USB 3.0 cables
Hosa’s SuperSpeed cables were developed specifically with USB 3.0 spec compliance in mind and are able to handle transfer rates up to 5 Gbps. Available in lengths of 3', 6', and 15', the nickel-plated plugs have an aluminummylar shield designed to reduce EMI and RFI, which is of particular importance when the cables are used for audio applications.
The SuperSpeed cables are available with Type B or Micro-B connections on one end, making them compatible with computers as well as portable and consumer devices.
Hosa Edge Series Cables
Hosa’s flagship line of guitar, mic, and speaker cables use oxygen-free copper (OFC) conductors throughout and are finished off with high-quality Neutrik connectors. The Edge Series mic cables ($45–$145) feature Neutrik’s XX-series connectors, which have corrosion-resistant gold-plated contacts and zinc die-cast housing. Similarly, the Edge Series guitar cables ($46–$81) have X-series plugs with 1-piece, gold-plated contacts and die-cast zinc housing. Both lines contain 20 AWG OFC conductors with a 95-percent OFC braided shield. The Edge Series speaker cables ($37–$232) feature 1-piece contacts and use 12 AWG OFC conductors.
All this attention to detail means that Edge Series cables are designed to provide minimal signal loss thanks to the reduced capacitance and resistance of the materials that Hosa chose for these designs.
Planet Waves Modular Snake System
Cable snakes with a DB-25 connector on one end provide a great deal of efficiency in the studio. But with so many connector types used in audio gear, covering all of your cabling options on the other end of the snake can become very expensive.
The Planet Waves Modular Snake System was designed to provide cost-effective wiring options by letting you connect a Core Cable, which has a D-sub on both sides, to interchangeable breakout cables with different connector configurations on the other side. That means you can leave one end of the Core Cable plugged into the hardware unit, so you don’t have to crawl behind racks of gear to reconfigure your studio.
The Core Cables are available in 5', 10', and 25' lengths. The breakout connectors have a D-Sub on one end and a pigtail of TRS, XLR (male, female, digital AES/EBU), or Bantam/TT on the other. If you want to configure your own pigtail with a custom set of jacks, Planet Wave offers a breakout cable without connectors, allowing you to solder on the ones that fit your personal studio needs.
Primacoustic makes a full range of acoustic isolation tools. Among the most handy are the remarkably affordable IsoTools, each of which is designed for a specific application. For example, VoxGuard ($120) is a lightweight and portable acoustic screen meant to mitigate room tone when vocal recording, whether you’re capturing singing or dialog. The ABS plastic shell is lined with 1"-thick high-density, open-cell acoustic foam. The included adapter attaches the unit to a standard mic stand without much effort. Primacoustic also makes a freestanding desktop version, called the VoxGuard DT ($69), which is geared toward podcasting and informal recording situations.
A larger, more permanent system for isolating a vocal mic from surrounding ambient sound is the FlexiBooth ($449), which is designed to be surface-mounted on a wall. You can tailor the amount of room tone you capture by varying the degree to which you open the doors, and by the placement of the vocalist and mic. When the doors are closed, the cabinet size is 2'x4'. The enclosure is made with Melamine-covered MDF wood-composite. Inside, the doors are covered with 1"-thick absorptive panels, and a 2"-thick, fabric-wrapped Fiberglas panel is in the center. The panels are available in gray or beige.
Engineers who record drums will appreciate the Primacoustic CrashGuard, specifically designed to shield microphones from errant drumsticks as well as reduce bleed from nearby instruments such as cymbals. The CrashGuard is made from ABS plastic, lined with a high-density acoustic foam, and available in a standard 7" model ($40) that covers a wide variety of instrument mics. The CrashGuard 421 ($55) is 8.5" long and built to protect Sennheiser MD 421 large-element dynamic mics.
The KickStand ($90) decouples a microphone and boom arm from resonance traveling through the floor or drum riser. The mic boom attaches to a steel plate that is separated from the floor by a slab of high-density, open-cell acoustic foam. Additionally, the KickStand’s low profile makes it a practical device for close-miking amplifiers, cello, and acoustic bass.
Primacoustic also offers a sound-isolation solution for the traditional tripod mic stand. The Tripad ($25) is a set of three acoustic-foam isolation disks, each of which has a beveled notch cut into it that attaches easily to the leg of the tripod. The pads come in a handy tube that provides protection when you store them between sessions.
Radial Twinline Dual Effects Router
In terms of innovative accessories for every musical occasion, Radial Engineering ranks at the top of the charts. Take, for example, the Twinline Dual Effects Router, which allows the rear-panel effects loops from a pair of amplifier heads to share the same pedalboard. You can then switch between each amp’s effects loop using the front-panel button, or Radial’s JR2 remote control. The latter gives you the option of not only switching between amps but bypassing the effects loop, as well.
Each amp is connected to the corresponding channel of the Twinline using 1/4" send and receive jacks. Each send and receive input has its own level control, and each channel has a polarity switch. Ground-lift switches are also provided. The pedalboard is connected to the remaining send and receive jacks, using either 1/4" or XLR cables.
The Twinline is housed in 14-gauge steel, with a nonslip pad stuck to the bottom. The unit is powered by a 15VDC supply.
Radial SB-7 EarMuff
The StageBug series provides a host of convenient and inexpensive solutions for studio and concert work, and the EarMuff is the perfect example. It simply mutes one side of a pair of stereo headphones so that, when a singer removes one earcup to hear herself in the room, that dangling speaker won’t spill music into the open microphone.
The EarMuff includes pro-level features, such as a passive design (doesn’t require external power), a mono summing switch, a mute button, and both 1/4" and 3.5mm stereo outputs. It even comes with a 3-year transferable warranty.
Radial SB-48 Power Bar
You know that sinking feeling when you have more condenser mics than phantom-powered inputs on your board? That’s when you’ll want this Power Bar to give you an extra boost. This simple little box provides two channels of +48VDC phantom power when you connect its external power supply to your AC power mains. And onboard LED lets you know when it’s on.
The Power Bar can also be switched to provide +12VDC to products that require less power. The SB-48 is housed in 16-guage steel and includes a 3-year transferable warranty.
Radial SB15 Tailbone
And while we’re on the subject of power, the new Tailbone is designed to provide the power required by Radial’s tubeless Tonebone pedals when they’re used with third-party pedalboard power supplies that only offer -9VDC outputs.
Tailbone accepts two -9VDC inputs and yields a +15VDC power source for the Tonebone. The unit is encased in lightweight aluminum, so it won’t further weigh down your rig. And, yes, the 3-year transferable warranty is included.
Rock-N-Roller Multi-Cart R16
Whether you are gigging or loading in and out of a studio, a sturdy cart is essential when it’s time to schlepp heavy gear such as amps, keyboards, and drum cases from the back of your van. Although similar in looks to the popular R10, the R16 has a beefier frame, boasting a 25-percent increase in the diameter of the tubing in the parts of the frame where it’s needed most for structural integrity: The frame bed has 1.25" tubing, while the foldable handles are 1" in diameter and extend to 52" in length. That allows this cart to carry up to 600 lbs. of vintage keyboards, amplifier stacks, or hard-shell drum cases.
The length of the cart is 34" when fully retracted, and it weighs 33 lbs. on its own. In addition, the company increased the size of the casters by 200 percent, which they say allows the R16 to cross a wider variety of surfaces, including gravel, sand, soft dirt, and grass—that’s something to keep in mind when you’re hitting the summer festival circuit.
Roland NE-1 and NE-10 Noise Eaters for V-Drums
$29.99 and $139 street
One of the advantages of using electronic drums, and mesh-headed V-Drums in particular, is that they’re not as loud as real drums, making practice time less intrusive on the neighbors. But even with the most quiet pads, stand-borne vibration can still be transmitted through the floor and into other rooms.
To battle this problem, Roland has developed its Noise Eater line of products to acoustically isolate V-Drum pedals and stands from the floor. The NE-10 is a sound-isolation board, with dome-shaped rubber nubs underneath, designed to sit below a kick-drum pedal or hi-hat pedal. The NE-1 is a small disk that you place under the legs of the hi-hat stand.
Although these products raise the instruments slightly, they are designed to be transparent, both in sound transmission and feel for the player. The company claims that these isolators reduce noise transmission by a whopping 75 percent. Not bad, considering that the V-Drums are fairly quiet already.
Technical editor Gino Robair just loves to accessorize.