With hundreds of ways to configure your home studio, here’s a checklist of what’s important.
MUSIC PRODUCTION COMPUTER/LAPTOP
This is the hub of your home recording studio. It will be running almost all your recording programs, so it better be up to the task. There are many brands of computers that qualify in this category.
- At least 3.0GHz Processor with a quad-core
- The quad-core, most preferably an Intel Core i5
- 8GB of RAM:
- Hard Drive: 500GB capacity. If you are using the computer exclusively for music recording, 500GB size shouldn’t be a problem.
- Solid-State Drive (SSD): Storage Space that is part SSD is much faster than standard HDD.
Tips when Buying
- Mac vs. PC
This is strictly opinionated, but honestly, no computer is better than the other when it comes to music production.
Music production shouldn’t cost thousands of dollars.
You just need a quality computer that can perform at par with the recording work you need.
As the centerpiece of your recording studio, there’s no need to skimp on the qualities of a good music production computer.
DAW (DIGITAL AUDIO WORKSTATION)
Now pick the music recording software. As you bring your music ideas to life, you’ll need software that can record, edit, and mix tracks.
Many versions of DAW exist. It’s up to you to choose one that suits your style and level of expertise. And it’s also by selecting a music recording software that you know whether you are going the PC or Mac way.
The main difference in DAWs is in the features and workflow. You have DAWs rooted in MIDI sequencing and those rooted in audio. DAWs with roots in MIDI offer many MIDI manipulation tools as well as compelling compositions.
DAW with roots in audio has a great workflow. They are excellent for recording, editing, and mixing. Pro Tools and SAWstudio fit the bill for DAW with roots in audio.
Features to Consider when Buying a DAW
- Music Style
There is DAW for recording studios and musicians, beat makers and loop-based composers, DJs, synth tweakers, and live performers.
In this case, you’ll need a DAW specified for musicians and recording studios like the PreSonus Studio One 3
Depending on your budget, you can either choose a limited or full version of the DAW of your choice.
- Limited vs. Full Versions
With a limited version, you have pay only for the features you need. Full versions have all the features but some of which you’ll never need.
An audio interface transfigures analog signals to digital.
When using input gears such as guitars, microphones, and keyboards, you need something as a go-between the computer and output equipment.
What to look for
Interface Connectors: These are cable connectors including USB, Firewire, Thunderbolt, and PCI-E.
- USB: it’s the slowest method of data transfer and is usually used with cheap home studio interfaces
- Firewire: it’s much faster than USB and is used on expensive studio interfaces.
- Thunderbolt: It’s the faster of the two options above. It’s popular with New Semi-pro interfaces.
- PCI-E: It’s what professionals use for data transfer. Probably not what you’d go for when starting a recording studio as a beginner
DAW Compatibility: verify compatibility with your DAW if you have already chosen the DAW of your liking. Most audio interfaces are compatible with nearly all types of DAW, but you have to be sure.
Input/ Output Count (I/O): This ranges from 1-2 for simple interfaces and over 20 for professional interfaces.
I/O counts depends mainly on the number of songs you plan to record at once
Input Channel Types
- Mic Input: The mic connects directly to the interface
- Line Input: It needs that you add an outboard mic preamp
- Optical input: It’s a type of digital data that requires a digital converter and an outboard mic preamp
Your audio interface will need some form of flexibility. The I/O channels are the main consideration since if you are starting out about eight channels may be enough for recording a drum set. So if you are planning to add other inputs in the future, you need an interface that has extra input and output channels.
Your setup has the main equipment including the best music production computer, DAW, and audio interface. Next, is choosing the best microphones for your home studio.
The mic is an essential entity of your setup as it the source of your recorded signal. Because of the many technical terms you only need to know about the three categories of recording mics.
Condenser Mics: These mics work great on high-frequency instruments such as the piano, acoustic guitar, or cymbals.
- They have a wide, but smooth frequency response
- Transient attacks are sharp and clear
- They have detailed sounds, i.e., extended highs
Dynamic Mics: These mics are excellent with low-mid frequency instruments like electric guitar cabs, and drums.
- They have a rougher frequency response
- They are robust and can handle cold, heat, and high humidity
Ribbon Mics: These mics are used in lots of applications. There are more versatile of the two above. You can use them on guitar amps, acoustic instruments, drums, etc.
- They complement digital recording
- They have a warm, smooth tone
Installing your mics in the middle of the room is effective in eliminating noise from the walls. A quality microphone should cost anywhere between $100 – $200
The basic working of pop filters is still practical and efficient that we don’t think see any alternatives coming soon. They work to remove any moisture and saliva from getting into the microphone. They also stop fast-moving air from reaching the microphone capsule. They give you a clean sound recording and are hence a must-have for your home recording studio.
Choosing Pop Filters
Filter Material: Most musicians prefer nylon and fabric because they are cheap and get the work done. On the other hand, there are other premium materials like wool and perforated metal which some musicians claim to give better clarity. It all depends on your personal preference and budget.
Gooseneck Quality: The gooseneck should be flexible and stable in that it does not droop constantly.
Filter Diameter: Many pop filters come with a 6-inch diameter. It is a standard that we love as it occupies a large area to give you more room for movement. But if you have a small mic, there’s no harm in going for a small filter diameter.
Mounting and Compatibility: Most pop filters can secure on mic stands using their universal mounting and clamping mechanisms. But for desk mics, you’ll want a filter that can clip on the mic or the desk.
6. STUDIO MONITORS
Studio monitors are essential to great sound. You’ll want to hear yourself in accurate detail. Whether you are recording, mastering audio, editing, or mixing, the studio monitor you choose should translate well to the audio system in your home studio.
Choosing Studio Monitors
Active vs. Passive Monitors: Active Monitors have inbuilt amplifiers while passive monitors need a separate amplifier.
Passive amplifiers are excellent choices for home studios since they save you on buying equipment that needs many operations.
Power: How many watts do you need? The higher the power, the more details you get. With high power, you’ll be able to make accurate adjustments to gates, limiters, and compressors.
Low Total Harmonic Distortion: Low distortion at 1% is a must for studio monitors.
Compatibility: It’s always advisable to go for studio monitors that connect seamlessly with other equipment like mixers, interface, the keyboard, etc.
The price on studio monitors reflects their quality. To make sure you don’t get ripped off, it’s good to look for moderately priced studio monitors that have a flat signal.
Here we are not looking for regular headphones. You want high-quality studio headphones that can facilitate proper editing and mixing of your music.
Types of Studio Headphones
Open-back: They provide accurate frequency balance but are more expensive than closed-back headphones. You’ll want to look for semi-open-back headphones that offer enough sound isolation and are well-balanced.
Closed-back headphones: They prevent sound from spilling out. But they have a downside in that they trap pressure from inside hence creating false low frequencies. This is something you don’t want when editing your music.
Circumaural (around the ear) vs. Supra-aural (above the ear)
This is a matter of preference, but many professional headphones are made to go around the ear.
Although it doesn’t seem to matter much, you want high-quality headphones for tracking so that you can be the first to know how your music sounds over regular headphones.
If you have already bought the items to start a home recording studio, it’s probably congested by now. That’s why you need a dedicated workstation that will help you get organized. A studio workstation lets you have all your equipment at your fingertips.
Benefits of a workstation
- It is free of obstructions and has plenty of room for controllers, desktops, control surfaces and other modules.
- It is sturdier than a computer desk as it is made to store large studio gear
Pointers to Remember
- Since it is heavy, make sure to have the room it will occupy ready for its arrival.
- Do all the wiring beforehand
- Don’t forget an accompanying seat if you sit down a lot during recordings
MONITOR ISOLATION PADS
These are shock absorbers where you place the studio monitors. If you have problems with the studio’s acoustic, they may be your next solution.
How do they work?
Decoupling the monitors
They prevent the transfer of vibrations to the surfaces near the monitors. This can be a wooden floor or desk which then emits a false bass which can be heard in your mixes. By decoupling the monitors, your music will now sound how you like without any false bass.
Tweaking the Monitors
You can tune the monitors to the position that gets you a clear sound when using motion isolation pads. Some brands for this purpose include Auralex Acoustics with their MoPad Isolation Pads.
They are supposed to bear the weight of the monitors amidst the vibrations they make.
Most monitor stands are ergonomically designed to improve the look of your workstation.
They are height adjustable and decongest a workstation.
How to Pick a Monitor Stand
- Strength and durability: It should be sturdy enough to support your monitor
- Flexibility: It should be able to meet the demands of height and direction
- For maximum sound isolation, you can place the monitor isolation pads between the stand and the monitor.
- Also, place the stands far from each other to eliminate vibration from in between them.
This is a forgettable item when planning your home recording studio.
Benefits of Bass Traps
- They absorb acoustic energy hence minimizing low-frequency sound effects.
- They are used for small rooms which have uneven and violent low-frequency response.
Categories of bass traps
Porous absorbers: They work using dense materials like foam, fiberglass, or Rockwool to absorb the sound waves. But they lack in the absorption of the lowest bass frequencies.
Resonant absorbers: They use a diaphragm that absorbs specific sound frequencies.
These bass traps have to work together since porous absorbers are placed far between on opposite corners of the wall while resonant absorbers are placed against the wall.
But you can get a professional to diagnose the room and prescribe the best porous absorbers.
Acoustic panels work in the opposite manner of bass traps. They target mid and high sound waves by decreasing them before they reach the wall.
Types of Acoustic Panels:
Fabric Wrapped Panels: Class A fire rated and made to absorb sound using a mass of vinyl sound barrier.
Acoustic kits: They reduce echo and quickly absorb sound
Art Acoustic panels: They add an aesthetic feel to your studio. They combine artwork and images in sound-absorbing fabric.
To place acoustic panels, you’ll need to look at the most prominent position where sound tends to hit directly to the wall. This should also include the wall behind the monitors.
Instead of absorbing sound, acoustic diffusers counter standing waves and preserve the sound energy.
- Can reach high range of the 300Hz frequency spectrum
- They make source sound more natural
- They help small spaces sound large
- They come in fantastic wood designs
Acoustic Diffusers are best placed on the rear wall of the control room, the ceiling, around side walls, and in front or behind drum sets.
After setting the beginner’s studio where you can record up to individuals, you’ll need equipment to set your studio a notch higher.
It is the foundation of phasing off basic desktop gear. It should carry FIVE crucial components.
- A multi-channel mic preamp
- A power conditioner
- A headphone amp
- Monitor management system
- An audio interface
Choosing a rack mount goes hand in hand with your priorities including whether it will be basic, portable, or premium.
Basic rack mounts are cheap and most ideal when starting a pro studio.
Portable rack mounts are best for live performers and DJs.
Premium Rack mounts have many mounting spaces are upscale products reserved for rich musicians. But you can still find affordable ones like the Raxxes ERK 16.
A MULTI-CHANNEL MIC PREAMP
This gives you enough input/output channels when you want to record more than two musicians at once. It comes in handy when your audio interface has limited channels or when your mics do not have a mic preamp.
External mic preamps have essential features for multiple instruments and multi-channel recording. This includes pad switches and phase reverse.
They provide several headphone outputs which enable musicians to monitor themselves separately. They come in three categories.
Desktop Amps- Split one headphone into four. They are cheap as they only allow monitoring of your mix at once.
Rackmounted amps: They have more features and channels and are therefore more expensive than desktop amps.
Headphone distribution system: These are high-end systems which allow the musicians to control what they want to listen to without your help. Thus, they allow musicians to deliver their best work since they can focus on what they want.
When you have lots of recording equipment, it’s crucial to have a way of controlling the power source.
Power sources for music recording studios can suffer from:
- Noise interference
- Electrical surges
- Voltage fluctuations
They safeguard your equipment from getting fried during such occasions.
They consolidate all power drawn for the various equipment mounted on the rack. Some of the top brands include Middle Atlantic Products and Furman.
MONITOR MANAGEMENT SYSTEMS
When you want to double-check how your music sounds on different playback devices, routing them on different monitors is the only way you can know their quality for sure. That’s where monitor management systems come in.
They mix and match different sources with a variety of outputs at the touch of a button.
After months of recording and adding equipment, your home studio should be oozing with cables. They collect slowly and surely. Snake cables provide a basic solution. It contains the wires in a single, standard, outer casing.
A snake cable can have hundreds of inputs. Home studios can make do with a snake cable that carries around 48inputs.
Types of Snake Connectors
Breakout/Fanout: It splits the snake cable into single connectors of TS, TRS, XLR/f, or XLR/m
Junction Box: It has multiple inputs for single connections.
Dsub Connector: Combines every channel into an individual connector.
These are important sound modules that help you vibe up your music. They mimic instruments such as the piano or drums meaning you don’t have to own such instruments physically. They come packed as standalone modes for professional music recording.
Things to consider when choosing virtual instruments
Compatibility with your system: The computer should have enough space and fast processing speed to handle the virtual instruments. It should also be compatible with the DAW
Sound Quality: You should listen to demos and watch videos regarding the virtual instruments in question.
Flexibility: This is subjective in terms of having a library of sounds or one specific instrument like the piano.
User interface: A friendly user interface is important if you want to understand the layout of the mode.
MIDI (MUSICAL INSTRUMENT DIGITAL INTERFACE) CONTROLLERS
This is gear that allows you to control the sounds of several synthesizers from an individual keyboard. It has piano-style keys and a selection of buttons, knobs, and sliders. They transmit data to external sound synthesizers, hardware or software modules, or computer software synthesizers.
Their main advantage is the portability and versatility.
Choosing MIDI controllers
Key Count: The number of keys guides you on the portability, two-hand use, keyboard splits, and the space in your home studio.
Keyboard action type: How do the keys respond to playing?
I/O options: Most MIDI transmits data via USB, but there are other complex options like 5-pin MIDI DIN jacks.
Performance pads: You may prefer the traditional white and black or velocity-sensing performance pads.
ELECTRIC DRUM KIT
Playing multi-drum parts is physically impossible. With an electric drum kit, you have the advantage of playing all the drums efficiently.
- Quick changes to the sound
- Volume control
- Inbuilt tools for practice
- Access to MIDI
- No worries about tuning
- Occupy less floor space
- Portable and compact
How to Choose Electronic Drum Sets
- Think about the space they’ll need in your studio
- The feel of the pads
- Sound quality
- Ability to load custom samples
- Durability: Here you should look at the manufacturer’s reputation
- Number of audio outputs that suit your needs
Setting up the Studio to the Pro level is the final requirement for efficient music recording.
STANDALONE A-D DIGITAL CONVERTERS
These pieces of gear convert analog audio signals from input instruments to digital signals on the computer and convert them back to analog for output tools like monitors and headphones.
Can master clocks improve the performance of a digital system?
They provide timing information about the process of digitizing a continuous analog audio signal.
They help to synchronize multiple pieces of digital gear in music production.
They determine when to record or redo an audio sample.