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Beginner Gear Recommendations

Discussion in 'Newbie Questions' started by synthpunk, Jan 11, 2018.

  1. synthpunk

    synthpunk Senior Member

    Mar 3, 2015
    Please feel free to add and keep the list active...

    This is my personal recommendation list based on my experiences and tastes if I was starting over again. I benefit in no way financially from the gear I recommend. YMMV


    -Audient ID14
    Great mic pre's, converters, headphone amp, perfect user reviews. Average latency and drivers perhaps. $299usd street

    Beyond the Audient I recommend saving up for a UAD or RME.


    -JBL LSR 305/308's
    Tremendous value for the money. Not perfect but great user reviws. (*NOTE: 01/18 the Mk2 series was just announced, stay tuned for member feedback). Mk1 305's can be found for $99usd ea and $149usd ea for mk1 308's

    -Some like the Focal Alpha range as well albeit a bit more expensive.

    Monitors can be a a very personal choice. Try and hear and demo as many as possible and choose the ones that appeal to your needs, tastes, and budget that you like the best.

    Used, B-Stock, Returned, monitors are generally not a good idea as you have no idea what could be wrong with them or what a warranty covers if still applicable.


    AKG K240
    Very good value, industry standard, and fairly comfortable. $50-70usd street

    -Audio Technica ATH-M50/X
    Very good value and reviews, fairly comfortable. X- $149usd street

    (*Always use headphones responsibly at moderate to low listening levels to protect your hearing)

    DAW: (*A very personal choice, read up on as many as possible, try the free demos if available).

    -Logic X $199usd Mac Only
    Huge bang for the buck and many content extras (ie Alchemy, EXS-24, Drummer, etc.), Updated every 6-12 months, user communities/support.

    Great user community. Unlimited/Unrestricted Demo. User License $60usd. https://www.reaper.fm/purchase.php

    -SSD (Solid State Hard Drive's)
    Most v.i. control users have had good luck with Crucial and Samsung SSD drives.

    *Replace any internal slow 5200rpm or fusion drives with a SSD drive for booting your system. Extra drives for sample and project storage can be added later.


    -Keyboard (weighted & semi weighted keys)

    Nektar LX88+
    88 note semi weighted keys, good reviews, some do not like the way the black keys feel compared to the white keys. $319usd street

    Yamaha P-45/P-71 Digital Piano
    88 note weighted Keys, very good reviews, $449/$399usd Street (These are the same exact model, the P-71 is sold exclusively by Amazon and $50 less)

    -Keyboard (non weighted keys)

    Member input please ?

    61 notes should be minimum, 49 keys in a pinch


    Native Instrument Maschine
    Mikro $349usd Street, Mk3 Full model $599usd street

    -Knobs & Faders

    Korg NanoKontrol 2 (plastic and short throw faders, but gets the job done)
    $50 usd street


    A good microphone (s) is essential for voiceover, podcast, instrument recording & overdubbing, and sampling custom work. There are many quality choices and I am hoping members will chime in here with some of there suggestions...

    My advice would be or try to borrow as many microphone choices as possible from friends and or a dealer (or one with a good return policy) so you can choose what works best for your needs, tastes, and budget.


    -Native Instruments Komplete.
    So much bang for the buck and includes Kontakt and Reaktor, two of my most used tools. $500usd street (Best to wait for a N.I bi-yearly sale if possible). Comes with some very goes synth vst's: Massive, Absynth, FM8. You can update to Ultimate when possible(again, watch for sales) or cherry pick other libraries as you wish.

    -East West Composer Cloud
    Can be purchased for as little as $19.99usd a month when on sale, but even when not is a great deal. A fantastic selection of quality instruments.

    -Spitfire Audio Labs Sample Range for Kontakt (Donationware $3usd ea)

    -Vahalla Effects Plugins. Fantastic value. Start with one that fits your needs best. Both Room & Vintageverb are excellent. $50usd ea

    -U-he Synth Freebies: Podolski, Tyrell N6, Zebralette, Beatzille. U-he makes great plugins, There free ones make a good starting point for your synthesis and learning needs.

    -FREE: Check out the great free sample, VST, plugin threads and sites.

    Free Samples

    Free Synth VST's & Patches

    Free Audio Plugins

    DIY Room Treatment...

    -DIY Superchunk Bass Traps

    -DIY Acoustic Wall Panels

    -Bookshelves, rugs, etc.


    -Composing Desk
    Ikea and DIY yourself (old doors, reclaimed lumber, etc.) are your friends.

    -A comfortable chair. You spend allot of time sitting in your chair working. User input wanted.

    -Himalayan Salt Lamps:

    -Posters & Wall Art


    -Toys & Candles:
    Dollar Store Toy Walls/candle isle


    -If you are a Student or Educator use/ask about Education discounts ie Apple, Amazon Prime, Spitfire Audio, many sample and vst developers, etc. (In most cases you will need to provide a current student i.d.)

    -Make/Repair Your Own Cables: Store bought cables have the highest markup of any item in a a music store. Make your own. Invest a mid priced soldering iron, a few hours in youtube soldering class & practice, some bulk Mogami cable and Switchcraft or Neutrik jacks and save some money for other things. When cables fail you can repair them and not have to buy new ones.

    -Get up out of your chair every hour or so, sitting for long lengths in your chair is very bad for your body and health. Exercise !

    more to come...

    (List Inspired by Christian Henson's recent Blog)
    Last edited: Jan 23, 2018
    ZOZZ and Pier Bover like this.
  2. chillbot

    chillbot Forum Bot

    Feb 6, 2014
    La Canada Flintridge, CA
  3. Ashermusic

    Ashermusic Senior Member

    Mar 27, 2006
    Los Angeles
    Personally Synthpunk, I worry about the choice of the Audient. A whole lot of people on Gearslutz loved it but had problems with it.

    Also, I think a monthly Composer Cloud subscription is probably a better use of $500 than N.I. Komplete, but I can argue it both ways.
  4. OP

    synthpunk Senior Member

    Mar 3, 2015
    chillbot likes this.
  5. OP

    synthpunk Senior Member

    Mar 3, 2015
    Jay, I think you should also mention you have received other manufacturer products for review (Apogee).

    I believe I read those Audient driver issues were fixed quite a while back but I also trust Gearslutz about as much as a used car salesman. Not one issue has been brought up on the sweetwater review site (sweetwater does not edit user reviews) for ie. and no issues from the many users I have recommended the unit to here and elsewhere.

    I agree with Composer Cloud. If you wait for a sale you can get it for as little as $19.99usd a month for a full year.

    Last edited: Jan 11, 2018
  6. chillbot

    chillbot Forum Bot

    Feb 6, 2014
    La Canada Flintridge, CA
    No doubt Composer Cloud is a phenomenal deal... but Kontakt is THE standard.

    If you were very strictly an orchestral composer, I could see going for composer cloud... obviously nothing in Komplete is going to compete with that. But for anyone else, Komplete is just such an amazing value and well-rounded package of samples, synths, effects, not to mention.... KONTAKT. It's a perfect starting kit for anyone. I mean hey, if you can get it for $20/month then get both....

    Not to whine about being old again... but it's just mind-blowing what you can get for the price starting out these days vs 20+ years ago, wow.
  7. Farkle

    Farkle Senior Member

    Dec 20, 2008
    Philadelphia, PA
    Yeah, chillbot, I'm in the same boat as you. What you can get for about 1500$. My students always ask me what to start with. I tell them, if they learn how to program in Kontakt, they could do the following and be set for a LONG time:

    DAW of choice (150$ for Logic with Edu Discount)

    NI Komplete Ultimate (Orchestral, synths, drum machines, SFX/hits, ethnic) - 1200$
    Omnisphere 2 - 500$

    Boom, for 1700$ worth of sounds/synths, you could be writing dozens of library friendly tracks, making money, etc. Obviously, you also need to buy an A/D converter, computer, etc. But in terms of starting sounds? Man... Komplete + Omni is pretty beastly... Maybe augment with Symphobia 1,m Orchestral Essentials, or Albion One for some orchestral specificity, but that should keep you going for a *while*...

  8. chillbot

    chillbot Forum Bot

    Feb 6, 2014
    La Canada Flintridge, CA
    I wonder how many individual patches/sounds that is. And what does that break down to in a cost-per-patch basis.

    I remember spending about a grand on a *used* Roland U220 sound module... with 128 sounds. Or roughly $7 per patch. And 90% of them unusable today. Can you imagine? Omnisphere would cost $84,000 by that standard.
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  9. chillbot

    chillbot Forum Bot

    Feb 6, 2014
    La Canada Flintridge, CA
    To answer my own question: Komplete Ultimate claims 18,000 sounds and Omni claims 12,000. So for $1,700 you're paying about a nickel per patch. And we sit around the forum bitching about the devs...
    synthpunk, mc_deli and Farkle like this.
  10. OP

    synthpunk Senior Member

    Mar 3, 2015
    I probably had 18,000 baseball cards when I was young, then I switched to model trains, and finally synths :grin:

  11. The Nektar Impact LX88+ is a semi-weighted controller (I have one), and would actually place it into the unweighted category. Definitely a good bang for the buck.
    synthpunk likes this.
  12. StillLife

    StillLife Senior Member

    Mar 18, 2017
    About Komplete... when you buy Maschine for drums you get a really nice selection of Komplete with it: Massive, Prism, The Gentleman, some effects. Really nice package for a beginner, I think. But all will depend on the kind of music one wants to make.
    synthpunk likes this.
  13. Geoff Grace

    Geoff Grace Senior Member

    Apr 15, 2009
    This is crucial to advising a beginner. For example, while I realize this is first and foremost a composer site, I believe Pro Tools is still essential for anyone who wants to work in the record industry (although Live is gaining ground), and Pro Tools is still commonly used by mix engineers and postproduction houses in film.

    In other words, what exactly is the beginner wanting to accomplish? There's a wealth of excellent software, but each subset of the music industry embraces its own programs. I believe the path of least resistance is to go with the gear used by people you work with—or hope to work with.


    d.healey likes this.
  14. Pier Bover

    Pier Bover Senior Member

    Dec 27, 2017
    - Beyerdynamic DT 770 about $180 (V shaped sound similar to AT M50s)
    - KRK NSR 8400 about $150 (neutral sound, good imaging)

    Midi controllers
    - Nektar GX49 $99 or GX61 $119 (cheap, simple, and compact)

    - Tracktion Waveform
    - Renoise
  15. R. Soul

    R. Soul Senior Member

    Jan 7, 2006
    London, UK
    For anyone starting out, I actually thinks Synth punk's choices are excellent. Sure one can pick another Midi controller, synths etc. but that's all a matter of taste.

    Although, I would say I don't consider Machine essential. That money is better spent on something like Omnisphere 2 IMO.
    synthpunk likes this.
  16. conan

    conan Senior Member

    Nov 22, 2017
    I would personally remove the Valhalla reverbs. At $50 each, they add up quickly. Someone starting off on a very limited budget would be better served using free/DAW effects and putting the extra money towards libraries, monitors, or room treatment IMHO.
  17. wst3

    wst3 my office these days

    Apr 2, 2010
    Pottstown, PA
    I have a couple nits to pick here...

    First, I think money spent on DIY acoustical treatment is a big risk, if the beginner does not understand how to use the treatments they can do more damage than good, and even if they do the benefit is likely to be pretty limited. Which is unfortunate, since the monitoring environment is so important. It's a catch 22 to be certain. If they can stretch the budget, even a little, I think the money would be better spent on a competent consultant. Now if they really do understand acoustics then go for it, but it seems somewhat unlikely.

    Second, you guessed it, the monitors. I have the JBL 305s as my second monitors, and I really like them. But monitors are such an important part of the system that I think one is almost obligated to listen to several before choosing, and I'd be hard pressed to suggest a specific model.

    Third, the audio interface is nearly as important as the monitors and the room, especially since most of us use it for the final D/A stage. I have an Audient ASP-880, which I really like. I can't address the D/A side, since mine is only A/D, but I'd guess it should be pretty good.

    Beyond that I think the choices are pretty good.

    The one thing that was missing, I think, is a good microphone, but that might be a separate topic?
    Mr Mindcrime likes this.
  18. OP

    synthpunk Senior Member

    Mar 3, 2015
    Hi Bill, @wst3

    As far as your note about monitors, I agree and was pretty sure I mentioned that in my additional notes in the Powered Monitor section, no ?

    The reason I went with DIY room treatment is because I see allot of people waste tons of money on crap on hugely marked up store bought product that hardly has any impact on there room.

    Good catch on microphone....


    A good microphone is essential for voiceover, podcast, instrument overdubbing and sampling work. There are many quality choices and I am hoping members will chime in here with some of there suggestions...

    My advice would be or try to borrow as many microphone choices as possible from friends and or a dealer (or one with a good return policy) so you can choose what works best for your needs, tastes, and budget.
  19. Dominic Stein

    Dominic Stein Member

    Apr 18, 2018
    I would use the Audio Technica ATH-M70x. The ATH-M50x is boosted in the low end, which will mess up your track.

    The Audio Technica ATH-M70x has a flat frequency response. No cut & not boost.

    I see the ATH-M50x everywhere but i dot'n understand why.
    Maybe someone can explain it to me. :)


    Last edited: Jun 6, 2018
  20. d.healey

    d.healey Music Monkey

    Nov 2, 2011
    For a beginner beginner I recommend paper, pencil, piano. Don't run before you can walk.

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