March 13, 2023
Upgrading your studio is one of the better ways to get new inspiration and energy, and of course it’s sometimes the only way to improve your music. But it’s not always about the biggest, most expensive purchase. Studio upgrades may include large and small purchases, but ultimately, they’re really about upgrading your music making. Here are few tips on making the most of your next studio upgrade.
We all know what we do in our studios, and we’re all well aware of what never happens there. Yet somehow, we still often purchase based solely on cool factor or getting “better” stuff. This can lead to overspending and a considerable amount of buyer’s remorse. Instead of just thinking about what’s good or cool, start off by identifying what purpose your studio serves and what you need to improve upon. If your vocals sound awesome and everybody says so, do you really need to upgrade your vocal mic? Do you need a drum kit if you don’t play and drummers never come in?
It could be what you need most to upgrade your process isn’t as interesting. It could be what you really need is an ergonomic chair to save your back or a window covering to keep glare off your monitor.
Obviously, you can’t buy what you can’t afford. Well, you can, but you really shouldn’t! Believe it or not, many recording enthusiasts don’t analyze their budget or even have a budget in mind. Instead, they covet what they don’t have and scramble to make the money work. That’s fine when something crucial needs replacing or you just need a little indulgence, but for regular studio upgrades, do the obvious thing and set the budget first. Then you don’t have to waste time researching and shopping for stuff you can’t get this year anyway.
Another thing many recordists don’t pay attention to is the space they’re in. We’ve talked before about the importance of acoustic treatment, and that’s one of many considerations involving the room itself. Sometimes it really is just about space itself. Do you have room to upgrade from an 8-channel mixer to 24 channels? If you buy a cello, will it sound terrible because you haven’t treated the room?
For that matter are you currently having trouble accomplishing something important, like playing guitar, because something large is in the way? Maybe your upgrade involves selling something or maybe it’s a space-saving device like a keyboard drawer. Maybe you’re torn between one synth and another – is that decision already made for you by available desk space?
You’re probably aware of what you want, and if you weren’t aware of what you actually need before, you may be now. Still, don’t neglect the research stage. Sometimes the most coveted item tends to be the wrong item for the job. This is especially true when it comes to vocal mics. You want the most expensive vintage Telefunken available (who doesn’t?), but what if it doesn’t fit your voice?
Depending on where you live, it can be hard to really evaluate potential new gear, and sometimes you’re not even sure what you need to accomplish your next goal. This is where talking to other recordists can be helpful. If you know you need to improve some part of your process but you’re not sure what to buy to do that, start asking around. Even if the goal is just to treat yourself to something cool, it’s worth poking around to find something you hadn’t thought of.
As mentioned, this can be hard if you live in a remote area, and for some types of gear it’s hard even in big cities, but if you can – test first. Like we said, it’s not really the gear we want (usually), it’s what the gear can do for us. Sometimes we get that wrong if we haven’t used a thing, so, if possible, get into a store and give your potential new purchase a test drive.
If you’re looking for a few not-always-mentioned suggestions to get you started, here’s a quick list:
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