Minimalist Music Production Setup 2021

minimalist music production setup 2021 - decibel peak

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You’re about to find out the SECRET recipe for the best minimalist music production setup. Okay, maybe it’s the best to ME but hopefully, you can find some inspiration today.

That’s why I want to share my minimalist music production setup with you.

The main point I want to express is that you don’t need much to create music that can get TV/Film placements. Sure, some of this equipment might be conisdered an investment.

I’m just assuming you’ll be making a return on that investment.

In other words…

This setup isn’t cheap and it isn’t overpriced. It’s right down the middle.

No compromises. Just high-quality at the best possible price.

Apple Mac Mini M1

I recently upgraded to the new Apple Mac Mini M1 from my previous 2018 Mac Mini. Instead of sticking to 8GB of RAM, I decided it was time to go with 16GB.

The Mac Mini is Apple’s most affordable and durable computer.

It’s also become one of its most powerful thanks to the new Apple M1 chip.

Manufacturers are still in the process of optimizing software for the M1, but I can now personally guarantee that everything I use works. There may still be some minor bugs here and there, but I definitely recommend making the move to the Apple silicon as soon as possible.

Once everything is optimized though, it’ll be the perfect rig for music production (and beyond).

The best part about the Mac Mini is its small size and portability.

If you want to keep it minimal, it’s the best (and only) way to go.

What about MacBooks? Too expensive and not durable enough.

Do you need to make music on the bus, train and/or plane? Didn’t think so, so the Mac Mini will fit in your bag and you can easily plug it in once you arrive at your destination.

The screen I recommend pairing it with is the Asus ZenScreen.

ASUS ZenScreen 15.6" 1080P Portable Monitor (MB16AC) - Full HD, IPS, Eye Care, Foldable Smart Case, Ultra-slim, Lightweight, USB-C Power Delivery, For Laptop, PC, Phone, Console , Black

That’ll fold itself up and fit right in your bag as well.

Talk about minimalism, right?

Universal Audio Arrow

The most affordable, portable and revolutionary audio interface.

It’s the perfect extension to the Mac Mini M1.

The Arrow also has a new twin… The UAD Apollo Solo.

Universal Audio Apollo Solo Thunderbolt 3 Audio Interface

Either one will do the trick, but why Universal Audio?

If you want to keep things minimal, you’ll want to maximize the impact each piece of equipment has in your signal chain. That’s why Universal Audio is special.

First of all, these new devices use Thunderbolt 3 technology (a topic for another article).

That means they can be bus-powered (one less plug to worry about).

There’s also the fact that Universal Audio plugins are hosted INSIDE the audio interface’s integrated DSP processor. That’ll save your computer some resources.

Think of UAD devices as a second computer (dedicated to audio).

The analog emulation is beyond ordinary. That’s why you’ll save on gear as well.

Instead of having LOADS of rackmount effects, you can simply get their plugin equivalent.

Trust me, you won’t be making any compromises with UAD plugins (they sound almost identical to the original).

There’s MUCH more I could talk about, but I already wrote another article dedicated to UAD audio interfaces. If you want to understand why I chose these for the setup, you’ll definitely want to find out more.

M-Audio Hammer 88

It’s THE minimalist keyboard controller for music producers. I haven’t seen another one that’s more barebones than the M-Audio Hammer 88 (and more affordable).

M-Audio Hammer 88 | Premium 88-Key Hammer-Action USB/MIDI Keyboard Controller Including A Studio Grade Software Suite

What do music producers REALLY need?

  • 88 fully-weighted keys
  • Modulation Wheel
  • Pitch Bend Wheel
  • Expression Pedal
  • Sustain Pedal

Depending on what kind of music you make, that may even be TOO MUCH.

For TV/Film music producers though, it’s exactly what you’ll need.

The M-Audio Hammer 88 has that and a few other bells and whistles. The fact that it’s bus-powered will also save you another power socket.

The included sheet music stand can also be used to hold your Asus ZenScreen.

However, I eventually decided to add a plank of wood to my QuickLok 2-tier keyboard stand to turn it into a standing desk for music production.

Quiklok Keyboard Stand (Z/726)

I highly recommend doing this!

Here’s an article I wrote on that.

Other than that, the affordability/durability of this keyboard controlled is unparalleled.

I still haven’t found better.

Obviously, you can substitute this thing with any other keyboard controller. Maybe you need something with less keys. I’m just assuming that you’re the “composer” type.

PreSonus Eris E3.5

The best sounding small speaker monitors I’ve ever heard… The PreSonus Eris E.3.5s.

Presonus Eris E3.5-3.5" Near Field Studio Monitor (Pair) (E3.5)

If you want to keep things minimal, you don’t want anything too big. Do you?

The other thing I like about these speaker monitors is the price of course! PreSonus makes some really high-quality gear at an affordable price.

That’s great news for minimalist spenders!

The cash you save can be used for some high-quality speaker mounts.

I personally use these ones. It makes a HUGE difference for sound projection.

B-Tech BT77 Ultragrip Pro Speaker Mount, Set of 2, Side Clamp with Tilt and Swivel, Black

The only thing you’ll be sacrificing (because of the size) is the sub-bass.

However, the main reason for these speaker monitors in my minimalist music production setup isn’t necessarily to get the full-picture. I actually combine speakers and headphones for that.

To be honest, I actually test my mixes out on everything I can…

  • Mac Mini speakers
  • Smartphone
  • Chromebook
  • Car stereo
  • Earbuds

The PreSonus Eris E3.5s are just another perspective.

An important perspective, but to be completely honest… I worked without them for years.

Headphones are MUCH more important in my opinion.

Sennheiser HD 280 PRO

I’ve been working with these headphones for 10+ years now. Sure, closed-back headphones like the Sennheiser HD 280 PROs can’t provide 100% accurate representation.

That’s because you’re listening to your work in a “vacuum”.

However, I do 90% of my music production with these headphones.

SENNHEISER HD280PRO Headphone (new model)

I only started using my PreSonus Eris E3.5s to reference what I hear.

One thing I noticed is that my HD 280 PROs roll-off high frequencies.

If you’re keeping things minimal though, you just need to learn to work with what you have. Sure, having more headphones/speakers is always beneficial.

However, your studio can become cluttered quite quickly.

I personally believe 1-2 of each is more than enough.

The key is to create complementary pairs.

The PreSonus Eris E3.5s complement the Sennheiser HD 280 PROs.

Pluggable 1TB Thunderbolt 3 SSD

Alright, we’re now getting into the “techier” side of things. The first thing you’ll need if you’re working with sample libraries is an external SSD.

Why SSD?

SPEED!!

With the Pluggable 1TB Thunderbolt 3 SSD, I get read/write speeds of 2,400/1,800 MB/s.

Plugable 2TB Thunderbolt 3 External SSD NVMe Drive (Up to 2400MBs/1800MBs R/W)

That’s just as fast as my internal SSD (if not more)!

Having all your sample libraries installed on one drive and having them load as quickly as possible really simplifies things. It’ll also allow you to save cash on that internal SSD (I went with 256GB).

The drive is also bus-powered.

The affordability and the 3-year warranty is why I chose this one.

Kensington Thunderbolt 3 Dock

Why the dock? The only real problem with the Mac Mini is the limited amount of ports.

If you’re thinking of employing this exact setup, you’ll need one.

The one I personally use is the Kensington Thunderbolt Docking Station.

Kensington Thunderbolt, Docking Station, 60W PD and Dual 4K for Mac and Windows

It has these ports:

  • 2x USB 3.1 (front)
  • 4x USB 3.1 (back)
  • 1x Thunderbolt 3 (for connection to computer)
  • 1x Thunderbolt 3 (60W power)
  • 1x SD Card Reader
  • 1x Headphone Output

The powered Thunderbolt dock will save your Mac Mini’s power supply some trouble.

There’s also another reason you’ll benefit from using a Thunderbolt dock…

If you crowd the Mac Mini too much and use all of its ports (mainly the USB ports), you may experience interruptions with the WI-FI and Bluetooth.

That’s just because of the compact design of the Mac Mini (it affects them all).

Summary: Minimalist Music Production Setup 2021

Is that really it? Is that all you need to be a professional music producer?

In regards to hardware… YES.

However, you’ll still need the software.

The only essential piece of software for music producers is the DAW.

I personally use Logic Pro X and Reason 11.

You can use whatever you want, but that’s essentially all you need in regards to software. Of course, you’ll most likely end up purchasing plugins as you go along.

I’d simply avoid purchasing TOO much.

If you want my personal recommendations, read THIS ARTICLE.

Once again, I’m still assuming that you make music for TV/Film.

You don’t need to become Abbey Roads. However, you might be capable of achieving everything they can with the few tools I recommend.

Technology has come a LONG way.

We can do more with less.

That’s why I wanted to share my minimalist music production setup with you. I hope it inspires you to start creating with what you have rather than make excuses.

You don’t need to spend thousands of dollars.

Maybe a couple of hundred dollars will do the trick.

Who knows, you might end up expanding after a few years.

I just recommend keeping it as SMALL as possible.

It’s just that I’ve noticed something about the music producers that have too much gear… They’re actually the LEAST productive of us all.

On that note, I’ll let you get back to work. Thanks for reading!

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