Excited to introduce the new Synth History Recommends Series, where I ask musicians and producers what gear they recommend for studio use. It could be anything - not just synths but specific monitors, desks, cables, you name it.
Kicking off this series is the extremely talented record producer and songwriter, Noah Shebib - aka 40. His extensive production and song-writing work with Drake has won him two Grammy Awards, including Best Rap Album for 2013's Take Care and Best Rap Song for God's Plan off 2019's Scorpion - not to mention eleven more nominations throughout the years. He's worked with artists like Alisha Keys, Lil Wayne, Beyoncé, A$AP Rocky, Jamie Foxx, DJ Khaled, Kendrick Lamar, Action Bronson, Nas, Usher, 2 Chainz, and more.
Without further ado,
Crucial for sitting and working for extended periods of time. With standing breaks, of course.
Probably my most important and used hardware synth. And it sits nicely in a rack right beside my chair.
If anyone really knew, this virtual synth is used on every record I have ever made no question. It just sounds really clean, is simple and has two things that I love. A “soft lead” preset category as well as a “soft pad” preset category.
4. Maschine 2
I've gotten really fast with the Maschine hardware as well as the software and the way they integrate works really well for me inside of Pro Tools. Its my favourite place to start any beat. And the sound banks and expansion kits are fire.
5. Pro Tools
I need it, it's like my second language. I speak protools.
Working without it is like tying one hand behind my back.
Dr. Claude Fortier makes my favourite speakers on the planet. They are full range reference monitors with tweeters, not horns like most mains. They are transparent with my near fields. Which he also makes!
8. Maag EQ4
This EQ is my favourite piece of newer gear without any question. It's a game changer with it's SUB band and it's 40k AIR band.
I do a lot of referencing while mixing, wether it be other peoples mixes or the original reference. With the Oculus I can flip input sources without looking because it’s a lever. They make working way faster and easier then having to solo a fader on the console or in Pro Tools. Also, I love having lots of monitor options, so likewise without looking I can flip three pairs of speakers. Seamless no-look flipping of sources and outputs is again something I’ve come to not be able to live without.
10 . DANTE
God bless Dante and virtual sound card. Integrating audio into a network is a game changer and just the future of all of this for me. Can't wait to see where it all goes from here.
11 . iConnectivity mioXL
With the integration of RTP MIDI (Real Time Protocol) I can send zero latency MIDI data to any of my synths over the network (yes even Wi-Fi) and since Dante is also on the network, that means I can access audio and MIDI from any of my hardware synths from anywhere in the building real time. It’s incredible.
12. Unity Connect
Unity is I think the best way possible to stream audio over the internet. It’s incredible. 64 channels both ways and you can get the latency down to almost nothing. Pair that with RTP MIDI and you can use synths from your studio over the internet at playable latency.
13. MIDNAM Files
Most people overlook this little feature built into every Pro Tools MIDI track. It’s a file that must be present in a documents folder that will correspond to a specific hardware synth. IF that file is present in your docs, or you can locate one for whatever synth you have, and you add the hardware synth to MIDI Studio in Audio MIDI Setup, then all the name and patch bank data will be present in Pro Tools. Therefore, I can call up patches and program changes right from my DAW without ever touching the hardware synth. And even more importantly when I open that session a decade later it will recall all the correct patches as it fires program changes every time you press play. It makes working with hardware synths much more comparable to virtual synths specifically when it comes to the aches and pains of recalls.
I have gotten used to never making a patch in the studio. Just mics and pres but that’s it. Everything hits a converter permanently then MADI to Patch Net (the console) so everything is all in a digital patching domain. Fully recallable and the ability to multiply outputs. So I can track a mic and record the pre out, the compressor out as well as a full chain with eq, then decide after I’ve tracked it because I can multiply any source or output in the digital domain. That security when recording is a must.
Power is everything in the studio. I need clean power. It equals loud speakers clean mics, clean amps and clean synths all day.
Be sure to check out 40's record label with Drake, OVO Sound.