Hal Leonard Premium Recording Pack 2017


The Hal Leonard Premium Recording Pack 2017 includes all the quality components to start a recording studio! And, this special bundle offers deeper than usual dealer margins.

  • Blue Mic: Spark condenser mic
  • Propellerhead: Reason 9 Essentials recording software
  • iConnectivity: iConnectAudio2+ interface
  • Samson: Z45 stereo reference headphones
  • Hal Leonard Books: Getting Started in Music Production book with online media
  • Pro Tools First postcard with access code
  • Groove3 30-day free trial pass

HL#213705      MSRP $837.93/MAP $499.99


At first glance, this Premium Pack looks nice like, “Oh, isn’t that a nice bundle….” But wait! This deserves a much closer look under the hood because there’s so much more here than a casual perusal of the bullet points would indicate—REALLY! Anyone who is showing this package to someone needs to hear what I’ve discovered about the contents of this super-powerful set of recording tools. As a Training Specialist for Hal Leonard Corp., an author, the owner of a production studio, I have a ton of gear around my place. It has accumulated over time, plus I can usually get something to review if it looks interesting. When I saw this bundle, I was immediately struck by the fact that I had all of it right here and had developed some relatively refined and tested opinions about everything in the Pack. What I have discovered should prove to be valuable to those who follow this blog.

iConnectAudio2+ Interfaceiconn-logo

First thing: CONGRATULATIONS iConnectivity for being nominated for a TEC Award for the iConnect Audio2+!
That’s an amazing honor! This nomination speaks loudly about the quality of your company and the products you manufacture! I didn’t know you were in the running until I got my ballot in the mail this morning! Obviously, I was impressed with your accomplishment because the rest of my comments about the Audio2+ were made prior to knowing about this nomination. Way to go, iCoonnectivity!


iconnOn first glance, this is a nice looking interface. It’s small and lightweight and it feels nice as you put it in your bag to head out into the world. But, if you look just a little closer under the hood, you’re struck again with, “What the heck?!” Not only is this a 2-input, 4-output (6-outputs counting the discrete stereo headphone output) digital interface but it also has classic 5-pin MIDI in and out jacks plus one of the coolest features I’ve seen in a small interface: YOU CAN CONNECT TWO COMPUTERS or, a computer and an iOS device like your iPad or iPhone, because this doubles as an iOS interface! Want to use your favorite IK Multimedia sampler app or your Line 6 guitar processor from your iPad along with your computer DAW. No problem! Plug them both into the interface and everything links together! backThe app that controls the Audio2+ interface connects everything and routes all the signals. So, using the iPad as a sound source through your DAW or connecting MIDI to the Audio2+ and playing the synth sound from your iPad and recording the audio from that performance back into your DAW is no problem. This interface offers a world of possibilities for creativity involving two computers or a computer and an iOS device—amazing! Plus, it’s a very efficient and easy-to-use interface for either your Mac/PC or iOS device separately.

Blue Microphones: Spark

Blue Microphones for your 2017 TEC Award nomination for the Bottle Mic Locker!

blue-microphones-logoThis cardioid condenser mic from Blue Microphones is an incredible tool at a super-reasonable price—just north of $100 MAP! Every basic recording kit needs to include an excellent-sounding microphone—the Spark fits that description. This is a very capable microphone! It delivers a high-quality sound, is solidly built, and it looks cool.

The Spark in this Pack connects to an interface or mixer with a standard XLR connector but Blue also offers the Spark Digital, which connects to a computer via USB. If you want the best of both worlds—and more—Blue also offers a handy little gadget called the “Icicle” that receives the XLR output from any microphone and converts it to USB that can be plugged directly into your computer. spark

I first discovered the Spark a couple years ago when a good friend, who was looking for a mic for his home studio, sent me a link to a YouTube video that compared the Spark to some very high priced mics—most of which I own. The Spark held up extremely well in the video and I was anxious to test it out when I got the one I have here. For anyone who has a lot of high-priced mics at their disposal, setting the Spark up and giving it a few real-life recording tasks can only result in one response, “What the heck!” I’m picky about mics and I’ve used most of them extensively but after hearing the Spark and some of the other inexpensive mics on the market, I’ve had to revise my snooty attitude. This is a great-sounding mic—at any price!

A couple decades ago, a mic of this quality would have been priced at several times the price of this entire Recording Pack. Go Blue!

focus-control-buttonpsdThe mic won’t be a stumbling block for anyone who uses this bundle. The Spark sounds clean and clear in the high end and accurately captures the subtle transients in any sound. It also is very full in the low end. There’s a button called the “Focus Control” button on the back of the mic—it’s cleverly camouflaged, being the same red color as the mic body and not being labeled. With the Focus Control button in the “in” position, the mic is pretty flat throughout the frequency spectrum but with a bump down around 80–90 Hz. Oddly enough, over the rest of the spectrum, it struck me that, if I had a perfectly flat mic and wanted to clean the sound up a little bit, my EQ settings would probably result in a very similar curve. I have no idea if that was intentional or just a result of the physical design of the head, but in any case, the inherent curve explains a little about why the mic sounds so good out of the box. The low-end bump helps the mic sound full from greater distances and it also provides a little extra boom-boom when used in close proximity. Setting the Focus Control button to the “out” position, rolls off the low-end bump so the sound of the mic focuses more on the mids and highs. In this price range, not many mics have this low-frequency roll-off control so that’s a bonus; but, the fact that the “in” position has a bump in the low end really makes it feel more focused on things like speech, singing, and mid-range punch when the button is switched out.


Obviously, I like the Spark and I recommend it highly. In the microphone world of a couple decades ago, a mic of this quality would have been priced at several times the price of this entire Recording Pack. Go Blue!

Reason 9 Essentialsr9-ess-logo

Reason is such an impressive DAW software offering! It has grown to be a favorite for many, whether recording vocals, MIDI, instruments, or virtual instruments. The virtual instruments that are included sound great and offer tons production possibilities. They are very relevant for a wide range of productions in virtually any genre but they’re especially powerful when producing modern pop, dance, and EDM genres. The way Propellerhead designed their plug-in structure, there are really no obstructions to an outrageously creative mind. If you want to expand the sounds you’re getting on the front panel, simply the virtual instrument it around to see the back patch bay (on-screen, of course) and let your inner mad scientist run naked through a sonic panorama.

Like it says, the Essentials version of Reason includes all the essential tools needed to create a full-blown musical production. It’s a major bonus in this package that Reason plays well with others. Programs like Pro Tools and Studio One, can easily work together with Reason to expand the creative potential of both. I work a lot in Pro Tools and Studio One but, creatively, everything jumps to the next level when I use a plug-in called ReWire to link either DAW to Reason. Gaining access to the amazingly powerful sound shaping tools in Reason augments everything about the host DAW. Whether I build the basics in Pro Tools or Reason, I always get a lot out of the ReWire connection. Also, with version 9, Reason now ReWires together with Ableton live! It’s a great time to be alive.

Avid: Pro Tools Firstavid

tec-nominee-32-logoCongratulations Avid for your 2017 TEC Award nomination for Pro ToolsPro Tools Dock, and the Pro Tools S6 console!

And that brings us to Pro Tools First. I see this DAW as a gateway drug. Anyone who catches the Pro Tools bug (like 90+ percent of the commercial studios in the world) will eventually end up owning the full version. Pro Tools First is the free version but it has an essentially full feature set. The limitation is the maximum track count. It’s limited to 16 tracks rather than the 128, 256, 768, etc. of it’s bigger brother versions. However, it includes the Collaboration feature, which was only recently released in version 12.6. Collaboration provides an environment where near real-time collaboration over the Internet is a reality. That’s amazing!

avid-pro-tools-first-digital-audio-workstation-daw-screen-shot-5487Want to get your buddy that’s a half a mile away to throw down a bass guitar track on your new tune? Start a collaborative Project, send a text to ask him to log on, talk through the track, send your tracks or stems directly to him, let him record the bass track and send it directly back to your Project—done! And that happens all right within Pro Tools! There’s no need to go anywhere else for any part of the collaboration! Want to do the same thing with someone that’s on the other side of the globe? No problem. Just follow the same procedure!

Even though Pro Tools First is the free version, the power that is represented by its use along with Reason can’t be understated. Getting someone on the right path and creating music the way that it is done at the highest level has incredible value! The workflow that includes Reason and Pro Tools is the same that any major recording artist might use anywhere around the world.

Samson Z45 Stereo Reference Headphonessamson-logo

z45-img-1-1500x1500-1024x1024The Z-series headphones from Samson are quite impressive. Soon after I got mine, I had a recording session and grabbed a black bag out of the headphone bin to record a guitar track. I have several sets of a particularly popular studio headphone around and they all are stored in a black leather-ish bag like the Samson’s. I simply put the phones on and started recording and was instantly struck by how good the phones felt and sounded. I had unknowingly grabbed my Samson phones and was struck by how much I liked them. One might think that the headphones that come in a bundle might not be of very high quality and they might not sound good. Not the case here at all! These are nice phones, they sound good, they’re well-constructed, and they feel good when you put them on.

Getting Started with Music Production

Congratulations to Hal Leonard Books for your TEC Award  nomination  for Sylvia Massy’s great new book, Recording Unhinged!

getting-startedtec-nominee-32-logoGetting Started with Music Production is the entry-point into the Hal Leonard Recording Method. Author Robert Willey teaches in the classroom and has developed an excellent step-by-step process for recording music. This text will get anyone who’s interested in capturing musical creativity, started off on the right foot.

Groove3.com 30-day free trial pass

tec-nominee-32-logoCongratulations Groove3.com on your nomination for the 2017 TEC Award for The Blackbird Academy Foundation Series.

Groove3.com provides some of the best training videos available. They’ll get anybody up and running with Reason and Pro Tools First in short order and they also offer a myriad of instrumental and recording tutorials. g3

The Bottom Line

This Hal Leonard Premium Recording Pack provides a virtual playground for the creative mind! With Reason and Pro Tools First, the songwriting, sound design, beat-making, music producing, and collaborative potential is endless. Many world-class recordings have been produced over the years with a fraction of the potential that this bundle offers!







ALERT! Acoustical Control Is Imperative!

GeerFab Acoustics: MultiZorber II & MultiZorber OC703


Screenshot 2016-08-30 15.37.12

The Bottom Line about Acoustical Treatment

Aside from a great performance from a great musician, acoustical treatment might be the single most important factor involved in capturing a high-quality sound. It’s fundamental. We tend to look at the newest gizmo or whatcha ma thingy and we’re convinced that if we add it to our signal path the angels will sing parallel cascading triads from heaven above and we’ll get the best sound EVER. Well, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but if the room/acoustical space hasn’t been prepped for success, neither will your sound be prepped for success. The sound of the acoustical space becomes inseparable from the sound of the source. To get a really tight, intimate vocal sound, you must create a really tight, intimate space to record the vocals in. That’s where these panels from GeerFab can absolutely save your bacon! They let YOU shape the sound that the mic captures. Once you hear the difference that simple acoustical control makes, you will never record another track without first considering acoustical influences on the sound.

MultiZorber and Blue

Surround the vocal mic with GeerFab MultiZorbers for a tight, intimate vocal sound.

Face it. In today’s recording economy the majority of recording is done in poorly designed home studios. Using portable acoustical control tools like the GeerFab MultiZorber II (they’ve added a cloth material to the front of this newer version, which changes the absorption character) lets you surround the recording area and shape the acoustical personality so that you really record something that sounds fundamentally great. There are creative reasons to include more or less room sound in your recordings; however, if you capture too much room sound—and if the room sounds terrible—the recording will sound terrible. And there’s not really anything that will fix the problem other than re-recording the track in a decent sounding environment. There are plug-ins that try to reduce the sound of undesirable acoustical influence, but important tracks deserve to be well-recorded in a controlled space.

No Matter the Studio, Portable Acoustical Control Tools Are Crucial

Even in the best of studios, almost every session includes the use of portable acoustical treatment tools to control the influence of the room sound on the recording. If you’re not doing anything about controlling the acoustical influence, I strongly recommend that you start today! Sometimes, we make changes in the way we record something for nearly unperceivable benefit (imagine a room full of white coats rubbing their chins and nodding knowingly but not really knowing). But skillfully implemented acoustical control results in a change that will be easily noticed by your Grandma! “Why, Johnny! I’ve never heard your voice sound so great on a recording!”


If you’re new to the study of acoustics, there might be some terminology that’s unfamiliar to you. Here are a couple terms, used in advertising specs, that are worth understanding:

Noise Reduction Coefficient (NRC). The common definition for NRC is: A single-number rating system used to compare the sound-absorbing characteristics of building materials. A measurement of the acoustical absorption performance of a material, calculated by averaging its Sound Absorption coefficients at 250, 500, 1000 and 2000 Hz, expressed to the nearest multiple of 0.05.” (Credit for this definition and for more terminology: Gracey and Associates).

Translation. In plain terms, the extremes of NRC refer to how much sound is absorbed by something, with the numeral “0” representing that no sound absorption has occurred and the numeral “1” representing complete sound absorption. So, an open window would have an NRC of “1” because all sound goes through the open window and isn’t reflected back toward the source. On the other hand, a rigid, solid, steel wall with a super-smooth surface would reflect back virtually everything and would be at least very near “0” NRC.

The GeerFab MultiZorber II provides an NRC of .90 when against a wall, which means it absorbs almost all of the sounds that it is subjected to. The NRC is a result of standardized test procedures that take into account multiple factors so an NRC of .90 doesn’t really mean it absorbs 90 percent of sound but .90 is still near total absorption. Also, notice that NRC spec is occasionally greater than “1.” When the GeerFab MultiZorbers are are hung away from the wall, their NRC jumps from .90 to 1.35 because of the absorption occurring from the reflections behind (and even on the edges) of the absorber.

OC703. Ownes Corning 703 insulation is known for its extremely efficient sound absorption characteristics. The MultiZorber OC703 takes advantage of the excellent acoustical characteristics of Owen Corning’s 703 insulation in an extremely easy-to-use panel.


You owe it to your music and the quality of your recordings to include acoustical control  tools in your work. It’ll make your music easier to mix and it will result in a dramatically more powerful and emotional production.