The 5 Key Home Studio Components: Don’t Let Budget Hold You Back
Today, I’d like to talk about the five key components that you will need for your home studio. Creativity will always trump equipment every single time.
Some of the coolest equipment that you can get now is vintage equipment from the 50’s, the 60’s, the 70’s, and even the 80’s, and a lot of that stuff was really, really cheap at the time. You know, I have a Silvertone acoustic, I have a Harmony twelve string, and these were the cheap guitars that you could buy in the 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s.
Now of course, people love them because they sound different. So take that philosophy to recording. Don’t worry about your budget, just spend your time being creative. Never let a lack of funds hold you back from making great music.
Number one is your choice of computer. Now, you don’t have to specifically use either an Apple or a PC computer. There may be a couple of things that will influence your choice, but I think the most important thing is what you’re familiar with, and what you may already have.
The great thing about a PC computer of course is that you can expand it very easily and very inexpensively.
I personally use and prefer, just personally, Apple computers, primarily because when I’m traveling from one studio to another, I would say 99% of the studios I work in have Apple computers.
So it makes my life easier and some of the shortcut keys — the quick keys that I know on an Apple computer, unfortunately don’t translate to PCs.
So that’s where my personal preference is, but I wouldn’t say that should restrict you, because the most important thing is that you know what you use, and you know how to create great music. If you had a laptop or a tower, either will work. Laptops now — I mean, the new Apple laptops for instance, come with solid state drives, and are stupidly fast, and will cover all of your audio needs. There’s no real reason for you to — you know, buy a traditional desktop computer.
So whatever you have already or whatever you can afford, you can make it work, just make sure you have a lot of RAM in there to cover your soft synth needs, your Addictive or EZ Drummer or whatever kind of software you use, because that will start eating your RAM up as you get a high track count.
The next important thing, number two, would be your choice of DAW.
Now, there are a couple of things that can influence that. Logic and GarageBand of course are only available on Apple computers. I do like Logic, and I do use it on a daily basis, because Logic — you open it up, and it has a ton of soft synths, drum machines, etcetera available on all of these templates that they provide, and frankly, the templates are really good. They’re really, really good. There’s a lot of songs on the radio which you know they use just from the templates.
So Logic is a great, great software, but 90% of my life is spent on Pro Tools, and the great thing about Pro Tools is it is available for both PC and Apple computers. The other reason why I love Pro Tools, of course, is I can move from one studio to another.
But whatever your choice is, don’t be affected by my choice, because Cubase is a wonderful software. I used that for many years when I was up and coming. Nuendo is fantastic, I know a couple of professionals that love Nuendo. There’s a lot of different ones out there.
I think the most important thing is if you already have one that came with your computer, or you have easy access to one, getting to know it, and using it on a daily basis is probably the most important thing. There are so many great producers and engineers out there, some extremely successful, and some of them are unknown and becoming successful, that use a multitude of different platforms.
Whatever you have, just get to know it really, really well and that’s probably the most important thing.
The third thing that you’ll need is a great audio interface. Now, this is an all-in-one box that will give you mic inputs and line outputs to drive speakers or headphones, and also line inputs that you can use for keyboards, etcetera.
This is something that might come with your DAW, or something that you can add on. You can buy Pro Tools software for instance as a standalone without an interface and just run it for editing on your computer, and then you can add one of many different interfaces.
Focusrite make an inexpensive one, M-Box, which is owned by Avid, the parent company of Pro Tools makes one, Presonus make a really good one.
There’s lots of different ones that are available, and most of them are interchangeable with the different DAWs that are available on the market.
Remember that two inputs is probably all you’ll need in 90% of the situations, because you know, if you’re overdubbing musicians multiple times on tracks you may have built soft synths and, you know, Addictive Drums or EZ Drummer, or any of those kind of drum softwares, you know, you’re already going one guy at a time. If you’re working on your own, you’re recording a vocal, you’re recording a guitar, you don’t need multiple inputs. It’s only when you’re in a live recording situation, or at least a drum kit that you’ll need a minimum of like, four inputs.
It really comes down to your budget, but bearing in mind that you’re going to do so much stuff inside of the box, this would be something that is a, important, but b, you could get away with just a two input system, and as you maybe get to start recording live bands later on, then start expanding your interface, but you’d be incredibly amazed what you can do with a very inexpensive interface.
The great thing about where we’re at now is with a simple interface, a great sounding DAW with great soft synths and access to great plugins, delays, and reverbs, etcetera, compression, EQ, you can make studio quality recordings for very limited amounts of money.
The fourth thing that you’ll need for your home recording setup is a good microphone.
Now if I was to only get one microphone to start, I would get a decent condenser microphone. The thing about a condenser microphone is it has an extended frequency response at the top, which would give you great air for a vocal. It would be great for acoustic instruments like acoustic guitar, you know, mandolins, banjos, you know, whatever you want to record.
I wouldn’t be held back by your budget. I mean, if you have a hundred dollars-ish, you can get a multitude of mics. Behringer makes inexpensive mics, Samson makes inexpensive mics, and that will get you started.
Now, if you’ve got two to three hundred dollars, then you can look at Lewitts, you can look at Audio Technica, and of course, you can look at the very, very well known Rode NT1.
There’s a lot of great microphones from $100-300. Don’t ever let expensive equipment and the idea of you believing that you need expensive equipment hold you back. You know, that’s one thing I see a lot of people say to me is like, “Oh, I don’t have the right equipment.”
Well, you know what, a lot of the time, even though I have expensive stuff, I don’t actually always use it. I think the most important thing to know about your choice of a microphone is that it doesn’t matter if you can only afford $100. It’s more about your creativity. You know, because it’s not always about doing hi-fi jazz or classical recording.
You know, what we do is like rock and roll or dance music. Sometimes, a non-traditional vocal sound would actually be the best thing for the job.
The fifth thing you’ll need, and you will definitely need this, is some way to monitor the music you’re recording, and of course, the music you’re mixing.
Now, I would start with a pair of headphones. There’s a lot of studio headphones available if you go to your local music store. You know, you can get some good — you know, good headphones for recording — closed back headphones that you can use to monitor your music.
You’re going to need those at first, because obviously if you’re going to record a vocal, or an acoustic instrument like a guitar, etcetera, you’re going to need a way to hear that while you’re recording, and of course, then you can use them for mixing.
Then after that, I would obviously, you know, given your budget, move into the world of studio monitors.
Now, you use studio monitors, because of course, your hi-fi speakers, they’ll work, but hi-fi speakers are not designed for the dynamic ranges that are going to come from recording. If you’re recording an instrument, even an acoustic guitar can be very, very lightly plucked, and then suddenly the guitar player will be like, “KRANG” and hit a huge chord, and if that’s not compressed right, that’s a massive dynamic shift, and you could blow up your hi-fi speakers.
Speaking of someone who has, when I was a kid, I was recording electric guitar, and I took my parents’ hi-fi speakers with my little four-track recorder and I blew them up, because I was recording softly, and then suddenly I hit an open chord, and the speakers went forward, and they didn’t come back. That was the end of my parents’ hi-fi speakers.
So I wouldn’t use hi-fi speakers. I would stay with studio quality — you know, inexpensive studio quality headphones, and then buy yourself a pair of studio quality monitors.
Now, powered monitors, and powered monitors start at about $150ish. KRK makes them, Alesis makes them, Mackie makes them, and many, many other companies. Oh, Behringer makes inexpensive powered monitors.
Anywhere from $150 up will get you going on those. Headphones, $50-100, and that’s really all you really need to know.
Thank you ever so much for watching. I think the most important thing to know is creativity trumps budget. Whether you have expensive equipment or cheap equipment doesn’t really matter as much as what you actually do with the equipment.
Knowing your DAW inside and out is much better than having incredibly expensive converters and microphones, etcetera. You know, this really is a wonderful world that we live in now, where you know, you can make studio quality — high quality recordings for a limited budget these days.
Please, if you have any questions, leave them in the comments below. I’d love to give you my — you know, give you the benefit of my experience I’ve had. I, like you, came up as a home recordist. I didn’t come through a traditional studio setting. I started with a cassette player and my parents home hi-fi. I recorded a guitar part onto my cassette player, I then put it in my parents home hi-fi, played it back through the speakers, and recorded an overdub on the cassette player.
That’s how I made music. Then the second thing I got as I got a little older is I got a four-track cassette player. Then I got an eight-track cassette player. Woohoo!
Then eventually, I gravitated towards recording in eight-track, reel-to-reel, sixteen-track reel-to-reel, twenty-four-track reel-to-reel, ADATs, Pro Tools, you name it. I’ve used all of them, and I have used every kind of inexpensive microphone you can think of, and every kind of inexpensive interface.
You know, I didn’t start off with really expensive equipment, so my experience is I mixed between the expensive stuff and the inexpensive stuff, and I love both, and it’s all about application, and most importantly, it’s about creativity. Creativity will trump budget any day.
So ask me any questions you’d like. Please leave some comments here, please subscribe, and I would love to give you the benefit of my experience, and I look forward to hearing from you! Thank you ever so much for watching.