What's going on everyone, Fabz here, a.k.a. Megaglitch. I thought it would be cool for me to write a blog post and share with you my home studio setup as well as the software that I use for producing synthwave music. Let's dive right in.
OK, so when I'm not creating music, I'm busy working as a freelance designer, front-end developer, and content creator on YouTube. I also run a full-time blog as well as a digital marketing podcast.
So, what's any of that got to do with my home studio setup and making synthwave music?
Well, basically, my home studio setup is in my home office environment. I spend almost 70% of my time locked in my home office/studio. The other 30% is dedicated to my awesome and supportive family.
I have two desks in my office, my main desk is used for producing music and editing videos. My secondary desk is where I run my freelance and blogging business.
Since the release of my debut LP 'Endless Echoes', I've not been writing or recording any additional material. Instead, I've been upgrading my music production workstation. I kinda want to get everything set up properly before I dive into producing any more new music.
In addition, I have a ton of things to learn. I've bought a bunch of new tech and software and need to get to grips with using them all.
So, right now, my main music recording desk setup is made up of the following. Let's start with the hardware list -
- 2018 Mac Mini 6-Core, Core i7 with 32GB RAM. (Amazon link)
- Razer Core X Enclosure (Amazon link)
- AMD Radeon Nitro RX5700XT, 8GB graphics card. (Amazon link)
- Alienware 34 inch monitor. (Amazon link)
- Scarlett 2i2 USB Audio Interface. (Amazon link)
- Arturia Keylab 49 mkII. (Amazon link)
- AKAI Fire FL Studio controller. (Amazon link)
- Yamaha HS5 Studio Monitors. (Amazon link)
- Red5 Audio RV6 Condenser Mic
- Neewer NW-3000 Headphones (Amazon link)
I'll talk about each one in more detail and why I use them below. First, let me go through the list of software that I use to produce my synthwave music.
The software and plugins list goes like this -
- FL Studio 20 DAW with all stock plugins currently available. (Learn more)
- Vital spectral warping wavetable synth VST. (Learn more)
- Pigments wavetable synth. (Learn more)
- AKAI MPC Beats. (Free, Learn more)
- Captain Plugins (Learn more)
- Beat Maker Vice Drum Synth VST (Learn more)
- DX7 Synth Emulator VST (Learn more)
- Arturia V Collection 8 (Learn more)
- SQ80 V (Learn more)
- Guitar Rig 6 Pro (Learn more)
- Kontak 6 (Learn more)
- YouLean Loudness Meter Pro (For mastering) (Learn more)
- Ozone 9 Standard (For mastering) (Learn more)
Right then, so as of September 2020, that's all I have for my home studio setup. Now let me go through each piece of kit with you and explain what it is and how I use it to create synthwave music.
My home studio hardware for creating synthwave music!
1. Mac Mini 6-Core...
Let's start with the main computer that literally runs everything. I've always used Mac computers in my business. I'm not biased towards Apple, I use Windows as well. But generally speaking, when it comes to creativity, I do prefer my Mac to run creative applications.
2. Razer Core X Enclosure with AMD Radeon RX5700XT 8GB Graphics Card
As much as I love my Mac, sadly the factory graphics board is a bit lame. In fact, it's really lame. At least it is in the 2018 Mac mini, even with all the other decent specs. At some point, I may opt-in for an M1 Mac.
Anyhow, the Razer Core X is a great all-around enclosure. It's popular amongst gamers and content creators, and the graphics card that I purchased for it is more than capable when it comes to productivity and creativity. It has 8GB of ram too.
As I said, as well as recording and mixing music, I also edit videos and do a lot of graphic design work. Often I have more than one graphic intensive app open at the same time. So the Mac Mini and Razer Core X combo work great for me. It is bulky as heck, but it takes pride of place under my desk out of sight and out of mind.
3. Scarlett 2i2 Audio Interface
This is actually one of my favorite pieces of tech on my desk. I use the 2i2 for recording podcasts as well as the vocal and guitar tracks for my music. It's small, compact, and has Phantom Power, nothing more is needed.
That being said, it only has two inputs which are fine for now. However, my next purchase will be the Tascam Model 12 mixer. I really like the look of this machine and the fact that it works great as a DAW controller. There's something about feeling knobs and sliders when it comes to music production I think.
And in the future, I may collaborate with others on songs, so having more than two inputs will be useful.
4. Arturia Keylab 49 mkII
Having used a few MIDI keyboard controllers in the past, I can safely say that the Arturia Keylab 49 MKII is the one for me. I've tried AKAI's MPK49, which was a great all-around machine, but I just love the Keylab 49 mkII.
For me, the keys are perfectly sized and balanced, and the controls are enough. It works reasonably well with FLStudio20 as a DAW controller too, give or take. The library of sounds that you get with Analog Lab 4 is just awesome. The build quality of the Keylab 49 mkII is second to none.
5. AKAI Fire FL Studio controller
Before I actually purchased this machine, I'd heard a lot of great things. I remember watching a YouTube video and seeing this thing in motion and thought this could really help with my workflow on future projects. I've only had the AKAI Fire for a few weeks and I absolutely love it.
I've only scratched the surface when it comes to using all the features, but maybe I'll create a video tutorial in the future for this one. If you're a FLStudio20 user, you must have this tool. Creating drum patterns using the channel rack and piano roll is a breeze because that's essentially what the UI is, a channel rack. I wish I had purchased this before recording Megaglitch's Endless Echoes LP.
6. Yamaha HS5 Studio Monitors
Again, these are a recent purchase and addition to my home studio setup, so I've only had a few uses out of them. They sound absolutely amazing. Such crystal clear sound.
I used a pair of Audioengine A2+ to master Endless Echoes myself before I had these, and I'm no mastering expert, by the way. Whilst the A2's are generally a good pair of all-around speakers, there is too much low end that can't be adjusted or properly monitored. They're not really designed for producing or mixing music in any case, though I see a lot of content creators using them on YouTube. There is no room or trim control like there is on the HS5's let alone the clarity.
Even listening to the mastered LP on the H5's after I purchased them, I ended up going back to make a few extra tweaks in the master. Adjusting the low ends and the high-ends that I simply couldn't hear on the Audioengine speakers. I highly recommend them for any small home studio setup.
7. Red5 Audio RV6 Condenser Microphone
I'm not big on recording vocals in my synthwave music, however, I did indeed attempt to on the Endless Echoes LP. It didn't turn out too bad, but that's just my opinion.
The mic that I use for vocals and podcasting is the Red5 Audio RV6. You will not find this mic for sale anywhere because it's old. You might be lucky to find one on eBay, though.
I bought this microphone back in 2012 for around $120 and they've been great ever since. There's decent clarity in the audio output, but the thing that I like the most is that you can adjust the DB down to -10 which is something I always do. I prefer to record like this and then tweak the low ends if I need to during mixing. I've always done this with podcasting and the same goes for vocal tracks in my music.
8. Neewer NW-3000 Closed Studio Headphones
These are a great pair of budget headphones for monitoring music. The frequency response is 10 to 26Hz. I've used them for recording both vocals and podcasts, with zero noise bleed, so I really like them.
For the price they are, they're amazing and I may well purchase a backup pair just in case my current pair die out on me, although I've had them for a good few years now.
OK, so that's the hardware, for now. Now let's dive into the software, plugins, and instruments that I have in my home studio right now.
My home studio software and plugin library for creating synthwave music
1. FL Studio 20
When it comes to producing EDM and synthwave music, there's no better DAW to do it in than FL Studio. Yep, I'm biased and proud.
I've used other DAWS in the past. A long time ago, actually. Steinberg's Cubase Elements was the daw I used to use to make music.
But since I'm an Apple fanboy, yes, I also happen to own Logic Pro as well. However, I've not been able to get to grips with it very well, sadly. I just need to spend more time on it. That kinda surprises me because for years I've used Garage Band to record and edit all of my podcasts.
Anyhow, I love FL Studio 20 for several reasons.
- It looks amazing, I mean the UI is visually pleasing, in my opinion.
- The documentation is mind-blowing. Image-line has done a fantastic job with the docuemntation and tutorials for FLStudio. Not to mention that there is a host of tutorials and resources available on YouTube from FLStudio power users.
- It's intuitive. I've heard some people finding the UI difficult to use and navigate around, but I've been able to learn quite quickly. Yes, there is a learning curve and the hardest thing is learning how to use all of the stock plugins. This can take some time, but as I said, there's plenty of tutorials available online.
If you're new to using FL Studio, there's a couple of YouTube channels I recommend checking out below for tutorials -
2. Vital spectral warping wavetable synth VST
This was the first wavetable synth I ever purchased. I was contemplating buying Serum until I saw this one being used in one of the videos from In The Mix.
This was only $20 compared to $200 for Serum. Since I've not used Serum I can't compare them but I do love Vital. Over the recent months, I've been building up my own library of sounds and it's extremely addictive. If you've never used a wavetable synth in your life you will find it daunting at first, like me. But like anything, you'll get used to it with practice.
I still have no idea what any of the features do or how it works, I just tweak some knobs and add some filters and effects and if I like the sound I bank it for a later project.
3. Pigments 3 wavetable synth
Another wavetable synth that I've just purchased is Pigments 3 from Arturia. This came with a ton of presets that are actually usable. I can tweak them further to suit the mood of a song too. Visually, this has to be the most beautiful wavetable synth I've ever seen.
4. AKAI MPC Beats
MPS beats is a mind-blowing piece of software. My original aim was to purchase something like Maschine or MPC One because the FLC plugin in FLStudio is pretty limited.
I heard that AKAI also produced a free MPC software called Beats, and after downloading it into FLStudio, watching a few great tutorials on YouTube, I was hooked. I cannot wait to use this in future music projects to create my own samples and chops.
MPC Beats is basically a beat-making machine, with a lot more to offer. It's a full-blown DAW! It also comes with over 2GB of free content. It's just insane that this software is free to download and use.
One could easily remove everything else and just create music using MPC Beats! But that would be pretty boring, but you could.
How I'll end up using MPC Beats in future projects is probably to create chopped samples of my songs to create some cool sections. I can then add some warped effects to make my music more interesting. I can't wait.
5. Captain Plugins
I'm going to be honest about using Captain Plugins, I've not used them much in my recent work. I purchased it last year during Black Friday and I've not yet started learning how to use it properly.
The one thing I have noted is that there isn't a great deal of documentation or in-depth tutorials of Captain Plugins. Or maybe I've not looked hard enough. Anyhow, it's in my toolbox and I will find time to learn how to use it properly.
6. Beat Maker Vice Drum Synth
Beat Maker vice has synthwave plastered all over it. I've only just started using this beat-making machine and I love it. It's cool for starters, the UI looks awesome.
I can use it to create any kind of custom-sounding retro synth drum pattern and again, it's a plugin I'm looking forward to using on the next Megaglitch LP.
7. DX7 Synth Emulator
The DX7 is one of my favorite synth software instruments, which I've had the pleasure of using on Endless Echoes, particularly on the track Solar Drift.
This is another one of Arturia's flagship software synths that comes with a nice library of presets. Each sound can be manipulated using filters, envelopes, and effects.
8. Arturia V Collection 8
I just purchased the V Collection 8 a few days ago. I have to be honest, I've not used all of the software synths in this except for the DX7 V and a bit of the SQ80 V.
I will update this post in the near future and outline my thoughts and how I'm using the instruments in my projects. I'm really excited about the V Collection, I was very impressed with the DX7's capabilities.
The V collection comes with 28 software synths, this is a powerhouse and there's really nothing else you need for creating synth-based music in my mind.
9. SQ80 V
Where do I even begin? Please email me and tell me... where?
The SQ80 V is nothing short of amazing, and I've got a sneaky feeling I'll be using this software synth on all of the songs on the next songs and future LP.
The original SQ80 hardware synthesizer was created by the same engineers responsible for the Commodore 64! How cool, right? And now this has been recreated in a VST. Oh boy!
The SQ80 V software synth was released not long before I wrote this post. I just had to grab it. Being an Arturia customer, I managed to get this and the V Collection at an insane price!
I've played around with the presets and made a few tweaks to some of the sounds and boy was I blown away! So far so good.
10. Guitar Rig 6 Pro
My first instrument when I was 17 years old was an Encore electric guitar set that I purchased from Argos, of all places!
Learning to play the guitar in my bedroom all those years ago lead me to fall in love with writing and producing my own music.
I managed to upgrade my guitars over the years, of course, and my weapon of choice these days is a Jackson JS32 Kelly which I've been playing for the past 20 years.
I used to own a Jackson KEX in satin black, that was until my ex-girlfriend decided to flog it without my knowing... I also have an Ibanez G10 laying around that I pick up if I want to have a quick twang or come up with some kind of inspiration for a new song.
Anyhow, I'm losing myself a bit here, I do apologize:
The subtle guitar effects that I used on Endless Echoes came mostly from Guitar Rig 6 Pro. I'm so used to using effects pedal and nothing can really replace my trusty Boss ME-80, so this was quite a new experience for me.
It's great to have a lot more choice of guitar effects in my DAW, however, CPU usage can be a problem sometimes with Guitar Rig 6 Pro.
I'm running this thing on a 6-Core i7 Mac with 32GB of ram and very occasionally I'll run into some CPU problems. Though 80% of the time it's fine.
Guitar Rig 6 Pro from Native Instruments comes with 21 classic amps and cabinets models as well as a host of effects. You're really spoilt for choice and endless tweaking possibilities when it comes to finding the right sound for your song.
You don't have to use it for a guitar input, you can add some awesome effects to synths as well.
11. Kontak 6
Another Native Instruments software that I recently purchased was the Kontakt 6 sampling platform. I've already used it a few times on some of the songs and I absolutely love it.
That said, I've barely scratched the surface using this software and I'm a complete noob when it comes to sampling. The instruments alone are around 55+GB in size. But now that I have it, I'll have to spend some time learning how to use it.
12. YouLean Loudness Meter Pro (For mastering)
OK, so the first of two mastering plugins that I have in my library is the loudness meter pro by YouLean! This thing is awesome. There is a free version and that's plenty enough for most peeps.
The premium version has some extra features such as loudness presets for a variety of streaming platforms such as Apple Music and Spotify. There's also presets for gaming platforms, YouTube, and more. You can also save your own custom presets.
My favorite feature on the pro is that you can drag and drop audio and video on the plugin to analyze.
13. Ozone 9 Elements (For mastering)
The second plugin that I use for mastering is Ozone 9 Standard by iZotope. There are more expensive versions of this software with more features on offer, and the features are good, however, it can become very expensive.
Elements, for me, has the features I need to master my music the best I can for the time being. I don't use all of the features either, or yet I should say. Combined with the YouLean Loudness Meter it works great.
I'll write a separate post in the future, or even create a video of how I record my music, the process, and whatnot. I'll also create a separate post on my shoddy attempt at mastering. All of this is still kind of new to me so lots more to learn, and that's the exciting part for me.
It's a wrap!
So, there you have, that's a rundown of all the hardware and software that I use for creating synthwave music from my home studio. I probably will add to this in the coming year I discover software and instruments. For now, though, I have plenty to keep me busy. If you're interested, I have the links to each of the products that I use.
Affiliate Disclaimer - Some of the links in this post are affiliate links, so if you happen to click on an affiliate and make a purchase of a product or service, I will be paid a small commission, but at no additional cost to you. Thanks for your support.