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You don’t have to have access to expensive professional studios to record music. With the right equipment, you can produce records in a DIY home recording studio.
How to Set Up a Home Recording Studio
When you’re designing a dedicated recording space, there are a few things to keep in mind.
- Choose the right room. Most homes aren't designed with home recording in mind. They lack the high ceilings and varied surfaces of a professional recording studio design. Still, some rooms work better for recording than others. If possible, pick a room that has a solid wood door, very few windows, and a carpeted floor. You'll want to find a space that sounds relatively "dead" without unwanted echos. You can always add digital reverb to a recording, but it's nearly impossible to remove unwanted live reverb.
- Use a walk-in closet as a recording booth. A clothes closet can serve as a fantastic recording booth, with the rest of your space serving as a control room. The hanging clothing absorbs sound, and the closet door keeps outside noises from bleeding in.
- Soundproof your room. You'll want to give your room an acoustic treatment that deadens reverberating sound. You can purchase acoustic foam sound absorbers that go on the walls to capture undesirable echoes. Special sound absorbers known as bass traps go in corners. Buying enough sound absorption for your project studio will run at least $300, but for a lower cost, you can use lower grade foam or even fabric for soundproofing.
- Choose a desk and desk chair. You'll spend most of your time in your own studio seated at your desk. Pick a desk and a chair that are ergonomically appropriate for many hours of music recording.
7 Equipment Essentials for Your Home Recording Studio
Once you choose the right room for your home studio, it's time to equip the space with the proper recording equipment. There are seven things you'll need:
- A computer: Your personal computer will serve as the hub for your recording process. Don't plan on using a tablet or smartphone as your main recording interface; you'll need the full functionality of a computer.
- A digital audio workstation: A digital audio workstation, or DAW, is the software that powers your computer-based recording. Popular brands include Pro Tools, Logic Pro X, Cubase, Ableton Live, Digital Performer, and Reason. Most can run on either Mac or PC, but take note that Logic is Mac-exclusive. Free programs include GarageBand (Mac only), Sonar Cakewalk (Windows only), and Audacity.
- A digital audio interface: You'll need a digital audio interface—sometimes called a digital audio converter or DAC—to turn analog signals into digital files that your computer can work with.
- Microphones: To properly build a home recording studio, you'll need to invest in three types of microphones. Condenser microphones, made with both large diaphragms and small diaphragms, can record nearly any instrument (although be advised they require 48 volts of phantom power to function). You'll also want to invest in some dynamic microphones, which can be used for both vocals and mic-ing high output instruments, like drums and guitar amps. Finally, ribbon microphones provide detail on vocals, acoustic guitars, electric guitar amps, and brass instruments.
- Microphone accessories: In addition to the actual microphones, you will need reliable microphone stands, pop filters (to eliminate plosives from vocals), and balanced XLR cables to connect the microphones to your recording source.
- Preamps: A preamplifier, or preamp, is one of the most essential yet underrated pieces of studio equipment. It goes between a microphone and a digital audio converter, adding warmth and character to the recording, and most studio engineers consider them essential for recording vocals and instruments alike. Some microphones sound rather dead unless plugged into a preamp, at which point they come to life.
- Studio monitors and headphones: You can have all the best microphones and preamps, but without good quality studio headphones and monitors, you won't be able to properly assess the sound quality of your work.