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electronic MUSICIAN

Build a Personal Studio on Any Budget

By the EM Staff | September 1, 2007

Just as actors and musicians field autograph requests wherever they go, EM's editors are continually asked for gear recommendations. But a question as simple as “What's your favorite microphone?” doesn't have an equally simple answer: the recording situation, the musical style, your personal taste, and how much you want to spend must all be considered. That's where this article comes in.

To answer the complex questions involved in designing a setup that's right for you, Mike Levine, Dennis Miller, and Geary Yelton tackled four types of studios from two angles. First, they created a budget configuration, which shows you how much it will cost to get in the door. Next, they pulled out all the stops with a killer system, one that should allow you to work at a professional level.

For the budget studio, they were given a $5,000 cap, while the price of the killer system had a range of $15,000 to $25,000. But rather than simply creating a wish list of the coolest gear available, each editor was asked to develop an integrated music-making system (with an eye on price and performance) to demonstrate the variables that can influence your choices.

For practicality, they included only products that are currently in production. To avoid the variance in street pricing, manufacturer's suggested retail prices (MSRP) are used whenever possible. In addition, they didn't budget for personal instruments, such as guitars and drums, or studio peripherals, such as stands, cables, pop filters, patch bays, acoustic treatment, and power conditioners. And it is assumed that you already have a computer that can adequately handle modern music production.

Levine's CD production studios allow him to record several instruments in a band simultaneously, as well as mix and master the results. Miller created computer-based setups for orchestral writing with an emphasis on scoring to picture. Besides choosing a notebook computer to create compact — yet economical — mobile studios, Yelton also assembled a pair of studios for sound design and postproduction work. And if Podcasting is of interest to you, Levine offers basic and killer versions for that job at www.emusician.com (see Web Clips 1 and 2). While you're there, you can compare each studio by item and price (see Web Clip 3).

The CD Production Studio

By Mike Levine

These CD production studios are designed for composing, tracking, and mixing. Both have the gear to record a full drum kit, and both have an array of soft synths on hand. In addition to full-featured digital audio sequencing software, both studios also have software for editing and assembling master CDs. I opted to go mixerless, using outboard hardware units that handle talkback as well as monitor, input, and speaker switching. In the killer studio, I included a control surface to provide tactile faders and knobs.

Apple Logic Pro screen shot

FIG. 1: Although it costs about $1,000, Apple Logic Pro is actually a bargain considering the depth and breadth of its plug-in collection.

The Budget CD Production Studio

A digital audio sequencer is the center of the modern studio, and we spend the majority of our time staring at its various screens. With that in mind, I decided not to economize in that area and instead picked the fully featured Apple Logic Pro 7 ($999) for its powerful audio engine and its awesome collection of plug-ins (see Fig. 1). You get a nice collection of synths, as well as excellent compressors, EQs, reverbs (including Space Designer, a convolution reverb), filters, modulation effects, pitch correction, and a lot more. For the Windows incarnation of this studio, I would substitute Cakewalk Sonar Producer 6 ($619), which has, among its many features, the V-Vocal editing section that provides excellent pitch correction and manipulation, or Steinberg Cubase 4 ($999; and can be used on the Mac instead of Logic if you prefer), which also offers a solid selection of plug-ins and software instruments.

To control Logic's virtual instruments, I opted for an M-Audio Oxygen 61 ($249.95). In addition to a 61-key synth-action keyboard, it gives you plenty of knobs and sliders for tweaking plug-ins and virtual instruments.

I chose the MOTU 8pre ($595) as the audio interface because it offers eight transparent mic-preamp/instrument inputs. That would, for instance, allow you to simultaneously record five tracks of drums, two guitars, and a bass when cutting basic tracks.

The mic collection for this studio is small but functional. The vocal mic is a Studio Projects C3 ($479), which offers not only good sound, but also multiple patterns, giving you more miking flexibility. For miking the drums, I chose the Samson 7Kit ($374.99), a bundle that includes a kick mic, a snare mic, three tom mics, and a pair of C02 pencil condensers for overheads. You won't have enough inputs to use all seven on the drums at once (you likely have to leave at least two inputs for the other instruments), but you'll have options for drum miking, depending on the situation. The C02s can also be used for tracking acoustic instruments during overdubs. Also on hand are a pair of tried-and-true Shure SM57s ($170 each) for other miking needs, most notably guitar amp cabinets.

Diagram of studio equipment

For around $5,000, this studio is equipped for composing, recording basic tracks (including a drum kit), overdubbing, and mixing.
Illustration by Chuck Dahmer

The monitor controller is the Mackie Big Knob ($389.99), which gives you plenty of input- and speaker-switching capabilities and provides Mute and Dim controls, a talkback mic, and monitor routing. The studio is equipped with six pairs of headphones: one pair, the AKG K240 Studio ($165), is of studio-reference quality. The other five are AKG K44s ($43 each), which are budget headphones but are of sufficient quality for musicians to wear during tracking and overdubbing. Headphone amping chores are handled by the basic but solid Rolls HA43 ($100), which provides four headphone outputs with individual volume controls. You can also grab two additional headphone feeds from the Big Knob.

For monitoring, I chose the Event Tuned Reference 8XLs ($699), which have 8-inch drivers and do a great job of representing the full audio spectrum. Those monitors were the top choice in an EM roundup of active monitors (from the March 2005 issue, available at www.emusician.com). I would have liked to have included a second set of monitors for an alternate perspective during mixdown, but the budget didn't allow it.

Once you've finished mixing and need to prepare discs for mastering or to burn CDs for clients, you can use DSP Quattro ($149) from i3 Software Engineering, which offers, among other things, both 2-track audio editing and CD burning to Red Book specifications. For those on Windows, substitute two programs: the freeware Audacity for editing and Sony Media Software's CD Architect 5 ($149.95) for burning.

The Killer CD Production Studio

Because Digidesign Pro Tools is the platform of choice in the record industry in the United States, my original intention was to anchor this studio around a Pro Tools HD system. But even with my budget of $25,000, I couldn't afford an HD system and all the mics, preamps, monitors, and other goodies on my wish list. So I decided on a system based around MOTU's Digital Performer 5.12 software (DP; $795) and two RME Fireface 800 interfaces ($1,799 each). DP not only has all the features you need for both audio and MIDI production, as well as a straightforward user interface, but it also has beat detection and pitch correction — staples in the modern world of record production — built in. Windows users can substitute Cakewalk Sonar Producer 6 ($619).

The RME Fireface 800 (a 2006 EM Editors' Choice Award winner) offers high-quality mic preamps, excellent jitter-free clocking, and lots of I/O options (see Fig. 2). Between the two Firefaces (which can work in tandem), there are 8 XLR inputs and a total of 16 line inputs. You can even patch outboard gear into it, which is handy considering that this setup has no mixer. For additional mic preamps, I included an M-Audio Octane ($749.95), the 2005 EM Editors' Choice Award winner that adds eight more preamp/instrument inputs and can connect to the Fireface through its ADAT optical interface.

RME FireWire interfaces

FIG. 2: A pair of RME Fireface 800 interfaces (such as the one shown here), which offer excellent mic preamps, solid clocking, and expandability, provide much of the I/O for our killer CD production studio.

DP and Sonar both offer audio processing and instrument plug-ins, but for a killer studio, I wanted more. So I added several more plug-in bundles. For audio processing, there's the Universal Audio UAD-1 Ultra Pak ($1,495), a card-based system that gives you access to a wide range of excellent plug-ins, including emulations of classic analog processors. It was a tough choice between the UAD-1 and the TC Electronic Powercore, another hardware-accelerated DSP solution. I ended up choosing the UAD-1 because of its large selection of vintage-processor emulations, but the Powercore would be a great choice too and offers a more diverse plug-in collection.

I also included SoundToys Native Effects ($495), an Editors' Choice Award winner in 2007 with a range of excellent effects, including EchoBoy and FilterFreak, two of the top plug-ins of their kind anywhere. Windows users can substitute the high-quality PSP Effects Pack ($389) from PSP Audioware, which offers several delay effects and Nitro, a filter plug-in. To make this studio truly killer for MIDI productions, I also chose Native Instruments Komplete 4 ($1,499), which provides the entire range of NI virtual instruments and effects, including Reaktor 5, Kontakt 2, Absynth 4, Guitar Rig 2, and many more.

For playing all those great sounds, this studio is equipped with an M-Audio Keystation Pro-88 ($599.95), an 88-key weighted-action controller that sports plenty of programmable knobs, buttons, and sliders. To allow you to mix with real faders rather than a mouse, I incorporated a Mackie Control Universal Pro control surface.

A CD production studio is likely to get sessions brought to it that were begun in another studio in Pro Tools, so I added a Pro Tools LE system centered around the Digidesign Mbox 2 Pro FireWire audio interface ($799). Because Digital Performer easily accommodates multiple audio interfaces, the Mbox 2 Pro can be utilized as a secondary interface if more inputs are necessary when working in DP.

Diagram of CD production studio equipment

The killer CD production studio offers plenty of inputs, a good range of mics, analog summing capabilities, and lots of I/O flexibility.
Illustration by Chuck Dahmer

For vocal mics, I specified two large-diaphragm condensers: the Røde NT2000 ($899), which offers not only excellent sound, but also continuously variable patterns, filter, and pad; and the Mojave Audio MA-200 ($995), which EM reviewer Eli Crews called “refreshingly exquisite” (see the April 2007 issue of EM, available at www.emusician.com). I also included the classic Royer R-121 ribbon mic ($1,295), which can be used for a variety of applications.

For miking the drums, I opted for an Audix DP5a drum mic pack ($1,149), which features a snare mic, a kick mic, two tom mics, and a floor tom mic, all with gooseneck clips for easy positioning. For drum overheads and acoustic instrument miking, I chose a matched pair of AKG 451B ST pencil condensers ($1,513). For miking guitar amps, and as an alternate snare mic, I threw in a pair of Shure SM57s ($170 each).

Monitor control, talkback, and speaker switching are handled by the Dangerous Music D-Box ($1,599). In addition to the aforementioned functions, the D-Box offers 8-input analog summing, making it an amazingly versatile unit. The summing output can be connected to the Mbox 2 Pro, so mixes from the Fireface can be recorded into Pro Tools.

It's always helpful to switch between speakers when mixing. Therefore, I included two sets of active monitors in this studio: the JBL LSR4328Ps ($1,699), which have 8-inch drivers and built-in technology that allows them to adjust to the frequency characteristics of the room they're in; and the Dynaudio BM5As ($1,250), which are excellent-sounding monitors with 5-inch drivers that were described by EM reviewer Myles Boisen as having “clean power handling, transparent highs, and above-average bass response” (see the January 2006 issue of EM).

For headphones, you get a pair of Sony MDR-7509HDs ($265), high-quality cans that provide accurate reproduction. For the tracking musicians, I included five pairs of AKG K55 headphones ($52.40 each). The headphone amp is a Furman HA-6AB, which can drive six sets of cans.

I added an outboard compressor — the 2-channel Drawmer DL241 ($899) — primarily to use when tracking, but for mixing too. The unit also offers gating and expansion. And in case I need more than two channels of outboard compression, I added the great-sounding FMR Audio Really Nice Compressor 1773 ($199).

Click here to see price tables for "budget" and "killer" studio set ups.

The Composing Studio

By Dennis Miller

The Budget Composing Studio

M-Audio FireWire 410

FIG. 3: The M-Audio FireWire 410 is a reasonably priced audio interface that has more than enough ins and outs for a composing studio. In addition to playback at up to 24-bit, 192 kHz, the unit includes MIDI In and Out.

My budget studio will focus primarily on composing orchestral emulations for picture and will also be well suited for other compositional purposes. I'll offer solutions that are compatible on both Windows and Mac computers, but where that's not possible, I'll provide Mac alternatives for the Windows software. And because I need only a few key tools, I'll opt for the high-end versions of the principal applications, with an emphasis on audio playback to ensure that I hear all the details in my mixes. Whenever possible, I will quote the price for the download version rather than the boxed version.

A sequencer is at the core of most scoring jobs, so on the Windows side, I've chosen Cakewalk Sonar Producer 6 ($619) for the bulk of my sequencing tasks. It has a very useful tool set for scoring to picture, and the updated Synth Rack greatly enhances my use of VST plug-ins. Sonar is a perfect host for the Garritan Personal Orchestra library ($174) that I'm buying at a discount because I'll also be using Garritan sounds with my notation program (more on this later). I'll also include a copy of Garritan Jazz & Big Band (also at a discount; $224) so that I can enhance my woodwind and brass sections for charts that need a contemporary flair.

Sonar's support for video playback will be very handy as I score my cues, and once all my parts are composed as MIDI notes, the Bounce feature will quickly turn the parts into new audio files, ready for delivery to the music editor. If I need any last-minute tweaks to my audio, the new Audiosnap feature will let me make fine adjustments to the tempo of my cues (without changing their pitch) to ensure that they line up just right.

On the Mac, I'll opt for MOTU Digital Performer 5.12 (DP; $795) because it has more dedicated scoring tools than most other sequencers in its class. As with Sonar, you can view your video track on an external monitor via FireWire, and you'll have no trouble figuring out what tempo your music will need to sync with the picture once you get comfortable with DP's Find Tempo option.

Diagram of budget composing studio equipment.

The budget composing studio is built around a Kurzweil SP88x keyboard controller, a pair of Event Studio Precision 6 monitors, and an M-Audio FireWire 410 interface.
Illustration by Chuck Dahmer

Of course, if you prefer to compose using a notation program, then you're better off with a tool that integrates a high-quality sound set. I'm picking MakeMusic Finale 2008 ($600) as the centerpiece of this rig because it has a vast number of features for the composer, including an autoharmonizer and the ability to create variations on a melodic theme. And, using the many processes found in the Composer's Assistant plug-ins, you can turn the simplest musical idea into a well-formed main title theme with endless variations. The ability to import a video makes it easy to synchronize cues, and the availability of Finale Notepad, a free program that can open, play, and (minimally) edit Finale files, makes collaboration simple. Moreover, the Garritan Orchestra sounds that Finale provides are well integrated into the program (and qualify me for the discounts mentioned earlier).

For knocking off parts by hand, I'll purchase a Kurzweil SP88x keyboard controller ($1,395), which offers 88 weighted keys and the ability to transmit on two separate MIDI channels simultaneously. Its electric piano sounds will fill a niche not served elsewhere in my rig, and the organ presets should come in especially handy.

For monitoring, I'll use an M-Audio FireWire 410 audio interface ($399) driving Event Studio Precision 6 active monitors ($1,199 a pair). The FireWire 410 has four analog inputs and ten outputs, in addition to stereo digital ins and outs in both coaxial phono and Toslink optical formats (see Fig. 3). It supports 24-bit, 96 kHz recording, and playback at up to 24-bit, 192 kHz on the first two outs (or 24-bit, 96 kHz if all eight outputs are used). MIDI In and Out are also provided. The included mixing software will provide flexible control over my various sound sources, and the FireWire 410's support for Pro Tools M-Powered might just come in handy someday.

The Killer Composing Studio

Though there is a good bit of overlap between the high-end and budget composing studios, I will add enough tools to make this rig suitable for even more compositional tasks. I'll keep Finale 2008 and Sonar 6 (or DP 5 on the Mac), then include several physical-modeled acoustic instruments, which have the added advantage of being usable for sound-design purposes. I'll also want a dedicated sampler and a number of video tools for use alongside my basic music applications.

At the heart of our high-end Windows studio is Tascam's Giga Virtual Instrument (GVI; $369), the plug-in version of the company's powerful and popular professional sampler, GigaStudio. GigaStudio pioneered the concept of disk streaming, and following years of tweaks by Tascam, it's a real sound-design powerhouse. Not only can you choose from numerous outstanding libraries, but if the library includes embedded GigaPulse convolution information, as many do, it will open in GVI with the convolution configured as the library author intended. (You can use the Perfect Space reverb in Sonar if you want convolution processing on other sounds.)

Modartt Pianoteq

FIG. 4: Modartt''s Pianoteq offers a highly customizable physically modeled piano. Along with altering aspects of the body resonance and string tuning, the user can create unique Velocity response curves (left).

GVI comes with more than 7 GB of samples but is a little light on the included orchestral sounds. So I'll buy SoniVox's Complete Symphonic Collection (CSC; $2,995) to be sure we have all the bases (and basses) covered. CSC takes advantage of many of GVI's programming options (for example, custom recording environments programmed by Larry Seyer) and offers a wide variety of articulations and playing styles. I will also add Tascam's own GigaViolin ($129), an inexpensive solution for those times when our scores require solo strings.

Mac users should consider picking up a cheap Windows XP computer and dedicating it to GVI or GigaStudio 3 or waiting for the Mac version of GVI to appear later this year. But if those options are not appealing, then I'd recommend Native Instruments Kontakt 2 ($449) as the sampler of choice. There's broad third-party support for Kontakt 2, and it can read any content created for Kontakt 2 Player.

Kontakt 2 ships with 15 GB of content, including samples from all the members of the orchestra. But I'll enhance it with a number of other resources. For starters, I'll include Native Instruments Akoustik Piano ($339), which runs standalone and as a plug-in; its pianos are also loadable into Kontakt. I'll beef up my world-music timbres by adding SoniVox's Afro-Cuban Percussion ($99.95) and Silk Road ($249), and to be sure I have enough variety in my core orchestral collection, I will add IK Multimedia's Miroslav Orchestra and Choir sample collection ($599), a 7 GB library that runs standalone or as an AU plug-in under Digital Performer.

I will also enhance my basic sound sets with software that uses physical modeling, which can produce uncanny simulations of real acoustic instruments and is especially suited for creating believable musical performances. Though I've got a fair number of good piano sounds already, I'll add Modartt's Pianoteq 2.0.1 ($330) to my rig (see Fig. 4). Pianoteq provides controls for changing many aspects of the instrument's construction, including hammer hardness, soundboard tweaks, and various aspects of tuning. To add more sonic variety, I'll include Applied Acoustics Tassman 4.1 ($349), which has a large number of acoustic-model presets. Its flute sounds are astoundingly realistic, and its percussion instruments (balafons, congas, and kalimbas, for example) give me resources for a variety of ethnic flavors. Moreover, the bowed beams and plates provide the perfect touch for contemporary textures.

For vocal renditions on the PC, I am buying Zero-G's Leon and Lola ($199 each), both of which use Yamaha's Vocaloid vocal-synthesis technology. Yamaha is hard at work on a major update to Vocaloid, and I'll be sure to see what new voices appear when the enhancements make it to market. For the Mac, I'll opt for Virsyn's Cantor 2.1 ($465), even though it would be a less convincing substitute for a real vocalist than either Vocaloid program.

Diagram of composing studio setup.

Although some of the software tools are the same as in the budget configuration, the killer composing setup includes Tannoy Precision 8D monitors, a Kurzweil PC2x controller, and a MOTU UltraLite.
Illustration by Chuck Dahmer

I will upgrade my controller to the Kurzweil PC2X ($2,730) — the included orchestral sound block adds even more high-quality samples to my roster. With its 64-voice polyphony piping to my mixes over digital outputs, the PC2X can take the load off my computer and allow me to dedicate some additional processing power to other tasks, such as effects.

My options for an audio interface are wide open because unlike GigaStudio 3, GVI doesn't require a GSIF-compliant sound card. So I'll go with a MOTU UltraLite ($595), which packs 10 inputs and 14 outputs in a half-rackspace footprint, for both the Mac and Windows. The UltraLite supports rates up to 24-bit, 96 kHz, and because it's powered by the PC's bus, there are literally no strings attached. For monitors, I'll choose Tannoy Precision 8Ds ($2,058 a pair), which deliver the clarity and range I need for my orchestral renditions.

Because I am serious about working in the film-scoring business, having some high-quality video tools will be a bonus. For a dedicated Windows video editor, Sony Vegas 7 provides a familiar multitrack interface that musicians will grasp right away. Cutting and crossfading video clips is a breeze, and the number of output formats it can render will allow me to deliver my composited video and music files to meet the client's needs. For DVD authoring and burning, Sony DVD Architect 4, which can be purchased in a bundle with Vegas ($559.96), supports a number of common output formats. Surprisingly, its AC3 audio-encoding options are limited to a single default value, and that with attenuation. Be sure to create a higher-quality AC3 file in Vegas before you do the final authoring in DVD Architect.

On the Mac, there's no real match for the price and features of the Vegas/DVD Architect combo, but if you have an Intel Mac, consider running that same software under Parallels Desktop ($79.99). Another option would be simply to use the tools in Apple iLife, but those won't get you nearly as far into the video world. The professional solution is Adobe's massive new Creative Suite 3 Production Premium (CS3; $1,699), which includes all the tools you'd need for professional video editing and DVD authoring. You'll find CS3 versions of After Effects, Premiere Pro, Encore, Photoshop, Flash, and even the new Soundbooth audio editor in the bundle, and the list price is not a lot higher than Apple's own Final Cut Studio 2. (Keep in mind that a dedicated RGB video monitor or dual-VGA display setup is a must if you're doing serious video work.)

If you already own Final Cut Pro, by all means consider buying Final Cut Studio 2 ($1,299), which includes Final Cut Pro 6, DVD Studio Pro 4, Motion 3, Soundtrack Pro 2, and other useful tools. Note that there's no support for Blu-ray discs in Final Cut Studio (Adobe Encore supports the format), though that could change by the time you read this.

Hear, Hear!

There are many other good choices for building a killer composing studio, and you'll find an endless number of specialized sample collections you'll want to consider as the need arises and your budget allows. And keep in mind that there are many free resources online to help you hone your orchestrational skills. Be sure to check out the Garritan home page (www.garritan.com) and the Philharmonia Web site (www.philharmonia.co.uk/thesoundexchange/sound_samples/sample_libraries) for some great tips on orchestral composing.

Click here to see price tables for "budget" and "killer" studio set ups.

The Postproduction and Sound-Design Studio

By Geary Yelton

The Budget Postproduction and Sound-Design Studio

Even without a barrel of money, designing a respectable studio for sound design and postproduction is not impossible if you pinpoint the essentials. With a computer and a budget of $5,000, I can assemble all the software and gear I'm likely to need for composing soundtracks, syncing audio to picture, producing voice-overs and dialog, and recording and editing Foley and other sound effects. Although I'm primarily a Mac user, I'll select cross-platform products whenever possible and offer Windows-based alternatives when a product is specific to the Macintosh.

Native Instrument Reaktor 5

FIG. 5: Native Instruments Reaktor 5 is more than a collection of over 60 software instruments and effects; it''s an expandable modular construction kit that lets you download new ensembles and design your own.

After considering numerous alternatives, I decided to build my budget studio around Digidesign's Mbox 2 Pro Factory ($899). Practically every post house works with Pro Tools, and many video, film, and radio professionals are comfortable in a Pro Tools-oriented world. My other reason is pure economics; it's almost ironic that Digidesign now offers some of the most cost-effective multitrack recording systems around, considering that not many years ago, Pro Tools was practically beyond the reach of budget studios.

For under a grand, Mbox 2 Pro Factory features Pro Tools LE 7.3 and a FireWire audio interface with 4 analog inputs, 6 analog outputs, stereo S/PDIF I/O, and 16 channels of MIDI I/O — all available simultaneously. To accommodate microphones, two inputs have mic preamps and 48V phantom power. The interface has two additional inputs for guitar or bass and a phono input if I ever need to connect a turntable.

Along with Pro Tools LE, a bundle of nearly 50 DigiRack and Bomb Factory plug-ins covers most essential dynamics, effects, and utility functions. The Mbox 2 Pro Factory bundle also includes plugs-ins such as Joemeek EQ and compression and Moogerfooger analog-style delay. Along with Digidesign's soft synth Xpand and a soundware library, the included Pro Tools Ignition Pack 2 contains very useful software from Ableton, Celemony, IK Multimedia, Propellerhead, and others.

Pro Tools LE gives me plenty of sequencing and mixing capabilities and quite a bit of editing power, but I want more-detailed audio editing and the ability to edit video as well. Apple's Final Cut Express HD ($299), which includes Soundtrack 1.5 and a sizable library of music loops and sound effects, fits the bill perfectly without breaking the bank. If I were using Windows, I could get similar functionality for the same price using Sony's Sound Forge Audio Studio 9 ($59.95) and Vegas Movie Studio Platinum Edition 8 ($129.95).

To play software instruments, I'll need a USB/MIDI keyboard controller. The least expensive I've found offering all the features I want is E-mu's Xboard 61 ($249). In addition to full-size keys, 16 assignable knobs, and its own editing software, it has a very good synth action with Aftertouch and an input for either a footswitch or a pedal. The Xboard 61 is bundled with Proteus X LE software, giving me access to a nice collection of bread-and-butter timbres.

To access a larger selection of soundware and to create my own, I'll need a sampler. Because I have sound design in mind and therefore can't afford to cut corners, I'm going to spring for my favorite top-shelf sampler, Native Instruments Kontakt 2 ($449). Probably more sound libraries are available for Kontakt than any other software format, and its onboard effects processing and sample-mapping facilities are hard to beat. Its audio-editing talents run deep, and 64 multitimbral parts should be enough for most any arranging job. It's bundled with a well-rounded 15 GB of superb content, half of which comes from Vienna Symphonic Library, and it also includes two very good pianos.

Diagram of software and equipment for postproduction studio.

With $5,000 and your computer, you can assemble all the software and equipment you need to do postproduction work and sound design.
Illustration by Chuck Dahmer

Because I want a soft synth that offers as much versatility as possible, I've chosen Native Instruments Reaktor 5 ($449). In addition to supplying an extensive collection of ready-made synths, drum machines, and effects, Reaktor serves as a software construction kit that lets me create original instruments and download dozens of new ones from the Web (see Fig. 5).

I've also chosen a Kontakt Player 2-based synth that gives me 21 GB of high-quality content and lots of bang for the buck. With more than 2,000 instruments, Vir2 VI.One ($399) is a solid choice that furnishes synths, acoustic instruments, and loops in just about any style I might need.

After looking at several close-field monitors, I've settled on two Event Electronics ALP 5s ($429 a pair) for their high-quality sound at a low price. The active ALP 5 is biamplified, with more than enough power to adequately fill a small studio, and its 5.25-inch low-frequency driver offers plenty of bass response for my needs. I also want a pair of headphones for certain mixing applications and for voice-over talent. As in years past, I'll choose the Fostex T20-RP ($119) for its accuracy, durability, and comfort.

Although I'll be doing much of my sound-design and postproduction work inside the box, I still need microphones, primarily for recording voice and sampling ambient sounds. I want a versatile mic that won't strain my budget, and M-Audio's Solaris ($349) suits my needs very well. The Solaris is a large-diaphragm condenser mic that can switch between cardioid, figure-8, and omni patterns to suit almost any situation. And for occasions that demand stereo recording, I've selected the Røde NT4 stereo condenser mic ($899). It has two capsules in a fixed XY configuration and runs off either phantom power or a 9V battery, perfect for studio or remote recording.

That leaves me with just enough money for what I consider another essential item for sound design: a field recorder. The Edirol R-09 ($450) is compact and affordable, and it records in stereo to inexpensive Secure Digital cards. It has two built-in omnidirectional mics and acceptably quiet mic preamps.

The Killer Postproduction and Sound-Design Studio

Obviously, with $20,000 in my pocket I can assemble a studio that goes far beyond what I could with one-quarter that much. To maximize compatibility with others working in postproduction, I'll stick with Pro Tools, but now I can upgrade to Digidesign's 003 Factory ($2,495). Like the Digidesign bundle in my budget studio, the 003 Factory is built around Pro Tools LE and comes with all the same software and soundware but even more plug-ins. The system gives me more I/O than Mbox 2 Pro's interface, as well as a hands-on control surface. (A full review of the unit and a list of features are available at www.emusician.com.)

To extend Pro Tools LE considerably, I'm springing for two expansion bundles from Digidesign: Music Production Toolkit ($495) and DV Toolkit 2 ($1,295). Even though both include the TL Space Native Edition convolution reverb, DINR noise-reduction plug-in, and Pro Tools MP3 Option, the additional features of either make it well worth having both packages. And with the addition, Pro Tools LE supports 48 stereo audio tracks at 96 kHz. Music Production Toolkit includes the excellent Hybrid soft synth, indispensable SoundReplacer, Smack LE compressor and limiter, and more. DV Toolkit 2 supplies the VocAlign Project track-alignment tool, DigiTranslator 2.0 file converter, and DigiBase Pro file manager, and it gives Pro Tools numerous other features very useful for postproduction.

Because I want much more audio- and video-editing power than my budget system allows, Apple Final Cut Studio 2 ($1,299) is a must. Besides supporting AU and furnishing many terrific plug-ins I wouldn't have otherwise, the suite lets me edit and mix video in almost any format, as well as author and master standard and high-definition DVDs. Soundtrack Pro 2, one of the suite's six programs, lets me precisely align sound with picture and, if desired, automatically updates my audio projects when anyone makes changes to the video. Final Cut Studio 2 also supplies a sizable collection of sound effects and music tracks. For a few hundred less, Windows users could perform many (but not all) of the same tasks using Sony's Sound Forge 9 ($299.96) and Vegas+DVD Production Suite ($524.96) (both are priced as downloadable versions).

Diagram of equipment in a $20,000 studio

A $20,000 budget can buy a Digidesign 003 Factory with all the trimmings, tons of first-class software, awesome monitors, an 88-note keyboard, and a well-chosen mic cabinet you can be proud of.
Illustration by Chuck Dahmer

More of Everything

Such a generous budget means that I can afford more virtual instruments and effects. I'd still want Kontakt 2 as my go-to sampler, and I'd still want Reaktor for its tremendous versatility, but I'd add two additional products from Native Instruments. When it comes to FM synthesis, FM8 ($339) is state-of-the-art; its unique character and enormous collection of patches explore timbral territory that few DX7 owners ever imagined. Native Instruments Massive ($339) takes the concept of a virtual analog modular synthesizer quite a bit further than software that emulates classic instruments, and it can deliver very modern sounds. I can choose to rely on its extensive patch collection or use it as a springboard for experimenting with new timbres.

I looked around at various sound libraries available for Kontakt 2 and discovered no sample collections as stylistically versatile and far-reaching as the one that comes with SoniVox Muse ($595). Muse is based on Tascam's GVI and offers everything from fine pianos and organs to excellent strings and woodwinds. Its more than 37 GB of content covers all the bases and delivers consistently high quality.

Because postproduction may demand scoring for orchestral instruments, a larger budget means I can afford a music-notation program for printing scores and handing them out to players a producer might hire to record tracks. My choice for music transcription is MakeMusic Finale 2008 ($600), which can handle any scoring job I throw at it; the latest version even supports onscreen video. Finale also comes with a custom version of Garritan Personal Orchestra. Between the sampled content in Finale, Muse, and Kontakt 2, I'm set for arranging orchestrations.

Two more categories in which a bigger budget buys more muscle are dynamics and effects processing. I'm really impressed with SoundToys Native Effects ($495) and feel that it's an amazing bargain. For less than half a grand, its six effects processors run the gamut from realistic tape-delay simulation and pitch-shifting reverse echo to just about any filter effect you've ever heard.

Rode NT2000 mic

FIG. 6: The Røde NT2000 is a large-diaphragm condenser mic that has a continuously variable polar pattern and outstanding versatility.

Universal Audio is one of the big names in dynamics and effects processing, and for good reason. The UAD-1e Expert Pak ($1,299) features a DSP card that takes some of the load off my computer's CPU and, just as important, comes with a nice assortment of invaluable plug-ins that emulate classic compressors, limiters, EQs, reverbs, and more. It also includes a $750 voucher so I can select additional plug-ins from UA's sizable stable.

A killer studio needs at least one killer piece of processing gear, and I'd love to own a Universal Audio LA-3A ($1,749). It's an electro-optical compressor (aka leveling amplifier) that captures the vintage sound of the UREI LA-3A. Although the UA LA-3A has solid-state circuitry, it would give my studio a rich, natural sound that's difficult to achieve with plug-ins.

A postproduction studio doesn't need a huge selection of microphones, but versatility and quality certainly count. My first choice is the Røde NT2000 ($899). Rather than switching between polar patterns, it is continuously variable between cardioid, figure-8, and omnidirectional patterns. The NT2000 should suit just about any application that calls for a large-diaphragm condenser mic (see Fig. 6).

Two additional Røde mics will be useful for audio post and sound design. For remote recording and for sampling in the studio, the NT4 ($899) is once again my favored stereo mic. And for occasions when I want to record sources at a distance, I'm going to need a shotgun mic. The Røde NTG-2 ($369) should suit my needs quite well. It's a lightweight supercardioid mic powered by either a AA battery or phantom power.

If I'm going to get serious about sound design, there's one more mic I'd love to own. With its extremely wide frequency response, the Earthworks P30/HC Periscope ($995) comes closer to fitting the description of a high-definition microphone than any I've seen. It has a flexible 4-inch neck and a tiny, supersensitive capsule you can position in places other mics can't reach. And its hypercardioid pattern lets me pinpoint microscopic sounds I want to record.

Kurzweil SP2 Stage Piano

FIG. 7: Kurzweil is back, and the new SP2 Stage Piano offers some very desirable features without blowing your budget.

While I'm on the subject of high-definition recording, the remote stereo recorder I want is the Korg DR-1000 ($1,499). It is very portable, has balanced XLR and TRS inputs and an internal 40 GB hard drive, and records in an astonishing variety of audio formats. For 1-, 16-, and 24-bit recording, the DR-1000 is almost the only game in town.

My choice for monitors is a pair of biamplified JBL LSR4326Ps ($1,399), together with a room-calibration mic. How can you go wrong with accurate sound and a variety of analog and digital inputs? For headphones, I'd like to step up to the Grado SR125 ($150), an open-back design known for accuracy and comfort.

After looking at all kinds of USB/MIDI keyboards, I finally decided on the newest keyboard instrument from Kurzweil, the SP2 Stage Piano ($1,390). In addition to a superb 88-note weighted hammer action, it has Kurzweil's latest stereo grand piano samples and a variety of electric pianos, pads, mallets, and other sounds and onboard effects (see Fig. 7). What it lacks, however, is control surface functionality. No problem — the Novation Zero SL ($499), with its versatility and easy setup, is just what I need for controlling synths, samplers, and other software. Having the Zero SL lets me use the 003's control panel exclusively for mixing and navigating in Pro Tools.

Click here to see price tables for "budget" and "killer" studio set ups.

The Mobile Studio

By Geary Yelton

The Budget Mobile Studio

In the past year, notebook computers have become so powerful that it's perfectly reasonable to put together a pro-level recording studio without a desktop computer. Give me a dual-core PC laptop or an Apple MacBook Pro, and I'll be out the door and composing and recording music on the run. Mobile studios are different things to different people, however. Whereas I want a very portable setup I can use to produce my own music and to record individual performers remotely and mix wherever I like, you might prefer a mobile studio that lets you do everything you could do in a fixed location, from creating sampled loop libraries to producing albums recorded live. Because this is a budget system, though, I'll stick with modest applications.

No one could be more surprised than me at my recommendation for a digital audio sequencer. I use all the major sequencers, and each has its own strengths. Once again, however, Pro Tools offers the greatest flexibility at the least expense. How is this possible? If I buy a compatible audio interface from M-Audio, then Pro Tools M-Powered ($299) costs less than any other full-featured competitor. Pro Tools M-Powered has virtually all the same features as Pro Tools LE, but the price of admission can be much lower.

Diagram of equipment for studio

With your notebook computer in tow, you can afford everything you need to produce music for less than you might imagine.
Illustration by Chuck Dahmer

The key to this particular Pro Tools-based system is M-Audio's Ozonic ($599), a FireWire audio/MIDI interface with a 37-note keyboard and enough knobs and sliders for you to deftly control audio software. The Ozonic offers features that many compact keyboards lack, including Aftertouch, an excellent semiweighted action, and independent inputs for a sustain switch and an expression pedal. Audio features include a phantom-powered XLR input, an instrument input, and two line-level inputs, as well as two balanced and two unbalanced outputs on ¼-inch jacks. The Ozonic draws power from the FireWire bus or a DC adapter, and it's portable enough to tuck under your arm.

With portability in mind, I've also selected some transducers from M-Audio. The Studiophile AV 40 powered monitors ($199 a pair) are exactly what I'm looking for: reasonably accurate speakers that are lightweight enough to transport easily. They have 4-inch woofers and 20W of power per channel. They even have a headphone output; along with the Ozonic's headphone out, I'm covered whenever I need more than one. But instead of traditional headphones, I want M-Audio's IE-10 ($129) earphones. These in-ear monitors work well for noncritical mixing and offer a surprising degree of acoustic isolation from the surrounding environment.

The M-Audio Solaris ($349) is a large-diaphragm condenser mic at a bargain price. Its response is surprisingly flat, and its user-selectable polarity — cardioid, figure-8, or omni — makes it suitable for almost any scenario. And I have enough in my budget for a versatile dynamic microphone, the Audix OM-2 ($149). Suitable for recording voices or instruments, the OM-2 is always an excellent mic to have on hand.

Once again, I'm selecting two dependable software instruments from Native Instruments. Massive ($339) gives me a variety of synthesis features that include analog emulation, wavetable scanning, a wide range of filter types, extensive modulation routing, a user-configurable architecture, and a large library of presets. And once again, I've chosen Kontakt 2 ($449) as my sampler because of its depth, power, and dynamite content.

I can expand my setup considerably with one inexpensive bundle. The Waldorf Edition ($149), a trio of plug-ins from pioneering synth maker Waldorf, provides a modeled analog filter, a multitimbral drum machine, and an emulation of the classic PPG Wave wavetable synthesizer.

I also play guitar and bass, and in the spirit of doing everything inside the box, I'll need guitar-amp and effects-modeling software. Native Instruments Guitar Rig 2 Software Edition ($339) sounds great and fits my budget perfectly. With a slew of simulated guitar and bass amplifiers, cabinets, microphones, and effects, Guitar Rig 2 should suit my needs for quite some time.

The Killer Mobile Studio

To keep my killer studio mobile, I want to do as much as possible within the computer. Nonetheless, to do everything I want, I'll still need quite a bit of hardware — mics, monitors, an audio interface, a control surface, and a MIDI keyboard — so I'll start with that. But because it's a mobile studio, I want to be able to pack up the whole kit and caboodle and take it with me, so size and weight are prime concerns.

I want a well-rounded audio interface no larger than a single rackspace, with lots of I/O and at least eight channels of A/D/A conversion. The Apogee Ensemble ($1,995) fits my needs perfectly. This Mac-specific FireWire interface has four mic preamps (two with inserts), four instrument inputs, four line inputs, eight monitor outputs, and S/PDIF and Lightpipe I/O. My only complaint is that the Ensemble isn't Windows compatible. If I had a notebook PC, then, I could save a couple of hundred bucks and get an RME Fireface 800 ($1,799).

For monitors, I want something I can depend on to give back what I put in, and if they're portable, so much the better. The Genelec 8020A ($890) is an excellent choice, owing to its light weight (barely over 8 pounds each) and reliable sound, even with a 4-inch woofer. The rugged 8020A is biamplified, with a total of 40W into 8, and it comes with Genelec's IsoPod stand. I also want an in-ear monitor that's well suited to mobile applications: M-Audio's top-of-the-line IE-30 earphones ($299). Like the IE-10, the IE-30 offers excellent environmental isolation, but it contains separate transducers for the bass and treble.

It wouldn't be a killer studio without some killer microphones. I don't need a ton of mics in my mobile cabinet, though. If I'm recording live bands, I'd prefer to take direct feeds off the house mixer as often as possible, and a handful of first-class mics should be all I need for most applications.

Diagram of mobile studio set up

Even a killer mobile studio can be compact enough to pack everything up and toss it in the backseat of your car.
Illustration by Chuck Dahmer

At the top of the list is the Royer R-122 ($1,895), a ribbon mic with active circuitry. It has a well-defined sound and it's very quiet considering its high output level. Next up is Mojave Audio's MA-100 ($995), a small-diaphragm tube condenser model. It has interchangeable cardioid and omnidirectional capsules and is useful for a variety of tasks. Farther down the list is the versatile, multipattern Røde NT2000 ($899), for all the same reasons I chose it for my killer postproduction and sound-design studio. Add to that a pair of Audix i5s ($358), because you never know when a couple of dynamic mics will come in handy for recording amps, drums, and various other sources.

I still need a MIDI keyboard and a control surface, and I get both with the Novation ReMote 61 SL ($899). In addition to keys with Aftertouch and Velocity-sensitive pads, the ReMote 61 SL has lots of assignable knobs and buttons. It also features Novation's Automap, a system that automatically configures its controls to the software you're using.

Although you can control the Apogee Ensemble from within Logic Pro 7, it's been years since Apple's sequencer had a major overhaul (of course, that could change by the time you read this). Steinberg Cubase 4 ($999) has all the up-to-date capabilities I want for the same price, and it's a cross-platform application to boot. With scads of professional features and a learning curve that's easily scaled by mere mortals, Cubase does almost anything any other sequencer can do, from live multitrack recording to printing scores. It also includes some very cool soft synths and lets you set up a virtual control room.

In addition to playing my two current favorites from Native Instruments — Massive ($339) and Kontakt 2 ($449) — I'd like to turn my computer into a Hammond organ; for that, I'm going to need B4 II ($229). And because I'll need a grand piano to accompany it, I want my favorite sampled piano, Synthogy Ivory ($349). B4 II and Ivory are the most realistic and controllable virtual organ and piano I've ever played.

IK Multimedia offers a bundle that includes three desirable instruments for a bargain price. For only $100 more than Miroslav Philharmonik (a virtual orchestra I wanted anyway), the Total Workstation Bundle ($699) includes Sonik Synth 2 and SampleTank 2.1 XL. Not only do I get three cool sample players, but I also get plenty of dynamite content ranging from Miroslav Vitous's symphonic library to dozens of vintage synths and drum loops.

It looks like I'm on track for my mobile system to serve as an entire virtual band. That means I'll need my favorite software drummer, FXpansion BFD ($399). BFD gives me killer content and tremendous control over the selection of drums, their mic placement, and every aspect of the groove. Lots of expansion packs are available for BFD, but the one I consider essential for my music is BFD Percussion ($349); owning BFD Percussion is like being friends with a bunch of drummers from around the world.

For guitar, a generous budget lets me step up to Line 6's Gearbox Plug-In Gold ($699). It's a suite of more than 130 plug-ins supplying practically every modeling algorithm Line 6 has developed. In addition to amps, cabinets, and effects for guitar and bass, it gives me processors I can use with vocals and all kinds of instruments. It also comes with a compact audio interface, the DI-G, for my guitar.

I love to use effects plug-ins, and I feel that no dream system would be complete without SoundToys Native Effects ($495). (But like Mike Levine, I would substitute PSP Audioware's PSP Effects Pack [$389] in a Windows-based system.) I also need a top-notch convolution reverb, and I couldn't go wrong with Audio Ease Altiverb 6 ($595). With Altiverb, I can download impulse responses of just about any environment I might need from Audio Ease's Web site.

My choice of stereo audio editor also comes with a premium collection of processors. In addition to the comprehensive waveform-editing and processing features built into BIAS Peak Pro 5, the Peak Pro XT 5 suite ($1,199) includes the entire contents of the Master Perfection Suite. In a single bundle, I get pitch correction, audio analysis, multiband compression, advanced gating, spectral matching, and up to ten bands of parametric EQ. (BIAS has announced Peak Pro XT 6 [$1,199], which promises to build on the strengths of version 5 and, according to the company, is scheduled to ship shortly after you read this.) For Windows users, the closest combination that offers Peak Pro XT's functionality is probably Steinberg WaveLab 6 ($699) paired with Wave Arts Master Restoration Suite ($499).

Click here to see price tables for "budget" and "killer" studio set ups.

BUDGET CD PRODUCTION STUDIO
Items Price
AKG K240 Studio headphones $165
AKG K44 (5 @ $43 each) $215
Apple Logic Pro $999
Event Tuned Reference 8XL $699
i3 DSP Quattro $149
M-Audio Oxygen 61 $249.95
Mackie Big Knob $389.99
MOTU 8pre $595
Rolls HA43 headphone amp $100
Samson 7Kit drum mic pack (includes two pencil condensers) $374.99
Shure SM57 (2 @ $170 each) $340
Studio Projects C3 $479
Total $5,005.88

KILLER CD PRODUCTION STUDIO
Items Price
AKG K55 (5 @ $52.40 each) $262
AKG 451B ST (matched pair of pencil condensers) $1,513
Audix DP5a drum mic pack $1,149
Bias Peak Pro XT5 $1,199
Dangerous Music D-box $1,599
Digidesign Mbox 2 Pro $799
Drawmer DL241 Compressor/Gate/Expander (Dual Channel) $899
Dynaudio BM5A monitor pair $1,250
FMR Audio RNC 1773 Really Nice Compressor $199
Furman HA6-AB headphone amp $445.99
JBL LSR4328P Pak monitor pair w/accessory kit $1,699
M-Audio Keystation Pro-88 $599.95
M-Audio Octane $749.95
Mackie Control Universal Pro $1,549.99
Mojave Audio MA-200 $995
MOTU Digital Performer $795
Native Instruments Komplete 4 $1,499
RME Fireface 800 interface (2 @ $1,799 each) $3,598
Rode NT2000 $899
Royer R-121 $1,295
Shure SM57 (2 @ $170 each) $340
Sony MDR-7509HD headphones $265
Sound Toys Native Bundle $495
Universal Audio Ultra Pak $1,495
Total $25,588.89

BUDGET COMPOSING STUDIO
Item: Windows (Mac) Price
Cakewalk Sonar Producer Edition 6 (MOTU Digital Performer 5.0) $619 ($795)
Event Studio Precision 6 Active monitors $1,199/pair
Garritan Personal Orchestra VST plug-in $174
Garritan Jazz & Big Band $224
Kurzweil SP88x keyboard controller $1,395
MakeMusic! Finale 2008 $600
M-Audio FireWire 410 $399
Total $4,464 ($4,640)

KILLER COMPOSING STUDIO
Item Windows Mac
Adobe CS3 Production Premium
$1699
Applied-Acoustics Tassman 4.1 $349 $349
Cakewalk Sonar 6 $619
IK Multimedia Miroslav Philharmonik
$599
Kurzweil PC2X $2,730 $2,730
MakeMusic! Finale 2007 $600 $600
Modartt Pianoteq $330 $330
MOTU Digital Performer 5.0
$795
MOTU

UltraLite $595 $595
Native Instruments Akoustik Piano
$339
Native Instruments Kontakt 2
$449
SoniVox AfroCuban (Latin) Percussion
$99.95
SoniVox Complete Symphonic Collection $2,995
SoniVox Silk Road Middle Eastern Instruments
$249
Sony Vegas/DVD Architect $559.96
Tannoy Precision 8Ds $2,058 (per pair) $2,058 (per pair)
Tascam GVI $369
Tascam GigaViolin $129
Virsyn Cantor 2.1
(c.) $465
Zero-G Leon $199
Zero-G Lola $199
Total $11,731.96 $11,356.95

THE BUDGET POSTPRODUCTION AND SOUND DESIGN STUDIO
Item Price
Apple Final Cut Express HD audio/video editing suite $299
Digidesign Mbox 2 Pro Factory interface/software bundle $899
Edirol R-09 stereo recorder $450
E-mu Xboard 61 USB/MIDI keyboard $249
Event ALP 5 powered monitors (pair) $429
Fostex T20-RP headphones $119
M-Audio Solaris large-diaphragm condenser mic $349
Native Instruments Kontakt 2 sampler $449
Native Instruments Reaktor soft synth bundle $449
Rode NT4 stereo mic $899
Vir2 VI.One sample player $399
Total $4,990

THE KILLER POSTPRODUCTION AND SOUND DESIGN STUDIO
Item Price
Apple Final Cut Studio 2 audio/video editing suite $1,299
Digidesign 003 Factory interface/control surface/software bundle $2,495
Digidesign DV Toolkit expansion suite $1,295
Digidesign Music Production Toolkit expansion suite $495
Earthworks P30/HC Periscope condenser mic $995
Grado SR125 headphones $150
JBL LSR4326P Pak powered monitors $1,399
Korg DR-1000 stereo recorder $1,499
Kurzweil SP2 piano $1,390
MakeMusic Finale music-notation software $600
Native Instruments FM8 soft synth $339
Native Instruments Kontakt 2 sampler $449
Native Instruments Massive soft synth $339
Native Instruments Reaktor soft synth bundle $449
Novation Zero SL control surface $499
Rode NT2000 large-diaphragm condenser mic $899
Rode NT4 stereo mic $899
Rode NTG-2 shotgun mic $369
SoniVox Muse sample player $595
SoundToys Native Effects plug-in bundle $495
Universal Audio LA-3A compressor $1,749
Universal Audio UAD-1e Expert Pak plug-in bundle $1,299
Total $19,997

THE BUDGET MOBILE STUDIO
Item Price
Audix OM-2 dynamic vocal/instrument mic $149
Digidesign Pro Tools M-Powered digital audio sequencer $299
M-Audio IE-10 earphones $129
M-Audio Ozonic FireWire audio interface/keyboard $599
M-Audio Solaris large-diaphragm condenser mic $349
M-Audio Studiophile AV 40 powered monitors (pair) $199
Native Instruments Guitar Rig 2 Software Edition $339
Native Instruments Kontakt 2 sampler $449
Native Instruments Massive soft synth $339
Waldorf The Waldorf Edition plug-in bundle $149
Total $3,000

THE KILLER MOBILE STUDIO
Item Price
Apogee Ensemble audio interface $1,995
Audio Ease AltiVerb 6 convolution reverb $595
Audix i5 dynamic instrument mic (2) $358
BIAS Peak Pro XT 5 audio editing suite $1,199
FXpansion BFD virtual drummer $399
FXpansion BFD Percussion sample library $349
Genelec 8020A powered monitors (pair) $890
IK Multimedia Total Workstation Bundle soft synths $699
Line 6 GearBox Plug-In Gold guitar-processing bundle $699
M-Audio IE-30 earphones $299
Mojave Audio MA-100 small-diaphragm tube mic $995
Native Instruments B4 II virtual organ $229
Native Instruments Kontakt 2 sampler $449
Native Instruments Massive soft synth $339
Novation ReMote 61 SL keyboard/control surface $899
Rode NT2000 large-diaphragm condenser mic $899
Royer R-122 ribbon mic $1,895
SoundToys Native Effects plug-in bundle $495
Steinberg Cubase 4 digital audio sequencer $999
Synthogy Ivory sampled piano $349
Total $15,030

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