The Business Of Sound Design: Sound Designer’s Tools Of The Trade

What hardware/software applications do I need? What do sound designers use? Anything that makes noise, allows us to record and manipulate sound.When I think of Sound design tools, I think of two classes

1. The Recordist → Totes around field recorders, headphones, mics, stands, etc. Their gear is made for recording outside of a typical recording studio.

2. Everyone else → Those who don’t record outside or who strictly work with synthesis
Regardless of where the source comes from everything hits the computer anyway for editing and mastering. Let’s take a look at some of these tools.

Field Recorders

They are hard disk recorders that allow you to record on the go. The most valuable feature(s) on a field recorder is it’s preamps and the number of microphone inputs it has.

High-Quality preamps offer better recordings, especially when trying to isolate small sounds. The more mic inputs a recorder has the more creative you can be when capturing sound.

Field recorders range in price from $70 – $3,000, I’ve seen them as high as $5k. Also, some are equipped with internal mics which can be useful. Check out my Field Recorder Buyers Guide.


They are the sonic lenses to your world of audio. Generally, the better microphone you have the better sound you’ll be able to record… Assuming you have a good recording chain.

You can check out my Microphone Buyers Guide for a more in-depth look into the types of mics, function, bang for the buck etc. This will help when looking for a microphone.

Specific Software Applications

If you have a DAW, you have what you need, but there are some specific software applications that are vital to a sound designer.

Your Computer

This is where the magic happens. Your computer is loaded with software applications; Daws, audio editors, plug-ins, synths, etc. These are the tools that you use to manipulate sound.

I hope it’s safe to assume that everyone reading this post at the very least has a computer, audio interface of some sort, and a microphone. If you have those basic necessities along with a DAW you’re in business.

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