Buying gear for your setup can be confusing but exciting, and you want to get the best equipment you can for your money. There are so many options out there including different brands, gear for different purposes, and of course, prices.
My home setup is quite simple but it works for me. The equipment that you should buy really depends on what you want to do. I mostly use my gear for writing and production, and since most of my music is synth based, I don’t need a lot of recording equipment. If I record anything, it’s vocals – and this is why my setup is simply my laptop, AKG headphones, a Scarlett 2i2 interface and an SM58 microphone.
The most expensive part of many beginner setups is the computer – Apple has a couple of software programmes that are exclusive to them (Logic and Garageband), as mentioned in a previous post, meaning that you may need a Mac – however if you aren’t using either of these softwares then you could use a Windows computer instead. You can work on a laptop and many people do, however when you start recording more instruments or having bigger sessions, you may find that a laptop doesn’t have enough processing power to keep up and you may want to invest in a computer – however choosing a computer comes down to personal preference, your personal specification requirements, and what you’re used to.
If you are solely producing or writing using software instruments then you may not need a lot more than the computer and software, although you might find it useful to have a MIDI controller. This is an external (piano style) keyboard that you use to play the software instruments on your DAW which is much more practical than using musical typing or writing in every individual note with your mouse. You can get them in different sizes and with different functions such as pitch glide.
If you want to record physical instruments such as guitar or vocals, you will need a few things. Firstly an interface which is the bridge between your instrument and your DAW, you can plug your guitar/instrument directly into the interface with your instrument cable (if it has a pickup). The Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 is a good starting point, it’s easy to use and reasonably priced. A good low cost option if you don’t need more than a couple of inputs is the Behringer UMC22 USB Audio Interface.
If you are recording something that doesn’t have a pickup or you require a different sound then you will need to buy a microphone to pick up the sound. There are some quite cheap options that are really good for recording many different instruments and are used even in larger commercial studios. Some of the most popular are the Shure SM57 or SM58, the AKG 414, the Neumann TLM-104. The Shure microphones are fairly low-cost and are very robust, the other 2 I mentioned are a little more expensive but are extremely versatile in what you can use them to record. There are plenty of good options for a home setup.
You will also need an XLR cable to record through a microphone (unless you have a wireless one, but the sound quality tends to not be as good with these), these cables have a male end and a female end, the female end goes into the microphone and the male end goes into your interface.
The final essential item for your home setup is something to listen to your work on. Some people prefer headphones, others prefer monitors – many people have both to get an idea of how their music will sound from different perspectives. It is a good idea to invest in monitoring sources that have a flatter frequency response (meaning that the headphones or monitors don’t add any of their own frequencies and make your mix sound different), especially if you are mixing, however this may not be as important to you if you are writing or creating demos. Audio-Technica are a very popular headphone manufacturer, alongside AKG, Beyerdynamic, and Sennheiser. However if you’re looking for monitors, KRK, Genelec, M-Audio, Adam, and Focal have enough options between them that you will find something that suits you. My advice for choosing monitors is to go to a store that sells them and have a listen before buying.
I hope this blog post has helped if you are looking for any gear – feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions. Check out our first blog post to find out more about what we do.