Recording setup essentials: get a stadium-sized rock sound for less than £500

Big rock sound for less than £500
(Image credit: Impact Soundworks)

RECORDING WEEK 2022: It’s a preconception held by many that to make decent rock music you need quite a lot of physical space – and the ability to make a lot of noise. In actual fact, you can be churning out the next Smoke on the Water every day for very little outlay. 

As computer musicians, we’re more prone to looking for sample libraries, playable software instruments and ways of making our sounds go further than most traditionally rock- oriented folks, and while some might squirm at the thought of keyboard-based riff-writing, it’s the end results that speak the loudest.

We’re trying to keep costs down in this feature, but that doesn’t mean we’re embarking on a particularly freeware-heavy approach. But, we’ve elected to recommend a free DAW for the purposes of making rock, namely Apple’s ever- ubiquitous GarageBand. 

While we’ve chosen a few more guitar-oriented products in our gear- picks, you’re also going to need a robust microphone

Evolving from its rudimentary beginnings, this Apple-only DAW is for all intents and purposes a lite version of Logic, containing its older sibling’s Pedalboard options, and amp sims. It also sports Logic’s ever-useful Drummer to lay down instant beats for your project. For PC or Android users, why not try the equally free – and equally superb – Cakewalk by Bandlab.

Though Drummer might be good enough for a demo, for a full-blown rock track we’d recommend you switch up to Goran Grooves Handy Drums Rock Standard. This range of extremely well recorded drum kits was reviewed by us recently, blowing us away both with its sound quality, and its price. 

While we’ve chosen a few more guitar-oriented products in our gear- picks, you’re also going to need a robust microphone to handle the rigours of howling vocals, as well as all-purpose recording duties. The AT2020 should do just the trick. So, for those about to rock, heed our advice and let this be the nucleus of a studio where the next Master of Puppets is captured.

The DAW: Apple GarageBand

Apple GarageBand

(Image credit: Apple)

£FREE | Download from Apple

If you’re an Apple-based computer musician and feel GarageBand is beneath you then wise up. GarageBand has evolved over the years from a consumer-grade audio recorder to a high-level music production universe. It has more than enough packed inside to start assembling ready-to-go rock.

Read more about Logic vs Garageband

The interface: Audient Sono

Audient Sono

(Image credit: Future)


Audient’s Sono is a guitarist-aimed interface with a three- band tone selection and advanced power amp simulation which harnesses Two Notes’ Torpedo processing power. There are XLR inputs round the back too, so you needn’t worry about a separate vocal interface. It’s perhaps the most solid guitar-interface on the market, especially for the price point.

Read our full Audient Sono review

The kit: Goran Grooves Handy Drums Rock Standard

Goran Grooves Handy Drums Rock Standard

(Image credit: Goran Grooves)

£28 | Download from Goran Grooves

Goran Grooves’ incredible range of expertly recorded kits comes in all flavours, but the Rock Standard really hits. The simple but capable GUI allows for volume control of each component, as well as routing, mapping and further editing. Once you try one pack, you’ll want more. Trust us.

Read our full Goran Grooves Handy Drums Rock Standard review

The mic: Audio Technica AT2020

Audio Technica AT2020

(Image credit: Future)


A decent budget vocal mic, as well as an all- round studio workhorse, the AT2020 has a high sound pressure level and solid dynamic range which make it a comfortable tool for all kinds of vocal duties. Its cardioid polar pattern helps keep things isolated, too. This even edges out some pricier mics in terms of performance.

Read our full Audio Technica AT2020 review

The axe: Impact Soundworks Shreddage 3 Legacy

Impact Soundworks Shreddage 3 Legacy

(Image credit: Impact Soundworks)

£65 | Buy from Image Soundworks

Mind you, if you’re not all that good with an axe, why not lean on the high quality tone of Shreddage 3? This brutal sounding, drop tuned guitar is pitched at heavy rock and metal-heads, and contains samples, performance loops, chords and riffs. It’s like having Slash on tap.

The freeware: Audio Assault Grind Machine CM

Audio Assault Grind Machine CM

(Image credit: Audio Assault)

Free with every issue of Computer Music Magazine

We’ve got a whole section in our Plugin Suite dedicated to distortion. One option is Grind Machine CM, a nice little amp/cab sim plugin that enables your guitar sound to roar like the proverbial beast. There’s also an included Djentbox pedal which aims to wrestle down those rumbling low-tuned-riffs.

Total cost = £340.00

Computer Music

Computer Music magazine is the world’s best selling publication dedicated solely to making great music with your Mac or PC computer. Each issue it brings its lucky readers the best in cutting-edge tutorials, need-to-know, expert software reviews and even all the tools you actually need to make great music today, courtesy of our legendary CM Plugin Suite.