This article is part two of Soundbase’s recommendations for buying the right Equipment for your home recording Studio. Following part 1, studio equipment for singer songwriters, this article will explore the basic essentials of music production equipment and further desirable attributes for the electronic music producer.
When referring to the electronic music production this covers a vast range of genres from Dub Step to IDM to Jungle to House to Hip Hop to Electro to Techno and everything inbetween. Genres of music that are essentially centerd around controllers, synths, drum machines and samplers.
Before purchasing your equipment you need to decide what you’re studio is going to be used for. Are you going to be producing and Mixing your own music, doing remixes, mixing and mastering for other producers etc. Are you looking for a release quality sound, gear for playing live shows or equipment to make music that sounds good to play to your mates! No matter what you’re looking to do in your studio you’ll also need to think about your budget, any noise restrictions and the space you have, Also do you want your kit to be mobile or not.
So Where Do You Start?
In current times the most popular MIDI / Audio Sequencer for your production is known as a DAW (digital audio workstation). Depending on what DAW software you choose should be reflective of what you want to do in your studio and how advanced you would like your music production skills to become.
List of Recommended DAW programmes
Reason – everything you need in one box for production but limited when it comes to Mixing and Mastering. A good place to start for the novice. Plus it also has some advanced multi synchronisation options for synthesis.
Ableton Live – Great for producers working with their productions in the live performance environment or DJ set. This programme includes many great features including live looping, warping (audio time stretching), realtime time stretching (tempo changes), plus some outstanding fx including delays.
Logic & Cubase – Advanced sequencing, mixing and mastering, compatible with many plugins and Virtual instruments. Ideal for music of any genre.
Fruity Loops – Somewhere between reason and Logic. Has many plugin options with intermediate sequencing options. Also a good place to start for the novice.
Before buying your DAW software firstly look at what software is included with your desired Audio Interface.
After you’ve decided on your computer, PC / MAC with the right spec to run the DAW software of your choice the next step is to pick the best audio Interface for your studio requirements. Before you buy your DAW software check to see what software comes free with your audio interfaces. As many interfaces include LE versions of some of the popular DAW programmes and this could be sufficient for your music software needs. So check this out before buying anything.
The Best Audio Interface for you
Essentially your audio interface will be used to connect your audio signal from your computer to your active studio monitors or headphones. Also giving you a MIDI connections, Microphone and Line inputs with gain and volume control and separate outputs and other digital connections. Think about what I/O you need. It would be a waste of cash to spend hundreds of pounds on an all singing and dancing interface to only use the headphone socket.
A high percentage of the interfaces fidelity comes from a reliable clock source. Avoiding to dips and digtial clicks and pop’s (loss of digital sync) is essential. To a novice you might be unsure what the clock source is at this point. So in brief, you’ll be able to achieve this with a computer of the correct spec, current drivers and correct installation.
Think carefully about how much you can afford to spend and if you’re looking to mix with an outboard analogue Desk or digital Mixing Desk how many simultaneous inputs and outputs are you’re going to need and whether you’ll need to connect via ADAT / Optical connections (digital desk).
While it possible to run a separate MIDI interface at the same time as your audio interface why not simply buy an audio interface with MIDI I/O! You’ll need the connections for your keyboard and, or MIDI controller unless you want to connect direct to your computer via USB.
One final thing when buying the best audio interface for your studio! It is advised to read a little information on forums to see if any users have encountered problems while using the interface you’re looking to buy with specific software. Especially with cheaper PCI soundcards you might find that it just isn’t compatible with the motherboard and chipset in you computer.
Audio Interfaces We Recommend:
Producers working in the box
Alesis IO2 Express
Tascam US 2×2
Lexicon Pro I•O 22
Focusrite Saffire Pro 24
M-Audio Deltabolt 1212
RME Fireface UCX
Producers working with an outboard Mixing desk (interface with a minimum of 8 outputs)
M-Audio M-Track Eight
Focusrite Scarlett 18i20
Digital Mixing Desk
Mackie Onyx Blackbird
RME Fireface UFX
Midi Devices (Controllers and Keyboards)
OK so you’ve got your DAW hooked up to your audio interface. Next you should look at how you want to input MIDI information into your DAW. This essentially is programming your drum patterns and bass lines etc. If you have no keyboard skills or knowledge what so ever, but you’ve got the ear for a killer track then you would be better suited towards a pad style MIDI controller. With this you can simply assign sounds / samples / drum hits to pads and bang away until your hearts content. These pad style controllers are particularly popular with Ableton users for programming and performance.
Recommended MIDI Controllers (with pads)
Novation Launchpad Mini MK2
M-Audio Trigger Finger Pro
A very popular pad style controller on today’s market that also includes an internal sequencer is the Native Instruments Maschine MK2 and Native Instruments Maschine Studio. The internal sequencer means that you can sequence your samples and VST instruments without needing to sequence on your DAW. Also another cool function on the Maschine is that it also works as a VST instrument so you can simply use it as a plugin instrument within your DAW. Simply select your channel and assign the output to the Maschine. Providing you with hands on control for editing your samples within the Maschine itself. The usable layout, style and function of the Maschine means it has cornered the MPC market of today. For those of you who don’t know the MPC by AKAI is a very popular sampler / sequencer used heavily in the golden era of hip hop and jungle production.
For those who fancy themselves as a bit of virtuoso on the keyboards you would be more suited to a MIDI controller keyboard. Not only does a controller keyboard give you piano style control over playing the synth lines, dirty bass lines and chords progressions into your DAW, many controller keyboards also have assignable faders that can simply be assigned to synth parameters for controlling cool functions such as filter cut off (74) and resonance (77) and Portamento (65) etc. Not only can you assign these faders to virtual instrument parameters but also the parameters of your internal mixer giving you hands on control over your mix like using a mix surface controller (soley dedicated for controlling the internal mixer of your DAW). The price of a controller keyboard often reflects the number of keys on the keyboard not necessarily the functions.
Recommended controller keyboards (most of these keyboards are available in several note sizes):
Novation Launchkey 25 MK2
Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol S25
M-Audio Axiom Air 49
Novation 49 SL MkII
Akai Advance 61
Akai MPK88 Fully Weighted Keyboard
When it comes to electronic music production it is advised that you spend some of your setup budget on fx plugins and virtual instruments. With most DAW’s you will get generic instrument sounds and signal processing plugins but you might want to spend some money on some specialised plugins for the kind of sounds you want to use. For dubstep producer you can’t go far wrong with Sonivox Wobble the dubstep grime generator, or for the hip hop heads among you the Sonivox Playa Producer Pack is the one for you. There is virtual instrument packages out there for just about every genre and type of sound you can think of. However don’t forget creating your own sounds and samples is very creative, fun and will help you stand out as a producer. We recommend you get your new studio equipment setup and start producing. Then look to by virtual instruments once you know what kind of sounds you would like a better selection of.
Best Virtual Instrument plugins
XLN Audio Addictive Keys – Virtual Piano Instrument
Novation V-Station Virtual Analogue Polyphonic Synthesizer
Arturia Prophet V2 – Virtual Synth Pack
Arturia V-Collection – Virtual Analogue Synthesizers
Rob Papen SubBoomBass – Sub bass
MOTU Symphonic Instrument – Orchestral and Sample Library
So you’ve produced a total banger of a track but you just can’t hit that suit mix you’re after with the internal plugins. If you’re looking to have your track commercially released by a label either on a digital format or vinyl then we recommend you have your track mastered by a professional mastering engineer until you perfect your mastering skills. The best mastering results always come from using analogue outboard mastering equipment but this is very pricey. In the meantime if you’re just looking for something to enhance the mix of your track you want to put on soundcloud or play out in your DJ set then take a look at iZotope Ozone 6 mastering plugin platform.
Essentially mastering only enhances your mix so it is also imperative to get your mix sounding right before you even think about mastering. Like virtual instruments you’ll find sufficient reverbs delays and signal processors as standard in your DAW but again if you’re serious about your audio production you’ll be looking for something with a more superior quality.
For a reverb you can’t go far wrong with the Lexicon PCM Native Reverb Plug-In Bundle. When it comes to compression and EQ you’ll find Soundbase Megastore have many plugin bundles in stock and what you spend does reflect the fidelity of your signal processing.
Signal Processing Plugins
Focusrite Midnight – The Classic Plug-in Suite
Wave Audio Gold Bundle
Sonnox Post Native Plug-in bundle
For the intermediate studio user you will find all you need both instruments, sounds, fx and signal processors in the Native Instruments Komplete 10.
While it is possible to pick up cracked versions of many plugins and virtual instruments on the web for free if you’re inclined to do this, but this is not the best practice. Imagine you’ve been working on a mix of a new track for days and it’s for a commercial release. You load up your track one day to add the finishing touches and half your plugins won’t load anymore because somehow the plugin manufacturer has picked up you’re using cracked software, you’re getting paid for this track and you only have 24 hours left to finish it. Imagine the devastation! This happens trust me.
Monitoring Your Mix
Ok so you’re just about all set to go. but you’re going to need to get yourself a good pair of studio monitors. No matter what your preference of monitors there is a few things to take into consideration. First of all most home studios aren’t purpose built mixing / control rooms and most of the time you will have some strange acoustic reflections in your room. It would be worth looking at dampening a wall with some acoustic tiles or even some old curtains / carpet but before you start looking at redecorating your room so it looks like a fortune tellers gypsy caravan or going overboard with acoustic tiles! Trust me you’re going to want some acoustics in your mixing room. Once you’ve got your gear setup you should take a look at some of the calibration software available in order to gain a flat frequency response. Click here for further details on how to do this.
When it comes to mixing electronic music there is often a lot of sub frequencies in the mix so you might want to put a sub in your studio to get that bass nice and tight in the mix. Alongside a matching pair of nearfields.
Nearfield monitor speakers and Subwoofers.
KRK 2 x VXT8 Studio Monitor + 12sHO Subwoofer Bundle with Cables
Adam A8X Active (Single)
Adam Audio Sub 8
Mackie MR8 MK3
Mackie MR10S MK3
Your Studio Budget
Don’t forget! in order to connect all this kit together you’re going to need some speaker cables, MIDI / USB cables and some plugboards to power your studio kit. So keep a few quid to one side in your budget for connecting it all together.
When buying your complete setup from Soundbase Megastore we are able to offer you a very competitive discount on your studio kit. We recognise that buying your studio kit can be expensive and therefore we not only offer you studio equipment on interest free finance, but have also put together packages of studio equipment to get you started.
Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol S49 with Komplete 10 Update Bundle – £529
Native Instruments Maschine MK2 Black with Komplete 10 Ultimate Crossgrade Bundle – £929
Pro Producer Pack 3 – £1599
There is a whole world of equipment out there for you to buy but how much of it will you really need to use on a regular basis. It’s also worth looking for some quirky bits of kit to give you more of a unique sound if you want to stand out from the crowd. But before we end this article let’s just briefly mention the option of mixing on an outboard mixing desk.
Most audio purists prefer the hands on approach and the ability to fine tune a mix in ways that just seem painstaking in the box even with a control surface. A mixing desk gives you the ability to fine sweep the eq for the precise frequency. Mix on the fly controlling several faders at once with the smooth finesse that just isn’t quite the same as drawing a fader line into the automation window of your music programme. To the untrained ear many won’t notice the difference between mixing in the box and mixing on an outboard desk, but for those of you who prefer to mix on the board you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. In order to maintain a good strong mix back into your DAW from your board it’s always an idea to put some valves across your mix or a good compressor to keep you mix warm and strong sounding. This is also why a quality audio interface is required. Once you get into this style of mixing the possibilities for types of outboard are in abundance. As are the mix techniques some of which just aren’t possible in the box. Check out this article for the 10 most helpful audio mixing tips. Remember the high end outboard audio gear costs. Or you could simply go digital and use the onboard processing and fx. Again think about how many channels you need. A quality summing mixer is a far better investment than a cheap mixing desk with loads of channels you’re not likely to use. Look at what equipment your favourite producers are using to create their sound.
Recommend Mixing Desks
Soundcraft Signature 16 Analog Mixing Console
SSL X-Desk Super Analogue Compact Mixing Console
SSL Matrix – SuperAnalogue 16 channel, 40 input mixing console
Lastly for those producers among you who are working with vocalists it would be worth you taking a look at the article for songwriters recording studio equipment for our recommendations on condenser microphones Click Here
Soundbase hope you find this article helpful for what you need to get started recording. Should you need any further advice then please feel free to contact our technical team via click desk or simply give us a call today.
Part 3 will look into the best equipment for bands looking to do DIY recordings. Stay Tuned!