1. Korg Nanokontrol 2
Alright, first up let’s get control of your DAW’s mixer. There are tons of great controllers out there but this one is super inexpensive, extremely portable, and just works. This is the Korg Nanokontrol 2. The form factor of this little controller is awesome the Korg Nanokontrol 2 has been out for a long time, but it doesn’t mean it doesn’t work. If you need something super portable and inexpensive this thing is great.
You can typically find this for under $65, but check out the used market too. The knobs and faders can be used to do just about everything, volume, pan, solo, mute, record. it’s great hands-on control when recording automation in your DAW. you also have transport controls for play, stop, and record, and track select buttons.
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Best of all the Korg Nanokontrol provides out-of-the-box control of DAW functions for Logic and GarageBand. But if you use another DAW, you can easily assign control parameters. it’s just standard MIDI. The Korg Nanokontrol 2 has an editor software to customize your controls. you can make it do whatever you want. It works over USB and you can use this with your iOS apps. The Korg Nanokontrol comes in black like this one or white. I think the best feature of this thing is the faders, I mean you can control multiple faders with one hand.
2. Arturia Beatstep
Alright, If you are a beatmaker and want to up your beat making skills, the Arturia Beatstep is next. This controller retails for much more, but I frequently find deals that put it below $80. You’ve probably heard of the Arturia Beatstep before, it’s been out for a long time just like the Korg Nanokontrol but don’t ignore it. This is a great device to get if you want some DAW control and a sequencer for your external drum machines or synths. It even controls the Ableton clip triggering.
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Best of all, This thing feels so high-quality. I see it on Amazon frequently for under $80 and on eBay for under $60 in excellent condition. For that price, You get a lot. you can connect it to your computer by USB or your hardware synth by MIDI or CV. The pads feel really good. They are velocity and pressure-sensitive. The knobs are great quality and they are endless which is really nice but I do find that you have to turn them a lot to get some movement in your software.
For hardware synths, you can create sequences and adjust pitch and speed. Now, if you really want keys you’ll get similar sequencer features with the Arturia Key step which I love but that one is more expensive. If you just need some inexpensive pads with some sequencing features the Beatstep is a great deal.
3. Knox Adjustable Isolation Shield
If you record live vocals, I’ve got two mic accessories that you need to get right away. These make a huge difference when recording vocals, acoustic guitar, anything with your microphone and you can get them both for under $60. You can record my vocals at home and if your room isn’t acoustically treated then you have to buy it.
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So to improve my mic recordings I got this shield for a steal. This one is the Knox Adjustable Isolation Shield. It’s really small and pretty light so you can mount it on a floor-standing mic stand or a mic arm. Depending on your mic the whole thing might get a bit heavy, but hey for the price it works. It feels well built and comes with all the hardware you need to set it up. The panels are foldable so you can reduce the space it takes when you’re not using it.
4. Pemotech Pop Filter
The next inexpensive piece of gear is Pemotech Pop Filter. I was looking for something light and small to use as a pop filter. Those gooseneck filters are great but they’re bulky and are hard to position, especially if you keep moving around your mic like when you’re using the mic arm. This Pemotech Pop Filter has rubber straps that hug your mic gently. The pop filter sits very well on the mic and has a metal layer and a foam layer to stop those plosive sounds. It fits well on most condenser microphones.
5. Pocket Operator PO-16 and PO-12
Next on my list are Pocket Operators from Teenage Engineering these are the PO-12 which is a drum machine and the PO-16 which is a lead synthesizer. Both are incredibly fun to use. They have onboard sounds that are surprisingly good quality. They have a 16 step sequencer and 16 customizable patterns. 16 sounds don’t seem like a lot but when you consider that you can tweak the sounds yourself. yes, sound design in these small things you actually get a good variety of sounds.
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When you start sequencing and creating patterns the fun really kicked in. You can even chain patterns together to create a song and add built-in effects, it’s pretty incredible. Now, I think these are more for fun or creating unusual beats and tunes. You may not end up creating the next Spotify hit song on these. and don’t forget you can do a lot with your mobile phone apps these days. But I was still very impressed by how musical and intuitive the Pocket Operators are.
6. Arturia Microlab
Lastly, I’ve got a great quality keyboard. This is a great keyboard if you’re a guitarist or not primarily a keyboardist. But the best part of this keyboard is that you get some excellent software with it, One of my favorite bundles. It’s enough to keep you creating for a while. I put the Arturia Microlab on this list for two main reasons. First, it has excellent mini keys that are my favorite among all mini keyboards. It’s the same keyboard as the Minilab which is more expensive. You won’t find a nicer keyboard for this price.
The second reason I put it on this list is for the software that you get with it. you get Analog Lab Lite by Arturia. The software has an excellent interface and you get more than 600 sounds from synths, keyboards, and pianos. Arturia makes excellent recreations of vintage synthesizers and you’re gonna get the best presets they have to offer with this keyboard. It has a couple of cool features for navigating the software right from the keyboard and it’s built really well.
This is the end of this article, I hope you’ll find it helpful and you like it.
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