I just got my very first Mac the other day and I'm looking to make myself a reasonable little recording studio, but nothing too costly.

I need suggestions for reasonably priced: Monitors, DAW, Interface and Plugins/VSTs.

I used to use Reaper and Nick Crows amp sims a bit back in the day, but I'm looking to use a nice high end DAW and VSTs. A good pair of headphones are preferred as monitors as I have to move my setup quite a lot. I realise this sacrifices the ability for a quality mix, but it's a compromise I have to make.

The MacBook has left a dent in my wallet so please make a mention of the price ranges of your recommendations.
What kind of VSTs? There's a vst for everything so you have to be more specific about what you want.

If you're just talking about amp sims then the free ones are just as good as the commercial ones.
Reaper is fine too.
You won't really make any big improvements over the basic software like that.

If you want better results then what you really need to do is learn more about production.

You can have a 3,000 mesa amp and Pro Tools HD but at the end of the day, the person using free amp sims and Reaper will get the best results if they're better at recording and mixing.

Nonetheless, if you have a mac then I'd get Logic.
Last edited by TechnicolorType at Apr 11, 2011,
Erm, yeah, that was a bit dopey of me. I really don't know so much about recording that I can say exactly what I need. But I'm basically after the essentials, like the go-to plug-ins that one might use when recording. From the top of my head: Reverb, Compression, Delay, Flange, Phase as well as bass amp sims, virtual drums and virtual talent if possible too. =D
Since everything else has been touched on:

My "go to plugins" are from the Cakewalk Sonitus:FX plugin suite ($150 I think now?) that I am very happy with. With that said there are some awesome free VSTs out there if you just look around and experiment. Don't limit your self to one plugin for each. If I were you I would get one you really like and a few back ups. I have my Cakewalk plugins, but for most of those I have 3-4 free backups I like to vary it up with.

Like Techni said though you need to just learn your production. Someone new with a $2000 dollar plugin isn't going to get a sound as good as someone who has a lot of experience and using some free plugin. In my opinion.
Last edited by FireHawk at Apr 11, 2011,
Well, for any plug-ins then I would recommend something other than Reapers.
Not sure what others might say but I personally found a handful of them to be rather poor and I couldn't find something for certain things.. (despite how many there are)
The DAW is only 40 dollars so great plugins aren't too expected.

Having a good bundle of them is nice like FireHawk was mentioning the Cakewalk plugin suite, but what's good to start doing is simply starting a vst collection.
A lot of us have a load of them. It's good to have all sorts for different things.

Just think of something and google it. If you want a reverb plugin search for free reverb plugin. You'll get lots of results and you can usually find something that's good and free.

Most DAWs come with plenty of plugins that will suit your needs though.

But if you want to spend the least you can then Reaper + free plugins would be your best bet.. and even if you were to buy a fancy DAW you'd probably still be using some other plugins in it as well.

There are sites filled with free things on them and some dedicated to just free plugins.

Just look all over. You'll find tons :]

Oh, and as for drums then using individual drum hit samples would be the best free way. I know of some places you can get superb ones.
If you'd like a paid vsti instead then Seven Slate Drums or Addictive Drums would work.
Last edited by TechnicolorType at Apr 11, 2011,
Thanks for the advice everyone. =]

I've got some good ideas to start in terms of VSTs, and I'll see what I can do about Logic.

Any suggestions on a good interface for the Mac? I guess firewire would be the best type? Until something comes out for Thunderbolt.
What's your budget?

Focusrite is a pretty trusted company and a lot of people like their saffire interfaces. They have one that falls under just about any price range from 150-500ish.
THe Apogee is getting some rave reviews/opinions from most places where I am asking. It's got a pretty high asking price though. Does it really give you a much better sound or lower latency?

@Techni: Focusrite is a brand that I have been looking at. I've been told to look at their VRM Technology if I'm going for headphone mixing, it sounds interesting, but I'm wary of buying into the hype of something 'perfectly' simulating mixing with speakers. It's just never the same as the real thing. The Focusrite Saffire PRO24 DSP was what I was recommended.
Quote by kLinic
@Techni: Focusrite is a brand that I have been looking at. I've been told to look at their VRM Technology if I'm going for headphone mixing, it sounds interesting, but I'm wary of buying into the hype of something 'perfectly' simulating mixing with speakers. It's just never the same as the real thing. The Focusrite Saffire PRO24 DSP was what I was recommended.
I don't understand what you're saying. You shouldn't mix with regular speakers. Studio monitors are the best for it. And if you want to be technical with the term then headphones have speakers as well so I don't understand what you mean.

If you mean by speakers, regular monitors then no - headphones won't be the same but would you rather have ordinary headphones or headphones that simulate monitors? I'd say #2 so no need to shy away from that if you have to use headphones. if you want normal monitors then just get them. you can get ones that'll do the job for like 100 usd.

Your interface won't effect your mixing playback either.. Any of the Saffire interfaces are fine no matter what you use for your audio playback.
Last edited by TechnicolorType at Apr 12, 2011,
No, of course, I meant monitors. I'm just worried about having to buy two sets of the monitors. Although I suppose $200 really isn't that bad. Although I'd probably be able to get a better set of headphones for that price and mix with better quality with the simulated monitors.

What about latency? I want to listen to the amp simulation in as close to real time as possible while I'm recording. Will there be any difference in latency between different interfaces and connection types?
well there's a difference between the two.
Why do you need two sets?..

what kind of connection types are you asking about?
as in like firewire and usb?
I know there is a difference. I just had a bit of a brainfart I guess. The reason I would need two sets is that I frequently move between two locations and really don't want to have to move and set up the monitors correctly every week or so.

Yeah, firewire and USB. I have most connection types on my MacBook Pro.
I dunno'. It'd probably be worth it. Monitors don't have be too big and you can easily just pop them out and stick them in the backseat of your car. It wouldn't really take too much more effort over taking headphones around.

but I'm not to have a say in that part. xD whatever works for you best.
I'd probably rather have regular monitors, but if you can find some headphones that'll work well for you then go for it.

but then again, monitors don't have to be anything fancy. at least imo.
afterall, the point of monitors is to give you the most flat frequency and phase responses.

You should maybe bring your laptop into a store and just try out some headphones and monitors. Play a regular track and see what you think of the differences in how it sounds.
Just keep in mind that it doesn't have to sound the best, but give you the most basic form of the sound.

if you'd like to be safe from the getgo then just go with normal monitors.

As for your connection type, it shouldn't really matter.
Last edited by TechnicolorType at Apr 12, 2011,