Your Guide to Buying Professional Audio Equipment on eBay

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Your Guide to Buying Professional Audio Equipment on eBay

Whether creating a home recording studio or setting up something a little more professional, high quality audio equipment is essential for capturing perfect sound quality. Although buyers can find professional audio equipment at local stores and other online retailers, eBay has the most extensive collection of both new and used models, often for a fraction of the price.

Those interested in building a sound studio have so many options to choose from, and before sinking a small fortune in this endeavor, buyers should have an understanding of what their equipment needs are. A broad overview is a good place to start, but special attention to design details helps shoppers make more informed decisions. For example, customers must know when to use a dynamic microphone over a condenser mic. Audio engineers need a mixer and recording interface layer tracks to record the end result; the other option to producing the same result is to use a multitrack recorder. In order to complete the recording space, buyers often need to purchase studio monitors, loudspeakers, amplifiers, and even multitrack recorders.

Types of Equipment

Buying professional audio equipment is a monetary investment, and therefore, shoppers should invest time in researching the various types of equipment. Inexpensive models are typically made from cheap parts that either break easily or do not perform up to industry standard. Buyers should be familiar with what they need, the best brands, and the different model numbers. The sections below list equipment used in professional audio settings; however, audio engineers may not need each kind to complete their set-up.

Microphones

Microphones are common input devices to capture audio, whether it be a voice, musical instrument, or other sounds. Turntables, a keyboard, or a transducer pickup are examples of other input devices. Although there several types of microphones on the market, the two most common styles are the condenser and the dynamic mics. Both are designed to transfer audio to output or recording devices, and where and how the mic is used determines which one should be purchased. Condenser mics work best in quiet studio settings, and dynamic mics are ideal for live settings. The sections below expand on the differences and advantages of each type of microphone.

Condenser

Condenser mics come with an array of features, but they are favoured in recording studios and quiet environments. The best condenser mics are designed with either a tube or transistor circuit system to improve the output. They pick up all frequencies, including low ones, so those in areas with background noise, including street traffic, should consider a condenser mic with a bass roll-off filter to eliminate low-frequency sounds.

Dynamic

A dynamic microphone is best suited for live performances since feedback affects them less thanks to their coil system. They are much less sensitive than condenser mics and often cover a wide range of frequencies. Dynamic mics are often paired with loudspeakers and amplifiers as their output devices.

Preamplifiers and Mixers

A preamplifier, or simply preamp, connects with the microphone, and it is designed to boost the mic’s signal. Many mixers have built in preamplifiers although some prefer to have a free-standing unit. Preamps and mixers should be as quiet as possible, but all of them add a little bit of noise. There is typically a positive correlation between noiseless devices and prices, so buyers of professional audio equipment should refrain from purchasing low-end models.

When choosing a mixer, one should consider the number of channels. Lack of industry standards often makes the language concerning mixer channels ambiguous. For example, Yamaha has a 12-channel board, but there are eight channel strips and four stereo channels; additionally there are six XLR inputs, which puts the channel count at 16.

Studio Monitors

Studio monitors are required to monitor the sound coming from the mic. It gives producers and those recording the opportunity to hear what the audience hears. It is imperative to choose a studio monitor with a flat frequency response since precision is of the utmost importance. Monitors should be purchased with the space in mind. Larger rooms do not require the same type of monitor as a small acoustic space.

Recording Interfaces

Recording interfaces refers to the devices that record audio. There is also computer software available that can act as a recording interface. The program is often a mixer and recording interface combination that connect via USB 1.1, USB 2.0, or FireWire. Audio engineers have a variety of high-end models available from Yamaha, Mackie, MW, and Onyx as well as inexpensive options. However, professional grade recording interfaces should never be the budget model.

Audio is measured in bits and Hertz. Sound is either 16- or 24-bit, and 44.1, 48, and 96 kHz; higher numbers corresponds with higher quality. The best audio is recorded at 24 and 96, but 24 and 48 is also acceptable. Not all recording interfaces have mic and instrument inputs. Some models of Behringer can only connect with a computer or a preamplifier.

Loudspeakers and Amplifiers

Finding the right set of loudspeakers and amplifiers involves knowing the terminology and checking each model’s specifications. Loudspeakers and amps project sound and are therefore referred to as output devices. There are two different wattages loudspeaker manufacturers use when advertising speaker power. The first is the RMS wattage, which is the amount of continuous power the speaker can operate on. The other is the peak wattage, which is the maximum amount of wattage before the speaker shuts down. The RMS is typically half of the peak wattage value. Buyers should select a speaker based on the RMS wattage since it measures continuous, consistent use.

Amplifiers are measured in ohms. In additional to RMS wattage, shoppers should pay attention to various model’s impedance levels. When a customer is faced with two amps with similar wattage and one has a greater number of ohms, the one with more ohms translates to a more powerful device.

Digital Multitrack Recorders

Digital multitrack recorders is an all-in-one mixer, recording interface, and digital audio workstation (DAW). Many models have a high-capacity hard drive that uses Smart Media and other CompactFlash cards to record and store audio. Professional grade multitrack recorders should have a built-in CD burner for convenience.

Summary of Professional Audio Equipment

Assembling a professional audio set-up requires several devices, and when starting from scratch, remembering which ones are needed can be overwhelming. The chart below serves as a handy reminder as to the function of each type of professional audio equipment.

Equipment

Description

Digital Multitrack Recorder

One-stop mixer, recording interface, and DAW

Loudspeakers and Amplifiers

Output device designed to project audio; measured in wattage and ohms

Microphone

Input device; for a recording studio, a condenser mic is best; dynamic mics are ideal for live performance

Mixer and Preamplifier

Connects to the mic and designed to increase the signal to boost output

Recording Interfaces

Connects to input device or preamp to record audio; free-standing units and software for computer available

Studio Monitors

Allows listeners to monitor the audio quality

Understanding which models are best suited for certain situations, such as a studio or live setting, allows buyers to make the best decision. Though many brands are compatible with one another, customers should do their homework upfront and determine if there are potential issues.

Buying Professional Audio Equipment on eBay

One major advantage of buying from eBay is the ability to custom sort results by your top priorities. For example, if you are looking exclusively for a used piece of equipment, you can sort by used items first; similarly, eBay has a search that allows you to look at new items first. Bargain hunters can sort by lowest to highest price. And since some of the equipment can be heavy or oversized, eBay factors in shipping when sorting by price. Consider arranging results by distance from seller and see if you can arrange for a pickup to eliminate shipping costs.

Before making a purchase, you are strongly encouraged to read the entire listing and understand the terms and conditions. If any part of the listing seems unclear, you can try to contact the seller. Click on the Ask a Question link to start the process of contacting the seller in order to ask any questions you may have. Note that not all sellers accept questions before a purchase has been made. Once the item is purchased, certain sellers will answer questions.

Conclusion

Building a sound studio with professional grade audio equipment costs a small fortune, but buying on eBay can save shoppers money. Purchasing new might not always be in one’s price range, and many sellers have found used or refurbished equipment for a fraction of the retail price. Finding several pieces from a single seller’s shop could save on shipping costs, or freight may be eliminated if you can arrange an in-person pickup. Additionally, before buying multiple pieces of equipment, customers should determine if they are compatible or if additional cables are needed.

Customers should be wary of overbuying. Not every piece of equipment is essential for every space. While hardware and software effects are a great way to modify sound, not every set-up needs them. On the other hand, some spaces require more than one type of equipment, such as speakers and microphones. From recording interfaces to feedback monitors, eBay’s selection of professional audio equipment is comprehensive enough to fit nearly everyone’s budget, preferences, and needs.

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