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Music

My Small Studio Setup Explained

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In this tutorial, I'll show you my kit list and how I use that kit. I will guide you through both hardware and software tools that will provide the basis for your own small studio set up.

I started making music in 2001. Since then I've upgraded my studio setup several times. Both hardware and software.

With this gear I wanted a strong setup for production, mixing and mastering. I used to have several brands of Hi-Fi speakers before I bought proper studio monitor speakers. Step by step I've replaced every item.

My Setup
This is my kit at the moment: Mackie MR5, Steinberg UR22 and Audio Technica ATH-R70x

Computer

I wanted to buy a new PC in 2015. My aims were music production, sound design, mixing and mastering. I chose a desktop machine for performance reasons. And I didn't want to carry it with me. 

I bought PC, because I didn't want to pay a premium price for an Apple. Processor is a key factor for audio tasks, so I chose an i5 processor with 8GB RAM.

Speakers

I've used a number of speakers over the last 16 years. They were Hi-Fi products so I chose to upgrade to proper entry level studio speakers. 

For Studio speakers I went for the Mackie MR5 Mk3. They're excellent value for the money; I can hear every range with this product. Lows, mids and highs too.

Mackie MR5 mk3
I use the Mackie MR5 as an all rounder studio monitor speakers

Headphones

For years I used AKG and Sennheiser DJ cans, after that a Sony 7506 until last year I upgraded to a high-end Audio Technica ATH-R70x. 

I had the money and I was curious what it can do for me. Although high end headphones are not needed and I would recommend an M50x as a middle category product.

Earbuds

I use these for travelling. The MX 170s are cheap and have excellent value. I buy several of them, if either of them goes wrong.

Audio Interface

Great sound cards at a reasonable price are Steinberg UR22 and Focusrite 2i2. 

I chose the UR22 in 2014. The sound is good and dynamic. There are separate pots for mixing between input DAW, headphones and speakers. The case is from strong metal and is durable. Installing the drivers are easy in Microsoft Windows.

Acoustic Pads

The pads below the speakers help to reduce the low-mid range errors. The Auralexes are expensive, but are good quality.

Cables

I put Klotz cables between my sound card and speakers. The components are great, including the outer rubber and plugs.

Handy Recorder

The Zoom H1 is a nice and little portable solution for recording. It has a studio quality sound with recording into WAV files. I use the 44kHz/24bit mode.

Microphone

I use the Shure SM58 for recording screencasts and vocals. They are industry standards for recording voice. The mic is strong like a tank and the sound quality is excellent at this price point.

Midi Keyboard

I used to have a four-octave keyboard. Nowadays I use a two-octave version from Miditech. They are like a stone castle; the material is strong and massive. The keys are full sized. Two octaves are enough for simple melodies, bass and chords. I enjoy using them.

Miditech Midistart 25
I use a 2 octave Midi keyboard for melodies and sometimes drum patterns

Midi Controller

The Novation Launch Control have pots, buttons and pads. They are add-ons for my midi keyboard. Sometimes I use Launch Control for automation.

Hardware

  • Computer: 2015 Intel Core i5 PC, 8GB RAM, 120GB SSD
  • Speakers: Mackie MR5 mk3
  • Headphones: Audio Technica ATH-R70x
  • Earbuds: Sennheiser MX 170
  • Audio interface: Steinberg UR 22
  • Acoustic pads: Auralex MoPAD 4 Pack
  • Cable: Klotz
  • Handy recorder: Zoom H1
  • Mic: Shure SM58
  • MIDI keyboard: Miditech Midistart
  • MIDI controller: Novation Launch Control

Operating System

I'm a PC person using Windows 10 at the moment. I used to use all the Windows even from the 1990s. All the recent Windows versions are stable and I can recommend them. Windows 10 works really well with my sound card and Ableton as well.

Digital Audio Workstation

I use Ableton Suite 9 as my workstation program. I can perform every stage of music making in it. 

From composition and sound design, to production, mixing and mastering, Ableton Suite 9 has a quick and easy workflow. The graphic interface is minimal and to the point.

Ableton Suite 9
I do production, sound design, mixing and mastering in Ableton Suite

Utility Plugin

The Ableton Utility module is great for volume and panning setting. It can also convert to mono, stereo and mid-side.

Equalization

For quick and easy tone setting I use Ableton EQ Three. For detailed work I apply the parametric EQ Eight. They are easy to learn and master.

Compression

For basic dynamics processing I use Compressor and Glue Compressor. They each have their own sound so try to experiment with them.

Reverb

For making spaces I use Ableton Reverb, which has many parameters. 

For a simple but better sounding reverb I use Acon Digital's CM verb. You can download it from the Computer Music Magazine online site.

Delay

Ping Pong Delay and Simple Delay can make big and wide delays. They can enhance the stereo field in a great and effective way. The filter on the Ping Pong Delay is excellent.

Distortion

Ableton has many plugins for distortion. My favorites are: Saturator, Overdrive and Amp. For me Saturator is the most versatile with lots of options.

Limiter

I use two limiters. Ableton Limiter for channels and buses. And Barricade CM for the master channel. Barricade CM is a high quality tool for a better sound.

Analysis

For analysing the sound I use mainly the Vengeance Scope CM. I put it on the master channel and check frequencies, panning and oscillograph.

Mp3 Encoding

I always export to WAV files, then encode with an external program. The encoder I use is LAME with the Lame Frontend app. This process makes better quality MP3s than using the DAW's encoder.

MP3 Editing

I can edit the native MP3 format without re-encoding. With MP3Gain and Mp3DirectCut I can modify the volume and content.

Audio Editor

With Audacity and Wavosaur I can do various things with WAV files. Both programs are freeware. They have got even batch processing feature for automating tasks.

Audio Player

I use foobar2000 for listening to music. I mainly play WAV, MP3 and FLAC files with it.

foobar2000
My general audio player for listening music is foobar2000

Backup

For backup I use Google Drive and Dropbox. I have a paid account for Google Drive which is cost effective. I keep a separate account for smaller things, on a free Dropbox.

Software

  • Operating system: Windows 10
  • DAW: Ableton Suite 9
  • Volume: Ableton Utility
  • Stereo field: Ableton Utility
  • Mono convert: Ableton Utility
  • Equalizer: Ableton EQ Three, Ableton EQ Eight
  • Compressor: Ableton Compressor, Ableton Glue Compressor
  • Reverb: Ableton Reverb, Acon Digital CM Verb
  • Delay: Ableton Ping Pong Delay, Ableton Simple Delay
  • Distortion: Ableton Saturator, Ableton Overdrive, Ableton Amp
  • Limiter: Ableton Limiter, TB Barricade CM
  • Analysis: Vengeance Scope CM, Ableton EQ Eight
  • Mp3 encoder: LAME + Pazera Lame Frontend
  • Mp3 volume: MP3Gain
  • Mp3 cutting: Mp3DirectCut
  • Mp3 tagging: foobar2000
  • Wav editor: Audacity, Wavosaur
  • Audio player: foobar2000
  • Backup: Google Drive, Dropbox

Summary

With this setup I can do anything audio with a computer. These are all I need for mixing, mastering and production. We live during great times with opportunities for creating music with a budget. So much can be achieved with the gear that is available today.

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