Transform Your Rough Recordings Into Released Records, Even If You Only Have a Home Studio

The Best Audio Equipment Shopping Lists for Under $1,000

Man, this was hard.

There were some incredibly well thought out submissions and I had a really hard time picking between them.

Because I couldn’t give rewards to everyone I needed to narrow the scope down a bit.

First of all, many people went over their $1,000 budget so out of fairness to everyone I couldn’t justify choosing them (even though some of them were really good).

Secondly, almost nobody seemed to compete in the Live Sound Survival/Music Production Strategies category so I needed to dig a bit deeper to find the one that deserved that the most.

But without further ado, here are the winners of the Audio Issues Window Shopping Challenge.

Biggest Bang For Their Buck

In order for me to accurately find the best shopping list I used a few parameters:

  • How much gear did you get? – This was an exercise in trying to get as much gear as you could that would work together in the home studio.  It also had to make sense so you couldn’t just buy 100 $10 items either. You had to actually put some thought into it.
  • How much did you save? – I also looked at all the items you posted and tallied up the amount of savings from each item. This in turn led to some interesting conclusions because the person who saved the most also went over their budget which is why I had to institute a third category.
  • Effective use of the budget – This went both ways. A few people went over and to be fair to everyone I couldn’t choose them. However, one person used less than $700 of their budget with very high savings so they also left money on the table. This person’s shopping list was great but once I analyzed it I could see how it could be easily improved for under $300.
  • Shipping and Taxes – I debated very long about whether to add this as a factor but in the end decided against it. Because of Audio Issues’s global audience I realize that not everyone has access to Prime Free Shipping or the same tax rate so for the sake of argument I struck all extraneous costs off the table (the Economist in me is screaming at me for it because it is a crucial aspect of factoring economic costs but the Audio Engineer doesn’t care…).

That said, the Biggest Bang for Their Buck came from Andrew Duncalfe with a grand total of $997.28 with

He scored pretty high on all the categories and he also took the time to talk about the reasons behind each purchase.

Here’s what he had to say:

“My home studio does not yet exist, so I’m starting almost from scratch. I already have a computer, a (legal) copy of StudioOne 2, and an acceptable pair of closed-back headphones.”

Interface: Zoom R8 – $299

“I *love* Zoom’s B3 bass multi-effects pedal and have had excellent results in using it as a USB interface for recording bass, so I have high expectations that the R8 is a quality piece of kit. The hardware faders are also a feature that I look forward to using – much more tactile than clicking and dragging a mouse in your DAW. I doubt I would use it as a portable recorder, but that’s a nice feature to have in your pocket if needed.”


Condenser mic: Audio Technica AT2020 $92.19.

“I don’t have wide experience with studio condensers, so I’m relying on reviews here. This one seems to be a highly-regarded workhorse, not least by our gracious host here at Audio Issues.”AT2020

I just used these as drum overheads this weekend in the Recorderman position. They sounded great! Read more about it here.

Dynamic mic: Shure SM57 bundle $129.99.

This is one I have used before. Everyone knows and loves it. Great for instruments and vocals. The bundle also includes a boom stand, XLR cable, and windscreen.

shuresm57Mic Accessories:

“The AT2020 needs some additional gear to get up and running; yes, I *could* use the stand and cable from the Shure bundle, but the R8 has 2 channels and what if I want to use both mics at the same time? And if one mic gets a sexy gold-plated cable, then surely the other mic needs one too. The bundled cable will be a spare.”

The shock mount isn’t absolutely necessary but it’s nice to have. 

Studio monitors: Mackie CR4 pair $149.99

“I’m relying on good experience with Mackie gear in the past and good reviews for these monitors. The ability to choose which speaker is left and which is right is a great feature for allowing flexibility in how my studio will be laid out. Isolation pads and cables are also included, so I think these are overall great value for money, but the 80hz-20kHz frequency response makes me think that I’ll upgrade to a set with better bass reproduction when the budget allows.”


Room treatment:

“You can get more 1x12x12 tiles for the same money, but I think the 2″ thick panels would be more effective, and these ones also come in a lovely burgundy & charcoal option. Bass traps to go in the corners, and spray adhesive to keep everything in place.”

I enjoy the attention to acoustic treatment. I believe for a home studio to be complete you will need some treatment to counteract the suckiness that is your subpar sounding room.

At this point, Andrew has almost everything he needs to get up and running in the studio. But because he has $200 left in his budget he still finds something useful for it. Quick life tip: If people give you money (imaginary or not), you should use all of it.


“I’ve still got almost $200 left in my budget, so I’m going to add an M-Audio Oxygen 49 MK IV MIDI controller ($169.00) and a M-Audio SP-2 sustain pedal ($19.99) for easier control over virtual instruments. I’m not a keyboardist, so I don’t have strong opinions on how many keys there should be or how they should feel, and the Oxygen 49 MK IV has lots of other assignable controls to make it useful.”

Grand total: $997.28. I’ll get a cup of gas-station coffee with the remainder.

Congratulations Andrew. You win a $100 gift card to Amazon to get your home studio started!

Best Argued Case for Gear

In all honesty, Andrew’s shopping list might’ve also been the best argument because of his thoughtful commentary on each piece of gear he put on his list.

However, many of you also had some great suggestions and in this category I loosened the rules for myself a little bit.

Because you really didn’t need to get as much as you could, or necessarily use all the money you had to win. You just had to argue your point, which some of you did well and some of you well….not so much.

In the end I chose Hillel, who ended up sealing his winnings on the last few paragraphs.

“I would start with the Rode NT2a for $399. Although I currently have the NT1a and although I love it I would love the opportunity to be able to experiment with other polar patterns”


I like this because he’s trying to expand his mic technique skill set. Throwing multiple polar patterns into the mix can open you up to a new world of recording possibilities and I appreciate Hillel for expanding his knowledge of mic techniques.

“I would then get the M-Audio Code 49 Key controller for $349. For most of my programming I use a small 25 key controller and this would help expand what I can do (and I’ve never had MIDI pads to work with so that’s pretty cool too”

maudio code 25

I understand this very well because I have a 25 key controller and have upgraded to an 88 key weighted keyboard, the M-Audio Keystation, which is actually a bit too much for me and I might actually downgrade it to something that doesn’t quite take up so much room.


“Next I would get 2 pairs of the Seinheiser HD 201’s for tracking at $23.80 apiece I do a lot of mobile recording for which I normally have to lug around my larger interface for. To make things easier as far as setup I would then get the Focusrite Scarlett 2i4 Interface for $199″

Having a small mobile recording rig is great if you’re marketing yourself as a flexible on-location engineer that can record in rehearsal spaces and other locations that might be more convenient or suitable for your client.

“Last but not least with the extra $5 I would get more guitar picks because one of the things I have definitely learned in this business, is you always need more picks.”

Ain’t that the truth! I’m constantly running out of guitar picks, and although I don’t use the Fender ones (I use these exclusively) I can relate to the tiny black holes that take all our guitar picks!

Congratulations Hillel for winning a copy of the EQ, Recording & Mixing Strategies tutorial bundles!

Live Sound or The Gigging Musician

I suppose everybody was too busy salivating over studio gear to consider going for the live sound prize. There was really only one person who posted about the anything relating to live sound or gigging.

Raychael Bell said:

“I would use mine on a PA System so we can use it for our music we make.”

Since our band just recently got a new PA system to use at concerts I could relate to this statement. It has made our live shows exponentially better, with the vocals cutting through and the sound being clearer and more flexible in general. So congratulation to Raychael Bell, who won a copy of Live Sound Survival as well as exclusive access to Music Production Strategies.

I’ve also taken the liberty of creating a PA search on Amazon that includes all top rated, all-in-one PA systems that are under $1,000 (with many costing much much less…).

My Shopping List?

After looking at your suggestions for the better part of my morning I’ll be reevaluating my list today and will be publishing it tomorrow. Besides, at almost 1,700 words you probably need a break right?

Special thanks to everyone for contributing their shopping lists and congratulations once again to the winners. You will be contacted shortly.

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About Audio Issues and Björgvin Benediktsson

We help musicians transform their recordings into radio-ready and release-worthy records they’re proud to release.

We do this by offering simple and practical music production and success skills they can use immediately to level themselves up – while rejecting negativity and gear-shaming from the industry. A rising tide floats all boats and the ocean is big enough for all of us to surf the sound waves.

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