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Billie Eilish, “When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?” Radiohead: “OK, computer.” These iconic albums have one thing in common: they were all recorded at home. And while it’s true that some of these homes may have been more fabulous than others, these sessions prove that you can capture musical masterpieces in a home recording studio, even if you’re in the kitchen, attic or garage.
What Do I Need For A Studio Recording Equipment
There was a time when high-quality studio equipment was out of reach for musicians recording at home. In 2022, a home studio is a big investment, but a decent studio can be set up for less than $2,000, not, say, $20,000. “Perfect” is a personal matter. This is o
Must Haves For Your Home Recording Studio [infographic]
When you’re starting from scratch, less is more. Whether you’re a musician, podcaster, or voice-over artist, you can run a recording studio with just a few basic elements. A recording microphone, a decent computer, audio “workstation” software, studio monitors, and an audio interface to put it all together.
Even if you focus on these criteria, there are many options. The choice can be overwhelming. Start with specifics: determine exactly what you need your equipment for. Will you be mobile? Perhaps a portable recorder is for you. Do you create single-narrator podcasts? You can probably get by with one microphone. Want to record a big rock band? You will need more microphones and a large number of audio inputs.
It’s also important to get rid of things you definitely don’t need. Home studio equipment often comes with a lot of bells and whistles, but it’s better to focus on recording quality so that you don’t get stuck with mediocre equipment with a lot of unnecessary features that you will eventually outgrow.
Your computer is the heart of your home recording studio – the recording, processing and mixing center. In an ideal world, you’d have a dedicated computer for music production, but that’s not the most important thing. Most modern computers have enough processing power to handle basic audio recording, such as a podcast (and the best laptops for music production can handle much more).
What Do I Need To Record Myself At Home?
As more people or instruments are added, sound production quickly begins to consume processing resources (and memory space). If you’re hoping to create sophisticated multi-track productions with your eight-piece band, you’ll quickly hit a wall.
At the very least, increase your RAM as much as possible and consider storing your files on an external drive. High-resolution multitrack audio files are very large and can take a long time to process, so you don’t want slow data transfer speeds to hinder your work. The durable SanDisk Extreme portable SSD is a great choice, offering read speeds of up to 1,050 MB/s.
A digital audio workstation (DAW) is an application that allows you to record, edit and mix tracks into one complete audio file. Any workstation application can perform this task, but the programs vary in detail. The differences in a DAW come from the interface and workflow, the number of tracks, and the number and quality of effects. Most DAWs have built-in tools for sculpting tracks with reverb and other effects; you can expand your palette with the best music production software.
For recording most music, AVID Pro Tools is the industry standard used by most professional audio engineers. If you’re looking for more features designed for songwriters and composers, check out Apple Logic Pro. Ableton Live is preferred by many electronic music producers. If you’re just starting out, there are plenty of free apps available for simple recording, such as Apple GarageBand and Audacity. All DAWs offer trial versions, and there are plenty of comparison videos online, so there’s no risk in checking out your options. Most of these programs have companion apps for working on tablets.
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Your home recording studio will need a way to transfer audio from the equipment to your computer; This is where the audio interface comes into play. An audio interface converts the analog signal from microphones, instruments, and other audio sources into digital information that the computer can recognize and routes the audio from the computer to studio monitors. Interfaces come in endless configurations to connect to all types of audio sources, so first consider what you want to record: the more tracks you plan to record simultaneously, the more inputs you’ll need. If it’s just you and your guitar, a 2-channel interface should be enough. But if you’re following a live band, you may want to use 8 channels.
Microphones, instruments, recording equipment, and consumer devices connect using different types of inputs – which is not the same as the total number of channels on the interface – so make sure your I/O configuration meets your needs. Other considerations include digital I/O and fast PC connectivity (USB may be a great place to start for more casual setups). Some interfaces even include built-in mixers and effects. If you’re looking for a place to start, we recommend the Focusrite Scarlett Solo, PreSonus AudioBox USB 96, and Universal Audio Apollo Twin. Or maybe you just record field recordings or audio on the go with your smartphone. Consider something compact, casual, but powerful like the Roland Go: Mixer Pro-X. There are tons of options, and you’d be surprised how quickly and easily you can put together a mobile recording setup.
A versatile microphone like the Shure SM7B pictured can help podcasters and bedroom producers sound like pros. Jeremy Enns, Unsplash
There are many types of microphones, not to mention countless models, so purchasing one can be overwhelming. And when you’re starting out, you’ll likely be working with several microphones, so choose versatile models that will capture great performances, no matter what you want to record. Put simply, microphones can be divided into two general categories:
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Condenser microphones are more sensitive to sonic nuances, making them an especially great choice for both instruments, as well as an ideal microphone for vocals. The multi-pattern capacitor, which allows you to adjust its directivity, is a versatile studio workhorse.
Dynamic microphones feature a rugged, simple design that is not overly sensitive to high frequencies and high sound pressure levels, making them ideal for recording loud instruments such as drums and electric guitar.
If you record podcasts, a multi-pattern USB capacitor like the Blue Yeti (ubiquitous for good reasons) may be your best choice. If you’re a musician, consider purchasing a versatile dynamic microphone like the iconic Shure SM57 (you’d be surprised how many legendary records have been recorded with this $99 wonder) and a versatile large-diaphragm condenser like the RøDE NT1. If you’re recording yourself singing with a piano or guitar, or want to record a drum kit, consider a dedicated stereo microphone like the Audio-Technica AT2022 or a matched pair of microphones (try the sE Electronics sE8).
Studio monitors are speakers designed specifically for sound production. They provide a single source of sonic truth, a lens through which you will evaluate your mixes. Unlike commercial or “hi-fi” speakers and headphones, which enhance the lows and highs for a more “pleasant” listening experience, studio monitors are designed to produce a neutral, uncolored sound.
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If you record with microphones and listen in the same place, you will need to use the best headphones for mixing to prevent feedback caused by real-time recordings being played back through the speakers. Generally speaking, audio engineers prefer open headphones for their breathability and open soundstage. We particularly like the Sennheiser HD 800 S and the cheaper Beyerdynamic DT 1990.
However, when it comes to the atmosphere of a true home recording studio, you can’t beat studio speakers. The most important thing to consider with large speakers is size. You’ll want speakers that are small enough to operate effectively in your space, but powerful enough to effortlessly reproduce the most dynamic content. 5- and 8-inch models like the KRK Rokit 5, JBL 305 and PreSonus Eris E5 are perfect for the home studio.
Active studio monitors like the Pioneer VM-50 help you find space in the mix without having to scavenge for a lot of space in your home. Markkus Rovito
Here’s where we’ll drop the fine print: You actually need to buy more than five pieces of equipment to build a working home recording studio. These five devices make up a basic recording station, but you also need some basic accessories, such as microphone cables, to function properly. From there, you can add upgrades like a pop filter, a microphone boom or stand, and a portable acoustic shield that serves as a mini vocal booth.
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If you create music using synthesizers or other MIDI devices, you will need a hardware MIDI controller. Its functionality should suit your production style – whether you like using a keyboard, faders, jog wheels or pads. Other extras: power conditioner, tuner, backup storage (physical or cloud), and a great chair.
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