Most people who aren’t audio specialists don’t really have an appreciation for the complexity of creating and refining new sounds. Whether you’re big on music or not, every TV show and movie you’ve ever watched has had a crew of sound engineers behind the scenes creating those noises and effects that are largely responsible for setting the mood and building anticipation. Furthermore, every smartphone, tablet, laptop, desktop computer, radio, or other sound-capable device on the market is tested and optimized by sound engineers before commercial release. Thus, it makes sense that a variety of advanced tools would be needed to get the job done, including but certainly not limited to the following.
1. High Quality Audio Analyzer
Of course, any form of design starts with analysis, and while there are many ways to analyze a signal, when your sound source is a digital device such as a radio or other sound wave emitting object, it’s best to have physical hardware on hand so that you can get an accurate reading of the device output. A good model will usually run several grand, so it is a somewhat significant investment for your craft, but nowadays you can get a compact and highly capable audio analyzer without completely breaking the bank.
2. A Collection of Microphones
Recording new sounds into your software is the best way to develop truly original and unique creations from scratch, especially if you’re going to be developing virtual instruments (i.e. – VST plugins) or lifelike sound effects. As you know, it’s important to use the appropriate microphones for your source in order to get a properly tamed signal that accurately represents the sound you’re trying to achieve. Generally, the vocals are better done on rode condenser mics while softer instruments and acoustics should be recorded with a dynamic mic. You can bend the rules a bit depending on the qualities of the vocalist or instrument you’re recording.
3. Powerful Audio Interface
You’re probably aware of the fact that you need an interface, but sadly many amateur sound engineers choose to start out with a cheaper model because it will “work for now.” While that is true to an extent, there’s no doubt that a premium Apogee will outperform a low level Focusrite on every occasion. Many novice sound engineers don’t understand the power of having built-in signal processors, effects, and amplifiers within the interface itself, but these features can really take your workflow and sound to the next level without any perceivable latency.
4. Accurate Studio Monitor Speakers
Finally, it should go without saying that you’re going to need highly accurate studio monitor speakers. Luckily, despite their pivotal importance in your setup, they can actually be one of the most affordable components, as a solid 5 or 8-inch pair of Yamahas can be purchased for a few hundred bucks.
Commit to a DAW
In order to do any kind of sound design you’re going to need a digital audio workstation (DAW). Before you commit to a software, be sure to try out the top DAWs so you can decide on an interface you’re comfortable with. Ultimately, since you’re going to be using a lot of third-party plugins to achieve the best results, your DAW is really only a wrapper for those features, so pick something that’s easy to use and easy on the eyes.