Must-Have Gears For Music Producers Today
Music making and its process have never stopped evolving. The way people compose and produce music 10 years ago was very different than how it’s done today
Producing music today has become extremely easy. You see this trend by the rising number of music producers who are able to produce commercial ready sounding music on their laptop – without any prior music education. All thanks to the advancement in music technology.
Today, audio companies seem to launch more devices and software that ever – each one of them promises easier music making and better sound. But can the quality of ‘sound’ be continually improved? Will there be one day where ‘sound quality’ hits a plateau?
The truth is – we have too many types of music gears in the market. For the music producer who is just starting out, zooming down to the best gears in terms of functionality and price can be overwhelming. Where do you even start?
That’s why we’re going to show you a quick list of essential recording studio equipment that you need to make world-class music today. Whether you produce at home or starting a commercial studio, you’ll never go wrong with this list.
Apple iMac (27 inch)
If you must have a music production computer that is powerful and must be value for money, then build your own custom music production PC. However, if you prefer not to meddle with the tech & troubles of building a PC, and just want to get to music producing – get an Apple iMac.
I know, many of you will think that we’re biased. Well, if you want to debate between choosing a PC or Mac for music production, we’ve written about it here.
Okay, the iMac is a machine that we believe you’ll get the most value for your money and most importantly, problem-free. Get one, take it out of the box, turn the power on and start producing in less than 5 minutes, seriously. We’d advise you to get the 27 inch iMac model – as it’s the model which RAM can be upgraded. The base 27 inch iMac also comes with a faster processor – which is something you’d want for music production. If you’re going to go with the 21.5-inch model – then make sure to max out your RAM, to give space for the RAM-hungry VST/AU plugins.
Sure, an iMac is more expensive compared to a Windows computer. But it works.
Oh, and why didn’t we recommend the MacBook Pro? I would have recommended that for aspiring music producers, but as of lately – there seem to be lots of issues with the new butterfly keyboard and screen on the latest MacBook Pros. Even now with the third-gen butterfly keyboard, there have been faulty reports.
The idea here is to avoid downtime and get a music production computer that you can trust – and the iMac fits that criteria.
Universal Audio Arrow Audio Interface
Tons of great audio interfaces in the market. But if I were to start all over again and had to pick one – I’d pick the Universal Audio Arrow audio interface. It works via the latest USB-C connection (for Mac and PC) which is really fast and that means you have very little to no latency when recording and tracking. Plus the Arrow gives you access to Universal Audio’s plugins a.k.a world-class sounds.
The pre-amps on the unit plus its portability is second to none. No matter the type of microphones you use in your studio, the audio interface will add on to its sound character – giving you great sounding recording anytime.
Usability wise, the interface has a well-thought-of design with quick access control and metering knobs, an effective vocal and acoustic instrument tracker with a guitar monitor and headphone output. This makes it perfect for working with musicians, vocalists, and instrumentalists in your studio. However if your work involves multitrack recordings with many microphones – then the Arrow interface 2in/4out may not be enough for you.
We’d say this audio interface suits music producers and DJ’s who record and produces electronic, pop or mixes commercial tracks. The downside is that the Arrow is pricier compared to budget audio interfaces like the Focusrite Scarlett series or Presonus AudioBox. But granted, the sound quality with the A/D converters is on a different class, and if you’re serious into producing high-quality commercial ready music – this is a great choice.
Novation Launchkey 61 MKII
Want a MIDI controller that will last you years and simply works? Look no further than Novation Launchkey 61 MKII. Lightweight and durable at the same time – just plug a USB cable to it (Mac or PC) and you’ll be up in no time.
You may feel like getting a MIDI controller that comes with loads of features – drum pads, faders, chord functions, pan pots, etc. But honestly, those are features which are ‘nice to have’ but not a ‘must-have’. To be frank, all you really need from a MIDI controller is really the keys – that’s it.
The keyboard’s touch on the Launchkey feels good and it also provides a control surface at a reasonable price. The pitch and modulation wheels are sturdy and responsive. The Launchkey works seamlessly with Ableton Live DAW, and if you don’t use Ableton, you’ll be pleased to know that the controller also works with other DAWs like Logic Pro, Cubase, Pro Tools, Bitwig and more.
The onboard RGB lighting pads can be used to launch audio clips, loops, drum sequences in Ableton. Or program it to work as a drum pad for some finger drumming with any DAW.
But why not the Novation Launchkey 49? That’s because, from experience, I find that MIDI controllers with 61 keys give you the best versatility to produce and also perform. A 49-key controller is great and fits on a desk, but 49-keys is probably too little for playing keyboards seriously – especially when you’re performing with it.
Native Instruments Komplete 12
You’ve got your computer and DAW set-up, now like most – you’ll be searching for a fresh set of sample instruments. Take our advice, stop looking at getting Native Instrument’s Komplete as your first sample library. You could start off with Komplete 12 before upgrading to Komplete Ultimate – and that alone gives you over 220 GB of instruments and effects with more than 25,000 sounds.
No matter the type of music you produce – electronic, pop, classical, film score or trap, you’ll find relevant samples that come with it. Or creatively design different types of sounds using the many synths that come with it. In fact, look into the production setups of the biggest music producers in the world and don’t be surprised to find them having Komplete Ultimate installed.
Besides, many of the instruments and VSTs that comes within the bundle, such as Kontakt Player, Battery 4 or FM8 – are considered the industry’s standard. And on top of the existing samples, you’ll find many third-party sample libraries that are made for them.
The downside to Komplete’s package is that while it’s one of the most complete sound samples & instrument package in the world, many music producers are using it as well and its sounds quickly become generic in the industry. With some use, you’ll start recognizing the same samples and instruments used in many music tracks. And as a music producer, the last thing you want is your music to sound just like everyone else.
However, with its affordable price tag and upgrade offers – it’ll be silly to miss out Komplete on your first 3rd party sound sample purchase.
Yamaha HS8 Studio Monitors
Time-tested and industry proved studio monitors for its accuracy – enter the Yamaha HS8s.
Whether you compose, mix, master or produce – the Yamaha HS8’s are not only pleasant monitors to listen to – but the sound quality is top-notch and more importantly it has a well-balanced and flat the frequency response.
On top of its clean and precise sound for mixing, the monitors also come with room control and trim options to adjust for different room modes. This would be ideal if you mix and master out of an untreated home recording studio.
Compared to many other studio monitors, such as the KRK Rokits or M-Audio BX8s, you’ll find that the Yamaha HS8 offers you a flatter frequency response, making it a trustable studio monitor for mixing and mastering work.
Oh, and why get the 8-inch variant monitor instead of the HS5’s? That’s because if you’re going to be mixing on only a pair of studio monitors without a sub-woofer, you’d want a speaker with a cone size of at least 8-inch so that it’s able to reproduce low-frequencies accurately. Studio monitors with cone size smaller than 8-inch are usually unable to produce accurate sounding low-frequencies.
Conclusion – What’s Your Take?
Do you agree with our points and the music equipment that we recommended above?
Maybe you have other music equipment that you trust and chose for your recording studio. Let us know in the comment section below as we’d love to hear from you.
That said, there are no wrongs or rights when it comes to choosing the right music gear. What’s truly more important is your knowledge and skills in music, so we’d advise you to take music lessons in your home – so no matter the type of music equipment or gear that you have, you’d be able to produce great music.