We know what it's like. When you've saved your hard earned cash and it's burning a hole in your pocket for new music making kit, it's easy to be tempted by the latest "cutting edge" gear and end up riding the hype train all the way to disappointment land. Lured into a new plugin, innovative digital hardware box or MIDI controller is easy to do, but if you're on a budget it's worth getting your priorities set. So, with that in mind, we looked at the gear worth spending money on for the long game! Take our advice, save a bit more and buy the gear that will last your entire career in music...Studio Monitors
Although monitoring technology has changed over the last 50-years, there hasn't been too many drastic changes in the last 20 years. Since active monitoring became the norm with the amps matched into the speakers and driver technology became so good, a decent set of monitors bought 20 years ago will probably still deliver the rock solid sound they were sold on. The only modern innovations you might spot are built in DSP and room correction, so look out for these, but essentially a great branded, high end set of monitors will hold their value well and last for a very long time. Plus, it's all about how well you know the sound of your monitors so sticking with one great set from the start can be a real help to developing your skills.
What we love
At dBs Music we have monitors by Adam, ATC, Genelec, PMC, KRK, Neumann and more. But we've been really impressed by the new HEDD range and Focal range of monitors too. It's worth listening before you buy and thinking about the size you really need for the room. Go for quality over size if you're on a budget, you can often add a subwoofer down the road, or if you upgrade rooms and need a larger monitor, the small high quality set you invested in will make a great second set of reference monitors!
Similar to the speaker technology above, microphones haven't changed all that much and investing in a few classic and reliable models will last you a lifetime. In fact, there are many producers and sound engineers who swear by their classic mics and have made certain models highly sought after, so the right investment now could even increase in value and worth. You'll probably want at least one dynamic mic and one condenser and these two together
What we love
Aside from the obvious Shure SM58 and Shure SM57 dynamic mics which seem to be a no-brainer in everyone's recording arsenal, our Electro-Voice RE20 and Shure SM7B are both great allrounder mics that we use for a huge variety of tasks. You generally can't go wrong with a Neumann for long-term reliability and performance. Other models worth looking at are the AKG C414 which has excellent modern variants, but it is a nice mic for a multitude of tasks and the vintage AKG C414EB's of which some have a brass, rather than plastic, capsule are highly sought after. Also, there are loads of great mics from more modern brands like Sontronics, sE Electronics among many others!Musical instruments, amplifiers and pedals
Aside from some synths and other electronic instruments, most musical items haven't changed in many, many years. If you can play an instrument and invest in a good quality one, chances are if you look after it, it will still sound fantastic, hold its value and last a lifetime. A great guitar or piano will practically last forever, and even classic synths and keyboards will do the same if you make the right choices. It's easy to grab a new plugin or modern cheap bit of hardware, but often the sound and build quality will make them unfashionable or unreliable faster than you like.
What we love
Guitar pedals are generally built to last and can be used beyond the guitar too, we are a fan of the Strymon el capistan dTape echo and Boss RE-20 Roland Space Echo and love everything by Moog, DSI [Now Sequential] and Vermona. Basically look for products that stand alone and don't require computers, firmware or software updates to work if you're looking for a lasting investment.
Things to watch out for...
Computer technology still moves fast, but the power of modern machines means you don't really have to upgrade as often as you used to. This means things like audio interfaces and other computer audio peripherals are supported much longer than before, but you still have to be careful. Relatively recent examples of devices that caught people out things like TC Electronic's Powercore external DSP effects and Focusrite's LiquidMix which didn't survive that long and were quite expensive. Generally, as mentioned above, if any hardware is tied to software to work or needs firmware updates, they should be purchased with long-term-investment caution. FireWire and other connections also disappearing from machines, so it's worth investigating just what are the best long term investments and what companies are good at long-term driver and customer support, as some OS or technology updates can occur frequently.
We'd recommend brands like RME and MOTU for excellent driver support and Universal Audio has proven to keep their UAD plugins running for two generations now, but with USB3, Thunderbolt and USB C all appearing and disappearing on devices across Mac and PC, we're not sure what to place all your bets on!
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