2023 Review: Home Studio Gear

Rather than do a ‘best of’ style post, every year I’m doing a rundown of what home studio gear I’ve used this year, and why.

Previous years: [2019] [2020] [2021][2022]


I’ve made (what I think are) massive improvements to the noise levels on my recordings. Turned out the house’s electrical wiring needed regrounding!

I’m looking for a DAW to use for recording full mixes and the like. I’d love for that to be LUNA, but it doesn’t have the features I need, and Reaper’s low-contrast UI elements and teeny-tiny text make it an accessibility nightmare for older people like me.

I’ve started looking at Presonus Studio One. It’s got all the features, but I’m finding it a bit quirky (to say the least). I might end up using Apple’s Logic Pro X instead.

I’m done with the Kemper. I just need to find a box to ship it in, and then I can put it up for sale. I might replace it with a ToneX unit.

Next year, I’d like to get some gear to enable me to capture IRs of my own speakers and cabs. That’ll help if I decide to share any ToneX captures.

Grounding Issues Are Solved 🥳

The biggest bane is no more. We’ve had the house’s electric wiring completely re-earthed to the local electricity grid, and it has solved the grounding issues completely.

Our house used to be earthed using the TT system: literally, wired to a metal spike driven into the ground in the back yard. We discovered that the electrical resistance on our path to earth (I believe this is sometimes described as ‘Ze’) was almost 200 ohms. Thankfully, our local grid offers the PME earthing system, and now our Ze is down below 1 ohm.

Regular readers may have noticed how the noise levels on my audio demos has drastically improved as a result. Some days are better than others, as appliances around the house can still dump noise on the line right when I want to record something, but overall, things are pretty good now.

I’m Paying For Presonus Studio One … But Not Really Using It Yet

I’m still looking for a replacement for both LUNA and Reaper as my main DAW going forward.

  • As much as I love using Universal Audio’s LUNA for my pedal demos, it still doesn’t support multi-channel MIDI instruments – i.e. virtual drum plugins. That’s a complete showstopper for me.
  • Reaper has all the features, power and flexibility I will ever need. That’s been true for many many years now. Unfortunately, it’s still an accessibility and usability nightmare, featuring low-contrast controls and teeny tiny text in too many places. This is true even in Reaper v7, which has just been released. Reaper needs a UI overhaul to be suitable for us older people, and to work well on modern high-resolution displays.

To that end, back in the summer I started a subscription for Presonus Studio One. But I’m just not making much use of it yet.

Partly, that’s because all I’ve done this year are simple audio demos for the blog. I’m still using LUNA as the DAW for all of my audio demos. LUNA was – and remains – fantastic for that. And I think the way LUNA works as a DAW has really grown on me over the years. If only it had decent multi-channel plugin support and good collaboration tools. Then I wouldn’t need another DAW at all.

Presonus Studio One sure does seem to have everything I’m looking for. I’m finding it to be pretty quirky though. My instinct (based on nearly 30 years in the software industry) is that a lot of quirkiness isn’t deliberate. It feels more rushed / incomplete to me. Now that Fender own it, I’m hoping we’ll see that second pass – that polish and refinement – added in the years.

I’m still tempted to pick up Apple Logic Pro X too, if only as a cheap way to pick up a large number of extra audio plugins. If I can discover a way to do easy collaboration using Logic Pro X, then I’m not sure that there’s much point in keeping Presonus Studio One long-term.

It’s Time To Make A Decision About The Kemper

I’ve had a Kemper since 2017. That’s over six years of it taking up 3U of space in my studio rack … while I do absolutely nothing with it.

Why have I kept it for all this time? It takes a lot of skill to make a good and accurate profile with the Kemper. For years now, I’ve been telling myself that that’s a skill that I want to have. And, for years now, I’ve done absolutely nothing to learn it.

I don’t think that’s going to change, either … so I think it’s time to move the Kemper on while it’s still worth something. I would have done this already, but somehow I’ve lost the box for the damn thing. It’s really perplexing; I’ve kept that box for years because I was always tempted to sell it. Now that I’ve decided to, the box has disappeared. So now I need to get my hands on a box for a 3U rack item so that I can put the Kemper up for sale.

I Still Want To Profile Though

I still like the idea of having profiles / captures of my signal chain. I was hoping to do that with Neural DSP’s Quad Cortex, but I decided to pass on that unit, and nothing that’s happened since has made me regret doing so. So I might pick up Amplitude’s ToneX and give that a go.

Should I Create My Own Impulse Responses?

As great as the cabs are in the Axe-FX 3, they’re kinda lacking IRs of 1×12 open-backed cabs featuring 16 ohm Celestion speakers. And none of the speakers that I use with my valve amps are in the Axe-FX.

If I was able to shoot good IRs of my cabs, then I’d feel okay about possibly making any future ToneX-style captures available to my readers, because they wouldn’t contain any proprietary cab IRs from anyone else.

Any Plans For 2024?

Calling them plans is a bit strong, perhaps. But there’s a couple of things that I’d like next year, if possible:

I still want to replace the Focusrite Clarett OctoPre with one of the modern Audient rack-mount preamps / interfaces. I’d like to be able to setup several mics at once for recording acoustic guitar and for doing multi-mic IR captures. The OctoPre will definitely do that job, but I’m not a fan of the way phantom power is handled in banks for 4. All too easy to screw up and damage a microphone accidentally.

I’m very tempted by Boss’s new guitar synth. I owned one of the old Roland units back in the mid-90s, and for all its quirks it was a fantastic creative tool. Unfortunately, Boss’s new guitar synth is sold as three separate parts (the unit itself, the new MIDI pickup, and the new cable to connect the pickup to the unit). To date, I haven’t seen all three parts available at once. I don’t want to buy them one piece at a time, because I don’t see a way to test everything until I’ve got all three parts.

Top of the list, though, is a DynaMount X2-R mechanised / robot microphone arm. If I’m going to make my own IR captures, I want to do it with some attempt at precision. One of these arms should allow me to create lots of IRs in exact positions for post-capture blending.

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