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About the Topic
Building a home recording studio is a HUGE project…isn’t it?
It takes months of planning, research, and preparation…doesn’t it?
Well most people think so, but the truth is…
Getting started is far easier than you might imagine.
Because REALLY… all you need is a few basic essentials.
Why Simple is Best
The fact is, not only is it possible to start off with just a simple studio…it’s actually preferable.
Because just like with any hobby, by attempting too much too soon:
•you get overwhelmed,
•you get discouraged, and…
•you eventually quit.
And all the time and money you invest is wasted.
So to avoid this fate, just keep it simple. But you might be wondering…
How cheap is too cheap?
Since home recording can be expensive…musicians often search for the cheapest possible solutions to recording their music.
And that’s fine, except…there is such a thing as “too cheap“.
While it is technically possible to build a working studio for as little as $400-$500…
There are low limits to what can be accomplished in such a studio…and I really wouldn’t recommend it to anyone truly serious about recording their music.
Instead…here’s what I do recommend:
The Perfect Studio:
•A Computer- When starting a studio from scratch, the computer is the biggest expenditure by far.
Because as common wisdom states:
Ideally, you want the fastest one you can afford.
But these days, virtually everyone already has a computer of some sort. And virtually all computers are fast enough to at least get you started.
So in the beginning, regardless of your budget, I recommend using what you have for now.
•The Software- There are loads of options for recording software depending on how complex your requirements are. Thankfully recording software is getting cheaper these days although you can still easily spend hundreds of pounds on it. Music software is called your “Digital Audio Workstation” or “DAW” by those in the know. So, my DAW is Logic X. Again I’ve used this for years and so have gotten to know it through it’s many incarnations. It’s a complicated piece of software that will enable you to do lots more than just recording so unless you’re writing scores or recording albums you could use something more straight forward like Garage Band. Other popular DAW software packages are “Sonar”and “Pro Tools”.
•Speakers- I use my recording setup for writing music as well as basic recording so I have a decent (but not too expensive) pair of monitor speakers. You can spend as much or as little as you want on speakers and there is an endless array of choices. Mine are Yamaha HS-50M studio monitors that I like for their small size and great sound. The cheapest option for monitor speakers is to use hifi gear. For me, it’s important that the monitors give me as accurate a sound as possible. Professional monitor speakers have a very “flat” sound compared to hifi speakers for that reason. They don’t colour the sound (extra bass etc) like some hifi speakers do. There are plenty of monitor speaker options available second hand on ebay if you want to dip your toe in.
•Audio Interface- Now, this is an important piece of kit. The audio interface takes the signal from the microphone and turns it into a digital signal that your computer can understand. Like everything else, you can spend a little or a lot on one of these fellas. What’s the difference? Well, it all comes down to the quality of the signal conversion. This is important because you only get one chance to do that conversion and if your lovely playing gets squashed up in the conversion process when it goes into your computer, you will be stuck with a squashed sound. That being said, there are some decent lower end audio interfaces available. The one I’m using is an “Apogee One” which isn’t super cheap but sounds great.
Actually there are two main considerations when looking at audio interfaces. The first, as I’ve mentioned, is the quality of the conversion or the Analog to Digital (A/D) converter). The second is the number of microphones or instruments you can record from at once. If you are planning on recording a full band then you will need many audio inputs to work at the same time. That way you can record the singer, guitarist, sax player, keyboardist, bass player etc at the same time.
For most home recording setups though, you will mostly only ever record one or possibly two things at the same time. My “Apogee One”, as the name suggests, records just one thing at a time. Which is perfect for me.
Now remember I was saying how important the A/D converter is? For each instrument an audio interface can record, it will need a separate A/D converter. So an audio interface that can record 8 channels or instruments will need 8 converters. My Apogee One has just – one! So by my Aussie thinking, that means more of my money was spent on a single, great quality A/D converter than 8 or 10 or 12 cheaper ones.
So to sum up, work out what you really need and get the best quality interface for that job that you can afford.
•The Mixer- You may not need a mixer depending on what you plan to do with your recording setup. For me, the mixer is kind of like the “Central Station” for all the sound in my studio. The output from my audio interface goes through the mixer to my speakers so I can use the mixer to control the volume of the speakers. I have some other gear in my studio like keyboards and and EWI (midi sax). I connect the audio output from these to my mixer also to control the volume of the playback through my speakers.
For a simpler setup, you may be able to connect the output from your audio interface directly to your speakers and control the volume using your computer. Like just having computer speakers but with them plugged into your audio interface, not the actual computer.
If you are considering getting a mixer though, plan out what your actual requirements will be and get the smallest mixer that will do that. I used to have a 16 channel mixer – meaning I could plug 16 different things into my mixer and send all their sound to the one set of speakers. 12 of those channels were never used! I now have a 4 channel mixer that fits much nicer on my desk and works great.
•Mini Keyboard- If you are just recording your playing you won’t need one of these. I use it for quickly writing music and scores – it’s great. Basically this is a “controller keyboard” or a keyboard that doesn’t make any sounds itself. I like the way it fits on my desk and is nice and compact – like the rest of my setup. I have a bigger keyboard for playing.
For more details, let’s meet inside !