Tag Archives: gear

2012 Christmas Buyers Guide

I don’t think I did one last year, but this year I think I am. So…..you have a saxophonist that you want to get a little holiday gift for huh? Well, here are some ideas.

Band-in-a-Box – Though they have different versions of this program, you need the version with the Real Tracks. Period. This is an essential practice tool. Always at the top of my list.

iPad – Yes, there are other knock off tables. But with the huge, rich, totally awesome App eco-system Apple has, why mess around? ForScore is my App of choice for storing and reading PDFs, with GoodReader a close second. Plus, add programs like Garageband on……there is so much you can do with this device.

iPod Touch – This little device is awesome. You can record stuff on the fly. Or perhaps take a picture of some chord changes you need to work on? Or maybe listen to some tunes? The iPod Touch is great. Use it as a tuner, a metronome, a camera……so many uses. I find I use mine (well, the iPhone version of it) for tuning, or snapping a shot of a chart I need to shed, or doing a spot recording

Just Joe Strap – There was some make believe controversy about this strap, but it is still hands down the best neck strap I have ever played. Comfortable. Well worth investing in.

Ultimate Support JS-DS100 Jamstands Double Sax Stand – Everyone needs a stand, and the Woodwind & Brasswind has these for $4.99 with FREE Shipping. How insane is that. I have another one of these on order just because it was so cheap!

Dayton Audio Sub-800 Subwoofer ($79) – Add some bottom to your sound. This is a great little subwoofer.

Logic 9 or Reaper – Reaper is a great, almost free program that does a LOT. Logic is a battle tested Pro Audio program that many musicians have done whole albums with. Logic also comes bundled with a TON of Loops and plugins. Either will get you making music.

Mighty Bright Orchestra Light($40) – The best stand light. Hands down. Includes some batteries, a case, and an AC Adapter.

Pelican Cases – I am not happy with my current case, a SBK tenor case. For Alto, I use a Selmer Tripack case. Not really happy with that either. When I came across Battle Cases, I know what I want for my next case. At least for Alto. After seeing Battle Cases, I think a 1650 case modded to hold a curved soprano, alto, clarinet, flute, piccolo and oboe would be awesome. Sadly, since Battle Cases wants $150 to set up each instrument in the case, I probably would do this myself. I suppose another option is something like a Walt Johnson case.

Microphone – Recording yourself is a great way to refine your art. You can’t go wrong with a Shure SM57, or if you have some more money to spend, a Rode M3 or Rode NT1A or a Blue Spark (Engadget Review). These are just starting points. There are plenty of other microphones out there.

Portable Recorder – I myself have an OLD Marantz compact flash recording device. Old, I mean probably 8 years old now? There are a LOT of portable recorders on the market now. Though everyone and their mom swears by the Zoom Recorders, I have never heard anything recorded on them that sounds good. The microphones are really not very good. That being said, a flash recorder that does 24bit and 48khz or above that has XLR inputs would be ideal. Something like the Tascam DR100 MKII

The Ultimate Case

I think I have seen the best case ever.

And David Freeman has a modified one for EWI. Awesome.

I’d love to have a one of these that fit Alto, flute, piccolo, clarinet, curved soprano, and oboe. Or one that was just for curved soprano, flute, piccolo, clarinet and oboe. It would be great if they had build your own case combinations.

UPDATE: I inquired about getting a case for alto, flute, curved soprano, clarinet and piccolo. Sadly, they do not have such a combination. To get such a case made, it would be $150 per additional instrument. So an extra $450 on top of the $450. Plus shipping. Plus tax. Ouch. considering the cases only cost $250 apiece…..that is a lot. It looks like a great case, but…..that is a lot of money for a case.

Two iPad Goodies

There are a lot of accessories out for the iPad that a musician can use. Two that have caught my attention. The Digitech iPB-10 which slashgear had a review of

This week the the DigiTech iPB-10 has been revealed, a digital pedalboard which will allow your iPad to play host to several music pedals at once. Inside with your iPad running the official app for this device as its plugged into the device itself, you’ll have access to 87 different pedals, 54 amplifiers, and 26 cabinets, all at a flick of your finger. What more could you want? And don’t say a DJ station, because that’s separate, and we’ve done that before as well — read on for guitar iPad action!


This thing sounds awesome if you are a guitar player or a EWI effects addict (raises hand meekly). Except…..$499. Though it sounds like it works without the iPad in it, so, you could have presets all ready and not have to put the iPad in there. This thing also has it’s own DSP chips so the quality of sound and perhaps latency might be better. But still…..maybe $299 would be a better price point?


The second piece of gear is the Alesis iO Dock. This thing is $199, and has phantom powered mic inputs, quarter inch outputs, pedal input, headphones. And it works with Garageband, so you can record or whatever you want on it. This sounds amazing and is on my Christmas list this year. XLR inputs means you should be able to hook your sax up and start using effects with this baby.

By the way, Garageband is a MUST HAVE iPhone/iPad/iTouch app. It works on all three now. $5.

Uniquesquared.com had an excellent review of it using Garageband.

So You Wanna Record A Big Band — Redux

Back in October 2008 I did a post that estimated the cost of getting all the gear to have a recording rig for your big band. Now, lets take a look at if things have changed.

The original post I went with an Alesis HD24 which was $1600 then. Its the same price now. For preamps, I went with the PreSonus’s DigiMax D8 which were going for $450. Now they go for about $400. We need three of these to give us 24 tracks. For mics, I had two options. Option one was 13 Shure 57s with stands and cables. Then they were $124 each. Now they are $109. Lets keep it simple and stick with that option.

Case for the PreSonus preamps and the Alesis. Its still about the same, $200. And we will keep the same snakes, which are still the same price. We need three of them. $200 each.

Running total now is $5017. Before it was $5412. The only real price difference was the DigiMax D8s and the Shure Mics. We still need to add in drum set mics which haven’t changed in price ($400), and two Rode NT4s, one for the drum overhead and one for acoustic piano. They haven’t changed in price. $530 each. And two SKB mic cases, which haven’t changed in price either. $150 each. And you need a vocalist mic, a Shure 58, which is $99, was $109.

Final total…..$6876. A year and a half ago, it was $7277. The single biggest cost are the microphones. I went the Shure 57 route due to cost and their reliability, but there are alternatives out there that are cheaper. And there are alternatives that are more expensive. If money was NO OPTION, I would probably replace the 13 mics used for the horns with Sennheiser 421s. However, at $299 not including stand and cable, replacing the Shure 57s with these would about $3887 and that is NOT including cables and stands. However, the microphones are really THE thing to spend money on.

So, it is slightly cheaper to get the gear. This is for all new stuff too. If you are internet savvy, you could probably score most all of the gear off Ebay or Craigslist or you could get the scratch and dent deals or open boxed ones. This could lower the costs by hundreds of dollars.

So You Wanna Record A Big Band…..

So, I’ve been working on this CD for a big band I play in. I have no idea how much it cost to get the person to record it, multitrack, and a couple of sessions. I’m thinking at least $6,000….if not more. So, say you have ProTools (or something similar) that can handle 30 tracks of audio. How much would it cost to get the equipment to do it yourself…..let’s figure it out……
Continue reading So You Wanna Record A Big Band…..

Samson Q1U USB Mic

I just picked up a Samson Q1U for a student as a going away present. He wants to do some webcam lessons or something (we’ll see how that goes…….yeah). Anyhow, there are a number of USB microphones out, or adapters for Microphones to USB. The Samson was a well under $100 mic that includes a little stand as well (I think I paid like $65 or something).

For the money, this mic is great. It sounds good, and it is stupidly simple to set up. On a Mac, you plug it in, and it shows up right away. You simply select it as the input, and off you go. It can be used in Amadeus, or whatever your recording program is. There is a noticeable latency though when you record.

I really didn’t do that sort of testing with the mic, I just simply plugged it in, and did some sound quality/tone tests with it (as it was a gift and I had to wrap it up and give it the next day). It really sounds great. Like a Shure 58, but not quite. Sounded pretty close to my Shure 58 that I have (keeping it fair, just recording the 58 in 48K, 16 bit). Maybe closer in sound to their Performance Gear 58, though I’ve never seen one of these in the wild. The frequency response graph for the Samson looks better (ie more flat, which is a good thing).

Verdict: For $65, this is a great mic. Sounds great. Simple to use. Comes with Cakewalk for you Windoze people. Brainless setup on the Mac side (plug it in, and it shows up). If you can deal with the latency (or not have to hear yourself while recording), then this mic would be ideal for someone wanting to record but not wanting to spend hundreds of bucks on an interface, mics, and cables. 9 out of 10.

AKG C214

AKG has a new mic out, the AKG C214. From the press release:

Based on one of the most successful studio mics released by AKG, the C 414 model, and using all the feedback that during 30 years they have received from its users (maybe they could release a new version earlier, but…), AKG has released the C 214 Condenser Recording Mic, that includes some of the features of the models which is based on and some improvements that does not make it a expensive mic affordable only for big studios.

The AKG C 214 Recording Mic is a single capsule model that features cardioid polar pattern, 20 Hz to 20 kHz frequency response, from 12 to 52V phantom power, 1” edge-terminated large diaphragm, ultra low noise circuit (that includes a suspension to reduce the mechanical noise), rugged double mesh grill (to protect it from high radio-frequency signals), switchable bass cut filter, switchable pre-attenuation pad (up to -20 dB) and 3-pin XLR output.

This mic is specially good for vocals and miking instruments or amps, both in stage and studio, and comes with a shock mount and a carrying case. The AKG C 214 Recording Mic will be available after the AES show and its price will be $600.

I have two C414s (a ULS and an EB…..don’t ask why I need two, I just DO….or think I do). Honestly, I can’t think of the last time when I put them OUT of cardioid pattern.

NAMM Show 2008

The NAMM show kicked off the other day. So far, I haven’t seen anything that pops out “Whoa, that’s neat” to me. Some interesting things are:

I haven’t seen anything saxophonish yet……..

Xmas Guide 2007

Last year, I didn’t do a Christmas guide. This year, I am going to. What holiday gift would you get your favorite saxophonist(s) this year. Here are some ideas.
Under $100

  • Reeds. Pretty obvious. Should be fairly easy to figure out what they use as well. There will be dead ones in the trash, and ones that are not working strewn all over the place. Cost: $20-$40.
  • Neckstrap. Can never have too many of these. Buggers get misplaced quite a bit. Cost: $10-$40+
  • Books. Walt Weiskopf’s books are always good gifts. As well as Greg Fishman’s books. And Jim Snidero’s books or any book with a recommended tag.
  • Mouthpiece. Probably not the best idea for someone who has been playing for a while. For a new saxophone player, it would be a good thing to get. Good brands to look into would be Meyer, Otto Link, and Berg Larsen. For Alto saxophone, a Meyer 5M is a good gift. For Tenor, an Otto Link 5* is good. (Though unless you get some of these off Ebay, some of these will be over $100. Though Meyer alto mouthpieces go for at $70)
  • CDs. There are so many good artists out there, and people’s taste range widely. I’d suggest getting an iTunes gift card, or a gift certificate to a store and let them pick what they want. Unless you know them well or you can steal a peek at their collection, or load up their iTunes while they are away and see what gets played alot.
  • iLife 08 for Garageband if you don’t already have it. (for Macintosh people) and/or JamPacks.

Up to $300

  • iPod Nano, or an iPod Touch. Don’t bother with some other brands. Believe the hype. The iPod Touch is amazing, and next year, expect games and all kinds of interesting applications. There is a great little game (on your hacked iPhone/iPod touch) called Tap-Tap-Revolution. Music game. Think Dance-Dance revolution, but tapping. I’d expect to see lots of neat applications for it next year.
  • Band in a Box 2007 Pro. Great tool for practicing, ear training, etc. etc.
  • Apple Logic Express. Like Garageband, but way better. ($199)
  • A recorder. The Zoom H2 and H4 recorders get good marks. I’d personally opt for the H4, but that is me.

The Sky Is The Limit

  • Logic Studio is a great deal for serious Musicians. You get 5 JamPacks plus Logic 8 and Soundtrack Pro plus all kinds of other goodies. ($499)
  • Reason. Reason works on both Macs and PCs and is a blast to use. ($399)
  • M-Audio Fast Track Ultra. Great preamps, DSP chip. For a street price of about $350. It’s on my list.
  • Sibelius 5.1. To write out and arrange music. ($499)
  • New horn, or another horn. If your saxophonist plays Alto, get them a Tenor. If they already have a Tenor, get them a soprano. Expensive, yes. Will you feel the love? Yes, you will. This will cost you several hundred, if not thousands, of dollars. Quality brands to look into getting are Yamaha, Yanigasawa, and Selmer for pro and semi-pro players.

Any other gift ideas?

First Wave Of New Audio Interfaces

Gotta love technology. M-Audio has introduced a new USB2 audio/midi interface. 4 really excellent microphone preamps, and DSP (for near zero latency mixes/monitoring). List price, $450, but the street price is quite a bit less.

UPDATE 11/28 by E: After checking the Mic preamp specs, and that of the Project Mix I/O, the Mic preamps on this new box are a lot better. After doing some recordings with the Project Mix I/O at 96Khz, I thought the preamps were amazing……..so this little box might be capable of some even more amazing recordings.

M-Audio Project Mix I/O First Impressions

I have been setting up all this new gear, and I finally got a chance to play with the Project Mix I/O a little. All I have to say is, whoa. Fun, cool, Rad (can we still use that word?). I mean, motorized faders……so much fun. I haven’t used it in Protools yet, but in Digital Performer it is great. I have my analogue modules coming in on channels 7 & 8, and the GPO stuff on 5 & 6. Though, coming from the PC, 5 & 6 are noisy. I’m thinking about moving that to a SPDIF input…..more soon.
Continue reading M-Audio Project Mix I/O First Impressions