Home studio must-haves
Who needs a million-pound studio?
Well, we’d all love one, but we’ve gotta start somewhere.
What do you need for a home recording studio?
These days, it’s a lot easier to get that polished sound, in your own home. What are the 5 things you need to get started?
- A decent computer
These days, computers with huge amounts of RAM, fast processors and ample storage are readily available. Whether you’re a mac fan, or a windows user, there are hundreds of options for building your perfect machine. Make sure you whack up the amount of RAM, you’re gonna need it.
The RAM will (most likely) be the thing that slows you down if you opt for 4 or 8gb. A sensible option would be to think of 16gb as the bare minimum.
- A decent DAW
Any DAW will do, if you’ve got a favourite already, just stick with it. If you’re up for a change, or you want to try something different, check out some online tutorials or reviews to determine which one is best for you.
Some DAWs that are used a lot these days:
- A good audio interface
For recording instruments, this is probably the most important aspect (other than microphones). It is also where your monitors will receive their feed from, so make sure you pick a decent brand with a good track record with audio interfaces.
You don’t really need to worry too much about compatibility with DAWs. These days, the majority of DAWs work with any interface.
You can get interfaces with 2in-2out, and then some with 32 channels, so pick one that will suit your needs. Bigger isn’t always better. I recently changed from a 16 channel to a 4 channel, it just made sense. Basically, be sensible and get what you know you will use.
You can get some amazing results from relatively budget microphones. I recently used a Telfunken in a studio for vocals, then used a cheaper-budget mic in a home setup, and although there are clear differences, when it comes to the mix, can you tell? I couldn’t, not really. There are obviously benefits to the hyper-expensive options, but for a home-setup, I wouldn’t spend more than £150 at the most on a mic.
Some good mics that are really good value are:
Behringer C1 – these are crazy cheap, and you get good-ish quality results from them.
Rode NT1-A – very similar to the above, large diaphragm mic, great tone and good quality for a budget mic.
Shure SM57 – This is a studio and live staple, one of the iconic microphones. If you’re recording vocals or instruments you’ll get a good sound from one of these beauties.
Shure SM58 – This is another icon. This directional mic is perfect for vocals, specifically if you’re doing a mic shootout or an overlayed vocal and want to mix up the mics a bit!
- Studio headphones
A good set of headphones is really important. You need to be able to hear everything in it’s clearest and rawest form, so getting a set that have a good high range a d good response to the low end is really important.
Also, if you’re one of the lucky people who have to record and mix in the same room, you’re gonna need some that don’t have too much spill. If you’re engineering and the vocalist is in the same room, the mic has two sets of headphones to pick up spill from, so be weary that this should be a consideration when pickin up a set.
- Studio monitors
I would say, headphones are more important. Why? It’s a home studio, and in my experience, you spend more time inside these headphones that your monitors will ever be turned on.
If you’re lucky to be in a shed, then you’ll be able to crank them all the time!
Monitors should be picked based on their tone and how they convey the sound. The most flat monitors are usually the best. You’re going to be hearing everything raw as it should be. Some decent home monitors come from brands like Yamaha, KRK, Genelec, Adam Audio and more.
7. Leads, pop filters & Stands
Quite often overlooked is the essential bits of equipment required to make the workflows work. Make sure that you’ve covered all your essentials, your interface (are you using firewire, lightpipe, USB etc), your mic leads, and as many stands as you need to make your setup work.
Progressing fast? Got everything but need to make your space a little better?
8. The desk
We’ve all been there. We’ve got all the gear but no-where for it to go. There’s a reason studios spend thousands on a decent desk/console space. Look at getting a desk that will fit all of your equipment neatly and tidily.
9. Rack gear
We’ve all seen the studios with more rack gear than we’ve had breakfasts, so why not start your collection?! What can I pieces of rack gear should a home studio have?
- Pre-amps – Get yourself a decent couple of pre-amps. These might already be on-board within your interface, but dedicated pre-amps will give your recordings a new lease of life.
- Head-phone amps – Get one of these if you’re doing multiple recordings at once.
- Compressors – Investing in a decent compressor early on is a good thing.
10. Bass traps & Acoustic panels.
Now your home studio is becoming a bit more of semi-pro-job. Getting your room to give you the best sound (and sound feedback) is how you really train your ears to understand your room. Adding in some bass traps will help remove those deep rumbles you might get at the back room, or some damping around your floor monitors.
Acoustic panels are good for small studio spaces, specifically if you’re in a small cubic room where frequencies can be pretty problematic. Adding these to the walls will help tame any problem waves bouncing around, and will help with mid-high frequencies, your bass traps will take care of the low-end.