5 Home Studio Products That Aren’t Worth Your Money
Hey this is Jason from Behind The Speakers, and in this video you’ll discover five products I recommend you avoid. But before we get started, if you want to know what products are worth investing in I recommend you download my free home studio gear guide which contains all of my top picks. You can download this for free by clicking the link up there in the video or down there in the description below.
First product I recommend you avoid are studio monitor pads. Now these are typically made of foam, and the idea is you put them under your studio monitors. And the claim is that they help isolate the studio monitor from whatever it’s sitting on – whether that’s a stand or your desk – and this is supposed to give you a clearer more accurate sound.
Now my friend Ethan Winer over at Real Traps has actually done a series of acoustic tests – so scientific measurement with a measurement microphone and frequency plots, all sorts of data analysis – and he looked at various different studio monitor pads from different manufacturers, and run a series of tests. And basically what he’s determined after running all these tests is that these pads don’t really do much. So they’re not really doing anything in many cases. Or the improvement that they make is so small, it’s almost insignificant.
So if you want to read these tests and learn more about what he actually went through to come to this conclusion, I recommend you click the link in the description below. I added it down there, and that’s directly to his site where you can read all about what he did. But my general recommendation is just to avoid studio monitor pads. They’re a waste of money, and in my experience they don’t really do much. So I would just avoid them.
The second product I recommend you avoid is foam acoustic treatment. Now you’ll find these products all over the internet. They’re typically very cheap. And the problem with this stuff is it doesn’t really do a very good job at absorbing low end, which is where most problems are in most home studio listening environments. So you get a bunch of this stuff and you put it up in your room, and it might absorb some of the high end, but you’re not really doing anything to the low end. So you end up with a room that sounds very unbalanced and unnatural and kind of dead.
So I recommend that in most cases you avoid this type of treatment unless you’re specifically trying to absorb high frequencies. And when it comes to most home studios where you actually want to start is with the low end. So you want to invest in things like bass traps, which are very thick, dense panels made of things like fiberglass or rock wool, because you need that density and that mass and thickness in order to actually absorb the low frequencies. So I recommend you just avoid foam treatment in most cases. It’s a waste of money and you’re much better off investing in higher quality products that are made of things like rock wool or fiberglass.
The third product I recommend you avoid is cheap outboard gear. Now a lot of people have this idea that outboard gear automatically sounds better than anything they’re going to find in their DAW in terms of plug-ins, so they end up buying these really cheap, $100 compressor boxes and things like that. Now in many cases these pieces of equipment are not actually analog, so they may actually just be a digital box. And so when you plug something into that box it’s actually being converted into digital and then processed in digital, and then converted out into analog. So it’s almost like the same thing as using a plug-in in your DAW but you’re sending the audio through another layer of conversion from analog to digital which is going to degrade the signal.
You just want to avoid in many cases cheap outboard gear. If you’re going to invest in outboard gear, there’s plenty of great stuff out there. But you’re going to need to spend some money to really get something that’s worth it, and in my experience the plug-ins today in your DAW are so good that you really don’t need outboard gear to make exceptional-sounding mixes. I mix 100% in the box. I don’t find that I miss the sound that I get, you know, when I use outboard gear. I’ve spent plenty of time mixing on consoles with fancy racks of outboard gear, but for me I find that I get more than enough from the plug-ins in my DAW.
Now you may prefer using outboard gear, that’s fine. But I recommend that if you are going to invest in outboard gear, spend the money and really do it right. So don’t just buy cheap outboard compressors or EQ’s because you think that’s automatically going to sound better, because in many cases those boxes actually sound worse than some of the plug-ins you’ll find in your DAW.
And the fourth product I recommend you avoid is too many plug-ins. Now this probably sounds familiar to you. Maybe you struggle with this, I know I’ve wasted thousands of dollars on plug-ins I didn’t need. And the truth is you probably have everything you need in terms of plug-ins to make really good-sounding mixes. Even the stock plug-ins in most DAWs are more than enough to create a really good sound.
So if your mixes don’t sound great, don’t automatically assume that buying more plug-ins is going to fix your problem. In most cases, buying more plug-ins is not a good investment of your money. Knowing how to use the tools you have better and really practicing and getting more time under your belt is what’s going to make the difference. It doesn’t come from the plug-ins themselves.
So even if you don’t have the famous compressor plug-in that so-and-so uses to make their mixes, doesn’t mean that you can’t create really good sounding mixes. I promise you, work with the tools that you have first, and then when you really feel like you’re being limited by your current sonic palette by the plug-ins you have, then maybe go invest in some plug-ins. But in most cases I find that there’s so much obsession with these third-party plug-ins, and it’s just a waste of money in the majority of cases.
And the fifth product I recommend you avoid are summing mixers. Now before I get totally flamed in the comments section, I just want to be clear that summing mixers do offer an improvement. So I’ve A-B’ed a digital mix versus one that’s run through a summing mixer, and it does sound slightly better. But the difference is so minimal. And the truth is you can get the same or a very similar result by using a lot of those console emulation plug-ins that you find from companies like Waves or Slate. I use the VCC from Slate and I really like that plug-in, and it maybe cost me 150 bucks. I just can’t justify spending several thousand dollars on a summing mixer when I can get a result that’s pretty much identical by using one of these console emulation plug-ins.
So I don’t think summing mixers are necessary. And I don’t even think that you have to use any console emulation plug-ins to get a really good-sounding mix. It’s just, it’s a very marginal improvement. So I think it’s important just to put summing in perspective. And if you’re thinking about investing in something like this, just know that it’s not going to take a mix that sounds really crummy and make it sound incredible. That’s not where really great mixes come from. There is no one thing that’s going to make a mix really great.
So for most home studio owners, I don’t think a summing mixer is a good investment. If you’re a pro, you know, if you have a lot of cash lying around and you want to blow a couple thousand dollars on a summing mixer maybe. But again for most home studio owners I would avoid this product.
Now if you want to know what products are worth investing in, I recommend that you download my free home studio gear guide, which contains my top picks for things like microphones, studio monitors, MIDI keyboards, and a lot more. You can click the link up there in the video or down there in the description to download this free guide right now.
Now before you go, leave a comment below this video and let me know – what products do you think are worth investing in? I’d love to hear from you, so leave your response in the comments section below.
Thanks so much for watching, and you can check out more tips, tricks, and advice right here on my YouTube channel or at BehindTheSpeakers.com.