Pro Audio Tools – How Much Do They Really Cost?

When someone says “pro audio tools” what they really mean is equipment that is used at a professional level to create and/or produce top-notch audio recordings. That prefix pro conjures up images of high-end recording gear such as microphones costing thousands of dollars, gleaming mic pre-amplifiers and other outboard devices seen in big commercial recording studios. I would like to humbly challenge that automatic assumption and attempt to separate the word professional with the term expensive.

It is true that for most of the past several decades, the best audio recording quality was only realistically obtained through the use of expensive equipment. There were several reasons for this, but mostly it was down to the fact that in order to reproduce a sound anywhere near accurately, you had to use big, fast magnetic tape. By big, I mean wide; like one or two inches wide. And by fast I mean spinning on a machine much faster than consumer reel-to-reel tape machines could usually handle, like 30 inches per second. Cassette machines only got to a max of 3-3/4 inches per second. This was necessary because it took lots of tape particles to be magnetized and aligned to sound really good; or to sound a lot like the original (the word “fidelity” was used a lot for this). So first, you had to have a wider stripe than consumer tapes had, and then you had to have it hurtling past the head on the tape recorder to maximize how many tape particles could be realigned per second.

Tape recorders that could record multiple tracks (4-, 8-, 16-, 24-, or 32-track) at once, recording fast on wide tape were expensive. Mostly only commercial studios owned them. In addition to the recorder and the tape, you needed a mixing board, microphones, amplifiers, and effect racks for things like equalization, compression, reverb, etc. By the time you tot the price for even a modest studio using that kind of gear, you’re easily talking many thousands of dollars, not to mention the space you needed to put the stuff down.

But now we live in the 21st century, where we can use our ubiquitous computers to be both tape machine AND tape. Digital audio makes it so we can reproduce audio to a very high fidelity quickly, inexpensively, and without having to buy much more than you could fit in your hand. Let that be the reason you separate the concept of professional from the idea of money. Today, if you already have a computer with an internet connection, you can put together a home recording studio capable of recording and producing professional quality sound for as little as $50, which is about the price of a decent USB microphone, such as the Samson Q1. With just that microphone, and a copy of the free open-source audio software called Audacity, you’ll be on your way. Then as you decide you need more capability or even higher quality, you can upgrade your home studio a bit at a time.

Check out the many articles and tutorials at HomeBrewAudio.com, where you will learn how to let your need drive your recording gear acquisition as you progress. That should save you a boatload of money while getting you started out in audio recording quickly and easily. The term pro audio tools these days becomes more about knowledge and skill than about cost.

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