Ever wanted to know how to setup a home recording studio right in your house? You’re probably think it takes months of planning, and requires an insane amount of cash just to get the essentials down. But it doesn’t.
The truth is, getting your first music production equipment is a lot cheaper than most people think. Setting up your own recording studio is also a lot easier than people think too!
This guide will take you through the process of setting up a home recording studio yourself! And also help you with what music production equipment you’ll need.
Home Recording Studio Setup: The Essentials
The following list is the bare minimum essentials you’ll need for your home recording studio setup:
- Laptop / Computer
- DAW (Digital Audio Workstation)
- Studio Headphones
- Speakers / Monitors
- Mic Stand
- Pop Filter
- Audio Interface
This list of items will allow anyone to setup a basic home studio, perfect for recording and production. This setup allows for minimal time and money investment, and allows you to develop your skills.
So, let’s explore each item on the list!
Computer / Laptop
This is going to be the heart and brain of your home studio. A computer or laptop is where your software is installed, and where your hardware connects. However, it also has the potential to be the biggest expenditure on this list. Ideally you want a machine that has a multi-threaded CPU, a decent amount of RAM, and good disk storage.
Luckily, most people nowadays have a computer or laptop that would be this spec. If you’ve bought a machine in the last 5 years, you should be good.
The only real decision that people have to decide is whether they want a computer or a laptop. The computer has the advantage of being in a fixed location, and easily upgradable. This is perfect if you know you’re always going to work out of your home. However, a laptop has the advantage of being portable. You aren’t restricted to one room, and you can setup your studio on location.
I’d recommend a laptop, with a desk setup that you can plug into when home. A USB hub is a must, as well as a decent sized monitor. Newer laptops will have a USB-C connection that everything can connect through. This means you only have to put your laptop down, and plug in a single cable for all your needs!
DAW – Digital Audio Workstation
The DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) is the piece of music production software that runs on your machine. The software itself is what allows you to programme music on an editor, record live sound, and then mix and master it all.
Some DAW’s are free, while others require a paid license. Of course, paid software is at a much higher standard than free software, and comes with many more features.
I would not recommend you use a free DAW. It’s just not worth whatever saving you might make.
The best free DAW is definitely Audacity, but it is extremely limited. Audacity is best used for recording audio, and is used by a lot of Youtubers when starting out.
A paid DAW doesn’t necessarily have to be expensive. Some have student editions, which are heavily discounted, and others have limited editions, which just restrict some of the functionality of the full paid version.
I’ve used many different DAW’s over the course of my music production years. If you’re using MAC OS, i would go with Logic Pro. If you’re on windows I’d recommend Ableton Live. Both are brilliant pieces of software and are used by professional music producers around the world.
I’d also recommend taking a look at FL Studio (formerly fruity loops), and Propellerhead Reason. I could not stop using Reason for the longest time, it was incredibly intuitive and works really well with other DAWs as a virtual instrument rack.
Now that you’re sorted with software, you need a way to actually be able to hear what you’re creating. For this, i would recommend that you invest in a decent pair of studio monitor headphones.
Studio headphones will allow you to listen to one track, while recording another. Headphones are great for sealing away the outside world, and allowing you to hone in on the finer details of your track. They are essential for anyone looking to start their own home studio.
There are two types of studio headphones to look at; open-back headphones and closed-back headphones. Closed back headphones are good for tracking, open back headphones are good for mixing.
Due to the fact that most home studio setups are going to be in one room, i recommend opting for a pair of closed-back headphones. Closed-back headphones mean they have a closed ear cup. This is great to reduce sound leakage, both into and out of the headphone. Sound leaking into the headphone can alter how your track sounds to you. Sound leaking out of the headphone can ruin a recording through ‘bleeding’. This would happen when you’re recording vocals, with the track playing on your headphones. The sound leaking out of your headphones gets picked up by the mic.
There are many different models of headphones to go for. The best choice is a pair with the flattest response. A flat response is important when mixing down your track. If your headphones naturally boost the low end and high end of your track, then you’ll probably compensate for that on your mix by lowering the lows and highs. The end result being a track that sounds weak and empty.
Once you can afford it, get a pair of open back headphones too, as this will be a good benefit to you when mixing down your track.
Check out our guide – What Are Open Back Headphones to learn more
Speakers / Monitors
For most home recording studios the majority of mixing is carried out using a good set of open back headphones. There are many good reasons for this.
However, most professional recording studios carry out their mixing on monitors. Monitors are essentially a special type of speaker. Speakers have certain characteristics to change the tone and frequency response to make the sound more pleasing to the user. Monitors on the other hand have a flat frequency response to keep the sound neutral. This is essential to mixing.
There’s a difference between mixing on headphones and mixing on monitors. Headphones feed the sound directly into both of your ears at the same time, whereas monitors project the sound towards you. This means that the rooms acoustics affect the sound which you hear. This can result in more reverb and more ambiance.
When mixing exclusively on headphones, it can often result in a narrow stereo field, and underwhelming reverb, leading to a dry sound in the mix.
The best practice is to mix on both headphones and monitors. Remember, you want your track to sound good on everything from professional monitors, to stereo speakers and laptop speakers.
The first microphone you get for your home recording studio depends entirely on your initial goal. Do you want to record mainly vocals, or electric guitar? Each one requires a different type of microphone.
Eventually you’ll most likely amass a collection of different microphones, but at first you’ll want to decide what’s most important to you, and pick the microphone that fits best.
If you’re a beginner, then chances are there’s only a few instruments that you want to record.
If you want to record electric or acoustic guitar, then a small diaphragm condenser microphone such as the Shure SM57 would be a good choice. This is probably one of the most widely used microphones by recording studios, and has many applications; a pair of Shure SM57’s can be setup to record a set of drums, for example.
If you want to record bass guitar, then a large diaphragm dynamic microphone such as the AKG D112 MkII would be a good bet. It has an in built pop shield, and is perfectly tailored for low-end bass sounds, such as the bass guitar cab and a kick drum.
Recording vocals is best done by utilizing a large diaphragm condenser microphone. There are loads of mics that would suit this purpose, however for a budget home studio looking at the essentials, the Audio-Technica AT2020 is a perfect choice.
Of course, if you’re on a real cheap budget and don’t have the need to record vocals at studio level, then a cheap USB microphone such as the Snowball Ice Blue would be fine. Just bear in mind you’d need to really work on it at mix level to make it sound good!
A mic stand is something that is easily overlooked by someone first starting there home recording studio. It’s a very basic item that makes recording so much easier.
You want to look for a stand that is stable and durable, but adjustable and flexible enough for different positions. To begin with, you’ll probably only use the mic stand to assist with recording vocals either standing or seated.
As you progress with your music production, you’ll start using it to help record guitar cabs, acoustic guitars, and overhead drums.
Don’t go too mad, you can pick up plenty good mic stands pretty cheap that will satisfy all of the above.
I’m sure you’ve seen these before. In films and more recently on Youtube. When someone is recording a song, making a video, or filming a podcast, they’ll almost certainly have a pop shield. It’s essentially just a piece of mesh material in front of the microphone.
A pop shield is designed to reduce the occurrence of vocal artifacts, or pops, that are caused by ‘P’ and ‘B’ sounds. The mesh absorbs these sounds before they reach the microphone and ruin your recording track.
A pop shield is definitely not an essential item on your home studio list, but it’s definitely a nice to have and they are very cheap.
A good audio interface is essential for anyone looking to start their own home studio. The key features to look for with an audio interface is DAW compatibility, connectivity type, amount of IO, types of input and the form factor.
For beginners, i recommend looking for an audio interface that combines itself with a midi keyboard. Getting these two devices in one makes a lot of sense than getting them separately. I say this because it’s one less item you have to worry about in the future, it’s cheaper, and you get compatibility guaranteed.
A great example of one of these is the m-audio ozone. They aren’t manufactured anymore, so if you can pick one up you’re very lucky. The ozone sports the following features:
- 16-channel USB MIDI interface
- 25-note keyboard with full-sized keys
- 8 assignable MIDI controller knobs
- Pitch and mod wheels
- Sustain pedal jack
- 2 MIDI outs (one from computer, one from Ozone)
- 2×2 24-bit/96kHz audio interface
- Stereo out (balanced 1/4″ TRS)
- XLR mic input with built-in preamp and phantom power
- Instrument in (balanced 1/4″ TRS)
- Stereo aux in (balanced 1/4″ TRS)
- Stereo headphone out
- Direct monitor switch for zero-latency monitoring
With this, you can plug in a good microphone and be able to record vocals, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, and more.
Some beginners get confused between a synthesizer and a keyboard, check our synthesizer vs keyboard guide to learn more!
Essential Music Production Equipment
This quick guide should give you enough information to start your own home recording studio, covering all the essentials and equipment that you’ll need.
This is just a short insight into the world of music production. There is so much more to cover!
Be sure to come back to the site and read all the articles that we post.
We hope you enjoyed this guide, just remember, don’t ever stop learning!