I’m not a gear-head. I wish I were, but instead of reading up on equipment specs, I’m usually exploring the gear that G-D gave me. Hands cupped over the mouth. Lips close to the stairwell walls. You know the drill: extra long shower sessions. Thank G-D I make all those noises while the shower is running, lest my roommates think that I’m either obsessed with cleanliness—or something worse for that matter.
What I am obsessed with is beatboxing. So the more time I spent on live stages, the more I listened when the real gear heads spoke. What I am about to share truly comes from them. The ones who can bust out the definition of “digital 8-bus Mackie Avalon compression” the way you can bust out Old Skool routines like Salt ‘n' Peppa's “Push It.”
People like Beatbox-Battle-flutist Tim Barsky. I trust anyone who can beatbox and play flute at the same time. A man with this kind of tenacity is well suited to find the best gear for the cheapest prices. What follows is the sickest set-up for under a grand and it even includes a compressor, which are usually more than that alone. You don’t need everything all at once, of course. Just a mic and an amp will get you started. But once you experience compression, compress you will—especially since most clubs don’t even own them.
It’s all about the Roland KC-300 Stereo Keyboard Mixing Amplifier. While it lists for $599.00, you can easily get one brand new for $399.00. Sounds better than $1000 PA systems. It works so well for beatboxing because it is designed for keyboards, an instrument which has one of the broadest ranges of frequencies. So it broadcasts the clicks and the BOOMS strongly.
Other perks: It has four channels. So you can plug your three friends in, and get the double beatbox-MC combo going. It’s even small enough for lugging around to parties, small shows, or street performances.
Once you step on a stage backed by a massive system, mics don’t become as important as when you’re in your room practicing on a small amp. And believe it or not, the AKG D790 is the most bass responsive mic for its price, which if you look hard enough can be under a $100.00 bucks. You’d be shocked at the difference on a small amp between the obscure D790 and the well-known Shure SM58. Simply no comparison.
Once you get on that stage, you can’t tell the difference.
Until you walk up, and plug in a Beyerdynamic M88 TG. Simply put: this mic is incredible for beatboxing. Even shaped to fit the contour’s of a beatboxer’s hand. Veteran FOH Sound Engineer Marcel Cacdac—in my opinion the San Francisco Bay Area’s best beatboxing soundman—recently told me about the M88, which is used to mic brass instruments (like trombones) and kick drums. At $399.00, though, sometimes you get what you pay for. If you are beatboxing live on a regular basis, shell out the cash. You can find them for as low as $279.00.
If you’re planning on buying a compressor, the single greatest piece of equipment a beatboxer can own, you’ll need a preamp. Even without a compressor, this solid piece of equipment will boost your signal making a huge difference in your overall sound for pennies. And because the unit has volume controls, you can adjust your own volumes from stage, which is critical when you switch back-and-forth between styles with varying volumes. Comes down to the ART (Applied Research and Technology) Tube MP Studio Mic Pre-amp. For under a 100 bucks, there's very little else to say.
Soundpeople tend to be beatbox shy because of our tendency to feedback. They must think we’re idiots. We stand there onstage actually cupping the mic, while wildly gesturing for them to turn us up.
A compressor essentially squeezes in your signal so that you don't distort. This way you can crank—and I mean crank—the volume without feedback. I have heard that you can’t get a good compressor for under a $1,000. Having heard the miracles they bless upon the beatbox hasn’t helped me. I am prone to depression when I perform in clubs that don’t have them. Beatbox-Battle flautist Tim Barsky has recently discovered the cure: the RNC 1773, where RNC stands for “Really Nice Compressor.” The ‘1773’ part looks a lot the figure you’ll commonly see on price tags for other really nice compressors.
Reviews compare the RNC 1773 (priced at under $200.00) to compressor is five times more expensive. The secret? FMR Audio, the manufacturer, combines cutting-edge technology, and the goodness of their hearts. They save loads by not advertising at all. And pass along the savings to their customers! You can only get this lovely device from a few places in the world, their own web site, of course, being one of them: www.fmraudio.com. Oh, and one more perk. This compressor is serious. You can use it in the studio.
Overall, you can leave the practice amp at home, and arrive at the show with the golden trio of mic, preamp, and compressor. I hope that you find this information useful.