Professional Audio Without Breaking The Bank

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Professional Audio Without Breaking The Bank

Best Recording Setups From $500 to $2,500

Under $500 - Home Studio Starters

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As a songwriter or producer, having the proper gear to capture your song ideas is crucial to the creative process. Never know when that perfect melody idea is going to strike, right? Having the proper tools right at your fingertips can be the difference between laying down your next hit song or letting the idea float off into the abyss. The clearer the idea, the better you’re going to feel about the progression of the rest of your song.

At this point in the game, you’ve got your DAW and your interface ready to go. It’s time to add some analog pieces to really upgrade the foundation of your home studio.

Step one, upgrade your arsenal with a studio microphone and boom arm to ensure optimal mic placement & a professional aesthetic. Simply adding these two pieces to your setup solidifies the journey of taking initial tracks from a “home studio” to “pro studio” sound, all from your desk. Additionally, this simple upgrade helps to maximize your space and make your home studio that much more inspiring & enjoyable to work from.

WA-47jr + WA-MBA Professional Boom Arm: $418 USD

The WA-47jr is a contemporary version of the popular '47-style studio microphone that has been reimagined to deliver professional recordings at an unthinkable price. To put it plainly, the WA-47jr packs a serious punch. And we’re not just saying “for a $299 price point.” This mic can be found in a plethora of professional recording studios and is best put to work on vocals and acoustic instruments.

Pairing this mic up with our WA-MBA not only gives you an aesthetically pleasing workstation, but the 360-degree swivel at the base makes this setup fully functional for any home studio. Swing the mic out when you’re ready to work, and back in for a clean-looking setup while you’re not working. At under $500, this pairing is a no-brainer for any songwriter looking to improve their home studio and add professional audio, even during the writing process.

UPGRADE WA-14 + WA-MBA Professional Boom Arm: $518 USD

So, although this is just north of $500, it’s a setup worth mentioning. Our WA-14 is an accurate recreation of the most truthful studio mic of all time. If you’re looking for warm & intimate vocals or a full-body and real characteristic to your instruments, it’s worth spending a little extra change to get this mic and ensure an authentic sound and feel as if you’re in the room with the musician. An unparalleled experience - ESPECIALLY at this price point.

Under $1,500 - Cue The Preamp

New to building a signal chain? We’ve got you. Check out our "How to Build a Signal Chain” blog before diving into our suggested setups.

You’ve got a great foundation to your setup and some awesome tracks. You’re comfortable with your recording skills and it’s time to get serious about polishing your sound with some true analog flavor.

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So, what’s the next move that will help take your setup to the next level? A microphone preamp will change your world. We hear way too often, “I need a new mic! I want to sound better and the mic I have doesn’t sound great”. If the recordings you’re capturing with a microphone, interface, and computer sound a little sterile, like you aren’t getting enough space, volume, or depth, you need a preamp.

A good preamp can make even a subpar mic sound like it has space & depth to it. Now pair it with a mic packed with premium components and you are well on your way to professional recordings!

Check out these unbelievable setups under $1,500 that include studio mics, several different preamp choices, and a few combos that even include analog compression & EQ to get your captures sounding top-notch.

WA12 MKII Preamp + ANY Warm Audio Mic: $798 - $1448 USD

The WA12 MKII is the "must-have" sound of loud clean American consoles. With a good amount of headroom, 12's require more pushing of the gain to get color out of the transformer, but when pushed, you will get analog saturation and harmonic distortion that truly recreates the iconic sound of punchy, clean-to-mean console preamps.

Not to mention, this piece fits right on your desktop. If you’re looking to maximize your space without sacrificing premium quality components, the WA12 MKII is your go-to choice. Pair this piece with any mic from our lineup (a little extra for the WA-8000) and you’ve got yourself a convenient American console, API-style preamp color for under $1,500 that will undoubtedly elevate the production quality of your recordings.

WA73 Preamp or WA73-EQ + Warm Mic: $948 - $1,498 USD

(Mic Recommendations: WA-251 | WA-87R2 | WA-14 | WA-47jr)

If the “open” sound of classic British console flavor is what you’re after from a preamp, our WA73 properly reproduces the most legendary British console sound of all time.

Classic '73-style preamps are known for being versatile tools, and the WA73 is no different with the ability to work with all kinds of microphones from condenser, to dynamic, to ribbon while there’s no recording, mixing, or engineering task that the WA73 can’t handle.

What’s better than ‘73-style mic preamp? A ‘73-style mic preamp with built-in EQ. Now we’re cookin’. The complex dual concentric switch potentiometers in the EQ sections of the WA73-EQ are made in the UK by Blore Edwards. These true-to-spec, boutique components provide precision EQ capabilities at multiple frequencies across high, mid, and low bands. The EQ section is also fully bypassable if you want to simply take advantage of the sweet analog flavor of the preamp.

We've put together recommendations of mics that deliver a variety of sound profiles with either preamp for under $1,500. Check out the links below to find the mic that matches your sound profile; ranging from the warm & balanced tones of the WA-251 to the truthfulness of the WA-14, or choose from the ultimate versatility of the WA-47jr to the most popular studio vocal mic of all time, the WA-87R2.

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Note: The WA-251 + WA73-EQ totals at $1,648. The only setup above the $1,500 pricepoint.

TB12 Preamp + Warm Mic: $948 - $1,498 USD

(Mic Recommendations: WA-251 | WA-87R2 | WA-14 | WA-47jr)

For those of you that prefer an American console API-style color to your preamp, have no fear. With top-notch CineMag transformers, multiple discrete signal paths, and a ton of headroom, the TB12 offers the classic clean, loud signal one would expect from an API-style preamp. Feel free to push the TB12 too. Although many refer to the TB12 as “punchy & clean”, if you push this beast, you can achieve a desirable saturation and color to your signal.

Additionally, we’ve packed the TB12 with extra tone-shaping settings that give you the ultimate flexibility and versatility to hone in the precise tone you’re looking for.

With a variety of different mics to pair with this preamp, any of these setups are tough to believe for this price point. Check out the links below for sound samples, demo, and discussion videos to help guide you on which is the right mic for you.

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Under $1,500 - Analog Compression & EQ Necessities

WA12 MKII Preamp + WA76 Compressor + WA-47jr Mic: $1,497 USD

As we know, the WA-47jr can pack a serious punch and handle a variety of sources, even at an unbelievable $299 price point. Your sound will drastically elevate when you pair this with the WA12 MKII preamp alone; however, with a $1,500 budget, we’ve priced these units so that you’re able to dive into the world of analog compression as well.

Cue the WA76. An accurate reproduction of the most powerful and precise studio compressor of all time. The classic '76 was a major breakthrough in limiter technology and used on hundreds of hit records since its inception. Engineers have craved the ultra-fast attack time and trademark sound of the '76 for decades, and now it is finally affordable.

If your goal is to get the most bang for your buck, this is the setup for you. Adding an analog preamp, compressor, and studio microphone of this quality to arsenal all for under $1,500 is almost unheard of. Check out the product pages below for sound samples, demo videos, and some additional information on each piece of gear mentioned.

EQP-WA + WA76 Compressor: $1,498 USD

Sans preamp setups for under $1,500? Let’s do it.

For this scenario, let’s assume you’ve already added an analog preamp and studio microphone to your setup but you’ve got some budget and really want to polish your sound even further. That, or you’ve hit a wall and just can’t seem to achieve a professional-quality sound with lackluster and watered-down software or plugins.

Pairing your preamp with our WA76 compressor & EQP-WA tube equalizer gives your signal chain the versatility to capture any source and shape your tone with precision. The EQP-WA is a fully discrete, all-analog tube EQ that can pull euphoric sonics from any track and bring brilliance and luster to mixes that are nearly impossible to achieve inside the box. Give your music the sweet tones and sonic balance it deserves.

Under $2,500 - Pack The Rack

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Moving on up! At this stage in the game, you’ve got enough space in your studio to really start building your analog signal chain and making some legendary music. You've been using plugins for compression & EQ, but, we all know deep down there is nothing that compares to true analog flavor coming from hand-built circuitry. Not only that, but working with analog gear makes the process all that much more satisfying.

For a max price under $2,500, check out these amazing signal chains that will truly help to deliver the professional results you've been trying to achieve.

WA73-EQ Preamp + WA76 Compressor + Any Warm Audio Mic: $1,797 - $2,447 USD

This setup may provide the most versatility out of any of our suggested signal chains. Including British analog color with the versatility of EQ, plus compression, plus the choice of any mic from our lineup (WA-8000 puts you just north of $2,500), you get full control of your sound and a wide range of vintage-inspired, tone-shaping tools at your fingertips.

TB12 Preamp + WA76 Compressor + Any Warm Audio Mic: $1,647 - $2,467 USD

Pairing the Tone Beast 12 with our WA76 not only adds an accurate reproduction of the most powerful and precise studio compressor of all time to your signal chain but also gives you true American console flavor and powerful tone-shaping features right on your preamp. For under $2,500, complete your chain with ANY of the vintage-inspired mics from our lineup. With a wide range of mics to choose from and a variety of tone-shaping tools in your signal chain, this combo provides the flexibility to handle any aspect of your recording session.

WA12 MKII Preamp + WA76 Compressor + EQP-WA + WA-14 Mic: $2,396 USD

If you’ve got your eye on the WA-14, an accurate recreation of the original studio workhorse - the most truthful microphone in every locker, this suggested signal chain is really tough to beat for under $2,500. The EQP-WA is a faithful recreation of the industry-standard tube equalizer and can make a massive difference in the balance and tone of your tracks. Meanwhile, you still have room in your budget to add some American console flavor with the WA12 MKII mic preamp.

WA73-EQ Preamp + WA-2A Compressor + WA-87R2 Mic: $2,447 USD

Most who are familiar with classic analog gear know the smooth, dynamic-preserving compression with uncompromised tone that a vintage 2A-style compressor can offer. The WA-2A makes this legendary and unattainable sound now affordable. For under $2,500 this signal chain pairs our authentic reproduction of the most coveted compressor and leveling amplifier in recording history with classic British console color & built-in EQ. Round out your mic locker with the WA-87R2, a faithful reproduction of the most popular studio vocal mic of all time, and you have a seriously professional signal chain capable of capturing any source with impeccable clarity and tone.