Cinematic Composing Studio Under $1.000

Mar 19, 2022

The goal is to build a studio that has everything that I need to compose cinematic music, including libraries.

The studio is already built and I’m actually using it for a documentary project that I'm working on at the moment. It's 40 minutes of music so it's going to give me a chance to really test it, optimize it and see where I struggle with limitations.

Here’s the list of Hardware, Plugins, and Libraries and its price and links:

  1. Computer: $529.99
  2. MIDI Keyboard: $42.90
  3. Monitor: $93.99
  4. Headphones: $49
  5. Audio Interface: $53
  6. Sequencer: Cubase LE comes free with the MIDI Keyboard
  7. Sonarworks Reference 4: $99 
  8. Nucleus Lite: $99 

Total: $966.88 $1.000 is a tight budget for a complete studio including libraries.

We had to do some compromises. The Computer is a PC Acer Aspire i5-10400 6-Core, 12GB RAM, 512GB SSD (Windows 10, Keyboard, and Mouse Included). I could’ve maybe gone for the cheapest version of the new Mac Mini M1… but I wanted to be able to upgrade in the future so I went for the Acer. It’s not a full-size motherboard, so I’ll be limited to 32GB RAM if I want to upgrade later...

On the other hand, it has plenty of SATA ports, so can add SSDs and I won’t need as much RAM Or I could even install a Sonnet M.2 4x4 NVMe (which reads at 6GB/s... thought card plus drives setup is more expensive than the computer itself! LOL) and you can actually purge your samples and free your RAM completely and use your Sonnet to host all your samples.That’s as long as you’re using Kontakt! If you’re using the new Spitfire or Orchestral tools samplers you can’t control how much if each instrument gets loaded on RAM… so you’ll still need some decent RAM amount if you use these libraries in the future. I’m finishing this project and I'll be posting a video on Youtube with my thoughts.

But right away I’ll say that if I had a bigger budget or if I was to upgrade, the first thing that I’d do is adding a MIDI Controller. I miss having those MIDI faders very much! The keyboard mood wheel gets the job done but it feels limited (workflow speed and realism).

The keyboard is nice and also gets the job done… the keys are not full size though and I’m not used to that but not deal breaker. I was looking at built-in faders or knobs and I was considering the AKAI MPK Mini MK3 on the low end or the Nektar Impact LX49+ on the “high end” (based on my budget)... but I couldn’t fit them in my budget.

The Audio Interface (Behringer U-Control UCA222) is decent for the price. The latency is not that bad as long as you keep it to the lowest setting. The computer is very much capable to keep up with the lowest setting because the library that we’re using is light and efficient. Nucleus Lite is a great library for the price and there’s a lot that you can do with it. But there are lots or reviews online so I won’t go deep.

Reference 4 is a game-changer. Especially when you can’t afford really high-end speakers or headphones. I actually bought my headphones based on their supported list of headphones. I found out what headphones they supported and then I looked at how much I had left in my budget I got myself a pair of AKG K72.

Now, these are not excellent headphones. In fact, I wouldn’t mix with these in a million years! LOL

But with the Reference’s correction curve (even though there are still limitations) they feel much closer to the real thing and I actually feel confident that I can do a decent mix... Anyway, there’s much more to talk about here.

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