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Studio Nonessentials: 7 Things You Don’t Need in Your Studio

Studio Nonessentials: 7 Things You Don’t Need in Your Studio

It’s easy to get hyper focused on the pieces of gear you need to add to your setup.

Equipment like audio interfaces, headphones and VST plugins are all essentials that come to mind.

But we don’t spend nearly as much time thinking about the things that aren’t necessary.

Here’s 7 things you might be lusting after (or have already!) that you don’t need in your studio inventory.

1. Consumer tape machines

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Low quality tape machines almost never produce the kind of desirable lo-fi texture you’re hoping they will.

Some classic models can impart a great sonic signature, but these sought after units are expensive—and only getting pricier!

A basic home audio reel-to-reel designed for playing back commercial tapes was never meant to be a real recording tool.

A basic home audio reel-to-reel designed for playing back commercial tapes was never meant to be a real recording tool.

You might find you can actually get a more convincing lo-fi sound using plugins!

2. More than 16 channels of AD/DA

Do you own a large format console? Do you have multiple refrigerator sized racks of outboard gear? Do you mainly record large ensembles like orchestras?

If you answered “no” to these questions, you can tackle the majority of recording situations perfectly well using no more than 16 tracks.

Modern audio interfaces are more sophisticated than ever before. Channel counts on intermediate budget interfaces get higher each year.

But that doesn’t mean you should max out your budget getting the most channels you possibly can.

In fact, the majority of your recordings will probably only call for a handful of channels at a time.

And if you’re mixing in the box, you’ll probably only need enough outputs for proper monitoring and headphone mixes.

16×16 is a great place to draw the line. It’s even a good limitation to consider. Do you really need that third room mic? Put a hard limit on your I/O and get creative!

3. Branded acoustic foam

In most cases fancy branded acoustic foam products don’t offer enough of an advantage to justify their price.

In most cases fancy branded acoustic foam products don’t offer enough of an advantage to justify their price.

In fact if you look at photos of top end pro studios, you won’t see any of that type of acoustic product.

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The best kind of acoustic treatment for absorbing problematic reflections is specially designed acoustic panels.

Luckily, it’s possible to make your own DIY acoustic panels pretty easily. There’s lots of resources online to get you started creating DIY acoustic treatment.

4. Expensive studio furniture

High end studio furniture for housing your rack gear and computer hardware can look nice.

But it’s almost certainly not worth the price unless you’ve already put together your dream gear setup.

Even if you’re recording other people professionally, the “wow factor” of fancy studio desks and racks barely makes a difference to your bottom line. Spend that money somewhere that better contributes to the sound of your tracks.

Besides, studio furniture doesn’t have to be purpose built to be effective. You can get great results by “hacking” some inexpensive kit furniture models from a well-known brand

5. High end cables

There’s almost no more obvious example of audio snake oil than premium cables.

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There’s almost no more obvious example of audio snake oil than premium cables.

Of course, there’s still a lively debate online with some audiophiles ready to go to bat for high-end cabling.

But the fact is that even if there was any noticeable improvement it would be the absolute final element in your chain to optimize.

It’s important to buy cables that won’t easily break, but anything beyond basic standards of durability and build quality is completely unnecessary.

There are so many more meaningful ways to increase sound quality than shelling out for top of the line cables.

Try to improve on everything upstream in your chain before you even entertain the idea of investing in premium cables.

6. External mixers

Many well curated marketing mockups of “inspiring” studio setups seem to feature an entry level FOH mixer somewhere in the shot.

But do these kinds of budget mixers have any real utility in a studio? Not particularly.

Even if you desperately need more preamp channels, the pres in consumer live sound gear should be an absolute last resort.

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You shouldn’t need to do any “mixing down” of multiple sources before they hit your DAW either. You’ll only be limiting your choices and potentially ruining perfectly good tracks.

And monitor mixes? Much easier to do in software.

The cabling that would be required them to pull them up on an analog mixer is almost worth the price of a whole new audio interface with enough outputs!

Of course, high end analog summing mixers are another argument entirely.

Some engineers swear by them and others insist it’s all hype. Your mileage may vary!

7. TV sized displays

Do you ever think about how awesome it would be if you could see all 400 tracks in your epic session on one single display?

It might make you feel tempted to get a massive TV screen to use as a display for your DAW rig.

But do you really need that much screen real estate?  If your work is mainly music and doesn’t include lots of post-production audio for video—you probably don’t!

It might even cause your mixes to suffer.

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A giant TV screen is another hard surface that can add problematic reflections to your mix room.

A giant TV screen is another hard surface that can add problematic reflections to your mix room.

That’s why many pro studios don’t have the DAW display as the focal point of the mix environment.

There’s no point in acoustically treating your walls if you’re just going to hang a wall sized screen on them!

Besides, you may be better served by simplifying your session and focusing on the key sounds. More tracks isn’t always better!

The bare non-essentials

Sometimes it seems like all you need to complete your studio is one more piece.

It’s much rarer that we talk about what we absolutely don’t need!

Have you caught yourself GAS-ing to add these items to your setup? If so think twice about what you actually need—and what you don’t.

Michael Hahn

Michael Hahn is an engineer and producer at Autoland and member of the swirling indie rock trio Slight.

@Michael Hahn

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