What Equipment do I really need?

Newbies often struggle with the right set up. What do you really need if you start right away making music? In the beginning you can handle relatively little equipment. I’ll show you what I bought in the beginning.

As you read this i not surprisingly assume you own a computer. Even cheap desktop and laptop computerscan be able to handle a recording project from recording through to mix and mastering. However, CPU, RAM and the hard drive capacity will determine how efficient your computer will handle your workload.

A CPU with a higher core count is needed if you want to record with large track counts and many plugins. I would recommend at least a decent quad core CPU.

I think the most important thing is the RAM you are having. The RAM is the most limiting factor on the amount of plugins you can run at one time. In my personal opinion, 8 GB of RAM is the minimum you will need for a decent running system.

The more hard drive capacity you have, the longer you can record. If you can, try to record to an internal hard drive. External drives have slower read and write speed which can lead to crashes. Remember, you can always move the project to an external drive later. Oh and always back up your projects to external drives. There is nothing worse than losing all of your work because of an accident with your hardware.

Last question: Mac or PC.  And the answer is go with the platform you are most comfortable with. As long as you take good care of your computer you’ll be fine.

1. Audio Interface

Source: by Jeff Oliver

A good audio interface is able to handle all of the input and output of your recording. While you definitely can record with just the internal sound card built in to your computer, you will run into issues with latency (latency is the amount of time it takes for a sound you record to transmit to your computer and back out to your speakers). Often the build in Audio Interface in your computer is not build for making music so therefore an extra Interface is needed. Starts from 100$ and can be purchased here.

By the way there are different types of Audio INterfaces. Which one to chose is often a question of your intended purpose. Let me give you three examples:

  • For your “Garage-Band”: The HS-5 is a fantastic solution for groups. Whether you’re a small band, a private or classroom teacher, it’s great to get people playing and recording together!
  • The Professional: Roland’s STUDIO-CAPTURE USB audio interface features the most inputs and outputs in the inline-up. It represents the last word in recording technology for Mac and PC.
  • Self-recording musicians:  The OCTA-CAPTURE is a 24-bit/192kHz 10-in/10-out USB interface, with eight combi XLR/TRS inputs (phantom powered), eight balanced 1/4-inch jack outputs, stereo digital coaxial in and out, and MIDI I/O.
  • For your start I recommend you an Interface for Home studio producers. Like the DUO-CAPTURE EX which is a 24-bit/48kHz audio interface for Mac, PC and iPad.

2. Monitor Speakers

Source: by Marinko Krsmanovic

There’s no use spending thousands on your DAW, Sample Packs and audio interfaces if you are going to listen to the results of your music production through a pair of tin cans tied to a piece of string. Speakers are often “coloured” which means they are i.e. enhanced in certain frequency ranges to make them better than they really are. Computer speakers, for example, often have their bass response extended so they sound like beefier and bigger monitors. The problem is that when you mix on monitors like this your bass might sound good on them but as soon as you play the track on another set of less bass-enhanced speakers the results will almost definitely sound weedy because you will have lowered the bass while mixing on your bass-heavy monitors. The rule is: Cheaper monitors are lying to you! Good monitors reveal exactly what your mix sounds like: from left to right, from top to bottom. They translate everything you do within your sequencer exactly, so if you decide to enhance the bass of your kicking kick, you will be able hear the result with good monitores! As a producer you need to hear accurately what you are mixing so take some money and get some high quality stuff! You can purchase monitores here.

3. Midi Keyboard

Source: by Torsten Dettlaff

Get a decent keyboard. Most DAWs let you use the computer-keyboard option for playing in notes but it’s a depressing experience. So get yourself a decent full-sized keyboard. A MIDI Keyboard is a usefull device that plugs into your computer to help you produce music. Let me make this clear, you do not need one to produce music but they are very useful and is a recommended product for music producers as it improves your workflow. You can purchase them here.

4. A good microphone

Source: by Pixabay

There are three main microphone types:

  1. Dynamic Mics
  2. Condenser Mics
  3. and Ribbon Mics

Dynamic mics are the workhorse mics of the studio. Dynamics are tough mics. They can get hit by drumsticks, dropped on stage and so on. They aren’t particularly sensitive, which makes them perfect for loud sources. This is why you often see them on snare drums and guitar amps. And because they’re usually the cheapest of the mic types, they’re also easiest to stock up on. Dynamics tend to make instruments more warm and sound less aggressive.

Condenser microphones are the rich, frilly brothers of dynamics. They’re built more complicated than their dynamic counterparts, so they’re more fragile and expensive as well. Anyway they are much clearer in comparison to dynamics. They are more balanced, accurate, and “sweeter” than their powerful counterparts. They’re also more sensitive, which makes them perfect for softer and brighter sounds. As a studio microphone, they’re very powerful.

Ribbon mics are the black sheep of the family. These microphones were very popular in the 50’s and 60’s, before dynamic and condenser mics came into the business. They’re very fragile and very expensive. But few mics can produce the warmness and vintage “vibe” that these can. These are the most sensitive mics around, so they’re meant to be used on softer sounds, like voice or strings.

You can find good microphones here.

5. Good headphones

Source: by Garrett Morrow

If you’re a casual listener using your headphones with your smart phone, you’re probably going to be satisfied.  But full time mixers, producers, and sound technicians can discern the smallest imperfections in sound.  Sp of course you need to have the right headphones.  Look at these.