Vox Daily The Official Voices.com Blog

Second-hand recording studio equipment

By Stephanie Ciccarelli

September 26, 2006

Comments (12)

recording-studio-equipment-voice-overs.jpgIs buying used gear just 'as good as new' for aspiring talents starting out in the business? Let's tackle the realm of second-hand recording studios, what to look for, and your return on investment (ROI).

When a business is in startup mode, usually the entrepreneur looks for ways to cut costs while obtaining all of the necessary objectives to run their business.

In the case of a voice talent, building a home recording studio is paramount to their success and fundamental to conducting business on a daily basis.

That being said, a voice talent entrepreneur's highest expense when getting started is the equipment to build their home recording studio. Ideally, a professional-grade home recording studio comprises of a computer, recording / editing software, a professional microphone, a microphone stand, head phones, mixing board, speakers (to hear the balance of your mix with), and a proper room to record in. This recording studio, or room, may be a full-out sound booth or a spare bedroom depending on the resources available to the voice talent.

To give us an idea of what's out there, professional recording studios are worth tens of thousands of dollars. The most expensive recording studios cost well over 1 million dollars to construct.

On average, a professional-grade home recording studio costs in the neighborhood of $10,000 to $25,000. Smaller project studios or freelance voice talent home studios could range between $2,500 to $5,000, brand new.

Regardless of industry sector or creative background prior to the start of an imminent voice career, the purchase of a professional-grade home recording studio is the largest, most tangible investment that will be made in the life of a voice-over career.

The equipment, once purchased by the business owner, becomes a hard asset, and if need be, can be sold in order to raise funds to purchase newer, more efficient equipment in the future.

Keep in mind that these hard assets are also subject to depreciation. In Canada, we depreciate computers and electronic equipment at 50% a year. That's quite a hefty sum, meaning that a new piece of equipment could depreciate significantly in less than 3 years.

When someone is in the market to buy gently used recording studio equipment, the odds that they will be getting a great deal and equipment in good condition are definitely in their favor. There are many places that buy and sell used equipment ranging from the local newspaper classifieds to online listings on eBay.

There is no shortage of second-hand equipment looking for a good home, that's for certain, but how can you tell if the equipment is worth the asking price and if it will happily meet your needs?

First off, always be sure to seek out photographs of the object you are interested in. If you are networking locally with someone, setup a meeting to evaluate the equipment in person, including a test-drive of what the piece can do for you and how it operates.

Check for scratches, dents, loose items, and quality. Brand names the likes of Shure, Neumann, and Digi002 are high-end whereas a microphone from an all-purpose electronics store in the mall may be less professional.

Ask where the item was purchased, how much it was purchased for, and when it was purchased. Knowing these variables will give you the leverage you need to decide whether the price for the equipment is fair or way off base. You can also request a copy of the original receipt.

Ask for original boxes, warranties, and user guides. This documentation will prove that you are purchasing from the original owner.

Some manufacturers offer 'transfer of ownership' papers allowing you to benefit from free software and hardware upgrades or promotions in the future. The serial number would then be registered under the purchasers name, thus making you eligible to receive bonuses and free upgrades by virtue of your business dealings.

Your return on investment will be evident in good usage of your equipment. As long as you are learning how to use it, you will get something out of it.

Have any of you had experience buying second-hand recording studio equipment? How did it work out for you?

Best,

Stephanie

Related Topics: booth, how to, industry, recording studios


Comments


    Back in 2000-2001, I bought a huge recording studio, had nine guitars and basses, and five top synths, as well as loads of rackmount gear, software, and a professional sound card ($1700 new, $800 showroom demo model price.)

    I went crazy. Must have spent $25K on everything. But when the recession hit and I couldn't get programming contracts, I had to sell everything at a loss.

    A lot of my gear was new, but quite a bit of it was used, including vintage synths and 44-channel equalizers.

    Thing is, though, you don't need that much to get started doing voice over work. I recently bought an inexpensive Behringer dynamic vocal mic ($40) and a $130 m-audio fast track USB external audio interface, which includes free software. I've only recorded a couple of demos because of time constraints, but it produces very high quality. It also records guitar, but I have no electrics at the moment to test it.

    It includes free Ableton Live software but I use the free Audacity software, which handles Cubase VST plugins.

    I know that $200 (including taxes) doesn't sound like much, but consider this. The sound quality rivals that of my $1700 professional sound card, which in turn rivaled my $4500 (new) Yamaha 4416 portable hard-disk recorder with CD burner.

    $200 buys you a lot these days. (In fact, free buys you a lot, too, in terms of software: Audacity.) You can clean up audio files with software plugins, and programs like ReCycle. Now whether my setup is good enough quality for broadcast, I don't know. My understanding is that it is. Though how do I find out? (Any tips, Stephanie?)

    If I do have to buy a "real" home studio for finished work, I would most definitely buy used for most items. If it's built well, it'll still be working in a few years.


    Posted by:
    • Raj
    • September 27, 2006 10:23 AM

      I have purchased from people I know and trust. Although I sold a tenderly used 3 month old audio interface on Ebay with all original packing etc. at a super price. The guy who got that really did do well, but I can say that because I know that piece of gear.

      When it comes to buying used gear, it really is like buying anything else that's pre-owned, there are inherent risks...especially when purchasing from someone you are not familiar with.

      Some Points to Ponder:

      1. Will the pre-owned gear be a piece of "mission critical" equipment? While any electronic unit can fail, there is something to be said for a factory warranty. I had a $400 interface go out before the warranty was up...got a new one. I had an external hard drive die weeks before the warranty was up...got a new one.

      2. What is the difference in price between the pre-owned and a new unit with full warranty? Is the difference worth the risk? It may very well be worth it.

      3. No doubt there are good deals on great pre-owned equipment. If it is "mission critical" gear, I might opt for "B-Stock" from a reputable dealer. They will have the full warranty intact.

      4. For extra gear, I would certainly entertain used...I have a previously owned mic that works great! But I have more than one mic so in the event of an issue, I can swap out and keep going.

      5. You don't want to find out in the middle of a recording session with a client that your audio interface has had a few "minor issues" in the past but the fella who sold it to you forgot to mention it. Again, any unit can fail, but when it's a main component, do all you can to eliminate as many variables as possible...you will be glad you did.

      Finally, there are places like Sweetwater.com, BSWUSA.com and Fullcompass.com that periodically run deals on a "studio in a box" for those on a budget. This might be an option for those starting out.

      If you are planning on stepping into this for the long haul, I could not recommend more that you consider purchasing the best quality gear possible...it's an investment in your future...there is a cost to doing business and you need the confidence that you are working with the best equipment you can afford.

      For instance, when a person is looking to purchase a lawnmower or a weedeater, take notice of what brand name units lawn care services use, it's probably a good bet that they purchase excellent quality gear because it is "mission critical" equipment. So, find out what gear others purchase and how it has served them.

      I used this method when purchasing my studio gear and have never regretted it!!

      Blessings!

      Posted by:

        Stephanie,

        I agree with Brian that there are certainly circumstances when the dollars saved on a used piece of equipment aren't worth the risk of failure. But, it's just than, a risk, not a certainty. Often the risk is worth it.

        The majority of used equipment in my studio are pieces of analog equipment and microphones. These are the items where the risk/reward ratio made the most sense for me.

        Be well,
        Bob

        Posted by:

          Hi,

          I borrowed $5000 from the First National Bank of Mom and Dad (30 years same as cash!) in 2001 to build my home studio, which included an audio codec (Musicam Roadrunner). I thought I needed an ISDN line to attract clients, but after a year of paying for the ISDN line ($90/month), I had it disconnected and sold the still unused Roadrunner for $800 less than what I paid for it. The person who bought it already had clients who wanted to use ISDN and the machine still had 2 years left on the warranty. This lady got a great deal and a great piece of "critical" equipment for her studio. My comment would be to buy high-end studio equipment (do your research) and you can get a great price!

          Posted by:
          • Robin Rowan
          • October 3, 2006 8:24 AM

            My name is Makaka I'm from Republic Democratic of Congo. I'm interested to buy and produce music and if you can give more information about Second Hand Recording Studio Price and please all kinds of RECORDING STUDIO (SECOND HAND) products.

            Best Regards

            Makaka Mbanzulu

            Posted by:
            • Makaka Mbanzulu
            • June 21, 2008 10:00 AM

              My name is Ali and I am interested in buying a full second hand studio. If there is any one with one, please get in touch. My number is 00447950690525, email address hakmukiibi9@yahoo.co.uk. Will be waiting.

              Posted by:
              • Ali Mukiibi
              • February 13, 2009 6:19 PM

                I definately believe in the K.I.S.S. (keep it simple system) A Samson C01U microphone and Adobe Audtion 1.5 on an old HP Presario! My most important part is my custom built voice booth, which will soon be available for sale on my website.

                Posted by:

                  I've picked up two critical pieces of equipment, second hand. First, on craiglist and second on eBay.

                  The first piece was a pre-amp, a John Hardy. I was just about to pull the trigger on buying one new and searched craiglist on a lark. Not a common Pre, by any means, but lo-and-behold, there was one for $500 less than the lowest seller online. Spoke with the seller, who was a music composer, who had purchased the Pre before settling on a microphone--and when he found his mic, decided to go with another Pre.

                  Drove the 20-ish miles to test it with one of my own microphones, and found it in practically new condition, with all the paperwork. Bought it after 10 minutes of testing it, and saved a bundle.

                  Second second-hand purchase I made was a Sennheiser MKH-60, which lists for $2,700, but I saw it used on eBay for $1,200. Was from a reputable seller, who I also called. Though they were in Arizona (and I'm in CA), they offered a 3-day test period after the mic arrived, which gave me plenty of time to test it with my new Pre and against a series of other microphones I was considering. The mic sounded fantastic, and blew away every other mic I was considering.

                  I tested my used setup against recording studios in the area, and found that my second-hand equipment, at just $2,000 (not counting computer, interface, software, and recording area), was not only competitive, but better than far more expensive studios.

                  The most important thing about buying second-hand equipment, besides the condition of the items and the ability to test and/or return them, however, is knowing what you're looking for. I spent months researching and testing Pre-Amps and Microphones before deciding on the ones I chose. Everyone should do the same.

                  Posted by:
                  • Ed
                  • July 1, 2009 2:26 PM

                    hi, am a tanzanian boy, 22yrs. i like music very much and one of my dreamz i want to a producer (music composer). this time i know some of things like making a beat, recording vocals and editing by using some of software. but the problem is i havent proffessional equipment, and 1 day i wish to have it but i don know when because i havent money to buy equipments, as you know tanzanias we are very poor. so i need ur help at least to bring me studio mixer, monitor speakers, audio card and mic. plz help me, i know you are in business but help me to make my dreams come true. plz plz

                    Posted by:
                    • Abdulaziz issa
                    • February 1, 2010 7:05 AM

                      it's not that hard to get started. some have an unreasonable idea reguarding funds. i just set a friend up with a tascam 688, sennhieser headphones, furman compressor-expander, bbe sonic maximizer, lexicon alex, roland headphone amp and a cheap mic from radio shack. all USED from the trading times paper fot less than $500.00 just look around. it sounds great. don't overspend. your technical chops will have you making great demos as oppesed to having the next great thing and still sounding crappy.

                      Posted by:
                      • sinbad
                      • February 3, 2010 12:13 PM

                        I actually use my Pc for making my albums ans as software I use sonar 7 and i also have a yamaha psr 2000.I have already five albums on the market and two singles. I am on itunes amazon.com and youtube. I should like to improve my studio. I am on the lookout of a second hand studio all complete in UK. please help.
                        thanks

                        Posted by:
                        • HUSSEIN NAMOOYA
                        • March 22, 2010 11:48 PM

                          hi,I'm interesting in buying and producing music and if you can give more information about Second Hand Music Recording Studio Price!i can afford to buy it for not more than USD 2000.
                          1.mini keyboard
                          2.mixer
                          3.microphones
                          4.monitors
                          5.and other important gear

                          Posted by:
                          • Charles Rose Duza
                          • July 28, 2010 2:13 PM

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