You must have reliable access to the following audio editing hardware and software to work on your assignments. Please ensure you have this access by Session 4, including having completed and tested the installation of all software packages.

Desktop or Laptop Computer

You will need reliable access to a desktop or laptop computer for working on your assignments. Besides your personal device, it is also possible to work on several iMacs at the Lewis Music Library, which are equipped with suitable software.

Studio Headphones (or Nearfield Monitor Loudspeakers)

It is strongly recommended that you invest in a pair of studio headphones. If you have to work in an environment that is not well acoustically isolated, opt for closed-back headphones. If you have a silent space to work in, you can opt for semi-closed or semi-open headphones, which are more comfortable to wear. See Table 1 below for recommendations. Completely open headphones tend to be expensive, but can yield great results in sufficiently quiet environments.

This video explains the differences between open- and closed-back headphones in detail:

Don't even think about using in-ear phones (like those that come with your smartphone), mixing on which is the acoustic equivalent of blindfolded graphic design.

Beyerdynamic DT770 Pro 80Ω $175 closed use on laptop headphone out
Beyerdynamic DT770 Pro 250Ω $175 closed use on separate amp
Audio-Technica ATH-M series $50–$170 closed M20x, M30x, M40x, M50x
Sennheiser HD 25-1 II $170 closed  
Sennheiser HD 25-SP II $120 closed  
Sennheiser HD280 Pro $90 closed  
Shure SRH440 $100 closed  
AKG K240 MKII $150 semi-open  
AKG K240 Studio $85 semi-open at Lewis Music Library
AKG K99 $80 semi-open  
AKG K77 $50 semi-closed  
AKG K44 $30 closed phasing out of production

Table 1: Some headphones suitable for use in this course

If you will be working on assignments using the Music Library iMacs, the library also has AKG K240 Studio headphones available for MIT student use. If you already have a pair of studio headphones or nearfield monitor loudspeakers, or if you are planning to acquire a pair of the latter, feel free to consult me regarding their suitability for this class.

Display Output to HDMI or VGA (via Adapter if Needed)

Throughout the semester, you will regularly demonstrate the results of your work in class, typically using your own laptop. For this purpose, all of our classrooms are equipped with HDMI (standard type A) and VGA (analog 15-pin connector) inputs and corresponding cables to connect with your laptop. If your laptop features neither of the corresponding outputs, but rather Mini DisplayPort, Thunderbolt, Mini HDMI (type C), Micro HDMI (type D), Lightning, USB-C, or some other exponent from the wonderfully colorful world of display outputs, you are expected to purchase a suitable adapter for connection to (preferably) HDMI (type A) or VGA. Please do always bring this adapter to class along with your laptop!

Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) Software Package

You will also need a digital audio workstation (DAW) software package (see Table 2). If you are new to DAWs, you should definitely opt for Reaper, which is installed on the four iMacs in the Lewis Music Library. Those who prefer to work on their own machine can get get a free two-month trial or buy the non-commercial license. Reaper runs natively on Mac OSX and Windows. There are only two situations in which Reaper might not be your tool of choice. If either one applies to you, make sure to get in touch with me, so we can find a good solution together.

Cockos Reaper

Linux, Mac, Win

from $60 Free 2-month trial
Ardour Linux (not recommended for Mac, Win) from $0 Open source
Other Options
Apple Logic Pro X Mac $199  Used in MOSS, Music Library
Bitwig Studio Linux, Mac, Win from $269  
MAGIX Samplitude Pro X Win $499  Free 30-day trial
Avid Prod Tools 12 series Mac depends  
Steinberg Cubase 7 Elements Mac, Win $99  

Table 2: DAW packages suitable for use in this course

If You Run Linux

Reaper runs on Linux under Wine in a surprisingly stable fashion, but you should thoroughly test such a setup on your own system before using it for your assignments. As an alternative, passionate tinkerers are more than welcome to use Ardour on Linux for their work. I will happily provide support for such setups, but if you want things to 'just work', I suggest you try Reaper first. (Although Ardour does run also on OS X, and to a lesser degree also on Windows, I do not recommend it. Please be in touch if you are considering such a setup.

If You Already Have a DAW

If you already run one of the other software packages listed in table 2, I am willing to let you use it for your work in this course. However, I do encourage you to use the opportunity to learn a new piece of software (Reaper), and you should be aware that I can provide only limited support for packages other than Reaper and Ardour. Logic users might be interested to hear that this package is installed on the four iMacs in the Lewis Music Library and is also part of the MOSS. Packages not listed in table 2 are not accepted for use in this course.

MObile Sound System (MOSS)


The MObile Sound System (MOSS).

In-class activites and recording workshops use the MObile Sound System (MOSS). MOSS is essentially a professional recording studio without a room. It consists of two road cases on casters: one is for storing a laptop computer, audio equipment, and the patching interface, and the other is for storing microphones, headphones, microphone stands, speaker stands, power strips, cables, and a snake.

Schematics of MOSS (PDF) (Courtesy of Christopher Ariza. Used with permission.)

This system can record, mix, or process 16 analog inputs and provide 16 analog outputs, all at 24 bit/96 kHz. The laptop currently runs Logic Studio®, Peak, and Max/MSP. 16 channels of high quality preamps are provided (8 channels of True Precision, 4 channels of full channel-strip functionality with EQ and compression, and two different types of high-quality two-channel preamps). The system can record up to 16 channels to the computer, and simultaneously or independently record 2 channels to a flash-based recorder. For overdubs, remote recording, or sending click tracks, 8-channel monitor mixes can be sent over CAT-5 cable to any of four personal mixing units. All I/O is available via front-mounted patch bays and panels, making custom setups as fast and convenient as possible.

The setup includes 6 small diaphragm cardioid microphones (AT4041), 4 large diaphragm multi-pattern microphones (AKG-414), 4 dynamic microphones (2 Shure SM57, 2 Sennheiser MD421), 1 ribbon (Royer R-101), 1 large diaphragm tube mic (Mojave MA200), 2 omnidirectional microphones (Earthworks TC20mp), and 8 stereo direct boxes. There are 16 microphones stands, a 16 channel, 100 foot snake, and plenty of microphone cables. For output, the setup includes 8 Yamaha MSR100s, 4 speaker stands, and a Mackie HD1501 600W powered sub.

Applications include recording in small and large spaces, with or without overdubs; multi-channel sound reinforcement and sound installations; interactive audio works and performances requiring a computer and audio I/O; and teaching recording techniques or providing sound reinforcement for a live-electronics ensemble of up to 16 performers.