Home producers, in efforts to make better recordings, are always wondering what to buy next. There are heaps of products out there advertised as the magic bullet to increase the quality of your recordings. Which ones are worth buying?
Probably all of them. I consistently salivate over all the cool things I want to buy for the studio. All of them have the potential to make my recordings better. In the end, I force myself to prioritize my purchases. For instance, instead of buying a new bundle of plugins, I might get a reasonably priced ribbon microphone to capture better vocal sounds. I tend to think that the fundamentals of recording deserve the most investment, so better mics are a great idea, even if they’re not as flashy as a vintage synthesizer.
To help you make these tough calls, check out this list from SonicScoop that details some suggestions from recording pros on where to throw your cash.
Take this testimony, from producer Eli Crews (tUnE-yArDs, Questlove, Deerhoof):
“A few years ago I decided I mainly wanted to spend money on instruments, and have amassed a ’60s Ludwig drum set, an Estey folding pump organ from the 1920s, a Doepfer modular synth, a beat-down, barely working Optigan, and various old Moogs, ARPs, Rolands and Casios. Having these instruments available to bands significantly changed the sounds I was recording, and in the long run have had much more of an influence over ‘my sound’ than which mic or preamp I use.” — Eli Crews
We’re all at different stages in the development of our studios, so our choices in gear will be different, but there is always some improvement to be made. Personally, I would take care of the following basics before moving on to optional purchases:
1. Microphones — Good mics and good placement are the first building block of good recordings.
2. Monitors — If you can’t hear what your tracks sound like, your decisions will be skewed. Professional grade monitors help you make good choices with mic placement, mixing, and mastering.
3. Acoustic Treatment — Rooms play a huge role in sculpting the sound that reaches our ears. Controlling the variables of the room is just as important as monitors.
4. Preamps/Audio Interface — The quality of the preamps and audio interface that you use has a massive effect on the signal from your mics. Don’t ruin it with poor equipment.
5. Books/Education — Your gear is only as good as the operator. Every cent you spend on increasing your knowledge will be immediately realized in the quality of your productions.