by Bryan Kreuter
People have been telling you, your recordings could sound like Maserati if you only would use proper equipment instead of your Phone. But when you looked up the prices…damn a Maserati is super expensive. You are right, but you couldn’t be more wrong. Read this beginners guide to recording equipment, you might be surprised that you can fully equip yourself with quality gear with around 1000€ (around 1400$)
No second thoughts! Go second hand!
Yes, to me and many other musicians often times 2nd hand is the way to go! And actually, you’re not compromising in any way. Just take a good look at the gear and the seller, trust your instinct, and chances are you get great gear for a great price.
Let’s talk GEAR!
Here comes the fun part. First of all you need to decide whether you go Apple or PC. PC might be cheaper, nonetheless I recommend a Mac. To me they’re easy to maintain and I happily open every spam email since they are unable to read .exe files. And if you still want windows, you still can install it. 300€ will get you nowadays a used Mac Pro 1.1 with 2.66 quad. I have one of these and can’t complain, and they are upgradeable (up to 3Ghz 8 core). Unless you are doing songs with 100 tracks, many plugins that use a lot processing power, this machine will perform great. I can say that 99% of the time I don’t have performance issues – and even then with a little tweaking of the sample size this can be solved.
Interface – you need an interface to record. Good for us that in the 200€ range there are plenty famous names like Apogee, TC, Focusrite etc. 160€ will get you the duet, a sleek 2 channel interface. Unfortunately it has no ADAT, so it’s not expandable. Another option would be the TC Konnekt 24d for 130€ or the Focusrite saffire pro 24dsp for 180€. Personally I’d go for the Focusrite since its build in monitoring function (vrm) comes in handy and it is a true 4 channel interface – the TC sacrifices channel 3/4 for stereo devices.
Mics: Next, you need a good mic. I’m a big fan of condenser mics, and actually, you don’t have to spend a fortune to get some quality. The SE 2200a will easily be found for 100€, many swear by the Rode NT1 or the AT 4033, which can be found starting around 110€ – 170€. But what about dynamic mics? Same thing here, actually one of the most used and heard mics can be found for 75€ – the Shure SM57. It’s like a Swiss knife, you can use it for a lot of stuff and it’s durable. Since it’s nice to have various mics, we go for the SE and the 57. So far we’ve spent 655€, to get us started we still need a screen, headphones and a software.
Software : Logic is a nice tool, easy to learn and feature rich. Logic Express 9 can be found online for 40€. Great Deal!
Now the monitoring. At this point I recommend headphones, since speakers need a treated room to work properly. And since the Focusrite has the VRM, which isn’t that bad at all, you can fine tune your ears by mixing with headphones until you can upgrade to Monitors. Beyerdynamic DT 770 can be bought new for 140€. Yes, new. You might have to get a new cable on used headphones anyway, besides that after a few years I had to replace my earpads as my sweat literally made them fall apart. Seriously you don’t want to use used earpads..
Okay, finally you need a screen. Get a used 23″ inch screen or bigger. 60€ should do it. In total that makes 895€.
With the last 105€ buy some quality cables and mic stands. If you don’t need that, you could consider to upgrade your machine with ssd drives (60€ – 100€) or to get Line 6 Pod guitar preamp (60€). Or you could simply save the money and spend it on a nice evening with your Girlfriend/Wife.
You’re now the proud owner of this system:
Mac Pro 2.66 Quad, Focusrite Pro 24dsp, Se 2200a, Shure sm57,
Beyerdynamic DT770, Logic Express 9
I hope this beginners guide to recording equipment has been helpful.