The Home Studio Gear Guide PT.1 The best gear to buy if you're on a budget in 2019: Audio Interfaces
I'm starting my home studio from scratch, what should I buy? How do I get started? What do I need to get good quality recordings on a budget? I want to send you my tracks for mixing, are they going to be good enough quality? What gear should to buy?
I get these questions every day and I reply to them as often as I can, but with the new site I hopefully help more people in one go by writing articles like this, and if you're here reading this, is because you know my advice on gear is 100% no BS. So let's get started! AUDIO INTERFACE The very first thing every home studio needs is an interface: you need to capture your analog signal, from a microphone, a guitar, a keyboard, convert it to digital so that you can work on it in your DAW. For this you need an AD/DA converter that you need to "interface", connect, to you computer. There are two ways to go about this:
Option 1: an "all in one" audio interface. Basically these units have in one box all you need to start recording and monitoring with your computer, desktop or laptop. Option 2: is a bit more complicated and more suited for professional studios or high end project studios, a dedicated multichannel AD/DA which you will have to connect to your computer in some way, PCIe cards, MADI, ADAT etc.. But then you will also need dedicated Preamps, a monitoring station and more.. so in this guide, I will list my favorite budget gear for Option 1, so all-in-one interfaces:
BEST QUALITY ON BUDGET
Priced a little over $250/Euro this unit is no compromise: you're not buying a cheap interface, you're buying a high end little interface now also USB Class Compliant for iPAD With 4-in/6-Out USB 2.0 audio interface this unit covers the very basic needs for a home studio, singer-songwriter, 1 microphone input and 1 guitar/Hi-Z input. For PC / MAC or iPad (requires "Camera Connection Kit" - not included), 2 USB ports (USB-B and MicroUSB) 6 Inputs - 4 simultaneously usable 8 Outputs - 6 can be used simultaneously Microphone input with 48 V phantom power and 20 dB pad Hi-Z guitar inputS / PDIF I / O (duplicates Main Out) Headphone output, CueMix, FX Supports recording and playback at sample rates from 44.1 to 96 kHz Bus-powered For PC / MAC With a solid metal chassis, this unit has a pristine sounding preamp and great converters. Sure you can find something a bit cheaper but at what cost? This unit has solid drivers, it's super compact and it can literally turn you iPad into a mobile studio. Great for both home studio, portable on-site recording or on the road artists. MOTU MicroBOOK BEST PRICE
THE CHEAPEST YOU CAN POSSIBLY BUY AND STILL GET THE JOB DONE
I'm not a fan of the "cheapest" but this unit is actually good value for the money and let's face it, today's tech is decent quality even at low prices and Behringer was able to make some good units at crazy affordable prices. This unit might not last you years and definitely won't give you the quality of the MOTU with its limit set at 16bit and 48Hz this is definitely not enough for a professional recording but it's enough to put down ideas, a demo, and so on. Priced less than $40/Euro you just can't beat this price As simple as it gets, 2 inputs and 2 outputs, USB powered
A LOT OF CHANNELS FOR LITTLE MONEY
Tascam has solid products, not much talked about but this one is a great unit if you need a lot of channels on a budget. With 16 inputs, 8 Mic Pramp + 8 line inputs, this one is a good unit if you need to record multiple tracks at once, even a full band if you're creative, it can be used as a standalone preamp which can always come in handy. It's USB 2.0, it has MIDI and switchable Phantom power, 8 outputs and even a DSP Mixer with eq and compression on each channel, it won't give you the highest quality, but for less than $250/Euro is a great deal Tascam US-16x08 BEST PRICE
PROFESSIONAL STUDIO QUALITY FOR A BIT MORE MONEY
I have a MOTU Es-8PRE, which is amazing, I was blown away by the quality of its converters and the high headroom, pristine sounding preamps when I first got it. The AD/DA converters are so good that I decided to sell my dedicated AD/DA and get two MOTU 16A AVB to expand it to 32 channels and make it the core of my new mixing room in Los Angeles. This is why you see two MOTU units in this list, because I know first hand what they're made of. The MOTU Ultralite-mk4 sees the same great converters, ESS Sabre32 DAC and the same preamps as my ES-8pre in a small format at a insane price for the quality, less than $600/Euro to get no-compromise studio quality, 2 Mic/Instrument Combo on the front, 6 analog inputs and 10 outputs, an amazing DSP and LCD Display all connected via USB. MOTU has been making audio interfaces since the dawn of digital audio, they know how to do it. If you want a big step up for your home studio or want to take studio quality on the road, this is it.
That's all for this article folks, in the next one, the second most essential piece of gear you need in your studio: monitors.