Updated: Feb 25
Many of our readers ask us to put together a list of the gear we have in our studio, and talk a little bit about the specific reasons behind our choices. We will add some Amazon links in case you want to buy this gear or something similar. It helps keeping this site alive so thanks in advance.
There is a plethora of gear out there, Choosing correctly is not easy, but you have to make a choice, right ? If you keep researching forever you will never get to actually use the gear you buy. So general rule of thumb is that at some point you hit the law of diminished returns, make a choice that seems to suit and move on.
Generally speaking the criterion we use to select our gear are:
· Function: does it have all the functions and specs we need ? And more ? Can you outgrow it too fast ? Is there a roadmap or an upgrade path ?
· Cost: think total cost of ownership. Can you re-sell it if you need ? Maintenance or setup ? Upgrades included ? Risk of obsolescence ?
· Fit for purpose: the right tool for the job and the right job for the tool. No hacks.
· Compatibility: is it compatible with all the other gear we have ?
· Quality: established brand ? return policy ? risk free purchase ? Goes well on online reviews and YouTube videos ?
The DAW brains
We'll start with the brains of the operation. We like MacOS for it's usability and extensive set of apps for audio. Yes, you can run Pro Tools on a Mac. Yes, it is the 'industry standard'. But as it turns out, Logic Pro X was our choice for the following reasons:
· Affordable one-off licence;
· Easy to use;
· Virtually all plugins these days can run on it (AU);
· Fast and reliable;
· Tech specs (bit-depth, math, sample rate) up to date.
Yes, we do have the risk of migrating to a new version of OS (Catalina, anyone) and everything stops working... but so far so good so no real reason to change it. We do have an old Pro Tools license hanging around in case any clients demand work in Pro Tools.
We operate out of a 13" MacBook pro, good compromise between mobility and performance.
The audio interface
One could write a book about this topic. In fact, many have been written already. We have detailed our experience when we decided between an RME Babyface Pro and a Universal Audio Apollo, and why we specifically chose the Apollo as the pivotal point of our studio gear setup. But here is again a shortlist of reasons for that selection:
· Powerful DSP engine;
· Great spec for A/D and D/A conversion;
· Plugins run in the device, with low latency while monitoring and tracking;
· Plugins are actually amazing, with realistic emulations of analog gear;
· Lots of information online, massive forums and groups of users;
· Extremely user-friendly console, running seamlessly on our mac.
Again a very happy selection, with the only issue being the limited number of inputs. Their rack mounts versions of this have far more inputs but cost way more... a good segue into our next topic.
The I/O expander
A good way to expand your audio interface without breaking the bank is to buy an ADAT I/O expander. Our thought was to use the main inputs on the Apollo for the most important and used signals of our studio gear - guitar capture via DI and microphone for voice-overs.
The expander can therefore be used for peripheral works and gear we don't use that often, or that is used for testing and reviews rather than main recording works.
We chose the Focusrite Scarlett October for the following reasons:
· 8 additional versatile inputs, for line level gear, microphone or even instruments;
· Optical connection to the Apollo - easy to configure;
· Virtually zero learning curve - start using a few minutes after it is set up.
Someone who desires higher specs on their A/D and D/A could look for other options. But with the usage above in mind, this ended up being cheaper than getting one of the multi-input devices of the Apollo family.
What is the point of having all that gear and then listening on a pair of speakers bought with a bag of chips at the supermarket ? Well, some will say that there is a point, when mixing one should experiment with devices the listeners are actually likely to use. That said, every decent studio will have a decent pair of monitors to start with.
We went with a pair of Yamaha HS5 studio monitors for the following reasons:
· Well known brand, direct child of the famous NS10. We used these in a previous life;
· Affordable and reliable;
· Great flat unbiased sound, enough for the size of our studio room;
· Powered and connected directly to the Apollo, easy setup.
We all should be aware that room treatment goes hand in hand with the selection of monitors. For the most part, we didn't have any issues with these and no wonder Yamaha continues to be one of the top audio brands out there.
Most of our studio gear experiments involve instrumental music or speech. Microphones in our case are useful for voice-overs or if someone wants to use our room to record some vocals, the former being way more common. So out choice was based on the focus on voice-overs and podcasts.
We went with the Rode Procaster for the following reasons:
· Well known Australian brand with lots of users around here;
· Robust, solid and good sounding - could be used for music in the future;
· Dynamic. We tried a few of their condenser options and it picked up too much background noise.
We are happy with the good, balanced sound that comes out of it. With a little bit of processing we can get the recordings ready for voice-overs or podcasts.
Choosing studio gear for your recording and rock and roll dreams is not an easy task... read our blog and all the other main blogs on audio, watch the videos on YouTube and experiment before making a decision.
Remember that gear doesn't fix poor playing skills (yeah, we tried) or bad songwriting... so a good approach is to keep it simple to focus on your music. As usual, feel free to contact me if you want to discuss this further.