Recording setup essentials: everything you need to make soundtracks for less than £500

make soundtracks for less than £500
(Image credit: Future)

RECORDING WEEK 2022: One of the most stable pathways to monetising your music right now and get your music heard on screen is by signing up your tracks to one of the many sync libraries that welcome incoming pitches. 

Their role is to act as middlemen between you and those looking for music to suit their film, television, video game or advertising projects. Making so-called ‘production music’ is a real skill in itself, as you often have to strike a balance between your own artistic individuality and making the sort of ‘sync-able’ music that has the broadest possible appeal.

While this sector has very much exploded over the course of the last decade, working with film and television in mind is, of course, one of the most well-trodden pathways for professional musicians. 

Soundtracking is an expansive, varied art form, yet there are a number of tools that are fundamental

Soundtracking is an expansive, varied art form, yet there are a number of tools, approaches and mindsets that are fundamental. For one, you’re going to need a DAW that has solid video support if you’re going to be writing specifically for a picture (or need to edit your soundtrack cut later). 

While there are now more than a few DAWs that have this functionality, we’re going to recommend one which is used by many of the world’s greatest composers. Cubase Elements 12 contains everything you’ll need for slick video-synced writing, and it’s a relative steal at just £85.

Having an assortment of sampled real instruments is certainly useful, and our friends at Spitfire Audio have recently been making specially curated selections from their larger libraries available, at astonishingly cheap prices. For just £25 a pop, we’d definitely recommend you dip your orchestral toe in the water with one or two...

It helps to have a broad array of synth sounds at your disposal too, not to mention ways of making your sounds evolve in odd and interesting ways. As with our previous entry, we’ve also thrown in a recommended extra from our CM Plugin Suite, free with every issue of Computer Music Magazine, that should help you add a bit of cinematic width to your track. 

The DAW: Cubase Elements 12

Cubase Elements 12

(Image credit: Future)

£85 | Buy from Thomann

The DAW that started it all has been a go-to for soundtracking duties for several world-class composers. Its slick video incorporation allows for speedy writing to picture. This basic way into the latest version allows 48 audio tracks and 64 MIDI tracks, as well as a range of goodies such as the Groove Agent SE rhythm module.

Read our full Cubase Pro 12 review

The synth: U-He Hive 2

u-He Hive 2

(Image credit: u-He)

£120 | Buy from Plugin Boutique

This dual-oscillator synth offers up a huge well of sound design potential, with two sub-oscillators, a massive array of waveform shapes, ARP and sequencer controls and a whopping 2,300 presets to get you going. This is a deep, rich synthesiser that could certainly serve as the flagship of your sound design exploits.

The monitors: PreSonus Eris 3.5

PreSonus Eris 3.5

(Image credit: Future)


Don’t be deceived by these diminutive desktop-sized speakers, PreSonus’ media monitors have been built with acute precision and detailed listening in mind. The Kevlar driver adds weight to the low end, while their low distortion-build is on par with many bigger studio monitors. For such affordable speakers, the soundstage is impressively wide, too.

Read our full PreSonus Eris 3.5 review

The freeware: Baby Audio Baby Comeback CM

Baby Audio Baby Comeback CM

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Free with every issue of Computer Music Magazine

Our CM plugin suite recommendation is the unique delay plugin we developed in collaboration with Baby Audio, this stripped-back version of BA’s Comeback Kid provides some extraordinarily simple to make, but staggeringly deep delays – a crucial ingredient in effective sound design. It can bring more character and a richer colour to your mix.

Read our full Baby Audio Baby Comeback Kid review

The orchestra: Spitfire Originals Cinematic Pads

Spitfire Originals Cinematic Pads

(Image credit: Future)

£29 | Buy from Spitfire Audio

Makers of some of the best orchestral libraries and soundtrack toolkits around, Spitfire Audio’s recently launched ‘Originals’ series collect beautifully angled packs, such as ‘Epic Choir’ and ‘Intimate Grand Piano’ that you should certainly swallow up. For our money, a good starting point is Cinematic Pads, a succulent collection of pro quality pads, swells and textures.

The sound mangler: iZotope Trash 2

iZotope Trash 2

(Image credit: Future)

£85 | Buy from iZotope

A multiband distortion mega-tool, iZotope’s Trash 2 has spent nearly a decade being used to crunch up and restructure our sounds. While you can use its processing to simply dirty up your audio, there are far subtler ways to use its in-built dynamics and frequency controls to get even more creative when soundtracking.

Read our full iZotope Trash 2 review

Total cost = £403

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.

Get over 70 FREE plugin instruments and effects… image
Get over 70 FREE plugin instruments and effects…
…with the latest issue of Computer Music magazine