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Would you like to make a handpan recording and be able to keep a record of your compositions and ideas? Would you like to film a video, put together four or five songs, or even release a professional-sounding CD?

There are so many different reasons for wanting to buy recording gear! The problem is, you’re never exactly sure what you need. You have undoubtedly trawled through the internet to try and find what’s right for you, but feel lost amongst all the information available. Don’t worry, you’re not alone! Finding the right equipment for your handpan can be tedious; that’s why we decided to look into the issue with the help of Alexandre Chaigne, a professional sound engineer and handpan lover. He has been recording handpan albums for a number of years, including OLOJi, Laurent Sureau and TwinPan, and mics up players for live stage performances. 

Here is everything you need to know! Basically, it all depends on two things: your budget and your goal.

There are 3 possible configurations for recording your handpan:

  • 1 – With a computer.

  • 2 – Without a computer (we call this “the portable solution”).

  • 3 – With a smartphone or tablet.

In this article we will be looking at configurations 1 and 2. Configuration 3 will be discussed in a separate article, at a later date.

So, let’s take a look at  these first two configurations (which are also the most commonly used): their advantages, disadvantages, and what equipment is required according to your budget.

Configuration 1: recording your handpan with a computer

Advantages

There really is something available to suit every budget. You can start out with something relatively basic and upgrade your equipment over time. With a computer there are more options and versatility for sound recording. For example (and to make life easier), you can add a click (metronome), or add reverb, you can build up many different tracks…in short: many possibilities!

Disadvantages

Recording in this way requires some setup time- you need to take this into account if you don’t have a room dedicated to recording, for example. (Please note, we are simply saying that if you want to record an idea or composition straight away, you’ll have to factor in 10 minutes to turn on the computer and all the kit – we will be discussing- that goes with it). Also bear in mind that the total cost can be higher than with the other configurations.  

The equipment

In concrete terms, you will need equipment to transfer the sound of the handpan to the computer. We are assuming here that you already have a handpan and a computer, which is why we are only talking about microphones and sound cards.

handpan > a microphone > a sound card > computer

Note: we do not discuss computers in this article as any recent computer (from within the last 3 years) will be adequate, by and large…unless you paid 150€ for it 😉

The different microphones and sound cards on offer

These tables present the different microphones (small and large membrane) and sound cards available according to your budget. The price shown in brackets for each microphone denotes the price for a pair: stereo recordings are always better, and having two microphones will turn out to be very useful for recording two handpans simultaneously.

Note: if you would like to learn more about the different types of microphones and their specificities read our article How to choose a microphone for the handpan?

Low budget:
200-300 euros


What can I do with this equipment?  
You can expect good quality, satisfactory recordings of your ideas and compositions. You will have also great fun doing so, but remember that you won’t achieve the quality of a professional recording studio. We are talking here about home studio.

Small membrane mics (pair)Large membrane mics (pair)Audio interface
Behringer C2 (39,85 $)Audio Technica AT2020 (200,40 $)Behringer UMC204HD (89,96 $)
Rode 5 MP (192,44 $)Behringer C1 (56,70 $)Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 (158,28 $)
The T.Bone EM700 (62,63 $)AKG P120 (166,24 $)Presonus Audiobox USB 96 (101,34 $)
Joemeek JM27S (109,32 $)MXL 990 (200,40 $)Steinberg UR22 (130,95 $)
T.Bone SC140 (100,20 $)T.Bone SC600 (154,86 $)Mackie Onyx Blackjack (124,12 $)
Superlux S502 (141,34 $)T.Bone SC300 (66,04 $)M-Audio M-Track 2×2 (101,34 $)

Note: if you don’t want to spend as much on this kind of equipment, you can buy a single microphone instead of a pair. The result will be the same; you will just lose the stereo aspect.  

Medium budget:
500-1 000 euros 


What can I do with this equipment?
Ideal for sharing your music online and shooting  videos with high quality sound.

Small membrane mics (pair)Large membrane mics (pair)Audio interface
Oktava MK 012 (339,22 $)Oktava MK 319 (566,89 $) ou MK220 (589,65 $)Focusrite Clarett 4Pre USB (681,86 $)
Rode NT5 (317,59 $)Rode NT2A (272,06 $)Motu 4Pre Hybrid (545,26 $)
Audio Technica ATM450 (450,78 $) ou Pro 37 (473,54 $)Audio Technica 2050 (587,38 $)Arturia AudioFuse (556,64 $)
Lauten Audio LA-120 (448,50 $)Lauten Audio LA-220 (603,32 $)Audient ID44 (647,71 $)
AKG C451 (521,36 $)AKG C214 (555,5 $)Apogee Duet (681,86 $)
SM137 (453,06 $) ou SM94 (459,88 $)Shure PGA27 (428,02 $)RME BabyFace Pro (795,69 $)

Video : David Charrier – « LaFa », recorded with a pair of Oktava MK012

High budget:
> 1 000 euros


What can I do with this equipment?
Perfect for professional quality recordings such as for an EP, album, etc.

Small membrane mics (pair)Large membrane mics (pair)Audio interface
Shure KSM137 (883,34 $) ou SM81 (769,52 $)Shure Beta 27 (906,12 $)Universal Audio Twin (977,83 $)
Neumann KM184 (1 433,16 $)Neumann TLM102 (1 363,72 $)RME Fireface UC (996,04 $)
DPA 4099 (1 183,86 $)AKG C414 (1 535,61 $)Antelope Discrete 4 Basic (1 137,19 $)
Sennheiser E914 (862,86 $)Rode NT200 (1 099,62 $)Focusrite Clarett 8Pre (909,53 $)


Video : Laurent Sureau – « Promesse », recorded with a pair of Neumann KM184 and an RME Fireface 800

Configuration 2: recording your handpan without a computer

The equipment

First you have to differentiate between a recording device that has a built-in microphone and one that doesn’t. Recorders with a built-in mic range from a basic dictaphone to a professional recorder with the option to add extra mics. Recorders without a built-in mic are intended for audiovisual recordings such as documentaries and films, and so are of a higher quality.

Advantages

With this configuration you can record wherever you like and without the need for a mains power supply. The setup is much quicker than a computer-based configuration- the only time-consuming part being the configuration of the recorder and learning how to use it after you have bought it. Once everything is configured, as soon as inspiration strikes, you can get it out, press “record” and you’re up and running!

Disadvantages

So, you don’t need a mains supply, but you will have to consider your battery life. And if you want to upgrade your device, apart from adding microphones, it will be more difficult to get top of the range without having to buy a new, better quality recorder.

Low budget:
< 200 euros


What can I do with this equipment?
Allows you to record your ideas anywhere or very quickly, like at jams or when busking, etc.

Portable recorder
Olympus LS 12 (124,08 $)
Zoom H1n (101,31 $)
Tascam DR 05 (96,76 $)
Zoom H2n (145,71 $)


Video : Laurent Sureau – « Meraki Session : Spleen », recorded with a  Zoom H2n

Medium budget:
500-1 000 euros


What can I do with this equipment?
Ideal for recording videos and jams whenever and wherever you like.

Note: we will now move on to recorders (column C) with a built-in microphone, but that also have the option to connect extra microphones (cf. columns A and B).

Small membrane mics (pair)Large membrane mics (pair)Portable recorder
Audio Technica ATM450 (450,78 $) ou Pro 37 (473,54 $)Audio Technica 2050 (496,32 $)Zoom H4n Pro (237,91 $)
Oktava MK 012 (339,22 $)Oktava MK319 (566,89 $) ou MK220 (589,65 $)Zoom H5 (256,12 $)
Rode NT5 (317,59 $)Rode NT2A (544,12 $)Tascam DR-44WL (289,14 €)
Se Electronic SE8 (426,87 $)SE Electronic SE2200 (505,42 $)Olympus LS-100 (328,98 $)
Lauten Audio LA-120 (448,50 $)Lauten Audio LA-220 (603,32 $)Zoom H6 (363,13 $)
AKG C451 (556,64 $)AKG C214 (681,86 $)Marantz Pro PMD-706 (351,74 $)
SM137 (453,06 $) ou SM94 (459,88 $)Shure PGA27 (428,02 $)Tascam DR-100 (373,37 $)

Video : Jérémy Nattagh + Zalem – « Video of the Week #30: Smash It with Zalem, beatboxing, an Axiom handpan », recorded with a  Zoom H6


Quentin Kayser – « Under the Ocean », recorded with a  Zoom H4 (micros intégrés)

High budget:
> 1 000 euros


What can I do with this equipment?
Of course, you can achieve everything this is covered in the previous budgets, but expect  a much higher quality. This equipment will allow you record an EP or LP anywhere, indoors or outdoors, as well as live sessions, with a near-professional quality.  

Small membrane mics (pair)Large membrane mics (pair)Portable recorder
Shure KSM137 (883,34 $) ou SM81 (769,52 $)Shure Beta 27 (906,12 $)Tascam DR701D (540,71 $)
Neumann KM184 (1 433,16 $)Neumann TLM102 (1 363,72 $)Tascam DR 680MKII (639,57 $)
DPA 4099 (1 192,97 $)AKG C414 (1 535,61 $)Zoom F4 (631,77 $) ou Zoom F8 (795,69 $)
Sennheiser E914 (863,99 $)Rode NT2000 (1 099,62 $)Sound Devices MixPre 3M (738,78 $)


Video : Ogma – « Canopée », recorded by Alexandre Chaigne with a  Zoom F4, a pair of Neumann KM184, a DPA 4099 and a Brauner Phantom Classic

Conclusion: where do I go from here?

As you can see, there really is something for everyone! So, here are a few tips on how best to equip yourself within your means and according to your needs.

The configuration

Decide on which configuration you want: with or without a computer?

Consider your requirements: do you want something that’s convenient and quick to set up?  For example, are you often on the road, outdoors or busking? Do you like to jam, go to festivals and want to capture the moment? In which case, you should opt for a portable recording device.

Or, are you are often at home, have spare time, like to explore different possibilities and would like to use software that allows you to re-record, edit and arrange your compositions at your leisure?  If so, we would recommend you opt for the configuration with a computer.

Your budget

Think about your budget, talk to your bank, your accountant, or your partner. Remind your parents that Christmas is around the corner and you have a few ideas for your wishlist 😉  Ask yourself whether you’re willing to break into your savings… in short, decide on your exact budget and stick to it when choosing what to buy.

The choice

Make your choice from the product listings presented in this article. With regard to the medium and high budget suggestions you can put your faith in us: we have either already tested the equipment, seen it in action in professional studios, or know that it is a trusted, quality brand.

The purchase

We personally use and would highly recommend the website www.thomann.de/gb/. They offer competitive prices and have an excellent customer service with a 30-day satisfaction guarantee and a 3 year product guarantee*. That being said, you can also compare with Woodbrass or by visiting music shops in your local area. You can also search on websites like eBay or other classified ads sites, but be very careful unless you really know your stuff: all too often you can get ripped off. Take a look in person wherever possible and don’t be drawn in by an unrealistically low price 😉

Experiment!

The equipment is just the tool; the most important thing is how you are going to use it. Listen! Put the microphones in different positions, test them out several times, change rooms, etc.: trust your ear and tell yourself that what counts in the end is the music… music that sounds alive!

Share

Share this article with people you know! To be honest with you, we receive lots of messages every week asking for advice on this subject, and we can see on various Facebook groups that it’s a topic of interest for many people. So please feel free to share this information to help out our community 🙂

Over to you!

Here are two examples of “unconventional” recordings. Proof that you don’t always need a recording studio 😉

Configuration with computer: OLOJi – « Gearing »

Portable configuration: Manu Delago – « Freeze »


*Some of the links contained in this article are affiliate links, at no cost to you; this means I receive commission if you decide to make a purchase after clicking on one of these links. Let me assure you that I know this company very well and recommend it for its products and services, not because of the meagre commission it will generate for me as a result of buying via these links 🙂