The gear you need to make music like a pro
All the kit for creating your first hit
At one time most of us have dreamed of jacking in the day job and becoming a full-time pop star – with all the trappings that come with it. For anyone who wants to actually fulfil that dream, the best chance of getting there (outside of going on X Factor and being adopted by Simon Cowell) is to start writing, performing and recording our own music at home.
Building a home studio is easier and more affordable than ever thanks to the proliferation of great gear and software out there. We’ve assembled a few of our recommendations right here, giving you much of what you need to take your first steps to stardom. All you need to do is write some bangers.
Aston Origin Black Bundle
This rugged, British-made cardioid condenser microphone is versatile enough to be used for both vocals and instruments, and delivers a smooth and transparent sound able to capture your performance brilliantly. This package includes not only the mic but a pop filter and shock mount to help you nail those recordings first time.
£219 | astonmics.com
M-Audio Keystation 61 MK3
A MIDI controller forms the centrepiece of the majority of home studios, and this 61-key example from M-Audio balances price, size and performance well. It offers a full five octaves of keys (all full-size) and, while it’s short on features, its reliability and build quality can’t be questioned.
£140 | m-audio.com
Focusrite Scarlett 4i4
A great budget USB audio interface that sits between your PC and your instruments and microphone, the Scarlett 4i4 (now in its third generation) has inputs for two mics and two instruments, plus MIDI and line in/out connectivity. It records in crisp, high resolution 24-bit/192kHz quality and works with Windows, Mac and iPadOS.
£185 | focusrite.com
Yamaha Reface DX
Inspired by the classic Yamaha synths of yore, the compact Reface DX is like a portal back to the 1980s. It’s quite simple at its core – make a waveform, bash it into another waveform and marvel at the sounds that you’ve created – but the 2000-note looper and ability to add effects to your synth sounds mean you can really dive into the weeds should you wish to experiment further.
Read our full Yamaha Reface DX review here.
£339 | uk.yamaha.com
Ableton Live 11
The latest iteration of one of the most popular DAW (digital audio workstations) applications around, Ableton Live is designed around recording live performances. It can accept audio and MIDI inputs, run at least 16 simultaneous tracks (unlimited tracks on all but the basic version of the software) and comes with audio effects, MIDI effects, sound packs and software instruments included.
The software comes in three different versions: the essentials-only Intro (£69); the full-featured Standard (£319); and the deluxe, complete Suite edition (£539). You can trial Suite for free for 90 days, if you want to give things a go before parting with your cash.
From £69 | ableton.com
Yamaha HS Series
Yamaha’s HS Series studio monitors are the ideal way to preview out how your music will sound in the real world. The HS5, HS7 and HS8 are all powered 2-way bi-amped speakers with high-end XLR and TRS phone jack inputs and an emphasis on precision and accuracy, giving you the perfect baseline for mixing and mastering your audio to pro-quality levels. The speakers are available in black or white colour finishes, and in ‘I’ versions that come with four mounting points for fixing them to stands, walls or ceilings.
From £149 | uk.yamaha.com
Beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro
These open-backed German-made cans are built for marathon sessions in the studio, where their soft (and replaceable) ear pads and well-padded, adjustable steel headbands keep them comfy on your head. That’s not to say they’re not also built for quality, though: designed specifically with mixing and mastering in mind, they have excellent bass response and a clear top end, with very little ‘colour’ to the sound. Beats by Dre these ain’t – their sound is far more transparent and precise.
£109 | global.beyerdynamic.com
Gik Acoustics 244 Bass Trap
Available in a wide range of sizes and colour finishes, these wall-mountable panels absorb sound – low frequency bass in particular – in order to keep your studio’s acoustics on a tight leash. They’re really only one part of what should be a holistic approach to acoustic control, though: you should also consider speaker placement carefully and add acoustic foam to walls to dampen down higher frequency reverberations.
From £175 | gikacoustics.co.uk