Studio Equipment that often is "neglected"

Hello Composers! :slight_smile:
Everyone wants a powerful studio computer, a nice audio interface, good headphones and speakers, and great software plugins and sample libraries. But I often see fellow composers seemingly neglected (being cheap) on some gear I would personally say are super important since you work with them EVERY single time you sit in your studio. What are your thoughts on this? :smiley:

Examples of Studio Equipment I often see “neglected” (being cheap):

  • Studio Desk
  • Studio Chair
  • Acoustic Treatment
  • Displays/Screens
  • Master MIDI Keyboard
  • Input Devices (Fader Unit, Breath Controllers etc.)

Okay, I think that I can say that in 90% (a lot of) cases, the cheaper an audio tool is, the worser the quality will be, thus, the more pricier a product is, in general it will be better. Again, in most cases!

Another important aspect is that even if you have a superb and expensive setup, however, only one single transition element is cheap, your whole setup will sound cheap. So basically whenever you have a lower quality equipment element in your “chain”, the whole chain will sound like “this lower quality equipment element”. A good example would be: a cheap cable, even if you use UAD interfaced with Barefoot speakers. A poor pre-amp and you use an U87. Or great mic, pre-amp, interface, but average speakers.

Of course, you can’t buy everything at once, if you don’t have extra cash, but it’s still good to know that the more you focus on “cheap audio equipment”, the cheaper you will probably sound at the end of the day.

What I would always recommend is focusing on interface, cables, headphones & speakers. Everything else has second place for me, even acoustics nowadays. Maybe someone will argue, I know how important acoustics are, I build custom treatment myself incl. measuring the room, but it’s far better to know the room than investing $2-3k in acoustics and still don’t know how to operate your studio.

As a composer, there is actually only ONE question to answer yourself to know where you need to invest in more: What will IMPROVE my music?

After you have answered that one, you know where your next money will go :slight_smile:

Alexey :slight_smile:

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I’m not sure I agree in regards to how cheap something is always affecting quality.

Each piece on analog audio gear has a specific tone. In terms of microphones an sm57 ir nt1 are industry standard. They’re both very cheap but have a good sound to them. The price isn’t what makes them good. If we went even cheaper and looked at say Sampson, you find the top end gets a bit more dull… is this bad? Of course not, it’s just different. It has a different frequency response. If we were to look at the frequency curves you’d see this:

  • sm57 - lot of top end, great for anything you want to punch through the mix, dynamic mic so needs preamp. Has a nice growl to mid range.

Uses - snare, Vocals, guitar cabs, duller sounding instruments.

  • nt1a - flatter response, slight elevation between 1/2k. Balanced frequency response, condenser mic so has lower noise floor, great for detail and accurate representation of sound source.

Uses - almost anything. Great for vocals due to smooth bass boost as you move closer to the diaphragm.

  • Samson sc01- duller tip end, more mid range, especially around 200/300hz range. Can sound muddy used on the wrong sound source but sounds great on right application. Condenser mic also, so there’s a lot of detail and low noise floor.

Uses - not the best for instruments like guitar etc, make good room mics, toms sound punchy with these and pianos get a mellower tone.

My point is this. Each mix has its own application. These are all entry microphones that sound good placed in the right place. I’ve been to plenty of studios (big ones) that have all three of these mics and use them (correctly).

We could do the same thing with more expensive brands And find the same thing. For instance, one of the best considered microphones is the AKG 404 range. Sounds terrible in comparison to other mics but adds crowl to a drum kit or the right vocal. Or we could look at Neumann as a company. Very bright sounding mics, I love them… but wouldn’t work as well on some sources, such as cymbals, xylophones gloch, smaller body acoustic guitars.

It’s the same with most other external studio gear. There’s a place for everything. These tools are like a pallet and we just need to learn where to place them in our masterpieces.

Just a pointer, Alexey did say 90%, while you said “always”. Perhaps you are both right, yes? :wink:

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I’d say my most underused piece of gear is my low quality hifi speakers. I cross reference mixes through them when I remember, to see if my mixes translate… though I used to do this a lot, I often forget these days. Need to get into it more again.

Interesting choice there, the “radio speakers” :stuck_out_tongue:

I am a huge fan of spending money on really high quality I/O devices. And while most people think of audio interfaces, I am more talking about superb screens, MIDI keyboard etc. Anything I use to interact with the computer basically. :smiley:

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I wouldn’t even say a lot of cases. Perhaps I’d agree if we were talking about the £10 microphones off amazon :stuck_out_tongue: but it’s not been my experience. Analog equipment is getting so affordable and accessible that it’s literally coming down to application these days.

Behringer are a great example. Ten years ago they made what was considered poor quality products that didn’t stand when compared to higher end stuff. But now we are seeing their analog synths and controllers in the top studios around the world. It’s getting far more accessible to get these once seemingly unattainable pieces of gear.

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Well I guess it depends also on the type of product. With computer screens for example, it is a huge difference every step up in price point! :stuck_out_tongue:

Same with MIDI keyboards, to get really nice piano keybed action with great velocity sensors, you really need to go up in price range.

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Haha yeah, well I use the high quality stuff all the time. But if your writing something that doesn’t translate past your expensive monitors then I think that perhaps I’ve wasted my time on the mix.

My old lecturer used to love krks, they are seen as a big of a glorified hifi speaker these days, but that’s exactly why he loved them. He was always referencing from his main speakers (Ns10s) to those Krks. His mixes were incredible. Same concept applies with my rubbish speakers haha :wink:

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Totally agree when you go into screens and keyboards etc. That’s a completely different ballgame I think haha. Will be years before the price comes down on those types of gear.

I’ve been looking to upgrade my midi keys. I’m thinking thr Nektar T6. Looks like a good swap out for my needs… but let’s see :smiley:

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Geoff, are you also a piano/keys player like me? I forgot…in any case, I used to just go in our local music store to play keyboard…meaning digital pianos in most cases. And wow, every price range upwards I really felt a big difference in the feeling when I played. And still, nothing beats a well tuned acoustic grand of course.

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In fact, I probably mentioned this already but…I have a Roland F140 Digital Piano in the living room. And it is faaaaar more enjoyable to play than any MIDI keyboard I ever tried. The action, the stability, the feeling of the keys surface, everything is just…better. So I sometimes think I should just move that into my studio and use my master MIDI keyboard. But I would have to increase my desk a lot to get the piano below it. :stuck_out_tongue:

I wouldn’t call myself a virtuoso or anything but in school I learnt on a baby grand in the school hall. That particular piano was a very soft weighted piano so I’ve always loved semi weighted keys.

For the past 7 years I’ve used the novation impulse. Had a medium weight which was wuite nice… perhaps slightly too soft… to be honest the keyboard itself is great, but the automap software always gave me trouble. I persisted with it because I enjoyed the workflow and I got used to it.

Recently the automap software stopped working with Catalina and Novation sent me a firmware update so I didn’t need the software. This seemed perfect but o can honestly say it’s men hell. The interface now disrupts the volume faders in Logic, meaning I can’t set levels without bouncing to audio first. There’s no additional firmware updates so I’m waiting until ships open in the UK to go and try a few out. I was considering NIs top end but a lot of people say it’s overpriced.

Definitely agree when you go up a price point with pianos you feel it instantly. I was recently impressed with Roland’s go keys range though. That feels like a 5/600 pound keyboard for half that.

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High quality piano keybed action is starting to creep down in price yes. The M-Audio Hammer 88 actually have very nice reviews.

Right now I have StudioLogic VMK-188plus, which has Fatar keybed, and most importantly for me…programmable fader bank! :smiley:

So yes, I agree we often make compromises just because we are composers and need to make the tools do many things.

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I have been “lusting” for the Doepfer after seeing many professional composers use it. Not because it is superb action or anything (it is good, but that’s not the reason). But because it is the ONLY one that seems to be basically made for building into your desk (fusing desk and keys) like composers often want. I would love doing that eventually, but my practical (builder) skills are like zero! :stuck_out_tongue:

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Yes my friend has that, to me it was too heavy but I know a lot who really enjoy it!

Oh nice I’ll check that out. The compromises I’ve made are Exactly the same, key bed and faders. As long as it’s easily programmable I’ll be happy lol.

Hammer 88 was too heavy? You mean key action?

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Also, I would really want true graded action…meaning bass notes are heavier and it gradually become lighter the higher in range you go.

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Now you are talking about my dream rig :wink: yes I’m really after one too. MAybe one day :wink: but not yet.

Yes as in the action was a bit heavy for my liking. I’m not that heavy handed so I think that’s why. This is the great thing about gear, everything plus so subjective!

Yes a graded action is still my ideal also. Though it’s not on my priority list.

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I’m also lusting after a moog grandmother. But that’s a convo for another thread :wink: