Lee Coombs guide to hardware for under $500!
Owning and using hardware is never going to be a really cheap and easy thing to do. It can be more hassle than just using plugins and you really need to learn the basics of audio and midi signal flow etc. BUT the benefits can be enormous and you will stand out from the crowd with organic sounds that you created yourself AND have lots of fun in the process!
This is a beginners guide to setting yourself up with some really good and very useable pieces of hardware on a budget. We’ll cover all aspects of what you need to get a complete setup to be able to write killer tracks full of the fattest sounds and effects. From various drums machines to all kinds of Synths, cool FX units and Controllers to sync it all together. I chose a limit of $500 max for each piece as this will get us into some very tasty gear that frankly sounds like it costs much more. This is a small selection of what is currently available out there. If you look further you’ll find a huge world of this stuff, prices can go up as well as down and you generally get what you pay for quality wise. Explore it, it’s fun and you’ll probably get totally addicted like me…
In no particular order –
- Roland Aria TR-8 – We’ll start with the drums. If your writing any type of electronic music, then this drum machine should be in your collection. The Roland Aria TR-8 is the best way of getting those classic drum sounds into your productions without spending the huge $$$ on the original machines from the 80’s. It comes loaded with incredible sounding 808 and 909 sounds plus if you get the expansion pack it then comes with 707, 727 and 606 sounds. Where this machine really wins is the fact that all the sounds are so easily editable and it is so quick to get awesome sounding drums patterns going. There are great sounding reverb and delay FX built in and it even turns into a good quality audio interface which can be the center of your setup if you wish. I use mine as an interface when i do a temporary setup outside of my studio and i want to play and record other synths along with my drums. Price $499 new + $110 for the expansion pack. This puts it a little over our budget but you can pick up second hand Tr-8’s with the expansion pack already included for well under $500. http://www.roland.com/global/aira/categories/drum_machine.html
- Arturia MicroBrute – This is a true analog mono synth that sounds amazing. It’s great for Bass sounds, Lead sounds, FX, and more. It has a step sequencer built in which makes it very cool for playing alongside other pieces of hardware in a live setting. It also has multiple ways of communicating with USB, Midi, and CV, Gate, so you can control other machines from this device with ease. One of the drawbacks is that there are no presets available which could be one of the reasons it is cheaper but the sound quality is definitely not cheap. Price $299 – $350 new https://www.arturia.com/products/hardware-synths/microbrute/overview
- Roland Boutique series TB-3 – The Boutique series remakes some of Roland’s most revered classics into small dedicated handheld devices. The TB-3 is the most realistic remake of the legendary TB-303 Bassline machine to come into our hands yet, many people over the years have tried to remake the little silver box and some have come very close but this new version seems to tick all the right boxes straight away. All the controls are the same as the original box, which goes a long way to making it respond and feel the same. It sounds very similar to the original TB machine which considering its a digital machine is pretty damn good! Price $349 new https://www.roland.com/global/products/tb-03/
- Korg Minilogue – This one of Korg’s new analog machines. It’s a four voice analog poly synth with an onboard sequencer. Korg, like Roland have a deep history in releasing amazing sounding synths. They are currently riding a wave of producing lots of affordable and great sounding machines, an all-rounder that would work well in any studio. http://www.korg.com/us/products/synthesizers/minilogue/
- Korg Volca Beats – Korg’s Volca beats series is a lot of fun. They make various small boxes of which some are true analog. They include Drums, a Bassline Machine, Various Synths, a Sampler and a cool Kick Generating synth which are all amazing for the price! They all have sequencers built in and you can jam away on any of these boxes on their own or incorporate as many as you like into your studio setup. Owning the whole Volca beats set of machines on their own will give you a killer setup that pretty much covers everything you need to get going to write tunes. Price $159 per unit new. http://www.korg.com/us/products/dj/
- Roland Aria System 1 – This makes a great companion for the TR-8. It’s a polyphonic synth that allows you to load in Roland’s ‘plug out’ synth range if you want to. It’s not analog but it does sound great and is capable of making a huge range of noises. Good for just about any kind of synth sound, it’s a great all-rounder. Price $499 new but you can get them second hand for around $350-$400. https://www.roland.com/global/products/system-1/
- Roland Alpha Juno – This has to be one of the best bargains around at the moment. In an age where classic analog machine prices are going through the roof, you can realistically get your hands on a real Roland Alpha Juno for $200+. This is a beautiful sounding polyphonic machine with 6 oscillators from 1985. The only drawback is editing the sounds is not so easy. This was the keyboard that they took away most of the controls and made it so you had to menu dive to change most of the parameters. BUT there are plenty of midi controllers out there that will turn it back into a one knob per function synth. I actually did this recently when I found an Alpha Juno 1 on craigslist for $200 and then hooked up my Novation SLMkII controller which has a built in preset for the Alpha Juno. Now i have another killer analog synth that I can easy edit the sounds in real time. Price secondhand around $200+ Get one while they are available for cheap! There is also a rack mount module of the Alpha Juno called the MKS-50 which is also available at bargain prices http://www.vintagesynth.com/roland/ajuno1.php
- Arturia Keystep – This is a very cool keyboard controller/sequencer that lets you control multiple machines at once using just about any kind of signal. USB, MIDI, CV, Gate, Sync. There is a ton of flexibility and you can send out multiples of different signals at once which means that you can control and sync up lots of different devices like the ones in this list. Also the Chord Memory function allows you to play really intricate chord progressions using one key at a time. Price $119 new https://www.arturia.com/products/keystep/overview
- Roland Demora – This is a very cool little delay effect unit that is actually a full on modular synth if you want it to be. It comes with an app for either your iPad or your computer where you can select ready-made patches or build your own setups out of software modules. The possibilities are endless and you can make the wildest FX chains or keep it simple as you wish. You can even use it as a synth if you want to configure it that way. If you are looking to get into the Eurorack modular scene this is a great place to start as it pretty much is a self-contained modular synth. As with all of Roland’s new pieces it can be used as an audio interface which is really handy if you’re traveling and want to set up quickly somewhere. There are other effect units in this series that are all just as capable and fun, check them out. Price $299 new http://www.roland.com/global/aira/categories/effector.html
- Moog Slim Phatty – I am a serious Moog fan and I have to admit that i do own quite a few of their synths and pedals. The Slim Phatty is the rack mount version of the Little Phatty keyboard which is a fully analog 2 oscillator mono synth. This machine has a beautiful sound and is very closely related to its cousin, the legendary MiniMoog. Superb for Bass, Leads, FX and just about everything else, these days they can be picked up for around $450 -$500 second hand if you look hard enough. This is a lot of synth for the money and will do just about anything you ask of it. https://www.moogmusic.com/products/phattys/slim-phatty
Forthcoming soon on ‘Back to Jack’. Lee Coombs brand new project Phazon. Real Acid House music made only with authentic original hardware and productions techniques. Available on Vinyl and Digital in April…
The Freakazoids acclaimed Electro Album is available right here!!!
Double Vinyl, CD, T Shirts or Download…
The long awaited ‘In Freakz We Trust’ album is now released and available exclusively here –
Double Vinyl, CD, T Shirts (Black and Grey), Stickers and Digital Download
I have a special gig at Sandwich Bar on Sat March 14th. I will be doing two sets.
The first as myself playing all things Breaks, Tech and Funk and then the second as my alter ego The Freakazoids!
Where i’ll be bring live 808 drum machine and FX to the party!!!
The last one was super fun and this will be more of the same 😉
See you there!!!
FB Event page – https://www.facebook.com/events/780068012042651/
2014 was an incredible year for me! i released two artist albums and had a really big single with ‘Lilly in the Sky’.
Thanks for all the support you guys have given me, it means so much. There is more to come…
Here are Beatport’s end of year results –
Best Breaks Artist of the year – http://www.bptoptracker.com/bestof/2014/artists/breaks/9
Best single of the year – http://www.bptoptracker.com/bestof/2014/tracks/breaks/9
Best Label of the year – http://www.bptoptracker.com/bestof/2014/labels/breaks/9
We are giving our Warehouse Magic track away for free!
Grab it while you can as it won’t be free forever!
Click the BUY link on the soundcloud link, don’t worry its just a link to the FREE one 😉
I am very excited to be on this weeks edition of the Armory Podcast.
This mix was recorded live at Burning Man on Monday Night at the mighty Opulent Temple!
“Great album! Tight Production and timeless dancefloor tracks”,” Wow, that’s a really good album…” – Very famous and knowledgeable music industry types
‘Kaleidoscope’ the brand new artist album by Lee Coombs and Kostas G is finally here. This dynamic production duo first met when Kostas entered one of Lee’s remix competitions. The rest is history and they have now gone on to create many tracks and remixes, ripping up dance floors and festivals from Europe to Australia to the Far East to Miami and back to Burning Man…
Lee started the year with his ‘Lilly in the Sky’ release on Lot49, which is now one of the biggest selling Breaks tracks of 2014. Not a bad start and things are only just getting warmed up.
Kaleidoscope is a musical journey into the minds of Lee Coombs and Kostas G featuring all things Deep and Techy, a soundscape of Breaks, House and blissed out Down tempo moments designed to move your body and soul.
“We wanted to make an Electronic album that you can really listen to from start to finish and lose yourself in completely, a non pretentious music lovers experience that also rocks the Dancefloor”
Make sure you check out our new Remix Competition featuring ‘Reach Out’ and ‘Step Off’.
Full details here –
THRUST RECORDINGS ‘KALEIDOSCOPE’ REMIX COMPETITION!!!
To celebrate the release of the new ‘Kaleidoscope’ album we are holding another remix competition. ‘Reach Out’ and ‘Step Off’ are being remixed and the winners will secure a place on the Kaleidoscope Remixed Album alongside a long list of heavyweight superstar remixers.
Feel free to do anything you wish with the parts and your own remix but do keep in mind the style and sound of Thrust Recordings. You can pick either track or both to remix. It’s up to you! We will decide which one we like the best.
Get the parts here – https://thrustrecordings.bandcamp.com/album/kaleidoscope-album
1st Prize – Your remix will be part of the Official Kaleidoscope Remixed Album plus you will get a special digi pack of Lee Coombs and Kostas G’s ReRubs and Remixes and you will be added to the Thrust Promo mailing list forever.
2nd Prize – Your mix…
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I have a number of projects that i am currently working on at the moment and one of the most fun is The Freakazoids!
This is a project born purely out of passion and love for the music, old school Electro Funk! For over two years we have been working on this album and now we are ready to show it to the world.
We have just launched our campaign to create our album ‘In Freakz We Trust’ on amazing Limited Edition Vinyl and CD. We need your help people! There are some unbelievable rewards for your help including Limited Edition T Shirts designed by the legendary Mitchy Bwoy, Stickers, Downloads of the album and of course the Vinyl and Cd packs.
Please check it out here – www.fundanything.com/thefreakazoids
The first single from the forthcoming album ‘Kaleidoscope’ by Lee Coombs and Kostas G.
Some DJ Reactions –
The Freestylers – Phunked is great. Loving the Old School, Acid BBoy vibe!! 9/10
Lowdown and Dirty DJs – Both tunes are awsome. Great to hear the breakbeats back once again and so new sounding 10/10
Meat Katie – Great Production! 8/10
BETA – Breakbeat firepower i’ll be shooting out at crowds this summer, both amazing in their own right. 8/10
Karl Sav – Very signature sound from Lee and Kostas. Really digging the organic, analogue, old school big beat feel 8/10
Lady Packa – MARAVILLO !! MEJOR , IMPOSIBLE!! TENGO QUE PONER UNO, PERO ME QUEDO CON LOS DOS!! HHHAA 10/10
The new album from The Freakazoids, available on CD and Digital with Limited Edition T Shirts and Sticker packs
I can’t wait to spin alongside DJ Dan again on Friday 16th May for Opulent Temple!
This is 100% Burning Man vibes for real. If you’re in San Francisco don’t miss out on this!
I’ll be heading up the this amazing line up of DJs and artists at Lot613, LA tonight!
Get you White on…
I’m only a day back from this years Moogfest in Asheville and already have my new Moog Werkstatt synth talking to my TB-303 with CV and Gate.
This is just after i got it working for the first time…
Expect big things in the near future from this little baby….
The voting for this years Breakspoll has started and we need you to vote for Lilly in the Sky in the Best Track Category! We need all the help we can get to make Lilly in the Sky this years winner so if you have grabbed the track and use it in you DJ sets or just love playing it loud then we need your vote!!!
If you need a reminder of why this track should win then click here –
You don’t have to vote in all the categories if you don’t want to but i’m sure you will if your a breaks fan!
As a Thank You for your ongoing support, here is a link to a new Re Rub that i just made for my Miami WMC sets. It’s a biggy ;0)
There’s a new wave of Breaks coming through right now and this is a small selection of killer tracks that I’m feeling. Look out for a preview of some new Lee Coombs and Kostas G tracks plus a special new remix from The Freakazoids…
Please don’t forget to join my email list where I give out all my free downloads and mixes first.
1. Beta – Drop – Succession
2. Lee Coombs and Kostas G – Cycles – Thrust Recordings Promo
3. Lee Coombs vs Kosheen vs Kariya – Re Rub
4. Plump DJs – Hump Rock MK edit – Grand Hotel
5. Lee Coombs – Lilly in the Sky – Lot49
6. Ways and Means – Clamp – Dusted
7. Left Right – Everybody – Beta Remix – Digital Pizza
8. Plump DJs – Skylon – Grand Hotel
9. Metha – Monster – Lee Coombs and Kostas G Remix – VIM Promo
10. Lee Coombs – Thrust 1 – Ways and Means Remix – Thrust Recordings
11. Lee Coombs and Meat Katie – Thinking of You – Lot49
12. Meat Katie and Dylan Rhymes – If I can’t have you – Lot49
13. Newcleus – Technology – The Freakazoids Remix
I just want to send out a HUGE thanks to everyone that has supported my latest single ‘Lilly in the Sky’. We released it just before Christmas and it has held its position in the Top 10 of the Beatport Breaks Chart ever since. It peaked at No 2 and stayed there for a few weeks amongst tough competition.
I am currently writing a follow up single and will be previewing that very soon. Stay tuned!
Big Love to all
My growing arsenal of noise weapons 🙂
Moog Voyager + Modular Moogerfoogers
Roland Juno 106 (Red Meanie)
Dave Smith Prophet 08
Roland JX-3P with PG-200 Controller
Access Virus KB
Novation SL-25 MKII
I made this for New Years Eve as we all like an anthem at that time.
Go to the Soundcloud page and download from there.
Feel free to share this link…