So I've been interested in starting an effects rack for months now after seriously getting into music production as a way to stay out of trouble. Don't get me wrong, music has always been a major passion, but I've never been able to devote myself fully to it like I am now. I freaking can't get enough. Only problem is that I don't know where to start.

After some research, many folks recommended that the best way to start would be with a compressor. I think this would be useful but I have two compressor plugins that I absolutely adore. I will mainly be recording vocals for the time being, but guitars and bass guitars occasionally to record some friend's bands (haven't decided what were going to do about drums yet). I would really like quality from these recordings since I have not been satisfied with the results of my recordings so far.

Here is my setup so far:

  1. Akai EIE Pro Audio/Midi Interface
  2. Akai MPK 49 Midi Controller with VSTi plugins
  3. Korg KP3 Effects Sampler (only external effects I have right now)
  4. An assortment of DAWs and an even larger assortment of plugins

So I hope this isn't too many questions but will edit if necessary:

Is this a good place to start? Getting a compressor I mean. I have some money to blow, so I'm not too worried about that, but don't want to go overboard. If not what else should I do and what other requirements are missing?

And lastly since I'm not sure about this, but if you don't think I should start an effects rack (mainly starting with the compressor), is it because it isn't necessary for what I have so far? I ask this because I was thinking I could apply any of the effects I wan't but they would all be plugins and not effecting the input sounds until after they are recorded. I was thinking that I could send the vocal, guitar, or synth track I want into an additional channel with the effects applied in their so that it gets recorded with the effects applied as its recording. If you agree with the statement or question above, is it because of what I just lined up right before this question? Does that even work because I have no idea. My brain makes this hypothesis sound reasonable and not too much different than an external effect.

Any other recommendations for external effects that are required or would just greatly compliment it are welcomed to

I know that's a lot and I hope its not too many questions. Tried to make them all build off each other as a next step sort of thing. If I'm making some dumb assumptions here, feel free to give this noob a rude awakening.

Only thing to keep in mind: I will mostly be making electronic music and a lot of my sounds come from plugin VSTi's but I plan to use external synthesizers in the future. Thank you that is all.

EDIT: I'm planning to do a combination of mixing and recording mainly. I was curious if it would be worth it to get any effects to change my VSTi synth sounds or if this would even be possible or worthwhile.

  • I'm having a hard time understanding what exactly the question is. Could you say, in a few words, what it is you're asking? At first I was pretty sure it was "would a hardware compressor help me" but the question sort of meandered after that so I figured it was time to ask for clarification.
    – Warrior Bob
    Sep 21, 2012 at 19:26
  • That is the question. If the answer is yes then everything else would be irrelevant. Just wanted to give them all my thoughts so they could help me in the best way possible. All the other questions stem from the first one as what if scenarios that I thought up and would be null if any question above it is a yes. The following would not exist if the former one fits my needs.
    – Travis Dtfsu Crum
    Sep 21, 2012 at 20:33
  • @WarriorBob should I have not done that?
    – Travis Dtfsu Crum
    Sep 24, 2012 at 13:11
  • Oh no, it's not that you asked conditional followup questions - those are sometimes appropriate and some of yours are. It's just that the wording didn't exactly make for easy reading, hence my downvote. Clarity is important, especially for a growing site. It would be hard for someone to find this question/answer on Google and learn something from it later (and if this isn't a concern, then it's too localized for the site).
    – Warrior Bob
    Sep 24, 2012 at 15:09
  • Ah ok that makes sense. I wish I knew how to word it better for SEO
    – Travis Dtfsu Crum
    Sep 25, 2012 at 15:32

2 Answers 2


The answer to where you should start depends a lot on what you mean by "music production." You mention recording, which is one half of the equation. The other half is mixing. Mastering is another option, but is an expensive field filled with experienced professionals doing their magic which even many professional audio engineers don't fully understand.

If you plan to do mostly recording, I suggest expanding your microphone selection, and maybe buying a few pre-amps to go along with them. Good sounds start at the beginning of your signal chain. The source is most important, then the microphone, then the preamp. After that comes converters, then finally effects. If you have a full array of plugins, then you really shouldn't have too much need for an outboard compressor. You should buy things that plugins can't replicate in that case.

If you plan on mostly mixing, then you should really look into your listening environment. Buying gear is always fun, but sometimes your best money can be spent investing into good acoustical treatment for your mix space. Which speakers you are using also make a huge difference into how your mixes will sound.

In either case, if you have a full selection of plug-ins, outboard gear probably isn't the best place to invest your money yet. It is the most fun, but 90% of the time plugins will work just as well unless you're a professional engineer.

  • I edited it to say I will mainly be recording and mixing.
    – Travis Dtfsu Crum
    Sep 25, 2012 at 18:17
  • I would go with a good pair of speakers and good headphones if you plan on doing both. They will benefit you the most in the long run. As long as I had decent compression plugins, I wouldn't worry about buying an outboard compressor unless it was something like a LA-2A, 1176, or a Fairchild (all $1500+ comps). The only other reason I can think of would be if you were doing mastering, and there's a lot more to invest in before that's an option.
    – WLPhoenix
    Sep 25, 2012 at 18:27
  • I got KRK Rokit 5s and Sennheiser HD 380 Pros. Thanks for the input! Guess I'll wait a while to get any outboard gear unless I find some sort of outboard effect I realllly really like and can't find an equivalent for with plugins
    – Travis Dtfsu Crum
    Sep 25, 2012 at 18:29
  • Those are definitely solid for a beginning level. Remember that your mic locker and your speakers are an important part of your setup as well, so listing them will make gear questions easier. If you're planning on recording vocals, especially male, I suggest checking out the Shure SM-7. It's great for less acoustically treated environments since it has great isolation, and it's one of the best sounding mics for male vocals in existence. Very reasonable price tag as well.
    – WLPhoenix
    Sep 25, 2012 at 18:34
  • dude that sounds perfect for what I'm going to be doing, will definitely have to get one of those. Just gave me some cool ideas to experiment with... recording up close with the shure and having my sterling audio st51 farther away to record natural reverberation :)
    – Travis Dtfsu Crum
    Sep 25, 2012 at 18:40

Okay - the one essential our core techy (my lead singer) has bought is a wide range of compressors. Maybe 12 high quality rack compressors now, and he swears by them - they make life a hell of a lot easier when recording, and they are independent of your DAW, which software compressors aren't.

I wouldn't worry about effects until you either find one you 'must have' or you realise you need a particular effect. They are easy to add at any stage anyway, and can be placed inline or in an effects loop.

Our music is very heavy on the synths, so what works for us is probably relevant.

  • awesome, thanks for the answer. Will start off with a fairly high end compressor and look for types used by electronics artists that will be good for vocals too as a start.
    – Travis Dtfsu Crum
    Sep 24, 2012 at 13:15

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