Home Studio Equipment (2017)

I may have mentioned once or twice that I compose music in my spare time, it is one the most rewarding hobbies. Over the years I have composed what I consider to be an eclectic list of music and shared them with my closest family and friends. My love of music began when I was a child and I have been an avid bass player and guitarist for most of my life. The process has developed into an important creative outlet for me that I allowed to lapse for a couple of years but recently felt the need to go back to composing and arranging music on a regular basis.

My library of music is growing steadily and as it matures I am starting to think of the ways others can use it and share it. As with most things you do in public there are legal considerations and I want to ensure that I am credited, protected and even reward. So watch this space!

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Digital Audio Workstation

I am a PC guy so my DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) uses the Windows 10 OS, I may be in a minority with music producers but this choice was more a function of familiarity, access and cost. What is a little uncomfortable admitting is that the CPU is rather old (Intel Core 2 Quad CPU Q8200 @ 2.33GHz) and only has 8Gb RAM. I did upgrade the hard drive to a Samsung SSD and that helped especially as you record tracks simultaneously to disk I now see almost no buffering.

The Cakewalk music production software would be bundled with old hardware, this software bundling is the reason why almost 12 years later I use Cakewalk Sonar Professional. Over the years it has improved greatly and the workflow just works for me, I have created entire tracks in minutes and also edited voice recordings and podcast with similar speed.

Any music production software worth its salt will also feature instrument plugins which are software components that simulate the sound of instruments you would ordinarily find in a full professional studio. I personally do not have either space or budget to feature drums or say a grand piano, however, plugins exist that allow you to use really accurate samples. I have tons of these instruments but my most used are (Rapture Session, Session Drummer 3, Roland Groove Synth).

Control Surface/USB Recording

With all this digital recording you need a tactile interface to control your various levels and I have employed the M-Audio Radium 49 as my control surface. It also doubles as my keyboard when I decide to play a piano, organ or strings. I am not particular good on the keys but given time and an abundance of patience I can perform passable chord progressions.

When I do have the opportunity to record live instruments I use the M-Audio Fast Track Ultra which provides a six-in/six-out analogue audio interface with 24-bit audio at sample rates up to 96kHz, alongside stereo S/PDIF, digital I/O and MIDI I/O. The Fast Track Ultra is really portable and its USB 2 connection can double as a power source. I have had this device for years and it works well, but I would only consider changing it if newly designed devices take advantage of USB 3 and type-C connectors.

Instruments, Microphones and Headphones

The instruments that I am playing live are my bass (Ibanez BTB675) and semi-acoustic guitar (Yamaha FX335). I jump between a couple of microphones the M-Audio Nova and Octava MK-319, the later of which I have used to record most of the vocal performances. I am mostly about instrumentals but voice is such a versatile instrument it is impossible to ignore.

Finally my headphones, they are old, the Audio Technica ATH-M30. My wife has threatened to hide them from me, they are in awful condition at this point but my workflow is not just about software, it is about mixing sound, and recalibrating something as important as headphones is not something I undertake lightly. I will admit though, that is the one item in my studio that needs an immediate upgrade.

So that is my studio! I have created or remixed about nine tracks this year and have a couple more ideas I am arranging. The vault is growing!

Any musicians out there? What equipment do use? What do you think I should upgrade first?

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