My Recommended Stuff

by | Jan 14, 2020

People ask me what kind of equipment I use to record and edit. I decided to put together this list for folks so that you can see what I use or have used in the past. This list is always being added to as I try new things or update older ones. But I recommend everything on this list. If I try something and I don’t like it, I won’t put it on here.

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Sound Recording

Recording Interfaces

I highly recommend the Steinberg UR824 as a lean, mean recording interface. I’ve used it for many years and loved it. I especially love that is has virtually no latency and has software so you can add reverb while you’re singing live. That reverb doesn’t end up getting recorded (unless you want it to) but it helps your singing be smoother. CHECK IT OUT HERE.

Beginning in 2020, I switched from the Steinberg UR824 to using its newer, smaller younger sibling. The Steinberg UR44C is a new unit to me but it sounds exactly the same as the 824. It has the same software that adds reverb to your voice as you sing live and it can record at 32 bits at 192 kHz. Starting in 2020, I’m recording everything at 24 bits and 96kHz. This is a smaller unit and it fits in my backpack. I just didn’t need 8 microphone inputs. BUT it does have two headphone jacks which I also love. I don’t think I’ll ever leave Steinberg.

Studio Microphones

All my recordings pre-2009 were done on one of these MXL microphones. These are fantastic little condensor mics that capture brilliant sound, much like the SPARK by BLUE but at a really low price point. They aren’t quite as durable for someone who travels every week, but in a home studio setting they should last for a long time.

Why would I put a live microphone in the studio recording category? Because the Shure Beta 87a gives you a studio recording sound in a live setting. In a pinch, I’ve actually recorded albums on this mic. Amanda’s solo album was recorded on this microphone, and I was very pleased with the result. If you can only get one microphone and you have to record with it and sing with it live, this is the one to get.

For about ten years, the SPARK by BLUE was my main recording mic. All the a cappella albums were recorded with this microphone. I loved the brilliant, clear and crisp sound of the mic which dovetailed so well with our goal of making our music understandable and fresh. I still have two of these mics in my mic locker and I’m sure I’ll use them more in the future. I compared my SPARK with microphones in the $1000 range and I still preferred its sound.

I started using the BABY BOTTLE by BLUE in 2020. I wanted to deepen and enrich my vocal sounds as I headed into my 40’s. It still has most of the brilliance of the SPARK, but it captures a lot more body. It’s a little more expensive than the SPARK, but it is still very reasonable as a large condensor studio microphone. I rented one for Lauri Lou Jones’ EP “Blueprints” and I was very happy with the result. 

So the YETI by BLUE is a really convenient way to do some recording. I used it for my voice as well as Amanda’s on “Make a Joyful Noise” for a Patch the Pirate adventure. I highly recommend it for voiceover or narration work. I don’t recommend it for singing, though. It just doesn’t capture enough of the brilliance of the voices. But I put it on this list because I would recommend for speaking or for podcasting.

Headphones

For 15 years, I mixed in AKG headphones like these. My last pair are in storage and I can’t remember the exact model number. These are either the exact ones or they are really close. I like AKG because they don’t color the sound. What you hear is accurate. For someone like me who is constantly recording and editing on the road, that’s important because I can’t travel with monitors. These also didn’t break the bank.

There was a time where I said I’d never use BOSE headphones. That was before I tried them out. Wow! What a difference. The noise-cancelling properties on this pair is phenomenal. I now love mixing on these and they give me a very accurate sound. They aren’t cheap, though.

This headphone amp from Behringer is really handy when recording groups. It is analog, but don’t let that hinder you. After all, it’s just for monitoring not for actually recording. It has a lot of power. I have doubled each of the 8 outputs, connecting two pairs of headphones with a splitter on each for a total of 16. I’ve run two of these for a total of 32 pairs of headphones! At this price, it is a great option if you want to get more than two or three people in headphones to record but you don’t do it often enough to justify springing for a multi-thousand dollar digital headphone system.

Software

Even though you can’t purchase these through Amazon, I get many questions about what I use on my computer to record.

Reaper

For the last ten years, I have used this fantastic program for all my recordings. Available here: Reaper.fm. I have been able to do anything the “big dog” studios can do. There are many tutorials on YouTube that are very helpful.

Final Cut Pro X

I work on a 2015 Macbook Pro, so I’m able to use this program. I used to use Sony Vegas Pro which I still would recommend even though it has now been 5 years since I used it. It was not available on the Mac so I had to learn a new program.

At first, I didn’t like FCPX. When I switched from Windows/Microsoft in 2015, I had a hard time on the video side. I LOVED the switch overall, and I don’t see myself returning. I now love this program and even though it might fall just barely short of what Adobe can do with Premiere, my FCPX never crashes. Premiere Pro crashes so much that I couldn’t ever use it.

Live Sound

This is the best all-around dynamic microphone ever made. I used to sing with this for years. It is sturdy, and can take a beating from road travel and still sound great. I can’t recommend anything other than this in this price category. 

I personally don’t risk getting the version with the on/off switch because I’ve heard rumors that the switch can go bad. I don’t know if those rumors are true or not, but I just haven’t risked it.

I have not found a live microphone that sounds a good as the Shure Beta 87a. There’s a few that come close (Sennheiser has one) but this microphone sounds like you are in the recording studio when you’re on the platform. It has sparkling highs, full midrange, and just the right amount of a proximity effect for some lower tones. My wife Amanda loves this microphone and I use it as well. The corded version of this microphone is the best.

This is the same Shure Beta 87a mic capsule but in a wireless version. It is 99.9% as good as the corded version. The GLX digital audio is fantastic 95% of the time. Every once in a while, since it is in the 2.4 Ghz range, I’ll get some dropout if I’m right by someone’s cell phone. Practicality keeps me from returning to the corded version. When the kids all graduate out and it’s just back to my wife and I singing, I’ll probably go back to the corded version of this mic. The reason I say it is 99.9% as good is that with the wireless version, it compresses the audio information a little bit and the mic is just barely not quite as responsive as the corded version. It is barely noticeable, and it is probably good because it allows me to work closer to speakers without feedback. 

Looking for a bargain? This four-microphone wireless system outperforms its price. This is the system we use for our 4 kids. I’ve performed a song or two using one of these microphones just to get a feel for how they perform compared to my own microphone that’s much more expensive. They perform admirably well. 

You’ve got to understand, of course, that this is a bargain-priced system. So it can have little hiccups here and there. It also is UHF radio frequency, so it can pick up any radio in that range if you aren’t careful. But in all the week in and week out performing we’ve done for that last 7 years with this system, we’ve only had a handful of issues of reception. For the price, it can’t be beaten. AND, it has four separate microphone outputs so even though it is all built into one unit, you can still send the four microphones to separate channels.

This is the updated version of the mixer we use for the kids’ four microphones. We love this mixer; it has tight and interference-free sound, and it is an absolute workhorse. We’ve (accidentally) stepped on this, dropped it, buried it under cables and microphones, and it stil keeps on working flawlessly. Highly recommend this mixer and the whole line of this model if you’re looking for something bigger.

BOSE L1 Compact was our first BOSE sound system. I used it to sing solos and the occasional duet. It is super portable, and is rated to fill a smaller room up to 99 people. It is excellent for classrooms, small camps, even smaller churches. We went through two of these units and had no complaints except lack of power in medium-sized churches. Of course, it wasn’t meant for those so that’s not a genuine fault of BOSE. 

The BOSE L1 Model II with Tonematch Audio Engine is what we have used since 2014. This is the identical setup we use except this one comes with a bigger bass module. We have found that it will do venues up to 599 people. Of course, our music is not pop/rock based so we don’t need quite as much power as a group like that might want. 

For larger churches of 600+, we jack into their sound systems and allow them to help the sound. I’ve even used this as my monitor in churches of 6,000+.

Video Recording

Cameras

This is the camera I started with after just using Handycams. I still could use this model and get great video. This model doesn’t shoot 4K, but it shoots HD at 60 FPS. (I’m not a huge fan of 24.) Even though it is older, it would still do the job for most applications even now.

The Canon Rebel T7i is my current camera. It is a fantastic DSLR with awesome resolution. They are always coming out with new cameras with amazing specs. Sometimes you just have to kind ignore that because as soon as you buy something, it seems like something even better comes across your screen. You can’t go wrong with the Canon Rebel T*i series.

Tripod

You’ve got to have a high quality tripod to shoot great video. You can’t skimp on this too much or else it will show up. If you need more than just a still shot that never moves, invest in a fluid head tripod. You’ll never regret it.

This is the one we are currently using and it is working out great! It is pretty tall but it is very easy to set up and to tear down. I can’t speak to the longevity of it just yet because we only got it in late 2019, but it seems like it is going to last a while. It’s an off-brand, but well worth it.