In this entry, I’m going to list what hardware and software I use for my studio. This might give a little insight for those who are planning on building a studio rig or improving upon one.
Contrary to the norm of recording artist/producers’ purchasing of Mac computers for production, I chose to build a PC. It’s true that, in the past, Mac computers were more suitable for audio and video production, but I grew up using PC and vastly prefer the Windows interface over Mac OS. Before further explaining why I chose to build a PC, let’s see what I’m using:
Case: Corsair 550D
The 550D is a quiet case; the interior is lined with sound dampening foam, panels for fan and/or radiator mounting are removable, otherwise they are also lined with the foam and keep the case sealed. This plus a professional non-flashy look is what convinced me to buy this case as well as its price which was barely over $100.
CPU: Intel i7 3930k 3.2 gHz Six Core Processor, Corsair HD100 CPU cooler
This processor might be overkill, but I wanted to focus on future-proofing for as long as I can regarding the CPU as I’m sure newer programs will be more intensive and I don’t want to run out of resources. The HD100 CPU cooler allows me to overclock this CPU to over 4 gHz while keeping temperatures at a meager 60 degrees celsius.
Motherboard: ASUS Sabertooth X79
I had to make sure I found a motherboard with an LGA 2011 socket that also had a built in firewire port for my audio interface. This was my best option and has held up great.
RAM: Corsair Vengeance 32 GB DDR3 1600 MHz PC3 128000
I use a ton of sample libraries, many at the same time when I’m in the early stages of composing. With this much RAM, I don’t have to worry about hiccups while playing back MIDI performances.
Hard Disk: 2x Seagate Barracuda 3TB 7200 RPM, Seagate Constellation ES 500 GB 7200 RPM
These hard drives offer tons of storage for audio recordings and sample libraries, though one of my latest libraries, Eastwest’s Hollywood Strings Diamond, really demands SSD which I will have to acquire in the future when the prices are lower.
PSU: Corsair Professional Series Gold 850-watt 80 Plus Gold Certified
Provides plenty of power and is fully modular meaning better airflow.
Video: EVGA GeForce GTX 570 1280 MB
A few hundred dollars and I also have a gaming PC as well as an audio production PC? Sold!
OS: Windows 7 Professional
BIG TIP: If you plan on having more than 16 GB of RAM in your Windows machine, you MUST have the Professional version installed!
At the time I built this machine (Fall of 2012), it cost me a little bit over $3,000 including the dual monitor setup I have going as well as wireless peripherals. If I were to order a Mac Pro with similar settings, it would run me well over two times the cost to build this machine and there would still be compromises I would have to make. By building a PC, I know that every piece of hardware in the machine is exactly what I want and I have yet to encounter stability problems that I haven’t seen Mac users encounter as well. This machine runs like a beauty and is SUPER quiet, perfect for me since my control room is also the recording room!
Starting with my audio interface, I use a PreSonus Firebox. It has two inputs, can record at 24 bit/96 kHz, and is a great unit. My home studio is hardly the best recording environment, so a lot of my production is done in the box aside from acoustic guitars, vocals, and strings. When I have a separate recording room that is suitable for things like recording drums or bands playing live, I plan on investing in PreSonus’ Firestudio interfaces.
I use a PreSonus Studio Channel for all of my recording in the studio (microphones as well as DI). With this unit, I’m able to add tube warmth, compress the signal, and add EQ when needed before it goes into my interface. This unit vastly improved the quality of my recordings and I have no plans of leaving it behind if I were to get another channel strip.
My first mic for my studio was the AKG Perception 220 large diaphragm condenser. It did its job well, but its sound was a little to cold for my taste. Can’t complain, though, given the price of the mic. I recorded vocals as well as cello with pleasing results. My next purchases were at the same time: Blue’s Bluebird large diaphragm condenser and AKG’s C214 large diaphragm condenser. I bought the Bluebird to act primarily as a vocal mic, but it also captured acoustic guitar and violin very well. It has a high end crisp, but still retains a lot of warmth, making it my go-to for any vocal work. The C214 was purchased as an alternate vocal mic for someone whose voice calls for a flatter response as well as for recording live instruments. I have used this mic to capture acoustic guitars, some male vocals (the Bluebird is too perfect for female vocals), cello, and shakuhachi.
I was given brand new M-Audio BX8a monitors for Christmas in 2009 and they have been a dream to work with. The 8 inch woofers provide plenty of bass and the monitors don’t distort unless I really push the volume up, which I would never do anyway! These monitors together output 120 watts, plenty of power for mixing.
My MIDI controller is an M-Audio Axiom 61 that I picked up out-of-the-box at a Guitar Center in 2009. It was the best choice in my price range, though an 88 key controller would have been amazing, but not the weightless keys of the Keystation 88. So there was some compromise in buying this unit, but it has held up against my heavy playing for over four years without any problems. The faders make for good MIDI expression controllers and I also use this controller to DJ in Traktor.
Guitars: Jackson DXMG, Fender Stratocaster, Takamine 6 string acoustic, Takamine 12 string electric acoustic, Ibanez Gio 6 string bass guitar
Other: custom-made shakuhachi
I run my electric guitars and bass guitar through a BOSS GT-10 guitar effects processor. Its amp modeling and copious amounts of effects are perfect for my needs as well as having TWO control pedals. This was the smartest pedal board design in my opinion because having those two control pedals allows for one to be assigned to activating effects as well as having a free control pedal to tap tempo or activate a tuner. Their later model, the GT-100 took away the second control pedal as well as the vivid blue LCD screen and has therefore lost my endorsement. When I track with this unit, it runs into my PreSonus Studio Channel before going into my DAW.
DAW: Cubase 5
I started learning about audio production when I was given Cubase SX3 as a birthday gift in 2004. Having grown up with this DAW, it’s what I am most comfortable and fluent with. Later versions of Cubase changed the user interface and went in directions that I’m not open to warming up to, so I am very happy using Cubase 5 and can produce really great sounding tracks with it.
Eastwest – Hollywood Strings Diamond, Symphonic Orchestra Gold, Pianos Gold, RA, Symphonic Choirs, Voices of Passion, Stormdrum 2, Goliath, Silk, and Spaces
I’m a big supporter of Eastwest’s libraries as they provide great sounding samples as well as the PLAY engine, an interface that is very welcoming to me and is user friendly. For those looking to invest in these libraries, make sure you have plenty of hard disk space available!
Native Instruments – MASSIVE
I purchased this for use in action style film scoring as well as pop/electronic production.
Heavyocity – Damage
This percussion library was a wonderful find and compliments my already large library of percussion instruments with a new edge of distorted and more industrial percussive sounds as well as additional ethnic sounds.
That about wraps it up; I hope you’ve enjoyed this look into my studio setup as much as I have enjoyed sharing it with you! If you would like to see pictures of what my studio looks like, I will be adding some to the gallery very soon.