Looking to dive into audio production but don’t know what gear to invest in to get started? Look no further! Dubspot’s Daniel Salvaggio rounds up some music studio essentials for helping you get up and running on your journey.
At Dubspot, one of the first things students new to production often ask is, ‘What gear do I need to get started?’ In this article, we’ll take a look at what we recommend for those looking to get started in the world of electronic music-making.
Well, obviously. However, the question will pertain to, ‘what should I get? PC or Mac?’ The short answer is that as far as hardware is concerned, you’ll probably be okay as long as you are not buying very old, outdated gear. Beyond that, if you intend to use Logic Pro, you’ll have to buy a Mac. Most all other DAWs work with multiple operating systems. From there, it’s all preference- I enjoy having a very powerful PC as my studio rig and doing all my work from one place. You may want a more mobile-oriented solution, and today’s laptops are absolutely capable of handling just about anything you’d be doing with a stationary setup.
There are numerous benefits to be reaped from purchasing an audio interface. In addition to increasing the sound quality coming to and from your computer, an audio interface will offer multiple inputs for recording live instruments and vocals. They also offer outputs for the use of quality studio monitors and headphones. The typical soundcard found on your PC or laptop will often contain one 1/8″ headphone jack output and one 1/8″ input for a desktop microphone. These are not ideal for audio production and, as a result, an external soundcard is one of the most significant purchases you can make for your home studio. With countless devices on the market, prices range from low to high, and these days you really don’t have to spend much to get a quality soundcard. In my home studio, and in our classrooms at Dubspot, we use the USB-powered Scarlett 2i2 from Focusrite. They are an inexpensive audio interface that offers great quality and easily meets the needs of the average home producer. Below are a few other recommended soundcards.
Focusrite Scarlett 2i2
Universal Audio Apollo Twin
Studio monitors are loudspeakers designed for audio production needs where accurate audio reproduction is crucial. Ideal studio monitors offer a clear, ‘honest’ representation of what you’re creating in your DAW. One beautiful thing about audio production becoming more accessible is that the price of quality gear has come down in the past decade making it more affordable to build a home studio. The most popular near-field monitors on the market by far are KRK’s Rokit series. They are highly affordable and sound great for the price. Rokit’s have been used and hyped up by some of the biggest names in the industry as well (a guy called Skrillex comes to mind). I’ve been using the Rokit 6 monitors in my studio for the last four or so years and am very happy with them. However, like most technology, the sky is the limit when talking about how much you can spend. A pair of Genelec M040′s or Event Opals will be significantly more expensive than a pair of Rokit 5′s. Mainly because they boast a cleaner, less distorted signal, and in some cases a lower frequency response. Below are a few other recommended studio monitors that are affordable.
M-Audio BX 5
Yamaha HS Series
While it is often advised that you should not primarily work in headphones, they are a highly useful tool in the studio. Not only are headphones crucial in terms of a musician’s relationship with the neighbors when working on music at night, but they also offer a slightly more exaggerated perception of music aspects in a project. For instance, headphones will make things like panning much more apparent. Note that it’s always a good idea to listen to your music on multiple platforms such as different speakers, headphones, etc. Listening to music in different environments will give you an idea of what your music sounds like to the average listener (i.e., someone that did not drop a bunch of money on a quality soundcard and studio monitors). Headphone types vary, and there are different types of headphones for various purposes. You can get a great pair of headphones for general use at an affordable price (the Audio Technica M50‘s come to mind) or spend a lot more on something a bit more high quality like the Audeze EL-8′s. Below are a few other recommended headphones that are affordable.
Audio Technica ATH-M50
MIDI controllers are always a huge topic of conversation at Dubspot as we’re all very eager to try out the latest gear. When it comes to an ever-important question of ‘what to buy,’ it all comes down to your specific studio needs and how you approach or would like to approach music-making. In my opinion, every producer needs at least a MIDI keyboard. There is no quicker way to get your melodic ideas down than with a piano. Beyond the obvious, other controllers offer functionality pertaining to how you interact with your DAW. Controllers with beat pads like Native Instruments’ Maschine or M-Audio’s Trigger Finger offer a quick, tactile way of getting your ideas down versus laboriously drawing in blocks of MIDI with your mouse. Maschine and Ableton’s Push take that functionality much further, allowing you to utilize something called ‘Scale Mode,’ enabling you to input melodic data without ever hitting a sour note! Not only is this a tremendous help in reference to the creation process, but a great way to learn scales, modes, and increase your knowledge of music theory. Below are a few other recommended MIDI controllers that are affordable.
M-Audio Axiom 49
Native Instruments Maschine