So, you want some sexy hardware to get all /prod/ with but you don't want to bankrupt your mama?Edit
Boy oh boy, I got something for you. Here are some of the cheapest hardware you can get. I also recommend buying hardware from garage sales, flea market and used electronic shops as they don't inflate prices as much as eBay users and Amazon.
Brothel's Basement Gear (ultra-budget) Edit
Do you just want to make noise and piss off your neighbours with little-to-no musical results? Of course you do! Look no further than here... Edit
- APC (Atari Punk Console)
- Est. price: $5 (really) - $70
The perfect entry point into synthesiser do-it-yourself (SDIY) projects, the Atari Punk Console is a simple circuit that comes in many different varieties. The easiest DIY version comes in the form of this soldering-free kit (if you're scared of lead fumes and molten metal) and the most Jewish version comes in the form of this pedal-like thing. Be warned, this is probably the most non-musical option on the list, and is probably only good as a replacement voice box for a 1970s electronic blow-up doll.
- KORG monotron
- Est. price: $30-$50
The go-to choice for kids who want to learn what a filter does. Even though the ribbon keyboard is tiny, you can still process audio through its noisy (but oh-so awesome) MS-20 filter. You can also open it up and modify the thing easily, since any points of interest are marked on the circuit board. Go crazy!
- Guitar pedals
- Est. price: variable
You can usually find some decent guitar pedals that sell for $20-$40 each. Behringer is a good example of this, and you can find the average Behringer pedal on Amazon for $25. Good starter pedals include distortion, fuzz, reverb, delay, EQs, phasers, and chourses.
- Feedback loops
- Est. price: variable
WARNING: BE CAREFUL WITH YOUR GEAR WHEN DOING THIS
This isn't "gear" per se but is a popular method of noisy sound generation. It can be as simple as patching a mixer into itself or as complex as doing the same thing with a bunch of guitar stompboxes in series. This can be as expensive as you want it to be; just make sure you don't get lost in buying $15 pedals, frying them, and doing the same thing again.
KEEP IN MIND that this has the potential to damage your gear, your speakers, or worst of all your hearing. Don't patch shit unless you are absolutely certain that you know what you are doing and keep your master output knob within close reach.
New stuff (easier to find) Edit
The following is a list of good pickings from this movement of new synths and drum machines, analog or otherwise. Edit
- KORG monotribe
- Est. price: $150 - $200
This is what's called a "groovebox", meaning that one piece of hardware contains multiple independent sound generation components. This little beauty is both an expansion of their pocket-sized monotron (see above) and their Electribe range (see below). Bear in mind that this thing is missing all sorts of potential without a MIDI modification, which makes this box a stripped down MS-20 with a sequencer!
- KORG M1
- Est. price: 250$ - 300$
This one is one of (if not the most) common synths ever produced. Learning it's synthesis is a pretty hard, but once you get the basics down you're good to go. Although the M1's pads and softer leads are the ones that really shine, you can create almost any sound you want with it. Good fun. It should be noted that a perfect VST version of this synth is available in the KORG Legacy Collection.
- Est. price: 300$ - 400$
The most expensive one on the list, but it's worth it. Get this if you can't afford an MS2000 - they have very similar inner workings. Don't let the small keys and ugly paintjob turn you off. It sounds fantastic and the vocoder is neat too. You can usually find it on Ebay for as low as $150, too.
- KORG Poly800
- Est. price: 180$ - 200$
Nice, swirly sounds - but pain in the fucking ass to program. I mean, seven-segment displays for everything? What's this? 1983? Oh, actually, it was produced in 1983. Jokes aside, you can't really go wrong with this. The programming is tacky, but you can get some really powerful sounds out of it with relative ease.
- Roland D-10/D-20/D-50
- Est. price: 70$ - 200$
These are the GOAT synths, if you want to get utterly confused and frustrated when learning linear aritmetic synthesis. It takes time and dedication to get all of it's quirks down and it pays you back with warm digital goodness. Oh, and don't even set your eyes on the D-70. That's just the bottom-of-the-bin, disgusting U-20 in disguise.
- Roland Alpha Juno
- Est. price: 140$ - 180$
It's the Juno sound for less than half the Juno price. Well, almost. You can't really edit stuff on the fly, but then again if you're producing in your bedroom/basement you don't have to. The programming is pretty neat - it's easy to understand, much more coherent than LAS or PWM and it sounds just like a Juno should. It doesn't matter which model you get. The only difference is that the Alpha Juno 2 has a bigger keyboard with velocity and aftertouch.
- Yamaha DX-7/9/11/27/100
- Est. price: 65$ - 230$
It's motherfucking FM synthesis, son. You can't go wrong with it. Your best bet is still the DX-7 (or any of it's updated versions), but that one tends to be a bit overpriced due to it's name and vendors being good goyims.
- KURZWEIL K1000
- Est. price: 70$ - 100$
This is a really fun synth to mess around with, but without external effects it's not really useful for production. Still, if you can afford and find one, you should get it as it is a really nice, cheap instrument and (with an old computer, some shady 90's software and trickery) you can do some magic with it.
- CASIO CZ-101/1000/2000/5000
- Est. price: 50$ - 175$
The PD synthesis is nothing to fuck with. It's complicated, messy and full of strange calculations. However if you put enough time into it, you might just get some nice crackly percussion bleeps and heavy clicky bell sounds out of it. I can definitely recommend all of these synths - they have beautiful sounds buried deep within those numbers. Also, they're cheaper than most midi controllers on the market and also better built. The CZ-5000 even has a sequencer that sends midi signals!
- Alesis Micron/Ion
- Est. price: 150$ - 600$
Very nice sounding virtual analog synthesizer. Very powerful and feature rich, (comes with things such as FM synthesis, a vocoder, shapable waveforms, formant filters, etc) it combines the control of digital synthesis with a lush pseudo-analog sound. The Micron is a smaller version, where most of programming is done through menu-diving, and 3 knobs on the top of the synth, while the Ion is a more expensive, but larger version where most functions can be accessed through the front panel (though there still is some menu-diving).
- Yamaha AN1x
- Est. price: 250$ - 300$
One of the most highly regarded machines to come out of the original virtual analog era. Modeled after the Prophet 5. Editing is done through a MicroKORG style mod-matrix so might not be the best choice if you want full, hands on control or are new to synthesis.
Drum machines and samplersEdit
- BOSS DR-202
- Est. price: 200$ - 270$
It's the greatest drum machine/sampler you get for the lo-lo. It has all the TR sounds you ever need, editing is pretty easy and it's just a fun machine to play around with.
- BOSS DR-660
- Est. price: 75$ - 130$
This cheap plastic box is a really great addition to anyone's rig. The user interface is super easy, you can handle it with less brain cells than testicles. It is the definitive ghetto house boombox. Simply put, these are the dirtiest 808 sounds you could ever find on a hardware (although some external effects are a really needed to bring the most out of it). The pads transmit MIDI but they're nothing to write home about - other than this you can't go wrong with this, specially for this cheap.
- BOSS SP-303
- Est. price: 250$ - 300$
Behold! Commonly referred to as the cheapo's SP-808, the SP-303 is really great for what it is. Sampling shit never been simpler. You can go all J Dilla with this one, TTP and lupus not included.
- EMU E5000 Ultra/E6400 Ultra
- Est. price: 350$ - 450$
A bit on the expensive end, but a truly great hardware sampler. Pretty hard to use too, since the interface and EOS is severely limited. Also don't try to pick up girls with it. They might think you just stole some poor fella's car stereo.
- KORG Electribe ER-1*
- Est. price: 150$ - 250$
A lot of people hate the ER-1's sound, because it's the furthest thing from 808's and 909's - but that's the charm about it. Everything sounds really metallic and industrial. Editing sequences is pretty easy and it has decent MIDI capabilities.
- KORG Electribe ES-1*
- Est. price: 125$ - 250$
The ES-1 is primarily designed for rhythmic sequencing of percussion samples, but it can also function well melodically if you take the time to manually input changes in sample speed (and thus pitch) through the motion value menu. Samples audio at 16-bit 32khz in both mono and stereo and uses obsolete SmartMedia cards for sample transfer/storage.
*Updated MKII versions are recommended for their stronger build quality and slightly modified feature set compared to the original MKI models.
MIDI toys and other small, plastic twatEdit
- KORG nanoKONTROL
- Est. price: 30$ - 50$
The KORG nano-stuff are generally cheaply built and not recommended, except for this little wonder. It makes fiddling with DAWs a bit more entertaining. And who doesn't need more MIDI knobs and sliders at any given moment anyway?
- Alesis V25
- Est. price: 80$ - 95$
Plastic as all hell, but it's a bit more durable than your average bottom-of-the-bin MIDI keys. It's everything you really need for making stuff - 25 keys, 8 pads, 4 knobs and pitch/mod wheels. Pretty fucking compact too.
- Behringer UMX250/UMX490
- Est. price: 110$ - 140$
Your basic MIDI keys, but these were built to last. I mean it, these are like un-fucking-breakable. Sadly, the Casio CZ series with a MIDI-USB interface are a much better solution - if you can get your hands on one.
Other than these, you really shouldn't spend your hard earned cash on cheap plastic twat aimed at "young, inspiring producers". Just save up your damn money and buy yourself a DX-7.
Microphones/All-in-ones [USB connection] Edit
So you want to record audio. Here are four microphones that won't cost you the price of a mixer. Note that if you don't want to sound like an amateur rapper who just discovered FL Studio, you should look into getting a pop filter. They're cheap and you can even make one yourself. All of these microphones have desk tripod stands. Edit
- ZOOM H1
- Est. price: $75-$120
A field recorder, microphone, audio interface, and media player all-in-one.
- M-Audio Producer USB Microphone
- Est. price: 99$ - 115$
The M-audio producer is a USB microphone that is a great way for anybody interested in vocals or acoustic recording to get a start. The mic has fantastic quality for the price point, and is pretty close to standard lower end non-usb condensers in terms of quality. It comes bundled with a starter version of protools software that is lightweight enough to prevent you from getting overwhelmed, but deep enough to learn a good foundation of digital audio workstations. Great if you're interested in recording but you don't want to break the bank on an audio interface with accessories and expensive software. [Needs to be updated, since ProTools was replaced with Ignite]
- Audio-Technica AT2020USB Microphone
- Est. price: 99$ - 150$
Clear but has some exaggerated low end (bass). Sounds almost on par with the Rode listed below but has a noticeable drop at around 10kHz (high end) compared to the Rode or the Perception 120. If you're doing voice, this shouldn't be a problem but it might cause issues with acoustic guitars because it won't pick up the high end shimmer.
- AKG Perception 120 USB Microphone
- Est. price: 120$ - 200$
Results with this microphone are very varied. It has noticeable background noise but that's probably because this is the loudest microphone out of the ones listed here. This is also the only microphone from the bunch that has 24 bit depth. Includes a -20 dB switch to record loud stuff (amplifiers) and bass roll off to remove hum and such. It needs a lot of EQing compared to the other microphones. However, it picks up a high end details quite well.
- Rode NT-USB Condenser Microphone
- Est. price: 150$ - 230$
Includes a built in pop filter and built in monitoring. It's a very flat/ neutral microphone and doesn't need much EQing. A bit quieter than the AT2020. Of course, it costs much more than the other ones but not by much when you consider the pop filter. The built in monitoring is a great feature, too.
Audio Interfaces Edit
An audio interface is a type of computer audio accessory that allows for interfacing with other input/output hardware such as professional microphones, studio monitors, instruments, outboard FX- among others. Most studio setups will use a type of audio interface. These examples are mobile interfaces, ideal for home studio use or instances where lots of I/O isn't a requirement. Edit
- PreSonus AudioBox USB
- Est. price: 80$ - 100$
Great cheap choice for beginners. It's powered by USB, is very mobile and sturdy. It's for the traveling producer or clumsy, It only includes two inputs. There's one for instruments and one for microphones. Ironically, some laptops have issues with this interface due to grounding. For example, it might produce a hum if the laptop is charging. The bigger issues are that you can't plug in a guitar with high output pickups, use quiet microphones which need more than 35 dBs of gain. Also, if your headphones have 100+ ohms, they will be extremely quiet. Comes with PreSonus Studio One Artist, which is like ProTools and Logic mixed together. Sadly, you can't add your own VSTs but you have infinite tracks.
- M-Audio M-Track Plus
- Est. price: 110$ - 200$
Do you like inputs? This thing has inputs, and knobs, and shit. It's also USB powered. It has switches to change the inputs from microphone impedance to guitar impedance. Also comes with Avid Pro Tools Express along with Ignite.
- Focusrite Scarlett 2i2
- Est. price: 110$ - 200$
Simple setup similar to the AudioBox but has better preamps, in my opinion. It looks a bit cheaper but believe it or not, has much better performance.
- Steinberg UR22
- Est. price: 150$ - 220$
This is Steinberg's (the creator of Cubase and VST) first line up in the mobile audio interface market. It's a 2x I/O USB 2.0 audio interface featuring two of Yamaha's patented D-Pre preamps and up to 192kHz support. The unit is bus-powered only and features 2x MIDI I/O on the rear for connectivity with midi-based equipment. For the price, it cannot be beat. Ideal if you're looking for a good all-rounder that will last on the road.