With the aid of modern technology, we may produce excellent-sounding results in a home studio that was inexpensively constructed. For instance, Billie Eilish produced and recorded her award-winning debut album in her own home studio. For a fan of home recording equipment or an independent musician, this is fantastic news.
Keeping it basic is the most economical method to construct a cost-effective home studio. An honest evaluation of the crucial elements of your process should be the first step. Outline your requirements, narrow down your choices, and make sure you receive your money’s value from every purchase.
Budget Home Studios: How cheap is cheap?
A studio doesn’t have to sound cheap to be affordable. It is not necessary to purchase all entry-level equipment at the lowest price. Budgeting and wise decision-making are key. Spend when it’s necessary, and save when it makes sense to do so.
On the other hand, the procedure is intimidating, especially for newbies. There is a bewildering array of choices concealed by persuasive marketing. Many reviews and studies must be read and sorted through. And finally, there is a constant risk of developing the terrible Gear Acquisition Syndrome (GAS).
You can save a few hundred dollars by using cost-effective solutions and resourceful workarounds. Fortunately, we’re here to simplify the process for you by providing a list of necessary equipment to set up a home studio and talking about how to accomplish it cheaply. What we are looking at is as follows:
2. Computer (System, RAM, Storage)
3. Audio Interface
4. Studio Monitors
7. Headphones + Headphone Amp
8. MIDI Keyboard
9. Cables, Stands, and Hardware
10. Room Treatment
10 Steps to Building a Home Recording Studio
Step 1: Pick a space:
Your home recording studio’s size will totally depend on how you intend to use it. Do you intend to record a drum set or an entire band? Find a place that can hold a band and all of their equipment. Consider huge basements, extra garages, and the like.
A standard-sized spare room or bedroom will do if you’re a self-producing songwriter, an electronic music artist, or you require a recording area to solely record vocals, guitar, keyboards, and other individual instruments with only one or two people performing at a time.
Your attention should be on your speaker setup, acoustic treatment, and any steps you take to improve the sound of your studio if your home setup is just going to be used for mixing. We’ll cover these topics in more detail later in this piece.
Avoid square rooms and low ceilings when selecting a venue for recording. Low ceilings reflect sound due to the mechanics of sound waves. As a result, the microphone recordings become murky and confused.
When faced with a low ceiling, acoustical treatment of the ceiling is required (budget for the additional expense). Rooms that are square have symmetry. They contain null points where, as a result of parallel wall reflections, frequencies cancel out. It creates unpleasant voids in the sound in that space, which can affect your accuracy.
Step 2: Piece together a PC
It is theoretically possible to record and create some simple music with a typical consumer system or corporate laptop. In reality, when the complexity of your production scales up, modest computer specifications show their limitations. A sluggish computer is the fastest way to lose your vibe.
We advise purchasing a powerful machine with a 64-bit operating system. It must support a large number of tracks, plugins, and sample libraries without stuttering. Spend liberally on it and make the best purchase you can at the time.
Check out this article on the bare minimum laptop/PC requirements for music creation right now. I advise a PC with a minimum of 8GB RAM and a 4-core processor as a starting point. Additionally, it is important to optimise your computer for music production.
That will work if you are creating electronic music, using synths, or working in any other genre that doesn’t heavily rely on sample banks. Yes, you can survive with 4GB, but only just. You might be able to buy a processor with 16 to 32GB of RAM. Do it now (Shia LaBeouf voice).
SSD or HDD for storage?
Over time, working with audio might generate a large number of files. Initial internal hard drive space should be 1TB; later, more external drives can be added. Use a Solid State Drive (SSD) as the primary (OS) drive and a hard disc drive (HDD) for secondary storage for the smoothest performance.
Due to the higher cost of SSDs compared to HDDs, a hybrid setup enables you to use a relatively small SSD (128 or 256GB) for your primary applications and use slower but more affordable HDDs (1TB) for huge files and libraries. It is an excellent compromise for individuals on a tight budget.
A dedicated GPU is not required for music production.
If your only use of graphics is for audio, you don’t need a “dedicated” graphics card. Unless, of course, you prefer to spend your breaks with your friends playing games. Either that, or you have animation, video editing, or other graphically demanding jobs in mind. Nevertheless, since music software contains a lot of visual material, make sure the system’s inbuilt graphics are of a respectably good calibre.
Tip for Saving Money: Custom vs. Pre-Built vs. MAC
You should toss the phrase “on a budget” out the window if you’re considering Macs. Depending on your arrangement, we’re talking anywhere from $1300 to $2000. The premium fee is paid for Apple’s user-friendliness, close product integration, and access to Logic Pro X.
You have a variety of alternatives when you assemble a custom computer from individual parts. Compared to purchasing pre-built systems, it is less expensive. For less than $1,000, you could assemble the ideal computer using the setup described above.
Laptops with comparable configurations are also available for about the same price if you want your system to be portable. The size and power limitations of a laptop, however, cannot compete with desktop PCs in the same price range. I only suggest laptops (with a 15-inch screen) if you require them for live performances or value portability.
Step 3: Choose an Audio Interface
Your computer’s digital world and the analogue world of sound are connected through an audio interface.
How many inputs you require or how many sources you intend to record simultaneously must be taken into account when choosing an interface. The quantity of inputs and outputs is the main factor that differentiates audio interfaces. More inputs allow for the simultaneous recording of more sources (instruments or microphones).
How about results? The majority of users simply employ one set of studio monitors. The required outputs are two. However, mixing engineers could also require additional reference speakers (also known as near field monitors) and/or outboard equipment in their setup. This requires an interface with a minimum of four outputs.
Two inputs are sufficient if you only intend to record one or two sources at once, such as a singer-songwriter who is also playing guitar and singing. The majority of entry-level interfaces feature two inputs and are designed for tiny recording studios.
The EVO 4 (and EVO Start Recording Bundle) are both excellent choices that sound fantastic and are reasonably priced. You require extra inputs or a suitable interface with ADAT expansions if you intend to record a drum set or an entire band (like the iD14).
Step 4: ‘Pair’ it with Studio Monitors
Since no frequencies are artificially increased or decreased, studio monitors are made to be musically flat or neutral. They make sure your music sounds as good as it can without distorting your reference point across a range of consumer platforms.
If you intend to mix and master in your home studio setup, good reference speakers will significantly improve the sound quality. However, selecting a certain type or size is challenging because it would depend on your configuration.
Typically, monitors are categorised according to the size of its driver, which can range from 3 or 4 inches to 10 or 12 inches. Simply said, larger drivers are able to produce lower frequencies and greater power.
Bigger isn’t always better for your objectives because lower frequencies can sometimes become problems in untreated or confined rooms. Even the greatest monitors won’t sound completely neutral because of other elements like speaker location and room treatment, which we shall discuss later.
Studio monitors with 5 or 6-inch drivers will do for small to medium-sized rooms (8′ x 10′), and you can typically find them for $300 to $400 for a pair.
Choose 6.5 to 8-inch studio monitors if your room is larger (12′ x 15′) and you want a frequency response that goes lower. Sizes larger than that require significant acoustic treatment to sound good, hence they are not strongly advised (or required) for a first studio.
Step 5: Digital Audio Workstation (DAW)
We suggest that you start here if you’re not sure what a DAW is or how to choose one that’s best for you. You have three options when it comes to DAW (in the sense of pricing):
Any DAW that is available in a free version, such as Audacity, GarageBand, and Cakewalk by BandLab, is referred to as a free DAWS. Some of these are (nearly) fully functional, although they lack the sophistication of alternatives that cost money.
These are only advised for those with no prior knowledge of audio production. If your budget is extremely tight, you can use them as a temporary solution, but only while you’re saving up money for a professional DAW with enough processing power.
Limited Capability DAWs: DAWs give users the opportunity to “try” the software for free during a trial period before deciding to purchase it. With the other equipment you purchase, you should receive at least one of them for free.
A lot of audio interfaces come with a “Lite” version of Abelton, Cubase, or another digital audio workstation. They do not serve as long-term fixes. Sooner or later, you have to commit to a full version.
Paid DAWs: Pro-level DAWs include, among others, FL Studio, Reaper, Pro Tools, Cubase, and Logic Pro X. Their pricing, workflow, and features vary. We could talk about these for hours. In the end, you must select one depending on your personal preferences for functionality, user interface, and workflow.
For electronic or sample-based production, Abelton Live and FL Studio are the best options. Due to its extensive feature set, Logic Pro X is a no-brainer if you are using a Mac system. If you want to record, mix, and edit audio, Reaper, Cubase, and Pro Tools offer a productive workflow.
Setting a DAW budget:
Reaper is the least expensive full-featured DAW on the market, costing only $60 for a personal/small business licence (with the limitation that it doesn’t include any bundled virtual instruments). This cost also includes two significant version upgrades.
The regular versions of Logic Pro X, Studio One, Cubase, FL Studio, and Ableton Live cost between $200 and $500, with free upgrades available for Logic and FL. A subscription plan like PreSonus Studio One, which offers a yearly subscription for just over $100, is an additional choice.
Although Pro Tools is undoubtedly the “industry standard” for major studios, it is still the most expensive alternative, with its ultimate version available exclusively via subscription for $500 per year. Making a decision can be challenging for new home studios on a tight budget.
Step 6: Load the Microphones
A minimum of one or two microphones are required in any studio in order to record audio, particularly vocals, acoustic guitar, and other instruments. Your collection of microphones can (and will) increase over time. The best course of action for the time being is to buy one “workhorse” and one “specialty” microphone.
Dynamic microphones like the Shure SM57, SM58, or Audio Technica AT202 would be a workhorse. These are tried-and-true classics that perform admirably under almost every circumstance. These microphones are all priced at roughly $100.
A condenser or a niche microphone (optional) for specialised use in your genre should be your “specialty” microphone. The EVO Start Recording Bundle, as we’ve already discussed, contains a condenser mic that sounds amazing and is ideal for getting you started in home recording.
Step 7: Headphones and Amplifier
For monitoring or as a second reference while generating or mixing, good “cans” are crucial. In the studio, sonically flat headphones are preferred, much like with monitors. Without using its own EQ or embellishments, a flat sound provides accurate reproduction.
They must also be flexible and tightly seal around your ears. In order to avoid pain or discomfort after extended use, ergonomic designs are crucial. On the other side, a solid seal stops leakage (bleed) into the microphone while recording.
A good pair of headphones are also included if you purchase the Start Recording Bundle.
You will need extra headphones to cover monitoring for everyone if you plan to record numerous artists at once. That’s what the Nero will do!
Step 8: Get a MIDI keyboard
I thought about making this step optional, but a home setup wouldn’t be complete without a MIDI keyboard given how common they are in contemporary music studios.
MIDI keyboards are helpful for production activities including triggering automation, samples, patch changes, and much more in addition to just playing virtual instruments. You can edit, adjust, and overlay performances using MIDI’s post-production flexibility as needed.
MIDI keyboards can range in size from small 25-key units to large 88-key models, depending on your needs and available space. Depending on the size and features, you may expect to pay between $150 and $300 for a decent budget keyboard.
Step 9: Consider room treatment
The sound that reflects off of walls and other objects is your worst enemy whether you’re mixing a track or recording with a microphone. The secret to great sound in a home recording studio is proper room treatment.
Special materials are used in room treatment to reduce these reflections. In compact spaces, it might be difficult to manage bass frequencies. They can interact with the original sound wave and reflect off walls, producing alternate areas of bass buildup and bass null.
Foam panels, rockwool, or glasswool panels can be strategically positioned to reduce low-end reflection as a solution to this problem. Acoustic foam is widely available and can be used to reduce higher frequency reflections.
To achieve the highest level of neutrality, a balanced mix of high- and low-frequency absorption materials can be utilised to “deaden” a room. There is no shortage of information regarding acoustical treatment on the internet, including dimensions, materials, and cost.
Despite the availability of ready-made room treatment kits, I strongly advise locating raw materials and employing a local carpenter to construct unique room treatments. This is typically far less expensive and is also customised for your particular environment.
In a podcast interview with Sonarworks’ founder, producer Hive covered a lot of advice on how to take care of your home studio. I advise you to watch it!
Step 10: Round it up with cables and hardware
There are several more unrelated factors to take into account, such as keyboard stands, a vocal booth, and screen arms. Some of these are required, while others relate to your recording device (i.e. electric guitar amps). You can pack as much as you can to increase your comfort and productivity.
A pop filter for condenser microphones and a microphone stand are among the necessities. When using a condenser microphone to record vocals, pop filters are crucial. But since most of them operate in the same way, you can choose the first respectable one you come across.
I heartily advise investing in a good set of microphone stands. A reliable mic stand is essential. I’ve seen way too many inexpensive ones fall over. I would rather spend a few dollars more to get better quality than deal with a broken condenser.
Last but not least, you’ll need XLR cables for dynamic mics and instrument cables for microphones. A standard 25-foot XLR cable costs $12 per unit. Check out our article on the top XLR cables for home recording for more choices.
We construct a studio in our house before constructing a dwelling there. The arc of our swivel chair serves as our window to the outside and inside worlds, whether we are in a fully furnished professional studio or a makeshift location up beneath the stairs. Cosign?
With this essay, I wanted to emphasise how you can establish a studio for excellent recordings on a budget while still saving money. Without taking out a new mortgage, it is feasible. Naturally, as you become older, you’ll go GAS for ribbon mics and old hardware.
Anyhow, the mortgage will go through.
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