Now that you understand the mind-boggling quantity of products available for digital audio, it's time to shop for them. Here are some tips to make your shopping trip successful.
Resources: Where to Buy
Retail sales outlets include:
Guitar Center (www.guitarcenter.com)
Sam Ash (www.samashmusic.com for retail store, www.samash.com for online sales)
Fully-staffed online resellers who provide sales advice include:
Full Compass (www.fullcompass.com)
Kelly Music & Computers (http://kellysmusicandcomputers.com)
Plan your budget in advance: Plenty of inexpensive options are available to you, so don't be afraid to budget before you shop.
Try before you buy: Download software demos, get hands-on experience at your local music store, and check out training sessions and get practical experience with hardware and software at music technology conferences and music store events.
Demand personal attention: Many retail (or even online) stores have knowledgeable, working musicians on staff. They should also know which products to avoid because they'll see returns from unsatisfied customers. Make sure you can ask questions and get intelligent answers. If you can't, go elsewhere.
Check return policies on hardware: It's happened to the best of us: a product we thought was going to sound fabulous turned out to be extremely poor quality. Unfortunately, software usually can't be returned because of piracy concerns.
Check maintenance policies: Before you agree to a retailer's "extended service plan," find out what the manufacturer's warranty is. Retailers are required by U.S. law to tell you. Then, make sure you read the fine print of any extended options.
Save the receipts, and add insurance: You'll need receipts for rebates and returns, tax purposes, and insurance. Audio equipment can be a significant tax deduction if it's related to your profession. Even if it's a hobby, you can record hobby expenses on your income tax in the United States. Additionally, since warranties and extended service plans don't cover theft or damage, you can often cover your gear under your existing home insurance (if the gear is at home) and/or personal property insurance (when you're on the road). Bring receipts to your insurance company and find out what it will cover.
Get ready to download: Aside from online shareware and freeware, commercial software is sometimes cheaper without the box. And even if you buy boxed software or hardware, check online for updatesthe CD is rarely the latest release.
In the next chapter, we'll unpack all your new gear, boot the software, and learn how to connect and successfully configure your setup.