As the holiday season rapidly approaches, deciding what to get for your favorite engineer (or yourself) can be a challenge. I can attest that these products are prime options. All listed prices are what you’d expect to pay at a retailer.
Ultimate Ears UE 4 Pro and the UE 900 S
Producers, engineers and musicians share the goal of accurate monitoring and most have a monitoring situation in their workspace that they feel translates well into the real world. Unfortunately, recreating an accurate monitoring environment when working on the go is often prohibitive. I’m a longtime user and huge fan of the Ultimate Ears UE RM IEM (in-ear monitor). While well worth it, the $1,000 price tag makes these IEMs a stretch for many potential users. The UE 4 Pro and the UE 900 S (both $399) are more affordable options that provide near-UE RM performance at less than half the price. The UE 4 Pro looks and feels almost identical to the UE RM and it sounds wonderful. Since the two-armature UE 4 Pro is a custom-fit IEM, it requires an audiologist to create an ear mold, meaning they can only have one user. The UE 900 utilizes a four-armature design and, while they aren’t custom molded, they include a full complement of tips (five sizes of rubber tips and three sizes of Comply foam tips), so a perfect fit isn’t a problem and they can have multiple users. I’ve been a regular user of both the UE 4 Pro and the UE 900 S over the past several months and they both deliver exceptional audio with deep, rich yet unexaggerated lows, smooth highs and remarkable clarity. If you want to have IEMs that can share multiple users, I recommend the wonderful UE 900 S; otherwise, the UE 4 Pro is the optimum option.
sE Electronics guitaRF
Engineer extraordinaire Jonathan Pines introduced me to the sE Electronics guitaRF ($199) at the 2015 NAMM Show. This brilliant device—a reflection filter, isolator and double mic stand—can potentially solve a host of problems. I was surprised at the increase in sonic control gained by using the stand; also, when space is an issue (as it is in my room) having a small footprint stand simultaneously hold a condenser or ribbon mic along with a dynamic mic is a godsend. I’ve been successfully using the stand with an SM 57 and a Mesanovic Model 2 (currently in review—stay tuned) and it’s worked wonderfully. Without the need of cumbersome baffles or acoustic blankets, the guitaRF can be utilized to reduce unwanted stage noise and room reflections or simply to gain more sonic control while recording guitars.
RocknStompn Model RS-4 Sequential Power Strip
RocknStompn’s Model RS-4 ($299) is a single power strip that powers up a musician’s rig or a project studio in a predetermined sequence and then reverses the sequence when powering down. One of the first things a young engineer learns regarding amps is “last on, first off.” Now there is a power strip that incorporates this automatically into its power-up, power-down process. AC power sequencers are commonplace in broadcast studios and high-end AV systems but now an affordable version of the same technology can be incorporated into a pedal board or bedroom studio. The RS-4 utilizes two 16-position rotary switches to set the on/off time delay between its four sockets from 0 to 15 seconds. This means the delay between the first and last socket can be up to 45-seconds. A rugged stomp box button at one end of the strip triggers the on and off sequences. Rated at 15-amps, the RS-4 includes four robust Nema 5-15R duplex AC outlets with onboard power conditioning, surge protection, over voltage/current protection and EMI/RFI noise filtering.
Good Books by Beinhorn and Babiuk
The holiday season is the perfect time to sit down with a good book and there are a couple of recent releases that simply can’t be missed. Producer extraordinaire Michael Beinhorn’s book Unlocking Creativity: A Producer’s Guide to Making Music and Art($24.99) gives deep insight into understanding the creative process of record creation. Having worked with a broad spectrum of artists including Korn, Herbie Hancock, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Soundgarden, Ozzy Osbourne, and Marilyn Manson, Beinhorn has not only become a master of the record making process but has also become an expert in human nature. Going beyond traditional music making books that focus on microphone and signal path selection and mixing techniques, the concepts in this book can easily be applied to creative occupations outside the music industry, and best yet, it’s an interesting and engulfing read.
After its release at the turn of the century, Andy Babiuk’s Beatles Gear became a bible to Beatles fans wanting to get the scoop about the gear the band used on stage and in the studio throughout their career. Beatles Gear: The Ultimate Edition($60), the updated version of the book—twice the size of the original—was released in November of this year. The book guides the reader through the gear the band used throughout its career. With a forward by author Mark Lewisohn (who penned the essential The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions: The Official Story of the Abbey Road Years 1962-1970), the book is a fantastic read, Beatles fan or not.
Awesome Auralex Acoustic Accessories
As a longtime Auralex fanatic, I’ve found that in addition to its exceptional room acoustic products, it has several affordable products that make great gifts. The HoverMat ($280) is a 6-foot by 4-foot drum rug that, in addition to offering the benefits of a drum rug, also improves the sound of the drums. Manufactured from Auralex’s SheetBlok Sound Barrier, the HoverMat decouples the drum kit from a stage, riser or studio floor, resulting in a tighter, more defined and focused sound. The ISO-Tone Turntable Isolation Platform ($80) decouples a turntable from the tabletop, reducing acoustic feedback thus creating a cleaner, more accurate sound. It’s the easiest and most economical way I’ve found to improve turntable performance. Decoupling guitar and bass cabinets provides the same level of sonic improvement and the GRAMMA ($70), BabyGRAMMA ($50) and GreatGRAMMA ($100) are the perfect solution. I’ve incorporated the GRAMMA series into my workflow and have been thrilled with the improvement I’ve heard in the low and low-mid frequencies of my recordings.
Russ Long lives and works in Nashville, engineering and producing a wide variety of music and film projects. russlong.ws