I'm just curious as to a lot of these new technological portable devices have recently come out now. I'm sure a lot of people getting started in the industry and wanting to make a sound design reel would like to know what should they use in terms of software for manipulating sounds and recorders and mics. Let me know if you were strap for cash what would you buy if you had a low budget and wanted to start a new sound design kit.

10 Answers 10


Strapped for cash? I'd buy nothing new - secondhand Mac, secondhand MBox & ProTools10 ilok, a shotgun mic and a recorder. You don't need other plugins because if you are starting out there is a LOT to learn just with ProTools... and frankly, if you cannot make interesting sounds with just those four things, then its your imagination & creativity that needs focusing on

  • Could even save some money and go w/o the MBox if you run PT10. Commented Jul 21, 2012 at 1:34

I'd do like I've always done, buy a few vital things with the highest quality possible (it's more expensive in the long run to upgrade), and work only with the sources until I could afford more trustworthy monitoring so I could start filtering and processing more seriously.

Of course I wouldn't be nowhere near buying an Aaton at that time (still isn't), so I'd go for the best thing for the buck - a Fostex FR2Le. I actually work with the full FR2 right now. Then I'd get a Line Audio CM3 cardioid and a Sennheiser MKH416, a pair of BeyerDynamic DT250 headphones, and some Supra-cable. Though very cheap, the CM3 is still a valuable asset to my set.

With that I would record everything I could find 'till I could afford the DAW-part. For the audio interface I'd go for a LynxTWO-card to begin with, Steinberg Nuendo for DAW, and the best monitors I could find for my money. Right now it might very well be a pair of old Alesis Monitor One mkII, though chances are I'd very well find something else I would like if I tried. The M-One are not the easiest to mix in, but they're pretty straight-lined and far from flattering, and when I upgrade they'll make a good addition to much bigger systems to confirm the mix.

But frankly, when I started out most of these things didn't exist. At the very beginning I had a really shitty DV-recorder with auto-gain and a Röde NT3, though my Yamaha DSP Factory-cards and Monitor One (mkII, the first model was more lackluster) was very nice at the time! All of the sounds recorded during those about two years is completely useless today.

  • Forgot to mention, like Tim I too wouldn't buy anything new if I could help it. The only reason I buy most things new right now is frankly because I can't find most of what I want, when it comes to movie-related equipment, on the used market. But when I do I prefer it. Buys a lot of old synthesizers, effects, wax-players and other great stuff though! I absolutely frigging LOVE old electronics :-D Commented Jul 21, 2012 at 5:09

A computer. Speakers/Headphones. At least a DAW and some other software (in the form of plug-ins, if you wish). An audio interface. A microphone (or more). A portable recorder.

Sound/sample libraries, if you're making soundtracks (which are not about and aren't full-on "sound design").


This is entirely dependent on what sort of work you'd plan to do, and what exactly your budget was. Without an example of budget etc it's hard to give specific examples of equipment. But if you really had no money to spend and could get access to a computer then it'd be entirely possible to start creating basic sound effects for use in something like a simple browser game using the voice recorder on a mobile (cell) phone and freeware like Audacity.


I think i would go for a laptop with ableton live suite, apogee duet 2 interface, zoom H4N, Røde NT1A, Sony 7506 and maybe active Event monitors. I think there is more creative possibilities with ableton than PT, if i had to pick one to start with. I don't think we'll ever stop upgrading our gear anyway, so the thing is to get the best of what we can get. Even now after 20 years and a lot of quality gear I'm sure i'll change it at some point. The only thing i keep is good microphones, vintage keys and tube preamps/compressors etc.


Ramblings ahead!

This seems to have focused on what to buy... (sorry I failed to read the question properly, I still think my response is valid so i won't delete it).

Define sound design...

Do you mean working with sound for film/tv etc in general, designing it's soundtrack? Do you mean working with sound for AAA games designing it's soundtrack? Do you mean designing sounds for yourself as art? Do you mean designing sounds for independents to use in ios or online games etc?

All the above could be defined as doing sound design. And the paths to get anywhere is very different depending on where you're goals are.

Yes, designing sounds is a vital knowledge and part of the needed skillset for working for film/TV. But you will never ever get a job starting out as a "sound designer". You  start out assisting on a shoot pulling cables and fetching coffe, or editing basic sound effects/foley/ADR for less demanding projects. Until you have proven that you can find/choose the right sounds get them in sync and complete your tasks within the predefined time all while beeing a nice person to be around. You will not be considered for anything but very basic tasks. The closest you'd get to "sound design" in a SSD way is going out to record some sound effects that's not vital for the story but would be nice to have and if the newbie (you) screws up its no big deal. 

Major games are similar but still very different.

Art, small games and school films (for free), is different still.  These are the areas that pay the least but still require you to know your tools, own your tools, understand the craft. Delivery is what is mostly different, with these kinds of projects time is likely to be less of an issue. Either because  art is expected to take time, school projects understand the learning curve and small/independent games will have a limited amount of assets you need to deliver so you are likely to be able to spend more time on each asset.

What you need in terms of knowledge and preparedness is very different. What you need in terms of tools/equipment is also very different. What it will cost you is also very different. How to get there is also very different.

Now what was the question? 

  • Oh buying was the question... Silly me. But what you own is such a small part of what's needed you still need to define what you want to design sounds for. If you are starting out with film/tv you wouldn't go wrong getting ProTools an becoming really really (no I do mean really really really) fast. And when you think you are fast, get faster still, all while never slipping in your artistic choices of what sounds to use. Personally I don't really like PT and prefer to work in Nuendo, but most freelancers don't have the luxury of that choice. Building a sound bank is vital, don't focus on gear
    – ErikG
    Commented Jul 21, 2012 at 10:44
  • Oh, and buy a sound library software and learn how to use it.
    – ErikG
    Commented Jul 21, 2012 at 10:46

Hmm, probably an H4n, NTG3, PT10, RX2, a pair of Yamaha HS50Ms, sony 7506. Those would be my main essentials. RX2 specifically for removing preamp hiss from the H4n. PT10 is fine out of the box nowadays, but Ozone 5 if I had to choose one 3rd party plugin.

H4n - 300 NTG3 - 700 PT10 - 700 (or a cheaper student version) HS50m pair - 300 7506 - 80 RX2 - 300 Ozone 5 Adv - 800

Total = about $3200.. on the high end

Oh, and AudioFinder for 70 bucks is a great buy too! Use it every day


If I was just starting out, looking to learn about audio, and was strapped for cash I would buy the following:

Cheap Windows laptop (with built in audio): $500 or less

Reaper: $60 for the non-pro license

Sony PCM-M10 Recorder: $250

Decent Headphones: $100

Download/Buy Sound Effects online as needed (freesound.org, Sounddogs, Rabbit Ears, The Recordist, Hiss and a Roar, etc)

That's under $1,000 usd and enough gear to get started learning to record/edit sound. No need to go into huge debt to start up. Once you gain more knowledge/experiece/work, you can start to upgrade the recorder and computer, buy an audio interface, plugins, mics and speakers, and move to other software should you choose.


Film sound:

  • A season/membership pass to see (and hear) good films.
  • A few good books, notably "The Conversations", "Tuning of the World", "The expressive power of music, voice & sound effects", "Practical Art for Motion Picture Sound".
  • Any mac

Game sound:

  • A small chunk of cash for carefully selected indy games.
  • A good video card.
  • Any PC


  • A pair of headphones I can learn really really, really well.
  • Any pair of speakers that aren't abysmal.
  • A Sony PCM-M10 recorder
  • A battery-powered mono condenser/electret microphone
  • Adobe Audition

First and foremost... thank you everyone because you were all very and I mean VERY informative. My situation is that I'm a composer but I want to expand to sound design and although I have been certified for audio engineering and done some student projects for post production its been awhile and I also have a Master's Certification in Berklee Music for Songwriting and Music Business, but I catch myself loving post production now that I'm older (30 years old :( ) and I know how to design sounds in terms of sound manipulation but in terms of field recording.. I'm kind of not very informed. I really want to get into both sides video game sounds and film. To be honest, considering my age and all I think it may be hard for me to break into something as big as the major film and gaming industry but I would love to do it as a freelance while I work my day job from there who knows what may happened. I do already have IMDB credits for a short film to help me with credentials but I guess I"m not giving up it's just the whole part where I have to learn the technical ascepts about field recording that I guess I got really stuck with. My knowledge of mics and all that has kind of been lacking exercise or so to speak.

Thank you guys for the answers though.. you've been more helpful than most other communities. I'm defintely stick with you guys. :)

  • 30 years doesn't mean old, only that you've been already cast into a specific career, so it will be a matter of breaking that mould. it's not impossible, just annoyingly hard (just ask me). Sound Design is about aesthetic first, then technical knowledge. Most people unfamiliar with SD don't understand that. You can totally do freelance work, and then you can totally break into "big" film or gaming (don't forget "big" is shrinking fast nowadays). It's a matter of believing, having a plan, and executing it. Cash plays a lesser part though some industry standard tools are a must...
    – georgi
    Commented Jul 24, 2012 at 13:26
  • Hey Man.. thanks for that. That really means a lot. I tend to forget that sometimes I won't lie. I still am a musician and will always be and will always compose so I always felt its not to far away but I remember messing with sounds as a child and I read somewhere that what you did as a 10 year old is a good path to your successful career. I'm a jack of a lot of trades but mainly online marketing (only for the money though honestly) my true passion is in music and post production in audio. Georgi.m thanks for reminding me, that comment meant a lot to me. :)
    – DamianC
    Commented Jul 27, 2012 at 23:38

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