Essentially anything that uses audio—TV, movies, theater, concerts, and other live events—has an audio producer, an audio production team, or sound engineers. And they use many pieces of equipment to make all that glorious sound. Here, we break down the sound production equipment—gadgets, gizmos, software, and everything else—you need to work in various audio spaces, as well as how much each piece costs.
A microphone is the one piece of sound equipment that anyone in the actual producing realm of audio needs. There are many kinds of stationary microphones that perform different functions and specialties. You will need to do some research to figure out which is best for your needs. The most common are condenser, dynamic, USB, and ribbon mics.
Cost of a stationary microphone
There is a huge discrepancy in price depending on quality and whether you buy new or used. You can get a budget microphone for as little as $30, going all the way up to the thousands. Do your research to figure out which mic is best for you.
Digital Audio Workstation
A digital audio workstation (DAW) is the software you use to record, edit, and create audio files. It’s basically the bedrock of audio production. If you’re just starting out, you’ll want to employ a basic DAW such as Logic Pro, Ableton, or FL Studio. The latter is the simplest to use.
Cost of a DAW
DAWs start at $99, but all-inclusive options average around $199.
Musical Instrument Digital Interface
The Musical Instrument Digital Interface (MIDI) goes hand-in-hand with your DAW, as it is the digital interface you use to control it; this is the tool that lets your physical hardware communicate with your digital tools. You can either get a keyboard controller, which looks and functions like a keyboard, or a grid controller, which uses intuitive controls.
Cost of a MIDI
A great option for beginners is the Novation Launchpad, which starts around $109.
If you work in sound, you will want to invest in some great headphones so you can hear every detail of the audio you’re producing. Fortunately for buyers, the market is saturated with great options, many of which won’t break the bank.
Cost of headphones
You can get headphones for as little as $10, but this is an area where you may want to splurge, as it is integral to your job. Durable, high-quality options start around $100.
A mixing console is a piece of audio production equipment that combines, or mixes, your audio. It electronically routes audio signals and can change their levels and dynamics. Once they have been altered (either digitally or via analogue), the signals are then combined to create the overall sound. For example, when sound is input into two separate microphones but can be heard through a single speaker set, it’s thanks to the mixing console.
Cost of a mixing console
The most inexpensive options start around $1,600, but they can cost much more. And the most sophisticated models—those used in professional concert settings, for example—can run well over $100,000.
Your PA (public address) system is the whole enchilada, really. This is the electronic system that includes microphones, amplifiers, loudspeakers, and all of the related tools. There’s a constant need for a simple PA system, like those you see at smaller events, schools, bars, and so forth; having one can make you highly sought after in the audio world.
Cost of a PA system
Low-quality options start around $400, but if you can work it into your budget to spend a bit more, much better systems start at $1,000.
Shotgun microphones are the best type to use for recording on location. They are long, narrow, and tubelike, with slits along the sides. They are designed to take in sound from the front of the microphone, while at the same time allowing audio in on the side through the slits, creating a seamless 360-degree sound.
Cost of a shotgun microphone
You can get a shotgun microphone for as little as $30, but quality options start closer to $100.
Multitrack Field Recorder
A multitrack field recorder mixes sound on location. It can record multiple pieces of audio on separate tracks that are then layered on top of one another to create more intricate audio. It’s portable, and you can both record and mix on it. Two great, user-friendly models for beginners are the Zoom F8n and the Sound Devices 833.
Cost of a multitrack field recorder
This is going to be among the pricier items on this list, but it’s crucial for capturing sound. The cheapest options start at about $500, but you should be prepared to spend at least $1,000.
You’ll need a windshield if you’re recording audio outdoors. The purpose of this tool is all in the name: Heavy wind can completely ruin the audio of a take, and this foamy, furry cover (also called a blimp) will mitigate interference.
Cost of a windshield
These guys are very inexpensive, starting at about $12.
The boom pole is what you attach your microphone to in order to get the mic close to the subject you’re recording without interfering with the shot. Boom operators need to be conscious at all times of not dipping the microphone into the frame and avoiding casting a shadow anywhere in the shot.
Cost of a boom pole
Decent boom poles start at about $50 but can get significantly more expensive depending on what kind of additional features you’re looking for.
Wireless Lavalier Microphone System
A wireless lavalier microphone system should be used in addition to shotgun and boom mics to capture audio on a project. These are wireless mics that go right on your subject (usually hidden and clipped to their clothes). Unless you’re shooting a one-person project, you will want to have more than one.
Cost of a wireless lavalier microphone system
While you can get microphone sets for under $100, you should invest a little more to get a higher-quality system, if you are able. Great sets start around $500.
Battery Distribution System
A battery distribution system could save the day. If you are in charge of the audio on a project, you also will be overseeing a lot of equipment. That means it can be very hard to keep track of the charge levels on everything. A battery distribution system is the answer to this quandary. This is a unified power source that is charged by a single battery and can power up to six devices, including your recorder, mixers, and more. It’s definitely something you’ll want to have in your bag.
Cost of a battery distribution system
Decent models start at about $200.
And finally: your sound bag! You will want to get a durable, portable bag to keep and transport all your audio gear to ensure that nothing gets damaged en route. This should be the last piece of equipment you purchase after you know what you’ll actually be transporting.
Cost of a sound bag
Basic options start around $60.
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