Welcome to Influenced, where we interview creators of all kinds about the gear they use to do their job — and their advice for aspiring influencers. This week, we caught up with popular music YouTuber and digital marketing veteran Finn McKenty about his favorite new 4K monitor, his go-to mouse and keyboard and why getting great audio quality can be a lot like telling a ghost story.
Here’s the cool stuff Finn McKenty does
- Runs the YouTube channel The Punk Rock MBA, which breaks down major trends in alternative music and culture and currently has more than 316,000 subscribers.
- Hosts “The Punk Rock MBA” podcast, an interview show with creatives of all kinds that digs into how they came to do what they love for a living.
- Director of operations for URM Academy, a leading online education platform for aspiring rock and metal producers.
“I try to use the least possible gear that I can to get the job done,” says McKenty, who still has a pretty formidable YouTube setup that includes a Canon T7i DSLR camera and a Rode SC6-L lavalier microphone. But many of his favorite gadgets are less fancy peripherals that can end up making a big difference. Here’s a quick look at some of his kit.
Finn McKenty’s favorite gadgets
For maximum productivity: Dell U2720QM Monitor ($699; amazon.com)
As someone who spends a large chunk of time editing videos for YouTube, having a good display is critical for McKenty. He recently upgraded to the Dell U2720QM — a generally well-regarded 27-inch 4K monitor — and hasn’t looked back since.
“It’s the best thing I’ve bought in a very long time,” says McKenty. “I would highly recommend that anybody who does creative stuff upgrade to 4K because it is life-changing.”
This large 4K display offers up a color depth of 1.07 billion colors and a contrast ratio of 1300-to-1, which are fancy ways to say that it meets the standards that creatives need for viewing and producing vibrant, true-to-life photos and videos. It also connects via a speedy USB-C cable that can charge your laptop while transmitting data from it all at once. But for McKenty, it’s also simply the perfect shape and size for his needs.
“I considered getting an ultrawide [monitor], because I know a lot of people like those. For me, I wanted to have a more vertical real estate also because when you’re working in Premiere, you can get a lot of layers and stuff,” says McKenty. “But I also wanted a lot of horizontal real estate because when I’m doing my manager stuff, I might have two windows open next to each other, like a spreadsheet and something else. So that’s why I went with 4K rather than an ultrawide.”
For working in comfort: Apple Magic Keyboard ($89.99, originally $99; amazon.com)
“I also have an Apple Magic Keyboard, which I love,” says McKenty. “They’re really expensive, but it’s worth it to me. You spend all day typing on the thing; you should like it.”
A longtime staple in Apple’s accessory lineup, the Magic Keyboard has a sleek and attractive design that comes in both Space Gray and silver to match different-colored Macs. We especially loved using it when reviewing the new 24-inch iMac, as its bouncy keys make it a joy to type on for hours on end. While the latest Magic Keyboards are wireless, McKenty has stuck to the now discontinued wired model, due to a particular dislike for Bluetooth accessories.
“I feel like [with] Bluetooth, there’s a 60% chance that it’s going to crap out at least once a day,” says McKenty. “And it’s not a huge deal; it just kind of takes you out of the moment. So I prefer wired peripherals for the most part.”
The surprise pick: Microsoft Surface Mouse ($43.78, originally $49.99; amazon.com)
One of the more surprising parts of McKenty’s setup — and a rare exception to his anti-Bluetooth stance — is Microsoft’s Surface Mouse.
“Surface hardware I think is really underrated,” says McKenty. “[Microsoft] were doing really nice stuff like that.”
The standard Surface Mouse sports a slick, minimalist design that’s consistent with Microsoft’s Surface computers, complete with a metal scroll wheel and three thumb buttons that you can customize to your needs. While the Surface Mouse didn’t quite make the cut in our best ergonomic mouse testing, it’s still a solid choice if you want an inexpensive wireless mouse that doesn’t stick out like a sore thumb.
Looking to jump into the world of YouTube for yourself? According to McKenty, you may want to invest in a good microphone before splurging for a fancy camera.
“My advice for anybody starting a YouTube channel is to focus more on audio than video,” says McKenty. “People are pretty tolerant of crappy video. They’re not tolerant of crappy audio.”
McKenty also stresses that “you don’t need anything fancy,” noting that a solid microphone like the $129.99 Blue Yeti (our current top pick) can yield some really strong audio quality when you treat your space properly. For the latter, McKenty recommends picking up a cheap set of acoustic foam panels (such as this popular $25 set) to keep your voice from bouncing off the walls and creating echoes. In fact, if you’re recording your voice off-camera, you can improve your vocal capture using stuff you probably have lying around the house.
“If it’s for a podcast or if you’re recording voiceover, put a blanket over yourself when you record it,” says McKenty. “You’ll feel silly, like you’re telling a ghost story, but it’ll make a huge difference.”
If your goal is to be the next great podcaster, McKenty recommends a similar less-is-more approach.
“Again, I think it is less about getting a nice mic than it is treating the space and learning about how to mix — like cutting out some of the mids,” says McKenty, emphasizing the value of picking up some audio editing basics. “So you can take audio from a relatively cheap mic recorded in an acoustically dead space, scoop out the mids, throw a limiter on there and you’re going to sound like your favorite radio DJ.”