Elago W3 Stand for Apple Watch Ultra will teleport user onto a nostalgic journey of time and functionality

San Diago-based accessories maker, Elago, has made it a custom to recreate Apple’s loved Macintosh Computer into a charging dock for the Cupertino tech giant’s new watch editions. The W3 charging stands – for Apple Watch series – through the years have paid ode to the iconic iMac that put Apple at the pinnacle of personal computing.

Meant to wirelessly charge the Apple Watch under the disguise of a classic Macintosh, Elago has this time refreshed the design to accommodate Apple’s largest watch to date. The W3 Stand is designed to sit comfortably on the nightstand while charging the Apple Watch Ultra docked into it. With the Nightstand Mode kicked in, it can function as an alarm clock and display time and messages for you.

Designer: Elago

Click Here to Buy Now!

The new Elago W3 Stand is likely to impress Apple Watch patrons with its throwback design and ability to charge the Watch Ultra. Simply place the watch into the charging stand and the watch screen will instantly transform into a retro Macintosh computer.

The stand – which is compatible with Apple Watch Ultra, Series 8, and all previous models – is made of durable, non-recycled silicone. The construction material renders the accessory feels great to the touch and durable enough to last a lifetime. Use of silicone also ensures that the charging stand is safe to use in homes with children and pets.

If you’re not a big Apple fan, but know someone in your circle, the Elago W3 Stand for the Apple Watch Ultra can make and ideal gift for them. The dock will teleport the recipient onto a nostalgic journey of time and functionality. If you are considering it an option, you’ll be glad to learn that the W3 Stand comes in two color options: Black and White, and is now available online for $13.99.

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The ‘Magic Mouse Pro’ is the premium ergonomic wireless mouse that Apple never made

With an ambidextrous design, upgraded laser tracking, a dedicated middle-scroll button (for CAD users), and a repositioned charging port, the Magic Mouse Pro is the wireless mouse we wish Apple would just make already.

The Magic Mouse may just be Apple’s oldest, most unchanged product ever. Launched in 2009 and refreshed in 2015, the Magic Mouse has seen mass acceptance (and resentment) in the 13+ years that it’s existed. The problems we’ve had with it haven’t changed in that time – it’s too sleek to actually be ergonomic, it doesn’t have a middle scroll button (which gamers and designers/engineers need), and its charging port is located in arguably the worst place ever. However, we designers have a hard time accepting the things we can’t change, and it’s our natural tendency to change the things we can’t accept… so behold the Magic Mouse Pro, a concept from the mind of Taiwanese designer Vincent Lin. With a premium all-black exterior, ergonomic form, and better hardware, the Magic Mouse Pro brings a few significant upgrades to the mouse experience, making it a much more compelling purchase compared to its 2015 sibling.

Designer: Vincent Lin

To begin with, the Magic Mouse Pro has a design that prioritizes ergonomics over ‘slimness’. For the most part, your mouse never leaves your desk. Hardly anyone packs their Magic Mouse up in their backpack and carries it home after a day’s work, so why does the mouse even have to be slim? Vincent’s redesign retains the mouse’s overall flavor while giving it an anodized aluminum platform that’s made for better gripping. There’s now a thumb-rest that makes using the mouse much more comfortable over longer periods, and a small rubber grip built right into it so that you don’t always feel the slippery metal against your skin.

The Magic Mouse Pro’s most radical feature is its ability to easily alternate between being left or right-handed. The biggest drawback with ergonomic mice is that they’re seldom ambidextrous. The Magic Mouse Pro’s swiveling upper surface lets you easily flip it around to suit your needs, giving it a significant edge not just over the existing Magic Mouse, but over every ergonomic mouse too!

Let’s also state the obvious. A more strategically located Lightning port makes charging the Magic Mouse Pro much easier, correcting a universal wrong from 8 years ago. Sure, the position of the lightning port changes based on whether you’re using it in right or left-handed mode, but I’d argue that’s much better than having a charging port located on the underside of a mouse.

A single dimple on the mouse also now indicates the Magic Mouse Pro’s ‘middle scroll’ button, which proves useful in web browsers, design software, and CAD/engineering programs. Yet another major oversight fixed with a simple design detail.

Finally, the ‘Pro’ moniker is justified with the inclusion of better hardware, including a Pro Laser Eye that offers better tracking and accuracy with lower latency, and a first-ever Taptic Engine in a mouse to offer better haptic feedback while navigating your software. It’s a feature that Apple’s Magic Trackpad has had for a while, but remains ignored in the mouse itself, given its lack of upgrades in quite a few years.

Sadly, the Magic Mouse Pro and its radical features remain entirely conceptual for now, although for people looking to transform their existing Magic Mice, this easy-to-install ‘ergonomic accessory’ should absolutely do the trick!

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World’s first and fastest USB4 SSD enclosure offers transfer speeds up to 3.8Gb per second

With its breakthrough USB4 technology, the ZikeDrive offers transfer speeds that put Thunderbolt 3 to shame.

The ZikeDrive boasts of being the world’s first true USB4 enclosure, with record-breaking read/write speeds of 3.8 and 3/1 Gb/s. Designed with a sleek aerospace-grade aluminum outer body, the ZikeDrive is a clever combination of cutting-edge tech and intuitive design. Its exterior doubles as a heat sink, helping keep the hardware cool, while a channel built into the side also tucks away a USB cable that you can use to rapidly transfer data to and from your gadgets.

Designer: Alen Liao

Click Here to Buy Now: $109 $199 (45% off). Hurry, for a limited time only!

Built-in Stowaway USB4 Cable – Quickly connect ZikeDrive to your computer. Never forget to bring a cable.

Look at the ZikeDrive and you know it means business. It’s slick, sophisticated, and has an absolutely no-nonsense design that perfectly encapsulates the ‘Form follows Function’ approach. The SSD enclosure is compact, making it easy to carry around with you, and neatly stores its own cable in a hidden compartment for added convenience. The enclosure itself can be opened without tools to reveal the SSD slot inside, which supports both NVMe and PCIe Gen4x4 SSDs.

World’s Fastest SSD Transfer Speed – Capable of 3763MB/s read and 3146MB/s write speeds.

Transfer 1TB of video, photos, and files in 5 minutes.

Add the SSD in and the ZikeDrive transforms into the world’s fastest storage system, allowing you to transfer and access files at record-setting speeds. It pushes the limits, offering read speeds of nearly 3.8 gigabytes per second, and write speeds of 3.1 gigabytes per second, going above and beyond what traditional Thunderbolt 3 can do. This is thanks to the ZikeDrive’s USB4 framework, which meets USB-IF USB4 specifications (making it the first SSD enclosure to do so). With the USB4’s breakneck transfer speeds, you can move files in mere seconds, or back your device up in minutes – 1 terabyte worth of data could theoretically be transferred in under 5 minutes.

This level of data transfer does generate a significant amount of heat, but the ZikeDrive’s aluminum enclosure quickly distributes and dissipates the heat, keeping your SSD cool and breezy at all times.

Compact – Perfect for designers, business travelers, photographers, videographers, or content creators.

Toolless Installation – Just pop off the aluminum cover and insert the SSD.

The ZikeDrive measures 4.4 X 2.5 X 0.7 inches, and weighs a mere 0.5 lbs (245 grams). It’s compatible with all popular desktop operating systems, including Win10, MacOS Yosemite, Linux Kernel 5.6 and all their later versions. The SSD enclosure lets you plug into PCs, Macs, iPads, and even consoles like the PlayStation. The ZikeDrive enclosure starts at just $109, and you can grab the enclosure with a 1TB SSD starting at $239 or go up all the way to a 4TB SSD for $839.

Click Here to Buy Now: $109 $199 (45% off). Hurry, for a limited time only!

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SLIBALL is a curious device designed to disinfect shopping cart handles

It was probably about time that we became acutely aware of the unseen dangers that lurked in corners and surfaces, particularly the viruses and microorganisms that lie in wait on tables, door knobs, and handles for days. Unfortunately, it’s hard to break old habits of touching things without much thought, especially when it involves something as trivial as wiping down handles and surfaces before using them. Those who do try to develop good habits, on the other hand, will discover that there isn’t that much support for making it convenient to keep surfaces clean without doing too much work. That is especially a problem in very public spaces like supermarkets, where everything is exposed to dozens of people touching almost everything. This is the reason for this odd round device’s existence, to make cleaning such surfaces, specifically shopping cart handles, as easy as inserting a coin.

Designer: Xinyu Ye

It doesn’t take too much effort to wipe something down before using it, especially if it’s something that tends to be used by multiple people. The problem and the inconvenience come from not having the right tools for the job, which is often a pack of wet wipes in your bag or pocket. Alternatively, you could just spray it with alcohol, presuming you’re carrying a bottle all the time, but the end result could be a sticky, wet, and almost gross handle that will still leave you feeling dirty in the end.

Truth be told, customers in a store shouldn’t be waging a crusade against germs on their own. While it has become customary for many businesses to provide hand sanitizer dispensers at key points in an area, those just aren’t enough for high-traffic, high-contact areas like supermarkets. It’s about time that companies and businesses also step up their sanitation game, and this device, partially inspired by a mushroom, is one gadget that could help them improve their customer safety and satisfaction.

At first glance, SLIBALL almost looks like some futuristic sci-fi device, especially thanks to its sleek shape and glossy white or black surface. It has a hole that goes through its roughly cuboid body where the handle of a shopping cart would pass through. The core idea is that the device would sanitize the shopping cart handle it’s attached to using UV-C light. And rather than forcing a shopper to take an extra step, SLIBALL can be integrated into the process of claiming a cart right from the start.

Some shopping centers and supermarkets require you to insert a coin to unlock a shopping cart, and this same coin can be used to activate SLIBALL. The device starts sterilizing the handle automatically and can even be slid across the length of the handle to cover all the spots. Once done, the “head” of the device pops up like a mushroom after the rain and returns the coin to the owner in the process. It’s actually a simple concept that few have probably considered, but given our present circumstances, it is an avenue worth investigating. It could even become a profitable business for sanitation device manufacturers, especially as more and more people go back to doing groceries in person.

The post SLIBALL is a curious device designed to disinfect shopping cart handles first appeared on Yanko Design.

Finally a voice-absorbing mask that lets you take calls in public “privately”

One of my pet peeves is people who take calls in public and talk noisily to whoever it is who’s calling. I don’t need to know your business whether it’s personal or actual business. But of course, there are times when it’s necessary that they take calls and they can’t find a quiet place to conduct their conversation. Earphones and headphones help reduce the annoyance but there needs to be another device to help protect noise levels and privacy.

Designer: PriestmanGoode

The voice-absorbing mask is now almost a reality as PriestmanGoode partnered with a French company called Skyted to add a jet engine silencer to it, albeit a miniaturised version. This way, the mask helps the user make calls without disturbing other people around them and also protect their privacy, especially in public areas. The mask also silences the noise around the caller, making it seem like you’re in a private room talking to each other.

The mask is also designed to be comfortable for the user, using an airflow system that is influenced by a jet engine as well. They also want to use materials that will not cause the device to overheat when used for a long time. It also has a shape design that adapts to the “recognizable” form of its user, whatever the shape or size of the face may be. They are also planning to use recycled and sustainable materials for the final product that will be available for commercial purchase.

There will be two versions of the voice-absorbing mask available when it launches on Kickstarter around March 2023. One is meant to be for business people or those who are working outside and need to take calls in public. The other one is a gamer version for those who’re playing in computer shops or in public places as well. The former will cost around $400 while the latter will be priced around $500 and will have a higher resonator volume.

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Sony PlayStation 6 console concept emerges with a more crowd-pleasing sleek, streamlined design

While Sony has officially indicated that the PlayStation 6 could be expected in 2027 (giving the PS5 another 4 strong years of dominance), a viral fan concept imagines what the console will look like… and more importantly, will its design still be polarizing?

Designed as the next-generation gaming console from Sony, the PlayStation 6 concept is a towering behemoth of the gaming industry. Just like its predecessor, it’s poised to be the most popular gaming console in the world. Its design, however, feels like an about-turn after the PS5’s widely-debated organic ‘alien-tower’ design. The PlayStation 6 takes the same vertical console approach, but instead, has an imposing ‘skyscraper-inspired’ design that looks like it could easily be a part of a futuristic city skyline. Straight lines, incredibly wide curves, and signature blue lighting define the PS6 concept’s design, combining the best of the PS5 and the PS3 into one superlative package.

Designers: Junwoo Kim, Hyeon Jeong Ra, Eun Kyung Shin, Kim Jiwoong, Gaeun Kang, LFD Official

The upper profile sports a boat-shaped design, which works incredibly well in creating the illusion of slimness. You’ve got wedges on both the front and back, mimicking a MacBook Air-ish approach to sleekness, while also pretty much showing you where the air would flow in and out of. Where the similarities with the PS5 tie in are in the presence of distinct panels on the left and right, and the color scheme (especially the blue lighting). Just like with the PS5, the panels cover the electricals, and provide distinct vents for air intake and exhaust, helping keep the console cool. LED lights hidden within the panels create an internal glow that makes the PlayStation 6 look like it’s alive. The designers even propose a smartphone app to be able to change the lighting as a gamer-friendly RGB custom feature.

The skyscraper-inspired design gives the PS6 its majestic appeal. This one’s definitely not as polarizing either.

Other details on the design front include the iconography running along the central rim of the console. This fun detail gives the PS6 a slight sense of whimsy, bringing a little element of playfulness to an otherwise serious and intimidating-looking piece of hardware.

Move over to the back and that same rim houses the PlayStation 6’s ports. Although controversial to begin with, this console concept doesn’t have any of the traditional ports, like the HDMI and Ethernet inputs. Instead, the PS6 has 3 USB-C Thunderbolt 4 ports that support power, data, and video at 40Gbps bandwidth. I guess you’ll need to keep one of Satechi’s multiport dongles handy if you want to hook in traditional displays, projectors, or connect your PS6 directly to the internet. There’s also a noticeable lack of a disc input, suggesting at a digital-only device.

The conceptual console also comes in color variants (so you don’t need dbrand plates to turn your PS matte black). The next-gen console comes in pure silver and satin grey, along with a smartphone app that lets you play around with the built-in RGB lighting. Although entirely conceptual, this design exercise is a fun way of imagining what the next console will look like. Will Sony lean into the weird organic design? Will they circulate incredibly ugly dev-kit prototype images just to throw us off course? I guess we’ve got another 4 years to speculate!

A look at the interface shows a few tweaks to the experience.

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dbrand’s latest potentially-illegal vinyl wrap ‘Switches’ up your Valve Steam Deck

It even has a dubiously pixelated Nintendo Switch logo on the back that definitely won’t make Nintendo’s lawyers happy!

It’s officially been nearly 6 years since Nintendo dropped the Switch (it launched in March of 2017), and to be absolutely honest, while the Switch has been wildly successful as a console… it’s kind of getting a little old. The company also released a Switch Lite and a Switch OLED, although everyone’s eyes are on the rumored Switch Pro, which doesn’t seem to be arriving soon. Deciding that it wasn’t worth the wait, the folks at brand launched a vinyl that, well, seems to be a thinly veiled jab at Nintendo. The SwitchDeck is a special-edition vinyl wrap that turns your Steam Deck into a makeshift Nintendo Switch. Complete with color-matching wraps for the left and right sides of the Steam Deck (and even a plausibly-deniable pixelated Switch logo on the back), dbrand’s kit really converts your Valve gaming device into some MacGyver-ish Switch Pro.

Designer: dbrand

This isn’t the first time dbrand’s done something mildly controversial yet incredibly tongue-in-cheek. The company also launched ‘Something’ skins for Samsung Galaxy, iPhone, and Pixel phones to make them look transparent like the Nothing phone (1). It seems like the SteamDeck hopes to evoke the same sense of childish joy by firing shots at Nintendo and Valve’s legal teams in a way that gives its customers the last laugh. I’ll be honest, I find it fun, even if it’s at the expense of an entire company’s legal department!

While the Steam Deck has loads of buttons and triggers, nothing’s quite as triggering as that pixelated logo on the back!

For people looking for extra protection for their Steam Deck, the company even offers a hard-shell cover that’s hilariously called the Killswitch Case. Designed to provide ‘military-grade impact protection’, the case covers the back and handles, leaving all vents and ports unencumbered. It even features a mechanically-mounted kickstand that lets you prop your console up while gaming or watching videos.

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This mouse concept ditches the buttons for a more tactile experience

The computer mouse hasn’t changed its basic design in ages, which also means that the ergonomic problems it had in the past still exist today. There are plenty of new designs and concepts that try to challenge the status quo, but many of these tend to have unfamiliar and sometimes very alien forms. That might be uncomfortable for some people who rely on muscle memory to get things done efficiently. Of course, there’s still plenty of room for improvement even with the more traditional shape of the mouse, and this design concept puts a slightly different twist to the user experience, focusing more on how it would feel under our fingers when you remove the keys and buttons.

Designer: Matteo Ercole

Repetitive strain from using a mouse can come from different motions, though most of the focus is on the bigger movements of the wrist. Our fingers, however, are also quite active when using a mouse, and those could also contribute to eventual injury. That might be especially true if your fingers encounter a lot more resistance from mechanical interfaces like buttons and wheels.

Named “Just another mouse” as a tongue-in-cheek joke, this design concept does away with those buttons and instead presents a device that has a more stylish body and texture. Instead of buttons, the concept utilizes pressure-sensitive areas similar to Apple’s Force Touch trackpad on MacBook. This can expand the number of actions you could use with the mouse or change the gesture completely, like using a slightly deeper press instead of double-clicking. The mouse wheel is also absent, replaced by a touch-sensitive groove that provides less resistance while also giving the finger a more nuanced tactile experience.

The mouse doesn’t have a power switch, either, and it just turns on when a proximity sensor detects a hand on top of it. The internal battery is charged on a wireless dock, similar to how you’d wirelessly charge a smartphone or smartwatch. This further reduces the number of openings and moving parts that could break down after prolonged use.

This concept design doesn’t inherently change the way the mouse looks or functions, but it does open the door for newer experiences, especially when the sense of touch is involved. Rather than typical plastic, the design could use different kinds of materials and textures that give the mouse a bit more flavor, both visually and tactilely. That, in turn, can make the mouse more than just a utilitarian computer accessory but also a beautiful desk decoration when they’re not in use.

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What to buy if you want to start producing music at home

These days it’s not necessary to go to a giant studio with overpriced, pro-grade gear to record a Grammy-winning record. You can do it right from the comfort of your own bedroom in fact, using tools priced for even the most casual of hobbyists. It's not news that the tools of creation or the avenues for distributing art are accessible to more people than ever. But the cultural institutions that have dominated popular music for so long can no longer ignore the bedroom producer or budding Soundcloud star.

Maybe you've been inspired to build your own home recording studio. And maybe, you're not quite sure where to start. Well, an audio interface, a good mic and a decent set of headphones will get you pretty far. But the first thing you'll need is probably staring you right in the face: a computer.

Computer and a DAW

An overhead view of Ableton Live 10 on a laptop surrounded by home studio gear.
Ableton

Justin DeLay, Director of Product and Category Marketing at Reverb, drives home just how important the computer is: "You can strip away everything else and as long as you have a computer you can still create music," he told me. He suggests you "spend the money on a good computer and get other gear — such as audio interfaces, mics, headphones, etc. — used or at reasonable price points."

But, truthfully, you can do quite a lot with whatever computer you have on hand. Joe Pecora, the engineer and producer at Red Room Studio, says your set up "could be as simple as an iPhone/iPad with Garage band." (I know someone who recorded an entire album this way.) While he agrees that the most important part is your computer, he argues it doesn't have to be super powerful. It doesn't even have to be a desktop. JDilla famously created many of his beats on a Roland SP303, and you can basically recreate that experience with an iPad and the $4 Koala Sampler for iOS. And don't forget that Gorillaz recorded an entire album on an iPad.

Which leads us to the next thing you'll need: a DAW, or digital audio workstation. If you're a Mac user, then you're lucky enough to have access to Garage Band, a surprisingly capable free option. And upgrading to Logic Pro X is only a $200 investment. If you're on Windows (or just don't like Logic), I often recommend Ableton Live (starting at $99). But honestly there are plenty of great options out there, like FL Studio, BitWig and Cubase all of which start at $99. And often, stripped down versions come free as part of a software bundle when you buy music-making hardware like MIDI controllers and audio interfaces.

Assuming you already have a computer and you just need the accessories to get recording, you can pick up everything you need for under $500 new. But, if you’re patient, you could build a well equipped bedroom studio with used gear for as little as $250.

MIDI controller

An overhead view of four different midi keyboards on a wooden desktop.
Engadget

Speaking of which, one of the first additions to your studio should be a MIDI controller. DeLay says this is a piece of gear often overlooked by beginners. "It's not just for playing keyboard sounds," he explained, "it can be used to write drums and percussion, to control mixes and more. It's the creative interface of music production, and you don't have to play the piano in order to harness its power."

We've covered plenty of affordable and portable options before. But if you don't plan to make music on the go, I can't recommend the Arturia MiniLab 3 enough. It punches well above its weight, and even the pros love this thing. And if you have the space, it's not much more to upgrade to something like the Keylab Essential 49 ($269) or Novation Launchkey 49 ($229), which will give you a lot more controls to play with.

Microphone

An Audio-Technica AT2020 condenser mic is on a stand above a coffee table with a laptop, with a leather couch in the background.
Audio-Technica

Unfortunately there's no gear that will magically turn you into a breathy pop goddess, but a decent mic and audio interface can at least help you sound your best. Now, you could get a USB microphone, like Blue Microphones’ $130 Yeti, and it will certainly get the job done. Heck, that album I mentioned earlier was recorded using the wired headset that came with the iPhone.

But, honestly, your better bet is to get a regular XLR mic and an audio interface. Pecora specifically warns against splurging too much here. "People will look at their favorite artist and see that they use a certain mic or preamp or plugin and want to use the same thing thinking it will get them the same sound." On early singles like "Ocean Eyes" Billie Eilish used an Audio-Technica AT2020 condenser mic, which costs just $100. And I’ve stuck almost exclusively with cheap Shure SM58s and 57s ($100 new, $50-$75 used) whether I was recording demos with my band in college or voice over for review videos at Engadget.

If you fancy yourself a future pop sensation and want to make sure your vocals are the star of the show, you could consider using a significant chunk of your budget on something like the Rode NT1-A ($229) or Shure SM7B ($390). You will get better results with more flexibility for post production, but you can clearly get excellent results with more affordable options.

Audio interface

Focusrite Scarlett Solo
Scarlett

As for the interface, there are tons of great options out there. Companies like Focusrite, Arturia and Tascam make excellent ones. But our new favorites in the budget interface space are Universal Audio’s Volt series. If your budget allows for it we strongly recommend the $299 Volt 276. Though, the $189 Volt 2 is also excellent, it just doesn’t standout from the crowd quite as much.

If you’re trying to save a few bucks, it's hard to beat the Scarlett series from Focusrite (just make sure to get the second- or third-gen models). You can get the latest Scarlett 2i2 for around $130 used, but it's just $180 new (and includes a huge bundle of very useful software).

The reason to opt for an audio interface instead of a simple USB mic is because it offers you a lot more flexibility and room to grow. For one, it offloads a lot of the audio processing from the CPU. Second, it will allow you to connect not just mics (and swap in different ones for different purposes), but also instruments, turntables or anything with an audio-out jack. An audio interface is also necessary if you plan to connect a pair of studio monitors.

Studio monitors and headphones

The Sony MDR-7506 headphones suspended in the air in front of a dark background dotted with bright light spots.
Will Lipman Photography for Engadget

This is an area that DeLay advises caution. While a good set of studio monitors will obviously be better than the speakers on your laptop and will result in a better mix, it's too easy to get caught up in what he calls monitor envy. "The reality is that monitors at a $300 price point are going to work just fine in most spaces," he says. Plus, your bedroom probably doesn't have the space to really make the most of large, powerful monitors. So, save your money.

And if you're just starting out, you're probably better off getting a decent set of headphones. There're tons of amazing and affordable studio quality headphones out there for under $200, like the $179 Beyerdynamic DT990PRO (currently down to just $179 on Amazon). But one of our favorites is an old workhorse from Sony, the MDR-7506. They're well under $100 and actual pros have used them for decades to mix music.

One tip DeLay offers for novices: Double check your mixes in the real world. Headphones can over emphasize bass, while smaller studio monitors can have trouble delivering accurate bass response. So make sure to listen to your track on laptop speakers or in a car to get a sense of how it will sound in the wild.

And that's really the key — have the patience to develop your skills and make the most of the gear you have. It's really easy to catch a bad case of GAS (gear acquisition syndrome) when you're first starting out — trust me, I know. But there's no need to shell out thousands of dollars for high-end gear to start making music. You don't even need to buy new gear. Pecora suggests the only thing you absolutely should buy new are headphones. And, presumably, that's just because you don't want to be wearing years worth of someone else's sweat on your ears.

What to buy if you want to start producing music at home

These days it’s not necessary to go to a giant studio with overpriced, pro-grade gear to record a Grammy-winning record. You can do it right from the comfort of your own bedroom in fact, using tools priced for even the most casual of hobbyists. It's not news that the tools of creation or the avenues for distributing art are accessible to more people than ever. But the cultural institutions that have dominated popular music for so long can no longer ignore the bedroom producer or budding Soundcloud star.

Maybe you've been inspired to build your own home recording studio. And maybe, you're not quite sure where to start. Well, an audio interface, a good mic and a decent set of headphones will get you pretty far. But the first thing you'll need is probably staring you right in the face: a computer.

Computer and a DAW

An overhead view of Ableton Live 10 on a laptop surrounded by home studio gear.
Ableton

Justin DeLay, Director of Product and Category Marketing at Reverb, drives home just how important the computer is: "You can strip away everything else and as long as you have a computer you can still create music," he told me. He suggests you "spend the money on a good computer and get other gear — such as audio interfaces, mics, headphones, etc. — used or at reasonable price points."

But, truthfully, you can do quite a lot with whatever computer you have on hand. Joe Pecora, the engineer and producer at Red Room Studio, says your set up "could be as simple as an iPhone/iPad with Garage band." (I know someone who recorded an entire album this way.) While he agrees that the most important part is your computer, he argues it doesn't have to be super powerful. It doesn't even have to be a desktop. JDilla famously created many of his beats on a Roland SP303, and you can basically recreate that experience with an iPad and the $4 Koala Sampler for iOS. And don't forget that Gorillaz recorded an entire album on an iPad.

Which leads us to the next thing you'll need: a DAW, or digital audio workstation. If you're a Mac user, then you're lucky enough to have access to Garage Band, a surprisingly capable free option. And upgrading to Logic Pro X is only a $200 investment. If you're on Windows (or just don't like Logic), I often recommend Ableton Live (starting at $99). But honestly there are plenty of great options out there, like FL Studio, BitWig and Cubase all of which start at $99. And often, stripped down versions come free as part of a software bundle when you buy music-making hardware like MIDI controllers and audio interfaces.

Assuming you already have a computer and you just need the accessories to get recording, you can pick up everything you need for under $500 new. But, if you’re patient, you could build a well equipped bedroom studio with used gear for as little as $250.

MIDI controller

An overhead view of four different midi keyboards on a wooden desktop.
Engadget

Speaking of which, one of the first additions to your studio should be a MIDI controller. DeLay says this is a piece of gear often overlooked by beginners. "It's not just for playing keyboard sounds," he explained, "it can be used to write drums and percussion, to control mixes and more. It's the creative interface of music production, and you don't have to play the piano in order to harness its power."

We've covered plenty of affordable and portable options before. But if you don't plan to make music on the go, I can't recommend the Arturia MiniLab 3 enough. It punches well above its weight, and even the pros love this thing. And if you have the space, it's not much more to upgrade to something like the Keylab Essential 49 ($269) or Novation Launchkey 49 ($229), which will give you a lot more controls to play with.

Microphone

An Audio-Technica AT2020 condenser mic is on a stand above a coffee table with a laptop, with a leather couch in the background.
Audio-Technica

Unfortunately there's no gear that will magically turn you into a breathy pop goddess, but a decent mic and audio interface can at least help you sound your best. Now, you could get a USB microphone, like Blue Microphones’ $130 Yeti, and it will certainly get the job done. Heck, that album I mentioned earlier was recorded using the wired headset that came with the iPhone.

But, honestly, your better bet is to get a regular XLR mic and an audio interface. Pecora specifically warns against splurging too much here. "People will look at their favorite artist and see that they use a certain mic or preamp or plugin and want to use the same thing thinking it will get them the same sound." On early singles like "Ocean Eyes" Billie Eilish used an Audio-Technica AT2020 condenser mic, which costs just $100. And I’ve stuck almost exclusively with cheap Shure SM58s and 57s ($100 new, $50-$75 used) whether I was recording demos with my band in college or voice over for review videos at Engadget.

If you fancy yourself a future pop sensation and want to make sure your vocals are the star of the show, you could consider using a significant chunk of your budget on something like the Rode NT1-A ($229) or Shure SM7B ($390). You will get better results with more flexibility for post production, but you can clearly get excellent results with more affordable options.

Audio interface

Focusrite Scarlett Solo
Scarlett

As for the interface, there are tons of great options out there. Companies like Focusrite, Arturia and Tascam make excellent ones. But our new favorites in the budget interface space are Universal Audio’s Volt series. If your budget allows for it we strongly recommend the $299 Volt 276. Though, the $189 Volt 2 is also excellent, it just doesn’t standout from the crowd quite as much.

If you’re trying to save a few bucks, it's hard to beat the Scarlett series from Focusrite (just make sure to get the second- or third-gen models). You can get the latest Scarlett 2i2 for around $130 used, but it's just $180 new (and includes a huge bundle of very useful software).

The reason to opt for an audio interface instead of a simple USB mic is because it offers you a lot more flexibility and room to grow. For one, it offloads a lot of the audio processing from the CPU. Second, it will allow you to connect not just mics (and swap in different ones for different purposes), but also instruments, turntables or anything with an audio-out jack. An audio interface is also necessary if you plan to connect a pair of studio monitors.

Studio monitors and headphones

The Sony MDR-7506 headphones suspended in the air in front of a dark background dotted with bright light spots.
Will Lipman Photography for Engadget

This is an area that DeLay advises caution. While a good set of studio monitors will obviously be better than the speakers on your laptop and will result in a better mix, it's too easy to get caught up in what he calls monitor envy. "The reality is that monitors at a $300 price point are going to work just fine in most spaces," he says. Plus, your bedroom probably doesn't have the space to really make the most of large, powerful monitors. So, save your money.

And if you're just starting out, you're probably better off getting a decent set of headphones. There're tons of amazing and affordable studio quality headphones out there for under $200, like the $179 Beyerdynamic DT990PRO (currently down to just $179 on Amazon). But one of our favorites is an old workhorse from Sony, the MDR-7506. They're well under $100 and actual pros have used them for decades to mix music.

One tip DeLay offers for novices: Double check your mixes in the real world. Headphones can over emphasize bass, while smaller studio monitors can have trouble delivering accurate bass response. So make sure to listen to your track on laptop speakers or in a car to get a sense of how it will sound in the wild.

And that's really the key — have the patience to develop your skills and make the most of the gear you have. It's really easy to catch a bad case of GAS (gear acquisition syndrome) when you're first starting out — trust me, I know. But there's no need to shell out thousands of dollars for high-end gear to start making music. You don't even need to buy new gear. Pecora suggests the only thing you absolutely should buy new are headphones. And, presumably, that's just because you don't want to be wearing years worth of someone else's sweat on your ears.