I’ve been recording music at home since I was able to invest my student loans in audio equipment and I thought it would be fun to list some of the equipment I’ve used over the years for those of you that enjoy a bit of audio geekery. I don’t claim to have the greatest equipment or skills but I do love messing about with it all and happy to answer any questions on this in the comments below.
I started out armed with a Korg D8 8-track recorder and an AKG 1000S microphone. This combination was a great starting point to do some simple demos but I upgraded to a Yamaha AW4416 16-track recorder which was a better quality piece of kit and good fun to use. I also had a few more mics including a Rode NT2 and a Shure SM57.
I studied Audio Engineering part-time at SAE in Glasgow in 2014/15 and had the chance to try out loads of gear and different desks and software. During that time, I spent a lot of time using Pro Tools and I decided to buy a Digidesign Digi 002 to start recording using my PC. I was also using Propellerhead Reason mainly for synth and rhythm tracks. I also started building up my plugin collection. While at college, I realised how much easier it was to get a better mix by having a good listening room. I recorded a great version of Where This Is Going in college but I think that’s been lost on a dodgy hard drive. I’ve never really been able to replicate that in the house which definitely has an impact on my mixes but I can’t afford to have a professional setup unfortunately.
In a previous house I had some home-made acoustic panels on the walls and corners which you can see in the first photo on the page. My current room is a bit tight for space and not treated at all so not so great for translating mixes. I use now use IK Multimedia iLoud MTM speakers which have built in calibration so help with the room acoustics (previously used Yamaha HS8 speakers) and I use Toneboosters Morphit and Goodhertz Canopener to help calibrate my headphones (AKG HD600 / Focal Spirit Pro). This has definitely helped but I do miss being able to mix in a proper studio as it definitely resulted in mixes translating better in other settings. I used REAPER and a Focusrite Scarlett 18i20 to record the album but have now switched to Studio One and an Audient iD44.
My main guitars are a Seagull S6 acoustic, Seagull S12 acoustic 12-string, Michael Kelly Patriot and a Westone Thunder 1A bass. I also used a Hagstrom Viking Baritone (which I no longer have) and a Carlton LP electric with Nashville tuning on the album. My main mic is a Michael Joly modified Oktava MK319. My guitar amp was a Laney LC30 but I no longer have it and work entirely “in the box” with Amplitube 4 or Ampire. It might not be the ideal solution but I’m really happy with how much amp modelling has improved in recent years.
On the keyboard front, I have a Korg MicroKey MIDI keyboard which fits nicely under my desk. It’s very basic but does a good enough job for me. I also have a Korg SP200 piano which has a really nice feel. For piano tones I usually use Pianoteq rather than the onboard sounds. For synth sounds my favourite plugin has been Alchemy for a while although I was disappointed when Apple bought it and it’s no longer updated outwith Logic. Thankfully it still works fine so I still use that. I’ve also used Air Vacuum, Synthmaster and Schwa Olga and a few others. I use Kontakt quite a bit and love the Output instruments created for that as well as Spitfire Audio’s Albion library. For strings I’ve also used EastWest Symphonic Orchestra. I primarily program my drums using BFD but also add sounds from Tremor, Kontakt and Alchemy.
I have far more effects plugins than I need but they’re good fun to play around with and it’s always nice to have lots of different flavours to choose from. Some of my favourite effects are the Valhalla plugins (reverbs and delay), Softube Tape, IK Master EQ 432, Sound Theory Gullfoss and Process Audio Sugar. A few of the other really useful tools I use are Izotope RX and Melodyne for corrections, IK Laursen and Izotope Ozone for mastering, MCompare for comparing mixes and TC LM2n and Izotope Insight for metering.