A Guide to Buying Sound Effect Equipment

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There are dozens of different pieces of individual sound effect equipment available to any neophyte or experienced sound engineer. The sheer staggering number of available types of equipment and devices can be confusing. To further complicate matters, not every project that requires sound effect equipment requires the entire range of editing and mixing equipment, and purchasing needless electronics can quickly become costly and prohibitive. While most audio equipment can be purchased from specialty shops, and direct from the manufacturer, savvy consumers can purchase their equipment from online auction sites, such as eBay, to simplify their search process and potentially save themselves cash on the cost of what would otherwise be very expensive equipment. For simplicity’s sake, consumers should limit their options to three of the most basic forms of sound editing and sound effect equipment: the equipment needed to record audio, the equipment needed to mix audio, such as mixing consoles, and the equipment needed to playback audio.


The first step in mixing or modifying sounds is to capture them. There are two general categories of audio recorders available for purchase: portable and fixed.

Portable Audio Recorders

A portable audio recorder accomplishes recording sounds effectively, and produces some of the best-quality sound recording available for events that do not have dedicated sound recording systems. Some of the most basic features, which are available on almost all portable audio recorders, include built-in microphones and digital storage. Even with the most basic understanding of portable audio recorders, there are enough variations and extra features available on the myriad of models and manufacturers to make a purchase confusing; however, there are two basic features to keep in mind when purchasing an audio recorder: the available inputs and the storage capacity.

Portable audio recorders all have microphones built in, however, some have alternate modes of input, such as inputs for studio microphones or even multiple channel setups. These additional inputs expand the usefulness of the portable audio recorder, allowing for more precise capture of specific sounds. In some cases, this can mean simply attaching a microphone to a portable audio recorder to simplify its use for capturing many sources simultaneously, and at other times it can be as esoteric as affixing an instrument directly to a portable audio recorder to collect individual notes or entire songs.

While some of the portable audio recorders available today have some form of on-board memory, meaning that the audio recorder has a built-in internal memory that stores recorded audio, most have an expansion slot that allows the audio engineer to swap out memory cards. While this can require the audio engineer to keep track of multiple memory cards, it also affords the audio engineer effectively limitless recording space and the ability to organise stored sounds by category, date, or any other qualification that comes to mind.

Studio Audio Recorders

There are audio recorders which are less portable, many of these reaching into the higher echelons of cost. These studio audio recorders are almost mixing consoles in, and of, themselves. They often sport many of the same features that can be found on elaborate mixing consoles, while also being an effective recording platform. Because of their dedication and complexity, studio audio recorders can handle multiple input channels, and can allow the audio engineer to fine tune each track individually as it is recorded. Most studio audio recorders usually do not come with their own microphones, and require a setup of both a microphone and usually a controlled environment. These elaborate setups do require external power sources, and can require a great deal of calibration to use effectively. For dedicated recording environments, however, a studio audio recorder is indispensable.


Mixers, or mixing consoles, are audio hardware that enable the audio engineer to alter and modify sound on the fly, while live, or after the fact. Because the mixing console allows the audio engineer complete control over the levels of each channel coming into it, the audio engineer can create crystal clear sounds that capture a desired effect. Mixing consoles come in many sizes, from modest portable mixing consoles with limited input, to massive, room-encompassing mixing consoles with staggering quantities of inputs, options, and controls. The former is usually sufficient for most sound effect production, however, truly ambitious endeavours may necessitate the control and precision afforded by the larger consoles.

Because of their exceptional utility, mixing consoles are among the most complex pieces of equipment an audio engineer can own, and the number of elements to be aware of when purchasing a mixing console extend into a realm that is nearly unfathomable. With that in mind, there are a few things to consider when viewing mixing consoles, including: the number of available input channels, the quality controls available, and the ability to interface with other hardware, such as a computer for final editing.

Each model of mixing console sports unique functionality, and each provides the audio engineer with a plethora of control options to perfect and customise any input that goes through the mixing console. Because of these varieties, every make and model of mixing console should be considered for its independent merits, while this does not allow for a quick and easy comparison of mixing consoles, it does provide the audio engineer with a reasonable understanding of each mixing console’s capabilities, merits, and flaws, allowing the audio engineer to make the most educated purchase possible.


Ostensibly, the most important element of recording and editing one’s own sound effects is a set of headphones on which the effects are heard. While there are a number of available manufacturers of headphones, and the styles of headphones have developed to include those meant for everyday use rather than sound mixing, there are several key points to keep in mind when considering a pair of headphones for editing.

Finding a pair of high-fidelity, also referred to as hi-fi, headphones is one of the most productive things an audio engineer can do to accurately review their work. While hundreds of pounds can be spent on the headset alone, keeping a sharp eye out for a headset with a high-end frequency response range of 20,000 Hz or more should be sufficient to provide audio clear enough to edit.

Modern wireless technology also affords an audio engineer the chance to utilise wireless headphones, which can produce sound quality up to par, and allow the audio engineer to work in relative freedom from the mixing console.

Most inner-ear, and behind-the-head headphone sets do not produce the fidelity of sound an audio engineer needs to interpret and critique their own work. To that end, these types of headphones should be largely ignored for creating and editing sounds.

How to Buy Sound Effect Equipment on eBay

Purchasing electronic audio equipment can be a hassle and can cause more than a few headaches. By making your purchases on eBay, you can save yourself a world of trouble and cost. When purchasing sound equipment online, once you have searched for the type of equipment for which you are looking, begin by refining your search by the specifics associated with each type of sound effect equipment. For example, if you are looking for a portable recorder, specifying the desired type of storage medium can streamline your search. If you are searching for a mixing console, you may wish to specify the number of channels you need, such as a six-channel mixer, or if you want a headset, clarify the length of cord, or even the type of audio jack interface.

If cost is of primary concern, you can refine your search using eBay’s categories, limiting your results to used condition only. When purchasing sound effect equipment online, do not hesitate to contact the seller regarding the item in question. As with any purchase on eBay, you should double-check the seller’s rating, as well as the shipping and post terms and conditions.


Sound effect equipment make up some of the most varied and potent pieces of audio editing equipment available today. Whether an audio engineer is recording, mixing, and producing their own sound effects, or even modifying the effects and elements of others, owning a set of recording equipment for collecting the base material from which to fabricate effects, such as a mixing board to edit the material and a set of headphones to review the finished product, can be among the most rewarding experiences an audio engineer can have. While the hardware associated with recording and editing sounds is of paramount importance, there are a number of other things that audio engineers need to capture, create, and edit audio. These can range from simple accessories, such as cables, wires, windscreens, and pop-guards, to less tangible resources, like audio editing software for a personal computer or even a sizeable library of extant sounds to work with as a base. With the miscellanea of software and accessories assembled, and the core of any audio engineer’s equipment purchased, an audio engineer is free to sample the world at large, capturing nature, people, and industry into unique audio clips.

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