How to Set Up a Home Recording Studio

It is easier and cheaper than ever to build a high-quality home recording studio, and more and more artists are choosing to go down this route. However, without proper planning, it can quickly come with a hefty price tag attached to it.

Home recording studio setup

Before you decide to kit yourself out with your own gear, make sure you gain some experience with the recording process first so that you’re familiar with the equipment and skills required to make a great recording and/or mix.

We’ve listed the essential components for how to set up a home recording studio below, with tips on what equipment to opt for:

#1 Computer

The basic need of any home recording studio is a computer. This can be a Mac® or Windows® PC. It doesn‘t necessarily need to be the latest model, but it needs to have enough power and hard drive space to store and process a large amount of files and plugins.

Desktops are often used in professional recording studios because they are generally faster and easier to update. However, laptops are becoming increasingly more popular as they are more powerful than ever and a better choice for musicians who travel often.

If you’re trying to work out what specifications you would need for your computer, work out how much you are able to spend, then take a look at what you can afford.

A good recommendation would be to go with a computer with the following:

  • 8gb Ram
  • Intel core i5 or i7
  • 256GB Storage MINIMUM.

There will be plenty of second hand options available that meet this criteria!

Home recording studio equipment

Consider, also, whether you’d like to invest in a laptop or desktop computer. Desktops are often used in professional recording studios because they are generally faster and easier to update.

However, laptops are becoming increasingly more popular as they are more powerful than ever and a better choice for musicians who travel often.

They are also usually cheaper and easier to find second hand or refurbished, although there are plenty of Mac® Minis on the second hand market for those set on a bedroom desktop setup.

#2 Digital Audio Workstation

The digital audio workstation (DAW) is the mechanism that allows you to record, edit and produce your audio files. It can come in the form of an electronic device or software that you can download on your computer.

Home recording studio software

There are countless DAWs to choose from, and whilst there is no wrong one to choose, some are easier to use than others. If you’re a beginner with DAW, consider exploring the below:

Logic

Created by and exclusive to Apple, Logic is very user-friendly so is ideal for those with little experience with using complex software.

It offers a sufficient amount of functionality while also providing lots of scope for songwriters to work creatively with a variety of preloaded software instruments. It has a similar feel to Garageband, so if you’ve used this previously, this will be an easy transition.

PreSonus Studio One

Compatible with both Mac and PC devices, Studio One is rapidly gaining in popularity and places focus on making the songwriting process easier with minimal prior technical knowledge required.

Ableton Live

Taking a completely different approach to other DAWs, it puts creativity and experimentation in the forefront and allows users to work in a non-linear way. Originally designed for live performances, it offers plenty of features, like live looping, playback tracks, live effects processing, DJing and launching clips.

Garageband

A free software from Apple that comes on every Mac. It’s a streamlined version of Logic Pro X, but is a great DAW to get started in if you’re a beginner.

#3 Audio Interface for a home recording studio

An audio interface, or an external sound card, is what will enable you to record audio, such as your voice or any instrument, via a microphone or instrument cable and transmit this in and out of your computer.

As a vocalist who might only use one or two instruments, you won’t need an interface with loads of inputs, so can opt for one that is simpler and therefore cheaper.

Focusrite Scarlett 2i2

Almost seen as the staple in home and project studios. Focusrite have been round for years, their interfaces are highly respected and used all over the world. They have interfaces to suit every budget, with the most budget-friendly option being the Scarlett 2i2.

Universal Audio Apollo Twin MKII DUO

We like it because of its simplistic design, portability and professional sound. It will also allow you to use Universal Audio’s highly rated plugin software through the interface. One of the highest price points for a smaller interface so might not be great for those starting out.

PreSonus AudioBox iOne

At under £70, it is one of the cheapest audio interfaces out there and still offers high-quality sound recording. It is ideal for singer songwriters who want to record and perform live with a mic and an accompanying instrument. It works well with iPad, iPhones and is also compatible with Windows and Mac devices.

Audient iD4

Light and compact, this device is great for travel and offers industry standard sound quality with the same studio design found in Audient’s professional ASP studio consoles. It’s also compatible with both Mac and Windows computers, and is user-friendly and simple to use.

#4 Speakers & Headphones

Getting the right monitors and headphones is hugely important as it will impact your recording and mixing performance — if the sound quality isn’t up to scratch, this will increase the risk of making editing mistakes and overlooking faults.

Professional recording studios always have at least two speakers placed on either side of the computer or laptop and the rooms are better suited for mixing. Whilst smaller monitors can be great for home and bedroom studios, it may be better to start with a pair of professionally designed mixing headphones if your room isn’t treated.

Home recording studio

We have listed some good entry level suggestions below:

Headphones

Opt for closed-back headphones, as these will prevent sound from escaping which makes them better suited for recording.

  • Audio-Technica ATH M50X
  • Grado SR80e Open Backed Headphone
  • Sony MDR-7506 Studio Headphones

Speakers

  • Yamaha HS5
  • The KRK Rokit 5 Generation 3 Powered Studio Monitor
  • Mackie CR3 3″ Creative Reference Multimedia Monitors

If you decide to invest in a pair of monitors, make sure you consider acoustic treatment of your room, and always reference other songs so you bcan hear how professionally produced songs sound on your speakers.

#5 Microphones

The microphone is the final puzzle piece of the equipment needed for your recording studio. It goes without saying that this purchase can make or break your recording process — you want your vocals to shine, so choose your mic carefully.

While it is worth looking at this purchase as a long term investment, there are still budget-friendly options out there. We recommend condenser microphones because of their ability to capture a detailed vocal recording.

Our picks:

  • Audio-Technica AT2020 Cardioid Condenser Microphone
  • Rode NT1A
  • Neumann U87

Matt Parisi from Studio Chimp adds, “Some people starting a home studio may have saved up a few grand and are wanting to have something more robust. Therefore it’s potentially a wiser investment if can stretch your budget to another couple of hundred to buy something like the AT4033 or equivalent.”

#6 The space

Consider the space you want to set up your recording studio in and how it will impact the audio. To maximise the quality, make sure that you remove the potential for any unwanted resonance or echo by dampening the room.

Bedroom recording studio set up

Consider that the space will be your creative hub. So, ensure that you can work on your music whenever you please without being disturbed and without disturbing others!

#7 Think Small

Setting up a home recording studio is no small feat but it is immensely rewarding once put into practice. You’ll notice that the items listed above are just the bare bones and that there is a vast amount of other equipment you can add to embellish your studio further.

Avoid making the mistake of thinking that you need to purchase everything at once and spend a lot of money on the best equipment: this can get overwhelming and unnecessarily drain your bank account. Start simple and with fewer pieces, and build this up slowly as you gain more experience and recording skills.

“You don’t need to have the most expensive equipment to create great music, just a drive fuelled by passion and a willingness to learn new things.” according to Luke Targett, Studio Engineer at River Studios.

For more on recording at home click here.

Suggested bundles for a home recording studio set up 

Budget range – Ableton, Focusrite package, KRKs

Mid range – Logic, Focusrite Soundcard, KRKs/HS5s, SE 2200a Mic

Higher Range – Pro Tools, Focusrite (seriously good interfaces), Adam X series monitors, Sontronics Orpheus

Other Tips

  • Make the most of your phone! Steve Lacy used an iRig and an iPhone for ‘Pride’ on Kendrick Lamar’s Grammy and Pulitzer prize winning album, ‘Damn’
  • Guitarists beware of huge cabinets. They may be great on big stages but are not the ideal for a home studio. Valve amps under 5W, solid state amps and modelling rack units like Kemper’s profiling amp can all sound great on recordings
  • As with guitar cabs, drums can be harder to capture in smaller homes and, as a result, can damage relationships with the neighbours. Sampling pads such as Rolands SPD-SX can be a useful alternative.
  • To improve your workflow, consider purchasing a small MIDI USB keyboard. such as the M-Audio Keystation would be suitable. It can significantly improve speed of workflow.

More useful articles around this subject include; what to expect at a music studio and choosing a recording studio and producer.

 

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