Here’s a Complete guide to Home Recording Studio Equipment for any budget.
Thanks to improvements in technology and availability of modern music studio software, recording excellent sounding songs is not difficult and can be done right from your home.
Here are the various guides & suggestions for musicians on a budget (& newbies):
The Initial Confusion
Most of us would like to have a small home studio, setup for a minimum cost and something that gives far better output.
Most of us already have a computer at home and it is common knowledge now that you can really come up with great recordings at home, using just your computer. But then there are definitely some more equipment that are needed to get started in music production.
Even with a basic setup there can be several variations that it can become difficult to choose the right equipment.
There are actually a lot of things that could go in the setting up of a home studio. Even the room acoustics can play an important part, which means you have to do something to the walls if you are looking for the perfect setup.
However, we are talking about setting up a basic home studio here.
Depending on what you are going to record, you may only need a computer, recording software, and an audio source such as a microphone. You don’t need a mixer, but good monitors and a good acoustic space are important, they need not be too expensive though. If you are not going to record vocals and guitars, then you may not even need the microphone to begin with.
Anything more than that would just be a luxury, especially if you are just a beginner! It is recommended that you grow your home music studio as and when you grow in knowledge.
Details of Your Studio Setup
Let us get down to the actual components that usually form a part of the home studio. If you intend to setup a home recording studio, here are some of the main “tools” you’ll need.
You might already be knowing about some of these things, and probably owning it too – such as mics, software, computer etc, that goes in the making of a studio, but there are a few more equipment such as preamps, headphones, monitors, interfaces and so on, that are also required.
Each of these can vary a lot in prices, depending on the quality and the intended target audience. But it is indeed possible and relatively easy to make a great sounding recording studio on a low budget.
Here’s what you can start with; a basic setup! You may choose as per your specific requirements.
The first thing that you need in any computer based studio is a powerful computer to run all the software. Without going into the debate of computer vs Mac, it is best to have a computer that is built specifically for music. There are many who use Mac but a PC should work fine as well.
You may use a laptop or a desktop but whatever you use, just make sure that is built to a very high spec, and if you can, keep the computer reserved only for music and for no other activities.
You will need a good recording software / sequencer such as Sonar, Cubase, Reason, or Logic. There are many more but these are some of the popular ones. Besides, sequencing abilities most of these also come with editing features, a mixer, effects such as compressors, limiter, equalizer, and so on.
However besides the recording software, you will also need lots of sounds to be able to make music. These are known as software libraries and plug-ins.
You need this piece of equipment to get the sounds in and out of your computer. Every computer does have a built-in sound card for audio purposes those are not designed for music production. It is best to invest a decent audio interface as these have high quality “Analog to Digital” and “Digital to Analog” converters built-in to get the best possible sound quality. Having a good audio interface is the key to a great sound quality for everything in your studio.
You need something to listen to your music recording. That is where you need good Studio Monitors. These need to be totally flat, gives the clearest possible response, so that you can listen to the mix to the best of your ability. Another addition to your output setup can be a good set of studio monitoring headphones.
You need a microphone to record vocals and guitar, to get the sound into the computer. The most popular choice is to go in for a condenser mic. These are the most sensitive types of mics so you may need to get a stand as well for it. They do require a power source so your mic preamp or the audio interface needs to have phantom power on it.
If you have a really tight budget, then you can skip this. A keyboard controller is basically used to control the various sounds, and also key in the notes. If you are an absolute beginner who is just exploring how things work, you may directly input the notes in the sequencer by using the mouse of the computer if you wish. You can always buy the midi controller later on when you have the budget.
A microphone turns an analog sound into a very minute electrical signal, which needs to be amplified before it can be recorded. That is where a preamp comes into picture. You do have preamps that are part of audio interfaces, so for most purposes that should serve you well.
With Practice You Can Sound Far Better
Many don’t realize that being able to create music is also an art, just like playing the piano or the guitar. You become better the more you practice.
You can actually make amazing recordings using a setup that costs a few hundred bucks, but it does take lots of practice to use the equipment correctly and to make great sounding recordings.
So though having the right brands and equipment are necessary, it is not that having them will automatically help you to produce great music. It doesn’t matter what you pay for the equipment, it is of not much use if you don’t know how to use it. It is just not going to happen!
It can take years to master the techniques necessary to make pro quality music. So whatever equipment / software you choose you need to become proficient at it. With experience, you will know exactly what you need and how to use them, and whether or not you should go far out of your way to get that dreamy gear.
An experienced music producer can easily create great music out of any decent recording software. So pick up whatever you can for the budget you have and work on it till you have developed your own style and something that sounds really good.
Also remember, that it takes time to learn, and also have a bigger budget, if you want to create wide across a wide range of genres. So you can reduce the cost of your studio, and also come up the learning curve fairly quickly, by focusing on a single genre rather than trying to cover many music genres.
But what if you have a bigger budget, than say a few hundred dollars? What would the setup look like in that case?
There is no doubt that the home music recording studio is becoming more and more powerful. It is a known fact that most movie soundtracks are often produced by major record labels and well-known composers. However that might all change in the future. In fact, most low to medium budget movies are already using freelancers to provide music for their films and documentaries. And this is where the home recording studio can play a major role.
We have been talking about what all things you need to setup and get your home recording studio up and running. There are few things which we didn’t talk about, especially the outboard gear, such as compressors, limiters, external effects processing units and so on. These are some of the things that you can think of adding to your setup later on. These are not essential for you to get started, and most of these are also offered as features within your recording software.
We have mentioned quite a lot of things here and to reiterate, you really may not need all of them right from the beginning. But everyone has to start somewhere and you can always get them one at a time. Probably, the most essential ones are getting a computer, having some software on it and if you can get some good studio monitors, it will help you to produce some music properly.
So that’s it then! You actually don’t need to spend a lot assuming you already own a computer. In most likelihood you would already have a computer which may need to be upgraded.