How do you make a home recording studio with nearly, or as much capacity as a pro setup? With some tech, software and a little know-how, you can create your own recording mixing and mastering booth. And it’ll be there for you whenever you feel inspired.
Would you like to build your own space to lay down tracks at your leisure and with minimal expenditure? In this article, we’ll show you the best studio essentials, so you can put together a studio that’ll be the envy of your peers.
How to make a home recording studio
It is easier and cheaper than ever to make a high-quality home recording studio, and more and more artists are choosing to go down this route. However, without proper planning, it can quickly come with a hefty price tag attached to it. This is why we’ve created a list of ideas to help beginners get started.
Before you decide to kit yourself out with your own gear, make sure you get a better idea of the recording process first so that you’re familiar with the equipment and skills required to make a great recording and/or mix.
What is needed for a home recording studio?
You can turn your ideas into reality by setting up a studio desk, computer and audio interface for your microphones. You could have a smaller setup with headphones or go big with monitors. Whether you’re making a beat or recording vocals, here are the basic components of a home recording studio.
- Studio desk
- A computer with recording software
- An audio interface
- A condenser microphone
- Acoustic panels
Your desk will be the hub of all of your equipment. Make sure you’ve set up space to have your desk, computer and monitors to all be placed appropriately. Some desks are designed for studio equipment but, depending on your setup, you will probably be fine with any desk. Just make sure it’s sturdy and can hold all of your equipment.
The basic need for any home recording studio is a computer. If you’re using a laptop, it is a good idea to use an Apple MacBook Pro. Whilst you could use a Windows PC, it is much more common for home studios to use Apple equipment. It doesn‘t necessarily need to be the latest model, but it needs to have enough power and hard drive space to store and process a large number of files and plugins.
Home recording studio software
The digital audio workstation (DAW) is the mechanism that allows you to record, edit and produce your audio files. It can come in the form of an electronic device or software that you can download on your computer.
You should try different music recording software to find out what is best for you. There are countless DAWs to choose from, and whilst there is no wrong one to choose, some are easier to use than others. If you’re a beginner with DAW, here are some ideas for you to explore below:
Logic Pro X
Created by and exclusive to Apple, Logic is very user-friendly so is ideal for those with little experience with using complex software.
It offers a sufficient amount of functionality while also providing lots of scope for songwriters to work creatively with a variety of preloaded software instruments. It has a similar feel to GarageBand, so if you’ve used this previously, this will be an easy transition.
Taking a completely different approach to other DAWs, it puts creative ideas and experimentation in the forefront and allows users to work in a non-linear way. Originally designed for live performances, it offers plenty of features, like live looping, playback tracks, live effects processing, DJing and launching clips.
This is free software from Apple that comes on every Mac. It’s a streamlined version of Logic Pro X but is a great DAW to get started in if you’re a beginner.
Reaper is available on PC and Mac and it’s cheap price makes it attractive for a lot of musicians. It is very popular amongst the people who use it and is growing in users.
This DAW takes a more unconventional approach and the idea behind its design is to emulate a rack of synthesisers. This makes it great for electronic music and it’s latest updates have been highly acclaimed.
PreSonus Studio One
Compatible with both Mac and PC devices, Studio One is rapidly gaining in popularity and places focus on making the songwriting process easier with the minimal prior technical knowledge required.
How to build a professional recording studio
An audio interface, or an external sound card, is what will enable you to record audio, such as your voice or any instrument, via a microphone or instrument cable and transmit this in and out of your computer. As a vocalist who might only use one or two instruments, you won’t need an interface with loads of inputs, so can opt for one that is simpler and therefore cheaper.
Focusrite Scarlett 2i2
Almost seen as the staple in home and project studios. Focusrite has been around for years, their interfaces are highly respected and used all over the world. They have interfaces to suit every budget, with the most budget-friendly option being the Scarlett 2i2.
Universal Audio Apollo Twin MKII DUO
We like it because of its simplistic design, portability and professional sound. It will also allow you to use Universal Audio’s highly rated plugin software through the interface. One of the highest price points for a smaller interface so might not be a great idea for those starting out.
PreSonus AudioBox iOne
At under £70, it is one of the cheapest audio interfaces out there and still offers high-quality sound recording. It is ideal for singer-songwriters who want to record and perform live with a mic and an accompanying instrument. It works well with iPad, iPhones and is also compatible with Windows and Mac devices.
Light and compact, this device is great for travel and offers industry-standard sound quality with the same studio design found in Audient’s professional ASP studio consoles. It’s also compatible with both Mac and Windows computers and is user-friendly and simple to use.
How do I build a cheap home recording studio?
If you make a home recording studio, you’ll need to go for smaller equipment, which also tends to be cheaper. A big amplifier just isn’t feasible in a bedroom environment so try to keep everything condensed.
Avoid making the mistake of thinking that you need to purchase everything at once and spend a lot of money on the best equipment: this can get overwhelming and unnecessarily drain your bank account. Start simple and with fewer pieces, and build this up slowly as you gain more experience and recording skills.
And make the most of your phone! Steve Lacy used an iRig and an iPhone for ‘Pride’ on Kendrick Lamar’s Grammy and Pulitzer Prize-winning album, ‘Damn’. The iRig is a cheap audio interface for your phone and combined with a cheap microphone and recording app, you could be up and running straight away for a few hundred pounds. Check out our list of phone apps to find out more.
Home recording studio equipment for sale
If you’re trying to work out what specifications you would need for your computer, get an idea of how much you are able to spend first, then take a look at what you can afford. A good recommendation would be to go with a computer with the following:
- 8gb Ram
- Intel Core i5 or i7
- 256GB Storage MINIMUM
There will be plenty of second-hand options available that meet these criteria.
Consider, also, whether you’d like to invest in a laptop or desktop computer. Desktops are often used in professional recording studios because they are generally faster and easier to update.
However, laptops are becoming increasingly more popular as they are more powerful than ever and a better choice for musicians who travel often.
They are also usually cheaper and easier to find a second hand or refurbished, although there are plenty of Mac® Minis on the second-hand market for those set on a bedroom desktop setup.
Your home studio setup
If you have neighbours consider how you’re going to soundproof your room. You also might be dealing with poor acoustics and soundproofing can help treat this. In your home studio, the first piece of soundproofing you might want to invest in is a reflection filter. This is a sound shield that attaches to a microphone stand, acting as a portable vocal booth. This should help prevent any poor acoustics from the room affecting the sound.
Consider the acoustic space you want to set up and how it will impact the audio. To maximise the quality, make sure that you remove the potential for any unwanted resonance or echo by dampening the room with acoustic panels. Look at foam pads that can attach to your wall. This will help reduce acoustic ambience in the room and the more you get, the better treated your room will be.
Getting the right monitors is important as they will impact your recording and mixing performance — if the sound quality isn’t up to scratch, this will increase the risk of making editing mistakes and overlooking faults.
Professional recording studios always have at least two speakers placed on either side of the computer or laptop and the rooms are better suited for mixing. We suggest:
- Yamaha HS5
- The KRK Rokit 5 Generation 3 Powered Studio Monitor
- Mackie CR3 3″ Creative Reference Multimedia Monitors
Home recording studio kit
Monitors are great tools for mixing but aren’t always appropriate for a bedroom set up. They can take up a lot of space, be quite loud and might not even be affected if your room hasn’t been treated. Therefore, it might be wise to initially invest in a high-quality pair of mixing headphones over monitors. You could even get two pairs so that you can compare the sounds and refine your mix. Opt for closed-back headphones, as these will prevent sound from escaping which makes them better suited for recording. Examples of these include:
- Audio-Technica ATH M50X
- Grado SR80e Open Backed Headphone
- Sony MDR-7506 Studio Headphones
The microphone is the final piece of the equipment needed for your recording studio. It goes without saying that this purchase can make or break your recording process. Our picks are:
- Audio-Technica AT2020 Cardioid Condenser Microphone
- Rode NT1A
- Neumann U87
Hopefully, our suggestions will help you understand what gear you need to get started. It can be an expensive process but you could set up the entire home studio with a small budget. The essentials are the computer, audio interface and microphone – all of this could all be done on your phone if needs be. It’s no small feat to make a home recording studio, but it is immensely rewarding once put into practice.
- How can I record my voice at home?
We recommend condenser microphones because of their ability to capture a detailed vocal recording. You want your vocals to shine, so choose your mic carefully. It is a good idea to look at this purchase as a long term investment but there are still budget-friendly options out there.
- What is the best home recording studio package?
Budget range – Ableton, Focusrite package, KRKs
Mid-range – Logic, Focusrite Soundcard, KRKs/HS5s, SE 2200a Mic
Higher Range – Pro Tools, Universal Audio (seriously good interfaces), Adam X series monitors, Sontronics Orpheus
Have you made a home record studio? Do you record tracks in your cupboard or bedroom? Let us know what kit you love and share links to your home recordings below.