Whether you’re a budding musician looking to set up your first home studio, have your own band or are a professional sound engineer you’ll need the right equipment. Pro audio encompasses a range of professions, each working in different environments. This includes music production, with recording, mixing, editing and mastering audio for music videos, commercials, film or promotional ads on a professional level, or churning out your first song at home. It also covers equipment used in live performances, be it the band playing at your local pub or a packed-out stadium, and everything needed for public conferences, functions, private and business gatherings and the like.
Home Studio Equipment
Let’s start with the basic gear you need if you’re just starting out to record the tunes that have been humming in your head. A home studio can consist of your computer, regardless it’s a PC or Mac, music software packages, also called Digital Audio Workstations or simply DAW, packed with everything you need in producing and processing audio, and a pair of decent monitoring headphones. DAWs can come as free apps, like Audacity, or professional software, like Ableton and Avid, in various configurations and subscription packs. Dozens of plug-ins offer expanded features. This setup is enough for a little experimentation to get your creative juices flowing.
Going one step further, you can add software to replicate various instruments like synthesizers, percussion, brass, woodwinds, strings and piano in single or bundled packages. Or if you’re serious about music production, look to hardware instruments, like keyboards, analogue and digital synths, drums and percussion kits and vocal samplers all connected to your computer by way of an audio interface. An interface translates the signals from software and hardware into recognizable formats. The interface also connects headphones, and live music recordings, microphones and studio monitors. Interfaces have built-in DACs or Digital-to-Analogue Converters, which are also sold as separate units.
Mics and monitors are some of the most abundant pieces of pro audio equipment for sale. There’s so much variety, catering to different music genres and budgets. There’s wireless mics, handheld wired mics, lapel mics and headsets, dynamic, condenser and ribbon microphones, mics for vocals and mics for instruments. Back to headphones, there’s also heaps to choose from, depending on what you’re doing. Monitoring headphones, like the closed back Audio-Technica ATH MX-50 are a good starting point, or for more definition look to the Beyerdynamic DT 1990. In live sets, you’ll also need a good pair of monitoring studio speakers to hear every note in the recording. Monitors should provide for a neutral, transparent sound, reproducing the music just as it is. Look for small but powerful near-field monitors. Respected brands include Genelec, Adam Audio, Dynaudio, PMC, KRK and others.
For mixing and editing, you’ll need a dedicated mixing board. These override the cheap sound card in your computer to sample and route each audio signal into a combined output signal. Digital mixers are what most musicians use nowadays, though analogue mixing boards are still sold. To limit vibrations and resonance, equipment is placed on studio-specific furniture, and monitors on monitor stands.
Prices vary considerably depending on brand, adjustability, refinement and neutrality. You can also spend on acoustic treatment, to provide for the best possible acoustics in the room planned for the studio. Differently shaped rooms can benefit from acoustic panels, ceiling panels, bass traps, or a professional acoustic treatment running in the thousands.
For the best gigs, pro DJ essentials include a pair of turntables and cartridges, a DJ mixing board, and decent DJ headphones like the Sennheiser HD 25s. You can also throw in a laptop, audio interface, and of course, vinyl. For turntables look to Technics, or staple audio brands like Audio-Technica, Denon and Pioneer.
PA and Stage Equipment
Pro audio equipment for sale also caters to PA or Public Address systems, in delivering announcements, music or speeches in a variety of public venues, like schools, airports, hospitals, in private functions, and live music performances in bars or stadiums. The central part of any PA system is the microphone, which converts sound pressure into voltage. This is amplified by a power amplifier to produce sound in higher volumes. To balance sound from multiple instruments and the microphone, a mixer is used.
The setup for a small venue, with standup comedy or karaoke for instance, usually consists of a pair of active speakers with built-in mixers and equalisers, and one or two microphones, which can be connected wirelessly. Stage setups for bands will include more mics, for each separate instrument and the vocals, and a multi-channel mixer able to handle all the incoming signals. Speakers are usually set on stands above the audience, and monitors face band members. For the largest concerts, audio technicians use larger speakers powered by larger amplifiers. There are also several subwoofers to handle the bass notes. Mixing boards are high-end and often digital and microphones are usually wireless. Individual instruments hook up to microphones with DI boxes. There might also be a monitoring engineer operating a separate monitoring board.
Buying Professional Audio
You’ll find professional audio equipment for sale in specialised audio retailers. These products are produced in small quantities, so have the prices to match. Buying used equipment in good shape also makes sense if you’re setting up your first pro audio kit.