Music Production Equipment: What Gear Will You Need to Buy?

Music production equipment is the hardware, software, and instruments you need to create high-quality songs. But what equipment do you actually need? And what equipment is an absolute waste of money? In this article, I cover the equipment you’ll need to have… and the equipment you should avoid. I’ll also give you a rundown in terms of how much everything will cost (which shouldn’t be much if you’re just starting out in music production).

What equipment does a producer need?

If you are a beginner music producer, you should only worry about getting a computer, headphones, and a Digital Audio Workstation. I explain more in my guide about music production for beginners but the main point is that in the beginning, you want to test out and see if music production is right for you before investing tons of money.

If you spend some time making music and want to take it more seriously, THEN you can consider getting things like an audio interface, microphone, studio monitors, MIDI controller, plugins/VSTs, and acoustic treatment.

Here’s a breakdown of each piece of music production equipment:

  • Computer: A powerful computer or laptop is crucial to any music production setup. Laptops are the preferred choice because they are portable. Computers must have sufficient processing power, at least 16 GB memory (RAM), and at least 500 GB storage capacity to record, edit, and produce music. Make sure the operating system is compatible with your digital audio workstation. Having multiple USB ports helps when connecting to external hard drives that contain all your music samples.
  • Audio interface: An audio interface is a device that connects your computer to audio equipment, such as microphones, instruments, and studio monitors. It converts analog audio signals into digital format and vice versa. Look for an interface with high-quality preamps and at least 2X2 inputs/outputs.
  • Microphones: Microphones are necessary for recording vocals and acoustic instruments. Popular transducer types include condenser microphones for studio vocals and instrument recording, dynamic microphones for live sound and vocals, and ribbon microphones for specific tonal qualities.
  • Studio monitors: Also known as speakers or reference monitors, studio monitors are designed to provide accurate and flat frequency response. They help producers hear the music as accurately as possible, revealing any imperfections or mixing issues. Invest in a pair of quality studio monitors for precise audio monitoring.
  • Headphones: Headphones are a good alternative to studio monitors for listening to audio. Closed-back studio headphones are essential for monitoring and mixing in environments where external noise may be an issue. Look for headphones with a wide frequency response and good sound isolation.
  • MIDI controller: A MIDI controller allows you to input musical notes and control virtual instruments within your DAW. Keyboards, pad controllers, and other MIDI-enabled devices are all types of MIDI controllers that enable you to input notes into your DAW.
  • Digital Audio Workstation (DAW): A DAW is a software for recording, editing, and arranging music. Popular DAWs include Ableton Live, Logic Pro, FL Studio, Pro Tools, and Cubase. Choose a DAW based on your preferences and compatibility with your computer. Your DAW must have multitrack recording, MIDI sequencing, and audio editing.
  • Cables and accessories: Be sure to obtain various cables such as XLR, TRS, and MIDI cables to connect your equipment. Additionally, invest in a microphone stand, pop filter, shock mount, and a good-quality microphone cable.
  • Plugins and virtual instruments (VSTs): Enhance your production capabilities with virtual instruments and audio plugins. These software tools provide access to a wide range of sounds, effects, and processing options. Some popular plugins include synthesizers, EQs, compressors, reverbs, and virtual instrument libraries.
  • Acoustic treatment: To achieve accurate monitoring, add acoustic treatment to your studio space. This includes bass traps, acoustic panels, and diffusers, which help reduce room reflections and improve sound quality.

Which piece of equipment is most important for audio production?

The digital audio workstation is the most important piece of equipment for audio production, as it serves as the central hub for recording, editing, arranging, and mixing audio tracks, offering a wide range of tools and functionalities essential for the entire production process. A computer is the second most important piece of equipment for audio production, as it provides the processing power and storage needed to run the DAW and handle the complex tasks involved in music production. The combination of a powerful DAW and a capable computer forms the foundation for modern audio production workflows.

How do you choose quality music production equipment?

To choose quality music production equipment, focus on these 8 factors: audio quality, durability, connectivity, compatibility, brand reputation, user-friendly design, functionality, and versatility.

  1. Audio quality: Look for equipment that provides high-fidelity audio output, with minimal distortion or interference. High-quality audio is essential for producing professional-grade music.
  2. Durability: Invest in equipment built with robust materials and construction. Durability ensures longevity and reliability, allowing you to focus on creating music without worrying about frequent replacements.
  3. Connectivity: Check for the availability of multiple connectivity options, such as USB, XLR, MIDI, or wireless connections, to ensure seamless integration with other devices in your setup.
  4. Compatibility: Ensure that the equipment you choose is compatible with your existing devices or software, as well as with the digital audio workstations (DAWs) you plan to use.
  5. Brand reputation: Research and choose reputable brands with a proven track record in the music production industry. Established brands often offer better reliability and customer support.
  6. User-friendly design: Look for equipment with an intuitive interface and controls, making it easier to operate and navigate through various settings during your creative process.
  7. Functionality: Assess the features and capabilities of the equipment to ensure it aligns with your production needs. For example, if you need a MIDI controller, consider the number of pads, faders, and knobs available.
  8. Versatility: Find equipment that serves multiple purposes or can adapt to different scenarios. Versatile gear allows you to experiment and expand your musical horizons.

Where to buy music production equipment?

You can buy a wide selection of music production equipment from online retailers like Amazon, Sweetwater, and Guitar Center.

How much does music studio equipment cost?

Music studio equipment will cost anywhere from $500 to $2,000, while professional-grade studios with high-end equipment can cost tens of thousands of dollars or more.

  • A computer or laptop suitable for music production will range from $800 to $2000 or more, depending on specifications.
  • DAWs have a wide price range, starting from free options and going up to $900 and higher for professional-grade DAWs.
  • Audio interfaces, which facilitate audio input and output, typically cost between $50 and $500 or more, depending on features and quality. Studio monitors, crucial for accurate sound reproduction, range from $200 to $1000 or more for a pair.
  • MIDI controllers, used for playing and controlling virtual instruments, can be priced anywhere from $100 to $1000 or higher. Microphones vary greatly in cost based on type and quality, with dynamic microphones starting at around $50 and condenser microphones ranging from $200 to $1000 or more.
  • Additional equipment for music production like cables, microphone stands, pop filters, and accessories must be considered, with prices varying from a few dollars to a few hundred dollars depending on the quantity and quality required.

Why is studio gear so expensive?

Studio gear is expensive due to the high-quality components and materials used in manufacturing, extensive research and development costs, and limited production quantities. In addition, branding plays a role in the pricing of studio gear, as reputable brands often command higher prices based on their reputation and perceived value in the industry.

How does music production equipment connect to form a functional studio setup?

In a functional studio setup, the equipment connects through a computer or laptop, acting as the central hub. The audio interface connects to the computer via USB or Thunderbolt, allowing for audio input and output. Studio monitors and headphones connect to the audio interface’s outputs, enabling accurate audio monitoring. MIDI controllers connect to the computer or audio interface through USB, enabling control of virtual instruments and DAW functions. Microphones connect directly to the audio interface’s microphone inputs for recording vocals and instruments. The DAW software on the computer manages and processes audio from all connected devices, facilitating recording, editing, and mixing tasks in a unified music production workflow.

music production equipment setup

What equipment is unnecessary for a music producer?

While many music producers have transitioned to using modern digital tools, certain traditional equipment, like vinyl turntables, tape machines, standalone MIDI sequencers, rack-mounted effects processors, and dedicated mixing consoles, still hold value for specific uses. However, they are not considered essential in a standard modern setup.

  1. Vinyl turntables: Although vinyl turntables have a unique appeal and are still used by DJs and vinyl enthusiasts, they are not essential for modern music production. Digital audio workstations (DAWs) and software can replicate the vinyl sound if desired.
  2. Tape machines: Similarly, tape machines, once widely used in recording studios, have been largely replaced by digital recording technologies. While they can offer a specific analog warmth, their cost, maintenance, and workflow complexities make them nonessential for most modern music producers.
  3. Standalone MIDI sequencers: In the past, hardware MIDI sequencers were commonly used to control synthesizers and drum machines. Nowadays, DAWs integrate powerful MIDI sequencing capabilities, rendering standalone MIDI sequencers redundant for many producers.
  4. Rack-mounted effects processors: Dedicated hardware effects units that are rack-mounted, such as reverbs, compressors, and equalizers, were once a staple in professional studios. However, with the advancement of plugin technology, high-quality software emulations of these effects are widely available, making the physical counterparts less necessary.
  5. Dedicated mixing consoles: Traditional mixing consoles, often large and expensive, have become less essential due to the rise of computer-based mixing. Digital mixers and control surfaces that integrate with DAWs offer comparable functionality in a more compact and cost-effective package.