For many bedroom producers or studio owners, the time to upgrade doesn’t have a set date. This can make it difficult to discern when to upgrade certain gear.
This article will help clear this dilemma by giving certain indicators of when to level up. I’ll also talk about which of your gear to upgrade first.
The first major component to think about is your experience.
Many simpler versions of gear like DAWS and audio interfaces are simpler by design as they are targeted by beginners. This is to help ease their way into music production.
Once you’ve achieved a more skillful approach to music production, you might start feeling that your current gear is too limiting.
The same also applies to instruments. This is in reference to your mastery of the instrument. You might be a guitar player for more than a year or two and want to try out what a more expensive version of your guitar sounds like. Or you might be itching to find out what a guitar with a different tone sounds like.
This also goes hand in hand with the first point. But this also applies to which of your gear needs replacement.
If your gear is still functioning well, then you should still use them as much as you can. However, if some are starting to wear down, then by all means you can start upgrading.
If a certain piece of gear is affecting the quality of your recording, then you should address it as soon as possible.
What to Start Upgrading First
In this section, I will provide my personal ranking of what to switch out first.
If you are a singer, the microphone is the first upgrade you can think of. Higher-priced microphones make for clearer quality. But make sure not to overspend on this.
Search for a slightly more expensive, but not too expensive so you can save on upgrading on your other gear.
Another form of upgrade is switching from dynamic to condenser. But I would only really recommend doing this if you either treated your room or found a place that has little to no noise.
Guitar and Bass
The same applies to guitar players who record their music at home.
You may be looking into changing your instruments or even your amps. Keep in mind both the necessity of changing and your experience with the instrument.
The next one is more in-line with the production side of things.
Digital audio workstations are abundant and come in many versions. Many beginners start out with the free or standard version. Firstly because of the low, or even no, price point.
Secondly, they are much easier to grasp and use for many of those starting out. As I said, they were intended for beginners to make music production much easier to learn.
Over time you may find yourself feeling limited to the simpler design. Once you feel the DAW doesn’t quite match your level of experience, you can start upgrading.
A major example is if you start finding the number of tracks in your DAW limiting. There are DAWs that have a limit to how many tracks you can have in a song.
That might not be an issue if your songs only need vocals and whatever instrument you play. But you might want to start experimenting and add more sounds, you’ll need a DAW that can accommodate many tracks.
Some basic versions of DAW might have limiting features. If you feel as though you are missing out on them, then that’s another reason to update.
No need to go for the most premium since they cost a lot of money. You can work your way up to the next version of your current DAW.
Audio interfaces function as the bridge between your instrument and the computer. Even the relatively cheap ones work really well if they are from a reputable store.
I would say a good time for an upgrade is in correlation with upgrading your studio. Specifically, how many instruments do you want to record?
If you want to record vocals and guitar at the same time, then you can switch from a solo input interface to one with two inputs.
If you want to have a band over your place to record live tracks, then get an interface that has multiple inputs.
Adding to Your Studio
The next portion deals with what you can add to your personal studio. These are separate since not many producers start out with these pieces of gear.
However, over time, these gear updates can help with the quality of not just your workflow but even your quality.
Studio monitors are an essential component of a home studio. However, I don’t think many people start out with monitors. These are expensive as well as pretty big. Finding space for them to fit can be challenging.
However, they are very beneficial for your mixes. Mixing with headphones on is possible, but you may miss out on some things. They may sound good on the headphones since your editing was to accommodate them, but they could sound not as good when playing on studio monitors.
Studio monitors are unbiased speakers, meaning what you hear is what you get. The reason you want this is so you can edit audio with more certainty.
You might miss out on certain errors if you use a speaker with a bass boost since the low ends are put in more focus. It might sound good on those speakers, but not on others without a bass boost.
If you have the budget to update your studio with monitors, then it would be beneficial for you to purchase them.
Room treatment is another thing that is beneficial but also costly.
I would say to research first what kind of paddings work well for certain areas and what don’t. This is something that you work on over time, so take it slow and see if it works.
A simple treatment is placing a rug beneath you. So you can start with that before buying foam.
Gear Update: It’s All Up To You
Determining the ideal time for a gear upgrade is a highly personal decision, varying from individual to individual. Remember, upgrading your gear is not only about improving your sound but also about nurturing your passion and creativity. So, seize this newfound knowledge, trust your instincts, and let your music soar to new heights as you embark on this exciting gear-upgrading endeavor.