By Tapas Das
This months Electronic Musician Magazine (July 2002) has an excellent
article on building up a home studio on budgets ranging from $2500 to
This inspired me to capture a few thoughts on what we could do to build
our own personal studios based on the Korg i30. There are a bewildering
number of options out there Ė Macs vs. PCs, Hardware vs. Software Synths,
Samplers vs. Sample play back modules, Digital vs. Analog Tape
recorders, MIDI & Audio interfaces, Speakers & Amps, Microphones
& Preamps, hardware vs. software based effects, mastering tools,
CD & DVD Burners Ė it is enough to daze and confuse an individual trying to
get their feet wet into this crazy world of Electronic Music.
To make matters worse, the landscape keeps on changing as cheaper and
more powerful technology keeps replacing the old. So I thought I
would point out the best options if one were to set up a studio
based on what is available today.† I have wasted a lot of time and energy
experimenting with different kinds of gear till I paired it down to just the
right combination that works effortlessly. A single working example is a lot
more useful to a beginner than a ton of endless choices.
This is a rather long article. So I am going to break it up into 3 parts:
- The first part will deal with just the bare bones basic setup that will allow
you to make great music with your i30 without even having to bother with
- The second part will focus on expanding your basic studio when you become
- The third part will focus on gathering the information you need to stay current
your hobby and learn how to make killer deals in buying studio gear.
I am assuming you are starting with nothing but an i30, and gradually
building up your studio in a logical sequence as your needs grow.
†1. MASTER KEYBOARD
Since we all have a Korg i30, this is the default starting point. I love
the synth key action. It allows me to play for extended periods without
my fingers tiring out. The user interface with its large legible Touch
Screen is fabulous. The built-in styles are second to none.
The i30 also doubles as a GM playback device.
2. SURGE PROTECTOR
I cannot stress enough the importance of buying a surge protector
for your studio. This should happen even before you buy your first
- Furman PL PLUS
This is my favorite. It has 8 filtered powered outlets in the back.
It is a one-space rack mount unit with the power switch in the front
panel plus instrument lights. This will be the first item that will
permanently make its way to the top space of your instrument rack that
you will be buying shortly.
- American Power Company BK650MC Backup UPS
If you plan on using a computer in your setup, it is better to skip the
surge protector and buy a backup uninterrupted power supply. It will give
you the critical 5-15mins of backup time to save your work in case of a
power failure and also provides 24hour surge protection.
www.powersupersite.com for good
If you have an i30 alone, you need at least a pair of headphones
to listen to it. There are two good choices:
- Sony MDR-7506
This is the industry standard. They are lightweight, foldable,
ear hugging designs with an exceptionally smooth frequency response
that transfer well into the final mix and let you pick out subtle
anomalies in your recording. They can play loud and are indestructible.
My favorite. If you haggle you can get them new for $89.00
- AKG K-240M
Yet another industry standard that predates the MDR-7506.
They are a little more bulkier.
Buying the USB v1.7 CD for the i30 is a no-brainer. You get over
7000 styles converted from popular arranger keyboards for $120.
This is a must have item.† Chris, the author of this CD, is a very experienced
helpful individual. Visit http://www.usb-styles.com.fr/† for details.
5. KEYBOARD STAND
My favorite continues to be the Apex stand by Ultimate Support.
It is easy to dismantle/setup and carry it in a slim case and certainly
looks cool on stage.
If you are never planning on gigging, the cheaper Deltex II model
will suffice for home use.
To hook up your speakers/amps/MIDI gear, you would need to have
good quality cables.
You cannot go wrong with HOSA brand cables. Their MIDI/audio/digital
cables (Coaxial S/PDIF, Optical TosLINK), XLR microphone cables
are top quality, and priced right.
I found their Coaxial digital cables to be just as good as expensive
audiophile grade brands like AudioQuest costing several times as much.
What good is a keyboard if your friends can't hear you? You must
get a good set of near field monitors. I favor active powered monitors
over passive designs, because they eliminate the process of amp/speaker
matching and in general sport a flatter frequency response since the
manufacturer tweaks the frequency spectrum of the amp to compensate
for speaker imperfections.
- Mackie HR624
I was surprised to find how good these new compact speakers from
Mackie sound. You can buy a pair for $1000. Later you can add the
matched Mackie HRS120 Studio Subwoofer, though this is not necessary
in a small room.
- Genelec 1030AP
This is the next step up and the industry standard. They are
expensive but every bit worth it.
- JBL LSR28P
This is another option. The sound is typical JBL - beefier bass.
The speakers are heavy.
- Dunlavy SM-1
I cannot say enough about this superb speaker. You will not find
them in music stores. Only high-end audiophile dealers carry them.
They serve as perhaps the most accurate near-mid field monitors in
the market today as well as double as an impressive high-end home
theater setup if you are willing to buy 5 of these and couple them
with a Dunlavy SC-S1 subwoofer.
As a point of reference, Celine Dions "My Heart Will Go On" track
was mastered in a mega budget studio featuring the mighty Dunlavy SC-V
speakers. If you ever get an opportunity to listen to music through
Dunlavy speakers, you will come out amazed with their razor sharp imaging
and smooth response. Come to the CES show held in the month of January
in Las Vegas to listen to all these high-end speakers from
Wilson, Dunlavy, JM Labs, B&W, Meridian etc. You will not believe
how good music can sound.
8. POWER AMPS
If you decide to go for audiophile quality speakers like the Dunlavy
SM-1, you would have to buy a separate power amp. With such fabulous
speakers it would be a crime to settle for a Crown amp!
You would need to buy an audiophile grade power amp.
- Bryston 3B ST
My favorite. Perfect match for the SM-1.
- Bryston 9B ST
If you want a 5 channel version for surround sound setup, this is
the one to get.
Bryston amps come with a 20 year warranty. They are standard
equipment in high-end studios. Built like a tank, they offer
good clean power and years of trouble free service.
9. INSTRUMENT RACK
It is wise to have a 19" rack to organize your outboard gear.
It cuts down on cable mess and there is less of a chance of tripping
over wires or knocking your expensive gear.
My favorite manufacturer in this category is Omnirax.
They have models tailor made for any conceivable situation.
For starters I would recommend the Omnirax PRO-20 in black
melamine finish. It measures 45"H x 18"D x 20.6"W and holds
20 rack spaces as the name suggests. The front is slightly slanted
to give a comfortable viewing angle and you can place a laptop on
top of this rack at the correct operating height.
However, if you are adventurous, I would say go all the way
and get the Omnirax Forte Model. A serious amount of design thought
has gone into this. It is perfect for supporting a controller keyboard,
flanked on both sides by instrument racks angled inwards for easy
reach with supports for a pair of near field monitors at the correct
listening height† plus space in front for a couple of LCD displays
a sliding tray to hold your MIDI control surface.
I couldn't imagine a better ergonomic, space saving, compact design.
10. SOUND MODULES
The best and immediate upgrade for the i30 is a set of top-notch
sound modules. Here are my favorites:
- Roland XV5050 64 Voice single space sound module.
For less than $700, this is a must have, killer deal.
- EMU Proteus 1000 64 Voice single space sound module.
get a better collection of bread and butter sounds for $399.
- Korg TR-Rack.
A used TR-Rack is the cheapest way to have access to a library
of professional Korg sounds/effects from their M/T/O1W/Trinity series.
You can't pass up on this.
- Korg WaveStation SR
For an icing on the cake, to get that unique evolving pad sound, you
must get yourself a used WaveStation SR single space rack module.
These sounds cannot be emulated by any of todayís synths. It is a classic.
- Yamaha MU100R / MU128R
They will give you a superb collection of GM/XG sounds. Excellent
for sprucing up your backing tracks.
- Korg SG-Rack
Can't get a better acoustic/electric piano sound than this at itís
- Korg Triton Rack
A extra collection of superb Korg sounds with the added bonus
of having a sampling option. Suddenly, the whole world of sampled
sounds are at your disposal.
Except the XV5050, Proteus 1000 and the Triton Rack, all the others have been
discontinued. This means you can make killer deals in the used market.
11. ANALOG MIXER
The moment you acquire two or more sound modules you would scream
for a mixer and a MIDI patchbay/processor.
Do not get a digital mixer. Buy an analog model. The quality of
sound on a sub $1000 analog mixer far exceeds any digital mixer
at this price point. Stick with Mackie. Their performance is impeccable.
- Mackie CR1604 / CR1604VLZ
Excellent workhorses. No hiss. Easy ergonomic design. Fits nicely in
a standard 19" rack. A must have item.
- Mackie LM3204
This is a 32 channel line mixer. Perfect for a keyboard player with
lots of sound modules.
I have both and they have given me years of trouble free service.
If you think you may need more than 6 synth modules, better skip
Once you have got these toys, you will constantly strive to make
yourself sound even better. You will want ways to sweeten your final
mix, have a more comprehensive control over your MIDI sequencing, and
finally burn your own CD applying the necessary mastering/EQ/Finalizing
13. MASTER REVERB
The easiest way to get that smooth distinctive studio quality sound
is to pass your final mix through a high quality reverb. A cheap
Alesis, Digitech, or Zoom reverb will not cut it. It would just
make it thick, muddy and grainy. You need to have a high-end unit
that will render a thin layer of shimmer and lush to make your music
sparkle and shine.
- Sony DPS-R7
The best reverb that works brilliantly on the final master. This gem
was introduced 12 years ago. The time when I bought it, the Lexicon
PCM70 was a coveted piece of studio gear. Choosing the R7 over the PCM70
was a no-brainer.† Later Lexicon released the PCM80/90/81/91 and from
time to time I have compared them with the R7.† The R7 was still the champ
when it came to sparkling light smooth reverbs. You had to climb up to a Lexicon
or 480L to get a smoother reverb tail than the Sony DPS-R7.
The R7 is more suited towards instruments than vocals due to its sparkling nature.
If you are lucky, you can buy the R7 used at around $350-$500.
This is a steal.
The R7 is best used on your AUX bus where you can apply different
amounts of reverb to different instruments to make them appear
forward or backward within a mix. Typically you would keep some
instruments dry to place them forward, while strings could be
drenched in reverb to float them in the back.
Sony released a family of effects in this series:
Sony DPS-M7 - a dedicated chorus/flange/modulation box
Sony DPS-D7 - a dedicated delay box
Sony DPS-F7 - EQ/finalizing effects
Later Sony came out with the DPS-V77 combining the best of the above
four units. Its a shame they have all been discontinued. Grab a V77
if you ever find one. It seems lately Sony has shifted its focus
on making mega-bucks high end studio reverbs like the DRE-S777.
- TC Electronics M3000 Reverb
This is a great sounding unit. You will be happy with its sound
unless you want to compete with the big guys and plunge for
a TC Electronics System 6000 or a Lexicon 960L for the ultimate
in 5.1 surround sound processing.
14. CD RECORDER
You would need a CD recorder to capture your pristine analog mix
coming out of your analog Mackie board dressed up by your high-end
reverb. You could record into a computer having a built-in CDR.
Never even think of passing your analog audio through your computers
sound card. It is too noisy an environment for high-end audio work.
Your best option is to buy an outboard CD recorder.
- Alesis Masterlink ML-9600
This is the best choice. You can store your stereo recordings on its
20GB hard drive at 24bits/96KHz and then apply its built-in mastering
tools to change gain, EQ, apply compression, do some look-ahead peak
limiting, crop and rearrange the play list. When done, you can dither
this down to 16bits/44.1KHz to burn a Red Book CD. No SCMS hassles
either. If you shop around, you can buy this for $900. It is an idiot proof,
click operation box that lets you burn CD after CD.
Once you learn to apply the DSP tools judiciously, you can get consistently
sounding, studio quality CDs.
As Billy Crystal would have called this toy - MARVELLOUS!!
What blank CDR should I use?
Although the Masterlink happily accepts any bargain basement brand,
I found the TDK Silver/Blue CDRs† to offer† the best value
with the lowest error rates. Stick with the TDK brand.
What about CD Labels?
Your best bet is to buy the CD Stomper Pro Labeling kit. The included
CD designing sofware is simple to use and comes with tons of jpeg
images, clip art and customizable templates. The Stomper labels
cover the CDs edge to edge and the applicator makes it painless
to center them.
How do I print my CD Designs?
Any standard laserjet printer from HP like a Laserjet 6L will do the trick
for monochrome printing. For color printing I would recommend the
Epson series of color printers. Get a photo quality Epson Color
printer that uses 6 colors like the Epson Stylus Photo 785EPX inkjet
color printer. Use the Glossy CD Label Refills made by CD Stomper
to print. This will give you professional results that you will
be proud to distribute to your friends.
CD labeling requires you to have access to a computer.
15. OUTBOARD ANALOG TO DIGITAL CONVERTER
Given the high quality of the built-in AD converters within
the Masterlink, if you wanted to raise the bar even further,
your best bet is to buy an outboard Analog to Digital Converter.
- Lucid AD9624
This is a favorite amongst pro studios. Liquid smooth sound at
an affordable price!
- Apogee Electronics Mini-Me
I have not auditioned this yet. On paper the specs look very
impressive. Being from Apogee, it may set new sonic standards
at itís price point.
Yes, you need a computer for editing MIDI and Digital Audio.
Assuming you want to keep everything in the MIDI domain and just
add a singers voice as Digital Audio, you can get by with a cheap
- DELL INSPIRON 4100 Laptop.
This is the ideal choice. You can configure an 866MHz Pentium III
model with 256MB of RAM, 20GB Hard Drive, 14" SVGA screen, standard
CDROM drive for around $1200. This sits comfortably on top of the
Pro20 Omnirax instrument rack. The CDROM drive which opens
forward, does not interfere with the side panels of the rack.
Do not get the Inspiron 8200 model. This has the CDROM bay opening
to the left. It will hit the side panel of your rack.
The laptop comes installed with Windows XP home edition. It is thin, light
and priced right.
As of September 30, 2002, Emagic has stopped selling PC software products
after their buyout to Apple. A lot of forward thinking work has been going
on the Apple platform with their release of OSX. Apple and Emagic jointly
have introduced CoreAudio, CoreMIDI and AudioUnits that greatly reduces
software latency and provides a more efficient pathway to handle digital
audio and MIDI at the kernel level. The Apple platform is becoming a trail
blazer for any kind of professional Audio/Video work. It may make more
sense to spend a little more and embrace the Mac if you are serious about
17. MIDI/DIGITAL AUDIO SEQUENCER
If you have come this far with your home studio, don't bother with
Cubase or Cakewalk Sonar. Just shoot for the best.
- EMAGIC Logic Audio Platinum v5.1.3
When it comes to MIDI, most professional studios use Logic Platinum.
When it comes to Digital Audio, most studios will likely be using
ProTools HD. Like death and taxes it seems you can't escape
these two. So why not bite the bullet and start off with Logic Audio Platinum.
It has a steep learning curve but the rewards are worthwhile.
For starters, you may want to buy the excellent Cool School Interactus
Logic Audio Training CD Vol-5† from Cool Breeze Systems.
I studied all the Vols 1 through 6 covering ProTools Basics, ProTools Plug-ins,
Desktop Audio, Logic Audio, ProTools 5 and Digital Performer 3.
offer a wealth of information. Highly recommended course.
To grasp the inner workings of Logics "Environment" you could buy
the terrific CD by Dr. Len Sasso titled "The Environment Toolkit" from
Stephen Bennett's "Making Music with Emagic Logic Audio" is another
great resource for a beginner.
Lastly, donít forget to buy the excellent Gear Vision videos Ė Logic Basic Techniques,
and Recording MIDI narrated by Phil Jackson Ė the undisputed Logic Guru. The first volume is free when you buy Logic.
Join the Yahoo discussion group ĎLogic-Usersí to learn the tips and tricks of using
Logic Audio from the on-line experts.
18. MIDI EDITOR/LIBRARIAN
With all your sound modules and gazillion patches, you would need a way
to organize your sounds.
- EMAGIC SOUNDDIVER v3.1
If you are using Logic Audio with the AMT8 interface, buying this
is a no-brainer. You will be amazed how quickly you can edit your
sounds to your liking and then have them at instant recall within
Logics environment. With AutoLink activated, both programs are
ganged together and behaves as one. Any change in SoundDiver gets
instantly reflected within Logic Audio. You will never have to write
out a matching patch list ever again. You will always be able to
come back to a project that you worked months back and recall
all your sound settings and patches exactly the way you left them.
No more guess work.
What about recording your singers voice? You need two items.
A good vocal microphone and a digital audio interface to your computer
to doctor the data stream - pitch correction/EQ/Compression.
- SHURE SM57
Again, this is an industry standard. It is an excellent all purpose
microphone. A sensible choice unless you are crazy enough to shoot
for the Neumann M147 Tube. If you do, then you must be a dead serious
hobbyist and I would suggest buying a Lexicon 300L or an Eventide
DSP7000 UltraHarmonizer for vocal processing.
20. DIGITAL AUDIO INTERFACE
- EMAGIC EMI 6|2 m
This is a nifty little outboard device that lets you take your stereo
analog feed from your Mackie and convert that into a 24-bit/96KHz
digital audio stream and feed it to your DELL Laptop computer via USB.
It also acts as a USB hub. You can conveniently dock the Emagic USB copy
protection key to this. This also helps bypass the noisy environment of your
Once the digital data is within your computer, Logic takes control
and you can apply the army of audio effects that come standard with
Logic Audio Platinum.
I prefer to keep everything in the MIDI domain, except the vocals.
This greatly reduces disk I/O. MIDI takes up hardly any bandwidth.
Two channels of digital audio does not tax the laptop.
Logic Audio allows you to treat digital audio tracks with almost
the same ease as MIDI tracks in one comprehensive arrange window.
21. MIDI AUTOMATION VIA TACTILE INTERFACE
You could draw all the control curves for velocity, pan, pitch bend
on your screen with a mouse, but nothing beats the simplicity and
elegance of using a MIDI control surface with real knobs and sliders
that you can touch and feel!
- EMAGIC LOGIC CONTROL
Yes, this is the ultimate MIDI control surface that was designed
grounds up to work with Logic Audio Platinum 5. It was revealed
at this years NAMM show in Anaheim California. Jointly made by
Mackie and Emagic, it is a superb piece of engineering with 100mm
touch sensitive Penny & Giles faders. You want the faders to be
touch sensitive, so that merely touching them sends out MIDI data
as opposed to the inert ones where you have to physically wiggle the faders
send out a control† value.
I have intentionally left out portable digital studios like
the Korg D1600, Yamaha AW16G, Roland VS2480HD, Akai DPS24 etc, because
for a keyboard player with a lot of MIDI gear, it does not make
much sense to work with digital audio. It only adds a layer of
complexity to the grand schema of the things coupled with the added
inconvenience of having to deal with large volumes of digital audio data.
They are more suited to capture and edit the sound of live
instruments like guitars, vocals and live drums. So by all means, if you are going
to be doing a lot of† live recording of real instruments, pick up the Korg D1600.
It sports the easiest, most intuitive user interface with superb Korg quality effects.
If your needs outgrow the Korg D1600, your next step up the chain is the mighty
This marks the end of Part-II. I tried to limit the choices in each
category to a select few items. All of these are guaranteed to
work together in a synergistic fashion. You will never encounter
any rude surprises. These are tried and tested toys that simply
work and coexist peacefully while freeing up your time to do
the thing that you love most - making music!!
In this part, I will focus on how to keep up with technology,
find information on the Internet, and grab the best deals.
22. Get Organized!
But first I would like to stress the importance of organizing
your work area. Label everything. Label all cables, wires, inputs
and outputs channels. Carefully make a flow chart of your gear
showing how they are connected to each other. Use color codes to
designate the various MIDI, audio, speaker and power cables.
Once you have a clear picture, you can rearrange items in a rack
so that a power cable never runs alongside a cable carrying a line
level signal. If at all, they should cross paths at 90 degrees to
Harness your cables with Nylon ties or enclose them within flexible
plastic tubing for a clean professional appearance.
- Casio KL8200 EZ label printer
This is the best label maker that gives professional looking results.
The list prices is $300, but you can get them for $50 at all
Casio Outlet Stores found in the big malls like Arizona Mills, Ontario
- Casio XR-9BKG labels
Buy this 9mm wide label. It prints beautiful gold letters on a black tape.
Unless someone clues you in, you will think these labels were factory
installed on your gear. Classy job. The labels peel off clean without
leaving a residue.
23. Invest in a Pocket Organizer
Any pocket organizer from Palm/Sony will do the job of keeping
an updated record of all your contacts, phone numbers, and schedules.
If you want more power, get a Pocket PC from HP, Compaq or Toshiba.
Dell is coming up with a Pocket PC this winter which will be the
24. Get a programmable Remote
- Philips Pronto TSU2000
You can reduce all your remote clutter by getting a Philips Pronto TSU2000
programmable touch screen remote. This has been referred to as the Remote
of the Gods. You can create your own menu driven interface to control all
your Audio/Video gear, including lighting and an alphabetized listing of
all your CD/DVD tracks to control your mega changers. For a full description
of all its capabilities and learn about every other remote on planet earth, visit
Daniel Tonks, the author of this site is the accepted Guru on Remotes and
has tons of customized configurations for a wide range of audio/video gear
ready for download. Once you buy the basic TSU2000, you would wonder
how you ever got away without it. Philips has other upscale brands right up
to their flagship TSU6400i costing $1600 with wireless Internet browsing.
25. Read all the Trade Magazines
As an electronic musician, you have to keep up with the times learning new tricks.
The best trade magazines to subscribe to are:
- Keyboard Magazine
- Electronic Musician
They cover a wide variety of recording gear and helps you keep
abreast of technology. Save them. They are a handy source of reference.
Attend the Trade Shows
You can read all you want, but nothing beats being able to attend
a trade show and see and play with all the goodies.
- NAMM Show in Anaheim, CA
The number 1 show to attend. Make friends with employees of local
music retailers and ask them to spare you a pass for a day.
Once in the show, attend all the demos and exchange business cards
with the presenters. This is your opportunity to set up a personal
rapport with the manufacturers. Most presenters are product specialists.
Nothing beats the convenience of having a direct email connection with
a product specialist. Network, network!. In this business, personal
contacts mean everything.
- CES Show in Las Vegas
An excellent venue for sampling the high-end audio/video world.
The show is free. Once you get a chance to hear a properly calibrated
digital home theater setup by Meridian, it will be a religious experience!
for the Internetís best discussion forum on Audio/Video gear and chat
with the industries brightest minds.
- Comdex Show in Las Vegas
You cannot escape digital audio. You have to become proficient
with computers. This show will open up new horizons. Again a free show.
- NAB (National Association of Broadcasters) show in Las Vegas
This is like the professional version of CES. Want to know about
ultra high-end digital mixers from Sony, Yamaha, SSL, Euphonix?
Want to try out mega budget reverbs from Lexicon, Eventide, TC Electronics?
Want to see the new toys in the world of non-linear editing from
Digidesign and Avid? How did they make that Star Wars special effect
scene? How did they match up the visuals frame by frame with
that awesome surround sound? What is happening in the world of
recordable blue-laser DVDs? Well this is the show to attend for all
- InfoCOMM Show in Las Vegas
Want to learn about the latest presentation displays, plasmas,
DLP, DILA, LCD, LCOS, technology? This is the place to be.
At first they may seem disjointed. However as you expand your
horizons, you will soon learn how the world of high-end Audio/Video
and MIDI converge together. Any knowledge gained in one field helps
to reinforce your understanding of the other and expands your
circle of reference. Besides, you pick up useful friends along the way,
like actual mastering gurus who can give you a hands on demo on how
songs are recorded, processed, mixed and finalized in real studios.
Browse up on related magazines like Stereophile, Home Theater, Sound & Vision,
Audio Video Interiors, Widescreen Review, PC Magazine, Laptop Magazine...
You do not have to subscribe to each and every one. You can visit your
neighborhood Borders or Barnes & Nobles bookstores.
Every bit helps. Information is Power.
27. Search the Internet for information
The best Internet search tool is Google.
Just type in any keyword like "Roland VS2480" and you will get
all the related websites and archived news groups from the last 10 years.
You must do your homework before you buy anything. The Internet is like
a vast collection of human knowledge. Just search patiently - someone
may already have been in your situation, found a solution and posted
the answer - so why reinvent the wheel?
28. Where do I get MIDI Files?
There are literally thousands of MIDI files to be found on the net.
Some sites make an effort to categorize their inventory according to genre
and better yet - quality.
One such site is:
Follow the [Entertainment] link to the [TV K-Z] link.
Download the 129K MIDI file - Olympic Spirit.
You will be in for a treat! If you have a Roland JV/XV series synth/module
with the Orchestral Expansion Card, you will be in hog heaven.
The last two sites are not free. They are commercial MIDI sites.
You have to pay to download. But their quality is above par.
It is certainly a learning experience to download a few of these
professionally arranged standard MIDI files and see the tricks
they applied while layering the drum tracks, harmonizing the leads,
panning the instruments and changing pitch bend and expression controls.
29. How to get the best deal on musical gear?
Right upfront, it helps to know as a rule of thumb, if the
list price on an item is $1000, the dealers purchase price was
around $600. Yes, that is a whopping 40% markup!
Manufacturers prevent dealers posting prices below 20% of MSRP.
So on-line prices will be advertised as $800. However, these same
dealers will be happy to email you a price much below this in
confidence once you make the first contact.
Should you start emailing every Google Search Site for the best deal?
Yes and no.
If you are a novice and you are not sure about your purchase, maybe
you need some help in setting up your gear, a little hand holding in
learning the complexities of your new toy, then your best and safest
option is to order from the premiere on-line retailer Ė Sweetwater Sound.
I singled them out because they offer the best after sales service.
They employ a team of professional people who thoroughly know their
trade, and can offer excellent technical support. If you ever need
to exchange your gear, they can help you select the best one to suit
your needs. They may even come up with ideas that never crossed your mind
when you tell them what instruments you have and what you are trying
to accomplish. They are not out to make a quick buck but rather stress on
building up a continuing relationship. You will get annual calendars,
SweetNotes, and a big fat colorful brochure of their inventory.
However, premium support comes at a premium price. You pay a lot more
when you buy gear from Sweetwater. They seldom discount over 20% of MSRP.
You can try haggling them down by referring to your other quotes :)
you are a veteran in this business, know exactly what you want
and sometimes like to live on the edge, then I would recommend these
They are high volume dealers. Technical support is non-existent.
They often let go items just 8% above cost. They will be happy to
sell you that $1000 item for $648 plus shipping. They make up by
selling in volume and not having to employ technical staff.
They are like the Walmarts and Sam's.
As a point of reference, the ever popular new Roland VS-2480HD
portable studio carries a manufacturers list price of $3995.
Sweetwater sells this for $3295 (18% discount).
Wholesale Music does not list their price. Folks have gotten
this item from them around $2700 (32% discount).
While these two characterize the extremes of the price spectrum, there
are several others that fall somewhere in between.
I have had good luck with these vendors:
You should try all of the above to get your best deal.
30. Should you buy Dealers Extended Warranty?
When you buy a new item, it comes with at least 90 days worth of
Manufacturers Warranty. Professional gear from Sony come with a
generous 3 year warranty. Some Master Cards allow you to double
the Manufacturers Warranty when you use their cards.
If something is to go wrong, it will generally manifest itself within
itís first couple of weeks of use (or abuse).
Save your money.
Dealers try to push you because it is an extra source of easy money
Just take good care of your equipment. Keep them in a smoke free,
dust free environment avoiding direct sunlight with good surge
protection. Avoid buying version 1.0 of any hardware or software product.
at least 6 months for the manufacturer to weed out the bugs.
31. How do I make a killer deal?
Since we are all just hobbyist in this forum do we absolutely need
to have the latest greatest gear of the month? Used prices typically
fall below 30% of MSRP within a span of 5 years.
As an example, the Sony DPS-R7 carried a list price of $1500 when
introduced 10 years ago. I have seen them on sale for $250.
Now that is what I call a killer deal.
Always check on Ebay.
Join all the user groups of your favorite gear. Go to yahoo.com
and search their groups to find if someone has already started
a Yahoo Users Group on your item. Bingo. You are now connected
by like minded souls. Else, be a pioneer, a leader. Start your own group.
For example, if you were looking into buying a Roland VS portable studio,
you would seek out all the VS related sites like:
And to make comparisons with Panasonic gear try out
check out the Sony users at
Or Akai DPS users at
Or join general discussions on home recording at
With the Internet at hand, the sky is the limit.
32. What will be the cheapest way to spruce up my i30?
For instant gratification buy a couple of used sound modules:
- Korg O1R/W
This is the rack mount version of the O1/W synth. You can get
them for around $500.
- Korg WS SR
This unit goes around $400 in the used market.
With just these two, you will have instant access to an impressive
array of sounds.
If you need a cheap MIDI patch bay pick up a used Digital Music MX-8
6in/8out self contained programmable unit. They go for $70.
I would suggest the Mackie 1202 VLZ as a high quality cheap mixer in the
So there we have it. A Korg i30, a couple of used sound modules,
a MIDI patch bay, an analog mixer and you have just breathed in a new
life into your trusty companion.
LONG LIVE KORG i30!!!