Now that you have your home recording goals identified, your budget figured out, and notes written down-you can begin to research and select your gear.
This part is a little more fun, though if you are a recording junkie you’ll be in heaven just about the whole way through. The thing to remember with the home studio equipment you put on this list-is this…
Form Follows Function!
The gear you select should be directly based on the features and functions that you’ll need to have according to your goals and requirements given the type of studio that you are putting together.
Hopefully by now you have selected your computer platform as well as the primary DAW software you’d like to run your Home Studio on. Again, this initial decision will narrow the field of options (if only a tad) and give you a foundation to build on.
I’m betting you are not an expert in Home Recording quite yet so I’ll try to make this as uncomplicated as possible. Unless you know exact spec’s for advanced gear you need and can tell me why, (in which case you probably wouldn’t be here-reading an essential guide to Home Recording Gear) just start simple, cover the basics listed in this fundamental Home Studio Equipment List, and once you’ve learned how to use the primary tools-then add more power and functionality to your Recording Rig.
Minus the computer, dropping 1k USD on a basic Home Studio Setup will equip you with the tools and capacity to create radio quality tunes. Period. But at the same time, don’t be fooled into thinking that you can get there without learning how to effectively use that arsenal of tools. Throwing money away on new gear won’t fix your mix-unless you first master what you already have to work with. It’s the Ear, not the Gear. You improve day-by-day, month-by-month, year by year.
This may be an issue that gets beat to death-but it’s a cardinal rule and I’d just prefer to be perfectly clear.
Lets go through the rundown of what recording equipment you’ll need to outfit yourself with a very inexpensive entry-level home recording studio that also offers an extremely capable modern music production environment. I’ll give you a price range, that unless you are going into this as a purely professional endeavor, wouldn’t venture to far over, especially if this is your first recording rig.
Given you have a capable computer and recording software also known as DAW software, you’ll want the following:
Home Recording Studio Equipment List
Audio Interface: $100-500 A quality two channel (or more) audio interface which you can get for about $100-500, the interface will combine onboard preamps, analog to digital converters, and drivers with inputs and outputs. Something like the apogee duet, is always a high quality choice, as it has a breakout box, instrument (input) for guitar, and everything you need really.
Remember, the best practice of leveraging the home studio is to build the best (2 or more) high quality signal chain and then route everything through that.
Microphone: $100-$300 So you need a microphone, and typically a large diaphragm condenser mic will be the best and most versatile, and can be had on the cheap. You can search for “budget condensers” on google, in forums, and ask the guys at guitar center, and everyone will have their own – “OMG, this is the best budget condenser mic” opinion… Thing is, their are a lot of great sounding budget mics in this category. Best to try a few out. Once you can tell what the mic is missing, or what characteristic you’d like to improve on, THEN you can start looking for another one. By the way, make sure you get shockmount to help reduce vibrations, shakes, and other handling of the mic from being picked up and effecting the the sound.
MIDI Keyboard Controller: $100-200 Your midi keyboard controller looks like any other keyboard, but its less expensive and doesn’t actually produce any sound. It is used to send data to your computer. This data is used to trigger sound samples and patches. Midi data is the code that translates what notes you hit, how hard you press the keys, how long, and other parameters, that get recorded and then relayed back through the sound module and out your speakers.
Studio Monitors: $200-500 You’re going to want to get “nearfield studio monitors,” and ideally “active” vs passive. This means that they are powered without having to purchase an amplifier. These look like fancy speakers, and they are certainly more expensive than your desktop speakers, but their goal is to produce as natural, and as close a sound as possible to the actual sound you are producing. You want a flat response, no fluff, no excessive bass. The goal for your monitors is to be as transparent as possible. This means, that if there are problems they are not masked, and you can address them and figure out how to correct them. They are your reference to your mixes, thus you may hear them called reference monitors.
Headphones: $50-100 Headphones are what you’ll use to record audio, and sometimes use when you have to keep the noise down. “Closed back” headphones will help keep the noise inside the cans, which will reduce “bleed” through to your headphones. You can pick up some nice “closed back” headphones lik sennheiser 280’s which are a staple, and overall can’t go wrong with.
Pop filter: $10-50 You’ll want a pop filter to reduce plosives “P’s“ and excessive sibilance ”S’s“ when singing. It will also help protect your mic from singers eating it, and spitting into it and any other thing that could damage your capsule.
Cables: $20-100 Don’t forget about cables. Depending on how big you need them to be, they will vary and usually cost by the foot. Depending on what gear you go with, you’ll probably need at least 2x 1/4 TRS (balanced) for the monitors, and XLR (male-female) for each microphone.
*If you haven’t chosen between Mac and PC for your DAW platform, this is a preferential and an often very opinionated debate. Overall, Mac is much easier to trouble shoot, maintain, and use, in my experience.
I go with Mac and Logic, and i love it. I learned on pro tools and moved to Logic its a better platform for composers working with midi in my opinion. PC’s definitely can and do work great for tons of people, and last i checked, Pro Tools was still the industry standard. Definitely check out both mac and PC to get a feel for the differences, but most importantly, check out the DAW software options to find the one that fits best for you.
In any case there are some spec’s you’ll want your machine to have to be optimized for music production.
Read this –> Optimize Your DAW Computer
You’ll also want to take a look at and review the DAW software available on each platform.
Read this —> DAW Software for Music Production
You may not always have the ability to buy a computer strictly for music production, but the production software you choose is going to be the brains of your studio and the center of your operation.
With the whole Mac vs. PC, Logic vs. Pro-Tools vs. Whatever… They all work, it’s really all about workflow and getting to know the tools. Do your research, but don’t get concerned with trying to find something that’s BETTER than another, look for something that may be RIGHT for what YOU want to do, and how YOU prefer to work.
Quick signal flow basics…
You have a microphone, which plugs into a soundcard/audio interface, which turns your signal into a binary code and stores on your hard drive. It is routed through to your software, outputs through the stereo bus, and then you hear it either through the playback of your “speakers,“ (which are called ”monitors” in the recording studio by the way) or through headphones.
You have a midi keyboard which sends digital data through a midi interface to your computer and routes to your DAW software which then trigger samples or patches of stored sound from within your plugins or standalone software and plays back through your outputs and into your ears through your monitors or headphones.
Home Studio Gear Principles and Tips
You have to know how invested you are in this, and what results you really want. Ultimately, you are going to have to learn your gear and develop your ear before you are going to get the sounds you want. Don’t pull your hair out, get the best gear you can afford and learn how to make the most of it.
Keep it simple. Buy only what you plan to, and expand only when you know you need to.
As for equipment, the audio interface, and the budget microphone are really just a starting point anyway, but they are things you have to get. The main thing here is that you get something that is good and start using them.