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Home Recording Studio Equipment: Everything You Need To Know

Things you need for a home recording studio and make music with decent sound quality:

  • A computer
  • A microphone
  • A microphone stand
  • Headphones
  • A Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) / Audio Interface Combo
  • XLR cables
  • Pop filter
  • Studio Monitors
home studio

iNTRODUCTION

What do I need to record music at home?

Some people have the impression that in order to build a decent home studio, they need to spend lots of time and money. We’re here to let you know that it doesn’t really take that much of either.

All you really need are a few essentials to get you started and start a functional studio while you progressively improve it over time. We’ll get into all the essential things you need for a home recording studio.

THINGS YOU NEED

I. THE BARE ESSENTIALS

Speaking from experience as a composer/sound designer, sometimes all I really needed was a mobile phone, headphones and the instrument (in this case an acoustic or classical guitar). Of course, there are obvious limitations in that setup.

You’ll experience difficulties recording certain types of instruments (like electric guitar and keyboards), and the sound quality will obviously also take a toll and might not meet modem demands.

Still, the results you can get with such a basic setup are quite surprising, considering the limitations we used to have only 10 years ago!

The reason I stress on those bare essentials is that I’m aware that not everyone is financially capable of buying an audio interface combo or studio monitors but that should not stop you from doing what you love and sharing with the world.

With that said you will increase your chances of success in the music industry by investing in equipment, and we’ll unpack that a bit more as we move forward

II. COMPLETE YOUR HOME STUDIO

These are the things you need for a home recording studio and to make music with decent sound quality:

  • A home computer, laptop or mobile phone with decent RAM
  • A microphone
  • A microphone stand
  • Headphones
  • A Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) / Audio Interface Combo
  • XLR cables
  • Pop filter
  • Studio Monitors

Now, we are going to be analyzing each of the essential items mentioned above:

COMPUTER

A man in the studio facing a computer.
A man in the studio facing a computer.

This might sound super obvious, but think about the times when there were no computers in recording studios. They used what are called “magnetic tapes” to record, and then the mixing and mastering process involved a lot of busywork which could last days. With the advent of digital technology, much of that process was severely dumbed down (in a good way) and now computer software takes care of much of the job.

There is still debate as to whether digital technology could entirely supersede older analog mediums. Even to this day, some professional studios still make use of mechanical devices in tandem with digital devices, but this should not concern us for the purposes of the home studio building.

To the point, the main question which should be asked in this regard is: What system requirements does my PC need? Well, most modem budget computers would probably do. However, keep in mind that some programs and plugins do consume a lot of resources.

I have an 8Gb RAM computer and at times it lags when using just one plugin in Pro Tools, but that could also be solved by installing an SSD.

In the end. it highly depends on the scope of the projects and the DAW you decide to use. DAWs require more and more resources as time passes, so for example Pro Tools 12 requires a whooping 16Gb of RAM minimum! Most mid-range or budget PCs are getting obsolete at this rate.

Regardless, there are ways to tweak your old low-end PC and optimize it for your recording and mastering, so perhaps you could save some bucks instead of having to buy new gear.

MICROPHONE

A microphone in a home studio
A microphone in a home studio.

If the computer is the heart that allows the recording process to carry on. then the microphone could be described as the sound gateway, and no amount of equalizing and software tweaks can replace a good microphone. Therefore, the microphone you use will make or break your project regardless of the rest of the tools at your disposal.

With time you’ll come to realize that there are microphones that work better for some kinds of instruments than others, but if you just want one that works decently for every instrument, the Audio-Technica AT2035 is a good option.

The Audio-Technica AT2035 Condenser Microphone is Ideal for Studio, Podcasting, and Streaming.

However, this should not stop you from trying out more specialized gear, though they could be pricey for beginners. For recording vocals, condenser mics are always your best bet though they also have other uses.

There are 2 types of condenser mics: large-diaphragm and small-diaphragm. The small diaphragm is mostly used to record string instruments and drums, while a large diaphragm is a perfect choice for vocals, because of the lush way it shapes the voice.

MICROPHONE STAND

Not as essential as the mic itself, but important for certain instruments. Recording drums is next to impossible without a mic stand. Many mics come with a stand included.

Microphone in a mic stand
Microphone in a mic stand.

Most are desktop-oriented and they might get the job done most times for beginners. As you progress in your studio-building journey you might want to consider other types of stand that better suit the individual instruments and positions.

HEADPHONES

If you are a newbie and just want to make some music on the go. then regular headphones could make the cut. But buying studio headphones gives you a very hefty advantage, as they are dedicated specifically for mixing.

With the studio headphones you hear the sounds in their most natural form, without the enhancements and “tricks” usually incorporated into consumer headphones to “adorn” them. They are also crafted with more premium builds and are able to detect noises and sounds that the mainstream consumer headphones are not able to detect, hence they’re best suited for mixing and mastering.

It’s really important to note that the headphones you use could also affect recording. Most consumer headphones nowadays leak sound to the exterior and bleed on the mic. producing undesirable effects on the recording itself.

There are some studio headphones that are open-back, which are more comfortable to wear than the closed-back because it allows air to flow to the drivers and release pressure on the ears. They also generally have better sound quality than the closed-back ones. Nevertheless, they are more prone to produce the infamous bleeding effect, which for vocal recordings is a really big hindrance.

A man recording his voice with a headphones on
A man recording his voice with a headphones on.

Closed-back have better noise cancellation but have the disadvantage of being more uncomfortable and accumulate pressure, producing headaches.

Currently, the most rated headphones on the market are the Sennheiser HD 800 Reference Studio, but they are a bit on the expensive side, so keep that in mind.

DIGITAL AUDIO WORKSTATION (DAW)

This is the software component of your home studio, the “brain” so to speak. It’s an application or program which allows you to record and mix individual sounds and tweak their frequency bands, add effects and enhancements, among other functions.

Some of the most advanced DAWs also have the option to manually add instrumentation through a MIDI editor, powered by a VST plugin containing a sound library, which is one of the most amazing advantages for people who like to go solo or are one-man-bands in a way.

The VST plugins are the modern equivalent of the famous Mellotron. with the added bonus that you don’t even have to own a physical instrument, nor do you even have to be versed in musical notation or master a musical instrument, as the editors are pretty self-explanatory. Amazingly, there are mobile DAWs with this capability, the most famous one being FL Studio Mobile.

That is the main reason that you see an increasingly big amount of orchestral composers nowadays making their magnum opus with their fingertips.

Nowadays there are lots of DAW options on the market. One of the most popular is Avid Pro Tools mostly because it allows you to mix up a limited number of tracks completely free (with some functional limitations, but it’s still completely usable for newbies).

Steinberg Cubase has had a presence in the market of over 35 years and a very longstanding loyal fanbase. being also the creators of Nuendo which is used for post-production. Other relevant DAWs include Cakewalk SONAR and Apple Logic Pro X (Mac only).

This tutorial about music production will show you what a DAW can do.

AUDIO INTERFACE

It’s the hardware component of the recording studio. It serves as a bridge between the DAW and the microphone, and allows the sound that is captured on the microphone to be properly filtered, thanks to its integrated sound card. Some audio interfaces come packaged with a version of a DAW.


Behringer U-Phoria UMC204HD Audiophile 2×4.

If you’re concerned with budget, then your best choice is probably the Behringer UMC204HD U-Phoria, though if you are an audiophile you’ll have to look for other options.

XLR CABLES

If the computer is the heart and the DAW is the brain, the cables are the veins. XLR cables connect the microphone to the output device or audio interface. They are better than USB cables for filtering audio, but they are far more expensive.

XLR cables
XLR cables connect the mic to the audio interface.

It’s useless to build the quintessential state-of-the-art home studio if your cables are rusty and cheap, since the cable is the conduit through which the sound signal is sent, and the better the conduit is built, the better the sound is filtered and recorded.

When browsing for XLR cables, you need to look for reviews. LyxPro Balance and Mogami Gold Studio are two of the best options out there. Out of the two, Mogami is probably the best, albeit a bit pricey if you have a tight budget.

POP FILTER

I think the name is self-explanatory. It’s a filter for the pops, but not the moms (couldn’t resist the joke!). It’s a screen which protects the microphone from the excess “pollution” that comes with our vocal delivery (including, but not reduced to, accidental drops). Of course it’s specifically designed to record vocals and the neglect of its use could lead to very annoying p’s and b’s.

Stedman PS101.

But don’t feel bad! Even Frank Sinatra at one point was pictured with a pop filter in front of him. at a time when microphones were starting to develop the ability to capture the most obscure sounds from our vocal cords.

Shure PS-6 Popper Stopper Pop Filter with Metal Gooseneck and Heavy Duty Microphone Stand Clamp.

Some pop filters are already included when you buy certain microphones. The most renowned is the Stedman PS101, though the Shure PS-6 is also stealing the show with its unique double-layer protection.

STUDIO MONITORS

Two monitors on a studio
Two monitors on a studio.

Last, and perhaps least, we have the studio monitors. The reason it’s the least essential is because most of the time we will probably be using our headphones for recording and mixing (especially if you live in an apartment building with paper walls!).

However, studio monitors can provide you with an idea of how the mix sounds from external speakers, but without the tonal enhancement of consumer speakers, since they have a /tatterfrequency response, thus you are able to also capture or detect any particular anomaly in the output that you weren’t able to detect before with the headphones (it can actually happen, though it’s not common.)

MUSIC

This one wasn’t listed but it’s hands down the most important “item” you need. You have to be able to actually make music or. at least, have the potential to invite others to make music in your home studio, otherwise it’s like having a very ugly piano in your living room that you can’t play. A studio is not meant to be for decoration.

Now that we’ve described each of the items necessary for a home recording studio, it’s time to do some shopping. You actually find some compelling offers and you start putting stuff in the basket. But before proceeding to payment, please ask yourself…

III. HOW CHEAP IS TOO CHEAP?

Oftentimes it happens: you see a product online, you look at the price, you imagine it just has to work as intended (otherwise they wouldn’t be selling it anyway) and once the product arrives and you test it it’s not only a terrible product, but you realize that you actually had a better alternative with you all along.

It happened to me once. Some months ago, I bought a mic because I wanted to do some voiceovers. It was a cheap mic but it looked quite sleek and I made the mistake of not checking out reviews. It turned out that when I tested it I got severe buyer’s remorse. Not only that, but I also realized that my phone’s mic could record better audio. It was cheap, but I wasted money unnecessarily and it became quite expensive in the end.

A simple home studio
Building a studio is an investment, so you must be willing to lose money in the short term for it to be successful.

My point is that when you think you are saving money by buying cheap, at times you actually lose money, because the item you bought is actually unusable. That is why we need to be more responsible with our purchases.

That doesn’t necessarily mean that everything cheap is suspect. I actually made some great purchases at bargain prices, but those opportunities are not that common. Sometimes it’s preferable to sacrifice a bit more financially in order to gain more in the long term, and this applies to everything in life.

Building a studio is an investment (unless you only aim to make music for your own pleasure) and as such, you need to be able to lose some money in the short term if you want that investment to succeed.

IV. EASIEST RECORDING SOFTWARE TO USE

We already described what a DAW is above. Now let’s see which DAW is easier to use. Now. not all DAWs have the same capabilities, and many times the easiest and most intuitive DAWs are the ones with the least amount of options and functions.

In my experience, if I were only interested in mixing audio recordings and not use a MIDI editor, then Audacity would be my choice. Not only is it free, but it’s relatively easy to use and. surprisingly, it’s also packed with a wide array of nice features and enhancements.

Keep in mind, though, that the interface in probably not the best looking, but looks aside, it’s a very well-optimized DAW and that is probably the most important aspect of a DAW: it’s usability.

What do you need to record music at home

HOME RECORDING, PRODUCING MUSIC AT HOME?

We are going to explain to you in brief everything about Home recording. In other words, the art of home recording. What do you need? And what is it exactly? All questions are going to be answered below.

It’s really nice to see that more and more home studios are emerging. Musicians who play one or more instruments are increasingly experimenting with their own studio. One approaches this quietly and keeps it small. The other builds a professional studio over time. Everything is possible and anything is possible. And the nice thing is that with the right software and a good set of ears you can come a long way.

WHAT DO YOU NEED TO BUILD YOUR OWN HOME STUDIO?

RECORDING GUITAR AT HOME

To build your own home studio you need several things. This all starts with a good computer. Make sure your computer has enough working memory. This ensures that your computer does not get stuck while recording or mixing. The software you use uses your working memory intensively. So don’t overestimate this.

A woman recording a guitar at home studio.
A woman recording a guitar at home studio.

Next, you need software. Among producers, this software is often called your DAW. Your “Digital Audio Workstation”. This software replaces the old tape and track recorders of the past. You can record all your individual instruments here. Subsequently, this is also your digital mixer/mixer. You can also start mixing/editing your songs with this software.

ESSENTIAL EQUIPMENT

If you have these two things, you still need a device with which you can plug the instruments or microphones into your computer. The device you need for this is called an “audio interface”. This is a box that turns an audio signal into a digital signal. It transforms your analog sound into your digital workstation.

A red audio interface
A red audio interface.

Acoustic instruments such as a piano or a drum kit can only be recorded with microphones. If you want to do this, you need additional microphones to record these instruments. The microphones are connected to the audio interface.

Now of course there are hundreds of different microphones and even more different placement techniques for the microphones. If you want to start producing, it is important that you have at least 1 good microphone. What this is I will spare you. It is for all-around starting work a good, versatile option.

CONCLUSION

To summarize, you don’t need a lot of equipment to make music, though if you want to take your music production career more seriously you will need some essential equipment, to wit: a computer, a microphone, a mic stand, headphones, a DAW/Audio interface combo, cables, a pop filter and. last and perhaps least, studio monitors.

You also need to find a nice balance between cheap price and quality product so try to find equipment with a good quality-price ratio. Lastly, stick with DAWs that have the features you really need. Audacity probably being the best bet for people only interested in mixing audio recordings.

Did you find this information useful? Let us know in the comments below if you have any questions!

About Maggie Holding

Hello! My name is Maggie and I am a proud Editor/Author for PlayTheTunes. Coming From South Carolina, USA, my whole life I've sang and played the guitar and flute! I love music with a passion, and am ecstatic to help others in their own music journey!