Mac Recording Studio Equiptment: The Basics
Recording is merely a combination of a number of steps and gear. To begin recording, you need both the proper mac recording accessories, and compatible recording software for Apple. This equipment involves mics, cables, devices to convert live audio to digital, and other audio accessories related to recording.
The Necessities - What you will need to Start Recording on you’re Mac Computer
Music Recording Software
USB/FireWire Audio Interface
Monitors (Speakers or Headphones to sample the audio)
Audio Recording Software
The first thing you must do is be able to actually record tracks. Sound recording software, like GarageBand, Logic, Cubase or Pro Tools (to mention a few) all function in a very similar manner. Each allows for multi track recording of audio input, as well as offering certain mixing and mastering features. One of the main differences is in the number and quality of digital effects included with the app. A much more cost recording suite like Pro Tools, or Logic Pro features many more mastering features then say GarageBand (included with any new Mac) or Ableton Live (included with many audio interfaces). However, without prior experience using DAWs, it can be much more difficult to command an intensive application like Pro Tools than a consumer level on like GarageBand.
M-Audio Fast Track Ultra 8R - Eight Mic Preamp Channels through USB
The audio interface is key to producing quality audio tracks. Probably 50% of your audio quality will depend on your choice of interface alone. That is not to say the you must pay for the most outrageous device on the market, but you should still be very consciencious about your decision. There are a few basic criterion with which to grade the audio interfaces you consider. Most important is the device must support multi-track recording. Many of the original digital audio interface introduced only featured stereo tracking; and while this may have sounded decent on the immediate headphones or home stereo, it was very lacking for future mixing opportunities (in that all of the tracker are already condensed to stereo). The next feature is the audio quality; you want to make sure that the selected device produces audio that is at least 24-bit/96kHz (you may obtain greater bit rates with a FireWire interface; but make sure you computer is compatible first). Compatibility is another selling point; many applications will only work with certain suites (M-Box for example, only work is Pro Tools stations). It is essential that your interface will function with the recording software you have chosen.
The easiest route for recording one mic would be something like the Blue Microphones Icicle XLR to USB converter. It provides driverless, studio quality USB audio to any Mac running OSX. Another great advantage to the Icicle is optional phantom power for mics that require 48V. The Icicle is pretty much the easiest way to begin recording for under $50. A setback is you can only record one track at a time; but that being said, you can easily begin overdubs, or podcast recording in no time. Simply plug your microphone XLR cable into the device, and the device to your computer’s USB port.
If you are seriously looking to start your own Apple Music Studio, you will need an assortment of mics. At first you will want to start with very versatile microphone. Best would be something like a large capsule cardioid mic (such as the M-Audio Nova or equivalent). Another good choice would be a Shure SM57 (great for drums, percussion, and guitar amplifiers) or SM58 (for vocals or harp).
Before you can release your album/song, you will actually need to listen to it a few times. To best facilitate mixing, you will want as clear of audio as possible. While you could choose an $800 set of studio monitors; you might actually want to release a few tracks before making such an investment. The easiest route would be a pair of desktop computer speakers. Most likely, you already have a set lying around that you could supplement for a set of monitors during your early recordings. A set of reference headphones also go a long way in recording towards obtain clean audio. The Grado SR-60i can serve as an excellent set of reference headphones; while their open ear construction does not facilitate overdubbing.
In the end, producing music is a not simply a matter of combining music software and recording equipment. It will take a fair amount of practice and effort to master overdubbing and recording. Like anything the more you work at it the better you get. With the proper Mac studio equipment will only go you so far when recording, after that it is up to your own talent and ambition.