We can all easily fall into the spending trap when payday gets closer. Audio guys, both enthusiasts and professionals, are well known for splurging their disposable cash on all types of studio gear in the pursuit of “improving” their setups, but who are we kidding, often we just like buying cool stuff for our rigs. It’s all too easy to tempt ourselves into buying pricey high ticket items such as audio interfaces, microphones and monitors… but be strong… don’t let those types of studio gear exotica distract you from some cool low cost studio accessories that you can buy instead to improve certain aspects of your day to day studio life.
In this article we list 10 cool studio accessories you should consider if you are itching to spend a little money on improving aspects of your studio. From the super simple and obvious through to the “I never thought of that” sorts of smart products, we’ve included a number of simple low-cost accessories that are very extremely tools in any project or home recording studio.
So so simple and so obvious right? Yet, I’ve tracked in many project studios only to have to frustratingly read from chord sheets laid out on either the studio floor or perched on the side of a desk because not a single music stand was available.
Not having a music stand to lay chord or lyrics sheets out within a clear line of sight is a pain, especially when a player gets into their comfortable position for tracking and playing acoustic guitar.
Music stands are not expensive so there is absolutely no reason for not owning at least one that can be thrown up whenever a performer needs one.
A well built, steady music stand I can recommend is the Tiger Orchestral Music Stand. It is fully adjustable, can hold plenty of weight (including a laptop if the top section is flat) and is a very cost effective model at around £20 on Amazon Prime.
Extender Cables For Headphones
Studio headphones do not typically ship with lengthy cables. At best, you’ll get around 1.5 - 2 meters in lengths, but not always, that I honestly don’t think is long enough to work safely within a studio environment. Extender cables are essential accessories that enable you to have plenty of slack in the lead when using headphones for tracking. The extra slack enables you to run cables safely around the perimeter of a room to reduce the chance of trip hazards which stops people from accidentally taking an audio interface for a stroll around the studio when they decide to move to a different spot in the studio whilst still wearing the headphones.
Typically, project or home studios are usually set up in small domestic rooms. These types of studios can suffer from less than ideal room acoustics. The sound of the room within these studios can cause tracks recorded with microphones to sound a bit “live” and roomy. If an array of expensive studio acoustic treatment is out of the question then a reflection filter could very well improve and focus the sound of your recorded tracks. There is a range of reflection filters on the market today from cheap all-foam designs through to cleverly engineered filters with multiple layers of materials. The best advice we can offer if you are currently in the market for a reflection filter is to set yourself an affordable budget and buy the filter that closely matches that amount.
Stereo bars are very useful tools for coupling a pair of microphones together for MS (mid-side) and XY (Coincidence) stereo recording on a single microphone stand. But, they also serve another cool purpose, especially if you already own an early SE Electronics Reflexion Filter….
If you record a lot of guitar tracks in your studio you should own a quality clip-on tuner. Many performers trust built-in electro-acoustic guitars tuners, but I find these to be a bit vague, not great then for mission-critical guitar recording. The clip-on guitar tuner I recommend, because I believe it is second to none… and I also own three of them, is the TC Electronics PolyTune. These are not the cheapest on the market but there is an affordable model in the range called UniTune which shouldn’t be overlooked.
Did you know that there are clip-on tuner for drum kits as well? Tune-Bot is a great little device I can recommend which enables drummers to quickly tune their shells with precision, similar to how guitarist use clip-on tuners. What’s cool about the Tune-Bot is that stores tuning setting for easy recall. Let’s say you tune your kit low for one style of rock playing but you need to tighten the lugs across your shells for a funk style recording project, no problem, store the low tuning on the Tune-Bot and tune back to those settings after you have changed your tuning to the tight funk sound.
A Mouse That Fits Your Hand Like A Glove
If you own a Mac then you most likely use an Apple Magic Mouse. Stylish it is, but the shape isn’t to everyone’s liking. If you find you do not get on with how the Magic Mouse feels in your hand then you should invest in a mouse from a different brand that you wholeheartedly feel you can use comfortably for many hours of audio editing.
Getting a mouse that feels right in your hand will help you to avoid troublesome RSI (Repetitive Strain Injury) in your hand, wrist and fingers… You have been warned, RSI isn’t pleasant and, if ignored, can cause long-term problems in your hand.
Learn more about RSI: Back Pain, Posture And RSI - What Can We Do?
Off-The-Shelf Tool Chest
Do you already own lots of studio accessories that are scattered around your studio? If so, consider buying an off the shelf tool chest that include slide out drawers from your local hardware store. These are great for storing microphones, clips, spare strings… whatever studio accessories you have. What’s great about these chest is that they come is a huge range of sizes, many with locks & keys. For extra security, you can even bolt them through into floor or walls of your studio.
Phone Or Tablet Stands
These are great for keeping our phones away from you when you are busy tracking or mixing. I keep my iPad on my stand away from my mix position. I can see my notifications pop up from across the room when I’m working and the stand is far enough away from me for me to not be tempted to engage with the notification when I’m in the middle of a session or up against a deadline.
Smartphone/tablet stands are also very handy to have if you frequently use apps such as duet or v-control for hands-on touch control of your DAWs.
The model I recommend is the Lamicall stand. This is available in a range of different aluminium finishes and costs around £20 from Amazon.
Monitor stands are very simple devices that provide a wide range studio monitoring benefits. By and large, the biggest benefit of placing monitors on stands is that this setup improves studio monitor performance thus the overall sound quality that monitors can produce in studios.
Monitor stands reduce speaker cabinet vibrations transmitting (by way of decoupling) into other masses and structures such as floors, workstations, desks and mixing consoles. Monitors placed on something like a desk can sound a bit skewed, this is caused by vibrations from the cabinets rumbling into the mass of the desk that the monitors are sitting on making your monitoring experiences less than ideal.
There is a wide range of monitor stands that come in all shapes and sizes. Height adjustable stands with bases that stand freely on the floor are very popular but there other types to consider such as short desktop mount stands and smaller decoupling devices that sandwich between monitors and desks/workstation setups, such as DMSD speaker decouplers:
Dynamic & Ribbon Microphone Preamp Boosters
If you use dynamic or ribbon microphones in your studio then there’s a good chance you have noticed that these types of microphones don’t send much signal to your preamp or audio interface as condenser microphones. Microphone preamp boosters are great for getting a bit more low noise juice from such microphones. They are easy to set up, just connect them between the dynamic or ribbon microphone and your pre, easy pre-asy.
Cloudlifter and TritonAudio both offer great solutions:
Are there any other cool low cost studio accessories that you use that we’ve not included in this list?