Here at Tape Op, we frequently hear the question, especially from musicians starting to record themselves, "What gear should I buy?" I have a small set up in my home office that I use for editing and working on arrangements but it’s equally adept at recording overdubs or a basic guitar and vocal performance. -JB
UA Apollo Twin Duo
Regardless of what DAW or computer you’re using, the heart of any home studio is your audio interface. I’m a big fan of the UA Apollo Twin Duo series because these units have everything I need in a small studio setup: monitoring control, headphones, gtr/hi-z input, mic inputs, line inputs and line outputs.EMT140 plate and AKG BX10 spring reverbs as one of my three main reverbs.
MonitorsTascam VL M3 monitors that I use on my desk, but also recently picked up a pair of ADAM T8V monitors for my home set up. I love the ADAM monitors and their folded ribbon tweeters. I’ve been using their P22As at Panoramic House as our main monitors for over a decade now.
HeadphonesAudio-Technica ATH M-50’s. They’re comfortable, I can wear them for extended periods of time and can hear a lot of detail on them. Sure, you can spend a small fortune on headphones these days but you don’t have to.
It’s hard to go wrong with a Shure SM-58 right? You probably already have one and if you don’t go out and get one now, they’re only $99 and you can use them on everything and anything. Supposedly all of Bono’s vocals on the U2 records were tracked with an SM-58. But if you want to step it up a bit, then buy the best Audio-Technica mic you can afford. Every mic they make sounds great and I’m not just saying that. I own half a dozen of their mics and they all get used all the time. For lead vocals you just can’t beat their 4050.ATM230PK drum mics sound amazing. Every engineer I’ve turned on to them agrees that they sound better than that industry standard mic that looks like a sci-fi movie ray gun prop. And their Pro 37-R is one of the best small diaphragm condenser mics made for under $1000 and they’re only $300 for a pair. They sound great on acoustic guitars and drum overheads. Finally if you really want to round out your mic locker a little bit and step it up even further, get a Royer R121 ribbon mic. It’s one of the few newer mic designs that has become a classic. Their more affordable R10 also sounds great.
I’ve tried a lot of different keyboard controllers but I keep coming back to my CME XKey controller for most uses. I also have several Arturia controllers that I like the pitch bend and mod wheels better on, but for most keyboard parts I love the feel and compact footprint of the CME.
Buy CME XKey from Sweetwater
Buy CME XKey from Reverb
Plug-InsEchoBoy Jr. is my go-to delay plug in. I love all the time based Eventide effects in Anthology both the classic emulations and the newer ones ported from the H9 algorithms, and the FabFilter Pro Q3 EQ has become my go-to EQ.
Arturia V SeriesPiano V in Tape Op #127 and it’s my go to for realistic piano sounds when I can’t get to a real piano.
ART PRO VLA
This is the best $300 compressor ever made and it’s stereo so you can use it on your buss or as two individual channels. It’s an optical compressor with a tube output stage and we’ve reviewed both versions of it here and here. And if you do the Revive Audio Mod, I’d go as far as saying this is the best tube stereo optical compressor under $2000.
And finally if you really want to step things up a bit, the Retro PowerStrip is not cheap, but it’s a bargain for what you get in it: A tube mic pre, an EMI RS-124 type compressor and a Pultec style EQ. This is the ultimate lead vocal channel in my opinion. I have a real Pultec EQ and a Fairchild 660 compressor but I’ve had to redo mixes that I used that gear on using the PowerStrip and the PowerStrip sounds just as good and maybe even a bit better depending on the vocalist on the track.