The buyer’s guide to recording equipment

    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

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    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

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    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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