What equipment does an audio engineer use

Entry-level equipment for budding sound engineers, music producers & Co.

It doesn't matter whether you study at an institute that provides you with fully equipped workstations or take part in an online correspondence course - with a basic set of good entry-level equipment for your own small (or large) studio with which you can practice, try out and Every audio student should be able to work at a high level.

Which audio equipment beginners need and which products are specifically recommended - here you can find out!

By Katja Köhler

On the following pages we present you a small overview of entry-level equipment for budding sound engineers, sound designers, sound engineers and audio engineers that we can recommend to you.

As with pretty much all product categories, the same applies here: There is no specific product that meets all requirements for all areas of application. Nevertheless, we have tried to pick out examples that you can use as versatile as possible - of course also in the appropriate quality.

Here you can find information about professions in the music industry »

Entry-level equipment for all branches of music production

Monitor Controller & Audio Interface - Fluid SRI-2

A small all-rounder - a monitor controller for two pairs of studio monitors as well as a simple, solid audio interface.

Two inputs are available for recording at the same time. Here you have a free choice: microphones of all kinds, electric guitar, electric bass and other high-impedance sources or line instruments or players. The quality of the recordings is impeccable for a 200 euro device, and the latency also remains below the critical 10 millisecond mark in almost every scenario.

Now for the monitor controller part. In the center is the large, very smooth rotary control for the volume of the currently activated pair of studio monitors. That fits the fine workmanship of our candidate. The signal quality during playback is practically unimpaired and the headphone amplifier is both powerful and differentiated in terms of sound.

Finally, the device scores with consistent lighting of the buttons and pots, useful in the cozy semi-darkness of the studio. The USB connection is sufficient for the power supply.

"This is the way to the Fluid SRI-2 test

Price: 199 €

Headphones - beyerdynamic DT 880 PRO

Headphones take on various tasks in the studio: closed headphones for the musicians minimize crosstalk to the microphones and have a particularly powerful sound. Open versions enable the most natural, analytical listening as well as a high level of wearing comfort and can - with certain restrictions - function as a mobile alternative to the use of studio monitors.

Half-open headphones exist between these two poles as a kind of “best of both worlds” - including the DT 880 PRO from beyerdynamic presented here. The DT 880 PRO belongs to the manufacturer's reference series and has a transmission range of 5 to 35,000 Hz.

The individually adjustable bracket construction is made of sturdy spring steel and has a high contact pressure, through which the headphones sit firmly and securely on the head and do not slip even when bent down, for example while adjusting an effects device mounted below. The cushions of the ear cups are covered with velor and completely enclose the ears.

In order to optimize the DT 880 PRO for mixing and mastering tasks, the headphones were equalized with diffuse fields. This means that the frequency response of the headphones mimics the sound of conventional speakers (including the reflections from walls, ceilings and surfaces) in the room.

The DT 880 PRO is the remake of the DT 880, which has been valued in studios for decades. The manufacturer has developed the new PRO perfectly while maintaining the transparent sound of the headphones. If you don't have studio monitors available or don't want to disturb your neighbors, the DT 880 PRO is an ideal alternative for mixing and mastering tasks - it's also durable, as the model that delamar has been using for many years proves.

"This is the way to the beyerdynamic DT 880 PRO test

Price: 195 €

Loudspeaker - Genelec 8320APM-PACK

Two studio monitors + measurement microphone + software. The "S.A.M." (Smart Active Monitor) system automatically measures your room: the boxes send test signals, the measuring micro records and the digital filters of the boxes are quickly configured to counteract room acoustical inconsistencies in the best possible way.

The system works simply and well. Great, how often a much better, tidier, more neutral sound is created, especially in the bass range. The result: Immediately better mixes in the acoustically suboptimal studio space and completely untreated home studio. The package also contains a small volume control and thus a rudimentary monitor controller.

Regardless of the sophisticated sound correction, the 8320s sound in the usual high Genelec quality. Their inherent noise is low, the impulse fidelity is high, and the spatial image is excellent for speakers of this size and class.

There are three larger (and correspondingly more bassy) models, also available in a package with a measuring microphone & Co. The AWM-PACK is also available with white boxes for an extra charge of 100 euros.

"This is the way to the Genelec 8320 AWM Pack Test

Price: € 1,299

DAW software - PreSonus Studio One

With Studio One you get software that has long since secured a permanent place in the DAW range. It is just as versatile as Cubase, for example, but scores with many users with a somewhat more coherent operation and more exciting creative tools for songwriting & producing. The included virtual effects and instruments include everything that a universal DAW should have.

The developers do not forget to support newer and newest technologies. With »ARA« for significantly deeper integration between plugins and DAW - you even play an active role in development.

In addition to the fully equipped »Professional« version with all the baffles, there is also the »Artist« edition, which costs just under € 100. The range of functions for most users is by no means as limited as the price difference to Professional would suggest. Worth mentioning: the number of audio and MIDI tracks available is also unlimited!

"Click here for the Studio One 4 Professional test

Prices: 97.58 € (Artist) / 392.70 € (Professional)

DAW controller - iCON Platform M +

DAWs are virtual all-rounders and represent a complete recording studio. Only the operation with mouse and keyboard is sometimes extremely clumsy and not particularly intuitive. To compensate for this fundamental flaw, iCON offers you the Platform M +, a very compact USB-DAW controller with which you can manually control numerous functions in your DAW or your virtual mixer.

Particularly noteworthy are the nine touch-sensitive motorized faders, with which you can also record automations and conveniently step through channel banks. For total control, you can also individually configure all faders, buttons and controls of the iControl Pro using the supplied iMap editor software.

Price: 275 €

Tascam Model 24

The Tascam Model 24 combines a mixer, audio interface and recorder in a way that has never been seen before in this price range. Due to the good quality of the product in all respects, you get a versatile complete solution that will also meet increased demands in the future.

A few of the impressive mixing options: 3-band EQ on each channel strip with adjustable mids on the mono channels, one-control compressors for the mono channels, 3 aux paths.

Now to the added value in terms of multitrack recording. You can record all 22 channels separately (plus the stereo mix) via USB on the computer or on an SD card. On top of that, there are 22 return channels from the DAW for (re) feeding on the channel strips of the Model 24. Remarkable: Determine separately for each channel what it should be fed from: analog vs. USB vs. SD card.

When recording on SD card, functions such as overdubbing and punch in / out are available. This means that sophisticated recording sessions are possible without a computer.

"Click here for the Tascam Model 24 test

Price: 999 €

Also read: DJ equipment for beginners and advanced users

Cables for all cases - Sommer Cable Basic / Basic +

A series of cables comes from the renowned Sommer Cable company which, thanks to modern production technology, are very solid AND affordable. All common combinations of jack (6.3 and 3.5 mm, angled and straight), XLR and Cinch are available. Depending on the model, lengths from 30 centimeters to 9 meters are available.

They are compact, light and temperature-resistant, and their electrical values ​​also meet the needs of professional users. The connection during assembly is made easier with a color coding.

With studio monitors, the shielded connection pays off. The cables of the Basic + series offer particularly robust metal connectors with strain relief by means of collets. The manufacturer gives a five-year guarantee on all cables.

Suitable for this: Cable tester - Sommer Cable MCT-SC

Admittedly: cable testers are not particularly sexy - but when it comes to finding out quickly whether a defective cable is responsible for the signal interference, these little helpers are your best friend.

The following applies: the more cable types you can use it to check, the better. The MCT-SC from Sommer Cable offers an all-round carefree package for the common connectors: XLR male / female, SpeakON, jack, Cinch, DIN, MIDI, RJ45 and USB. An LED display and a buzzer indicate whether your cable is working.

Price (RRP): 49 €

Sound level meter - Omnitronic SLM-600

The small and handy SLM-600 measures the sound pressure level between whisper-quiet 30 and dangerously loud 130 dB. At gigs, you can use it to comply with the statutory maximum levels. In the studio, however, reasonable listening volumes can be achieved (e.g. 80-87 dB for a listening impression that is as neutral as possible).

Useful for the live area: measurement data can be sent and archived via USB to the in-house software on a Windows computer. Power is also supplied via USB as an alternative to the otherwise necessary four AA batteries.

Suitable for this: sound level measurement

Price: 125 €

Microphone arm for table mounting - König & Meyer 23860

Flexible, 100% reliable and with an integrated cable - this is how the K&M microphone boom has proven itself in the delamar headquarters for almost a decade. If you want to set up a large setup with a lot of equipment on your studio table, at some point only a microphone boom like this one comes into question.

Secure attachment is not only possible on flat edges such as table tops, but also on pipes. The arm can be rotated at a 360 ° angle, the microphone height is adjusted via the joint in the »elbow« and the microphone can be tilted with the head joint. The joints can be safely locked and easily released using the wing nuts.

The integrated XLR cable runs neatly inside the tubes and is six (!) Meters long. Every preamp, mixer, audio interface is within reach, even if they are in racks far away.

»Click here for the König & Meyer microphone arm 23860 test

Price: 159 €

Tascam Portastudio DP-24SD & DP-32SD

I admit it: I recorded my first album entirely on a Tascam Portastudio - on the DP-01FX with integrated CD burning function. The current Portastudios DP-24SD and DP-32SD are far from the very limited features of the DP-01 from today's perspective. Nevertheless, they stand for the same functionality: Mobile all-in-one digital recording as a combination of computer and audio interface.

You can record a maximum of eight tracks simultaneously with the DP-24SD and DP-32SD. Eight analog inputs with preamplifiers in XLR / jack combination are available for this purpose.

A total of 24 (DP-24SD) or 32 tracks (DP-32SD) including eight virtual tracks for alternative takes can be edited and played back at the same time. That's enough for most mixes and recordings in the rehearsal room.

You can create your mix using 19 or 20 channel faders as well as a 3-band EQ and effect sends in each channel.

If you don't feel like lugging around and setting up your computer / laptop, audio interface and various power and connection cables, you should take a closer look at the portastudios from Tascam. In addition, the mixer surface with faders and rotary controls offers a completely different, much more intuitive way of working than the sometimes fiddly software operation via trackpads and small travel mice.

Prices: 419 € (DP-24SD) / 477 € (DP-32SD)

Drum microphone set - IMG STAGELINE Drumset-1

A case with seven microphones for drum pickup + accessories:

  • 1 x kick drum microphone (dynamic)
  • 4 x snare / tom microphone (dynamic)
  • 2 x overhead microphone (small diaphragm condenser)
  • Tripod mounts

The price-performance ratio is outstanding: At the time of going to press, the set was available from a retailer for just under 160 euros. Even if you get close to the RRP of € 249, it would still be a tough deal. (Cross) beginners who are looking for a complete tube microphone set have come to the right place.

The overhead mics are amazingly good, their sound is clear and detailed. The snare and tom mics sound a bit dull, and the bidirectional bass drum mic should be amplified a bit in the deep bass when mixing. Overall, the mics play well together and result in a coherent overall sound.

»Click here for the IMG STAGELINE Drumset-1

Price: 159 €

iSolo Recording Package

A wireless microphone for mounting in the sound hole of a purely acoustic guitar and more. Quasi a wireless pickup for concert guitars, ukuleles & Co., which makes a setup consisting of a small diaphragm microphone, XLR cable and stand appear very cumbersome.

The sound is fine-grained, with present (not too sharp) highs and much more natural than with a piezo system and DI box. A good basis for fine-tuning with the equalizer.

»Click here for the iSolo Live & Recording Package test

Price: € 167.79