The Ultimate Recording Studio Equipment List
In order to fully develop your arsenal of musical tools and advance your career in music production, we've compiled a comprehensive recording studio equipment list - the must-haves to buy for your studio. All items outlined below are integral to your success in creating great music.
To begin producing music, one of the most important things you will need (after you score your music production gear such as instruments, speakers and mics) is a solid computer or laptop to do all your sound engineering on. A computer is essentially the backbone and brain behind an entire music production setup. Something we want to let you know right away, it doesn’t really matter what brand of computer you get (e.g. PC or Mac), what matters is that it can handle all the setup for a modern album being produced. When choosing a computer strictly for making music, there are so many to choose from that it's hard to point to just one.
Important factors to be aware of:
- Get one with a fantastic processor: In the music industry, you will quickly learn that we want to work as fast as possible without any technological disruptions. The faster you can work, the more music can be developed and you can concentrate on the song rather than a technological glitch. We recommend at least getting a 3.0 processor that is dual core (getting a quad-core would be even better)
- You need to buy one with enough RAM: We always recommend getting a computer with at least 8GB of RAM, it will just keep the entire process fast and free
- Get a computer with a lot of storage: We recommend having at least 500GB on your computer, some may say to get at least 1TB. If you're exporting songs and are strictly using the computer for music production (no other work, images or video on it) 500 GB will be enough
- Get a BIG screen: This is very important; it just makes the entire process easier and lets people over your shoulder, primarily producers, see everything that’s going on. Get one that's at least 12 inches and up
- Don’t worry too much about the video card (unless you also edit movies). This is all about sound and having a fast system, everything else shouldn’t matter.
By following all the steps outlined above, you'll be able to get a great computer that can function great while recording music. This needs to be at the top of your recording studio equipment list. Some that we recommend are as follows:
- Apple MacBook Pro
- Lenovo ThinkPad
- Apple iMac
- Lenovo ThinkServer
- Dell Inspiron 3000
- HP Envy
- Acer Predator
- Lenovo ThinkCenter
- Apple MacBook Air
- Acer Chromebook
There's a constant battle between buying a PC or Mac, but it’s all up to personal preference. One is not typically better than the other, so whether you are a Mac person or PC person, as long as it gets the job done you will be fine.
For those of you out there who are beginners when it comes to producing music, you've probably heard about buying DAW software. DAW stands for Digital Audio Workstation, which is essentially software that you can use to engineer your music and make it sound even better. There's a lot of free DAW software out there, such as the most common “Audacity,” but if you are serious about recording, you will soon find out you need to buy one of the more professional versions.
Audacity is good for people who are just recording small demos, or need to edit an already established song; it is not the best at all for recording. However, buying DAW software can be pricey, especially if you don’t know what you are looking for, which is why we recommend first using a “limited” version of a program before you buy it. These trial versions will give you a sense of how it all works and you can feel comfortable before forking over a lot of money. As well, only the most advanced sound engineers use the premium features, so you may realize you don’t even need the full copy.
We've listed below some top DAW software that we think will benefit you as you continue to develop your career in music production:
- PreSonus AudioBox Studio
- FL Studio
- Ableton Live
- Steinberg Cubase
- Cockos Reaper
- Apple Logic Express
- Avid Pro Tools
While all these range in price and features, not one of them fails at recording great music. It all comes down to your personal preference (as well as some only work on a Mac and some only on PC), and how intuitive the interface feels. We recommend going through the list, watching tutorials, and seeing which one is the best for your particular needs.
Obviously one of the most important tools you need to make music, and also to engineer great music, is an audio interface. Finding the right one, especially with so many out there, can be quite a daunting task. There are so many types of connectors, various configurations, sizes, and formats that you have to think about when setting up your interface. Before you even think about buying one, we want you to answer all of these questions below. It will just help you in the long run and push you towards buying an audio interface that works best for you.
Do you want to take it on the go?
This is a big question to answer as it will factor the interfaces you can buy. If you are constantly on the road and want to be able to mix and record audio while on tour, etc., you'll want to buy an audio interface that is portable and easy to hook up. If portability is not a concern to you, then you can buy bigger and heavier interfaces.
Do you need a lot of inputs and outputs?
You need to start thinking about your needs and wants as a sound engineer. How many instruments do you intend on hooking up? What sort of connections do these devices have? I would first take into consideration what gear you have now and how they need to be plugged in.
How much are you willing to spend, and does sample rate matter to you?
Audio interfaces can cost between $200 and $2,000, a massive difference in price. The average person can’t even hear the sound difference between these two audio interfaces. Start out small. Don’t aim to buy the biggest audio interface out there, just get one that will get the job done. Once you start making an income from the music, that is the time to upgrade.
With so many audio mixers available, first consider your budget - how much do you want to spend, Do you want it to be digital or analog? Are you going to be recording live or in studio?, and how many channels will you need? Once you answer all these questions, you will be one step closer to buying a mixer.
The best mixers available include:
We recommend researching all the audio mixer products listed above and see which one works best for what you need. All of them work great, and it comes down to personal preference.
Studio headphones are essentially to be used for the creation, recording, mixing, and mastering of music. They aren’t your typical headphones, and are very important as a sound engineer and for all your musicians (including singers). They are to be used to listen critically to the music, rather than being entertained.
Some of your best studio headphones choices are:
- Audio Technica ATH-M50x
- Beyerdynamic DT 770 PRO-80
- Beyerdynamic DT 880 Pro
- Sony MDR7506
- Sennheiser HD280PRO
The most important thing to remember about studio monitors is that they must represent your output signal as "flat" as possible. All speakers color the sound in some way, whether through the enclosure's construction, the quality and size of the speaker, and your listening environment itself. All these factors contribute to your perception of what the program material sounds like - even the air pressure and relative humidity can influence how you hear sound waves.
Some of the best studio monitors you could purchase for your own studio are:
- KRK Classic 5 Professional Bi-Amp 5" Powered Studio Monitor
- Edifier MR4 Powered Studio Monitor Speakers, 4" Active Near-Field Monitor Speaker
- JBL Professional 305P MkII Next-Generation 5-Inch 2-Way Powered Studio Monitor
- KRK RP5 Rokit 5 G4 Professional Bi-Amp 5" Powered Studio Monitor
- PreSonus Eris E3.5-3.5" Near Field Studio Monitor
- Yamaha HS5 Powered Studio Monitor
Microphones are incredibly important for recording singers and you need to buy one that complements your studio. They can cover an incredible range in price and diversity depending on the application. In order to keep things within the range of a complete system budget, we've included a list of some of the most robust and affordable microphones currently available:
- Shure SM57
- Shure SM58
- Shure Beta 58
- Rode NT1
- Rode NT2-A
- Behringer C1
- Audio Technica AT2020
- Shure SM7B
Pop filters subdue bursts of air that can quickly ruin a perfect vocal take.They are a must for a production studio to help control a singer’s voice and provide a clear quality of sound.
Some favorite pop filters are:
Stands are relatively straightforward when purchasing recording studio equipment. First decide which microphone you're buying, then buy the appropriate stand for the product. If it's strictly for use in the studio, it matters much less than using one in a live setting.
However, you will ] need to buy great XLR cables to connect microphones and other output gear to your mixing console. They often represent the weakest link in your audio chain but must transfer the audio signal faithfully and reliably. Choose cables that maintain the sound quality, provide flexibility and durability, have an appropriate length for their intended use, premium core materials, effective shielding, necessary connector type and strain relief.
Microphone cables often go overlooked but, they are an essential part of the recording process; if you get one that just doesn’t work, an entire day of recording can be wasted.
Some of the best XLR cables and mic stands are:
- NEEWER Microphone Suspension Boom Scissor Arm Stand
- Samson MK-10 Microphone Boom Stand
- LyxPro LCS Premium Balanced XLR Cable
- Mogami Gold Studio Cables
- Hosa XLR-120
- Hosa Pro Balanced XLR Cable
- Monster Classic Balanced XLR Cable
With any profession, you must do your research and consistently be doing practical work to get better at it; professionally recording music is the same. There are multitudes of audio recording books written by the best sound engineers in the business that will enhance your skills at recording. Increasing your knowledge base is an ongoing process, whether through association, execution or the power of recorded words either in digital form or in print. Always keep learning and broaden your horizons.
Top Recording Arts Literature:
- Mastering Audio: The Art and the Science by Bob Katz
- The Sound Reinforcement Handbook by Gary Davis
- Mixing Secrets for the Small Studio by Mike Senior
- Audio Engineering 101: A Beginner's Guide to Music Production by Tim Dittmar
- Modern Recording Techniques by David Miles Huber
- Behind the Glass - Top Record Producers Tell How They Craft the Hits by Howard Massey
If you're serious about recording music, all the items we've listed above are essential for your professional recording studio. It may seem like a significant financial investment, but it's well worth it to have the right tools to capture even one incredible song.
For a condensed and easy to reference recording studio equipment list, bookmark this page and refer to it often for the best values on the gear you need to get the job done.