Gear - What Do I "NEED" vs What Would I "LIKE"

studio business Feb 03, 2020

Ok, the last post I started to lay the foundation for you to start thinking about getting started with your own recording studio business. Hopefully, you started to create your business plans. Have You? Why not? This is important and cannot be overlooked. So stop reading this right now and finish your homework!! ☺ As I said in the last post, it does not need to be anything fancy or complex. A simple list of start-up and monthly costs will do for now. Refer to the last post for all the details.

For those of you who have done your assignment and are ready to move on….. This time I want to focus on the gear and what you “NEED” to have vs what you “WOULD LIKE” to have. Now keep in mind that this blog focuses on mainly the beginner audio engineer/mixer engineer. We realize that that is the majority of my audience even though I know that there are more experienced guys/gals reading this. So with that in mind, let me first say something that should be obvious to the experienced engineer/ producer but maybe not so much to the newbie! Hey, we were all a newbie at one time so don’t feel bad about it. :D.

Ok, the first thing to remember for the rest of your life in this business. There is no piece of gear, regardless of the price that will make a shitty-recorded song not a shitty-recorded song! There is an old saying that has been proven to work over and over again and here it is……

“GET IT RIGHT AT THE SOURCE AND THE MIXING PROCESS WILL BE FAR EASIER & YOUR FINAL PRODUCT WILL SOUND MUCH MORE PROFESSIONAL”

So many times I see beginners focus on what new piece of gear they need to buy or what magic plugin will make their vocal sound like a professional singer. They never spend the time to understand the basic recording principals of good mic placement technique, proper gain staging etc…and that is why their mixes usually sound like an armature recording. So what does that mean in relation to the gear you “NEED” to have? It’s pretty simple to explain. To be able to record and mix a 4-5 piece band with acoustic drums you “NEED” the following.

 Computer (avg cost $500-$1000) – Preferable that it’s a dedicated machine for just your studio. Mac / PC, it really does not matter although I use a Mac Pro. Many people use a PC and record musicians all the time! So it’s whichever you prefer as far as that is concerned. Something with a Duo or Quad-core minimum and at least 8 GB ram. However the fast the processor and the more cores the better. 

DAW (avg cost $99 - $500)– Which is the best? What do you purchase? Well, if you ask 20 people this question you are bound to get 20 different answers so let me just say this. All DAW’s basically do the same thing. They record audio! Which is the one for you really depends. I would suggest you do your research and decide for yourself. Read reviews, ask people what they have and why and then just pick one. My personal suggestion is Presouns Studio One Professional.

Audio Interface (avg cost $99 - $600) – Like I said in the last post, you need to decide how many inputs you need. If you are going to record bands then you want at least 8-16 inputs. Again, I use all Presonus hardware and they are great for the money but just like with the DAW, do your research!

Reference Monitors (avg cost $200pr - $1000pr) – Again, you will never get 5 people to agree on which monitors to purchase. What I would tell you is again do your research and ask other people. Also, go to another studio or two and listen to what they use. For the very beginner that has to keep the budget in mind, I would say you could spend $300-$400 and get a pair of monitors that will do you just fine.

Acoustic Treatment For Your Mixing Room (avg cost $200- $400) – Again, I can’t stress enough how important this is. You “NEED” to have some basic acoustic treatment in your mixing environment if you want to be able to turn out a professional mix.

Microphones ($99 per SM57) – This is a topic where everyone will have a different opinion and blah, blah, blah. Having said that, I am going to give it to you straight. If you’re at the beginner / intermediate stages all you “NEED” is 6-8 Shure SM57’s and a kick drum mic. PERIOD! I know what your thinking… “What?” “Are you kidding?”. You mean I don’t need a $3000 mic to record professional vocals? Answer =NOPE! Here is another one of my “famous” sayings! Ready…..

 “IF YOU CAN’T RECORD A PROFESSIONAL SOUNDING RECORDING WITH ONLY AN SM57 THEN YOU NEED TO RE-THINK WHAT YOU’RE DOING”

My only exception to this would be recording a kick drum. Although you can use an SM57 to do it, I would say spend and extra $150 and get a decent kick drum mic. That is worth the extra investment. Everything else Snare, Toms, Bass, Guitars (both electric and acoustic) & Vocals all can be done with an SM57. If you can get good at that, then you are on your way to being a pro! It’s all about mic placement, EQ etc….

Cables & Stands – You’ll need as many cables & stands as you have microphones and few extra in case of a damaged cable. So that’s the basics!

For around $2,000 - $2500 you could go from not having a single item on this list to having everything you need to record a 4-5 piece band and be able to mix a professional sounding product. Here is one last famous saying, I know you are wanting more…….LOL

“IT’S NOT ABOUT THE GEAR, ITS HOW YOU USE IT. THAT’S WHAT MAKES A PROFESSIONAL RECORDING”

So, go ahead and put this information into your business plans. Start crunching the numbers. I am sure if your reading this you already have half of what you “really need”. See you next time!

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