For up-and-coming musicians, a home studio provides a great starting point. Though a studio of this kind will be set up within the confines of your home, they can still be equipped with professional standard equipment that is going to capture the best sound.
There is lots of planning involved in the process from selecting the appropriate room to sourcing high-quality equipment. For those who are uncertain of the key considerations in the selection process, we have identified them below. To max your home time and get the most out of your equipment and home recording experience we would recommend you consider the following.
What sounds will you be recording?
It is helpful to determine what type of sounds you intend to record. Will you be recording vocals or will you be capturing instrumental sounds too? While some equipment works well with both, others will be best suited to a particular type of sound. The type of sounds that you are going to be recording will determine the need for specific equipment too. For example, a USB microphone is likely to suffice for vocals, however, an audio interface tends to be preferred for instrumentals.
Several key pieces of equipment are going to be valuable additions to your home studio setup. However, some are considered to be more essential than others and you may already own equipment that is suitable for use.
- A computer – for those who are setting up their home studio from scratch, a computer tends to be the biggest expense. It is likely that most will own a computer. If this is the case, it is likely to suffice so long as it functions at a fast speed and can withstand the intense process of editing audio files, etc. If you don’t feel confident in the processing capabilities of your current computer, you may wish to invest in one that is best suited to music production. Both Macs and PCs are a feasible option.
- Microphones – The microphones are going to be highly influential upon the quality of sound that you capture. Professional studios tend to have an array of different microphones with each one used to capture a specific type of sound. However, when setting up your studio it is likely that you will begin with one or two and your collection will then develop over time. It is important to choose your microphone according to the sounds that you are going to be recording. Some are great for vocal sounds and others are intended for high or low-frequency instrumentals.
- Audio Interface – This piece of equipment is used to connect the microphone, speakers, and headphones to your computer system, without one you are likely to experience delays and disruption to the sound quality. An audio interface is essentially the hardware that organizes the additional inputs. When making your selection it is important to select an audio face that features the number of inputs that you require. It must also be suitable for your computer system.
- Headphones – Another essential piece of home studio equipment is headphones. For those who will be recording alone, one pair of headphones is adequate. There are two designs to choose from; open-back headphones and closed-back headphones. For beginners, a comfortable pair of closed-back headphones will offer isolation while preventing any sound from leaking.
- XLR Cables – These cables will connect your microphone to the audio interface. It is important to ensure that you select a cable that is compatible with the audio interface’s stereo output. While this piece of equipment is often overlooked, it is in fact one of the most essential components.
- Studio Monitors – These types of speakers have a flatter frequency response and produce a neutral sound that is necessary for mixing. Although it is possible to mix on headphones, this skill can take some time to master so it is worth investing in your own studio monitors as they will make the process easier.
- Virtual Studio Technology – This piece of equipment allows you to experiment with simulated sounds. For example, you may wish to introduce sounds that resemble drums or even an orchestra of instruments.
- Other equipment includes a pop filter, mic stand, and a digital audio workstation.
Your Recording Environment
Although the equipment is important, it isn’t everything. You must ensure that your home studio is set up in the correct environment. Organizing and setting up your equipment in the right room while allowing you to hear the mix in much more detail.
Small rooms do not tend to cope very well with acoustics so you should try and establish your home studio in a more spacious environment. Also, remember that you are likely to be spending a significant amount of time in this room recording and producing the music so a bigger space is going to feel less enclosed.
If possible select a room with wooden flooring because it is going to refrain from absorbing the high frequencies. Rooms with reflective surfaces aren’t desirable either. Additionally, it is also important to consider the surrounding environment. Are the neighboring rooms going to present any disruptions to the quality of the sound or is it situated next to a busy road? Any type of background noise is undesirable because it may get picked up on the sound system.
Your equipment should be positioned in the correct place. While most of your equipment can be moved around if you aren’t happy with the original placement, once your speakers are set up, they are more difficult to move. Do not place the speakers directly against a wall surface as this can affect the sound quality. Ensure that they are angled and also positioned near the source of sound.
Acoustic treatment is not essential, however, it works to control the sound reflections inside a room so that your equipment picks up better quality recordings and mixes.
Setting up a home studio can seem like a costly expense. Selecting your equipment without a budget in mind will soon incur some hefty costs. However, your equipment does not need to be overly expensive. As we have mentioned, there are some pieces of equipment such as a computer that you may already own and although you may wish to invest in more advanced equipment as your confidence in home recording begins, as an initial solution it is more than likely to suffice. Some brands also offer equipment in bundles which saves you from having to purchase these pieces individually. You will also find many budget-friendly solutions if you do not wish to spend a significant amount on your home studio setup.
Simplicity is Best
Although it may seem tempting to splurge on a selection of new home studio recording equipment to ensure that you have everything that you will need, a simple setup is preferable. While this will make the process of setting up and using the equipment much easier for beginners, in particular, it will also reduce the amount of time that is spent preparing the studio before you can begin recording. Ideally, you should be able to plug in your equipment and begin within minutes. Not only are overly complex setups overwhelming, but you will also likely find that a lot of the equipment ends up being a wasted purchase, particularly during the early stages of using your home studio. Because of this, you should invest in the essential pieces of equipment that are going to contribute to the production of high-quality sound.