Home Studio Recording Equipment – What Do You Really Need For Your Studio?

Do I Have Everything

It’s easy to be misinformed about what you really need in a studio.

Especially after seeing those big professional and fancy looking studios, it can really put the average Joe off from trying to build a home studio.

There are 3 questions I get asked repeatedly and I will be answering them within this post.

These are:

  • What equipment do I need to build a studio?
  • Can you build a studio on a budget?
  • What do you really need in your home studio?

Keep reading and I will reveal the most important home studio recording equipment you will need and help get you started on your journey to success with recording music.

It’s easy to be misinformed about what you really need in a studio.

Especially after seeing those big professional and fancy looking studios, it can really put the average Joe off from trying to build a home studio.

There are 3 questions I get asked repeatedly and I will be answering them within this post.

These are:

  • What equipment do I need to build a studio?
  • Can you build a studio on a budget?
  • What do you really need in your home studio?
Do I Have Everything

Keep reading and I will reveal the most important home studio recording equipment you will need and help get you started on your journey to success with recording music.

More...

Audio Interface

Face it:

The soundcard in your pc will never be good enough to record good audio.

Soundcard Crossed Out

Not only would the sound quality be bad but you will also have high latency (The delay between the recorded sound to your headphones or speakers).

Therefore, if you want decent recordings you’re going to need an audio interface.

Audio interface ticked

Audio Interfaces are dedicated for turning your analogue signal into a digital format.

They come in many different shapes and sizes.

There are large ones with 8 or even 16 XLR inputs:

Audio interface Front and Back

And there are small, portable ones with only 1 or 2 XLR inputs, perfect for starting out building your own home studio.

Audio Interface PreSonus Front + Back

Unless you are recording a drum kit, a whole band at once or you really want to prepare for the future I recommend getting an audio interface with 2 XLR inputs.

You might be wondering:

What does one of these things do?

Or...

How do I use it?

Well, with modern technology they make it super easy.

Literally just plug it in and play.

Plug in your audio interface and play straight away

The main uses for an audio interface are to plug in your studio monitors, your XLR leads and TRS Cables.

Most of them will come with phantom power and will allow you to plug in your midi devices as well.

And they also allow you to listen in direct mode, giving you no latency at all.

Most audio interfaces will use USB to connect to your pc.

And that would be your best choice.

There are some that come with Fire wire or Thunderbolt.

But unless you have those connections on your pc, or want to use them for a specific reason, I wouldn't recommend it.​


Studio Monitors and/or Headphones

Rode claim the NT1-A to be one of the worlds quietest microphones, and boy they wasn't wrong! At a self-noise level of only 5dB this is great for both professional studios and bedroom recorders.

To be able to mix and master properly you will need the right kind of speakers.

Why?

Because normal everyday speakers such as HIFI speakers, pc speakers, gaming headsets etc. Have low quality audio and will usually have a frequency response built into to them.

A frequency response is an EQ curve usually setup to look like a smile.

This boosts the low and high frequencies while cutting out the Mids. It looks like this:

Smile EQ

They do this as it sounds great and enhances the experience while listening to your favourite songs.

On the other hand, it’s a bummer for mixing because you are not getting the “true sound” of your recordings.

True sound has with no EQ built into the speakers.

They are called Studio Monitors and look like these:​

Studio Monitors

With these you hear exactly what you are supposed to hear.

Unfortunately this can make your mix sound flat and lifeless...

But:

...If you can get your mix to sound great on studio monitors, then in theory it will sound great on any other speaker.

Although the EQ curve might be inaudible for you to hear as a beginner, it is there and can drastically change the sound when you listen to the same mix on different speakers.

You can try it out by listening to a song on many different speakers such as laptop speakers, HiFi speakers, earphones, TV speakers and any other speakers you can find.

Group Of Speakers

You will hear that every speaker sounds different and has different characteristics.

Creating a balance for all these speakers is very hard and requires immense amount of practice.

That's why:

Recording and mixing is an art form.

And because of this:

Good monitors and headphones are a must!

Which Do You Choose? Studio Monitors or Headphones?

Sony Studio Headphones

VS

Studio Monitors KRK

Well, in short You Need Both.

When you are first starting out you might not be able to afford both so I would go for whichever suits your situation the best.

If you are living with other people that are loud or have noisy neighbours, headphones might be the better option...

...Personally, I would always try to get speakers before headphones due to studio monitors being far superior to headphones with the low end punch and your ears getting less fatigued.

But that’s my personal preference and the choice is yours.

Which One Will You Choose?

...Remember: You will want some good closed back headphones if you are trying to record anything because you will get too much bleed from open back headphones muddying up your recordings.

I would recommend you put both studio monitors and headphones on your bucket list for future reference and consider getting multiple sets of each as no two speakers or headphones are alike.


Microphones

Without microphones, it would be very hard to record anything.

But, you're probably asking: What mic do I need?

There’s thousands to choose from!

That is true and in theory the more you spend the better the microphone will be.

Microphone Graph

However, you’re going to need the right type of microphone for what you are recording.

Any microphone will get the job done, and of course there are no right or wrong ways of doing things in music...

...But there are guidelines, and to get the best possible recordings you will want to go for a microphone that's tailored to what you want to record.

That way there will be fewer hiccups down the road allowing it to be faster and easier to get the perfect take.​

​Making you and your customer happy:

Smiley face

There are 3 main types of microphones

  • Condenser
  • Dynamic
  • Ribbon

Condenser microphones are used most often in the studio and are used a lot on drum overheads, vocals and acoustic guitars.

They require Phantom power (48V) which can be turned on and off using your audio interface.

​And have amazing clarity thanks to its ability to react faster to sound.

Condenser Microphone

Dynamic microphones are used more often in live performances.

But they also are very popular with drums and distorted guitars in the studio because of their big sound and ability to handle explosive content.

Dynamic Microphone

Ribbon microphones are a bit different as they have a metal strip that produces the sound.

They MUST be handled and used with a lot more care because of the very thin ribbon inside and cannot handle large amounts of energy like a dynamic microphone.

However, they do sound really good with vocals or to capture the room sound.

Ribbon Microphone

For your first microphone:

You either want to be looking at a condenser or a dynamic microphone, what one you get depends on what you are going to record.

Don’t go for the most expensive microphones just because it's the most expensive.

Every mic sounds different.

Just because it costs a bomb and is made out of pure gold doesn’t mean it will sound good with your recording.

However, Going for the cheapest microphone isn't the best idea either.

To start off with, you will want to go for a well know brand that makes good microphones,

Some examples are:

  • Shure
  • Behringer
  • Aston Microphones
  • Rode

There are many others but they're a few of the biggest names.

You can check out my review on The 5 Best Microphones For Vocals if your struggling to choose...

Best Microphones For Vocals

...Even though they are tailored to vocals you can use all the microphones on just about anything and they will sound great!

​Once you have been using the microphone you have chosen, you will start to notice how it sounds on your recordings and learn what you like and dislike about it.

This will then help you with your next microphone purchase.

Having a variety of microphones is what you should be striving for, but to start with a good condenser microphone should do the job for now.

There is no perfect microphone!

You will need different microphones for various applications.

And you will sometimes use more than one microphone on one sound source to get the desired sound.


Personal Computer

With computers getting better each year, you don’t need to worry about getting a super high-end pc.

But if you want to record many tracks in one session you might need to update your old banger.

Doing this is easier than you think...

...And it doesn't cost as much as you might think.

Laptop or Desktop does it matter?

In reality no.

You can get very powerful laptops that are just as good as desktop pc's and will do the job perfectly.

So, it's more about personal preference.​

Although:

There are good and bad things about both.​

Here I have made a Pros and cons list for laptops and desktops:​

Laptops

The Pros List

  • check
    Portable
  • check
    Small and lightweight
  • check
    Use it anywhere

The Cons List

  • ​Not as fast
  • ​Small Screen​​​​
  • Hard to be accurate with touchpad
  • Loud fans
  • Limited battery life

If you don't want to be bound by one location and love the idea of being portable to mix anywhere, a laptop and headphones can make a great pair.

Desktops

The Pros List

  • check
    Mix and record much faster
  • check
    Bigger Screen
  • check
    Use it with studio minitors
  • check
    Learn the sound of one space

The Cons List

  • Bigger
  • ​Not as portable

Nothing beats the speed and ease of using a desktop, the bigger screen, better speakers and learning the way your room sounds will drastically improve your mixes.

If you're setting up a studio at home I would recommend getting a desktop over a laptop.

The benefits outweigh the negatives and you will complete you work much faster with less ear fatigue.

Mac or PC - What's The Difference?

Now:

This choice really is personal preference.

Whichever system you like best, you go with that!

I personally like to use a Windows Pc as I can upgrade it, it's what I'm used to and I like to think they're better value for money.

Personal Computer

Oh.....And they look Awesome!

On The Other Hand:​

Many people swear by Apple macs for music as they are built more for music producing and video editing.

They are also much more compact than a desktop and look very sleek and professional.

You may prefer to get a Mac if you have clients round often because a pc with lights and flashy things might make people think you are still using your sons gaming computer.

Apple I Mac

Digital Audio Workstation

Digital audio workstation or DAW for short is what you will use to record all your tracks and mix all your songs.

There are a wide range of DAWs in the market now but they mostly all do the same thing.

Just with a different look and layout.

Here are a few well known DAWS:​

  • Pro Tools
  • Cubase
  • Logic
  • FL Studio
  • Reason
  • Garage Band
  • Acid Pro
  • Magix
  • Mixcraft
  • Reaper

Pro Tools is the industry standard and it's what many of the professionals use.

Pro Tools

I prefer to use Cubase.

Cubase

Why?

Mainly because I started with Cubase and got used to it.

​And you can do everything in Cubase you can in ​every other DAW.

I recommend you have a look at the top 3 on my list:

  1. Pro Tools
  2. Cubase
  3. Logic

See which you like to look of best and go with that.

Remember: Logic is for mac only, Pro Tools and Cubase can be used on mac or pc though.

Accessories

Most accessories are add on items.

But I do recommend you get at least one microphone stand.

Microphone Stand

It will make your life so much easier when recording.

As holding the microphone is not an option, especially when you're trying to record yourself.

And since moving the mic an inch can drastically change the sound, a good stand can be very beneficial.

Another accessory I highly recommend is a pop filter.

Pop Filter

This mounts onto your microphone stand and is placed in front of the microphone.

What does this do?

A pop filter will reduce the plosives from the P's and B's you make when trying to say or sing words with them consonants in.

Some Microphones like the Rode NT1-A already comes with a pop filter built in, so buying a bundle like this can save you money.

Final Thoughts

You should now know all the home studio recording equipment needed to make your first album, podcast or even a radio show.

You only need a bare minimum of 6 items and buying bundles can reduce that even further.

Also:

You should be able to get all these items for just a few hundred dollars!

Pretty good compared to the pros, eh?

If there is only thing you take away from this post.

Let it be this.

Do not buy one amazing piece of gear and cheap out on the rest.

As with mixing, one product will not make you sound incredible, its many little pieces connected together that Complete the puzzle.

For example:

It would be dumb to buy a £1000 microphone and £50 studio monitors. You will benefit more from buying a £500 microphone and a £500 set of monitors.

You have to balance it out:​

Scale Equal Weight
Scale One Side Heavy

Whats next

Have you got any acoustic treatment in your room? This is just as important as gear and not to be forgotten about.

Take a look at my post about Is Acoustic Treatment Necessary?

Is Acoustic Treatment Necessary

Now It's Your Turn

Tell me:

Do you have everything in this list?​

Or is there anything that you think I missed.

Either way, let me know by leaving a comment below right now.​

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