5 Favorite Studio Tools

“You make your mistakes to learn how to get to the good stuff.” Quincy Jones

Our mini guide to music production essentials:  It’s easy enough to set up a home recording studio today, but even though it’s easy, many people don’t know where to start. Here you can find out what our studio essentials are.

1. Steinberg Cubase

Today, Ableton Live seems to be the most popular DAW for music production.  We started with Emagic Logic Audio and switched to Cubase when Emagic became a part of the Apple Company. Cubase has a very convincing audio processing quality and some interesting VST instruments such as the Retrologue virtual-analog synthesizer and the “Akai MPC-style” Groove Agent SE drum machine. Over the years, Cubase has been equipped with some professional sound processors and enhanced mixing options. A further advantage is that you can use a vast quantity of free and commercial VST plugins with it.

2. Propellerhead Reason

Introduced as a software replacement for hardware studios, Propellerhead Reason has evolved with synthesizers, drum machine, loop player, fx processors, and extensive mixing options.  We especially like its RedrumRoland TR-style” Drum Computer and the Dr. Rex Loop Player.  As Reason lacks some important MIDI sequencing and audio editing features but offers very inspiring sound generators, we use it with Cubase via the Rewire connection.

Reason Redrum Drum Machine

Get into the loop: The Redrum “Roland TR-style” Drum Machine with pattern sequencer

3. Yamaha Reface DX

The Yamaha DX7 synthesizer defined the pop music sound of the ’80s.  The Reface DX revives its iconic FM synthesis, along with a host of modern features like onboard effects and straightforward editing. Whether you need classic DX piano, percussive FM bass or EDM sounds for your music production, this gadget synth has got you covered. The Reface DX sports velocity-sensitive mini keys, the option to run on batteries, and built-in speakers, making it ultra-portable. We use it together with the Yamaha sustain foot switch FC5 and share our sounds via Soundmondo. If you want to import classic 4-operator FM SysEx files of the DX21, DX100, or TX81Z, please check out the Reface DX Legacy Project.

4. Mackie 1202 VLZ-3

The 1202-VLZ3 is a classic mixer for home and project studio music production. Mackie’s original 1202 mixer, introduced in 1992, was one of the key products that set the company on the road to success. While its mic inputs are exceptionally clean and quiet, we use it especially to connect synthesizers, keyboards, and guitars to our audio interface. This mixer has been a compact, flexible, and solid solution since many years now.

5. Yamaha NS-10M Studio

The Yamaha NS-10M Studio reference monitor speakers are widely popular amongst audio professionals, and are notorious for their very flat frequency response. The best music production studios around the world adopted these speakers as the standard, because: “If you can make the mix sound good on the NS-10M, it will sound great on everything.” We have had them for a very long time and it is really hard to switch to other (even much better) loudspeaker systems when you are familiar with the specific characteristic of the NS-10M.

DAWs, audio editors, and synthesizers: Find free music production software here!