One of my biggest passions is music, and in my spare time I take amateuristic stabs at creating tunes (mainly for my own listening pleasure). I’ve been working on setting up a new ‘home studio’, to facilitate my hobby needs and thought I might share how far I’d come here. The basic elements are (in no particular order):
- Audio Interface (required to get sound in and out of the computer – preferably a bit better in quality than a soundblaster)
- Reference monitors – Nearfield (Reference monitors to mix on, that work better than your typical logitech speaker sets)
- Midi input devices (Ranging from keyboards, to padkontrollers to synths to fullblown drum kits)
- Midi Controllers (Devices to use when mixing, controlling parameters on software synths)
- Digital Audio Workstation software (DAW) – (Ableton Live, Reason)
- DJ Software (Traktor Pro)
I’ve spent a reasonable chunk of time setting all this up last weekend. Continue onwards for the progress report.
As my main sequencing is done in a free version of Ableton live (which came with some hardware), which I augmented with a library of free VST instuments I need a proper audio interface with low-latency drivers to work with. Until now, I used an old X-Fi soundblaster, but that just doesn’t cut it anymore. Also, me using low-class Logitech speakers to mix on wasn’t really helping much. Although I didn’t own a lot of hardware, I managed to compile quite an extensive library of samples (from records I own, and loads and loads of free samples from the net) so I have enough stuff to work with.
I reserved a vacant room in my home for this, and decided to move a pc from the office to the aforementioned room. I then started setting up the main parts of my previous setup, the Korg K25, the Korg PadKontrol, the M-Audio Axiom 49, and finally my Frontier Design AlphaTrack. This pretty much ate up all my available USB ports. Also the PSU wasn’t strong enough to power all this hardware using USB so a few universal power supplies happily came to the rescue.
So, next up was extending this already quite luxurious setup to create the studio I always wanted (but on a budget ofcourse – tight budget even). Â What I decided I would ‘need’ (want) was a reasonably priced audio interface with balanced outputs, USB connectivity (as I would be using a pc that didn’t have firewire) and a decent set of inputs. I guessed I would need two at most so when I came across the Focusrite Sapphire 6 USB audio interface, I figured it would fit the bill. Reviews of this device are all pretty positive, so I can hardly go wrong with this one, can I? I’ll have to wait for it to arrive before I can give any proper feedback on its performance, but I’m pretty sure that it will outperform my Soundblaster X-Fi with ease. A good sounding audio interface needs decent quality studio monitors to reach I potential, I figure. That’s why I went to the nearest Feedback store to listen to some of the available monitors. At first I read some reviews on the KRK Rokit 6/8 monitors that were supposed to be pretty decent, but after listening to them in the store I felt they lacked mid-range. The guy assisting me in the store advised me to listen to Adam a5x monitors, and they sounded really good. Really solid rounded sound with plenty of low and mid and not to much high. Apparently I’m not the only one hearing the quality in these monitors, as they are pretty hard to come by. I contacted the guys at Feedback if the slightly bigger model would be available, the Adam a7x. I might just decide to go with that set. They look better than Rokit’s as well, nice added bonus.
I’ve had an old microphone for ages, which I used to sample household items and appliances with. It was rubbish and the sound quality was pretty awful. As I do not require a high-end microphone for recording vocals, I decided to go with a budget version. The MXL DRK Desktop Recording Kit comes with a decent little stand, can operate on phantom power delivered by the Focusrite audio interface, isn’t too expensive and gets reasonable reviews. I might have to add a pop-filter to the set, but I’m guessing this will do nicely for my intended purposes. In the reviews I’ve found covering this mic I noticed that recording instruments and vocals also yield decent results, so who knows I might be doing something with that as well.
Recently I finally got to purchase something I’ve wanted to own ever since I was a kid, which is a proper drum kit. As I don’t have the money to live in a villa where no-one can hear me make noise, I had to go with an electric one. The Roland TD-9K felt like a good-featured kit to me, so I bought it. I haven’t regretted the purchase for one second. I previously played my drumtracks on my PadKontrol, but I since then moved to the midi-out capabilities of the Roland kit. A lot of fun to play. The PadKontrol is now mainly used for audio triggering.
The stuff I jotted down here pretty much makes up a decent home studio on-a-budget, I guess. The one last thing I had on my list was that I still wanted to learn how to DJ. I didn’t want to invest in decks and mixers and such, and decided to go with software DJ-ing. Native Instruments Traktor is a good offering in that respect, and when I was looking into that I noticed a pretty cool new hardware controller by Native Instruments. The Traktor Kontrol S4 not only looks the part, but also boasts a pretty decent set of features. Techzine Engadget posted an interesting review of the device, and after looking at some video’s of this puppy in action I decided I should add this to my gearlist as well.
After writing this bit of proze, I went ahead and purchased it all. All is ready to get to work, now all that’s needed is some inspiration and free time. Both are pretty sparse at the moment. Best get started on the plugin installs…