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Home Recording Studio Essentials

Music production, sound recording, arrangement… These terms sound pretty professional and a bit intimidating right? Well, until the early 2000s it was actually. Recording was a business that was possible by professionals in large studios full of expensive equipment. But in recent years, it has all changed. 

The devices we use in our daily lives are more powerful than ever. Our laptops, computers, tablets and even smartphones are somewhat capable of powering a low cost recording environment. And that means, a beginning song writer or producer has a lot in offer for his home project.

In this guide, we’ll cover some of the most essential equipment for beginning your first home recording studio project.

We’ll cover this topic in three different types of studios:

I – Beginners’ budget friendly home recording studio:

Budget wise, this is the plug and play kind of a recording environment. Aspiring musician can work with his/her daily computer, beginning level audio interface which is easy to plug into the computer with minimum drivers or complex set up necessities, free or budget friendly recording software (DAW), a microphone and listening monitors + headphones. This version of our studio requires minimum acoustic treatment.

II – Intermediate home recording studio:

This type of studio requires an acoustic treatment in the room, a dedicated computer, pair of different mics, a better audio interface, paid software, medium priced monitors, a MIDI controller, better headphones. In this working space, multi instruments can be recorded in album quality, arrangement and mixing can be done.

III- Professional grade home recording studio:

In this format, producer needs a high end computer, fully treated working space with a vocal booth, pro grade multi channel audio interface with high end pre-amp and AD/DA convertors, bunch of different mics, at least a one or two different mic pre amps, paid softwares with purchased third party plug-ins, a full sized MIDI controller, a set of synthesisers, mixing headphones, at least one stand alone high end convertor and a minimum two set of studio monitors.

Before buying anything or changing our room, there are some basic questions to ask our selves:

  • What am I planning to do in my working room?
  • Shall I record vocals and acoustic instruments in my working space?
  • Do I really need high end equipments?
  • Does an intermediate system work for me or shall start with relatively basic equipments and upgrade later?

Beginners’ budget friendly home recording studio

This type of a home recording studio may involve our daily computer or a dedicated PC for our studio, a basic audio interface, free or budget-friendly recording software (DAW), a microphone and listening monitors + headphones. This version of our studio requires minimum or no acoustic treatment.

Computer

Computer

Depending on your needs, you can use a laptop or a desktop PC. Choosing a laptop has some obvious mobility advantages while desktop has a greater potential on upgrading and changing to higher class components in time. You can choose both Windows PC or a MAC computer depending on your expectations and preferences. If your daily computer is an iMac, it has its own advantages: iMac is a silent machine, it lacks the cable chaos, has a nice wide screen and comes with a basic but powerful DAW: Garageband which we will cover in our next topic.

If you are on a PC, at least 8 GB of RAM, an SSD hard drive are good news for beginning. As always, the more cores and faster clock speeds we have, a better performance we will obtain. A dedicated external hard disk drive is useful for storing our project seperately. Enough USB or Firewire ports on our computers will make us work easier while an up to date operating system helps everything work in harmony.

Software

Software

The main recording and editing software in the music industry is called a DAW – Digital Audio Workstation. There are numerous softwares to choose from. You can connect your audio device to your computer and record your instruments, vocals, play software instruments and edit them using the DAWs.

Logic ProX & Garageband

Logic Pro X

If you are on a Mac system, it already comes with its own free DAW: Garageband. You can record your demos, make basic arrangements, edit your songs and make basic mixes using Garageband. On the other hand for $200, an upgrade to Logic Pro X is a wise choice. Logic Pro X users will not pay for further updates.

Pro Tools

Pro Tools

If you are on PC or prefer another DAW on your Mac but low on budget, world industry-standard Pro Tools has a free version: Pro Tools First. This version, of course, has its limitations: It allows you to work on a maximum of 16 channel projects. It has only 500 MB of samples, includes just one basic virtual instrument, etc. Of course, an update to the full version is always possible on www.avid.com The full version gives you access to third-party plugins and many more.


Cubase

Cubase

Another commonly used DAW product is Cubase. Depending on the hardware you choose to buy, you can obtain the LE version for free. Cubase LE also has its own limitations just like Protools First. But an upgrade is possible on Cubase web site: www.steinberg.net

Cubase has a very user friendly interface and supports all kinds of third party plug ins.

Studio One

Studio One

Presonus, a well respected  audio hardware manufacturer, started the Studio One software on 2009 and since then Studio One has its own wide range of followers, including sound engineers, arrangers, mix engineers and sound editors. Known for its ease of use and very dynamic editing tools, Studio One is a young but very compatable DAW and it is well respected by millions of users. 

For the beginning studio project, a free version is on offer: https://shop.presonus.com/Studio-One-4-Prime


Ableton Live

Ableton Live

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Propellerhead Reason

Propellerhead Reason

Started its life in the year 2000, Reason is one of the favorite DAWs ever created. Specializing in soft synths, software drum machines and mostly operating on software instruments, it is a very powerful tool integrating with other DAWs. Musicians can easily rewire Reason on their preferred DAWs. This means, working as a stand-alone software unit, Reason is also capable of operating as an auxiliary software. Supporting only 64 bit operating systems, Reason can be downloaded from www.reasonstudios.com and for 30 days it is free to use. After 30 days you can choose different versions. Prices range from €79 to €369.

Audio Interfaces

If you have the computer and the recording software, now it is time to record your instruments or vocals. This is where the audio interface comes in. For the beginning home studio, most of the products are connected to the computers via a USB port. All the DAWs mentioned above support these audio interfaces. So here are some of the most popular and useful sub €300 products for beginner home recording studio: 

Focusrite Scarlett Solo

Focusrite Scarlett Solo

A handsome product with nice mic pre amps and instrument inputs. Scarlett has different versions depending on input-output channel numbers. The basic version has one mic, one instrument input, studio monitor and headphone outputs. It also has monitor level controller and a 48v option for microphones. Scarlett has a hard earned reputation amongst home users.


SSL 2

Solid State Logic

Solid State Logic has been one of the dominant forces in audio recording for over forty years. Being a legendary brand, SSL did not have USB home recording studio interfaces until 2020. SSL2 is a long awaited model with 2 mic inputs (also used for instrument input), high quality SSL preamps, 4k analog sound enhancing option and many extras including software bundles. One of the best in the market today.

Steinberg UR22C

Steinberg UR22C

Owned by Yamaha, Steinberg has upgraded the UR Series for 2020 model year. UR22C is a 2 in 2 out model with Neutrik combo inputs and Yamaha preamps. UR22 has a dedicated monitor level control, separate gain knobs for each input and a hard cased design. If you are planning to travel with some of your audio equipment, Steinberg UR22C can be your go to USB audio unit. 


Audient ID14 and ID4

Audient ID14

Audient, being one of the most popular British brands, offers the ID Series at a very reasonable price range. ID series became one of the favorite products of the home studio owners in the recent years. A basic hot rod like design, high quality components and built to last hardware quality makes ID series one of the best in the market. For sub €200, ID4 offers one mic input, monitor level controller, 48v switch, two instrument inputs.

ID4’s bigger brother ID14 is a step up to the professional segment. It has even better mic pre amps, a high quality analog/digital convertor, 3 inputs for mic and instruments, a big knob for monitor controlling, 48v phantom power for individual mic inputs, fully programmable front face LED buttons. Audient ID14 is a powerful USB audio interface for your home recording studio. Price: €200

Studio Monitors

Studio oriented listening speakers, referred as studio monitors, are focused on an accurate playback. These monitors aim to play the audio as flat as possible. Depending on the size of the home recording studio room and the speaker itself, there are literally hundreds of models to choose from. For the home use, near field monitors are preferred. Since the size of the working spaces are limited in our homes, an over powered or over sized product can be too much and useless. Mainly 3-6 inch models are preferred for the home use. While speaking of monitors is a huge fun amongst the music equipment nerds, choosing a speaker is a very subjective matter. One’s favorite speaker can easily be another’s least liked product. So it is best to listen to the speakers before buying. For the demo of the monitors, bring your high quality audio files with you. You can choose two or three different files. One of the files shall be a single instrument piece such as a piano or an acoustic guitar based song with vocals. The other files shall depend on your own production purposes; electronic, rock, pop etc. Listen to the dynamic range of the speakers, bass response and stereo image it can produce.

Here are some of the best sub $400 models.

Yamaha HS5 – HS7

Yamaha is very famous for its legendary NS10M design which was built in 1980’s. Following the NS10M’s foot steps, HS Series offer the same neutral sonic characteristics at an affordable price range. HS5 model is a 5 inch two way studio monitor. It has a smooth sound with a flat response. HS7 model is a (no it is not a 7 inch product) 6.5 inch monitor. Compared to the HS5, HS7 has a stronger bass response. Still it is not that “in your face” when compared to some other models such as KRR Rokit for example.  

Price: HS5-$199, HS7-$299

KRK Rokit 5 G4

A favorite amongst the electronic music producers, Rokit is a two way (tweeter and mid speaker) active monitor. It has a 5 inch driver with max power at 55w. KRK Rokit 5 has a strong bass character and it is a very popular product by hip hop and dance music producers. Rokit 5 G4 has some uniqe features:

25 visual room-correction EQ combinations, the only monitor in its class with an LCD to visualize EQ settings. Also, KRK App allows users to simply and intuitively set up their rooms for better mixing with a real-time Room Acoustic Analyzer.

Price: $179

Focal Alpha 50 – Alpha 65

Well respected French company Focal is mainly known for its high end products. For the home use, Focal offers us the Alpha series.Alpha 50 is a 5 inch, two way studio monitor with 55w peak power while Alpha 65 is a 6.5 inch product. Alpha 65 peaks at 105w and this gives the Alpha a considerable amount of headroom. The bass response of Alpha 65 is one of the best in this class of products.

Highly preferable speaker and well respected brand at a price tag of $399.

Presonus Eris 5

Known for its audio interfaces, Presonus offers the home studio musicians some of the most cost-effective but high-quality products on the market. Presonus has two different product range: Eris and R Series. We will cover the R Series in our future articles about home recording studios. But what Eris 5 offers for the home users are almost unbelievable. At $150 this two-way speaker peaks at 80w and has a nice bass response. Not as in your face as the KRK models but much more so than the Yamaha HS Series. For this price range, Eris is definitely worth checking.

Price: $150

Adam T5V

A well respected German company Adam is famous for its high end products. The T Series monitors are the products for mainly home studio based musicians. Although a cost effective speaker, we can still witness the well known Adams built quality and sonic experience in the detail of T5V. This model houses a 5 inch speaker, a two way system peaking at 70w. Dynamic range of  T5V is impressive between 45Hz-25kHz, one of the best in its class. In 2018, T5V won many awards by the music tech media and music industry specialists. Definitely worth checking out.

Price: $200

IK Multimedia iLoud Micro Monitor

Labelled as “the smallest active studio reference monitoring system in the world”, iLoud Micro is the go to product of the home recording artist who is low on space but high on expectations. iloud Micro has a 3 inch woofer and 3/4 inch tweeter with a 50w peak power. The dynamic range of iLoud Micro starts from a surprising 55Hz. If you are traveling a lot or planning to have different work environments and looking for a modular speaker, congratulations! You have found what you are looking for. IK Multimedia is definitely successful on creating the world’s smallest active studio monitor.

Price: $300

Fluid Audio F5

If you are planning to work non stop for hours and hours, then Fluid Audio F5 is one of the first monitors that you have to give a chance to. On this price range, being one of the smoothest playing speakers. F5 has an unbelievable high frequency definition for its price range. Bass response is also fast and clean, especially after 80hz. F5 is a very easy speaker to work with. It has a basic design with a 5 inch woofer. Max output of 70w means, it has plenty of headroom to work with. Fluid also offers individual volume sliders in front of the speaker.

A very nice and smooth playing pair of 5 inch speakers worth hearing. If you are looking for clarity, definition and smoothness even in low decibels, F5 is one of the best in this price range.

Price: $179   

instrmn

instrmn

Author Since: 11/04/2020