Describe in single words only the good things that come into your mind about... your musical equipment.
January 29, 2007 12:11 PM   Subscribe

Short version: What cool musical equipment can I get for $200?

Long version: I'm trying to build up a home studio, and I can afford about $200 a month to spend on musical equipment. I want the Hivemind to help me spend it. Sure, I could save up for a few months and get more expensive stuff, but that's not what I'm looking to do right now.

So, generally, what are your recommendations? What great toy have you bought for $200 or less? New, used, beautiful, weird, ugly, glorious, single-use, multi-purpose, what have you. I already have an excellent bass, acoustic guitars, banjo, and various amps, but don't let that stop you.

Any recommendations as to the best mixer $200 can buy gets a gold star, preferably new.
posted by lekvar to Shopping (30 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
My musical equipment?

Let me tell you about my musical equipment...

posted by Jon Mitchell at 12:16 PM on January 29, 2007

Do you enjoy building stuff yourself at all...? If so, I can point you to a book that will give you some info on really cool things you can build for your studio, (including a passive mixer, and if you're ambitious, one with built in preamps and the like).
posted by drezdn at 12:30 PM on January 29, 2007

Last year I got a new clarinet and concertina for $50 a piece off eBay. Obviously not symphony quality; probably made in China, but still dirt cheap.
posted by rolypolyman at 12:36 PM on January 29, 2007

For $99 you can get the basic edition of FruityLoops, one of the best pieces of looping/sequencing/mixing software available for the money (for another $50 you can bump up to the producer edition). While it doesn't measure up to Cubase, Sonar, or other home studio software, its a great basic package. Best $100 I ever spent on musical equipment.
posted by googly at 12:41 PM on January 29, 2007

You can get a pair of rather nice headphones for $200. This is an especially good investment if you are ever going to need to share your listening space with someone who prefers quiet, or a different kind of music.
posted by sindark at 12:42 PM on January 29, 2007

Response by poster: drezdn, I have zero soldering skill, but don't let that stop you from naming the book.
posted by lekvar at 12:53 PM on January 29, 2007

If you're into electronic gadgets, buy some Circuit Bent stuff or make your own. They produce some pretty funky sounds.
posted by cosmicbandito at 1:03 PM on January 29, 2007

Lekvar, Handmade Electronic Music covers some neat cheap projects including effects and a passive mixer (which I built this weekend). It's really easy to follow, and would bring the cost of much of the equipment down below $30. To build the mixer I made with say 8 inputs, I'd put it at $20 plus a case (assuming you have tools and whatnot).
posted by drezdn at 1:14 PM on January 29, 2007

It depends a lot on what kind of music you want to do. If you want to do composition, you could start getting some MIDI gear for $200, what kind of controls you want depends on what you're most comfortable with (piano-style keyboard, drum-type sensors, or something more abstract like Jon Mitchell's suggestion).

If you want to do more recording/digital-audio stuff, then I think your first purchase ought to be ADC interface. $200 might be stretching things a bit thin, but you could probably get a 2-ch. USB or FireWire box with preamps for not too much more than that. Month afterwards, get yourself a mic or two (Shure SM57s or 58s would be where I'd start -- '58s if you want to sing and '57s for everything else), and you can start laying down tracks with anything that makes noise.

If you want to do music synthesis, where the sound is going to be created by the computer, I'd say your first purchases should be on a MIDI interface and control surface of some sort; but if what you want to do is record sounds originating elsewhere in the world, then you're going to need a way of getting them 'written down,' so a couple of microphones and a way of hooking those to your computer are going to be tops.
posted by Kadin2048 at 1:29 PM on January 29, 2007

You need more percussion. Try John's Music for a huge collection of percussion instruments from various cultures. Many instruments are in your price range.
posted by crazycanuck at 1:32 PM on January 29, 2007

Get an MXL-990 for recording vocals and a pair of MXL-993s for acoustic instruments. Can't help you with a mixer to plug them into (the cheapo Behringer I've got is garbage), but once you find one, these are the budget mics to own. For recording electric guitars, though, the venerable SM-57 is hard to beat...

...unless you want to go digital (and I do). I really love the POD xt, although it's out of your range. The POD 2.0 is $200, and actually sounds better for certain purposes, but can't be controlled over USB like the xt can (I own a 2.0 but leave it in the closet because the xt is so much more convenient).
posted by uncleozzy at 1:41 PM on January 29, 2007

Pfui to all this technical malarkey. Buy a ukulele.

No, seriously. Ridiculously easy to learn, even more ridiculously fun to play. They're versatile and cute and portable but they can sound wonderful.

Try a Bushman Jenny.
posted by hollisimo at 1:46 PM on January 29, 2007

SM57/SM58s. Good mikes matter, and these are good (not amazing) mikes.
posted by klangklangston at 1:46 PM on January 29, 2007

Yeah, buy a ukulele, I think circuit bending quickly loses its appeal, and you can get a quality one for that amount. I have an Engelmann Concert that was in your price range, plus a K&K Big Shot pickup. Avoid laminated woods as usual.
posted by tmcw at 2:14 PM on January 29, 2007

Response by poster: The guy who made my banjo also makes ukes. I'd only buy from him, and he's sadly out of my price range.
posted by lekvar at 2:26 PM on January 29, 2007

Response by poster: Oh, and as to what musical style, it doesn't really matter. Today I'm thinking a lot about industrial. Next week I might be playing bluegrass. Good stuff, people, keep it coming!
posted by lekvar at 2:29 PM on January 29, 2007

Claves. Best $7 I spent last year.
posted by shoesfullofdust at 2:48 PM on January 29, 2007

I bought a beginner's theramin for less than $100.
posted by The corpse in the library at 2:58 PM on January 29, 2007

I recently saw a beginner's, "made in China" cello for 300 euros
posted by matteo at 3:02 PM on January 29, 2007

I adore my melodica.

Mine is a vintage Hohner (a really good harmonica/melodica brand) Piano 27. They're fairly common and cheap on ebay and you can often find them sold with their original instructions. It's a highly portable, intuitive, expressive, and fun instrument to play.

PS. It does more than play dub or Have Neguila, in case you are worried about that.
posted by melissa may at 4:07 PM on January 29, 2007

How about a Saw. You can get one at your local hardware store for about twenty bucks. I have no idea how much a bow would cost though...
posted by blaneyphoto at 4:46 PM on January 29, 2007

Used Dano U-2 guitar or Longhorn base is in the price range.

Get an MXL-990 vocal mic.

This If you find it used

or you could buy a bulk order of strings, picks, glass brass and steel slides, capos, straps... I bet you could get 100 packs of strings if you bought in bulk.
posted by magikker at 5:00 PM on January 29, 2007

My husband & I make drums. You could get a nice ashiko for around $200.
posted by belladonna at 6:35 PM on January 29, 2007

Response by poster: Are those your drums, belladonna? They're beautiful!
posted by lekvar at 11:16 PM on January 29, 2007

The Really Nice Compressor is under $200.

It's almost a must for a home studio, and even big studios that can afford $3000 compressors have an RNC or two around.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 2:16 AM on January 30, 2007

RE: FL Studio... They should have a free but crippled version to try out still. I love it, it's the only piece of Software was worth the $400-$500 I paid for it (I bought the full-blown version of FL-Studio 5). Some people despise it though, so please try before you buy.
posted by drezdn at 6:51 AM on January 30, 2007

The best prices I've found for non-western instruments are at (and they have flat shipping on music insts -- $6 no matter how much weight you order). They have a gigantic selection from some regions/cultures & not much from others, but they're definitely worth a look.
posted by allterrainbrain at 3:10 PM on January 30, 2007

lekvar - Yes, those are our drums. Thanks for the compliment! :) (They sound incredible, too.)
posted by belladonna at 5:41 AM on January 31, 2007

Under $200. Um, I use a behringer 4ch. mixer that runs about $125. Works good, lasts a long time. No off switch tho. Curious. Cakewalk Home Studio was under $200 and although I've upgraded to Cubase, I still use it all the time for midi tracks and for editing and transferring wav tracks into Windows Media Player. Also, I occasionally find interesting audio-related freeware/shareware/demo gizmos at
posted by bullnipple at 12:45 AM on February 13, 2007

An SM-57 cost me £70 (you might be able to get one for less). Great for recording guitars and drums and reasonable for recording pretty much anything else (including vocals - it's an SM-58 without a pop-filter).

Alternatively, if you have a computer and want to get your guitar or mic sounds directly into it, buy an audio interface like the wonderful wonderful Mobile Pre. If you think you might like to send MIDI signals (from a keyboard or other MIDI controller) to your computer as well as audiio signals, I bought the quite good and very versatile Tascam US-122 for around £120.
posted by pollystark at 8:19 AM on February 20, 2007

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