Getting into a career in audio can be exciting and very fulfilling.  It can also be very expensive.  Happily, there are several affordable gems that can help the aspiring video game music composer on a budget.  For this post, I asked over 30 video game music and sound professionals to share their most impactful purchase that they’ve made for their game audio career.  The catch?  It had to cost them less than $100 at the time.  Note that a small handful of the items on this list now cost more than they used to, and I’ll be sure to note which items those are for sake of transparency.

  1. Rich Vreeland aka Disasterpeace (websitetwitter):

    “oh wow. Well, GarageBand costs $5 right now. I made 5 albums w/GarageBand. That’s a $ a record. Seems pretty cost-effective!”

  2. Alyssa Menes (websitetwitter):

    “I’d say tix to any one of Playcrafting NYC’s playtests/demo nights.  Getting out and meeting legs has been SO important for me.  Also forgot to mention my Tascam field recorder! The two combined would total to $95.  :)”

  3. Andrew Overfield  (websitetwitter):

    “Definitely my ticket to the first Game Music Connect in 2013!  Haven’t looked back!”  (Editor’s Note: This event costs 99£ as of today, which translates to about $155)

  4. Pierre Bondoerffer (soundcloud – twitter):

    “I would probably say my Sony MDR-7506, those headphones rock and they were 87£ when I got them, which is about $97″

  5. Adriane Kuzminski (websitetwitter):

    H1 Zoom ($80). Gotta start somewhere, and it’s easy to keep it in one of my ACU pockets.”

  6. John Hagley (websitetwitter):

    Shure SM57!”

  7. Silas Hite (websitetwitter):

    “Hmm, maybe an SM57?”

  8. Darren Korb (websitetwitter):

    Shure SM58 probably”

  9. “Naxalit” (youtubetwitter):

    “Secondhand BCF2000 and touchosc”

  10. “MrVojjin” via Reddit:

    “Portable recorder (Zoom H4n in my case) got it on sale a few years back. Record EVERYTHING AT ALL TIMES.  Magical.” (Editor’s Note: The Zoom H4n regularly retails for $199.)

  11. “Chandler Guitar” via Reddit:

    “I’d have to say MCompare by melda productions. It’s a plug in that lets you compare your song to other songs. You can flip back and forth and hear any mistakes you’ve made in your mix. It’s simple, but you can use it on every mix you do and it will always make your mixes sound better.”

  12. Rachel Rakowski (twitchtwitter):

    “An amazing music box library for $2. I don’t remember the brand though off the top of my head!”

  13. Ashton Morris (websitetwitter):

    “I got NI Battery 4, for half off and it has been indispensable for sound design.” (Editor’s Note: NI Battery 4 is regularly priced at $199.)

  14. Megan McDuffee (websitetwitter):

    “Probably the extra sound bundles for Camel Audio’s Alchemy synth. That VST rocks so hard.”  (Editor’s Note: Camel Audio has since closed up shop and Alchemy is no longer available for purchase.)

  15. Mattias Haggstrom (website – twitter):

    “Tricky! Probably a ReFill library of scandinavian folk instruments :)”

  16. Akash Thakkar (websitetwitter):

    Eos reverb by @audiodamage! Hands down the best sub $100 #gameaudio purchase I’ve made.”

  17. Michael Cunha (bandcamp – twitter):

    Addictive Drums” (Editor’s Note: The original Addictive Drums is no longer available.  Addictive Drums 2 is available for $249.)

  18. Jon Bellini (websitetwitter):

    “that would definitely have to be Alicia’s Keys..$99 best virtual piano for the money…”

  19. Eric Hamel (website – twitter):

    “I bought a license (transfer) for Sony Vegas on eBay! Indie tip: you can snag some good audio equip and plugins on auction.”

  20. Sergey Eybog (websitetwitter):

    “Several years ago I bought Sonic Cat Purity (previously Luxonix) and used it for composing game soundtracks. I got much more money than I had spent.”

  21. Ka Rec via Google+:

    “Another vote for Sonic Cat here. I like their Ravity synth more than Purity, but both sound super great. Ravity is one of the best soft synths I’ve heard and it’s only 39 bucks.”

  22. Jean Chan (twitter):

    “For under $100, so far I’d say my book “Game Sound” by Karen Collins. Sums up well the history of VG and evolution of game audio”

  23. Ryan Richko (website – twitter):

    “2 great books ‘mixing secrets for the small studio’ and Winifred Phillips ‘A composers guide to game music.’

  24. Patrice Bourgeault (bandcamp – twitter):

    “Under 100$?? Tough one… 😉 The Recording Revolution tutorial certainly helped a lot. #Rethinkmixing”

  25. Ben Prunty (website – twitter):

    The Complete Guide to Game Audio by Aaron Marks

  26. Russell Brower (twitter):

    “Tickets to any inspiring concert– from #LAPhil to #PacificSymphony to @itspetergabriel . Oh, and a good mechanical pencil :)”

  27. Austin Wintory (websitetwitter):

    “A copy of Grim Fandango” (links: iPadiPhonealbum)

  28. “mattesque” via Reddit:

    “$100 worth of stuff from dollar stores. So much great stuff to record. Weird stuff.  Stuff to break.  All kinds of cheap junk that makes good sounds.”

  29. Craig Deskins (website – twitter):

    “A notepad. Being diligent about taking notes on anything and everything audio related going through my head helps”

  30. “fathesus” via Reddit:

    DR05 is $99 dollar.  Also whoosh for $79.  Just keeps paying for itself.”

  31. “mocking quantum” via Reddit: 

    “Seconding whoosh.  Otherwise, totally unsexy answer: a good, sturdy mic stand. K&M, DR, or Ultimate Support. It’s easy to waste good money on crappy stands, don’t make that mistake. A good mic stand should last for a decade.”

  32. Jaime Marcelo  (website twitter):

    Audiofinder. The cataloging of raw and processed sounds has dramatically improved my workflow, and being able to process sounds at their native sample rate, outside of my DAW is so useful. For only $70 you get an incredible range of databasing and processing functions, I absolutely love it. Also useful for organizing music samples!”

    What’s the BEST PURCHASE UNDER $100 that YOU have made?  Share in the comments below (and don’t forget to share this post with your friends)!

SUBSCRIBE to the Newsletter for access to:  Audio-interview with composer Darren Korb


Take Your Video Game Music to the Next Level.

Need a kick in the pants? This free PDF is packed with writing prompts to push you outside of your comfort zone to create new video game music. Subscribe to VGM Academy, and Quest Log - Level 3 will appear in your inbox like some sort of crazy magic trick.

DING! Your Quest Log is hurrying through the internet to your inbox now.