How to put together a solid entry level studio

DSC 0004

Pictured above is my very first studio recorder, which I bought when I was 16 with money saved from working in the stock room of Toys 'r' Us at minimum wage (and yes, the fact that I still have the thing reveals my sentimental streak). Back then, I was totally psyched to have the power to record my music. I overdubbed bounced tracks, punch in, and patched in the cheap compressor I bought shortly after, for countless hours.

Looking back, it was a far from perfect piece of technology. Tape hiss was noticeable and omnipresent, the tape heads required regular cleaning and degaussing, and once tracks were bounced together, there was no way to seperate them (which one school of thought would actually regard as a positive trait).

Today's entry level studio solutions are a Cagillian times more powerful than when I was a lad. Let's just say that if present Noah stepped through a vortex in time and handed teenage Noah a MacBook and an interface, the latter Noah would be utterly flabbergasted.

Here is my suggestion for a good 1st studio rig. 

In addition to your computer, you will need software, an interface, a mic and quality headphones. Useful (and possibly essential) add-ons include studio monitors and usb midi keyboard. You will need a mic stand, a mic cable, and balanced cables for the monitors if you choose to get them.

For software, I've heard good things about Reaper ($60) and Studio One ($99). I use and love Digital Performer.

Be advised that choosing software is kinda like choosing a car. You're going to spend a lot of time behind the wheel, so make sure you like its vibe and the way it handles.

Next is the interface. I use the Mackie Blackjack ($150) in my smaller room at the EG. It can record two simultaneous mics/instruments with built-in decent preamps, and it is plug and play USB. It has been rock solid in my experience, and I have used it almost every day for a couple of years.

Get a Shure SM57 ($100). Don't get it on ebay because there are tons of fakes out there.

Then pick out a set of studio headphones (not consumer headphones). Do your research here and pick them like you would pick a pair of shoes that you plan to spend a lot of time walking in. Sony, Shure, Sennheiser, Audio Technica, AKG are good places to start.

If you want monitors, get the Equator D5s (great little monitors. a total steal)

It is advisable to purchase an external 7200 RPM hard drive for your audio projects. I use Glyph.

Although the strategy I am recommending is not the cheapest way to go, it will give you access to the possibility of producing very high quality results. You will also have upgrade paths that will allow you to customize your system without replacing it (at least until you become a gearhead like me). 

*Please note that I am not an affiliate of any of the products or vendors mentioned in this article.