New to Audio?; A Quickstart Beginner’s Guide to Audio Recording Equipment for the Aspiring Professional
Like almost anything, an audio equipment setup can be expensive or cheap. It's up to the you to determine your specific needs, and those needs will depend on the particular project or goal.
Keep in mind, their are numerous ways to setup to record audio, in this blog post, I'll be sharing the ways that I've learned, which is using a microphone, USB audio interface, software, and a computer.
I consider 3 elements for a basic audio recording setup (Assuming you already have a computer):
- A Microphone + audio cable
- A USB audio interface
- Software: DAW (Digital Audio Workstation)
It's a common error to believe that expensive products will produce premium audio content- generally, I believe the wisdom and experience of the user will determine 90% of the quality in a piece of audio.
For beginners, I advise to spend less. Once expertise is increased, you'll understand which upgrades are necessary. For the most part these three elements are modular, meaning that one can be substituted for another without having to replace all three elements.
1. Condenser Microphone
Keeping things simple there are two types of microphones, "condenser" and "dynamic". I'll be sharing only condenser mics, as I feel they are more sensitive to subtle sounds, which I prefer.
Disclaimer: I've used VERY cheap "headset" mics in the past which you can get for less than $15. They work, but they are not meant for high quality recordings and they are not compatible with XLR cables and the USB interface. We'll only look at "better" mics in this post.
2. USB Audio Interface
These devices are the intermediary between your condenser microphone and your computer. The interface accepts an XLR cable connection (from the mic), and then connects to your computer via a USB cord. These devices will do many things and they are a valuable tool.
Consider how many microphones you will be using as these selections below only accommodate 1-2 mics. You can find interfaces that allow up to eight microphones too.
Features of USB Audio Interfaces
- Connect microphone to computer via USB (Mac or PC)
- Supply your condenser microphone with phantom power.
- Allow you to mix the audio while your recording.
- Change the gain of the microphone (strength of signal from mic going in).
- Change the volume of the monitored input (how loud you hear the mic in your headphones).
- Change the volume of any output (music, instrument, or voice) in your headphones.
3. Software: DAW (Digital Audio Workstation)
My dude Karl turned me on to Sony Acid. It's what I used after Audacity and before upgrading to Pro Tools. It's powerful and flexible; a great software to learn and transition to a premium option.
I've used Pro Tools for numerous years. I's super robust and offers a suite of VERY expert options. Took me a while to master... This is what the "pros" use.