Have you always wanted to set up your own recording studio in your home? It’s not as complicated as one may think, however, it is time consuming and not very cost effective, especially in an economy like the one we’re living in today. However, without further adieu, here are some beginner steps on geting started and recording in no time. Good luck!
The first seven things you’ll need to buy are as follows:
note: this list excludes a computer, as you probably already have one, but if not, you’ll need one of those first! You don’t need the fastest computer to record and mix music, but it should be reasonably fast. Anything with a Core i- or even Core 2-series processor should do the trick. Just don’t use a netbook. If you go out and buy everything on this list below, you’ll spend around $600, not including the computer, of course.
1) The Microphone
Probably the most imperative component of your home studio because the whole point of the studio is to record audio. Some ideas: Blue Snowball, Studio Projects B1, AKG C2000B, and MXL 990. For the most part, most mics in the $100-200 range that come from reputable companies will be pretty decent.
2) The Audio Interface
The audio interface is what connects your mics and, potentially, instruments to your computer. It also connects your studio monitors. A bad interface can hurt your incoming sound, so you don’t want to go with something on the really low end. In fact, you’re better picking up a nice interface like the Apogee Duet on the used market. Brand new will cost you a lot more. Or the Focusrite Saffire 6 is a good choice and will run you about $200.
3) Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) Software
You need software to utilize all this equipment, and the nice part is that if you bought an audio interface you probably got some for DAW software for free. Many interfaces come with Cubase LE, ProTools LE, or a free version of some other popular software that will provide you with a means of recording, playing some digital instruments, adding effects, and creating a solid mix. On a Mac, Garageband ($15) is ideal. Sequel is another option and is cross-platform, but it’s more expensive ($80). Reaper is a slightly cheaper option for Windows at $60. And for free, Ardour is a nice option for Mac and Linux or LMMS for Windows and Linux.
4) Digital Keyboard
If you’re recording live music and live music only, a digital keyboard is probably unnecessary. It’s primary purpose is for playing synthesized and sampled instruments. If you plan to add sounds to your music that are generated by software, you’ll need one of these. While a standard piano has 88 keys, most digital keyboards aren’t very good at replicating a piano and so you don’t really need one that big. Some options, depending on your wants and needs, might include the Yamaha P95B or Keystation 49.
5) Studio Monitors
Studio monitors is basically a fancy name for speakers, but they’re a little different. A decent pair will provide you with sound that’s close enough to reality that you can trust what they sound like. Because they’re going to be so important to your mix, you don’t want to cut costs here. Buy a new pair, as damage may not always be obvious in a used set, and set aside a few hundred dollars. A good, cheap option is the Samson Resolv A6. They run about $300 and provide a very clear sound. There are other options, of course, so check around.
A really good pair of headphones will run you about $300, but you can get by with something cheaper. If you’re purchasing studio monitors, you can go a lot cheaper and just use your headphones for reference purposes. Headphones will not give you a realistic representation of a stereo mix, so be aware of that. Sennheiser’s HD series are very good and a pair like theHD555s can be acquired for just over $100. For a little more, go with the HD25-1 IIs. Again, shop around for these. Word of mouth is usually reliable.
Depending on what you buy, you’re going to need a variety of cables. If all you end up getting is a USB microphone, chances are you won’t need any cables at all. When going the audio interface route, so you have greater options, you’ll need XLR cables for your microphone(s) and 1/4″ TS cables for your studio monitors (and guitars, potentially). You can pick up most of these for just a few bucks each and that’s all you’ll really need.