The Secret to Finding the Best Music Production Gear For Your Studio
Setting up a home recording studio can quickly become expensive. Just a bare-bones studio to record your demos often requires a hefty investment in music production gear.
But what if it didn’t need to be quite so expensive? What if you could get all that gear for much cheaper?
In the last 15 years of working in the audio industry, I’ve had home recording studios in three different countries, so I know a few things about building (and rebuilding) my home studio.
Throughout the years, I’ve developed an extensive process that helps me find the best music production gear at the cheapest price, and in this guide, I’ll walk you through all the secrets to finding the biggest bang for your buck when you’re shopping for your studio.
Whether you’re a seasoned professional or a beginner home studio musician, I’ll show you how to streamline the process of choosing the right gear, from microphones to studio desks. Let’s get started!
The Challenge of Shopping for Home Recording Equipment Online
One of the greatest advantages of the digital age is the ability to shop for audio gear online. However, shopping online can be like navigating the menu at The Cheesecake Factory.
The vast number of options can be overwhelming. For instance, a simple search for “music recording equipment” on a platform like Amazon can yield a staggering 88,000 results!
So, how do you narrow down your choices and make informed decisions?
Identifying Your Home Recording Needs
Not every home studio musician is the same. You don’t make the same kind of music, you don’t play the same instruments, and you don’t have the same space.
My audience breaks down into three distinct groups when it comes to buying gear, and I document the best music production gear they need to buy in this gear-buying guide.
Regardless of which group you belong to, the first step in the process is to clearly identify what you need or want for your studio.
You may be in the market for a new microphone, studio monitors, or even a complete studio overhaul. To avoid being overwhelmed, it’s important to remember that you won’t need to buy everything at once.
For example, I needed to replace my audio interface a few years ago. The Apollo Twin had caught my eye for a while, and I had been window-shopping it for a long time. You won’t always be in the market for everything simultaneously, and it’s essential to prioritize your needs.
Filtering and Narrowing Down Studio Equipment Options
Utilizing filters and reviews is the key to managing the overwhelming number of choices online. Here’s my method for narrowing down options and making informed purchases:
- Choose the Right Retailers: I usually shop online, but you can adapt this method for physical stores. Depending on your location, you might prefer sites like Music123, Thomann.de (popular in Europe), or Guitar Center. Or, like 37.8% of the US market, you’ll find the music production gear you need on Amazon.
- Use Filters: On platforms like Amazon, you can use very specific filters to specify your requirements. For example, if you’re looking for an audio interface, you can filter by any number of requirements you need. This initial filtering helps reduce the number of results.
- Set Your Budget: Determine a specific price range for your purchase, but make sure it’s realistic. A fixed budget keeps you focused on practical choices and prevents you from dreaming about more expensive gear.
- Explore Deals: If you’re a savvy shopper, consider discounts, sales, and special offers. You can set filters to look for items with a significant percentage off their regular price.
- Sort by Price: To find options within your budget, sort the results from low to high or vice versa, depending on your preferences.
Evaluating Customer Reviews
The next step in the process is to evaluate customer reviews. The reviews can help you understand real-world experiences with the gear you’re interested in. However, I have a particular approach to this:
- Check One-Star Reviews: Start with the one-star reviews. Look for any red flags or common issues. Some negative reviews may be due to user error, which you can dismiss. For instance, one of my one-star Step By Step Mixing reviews complains that the book has “too many words in it.” If you’re looking for a book on mixing, I’m sure you won’t mind doing the actual reading, but this person thought differently…
- Examine Negative Reviews: Read the one-star reviews to ensure they don’t highlight deal-breakers for you. Pay attention to recurring problems and any factors that may not apply to your setup or preferences.
- Study Positive Reviews: Positive reviews can provide valuable insights. Focus on the features that align with your requirements. You’re on the right track if a product receives overwhelmingly positive feedback.
- Diversify Your Sources: Don’t rely solely on one platform for reviews. Google the product to find expert reviews from reputable sources, like Sound on Sound or Pro Tools Expert. These in-depth reviews can provide insights beyond user feedback.
Making Your Gear-Buying Decision
Once you’ve narrowed down your options and thoroughly reviewed them, it’s time to decide. You might find that you’re torn between two or more products with excellent reviews. In this case, consider the following factors:
- Additional Accessories: Some gear comes in bundles with extra accessories, like cables, software, or carrying cases. Compare what each option includes to see if any offers additional value.
- Personal Preferences: Think about the little things that matter to you. Perhaps you have a preferred brand due to past positive experiences. Your decision might come down to personal preference.
- Your Budget: If you’ve set a budget, stick to it as closely as possible. While higher-end options may be tempting, remember that practicality should guide your choices. If you’re starting out, know that you can always upgrade later. The goal with music production gear is to get something that’s good enough so that you can focus on being creative. Gear is just a means to make your art.
You’ll drown in a sea of choices if you don’t have a system for shopping for home recording equipment. That’s why it’s so important to approach it systematically. Whether you’re shopping for microphones, interfaces, or even studio furniture, this method can help you make confident decisions.
Start by identifying your needs, use filters to narrow down your options, evaluate customer reviews for positive and negative insights, and consider expert reviews to better understand your potential purchase.
Remember, the ultimate goal is to find music production gear that aligns with your requirements and preferences. Following these steps can streamline the decision-making process and ensure you make informed, budget-friendly choices.
I hope this article has given you some ideas on getting the biggest bang for your buck when shopping for gear. If you’re looking for more gear-buying guides with actual recommendations, check out the following articles:
- 4 Cheap-Ass Microphones for the Frugal Engineer
- The Best Budget Audio Interfaces Under $200
- The Best Gifts for Music Producers
And if you’ve already recorded your tracks and need a guide on transforming your recordings into finished released records, check out Step By Step Mixing: How To Create Great Mixes Using Only 5 Plug-ins right here.