Option 1: £500 or less
Software Apple Logic
Okay, we admit it, for most production needs we could just recommend Logic Pro as the software of choice and then leave it there. The software comes with so many instruments, audio content, effects and other gubbins, it‘ll do the job for every category here, but the sheer wealth of what you get means it’s especially suited to soundtrack composers who may do an orchestral arrangement one day, and a dance soundtrack the next. For what you get versus the price you pay, it’s stunning. Don’t get us talking about the price of the new MacBooks, mind you…
Speakers Focal Alpha 50 or 65
We are constantly waxing lyrical about these, but they really are great monitors for a wide variety of genres, and as you get most of your soundtrack buck from Logic, you can afford these (the 50s anyway) within your £500 budget. “The clarity, accuracy and sheer audio quality this monitor provides is rare indeed at this price point,” we concluded. “Both of these models have much to recommend them, but for high-quality studio monitoring, the Alpha 50 is the one we’d choose.”
Some Other Ideas
You won’t be needing much of an interface as so much of your soundtrack production at this level will be done ‘in-the-box’ so why not throw some of your budget at a decent software library, and they don’t get much better than Output’s Signal. “The Pulse Engine is the key feature that brings Signal’s presets to life, adding various forms of movement and development within the patch. From the imaginative, carefully-curated sound sources through to the intricacies and flexibility of this engine, Signal is an instrument that’s designed to deliver a wealth of inspiring and intriguing sounds. It is a thoroughly inventive instrument packed full of distinctive sounds.”
If you are into your orchestral-music production, your options at all budget levels have exploded in recent years. There’s a feature right there, in fact, so we’ll get orchestral maestro Dave Gale on the case to do just that. But right now, we can point you in the direction of this Soundtrack section for the hardware options that you could make at different budgets. Then simply replace the more atmospheric software recommendations with anything from Orchestral Tools, Spitfire Audio and Sonokinetic. You should also check out Time+Space’s website for a host of library and sample companies who do orchestration at any budget.
Option 2: £1,500 or less
Software Apple Logic
For this ‘less than £1,500’ category, we’re going to up the sophistication of the speaker, but not the software. Even if you have more money to burn, at this level, Logic is still your DAW of choice – so splash out that £149 and get ready to download all of that content.
SpeakersKRK V Series 4 S4
With the cash you’ve saved with Logic, it’s time to upgrade your speakers – and you could do a lot worse than these new KRK Series 4 S4s. They are the low price, smaller-sized speaker in the Series 4 range and unlike other KRK monitors – which add a little colour – these are all about accuracy and exactly what you need when it comes to scoring for picture. “The unquestionable results that you do get are accuracy and a stereo picture that you might otherwise have to spend a lot more to achieve. There’s a separation here across both upper and lower ranges that explodes your mix into the parts that you want to hear, enabling the precision engineering you lust after when mixing – honing in by frequency or timbre to make adjustments in EQ and level is therefore that much easier.”
We’d say go for the bigger 8s if you have a big space, but the 4s are great for smaller rooms.
Interface/Mixer Audient iD14
At this price, you don’t really want to be relying on your Mac output signal, so your interfacing needs a step up – and the Audient iD14 is a great interface to do just that. It is one of Audient’s entry-level models, but features the same Class-A microphone preamp circuit as used in its consoles. In our review, we said: “The preamps sound clean, transparent and classy. Noise levels are commendably low and we think they can hold their own with most mid-priced standalone solid-state preamps. The DI is impressive, too. With electric guitar, it produced a detailed and full-frequency tone with natural playing dynamics and no sterility. 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. A classy interface featuring all the quality you’d expect from Audient at
a very affordable price.”
Some Other Ideas
With a cheap sequencer (Logic) and interface, you have some money to burn, and what better than a great atmospheric library/instrument that will lift your soundtracks that bit higher? Gravity is an amazing plug-in with more hands-on tweaking and customising tools available than your average collection. “It is a superb collection, made even better by the extra control. You might have to invest more money, but put the time in and, with Gravity on your side, you could be streets ahead of – or above – the competition. There are enough features here to take sounds into a new dimension. Both inspirational and effective.”
Option 3: £1,500 or more
Software Avid Pro Tools
£1,599 (includes Apogee interface)
We’ve included Pro Tools as, when it comes to music to picture, it’s the still the DAW of choice and if your budget is high, then go for it. We’d stress, though, that pretty much every other DAW on the market will give you similarly pro results – it’s just that most pros in movie land tend to use this one.
Your £1,600 gets you an Apogee interface in this bundled deal, which will sort out all of your interfacing needs should you wish to bring external instruments into your score mix.
Indeed, there are a host of Pro Tools bundles, subscriptions and options that we could probably dedicate an entire magazine to – it is a little complicated – but suffice to say, whatever you choose, the quality will be top-notch.
Freeware Options – Music at no budget
It is possible to make music for free. Completely free, that is (well, assuming you already have a computer or iOS device). The amount of music-production freeware out there is incredible and there is something for all tastes and genres, all methods of production and instrumentation. You might think that there is a MusicTech feature right there and you’d be correct. It’s something we round up every year and for our latest thoughts on freeware, check out issue 163 – back issues from www.musictech.net
Speakers Adam S3-X
Okay, we’re assuming budget isn’t an issue here, so we’ve gone with a mega set of speakers. But it’s the detail that these monitors will give you which makes the cash you spend on them worth it.
As we said in our review: “Ultimately, these Adams deliver the forensic detail, imaging accuracy, transient response, wide frequency range and flexibility needed for top-end professional monitoring. They’re also commendably quiet, considering the sheer power of the amplifiers, and they can go extremely loud – but, most importantly, they’re very enjoyable to listen to,” said reviewer Huw Price before concluding: “They have an extremely transparent sound. You have every right to expect stellar sound given the price, but the S3X-H ticks every box, and won’t disappoint.”
Some Other Ideas
The Eduardo Tarilonte Collection
We’ve never made any secret of the fact that we love the libraries that Eduardo Tarilonte produces – we’ve even interviewed him in the magazine. If you are a soundtrack composer, we’d recommend pretty much filling your hard-drive space with Tarilonte’s work, particularly Era II, Shevannai, Kwaya, Forest Kingdom II, Cantus and Mystica. These are fantastical, worldly, atmospheric, vocal and instrument collections that will not only ‘sound your tracks’ but inspire and delight at every turn. They cost between €159 and €259, but are worth every cent. Fill your hard drives up now!