The Buyer’s Guide to Recording Equipment

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Following on from our Essential Guide, we’ve prepared a list our buyer’s guide to recording equipment, including a variety of budget, midrange and high end microphones and interfaces to get the job done…

(Where highlighted, click the product title for our full review)

Budget: Microphones

Aston Origin


recording equipment

Price £249
Type Cardioid condenser
Contact Aston Mics

We say: “A stunning clear quality, with plenty of depth and a smooth, natural high-end on vocals. On electric guitar it sounded instantly usable. The top-end seemed entirely contained, with no harshness, just a full-bodied tone, even in drop-D tuning.”

Audio-Technica AT2020


recording equipment

Price £89
Type Cardioid condenser
Contact Audio-Technica

We say: “The sound quality is impressive, with a negligible noise floor. The high frequencies have a crisp and sweet sparkle that adds a degree of presence. The midrange is well defined with no obvious colouration and the bass is solid.”

Aston Spirit


recording equipment

Price £349
Type Multi-pattern condenser
Contact Aston Mics

We say: “It performed well at just about everything we threw it on, matching and even outperforming some much more expensive microphones in the process. If you are looking to expand your mic selection, the Spirit is virtually a must-have.”

sE Electronics V3


recording equipment

Price £56
Type Cardioid dynamic
Contact sE Electronics

We say: “The mic has a much more pronounced presence, which was absolutely perfect for our female soul singer. The extra presence helped to hype the vocal in a musical manner.”

Audio-Technica AE2300


recording equipment

Price £260
Type Cardioid dynamic
Contact Audio-Technica

We say: “Designed for recording electric guitar, the mic comes equipped with a low-pass roll off built in. Engaging this switch and recording the guitars produced a much more focused sound, with less fizz, but still a brighter, more airy sound.”

Shure SM57


recording equipment

Price £92
Type Cardioid dynamic
Contact Shure Distribution

We say: “Whereas the SM58 is the classic vocal mic, the 57 is geared towards instruments and is the choice of many a top producer and is an industry-standard, highly versatile microphone tuned for the clean reproduction of amplified and acoustic instruments.”

Budget: Interfaces

Apogee Jam 96k


recording equipment

Price £99
Type USB and iOS
Contact SoundTech www.soundtech.co.uk

We say: “A simple, problem-solving interface to plug your guitar into your Windows or Mac computer, or iOS device. Using the JAM 96k is incredibly simple and this is a fantastic device. It doesn’t do all that much, but what it does, it does in style.”

iConnectivity iConnect Audio 4+


recording equipment

Price £261
Type USB and iOS
Contact iConnectivity

We say: “A great interface for marrying the worlds of iOS and your desktop studio. It allows audio and MIDI to be sent directly between your iOS device and the Mac or PC, over USB. Superb first interface to link all your studio gear.”

Audient iD14


recording equipment

Price £199
Type USB
Contact Audient

We say: “The iD14 isn’t lacking anything essential. Audient has concentrated on audio quality rather than gimmicks and the result is attractive, sonically impressive and fiendishly useful. This is a classy interface, featuring all the quality you’d expect from Audient at a very affordable price.”

IK Multimedia iRig Pro Duo


recording equipment

Price £149
Type USB and iOS
Contact IK Multimedia

We say: “A USB powered two-in, two-out interface and the 2HD, which is an updated interface specifically for guitarists – and a simple and elegant solution. A much bigger set of features and connectivity than you might expect to find, given both the price and size.”

Focusrite iTrack range


recording equipment

Price £119 to £169
Type USB and iOS
Contact Focusrite

We say: “A ‘go to’ range if you’re into iOS recording that features the iPad dock, and One Pre which is a great mobile interface that can work with high quality microphones. For iOS needs, look no further.”

Steinberg UR44


recording equipment

Price £259
Type USB/Mobile
Contact Steinberg

We say: “A 6 x 4 interface with good preamps and specs that works just as well on the road as it does studio. The preamps are crystal clear and the build quality excellent. If your I/O needs are modest, but you still want pro-level features like direct monitoring and DSP-powered effects, the UR44 is an excellent choice.”

Midrange: Microphones

AKG C314


recording equipment

Price £436
Type Multi-pattern condenser
Contact SoundTech

We say: “Flexible pro mic with four pickup patterns (omnidirectional, cardioid, hypercardioid and figure-8). On vocals, the C314’s low-noise/high-detail attributes came to the fore. It’s a smooth yet up-front tone that helps to push vocals to the front of a mix.”

Avantone CV28


recording equipment

Price £469
Type Multi-pattern valve
Contact SCV Distribution

We say: “We started testing with the CV28 in cardioid mode and it blew us away. The tone was very full but also incredibly detailed and natural. There is a trace of a lift in the treble, but this just provides a bit of ‘air’ and there’s no trace of harshness or metallic ringing.”

Neumann TLM102


recording equipment

Price £499
Type Cardioid condenser
Contact Neumann

We say: “If there’s one name that come up again and again when talking about recording microphones it’s Neumann. The fact that you can get one for less than £500 is astonishing especially as it records acoustic guitar so well.”

Røde NTR


recording equipment

Price £510 (was £899 so a bargain!)
Type Figure of 8 ribbon
Contact Source Distribution

We say: “An old-school ribbon microphone more suited for great vocal recording, with a very solid build, great design and low noise floor. Recording acoustic instruments and quiet singers presents no difficulties. Vocal tests revealed extremely smooth and natural results. A very high-quality, old-school ribbon microphone.”

Peluso P-28


recording equipment

Price £899
Type Cardioid valve condenser
Contact KMR Audio

We say: “The P-28 was designed with elements of the Neumann KM54 and the AKG C28 in mind and regardless of where you place it, it sounds good and it’s as impressive for clear and breathy vocals as general instrument recording. The P-28 more than fits the bill.”

Sennheiser MK8


recording equipment

Price £606
Type Multi-pattern condenser
Contact Sennheiser

We say: “The MK 8 is jam-packed with features and equally suited to vocals, acoustic guitars, guitar amplifiers, grand piano, strings, wind instruments, drums and percussion. A fine-sounding studio workhorse with a clear modern tone, that offers plenty of user control.”

Midrange: Interfaces

Arturia AudioFuse


recording equipment

Price £498
Type USB and mobile
Contact Source Distribution

We say: “2 in 2 out plus ADAT and digital i/o interface. This is a really great sounding, very well-spec’d box of tricks and I’d be very happy having one of these in my armoury of toys to work with. A commercial and punchy sound and will perform well for many users.”

Audient iD22


recording equipment

Price £329
Type USB
Contact Audient

We say: “An interface and monitor controller. As with other Audient interfaces, you get pristine converters and excellent-sounding preamps. The iD22 features two mic/line preamps, which are identical to the ones found in Audient’s consoles and standalone preamps. Very high quality and at a great price.”

Focusrite Clarett 8Pre


recording equipment

Price £999
Type Thunderbolt (and now USB)
Contact Focusrite

We say: “18 audio inputs and 20 outs, with eight analogue ins and 10 outs, plus eight ADAT I/Os and stereo S/PDIF I/O. It’s part of a range of three and now available in USB. Highly recommended and our Interface Of The Year two years ago. We just tested the USB version and it is great too.”

RME Babyface Pro


recording equipment

Price £629
Type USB and mobile
Contact Synthax UK

We say: “Out-and-out aimed at the mobile community and it can be used with or without a computer and iPad connectivity extends its practical use even further. It is a fine unit. It’s not the cheapest interface around, but it screams quality and you just feel you can trust it to go pretty much anywhere with you.”

PreSonus Studio 192


recording equipment

Price £499 for mobile version
Type USB
Contact Source Distribution

We say: “The Studio range from PreSonus impressed us with it’s flexible connectivity and great bundle of software. Studio 192 delivers a good audio performance and bags of extras. It is quite rightly called a Studio Command Centre, as what you get for your buck is lots of connectivity and a great spec.”

Universal Audio Apollo Twin Mk II


recording equipment

Price £720 (may find it cheaper – 2 stores selling for £600)
Type Thunderbolt
Contact Universal Audio

We say: “A 2 x6 desktop interface with added power to run excellent UA plug-ins. For anyone serious about audio fidelity, it definitely punches above its weight. Excellent recording and monitoring capabilities, as well as access to UAD’s plug-in universe.”

High End: Microphones

Chandler REDD


recording equipment

Price £4399
Type Cardioid or omni condenser
Contact Chandler Limited

We say: “A formidable and expensive package but the Chandler REDD Microphone is one of the most glorious-sounding microphones we’ve had the pleasure of testing. But such quality comes at a price.”

Sontronics Aria


recording equipment

Price £1065
Type Cardioid condenser
Contact Sontronics

We say: “As well as being great for vocals, it’s a very capable all rounder too, with the silky and shimmering highs providing impressive detail resolution for delicate acoustic guitar picking, percussion and even clean electric guitar.”

Neumann TLM107


recording equipment

Price £1089
Type Multi-pattern condenser
Contact Neumann

We say: “A large-capsule condenser with five patterns and degrees of filtering and attenuation. Neumann has come up with an affordable ‘Swiss Army microphone’. It’s unmistakably a Neumann tone, but tweaked in the top and bottom for more contemporary music-production requirements.”

Telefunken DD4


recording equipment

Price £1099
Type Set of dynamic drum mics
Contact Telefunken

We say: “These microphones could also be used very capably for all manner of other recordings: from vocals, to guitar or bass cabinets, and are sure to add some new options. And should you not have the budget for the whole thing, each mic is also available individually.”

High End: Interfaces

Digigrid iOS


recording equipment

Price €2555
Type Ethernet
Contact Digigrid

We say: “It can connect to multiple DAWs, features high-quality Waves software and a host of pro features, eight outputs, plus two headphone outputs. A very exciting interface, offering a powerful DSP engine alongside an impressive I/O selection.”

Prism Titan


recording equipment

Price £2998
Type USB plus 2 S/PDIF and MDIO
Contact Prism Sound

We say: “It might be big money, but Prism is all about the high-quality converters and all about the components, so you get really top-notch audio here and a rock-solid interface. The hike in quality has to be heard. If so, you might be amazed at where you suddenly find the extra cash.”

Focusrite Red 8Pre


recording equipment

Price £2999
Type Thunderbolt, Dante DigiLink
Contact Focusrite

We say: “One of Focusrite’s best interfaces with a host of i/o. It has everything you need to centre your studio around. With integration all built-in, it’s perfectly positioned for any studio upgrade. An absolutely incredible interface, which ensures connection possibilities for almost all conceivable studio needs.”

RME Fireface UFX+


recording equipment

Price £2418
Type USB and Firewire
Contact Synthax UK

We say: “This has a total number of 188 inputs and outputs. In terms of specs and capabilities, it’s one of the fullest-featured interfaces in this roundup and will probably do everything you will ever need. Perfect hub for a pro, future-proof studio, and delivers a sublime workflow and crystal audio quality.”

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