Top 45 Must-Have Tools For Audio Recording/Mixing Studios


Whether it’s a simple labour of love; a lucrative business, or an overly expensive hobby, owning (and/or working) at an audio recording/mixing studio can be deeply rewarding.

Regardless of your personal goals and the work that needs/wants doings, a studio will need tools to function properly.

In this article, we’ll go over the top 45 tools for audio studios, starting with the small bedroom studio and ending with the professional studio. I’ll describe each of the 45 tools and share additional resources for more information where appropriate.

Before we get started, let’s go over the lens through which this article will be written and organized.


The Layout Of This Article

This article will be laid out in a somewhat chronological order. Of course, the number of tools you’ll require depends largely on your specific needs.

In terms of objective chronology, I think everyone could agree that a professional studio would need pretty well all the same tools and more than a home studio. Similarly, a home studio will likely have more tools than a basic bedroom studio but will include the tools found within a “bedroom studio”.

So discuss these “types” of studios:

  1. The Bedroom Studio
  2. The Home Studio
  3. The Professional Studio

We’ll begin with a simple set up and continuously add more tools that will get us closer to a full-out professional studio.

Note that I’ll be adding hyperlinks to jump to different parts of the this article. Any links that will take you to another page will be clearly stated.

Please allow me to define each of the studio “types” in the context of this article:

The Bedroom Studio

A bedroom studio would be a simple setup in a bedroom or other room, typically in a property you do not own. This could be a rental apartment or your room at your parents. It could also be a hotel room if you’ve got yourself a mobile studio.

This studio type is generally not permanent and so we won’t be building iso-booths or patching through walls. It’s generally reduced to a small room with poor acoustics. Recording is generally done one or two instruments at a time.

This studio is likely the most popular. It’s great for those starting out and can be expanded to suit our needs. Expanding to a home or professional studio would likely require a change of space and certainly more gear.

The “bedroom studio”, as I call it, can be a stripped down version of a larger setup designed for mobile use (perhaps for music recording/production on the road or for podcasting in remote locations, as examples).

The main thing to note is that this type of studio is basic and, therefore, only needs the basic tools.

I personally only have a “bedroom” studio, which doubles as my office, in its own room in my apartment. However, you can be sure that, once I own a home, I’ll be gutting out a room or two for a home studio!

The Home Studio

The home studio is essentially a passion project that isn’t quite professional. In other words, you’ve poured lots of resources (space, time, money) into creating an awesome studio for yourself but you’re far from the big-name professional studios of the world.

Home studios are generally owned by home owners. This way, we can alter the building to suit our needs.

Home studios may have multiple spaces for dedicated live rooms and control rooms. This type of studio will typically be acoustically treated and the gear/layout will be tailored to the owner and/or engineer and their optimal workflow.

A home studio could certainly be “professional” in the literal term. In fact, there’s nothing stopping anyone from making money in home or bedroom studios.

That being said, these studios are often for personal projects and for working with close friends rather than high-end clients.

Admittedly, I’ve never owned or worked in a home studio. However, I have visited my fair share of home studios where the owners offered mixing, mastering and, of course, recording professionally.

The Professional Studio

The “professional studio”, in the context of this article, is the top-end studio designed to bring in profit. It generally has all the high-end gear, which we’ll get to; employees and/or contractors; beautiful acoustic spaces, and other ‘bells and whistles’.

I’ve been blessed to have worked full-time at a professional audio house for 5 years; to have spent nearly every day of a school year between two professional studios, and to have worked on contract in several other pro studios.

The gear at these studios is wildly expensive and this type of studio is impractical for most budgets unless you’re bringing in massive jobs.

Most people would choose to max out at the home studio (I’m one of them) and leave the high price tags to those business folks willing to take the risk on investment! I’ll choose to work on contracts and continue building my own personal studio with my payments.

As we can imagine, the professional studio does not only have better versions of the same tools used in home studios but also many other tools that allow the entire studio system to run more efficiently.

Remember that time is money when it comes to professional endeavours. Paying top dollar for reliable tools and dependable workflow is the name of the game.

The Digital Audio Age

It’s important to note that we’ve been in the digital age of audio for several decades now. Though it’s certainly possible to go completely analog (cutting tape for edits, bouncing down on a four track, etc.), going digital is pretty much a must. This is true in beginner bedroom studios, where digital software is king and professional studios, where efficiency and safe storage are paramount.

Therefore, a better title for this article could be “The Top 45 Must-Have Tools For Digital Audio Recording/Mixing Studios”. The two titles mean pretty well the same thing in today’s day and age!


The Top Studio Tools

With that out of the way, let’s get into the tools. Remember that I’ll be starting the basics (bedroom studio tools) and working my way to the more professional tools.

The top 45 must-have tools for audio recording/mixing studios are:

  1. Computer
  2. Digital Audio Workstation
  3. Audio Interface
  4. Headphones
  5. Studio Monitors
  6. Studio Monitor Stands
  7. MIDI Controller
  8. Microphones
  9. Microphone Stands
  10. Pop Filter
  11. Cables
  12. Audio Plugins: Effects/Processors
  13. Audio Plugins: Virtual Instruments
  14. Direct Injection Boxes
  15. Vocal Reflection Filters
  16. Extra Computer Processing
  17. External Hard Drives & Cloud Storage
  18. Extra Computer RAM
  19. Studio Furniture
  20. Workstation
  21. Acoustic Panels
  22. Bass Traps
  23. Diffusers
  24. Ceiling Clouds
  25. Freestanding Acoustic Panels
  26. Control Surface
  27. Studio Console
  28. Additional Musical Instruments
  29. Additional Software
  30. Memberships
  31. Talkback System
  32. Patchbay
  33. Microphone Preamplifiers
  34. Headphone Amplifiers
  35. Monitor Management System
  36. Power Conditioner
  37. Uninterruptible Power Supply
  38. Digital Converters
  39. Snake Cable
  40. Master Clock
  41. Analog Hardware
  42. Rack Mounts
  43. Live Room(s)
  44. Vocal Booth(s)
  45. Security System

Let’s get into each one of these!


Tools For The “Bedroom” Studio

Let’s start with the basics of the modern studio. These items will get you started in whatever space you have to work with.

  1. Computer
  2. Digital Audio Workstation
  3. Audio Interface
  4. Headphones
  5. Studio Monitors
  6. Studio Monitor Stands
  7. MIDI Controller
  8. Microphones
  9. Microphone Stands
  10. Pop Filter
  11. Cables
  12. Audio Plugins: Effects/Processors
  13. Audio Plugins: Virtual Instruments
  14. Direct Injection Boxes
  15. Vocal Reflection Filter

Computer

As mentioned previously, we’ve been in the digital audio age for some time now. Today, the vast majority of studios are centred around a computer.

Improvements in technology have even made it possible for musicians and engineers to make a living with a laptop. Of course, there’s are huge benefits to building professional-level studios but the computer plays a central role in these systems.

That’s good news for those of us who are interested in getting started with music and audio production. If you’re reading this article, it’s likely you already have a computer!

Of course, not all computers are created equal. For optimal results, you’ll want a computer capable of running a digital audio workstation and processing all the audio and plugins you’ll be using. It’s also important to optimize the computer and gear to reduce latency.

For beginners, a new computer should be able to handle most production applications. When it comes to multi-tracking, mixing and mastering, and/or working with video files, a stronger computer (or additional processing power) will likely be necessary.

Personally, I’m a fan of Apple computers when it comes to working with audio. I also prefer desktops over laptops for music production and audio recording. That’s lead me to an iMac. Here’s a link to check out iMac options on Amazon.

Of course, you don’t need a computer for recording. There are plenty of other recorders out there (both analog and digital). However, in the modern recording studio, the computer is the centrepiece. In amateur situations, a computer is likely the most affordable way to get into music/audio production.

Digital Audio Workstation

A computer is important but won’t be of much use without a digital audio workstation (DAW).

A DAW is where the magic happens. It’s the software of the computer that is used to record, edit and produce audio.

Note that, in the past, integrated DAWs were standalone units that consisted of a control surface, an audio converter, digital signal processors and data storage. These systems are relatively expensive and have fallen out of favour for software DAWs.

Computers and digital audio workstation software continue to improve while prices become relatively more affordable.

Pro Tools is the industry standard and can be found in almost every professional studio. If you’re looking to go professional and want the best and most compatible DAW, go with Avid’s Pro Tools.

However, I will say, from personal experience, that, of all the DAWs I’ve used professionally, Pro Tools will give you the most headaches.

Perhaps the hours of updating and ensuring compatibility between plugins are worth it for a professional studio with a tech team (it was for us). For many personal studios, however, there may be a better option. Again, this is simply my personal opinion.

If not, there are plenty of other options on the market. Though I’ve used Pro Tools extensively in my professional career, Apple’s Logic Pro is still my go-to and the DAW I’m most comfortable with. It’s the one I use at home.

I’ve also had good experiences with Ableton Live and Image Line’s FL Studio.

There are plenty of digital audio workstation options on the market and professional results can be achieved with nearly all of them. Choosing the DAW for your studio, then, becomes more about personal preference and industry-compatibility more than anything else.

For information on the top DAWs on the market, consider checking out my article the Top Best Digital Audio Workstations On The Market.

Audio Interface

Once set up with a computer and a digital audio workstation, the next addition to a bedroom studio is nearly always an audio interface. Any studio looking to make money will certainly have an interface.

An audio interface, as the name suggests, acts as an interface between the computer and other audio equipment. In a way, you could think of an interface as an improved sound card with additional inputs and outputs.

An audio interface will have both analog-to-digital and digital-to-analog converters to allow proper communication between the computer and any analog devices that connect to the interface (microphones, instruments, studio monitors, headphones, etc.).

Audio interfaces range quite a bit in functionality and quality and the interface you choose for your studio will likely be dependent on your needs and budget.

Let’s have a look at a few audio interfaces and their basic specifications:

The Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 (link to check the price on Amazon) is a great beginner interface. Here are a few featured specs:

  • 2 combo inputs (mic, line and instrument)
  • 1 headphone output (1/4″)
  • 2 line/monitor outputs for left and right stereo channels (1/4″)
  • Phantom power switch (for mic input)
  • Air switch (emulates original Focusrite ISA preamps)
  • Direct monitoring switch
  • Supported sample rates: 44.1, 48, 88.2, 96, 176.4 and 192 kHz
  • Connects via USB
Focusrite Scarlett 2i2

The PreSonus AudioBox 96 (link to check the price on Amazon) is another superb option for a first audio interface. Let’s have a look at its specs:

  • 2 combo inputs (mic, line and instrument)
  • 1 headphone output (1/4″)
  • 2 line/monitor outputs for left and right stereo channels (1/4″)
  • MIDI input and output (5-pin)
  • Phantom power switch (for mic input)
  • Air switch (emulates original Focusrite ISA preamps)
  • Mixer control (between direct inputs and playback)
  • Supported sample rates: 44.1, 48, 88.2 and 96 kHz
  • Connects via USB
PreSonus AudioBox 96

The Universal Audio Apollo x16 (link to check the price on Amazon) is more involved and makes for a great interface in home and professional studios. Let’s have a look at a few of its specs:

  • 16 balanced line inputs via 2 DB25
  • 1 digital input (AES/EBU: 2 channels @ 44.1 – 192 kHz) via XLR
  • 16 balanced line outputs via 2 DB25
  • 2 balanced monitor outputs (left & right channel) via XLR
  • 1 digital output (AES/EBU: 2 channels @ 44.1 – 192 kHz) via XLR
  • Word clock input and output
  • Alt Speakers, Talkback mic, and assignable Dim or Mono controls (front panel)
  • Surround monitor controller up to 7.1 format
  • HEXA Core Realtime UAD Processing for tracking through UAD plug-ins at near-zero latency
  • Compatibility for combining up to 4 Thunderbolt-equipped Apollos and 6 total UAD devices
  • 24-bit/192 KHz conversion
  • Connects via Thunderbolt
Universal Audio Apollo x16

Focusrite, PreSonus and Universal Audio are all featured in My New Microphone’s Top 11 Best Audio Interface Brands In The World.

Regardless of the size of your studio, you can benefit from a high-end audio interface (or multiple interfaces combined together). When you’re recording drums or full bands, a larger interface will be needed but in many cases (mixing, mastering, overdubbing, voiceover, etc.) a smaller audio interface will work just fine. That being said, if you’ve got the money and space, a larger interface may be a safer bet.

Related articles:
Best Microphone Audio Interfaces
What Is Phantom Power And How Does It Work With Microphones?

Headphones

Headphones are an important part of any audio studio from the largest professional studios to the bedrooms of young aspiring musicians.

Headphones are a great way of listening back to the audio within the DAW. They can connect to dedicated headphone amplifiers, audio interfaces, or even directly to the computer if there’s no audio interface.

Using headphones in a studio has several benefits for the engineer, producer and talent alike. Let’s consider a few of these benefits:

  • Unlike studio monitors, headphones are not overly affected by the acoustics of the room. In small spaces and untreated environments, a nice pair of headphones will often outperform a pair of studio monitors.
  • Studio-grade headphones are relatively affordable when compared to studio monitors.
  • Headphones can be used inside and outside the studio.
  • Headphones allow talent to hear themselves, whether they’re recording overdubs (including ADR) or recording simultaneously with other talent.
  • Headphones allow talent to communicate with the control room via a talkback microphone system.
  • Headphones allow for quiet monitoring. This helps avoid bleed when recording and allows mixers to perform their tasks quietly to avoid disturbing those around them.

Of course, there are drawbacks of headphones including the often exaggerated bass response and stereo image. When mixing and mastering, it’s typically best to use both headphones and speakers/monitors to listen critically (and to use multiple pairs of headphones and monitors, at that). This is all to say that headphones are invaluable tools in practically all studios.

The Sennheiser HD280 Pro (link to check the price on Amazon) is a popular closed-back headphone in studios around the world. This dynamic headphone is comfortable, sounds good and blocks out noise. It’s a great choice for talent/musicians and mixers/engineers alike.

Sennheiser HD280 Pro

The Sennheiser HD280 Pro is featured in the following My New Microphone articles:
Top Best Moving-Coil/Dynamic Headphones Under $100
Top Best Closed-Back Headphones Under $100
Top Best Circumaural (Over-Ear) Headphones Under $100

The Beyerdynamic DT 770 (link to check the price on Amazon) is a pair of circumaural (over-ear) moving-coil dynamic closed-back wired headphones. These headphones come in 3 variations: 32-ohm, 80-ohm and 250-ohm for different sound quality and versatility.

Beyerdynamic DT 770 Pro 80-ohm

The Beyerdynamic DT 770 Pro is featured in the following My New Microphone articles:
Top Best Headphones For Podcasting Under $200
Top Best Closed-Back Headphones Under $200
Top Best Circumaural (Over-Ear) Headphones Under $200
Top Best Moving-Coil/Dynamic Headphones Under $200

The Audeze LCD-4 (link to compare prices on Amazon and B&H Photo/Video) is a pair of wired open-back circumaural planar magnetic headphones. The planar magnetic drivers of these headphones require an external headphone amplifier to sound their best but offer superior sonic performance over many other headphones. The open-back design allows for a natural sound, making them an excellent choice for mixing.

Audeze LCD-4

Sennheiser, Beyerdynamic and Audeze are featured in My New Microphone’s Top Best Headphone Brands In The World.

Related articles:
How Do Headphones Work? (Illustrated Guide For All HP Types)
Full List: Headphone/Earphone Specifications w/ Examples

Studio Monitors

If you’re serious about your bedroom studio, you’ve likely thought about investing in a pair of studio monitors. If you work in a professional studio, chances are that you have access to multiple pairs of studio monitors.

Regardless of where you’re at in term of your own studio, a pair of studio monitors will be an important piece of the puzzle. These reference speakers are set up to allow us to monitor our recording and mixing sessions.

In smaller, untreated rooms, the performance of studio monitors will suffer due to the nature of acoustics. Professional studios are designed with larger listening spaces and have the monitors placed further from the wall for better results. These high-end studios will also likely have acoustic panels, bass traps and diffusers to “treat” the space in order to improve the acoustics.

That being said, having a pair of studio monitors that will accurately reproduce the frequencies and stereo image of the mix is a certain step in the right direction and a must-have in audio studios.

The Kali Audio IN-8 (link to compare prices at select retailers) is an intuitive and “budget-friendly” studio monitors. It’s a 3-way design with improved imaging of a co-axial mid-range and tweeter. This superb monitor offers transparency, low distortion, and a soundstage that swings way above its price point.

Kali Audio IN-8

The KH 420 (link to compare prices at select retailers) is Neumann’s flagship studio monitor. This 3-way tri-amplified (class AB) midfield studio monitor is ideal for listening distances of 1.5 to 3 metres, offering extraordinary bass depth (26 Hz) with high sound pressure (122.4 dB).

Neumann KH 420

Neumann and Kali Audio are featured in My New Microphone’s Top Best Studio Monitor Brands You Should Know And Use.

Related article:
Full List: Loudspeaker & Monitor Specifications w/ Examples

Studio Monitor Stands

If you’re planning on dropping some money on a nice pair of studio monitors, it’s important to get some stands as well.

Monitor stands are important for two main reasons: isolation and placements.

Monitors are generally designed with small feet, often made of rubber, that help to isolate the monitor vibrations from the surfaces they’re placed on. This helps to greatly reduce the transfer of vibrations to the adjacent bodies (whether that’s a desk, a stand, a shelf, etc.) which, in turn, improves the overall performance of the monitors and the sound of the system.

Monitor stands help to improve this isolation even further. They’re designed to hold the monitors and provide an additional layer of isolation to reduce resonances and enhance the sound of the system.

Stands also typically allow us to position the monitor at proper listening height and width from the mixing position. For example, if you’ve got a desk that hosts your computer, interface and etcetera, it’s likely not ideal to put monitors at the back corners of the desk. They may be too low and too narrow.

With stands, we can adjust the position of the monitors to best suit the room and our mixing position within the room.

There are several types of monitor stands to be aware of and the type you’ll want to pick up is dependent on the rest of your studio setup. Monitor stands typically belong to one of three types:

  • Tower stands
  • Desktop stands
  • Wall-mounted stands

The On Stage SMS6000 (link to check the price on Amazon) is a pair of tower stands for studio monitors with adjustable height. For many studios, these affordable stands will work just fine. Of course, there are more expensive models on the market but these are a great option for bedroom, home and pro studios alike.

On Stage SMS6000

Desktop stands come in a variety of formats but all sit on or attach to the desktop. These models include clamp-on style stands, regular desktop stands and simple isolation pads. Let’s have a look at a few examples:

  • Clamp-on studio monitor desktop stand example:
  • Regular studio monitor desktop stand example:
  • Studio monitor isolation pad example:

These Gator Cases Framework Studio Monitor Clamp-On Stands (link to check the price at B&H Photo/Video) are one example of a pair of desktop stands.

Gator Cases Framework Studio Monitor Clamp-On Stands

The IsoAcoustics Iso-Stand (link to check the price on Amazon) is a great example of a pair of desktop stands from studio monitors.

IsoAcoustic Iso-Stand Iso-130

This pair of Pyle PSI03 (link to check the price on Amazon) is an example of an acoustic isolation platform for studio monitors.

Pyle PSI03

Wall-mounted stands are a bit less popular and are best suited to permanent installations in home and pro studios. As the name suggests, these stands mount to the wall. These stands are more popular with bookshelf speakers than studio monitors but are worth mentioning nonetheless.

The K&M 24171 (link to check the price at B&H Photo/Video) is an example of a pair of wall-mounted studio monitor/speaker stands.

K&M 24171

MIDI Controller

MIDI controllers can really improve workflow and creativity, especially when the purpose of the studio is music.

A MIDI controller, whether it features a keyboard, trigger pads, knobs, buttons, faders, dials or a combination thereof, will help us to get our ideas out faster and more efficiently.

It could be laying down a beat with a software sampler; recording MIDI information for a virtual instrument; controlling/writing parameters for automation; triggering play/stop/record, and more. Having a MIDI controller offers a tactile approach which means less manual programming with the mouse and keyboard.

The Akai Professional MPK Mini Mk3 (link to check the price on Amazon) is a popular compact MIDI controller. As we can see, it has a small 25-key keyboard (with 10-octave up/down buttons); 8 assignable trigger pads; 8 assignable 360º knobs; an X-Y controller, and several other buttons. It connects via USB.

Akai Professional MPK Mini Mk3

The M-Audio Keystation 61 Mk3 (link to check the price on Amazon) is a larger, more keyboard-centric MIDI controller. It has 61 keys. There are also 32, 49 and 88-key versions of the Keystation.

The Keystation 61 Mk3 also has a 5-pin MIDI output for controlling synths and other instruments. The unit features transport and directional buttons; a volume fader; pitch and modulation wheels, and advanced functionality to link these controls to different DAW parameters.

M-Audio Keystation 61 Mk3

Akai Professional and M-Audio are both featured in My New Microphone’s Top Best MIDI Controller Brands In The World.

There are plenty of awesome and affordable MIDI controllers on the market. They’re an excellent addition to any studio.

Pushing things a bit further, we can invest in a control surface that will give us more control over the DAW’s mixer, allowing us to mix and master in a more tactile way. Control surfaces are often larger and much more expensive than typical MIDI controllers but have the general idea of controlling to DAW with an external piece of hardware.

Microphones

A microphone is the beginning of the signal chain. In mixing and mastering, microphones aren’t all that necessary but for practically all other audio recording, they’re essential.

Unless you’re only using producing with virtual instruments, synthesizers and direct-inject boxes, you’ll likely require microphones to record your sounds. This is particularly true if you’ll be recording vocals or voiceover.

There are plenty of different microphones on the market and different types as well. If you’ve been involved with audio and music for a while, you’ll likely know what mics you want for your studio.

For beginners, dynamic mics are typically best for loud, percussive instruments and noisy environments while condenser mics are a bit more articulate for softer instruments, vocals and voiceover, though they may pick up too much extraneous sound. It’s certainly more complex than that but that’s about as simple as I can make it!

Let’s have a look at a few notable microphones.

The Shure SM57 (link to check the price on Amazon) is nicknamed the “studio workhorse” and is the most popular microphone in music studios around the world. This dynamic microphone isn’t the most accurate option out there but it’s damn near indestructible. The legendary SM57 sounds great on drums, guitar amps and plenty of other sources.

Shure SM57

The Shure SM57 is recommended in the following My New Microphone articles:
50 Best Microphones Of All Time (With Alternate Versions & Clones)
Top Best Microphones Under $150 For Recording Vocals
Best Microphones For Miking Snare Drum
Best Microphones For Miking Tubular Bells
Best Microphones For Miking Flute
Best Microphones For Miking Soprano Saxophone
Best Microphones For Miking Recorder
Best Microphones For Miking Electric Miking Guitar Cabinets (Studio)

The Rode NT1-A (link to check the price on Amazon) is a popular electret condenser microphone. You may not find this mic in high-end studios with huge budgets but for those project studio owners out there, this is one of the best condenser microphones that won’t break the budget.

Rode NT1-A

The Rode NT1-A is recommended in the following My New Microphone articles:
50 Best Microphones Of All Time (With Alternate Versions & Clones)
Top Best Large-Diaphragm Condenser Microphones Under $500
Top Best Microphones Under $1,000 for Recording Vocals
Top Best Microphones Under $500 for Recording Vocals
Top Best Microphones For Podcasting (All Budgets)
Best Microphones For Miking Grand Piano
Best Microphones For Miking Upright Piano
Best Microphones For Miking Celesta
Best Microphones For Miking Didgeridoo
Best Studio Microphones For Recording Singing
Best Studio Microphones For Recording Rap/Hip-Hop Vocals
Best Microphones For Recording Voiceover
Best Microphones For Recording Audiobooks
Best ASMR Stereo Microphones/Mic Pairs

The Neumann U 87 (link to check the price on Amazon) is a legendary condenser microphone and is a sign of professionalism in a studio. This microphone’s popularity has brought about high expectations and critics but it’s certainly one of the best options out there, particularly for vocals.

Neumann U87

The Neumann U 87 AI and original U 87 are recommended in the following My New Microphone articles:
50 Best Microphones Of All Time (With Alternate Versions & Clones)
Top Best Vintage Microphones (And Their Best Clones)
Top Best Solid-State/FET Condenser Microphones
Top Best Microphones For Recording Vocals
Best Microphones For Miking Marimba
Best Microphones For Miking Vibraphone
Best Studio Microphones For Recording Singing
Best Microphones For Recording Voiceover
Best Microphones For Recording Audiobooks
Best Room Microphones
Best Microphones For Miking Grand Piano
Best Microphones For Miking Upright Piano

Shure, Rode and Neumann are featured in My New Microphone’s Top Best Microphone Brands You Should Know And Use.

Related articles:
Top 11 Best Microphone Brands You’ve Likely Never Heard Of
What Is The Best Microphone? (Full Guide To Choosing The Best Mic)
How Do Microphones Work? (The Ultimate Illustrated Guide)
Full List Of Microphone Specifications (How To Read A Spec Sheet)

Microphone Stands

Microphones are always better with stands that will hold them in place. Even in cases where microphones can be handheld (in vocal recording), it’s typically best to attach the microphone to a stand.

A microphone stand will hold a microphone in place, ensuring proper and consistent mic placement. These stands are definite must-haves once you have microphones in your studio.

There are plenty of different microphone stands and mic stand types to consider. A mic stand will generally fall into one (or more) of the following categories:

  • Desktop stands
  • Low profile stands
  • Tripod stands
  • Round base stands
  • Tripod boom stands
  • Overhead stands

Tripod boom stands are the most common and arguably the most versatile of the different types. Let’s have a look at an example for each of the above-mentioned mic stand types.

The On Stage DS7200 (link to check the price on Amazon) is a plain desktop mic stand. It has a movable shaft with a die-cast steel clutch, allowing height adjustments from 9″ to 13″.

On Stage DS7200

The K&M 25900 (link to check the price on Amazon) is an excellent low-profile mic stand for an affordable price. This stand is durable and holds microphones in place with ease. The 25900 has an adjustable height from 16-3/4″ to 25-3/8″ and an adjustable telescopic boom from 18″ to 30-1/4″.

K&M 25900

The On Stage MS7700B (link to check the price on Amazon) is an excellent and inexpensive tripod mic stand. It’s folding legs allow for stability on most surfaces. The legs have plastic endcaps for longevity and reduced transfer of mechanical noise. The MD7700B features a steel clutch at its midpoint, allowing for height adjustments from 32″ to 61½”.

On Stage MS7700B

The Atlas Sound MS20 (link to check the price on Amazon) is an amazing round base mic stand. The microphone’s base is incredibly stable and resists the transfer of mechanical noise oddly well for a round base. The stand’s height is adjustable from 37″ to 66″.

Atlas Sound MS20

The K&M 210/9 (link to check the price on Amazon) is yet another fantastic high-quality mic stand from König & Meyer. This tripod stand features an adjustable boom arm length from 435mm (~17″) to 745mm (~29″) and an adjustable height from 900mm (35.5″) to 1,605 mm (63″). It’s stand is durable, sturdy, and an excellent choice for its price tag.

K&M 210/9

The Ultimate Support MC125 (link to check the price on Amazon) is a 6 pound overhead mic stand with a low centre of gravity designed for holding overhead mics. It features a rollable base with a rollerblade-style wheel; a heavy-duty clutch allowing height adjustments between 52″ to 83″, and a friction-free clutch allowing its boom arm to extend from 35″ to 61″. For heavier microphones and longer spans, the MC125 comes with an easy-adjust 5.75-pound counterweight to increase its already stellar stability.

Ultimate Support MC125

For more information on microphone stands, check out my article The Best Microphone Stands.

Pop Filter

Pop filters are relatively inexpensive but are still critical pieces of most studios, particularly if there will be any vocal/voiceover recording.

A pop filter is a physical filter that is attached to a mic stand and positioned in front of a microphone. It helps to greatly reduce plosive energy (from hard consonant sounds) before this energy reached the microphone.

Plosives are strong blasts of wind energy that come from the mouth of a speaker. Plosives happen on certain consonant sounds when a part of the mouth gets closed (lips, tongue and teeth, or the back of the mouth). In the English language, they’ll happen on the hard consonant sounds of the letters B, D, G, K, P and T.

When plosives reach a directional microphone unhindered, they are likely to overload the capsule for an instant, causing “pops” in the recording. Pop filters are designed to allow sound to pass through while blocking this annoying plosive energy from reaching the mic.

The Nady MPF-6 (link to check the price on Amazon) is a nylon mesh pop filter.

Nady MPF-6

The Stedman Corporation Proscreen XL (link to check the price on Amazon) is a metal mesh pop filter.

Stedman Corporation Proscreen XL

Related articles:
Top 10 Tips For Eliminating Microphone Pops And Plosives
What Is A Microphone Pop Filter And When Should You Use One?
Best Microphone Pop Filters

Cables

In order to connect the different pieces of a studio together, cables are required. Whether it’s digital or analog audio, electrical power, data transfer or even internet, cables will be needed in a studio. Though a lot of data transfer can be sent wirelessly nowadays, a studio will be connected together with cables.

In addition to data transfer and power cables, there is a huge variety of audio cables on the market. Knowing the cables you’ll need is highly dependent on the studio equipment you use.

Computers, studio monitors, mic preamps, headphone amps, monitor management systems, power conditioners, UPS, digital converters, master clocks and analog hardware will come with their own power cables.

Similarly, audio interfaces, MIDI controllers and external hard drives will all come with their own data cables. These cables can be USB, optical, Firewire, Thunderbolt, MIDI or others.

When it comes to connecting audio equipment together, different studios will require different amounts of different cables. Common audio cables (and their uses) include:

Without getting too into cables, let’s have a look at an example of a 1/4″ TRS and a 3-pin XLR cable.

Pictured below is the 1/4″ TRS Mogami Gold TRS-TRS (link to check the price on Amazon). These cables come in 3, 6, 10, 20, 30, 50-foot lengths.

Mogami Gold TRS-TRS

Next is the 3-pin XLR Mogami Gold Studio XLRs (link to check prices on Amazon). These cables come in 2, 3, 6, 10, 15, 25, 50, 75 and 100-foot lengths.

Mogami Gold Studio XLR

The main takeaway is that audio/music studios need cables and that the required cables are dependent on the particular setup of the studio.

Related article:
How Do Patch Cables Carry Audio? (Guitar, Bass, Synth, Etc.)

Audio Plugins: Effects/Processors

Audio plugins are software packages that can be used to enhance the functionality of our digital audio workstation. They are an important part of any digital audio studio and DAW.

There are plenty of different audio plugins on the market (both free and paid) for us to choose from. A digital audio workstation will typically have all the basics when it comes to audio plugins but sometimes we may need or want a third-party plug-in to achieve our audio goals.

Many plugins offer audio effects. DAWs will generally have all the basics (compression, EQ, time-based effects, modulation effects, gain-based effects, etc.) but you may want to get more to add to your digital tool kit.

A few examples of superb audio effects plug-ins include:

Related article:
• Top Best Audio Software Plugin Brands For Your DAWs

Audio Plugins: Virtual Instruments

In addition to effects and processors, audio plugins can also be programmed as instruments. Though many DAWs have excellent stock virtual instruments, many musicians and producers prefer third-party software for their virtual instruments.

These instruments can be based on audio synthesis or on sampling and can be played/programmed with MIDI. They’ll typically have parameters and presets in order to alter the sound.

Depending on what type of music you’ll be making, you may require different virtual instruments (or maybe you won’t require any at all). Here’s a list of a few popular virtual instruments to give you a better idea of what’s out there:

Related article:
• Top Best Virtual Instrument Audio Software Brands For Your DAWs

Direct Injection Boxes

A DI box is a valuable tool for a studio. This is true in the case that you’re unable to crank your bass guitar up for recording in your apartment studio as well as in professional studios.

DI boxes came about in the 1960s as a way to connect electric instruments directly to microphone preamplifiers. They acted to drop the impedance and the level of these instruments so that the signals could be sent over long cable runs and be compatible with the mic preamps.

Today, DI boxes often play the same role. In studios, they have a few additional benefits, such as:

  • They may eliminate ground loops in a studio audio system.
  • They allow instruments to be recorded quietly.
  • They allow instruments to be recorded “clean” for re-amping in the future.

The Radial Engineering Pro DI (link to check the price on Amazon) is an example of a passive direct box (does not require power).

Radial Engineering Pro DI

The Radial Pro48 DI (link to check the price on Amazon) is an example of an active DI box (does require power).

Radial Engineering Pro48 DI

The main difference between active and passive DI boxes is that active boxes have internal amplification, allowing them to output a stronger signal level. Active DI boxes require power in order to function properly which can be supplied via batteries, dedicated power supplies or phantom power from the connected mic input.

Related article:
• Top Best Direct Inject Boxes For Audio

Vocal Reflection Filters

Vocal reflection filters (sometimes referred to as “portable vocal booths“) are a great way to block natural room reverb and echo from entering a microphone.

These devices shield are designed with acoustic treatment to absorb some of the sound and also work to block some reflective sound from reaching the microphone. As their name suggests, these filters are designed primarily for vocals.

In a bedroom studio, vocal reflection filters can be an invaluable investment. Compared to acoustically treating a room (with acoustic panels, bass traps, diffusers and ceiling clouds), vocal reflection filters are affordable. They’re also portable and do not require sticking foam to the walls which can be annoying if your studio setup will have to be moved (from apartment to apartment, for example).

The sE Electronics RF SPACE (link to check the price on Amazon) is a popular vocal reflection filter.

sE Electronics RF SPACE

The CAD Audio AS32 (link to check the price on Amazon) is another popular vocal reflection filter.

CAD Audio AS32

Related article:
Best Vocal Microphone Isolation Shields


Tools For The Home Studio

Now that we have the basics, let’s talk about the home studio. If you’ve got a room (or multiple rooms) to set up a dedicated studio space, consider these items to improve workflow, acoustics, and client comfort.

  1. Extra Computer Processing
  2. External Hard Drives & Cloud Storage
  3. Extra Computer RAM
  4. Studio Furniture
  5. Workstation
  6. Acoustic Panels
  7. Bass Traps
  8. Diffusers
  9. Ceiling Clouds
  10. Freestanding Acoustic Panels

Extra Computer Processing

As a studio grows and incorporates more and more technology, the demands on the computer will likely become higher and higher.

For example, making beats with stock instruments within a DAW will require much less processing power than say, recording a band with 16 channels simultaneously, each with its own chain of plugins.

A stronger computer will also help in reducing latency when monitoring or overdubbing in the studio.

The computer’s central processing unit (CPU) is the circuitry that executes instructions that make up a computer program. CPU performance is measure by clock speed (in Hertz) and by the number of cores the CPU contains.

Faster CPUs will calculate faster. Additional cores will allow for improved performance in mutli-thread processing. Most DAWs take advantage of multi-threading.

The greater the CPU specifications, the better your studio computer will be able to handle the following:

  • Running synth plugins.
  • Running processor/effects plugins.
  • Processing MIDI information.
  • Higher buffer sizes (the amount of time, in samples, it takes for your computer to process any incoming audio signal).
  • Running background programs/applications.

Unfortunately, not all computers can have their CPU upgraded. It’s also important to note that a CPU needs to be compatible with the computer motherboard. So please do your own research to see if and how you should ever upgrade your CPU.

External Hard Drives & Cloud Storage

When working with a computer in the studio, we’ll need storage.

Computers will come with their own built-in hard drives, which we’ll get us started without issue. It’s typically best practice to keep any DAWs and plugins on the internal hard drive of the computer. When we’re starting out, the internal hard drive will likely have enough space to hold our sessions as well.

However, as we build up the number of sessions we’ve worked on (and are working on), it’s important to invest in additional storage. This additional storage can be in the form of physical external hard drives and/or as cloud storage (online).

There are a few important reasons to invest in extra storage methods:

  • Backups are essential, especially when working for clients. Backing up to an external hard drive and/or cloud storage will keep redundant files stored in case they’re ever lost or corrupted on the original drive.
  • As the available space on the internal hard drive memory gets smaller, the computer will begin running more slowly. This is especially true when the drive is near full.
  • Running sessions on an external hard drive can be faster if the data transfer between the computer and external hard drive is adequate.
  • Running sessions from an external hard drive will keep the sessions safe if the computer is to ever stop working.

There are plenty of hard drives on the market to choose from. They will generally connect to the computer via USB, Thunderbolt, Firewire or other connections.

Extra Computer RAM

RAM (random access memory) is also an important aspect of the studio computer. Between CPU, additional storage and RAM, I’d recommend upgrading RAM last, as it’s likely the least concerning factor to improve. That being said, in a perfect world, we’d have the most RAM possible.

The main reason for upgrading RAM would be if you’re using large sample-based virtual instruments. These instruments must load samples into RAM for fast availability since loading them from the hard drive would be too slow.

So unless you’re using multiple large sample-based instruments, 8 GB of RAM should be enough. However, 16 or more GB wouldn’t hurt in any case.

Studio Furniture

This “must-have” could have been saved for the professional studio section. However, if you’re running sessions and having clients in your home studio, you’ll like want to have some furniture to make them comfortable.

Chairs, tables, couches, coat racks, shoe racks and etcetera can really make the studio more welcoming and practical for paying clients, which is critical when it comes time to begin opening your studio up to the outside world.

Purchasing a nice rug for the studio may also be of benefit to you. In addition to keeping the floor protected from computer chairs and minimizing floor noise, a rug will also play a role in acoustically treating the room. It can be thought of as a [slightly-effective] acoustic panel for the floor.

Workstation

Speaking of furniture, having a dedicated and well-thought-out workstation is also a part of running a home studio, whether it’s a client-facing studio or not. Designing an ergonomic and practical workspace is critical once you begin spending longer hours in the studio.

By workstation, I’m not referring to the aforementioned digital audio workstation. Rather, I’m talking about the desk, chair and general layout of your workspace. Ensure there’s enough room to have all the necessary equipment and that the regularly-used tools are easy to get to.

So then, getting a “workstation” would mean investing in a desk, rack mounts and anything else that will allow you to arrange your workspace effectively for an efficient workflow.

For example, before you get a control surface and an extended MIDI controller, make sure you have the real estate for it within your workstation.

Acoustic Panels

Acoustic panels are often the first step when it comes to acoustically treating a room.

These sound-absorbing panels are placed on walls and ceilings to reduce reflections, standing waves and general noise in a room. Live rooms and booths benefit greatly from acoustic treatment when it comes to recording within the spaces. Control rooms benefit when it comes to monitoring.

By reducing (but not entirely eliminate) resonances and reflections within a room, acoustic panelling helps tremendously in providing better acoustics for recording and listening.

The Grageta 2″ x 12″ x 12″ 12-pack (link to check the price on Amazon) are an affordable set of triangular foam panels.

Grageta 2″ x 12″ x 12″ 12-pack

The Auralex Studiofoam Pyramid 2″ x 2′ x 2′ 12-pack (link to check the price on Amazon) utilize a pyramid-shape foam to reduce reflections and resonances.

The Auralex 2″ Thick ProPanel Wall Panel 24″ x 48″ (link to check the price at B&H Photo/Video) is a bit more professional-looking as it’s flat. These panels are 2 inches thick and work wonders when acoustically treating a space.

Auralex 2″ Thick ProPanel Wall Panel 24″ x 48″

Bass Traps

Bass traps, as the name suggests, act to reduce the build up of bass frequencies in an acoustic space.

Corners of rooms (wall-to-wall, wall-to-ceiling and wall-to-floor) tend to concentrate bass frequencies as reflections from adjacent surfaces cause build-up. The energy of low-end frequencies is typically harder to dissipate compared to high-end frequencies due, in large part, to the longer wavelengths.

Putting bass traps in the corners and along surfaces can help to reduce the build-up of low-end frequencies that may otherwise resonate in the room and cause a skewed listening environment.

The Auralex MegaLENRD (link to check the price on Amazon) is an example of a bass trap.

Auralex MegaLENRD

The Primacoustic London Bass Trap (link to check the price on Amazon) is another example of a bass trap.

Primacoustics London

Diffusers

Diffusers work primarily on the principle of diffusion rather than absorption (like the aforementioned acoustic panels and bass traps).

Diffusion acts to scatter sound wave reflections so that sound waves do not build-up resonances within the room. Proper diffusion can even make a space sound larger than it is by altering reflections so that our ears and brains cannot calculate the dimensions naturally.

Diffusors are particularly effective with mid-range frequencies and so it’s important to combine them with bass traps and acoustic absorption panels for optimal results.

The BXI QRD Diffusor (link to check the price on Amazon) is an example of a sound diffusor.

BXI QRD Diffusor

Ceiling Clouds

Ceiling clouds are essentially the same as acoustic wall panel but are placed at or near the ceiling of the room. Sound doesn’t only reflect off the walls and floor and so treating the ceiling is an important step in many home studios and professional studios.

The Primacoustic Nimbus Acoustic Ceiling Cloud Kit (link to check the price at B&H Photo/Video) is an example of a studio ceiling cloud.

Primacoustic Nimbus Acoustic Ceiling Cloud Kit

Related article:
Top Best Acoustic Treatment Brands

Freestanding Acoustic Panels

Freestanding acoustic panels (also known as “gobos”) are especially useful for tracking multiple talents at the same time within the room. These portable panels help to reduce unwanted bleed in microphones from other instruments or vocals within the same room.

GIK Acoustics has a variety of superb gobos. Check them out at the GIK website.

GIK Acoustics Portable Isolation Booth

Tools For The Professional Studio

Now let’s discuss some tools used in the big leagues. Any of these items can be added to improve upon a home studio but are not absolutely essential to a functioning studio. Pro studios will generally have many, if not all, of these tools to set them apart as go-to studios for content producers.

  1. Control Surface
  2. Studio Console
  3. Additional Musical Instruments
  4. Additional Software
  5. Memberships
  6. Talkback System
  7. Patchbay
  8. Microphone Preamplifiers
  9. Headphone Amplifiers
  10. Monitor Management System
  11. Power Conditioner
  12. Uninterruptible Power Supply
  13. Digital Converters
  14. Snake Cable
  15. Master Clock
  16. Analog Hardware
  17. Rack Mounts
  18. Live Room(s)
  19. Vocal Booth(s)
  20. Security System

Control Surface

An audio control surface is a type of human interface device that allows the user to control a digital audio workstation (or other audio applications) with more than just the keyboard, mouse and MIDI keyboard. I like to think of control surfaces as audio consoles that work in tandem with the digital audio workstation.

So control surfaces offer tactile control of audio software. The controls can be assigned to various parameters within the DAW including those of virtual instruments and processing plugins.

Because these tools resemble mixing consoles (with knobs, faders, buttons, etc.), they are well-received in studios running digital audio workstations.

Control surfaces are also significantly less expensive than typical mixing consoles as they do not include all the inputs/outputs, channel strips and other expensive electronics that go into consoles (though they do control software that emulates these electronics).

The SSL Nucleus2 (link to check the price at Sweetwater) is an awesome control surface from the legendary console manufacturer Solid State Logic.

Solid State Logic Nucleus2

The Icon Pro Audio QCon Pro G2 (link to check the price on Amazon) is a smaller console but is powerful in its ability to control digital audio workstations.

Icon Pro Audio QCon Pro G2

Solid State Logic and Icon Pro Audio are featured in My New Microphone’s Top Best DAW Control Surface Brands In The World.

Studio Console

We’ve discussed control surfaces. Now let’s turn our focus to studio consoles.

Simply put, a studio/mixing console is defined as an electronics device that combines different audio signals. These consoles (often referred to as “boards”) range from small affordable mixers on the consumer market to boards costing hundreds of thousands of dollars on the professional market. Some legendary vintage consoles have even sold for well over a million.

With such a wide range of options, it’s true that any studio could benefit from a mixing board. However, the high-end consoles will generally only be found in professional studios (or home studios of wealthy hobbyists).

A console will have a set number of audio channels. These audio channels will typically have (but are not limited to):

  • Inputs
  • Phantom power supplies
  • Preamplifiers
  • Channel strips (compression, EQ)
  • Inserts (for outboard effects)
  • Sends/routing controls
  • Pan knob
  • Level fader
  • Mute button
  • Solo button

Depending on the design, a console may be able to mix analog audio, digital audio or both.

In addition to each channel strip, a mixer will have controls for the master output (the sum of all channel strips). Consoles will generally have metering capabilities, busses/sub-mixes, VCA groups and other features. Boards may have built-in effects and/or power amplifiers.

Some digital consoles can even connect to and control digital audio workstations, acting as control surfaces and consoles at the same time.

High-end studio consoles are built with high-end electronics and sound incredible. They also offer a world of tactile control to the studio. Of course, they come at a price but for a pro studio with a large budget, they’re often the centrepiece of the entire operation.

The SSL Duality δelta (link to check it out at Solid State Logic) is one of the best studio consoles on the market today.

SSL Duality δelta


The AMS Neve Genesys (link to check it out at AMS Neve) is a particularly notable console from AMS Neve.

Neve Genesys

The Mackie ProFX30v3 (link to check the price on Amazon) is an example of a more affordable board that could easily find itself in a home/project studio and double as a live sound board when need be.

Mackie ProFX30v3

Solid State Logic and AMS Neve are both featured in My New Microphone’s Top Best Studio Recording/Mixing Console Brands.
Mackie is featured in My New Microphone’s Top Best Mixing Board/Console Brands For Home Studios.

Additional Musical Instruments

Having some musical instruments around the studio can be of great benefit when your focus is recording music.

Perhaps the best example would be to have an acoustic piano in the live room. Getting a piano into the studio can be difficult and so it’s often best to keep one in the studio in case it’s ever needed for a session. Yes, some people still like the real thing on record!

Having additional musical instruments around can help with production by having extra sonic resources to add to the mix. If you’re tasked with producing music yourself, having some real instruments can inspire creativity and give the music a human feel versus relying solely on virtual instruments.

Additional Software

Additional software could include the aforementioned virtual instruments and plugins. It also could include the following:

  • Telecommunications Applications
  • Chat/Communication Applications
  • Internet Audio Patching Software (replacement to ISDN)
  • File Conversion Software
  • Accounting Software

Memberships

In addition to extra software that will help the studio to run, there are plenty of memberships you could potentially need or want when running a studio.

Memberships could be to sound sample or stock music libraries up to labour unions and professional bodies. Knowing the tools and memberships that would benefit your studio may take some time but can certainly help in running the business more smoothly.

Talkback System

As soon as there’s a distinction between the engineer (or producer) and the talent and these individuals are in separate rooms (the control room versus the live room or isolation booth, respectively), a talkback system will be required.

When communication is required and the talent is in another room, we can’t be running back and forth, opening doors. It’s critical that we be able to communicate effectively from the control room. That’s where a talkback system comes into play.

So long as there’s a live microphone in the live room/booth, we’ll be able to hear the talent.

In order for them to hear us, however, we’ll need a microphone in the control room patched through to either a speaker in the live room/booth or to the headphones of the talent. We must also be able to mute and unmute this mic easily for optimal results (improved live room/booth monitoring, private control room discussions, etc.).

Related article:
What Are Talkback Microphones And Why Are They Important?

Patchbay

A Patchbay (or several patchbays) is a game-changer once a studio acquires enough gear. Simply put, a patchbay is a hub that can connect the gear in a studio. With a patchbay, we can simply patch devices together from around the studio with patch cables on a single panel of jacks.

This is much easier than the alternative: manually connecting each device together, which would likely mean getting behind rack mounts and consoles to find inputs and outputs and would certainly mean a messier studio with long cables running every which way.

With a patchbay, the cable mess is centralized at the bay but only with short patch cables. The cables that connect the equipment to the patchbay will be stationary and can be hidden (or at least laid neatly) to reduce studio clutter.

The Samson S-Patch Plus (link to check the price on Amazon) is a 48-point balanced patchbay that utilizes 1/4″ TRS patch cables. It fits in a single 19″ rack mount slot.

Samson S-Patch Plus

The ART P16 (link to check the price on Amazon) is a 16-point balanced patchbay that utilizes XLRF on the front and XLRM at the back. It, too, fits a single unit 19″ rack mount slot.

ART P16

As an additional point, once a studio has more than one room (the control room plus live room(s) and/or isolation booth(s)) it will require patching between the rooms. This is generally done with a wall-mounted input panel, which acts very similarly to a patchbay, patching connections on one side of the wall in one room to the other side of the wall in the other room.

Microphone Preamplifiers

Outboard microphone preamplifiers can be an excellent addition to a studio.

When using microphones, preamplifiers are absolutely necessary. While audio interfaces are designed with mic preamps, they’re not typically the best quality. A dedicated microphone preamplifier will nearly always offer cleaner gain a better audio quality over another device that happens to have mic pres built-in.

The exception here is with high-end studio consoles that generally have the same quality mic preamps or even the same preamps as those found on the standalone preamp market.

The API 512C (link to check the price on Amazon) is a single mic/line preamp in the 500 Series format. It offer a polarity switch, 48V phantom power and a -20 pad.

API 512C

The True Systems Precision 8 (link to check the price at B&H Photo Video) is an 8-channel microphone preamp that fits into a single unit 19″ rack mount. Each channel offers independent 48V phantom power and polarity switch.

True Systems Precision 8

API and True Systems are featured in My New Microphone’s Top Best Microphone Preamplifier Brands In The World.

Related articles:
Best Microphone Preamplifiers

Complete Guide To Microphone Preamplifier Specifications

Headphone Amplifiers

Headphone amplifiers are great tools to have in an audio studio.

Headphone amps come in two basic forms.

The first style of headphone amp is a dedicated amplifier for headphone signals. These amps are designed specifically for amplifying (and altering the impedance of) headphone signals in order to drive headphones in an ideal way.

Having a dedicated headphone amplifier, rather than relying on the built-in headphone amp of the audio interface is likely to improve the monitoring of the mix, especially when using high-end monitoring headphones and planar magnetic headphones.

The Magni 3+ (link to check the price on Amazon) is the most popular headphone amplifier from Schiit. It’s an audiophile-grade amp that works great for monitoring and mixing.

Schiit Magni 3+

The next style of headphone amp work more like a splitter and is great for situations where multiple talent are in the booth at once. These amps will generally give each talent their own headphone feed with independent volume control.

The Behringer Microamp HA400 (link to check the price on Amazon) is a splitter-style headphone amp with a single input and 4 headphone outputs.

Behringer MicroAmp HA400

Unfortunately, these amps aren’t ideal in situations when musicians would require different mixes. For this situation, you’ll need a more involved system.

The Behringer Powerplay P16-I (link to check the price on Amazon) offers 16 input channels and up to 6 different mixes, adjustable by Powerplay P16-M personal mixers (link to check the price on Amazon). With this system, musicians can dial in the mix they want themselves to ensure everyone’s happy with their monitoring.

Behringer Powerplay P16-I

Schiit is featured in My New Microphone’s Top Best Headphone Amplifier Brands In The World.

Related article:
What Is A Headphone Amplifier & Are Headphone Amps Worth It?

Monitor Management System

A monitor management system will allow for easy toggling between different monitors. These devices allow engineers to seamlessly switch back and forth between different sets of monitors.

When mixing and mastering tracks, it’s important to listen in as many situations as possible to ensure the mix sounds good in these various situations. One easy way of doing this is to switch between monitors without ever leaving your seat. This is made possible with a monitor management system.

The Mackie Big Knob Studio+ 4×3 (link to check the price on Amazon) allows us to easily select between 4 sources and 3 monitor pairs.

Mackie Big Knob Studio+ 4×3

The PreSonus Central Station Plus (link to check the price on Amazon) has 3 sets of stereo analog inputs and 2 sets of S/ PDIF digital inputs along with 3 different monitor outputs to choose from.

PreSonus Central Station Plus

Power Conditioner

Studios with lots of gear will certainly benefit from a power conditioner. A power conditioner will have multiple outlets in order to consolidate power for multiple devices into a single cable (that will connect to the power mains outlet).

Power conditioners are especially useful for rack-mounted gear and are often designed to fit directly into rack mounts.

In addition to (and perhaps more important than) consolidation, a power conditioner will also condition the power being sent to the connected device. This conditioning includes surge protection, voltage regulation and noise/interference filtration, which are all of benefit to the gear performance.

The Furman M-8Dx (link to check the price on Amazon) has 8 rear-panel outlets & 1 front-panel outlet and will fit into a 19″ rack.

Furman M-8Dx

The Furman P-2400 AR (link to check the price on Amazon) has 12 rear-panel outlets & 2 front-panel outlet and will fit into two unit in a 19″ rack.

Furman P-2400 AR

Uninterruptible Power Supply

While a power conditioner will condition the power required in a studio and protect the equipment from surges, an uninterruptible power supply (UPS) will keep the studio running in case of a power outage.

Think of a UPS as a backup battery for your computer or insurance against power outages. An uninterruptible power supply will afford you enough time to save your session and power down your computer safely in the case of a blackout.

A UPS can be purchased at any step of building a studio. It’s a great tool to have for any endeavour that features important information on a computer.

When running a professional studio with paying clients and deadlines, having a UPS is practically a must-have.

The Tripp Lite SMART1500LCDT (link to check the price on Amazon) is a 1500VA / 900W UPS with 10 outlets to protect a studio computer and up to 9 peripheral pieces of equipment.

Tripp Lite SMART1500LCDT

Digital Converters

A digital converter acts to convert analog audio to digital audio and digital audio to analog audio.

Yes, audio interfaces have built-in digital converters, as do some other studio devices (some headphone amps do, for example).

So then why would we want a redundant piece of equipment? Well, in most devices that have ADCs (analog-to-digital converters) or DACs (digital-to-analog converters), the conversion is a necessary side feature and not the main focus.

Professional studios with bigger budgets invest in stand-alone digital converters that are designed specifically to convert audio in the most accurate way possible. These high-end devices are expensive but certainly give the professional studio a competitive edge.

The Avid HD I/O 16X16 (link to check the price on Amazon) is an excellent digital converter designed for use with the company’s Pro Tools digital audio workstation.

Avid HD 1/O 16 x 16

The Focusrite RedNet A16R (link to check the price at B&H Photo/Video) is another excellent digital converter for the professional studio.

Focusrite RedNet A16R

Snake Cable

The more equipment in the studio, the more cables to connect it all. Once you’ve accumulated a professional studio’s work of gear, it may be time for a snake (or two, or three).

A snake cable effectively combines several cables and signal paths into a single cable. Using snakes can drastically reduce cable clutter and clean up your studio. This can help you to stay organized and will be an easier sight for paying clients.

Snakes are very popular in live settings for their ruggedness and ability to consolidate cable runs. Finding one for the studio may take some looking around in order to find the appropriate length but they’re well worth it once you hit a certain point in the number of connections your studio needs.

The Seismic Audio Stage Box Snake (link to check the price on Amazon) is an example of a box snake, which has fan-tailed connections at one end and an I/O box at the other

Seismic Audio Stage Box Snake

The Seismic Audio – 8 Channel XLR Snake Cable (link to check the price on Amazon) is an example of a snake with fan-tailed connections at each end.

Seismic Audio – 8 Channel XLR Snake Cable

The Mogami Gold DB25-XLRM-10 (link to check the price on Amazon) has 8 XLR-M connections fan-tailed a one end and a DB25 connector at the other.

Mogami Gold DB25-XLRM-10

Related article:
What Is An Audio Snake And Are They Required?

Master Clock

In the world on analog-to-digital audio conversion, clock timing is critical. Poor clock timing will lead to jitter, distortion, increased noise and an overall poor performance of a system’s A-D and D-A systems.

Nearly all digital audio devices have an internal digital clock. In most studios, a master clock will be unnecessary.

In the basic studio that simply has an audio interface connected to the computer, the interface will have the internal clock and will act, by default, as the master clock.

In more advanced studios where digital audio signals are being sent to multiple different analog and digital devices, it’s critical that audio samples arrive at the same time in all devices. In this case, one of the audio devices will be set up as the master clock and all other devices will be slaved to that source. This ensures that all devices will generate samples at exactly the same time and rate.

So in most cases, a dedicated master clock won’t be needed. However, in large studios with expansive set ups, a master clock may be more practical and convenient.

In audio studios that work with video, a master clock becomes an essential piece of gear. Digital video is made of a specific number of samples in each picture-frame period. A master clock will act to synchronize the audio sample rate to the video sample rate to ensure proper synchronization between audio and video.

The Antelope OCX HD Master Clock (link to check the price at B&H Photo/Video) is a superb master clock. It fits into a single unit 19″ rack mount.

Antelope OCX HD Master Clock

The Black Lion Audio Micro Clock MkIII XB (link to check the price at B&H Photo/Video) is another example of a studio master clock.

Black Lion Audio Micro Clock MkIII XB

Analog Hardware

This one’s for the purists out there. However, it can certainly come in handy and improve the audio products (even the digital files) that come out of the studio.

We’ve already discussed several analog audio devices. Microphones, headphones, studio monitors, many audio cables, DI boxes, mic preamps, headphone amps, many electric instruments and patchbays are analog audio devices (though they may certainly have digital aspects).

On top of all the hardware we’ve discussed thus far, there are other analog audio devices we can consider for a professional studio.

  • Tape machines
  • Tape
  • Tape player
  • Vinyl record player
  • Amplifiers
  • Mixing consoles
  • Equalizers
  • Dynamic processors (including compressors and limiters)
  • Effects units/inserts (delays, reverbs, etc.)

Though digital audio is superior in many ways (storage, recall, clarity, editing, price of equipment, ease of use, etc.), analog audio is often considered to subjectively sound better.

The use of analog gear in the recording, mixing and mastering processes can yield a more professional result than doing everything digitally “in the box”. For example, some people opt to produce and mix a record digitally and then use analog processors when mastering to give the record that “analog sound”.

Analog hardware also allows us to accomplish more tasks within a studio. For instance, we could make money archiving tape or vinyl if we had the gear. Sure it’s not the most luxurious gig but it can help bring in extra cashflow (while also giving the novice engineers something to do)!

On a shallower note, having racks of analog gear also gives a studio the appearance of professionalism, even if the gear is never actually used.

If you’ve got the extra cash, consider investing in some analog gear for your professional studio.

Rack Mounts

Once we begin acquiring various pieces of outboard gear (audio interfaces, patchbays, mic preamps, digital converters, master clocks, analog hardware, power conditioners, etc.), we’ll find that they take up space. Rack mounts are designed to safely host these types of devices in a compact space.

A rack mount will hold these devices so that only their front faces are shown (which is where the majority of the controls are, anyway).

Ensure the equipment you have will fit within the dimensions of the rack mount and carefully attach the gear into the mount. Blank panels are available to take up any empty space if need be.

Once your gear is secured in the rack mount, patch the gear to where it needs to go from the back of the rack mount and put it into its place within the studio.

The Odyssey CRS08 (link to check the price on Amazon) is a carpeted, slanted rack mount with 8 standard slots for 19″ rack-mounted equipment.

Odyssey CRS08

The Acousti Products AcoustiRACK (link to check it out at Acousti Products) is a rack mount designed with sound isolation to enclose noisy 19″ rack-mounted equipment.

Acousti Products AcoustiRACK

The Radial Engineering Workhorse – SixPack (link to check the price on Amazon) is a six-slot rack mount for 500 Series outboard equipment.

Radial Engineering Workhorse SixPack

Live Room(s)

Building a live room in addition to your control room will take up a lot of resources. Hopefully the building of your studio will have a space for a live room.

When building and/or setting up a live room, the focus should be on acoustics and sound isolation rather than on electronics. That being said, patching between the control room and live room is critical.

Focus on the shape of the room if possible to reduce resonances. Proceed with acoustic treatment with the aforementioned acoustic panels, bass traps, diffusers and ceiling clouds. Once set up, use gobos and vocal reflection filters if necessary for additional treatment/isolation.

The focus of a live room is to complement and enhance the sound of a performance. Don’t go too overboard with acoustic treatment. The room should have a pleasant and natural character to it that will sound great on recordings.

Vocal Booth(s)

Vocal booths (more generally called “isolation booths”) are typically smaller than live rooms and are designed to be acoustically dead, meaning that they extremely treated to be non-reflective. It’s also important to make these booths as isolated from outside noise as possible, which can be difficult with city traffic, HVAC, etc.

For optimal isolation, vocal booths are often designed as “rooms within rooms”. These booths can either be built by hand or bought as units.

Security System

All the professional studios I’ve ever worked at have had security systems installed. Some larger institutions (that housed recording/broadcast studios) even went as far as hiring security guards for around-the-clock security.

After spending so much money on all the gear to make up a studio, installing a security system is a smart idea.

The same is true of buying insurance for the building and the gear, though that’s not necessarily a “tool” so I’ve left it off this list.

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