By Stephanie Ciccarelli
September 26, 2006
Is 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?