If you decide to build and set up your first home recording or music production studio. The first challenge you face is deciding where to start. A lot of new terminologies of acoustic design, studio equipment and setup needs to be learned before you can build a studio
In this article, you will learn about the fundamentals of designing and setting up a home music studio.
Three Different Aspects Of A Home Recording Studio
Before you can set up your first home recording studio, you need to understand the three different aspects that constitute the home studio:-
- Home Recording Studio Equipment— The equipment that is needed for the studio
- Signal Chain and Work Flow — How the equipment is connected and your studio workflow.
- Acoustics And Studio Design— How the sound behaves in your studio.
This article will introduce you to home recording studio equipment. In the later lessons, we will go over the other two. We will deep dive into these aspects individually as well in later modules.
Home Recording Studio Equipment
First, let us understand about recording studio equipment for home studios.
The first big question arises, what equipment do you need for a home studio?
The answer completely depends on your purpose for building the home studio and your needs. There is no one solution fits all answer here.
Yet, I am going to provide three basic home recording studio setups that you can use as a starting point and build further as per your needs and requirements.
But before we get into the setups, let us understand what are the different home recording studio equipment.
Equipment Required In A Home Music Production and Recording Studio
Minimum Equipment required to set up a home music production studio is:
High-Performance Computer/laptop/tablet : Atleast 8Gb RAM, Core i3 or AMD Ryzen 3, 128Gb SSD
DAW(Digital Audio Workstation) : Logic Pro or Ableton Or Studio One
Studio Headphones : Budget professional headphones - Audio Technica MT30x
Desk and Chair : Any Desk and Chair
Essential equipment/gear to set up a home recording and music production studio is:
- High-Performance Computer/ Laptop with 16GB+ RAM, i5 or Ryzen 5 or above processor, NVME SSD
- DAW(Digital Audio Workstation) - You can start with any DAW like Ableton, Logic Pro X, FL Studio, Pro Tools, Luna, Studio One etc.
- Audio Interface - An audio interface with at least one input and one stereo output. The ideal audio interface would have at least 2 Input channels. Some best budget audio interfaces are Audient ID14, Motu M2, SSL2+, Universal Audio Volt, Focusrite 2i2.
- Monitoring Setup - Studio headphones and a small near-field studio monitor is a must. Some of the best professional headphones are Beyerdynamic 880 PRO, Audio Technica MT40x, AKG K Series, Yamaha MT5. Some of the Best beginner studio monitors are Kali Audio, Presonus Eris, JBL MKII, KRK Rokit, Adam Audio T Line.
- Microphones - You will need at least one microphone to record vocals and instruments. Some of the best budget microphones are Lewitt LCT 240, Audio Technica AT 2020, Lewitt LCT 440 Pure, Rode NT1A, Blue Spark SL.
MIDI Device - A MIDI Keyboard is essential for modern-day home studios. It helps you easily control, edit and program music. Some of the best budget MIDI keyboards are Novation, Arturia, Nektar, M-Audio.
If you are into electronic music like EDM, Hip-Hop getting a MIDI controller like Ableton Push, Novation Launchpad or similar will help make beats and perform with ease.
Cables: Without studio cables, all your equipment is just a piece of gear. You need everything connected properly. In your home studio, you will need at least a few XLR Cables, TS Cables, TRS Cables, RCA Cables and MIDI Cables.
How things are connected decides what your workflow is and how signal flows in the studio. More about signal chain and workflow in the next article. We will learn all about cables design and use in a dedicated article for cables.
- Accessories: Accessories like microphone stands, keyboard stands, Pop Filters, Additional Power Adaptors will be required.
- Power Conditioning: All studio gear is expensive. So you need to invest in a good power conditioner. Power conditioner protects your studio equipment against electrical glitches like a spike, grounding etc. Do not ignore power conditioners.
Studio Desk and Chair: A good studio desk and chair are a must. You will be spending a lot of hours in your studio. A good desk and chair ensure you are comfortable, organized and have a good workflow.
Before you learn about different home studio setups, it is worth learning about the essential studio equipment. Here is an overview of different studio equipment, what they do and important specifications that you should understand.
DAW(Digital Audio Workstation)
DAW or Digital Audio Workstation is the music production software that is used to record, compose and produce music. Before the DAW era, music was recorded and produced in the studio using consoles, analogue gear and tapes. A DAW has emulated all those activities for the digital world. It even adds more.
Most of the time as a music producer, you will spend working with a DAW. DAW enables you to record, compose, edit, arrange, synthesize, mix, master music. DAWs have infinite capabilities.
DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) Like Ableton, FL Studio and Studio One, Luna, Cubase, Pro Tools are good for Windows users. For Mac users other than the DAW mentioned earlier Logic Pro X, Garage Band are also among the good choices to work with. There are a lot more DAW options than what I just mentioned.
Nearly all DAWS will provide you with the same quality. The difference among each DAW is in the workflow. Some DAWS provide a workflow that is good for producing and composition, while others are great for tracking, mixing and mastering. The choice of a DAW in a studio completely depends on the comfort level of an engineer or producer with that DAW.
An audio interface enables you to record and monitor the sound using your computer, laptop or tablet. With an audio interface, you can record sounds using microphones or by directly plugging in electronic instruments like an electric guitar, synthesisers. The audio interface also enables you to monitor sounds by connecting your headphones or studio monitors as output.
Every audio interface will have at least one input for recording and one stereo output for monitoring. Checkout this article here to learn how to buy an audio interface.
Specifications to look for when buying an audio interface
- I/O - Before anything else, an audio interface should meet your IO need. Decide on the number of inputs and outputs and choose an audio interface accordingly.
- Connectivity - Does the audio interface work with your machine? Consider USB, Thunderbolt or other connectivity according to your computer peripherals. Peripherals also ensure latency and data transfer speed between the Audio interface and your computer. Anything with USB 2.0 or above is good. Avoid obsolete technologies like Firewire.
- Power: Also consider the power needs of an Audio Interface. If you need a portable setup, you might need an audio interface that can be bus-powered and does not require external power.
- Convertors - Audio interface uses AD DA converters to convert audio signals into digital format and make them recordable on a computer. When buying an Audio Interface, look for AD DA specs like dynamic range. The higher, the better.
- Preamps - Simply put, Preamps are used to make the audio signal usable and recordable by amplifying the signal. You need an audio interface that provides a clean usable signal with the lowest noise possible. Lookout for SNR ratio on an audio interface. The lower the better. Preamps also add character to sound. Each preamp behaves differently. So go with the ones that you like more. Preamps also provide a gain range which ensures that you get a hot and usable signal on both input and output.
If you go to any commercial studio, you will notice they have a huge collection of microphones.
Microphones play a very important part in the way sound gets recorded. Microphones are categorized based on their working and polar patterns. Microphones is a vast topic and will be covered in-depth in a separate module.
You will require at least one microphone in your studio to get started with recording vocals, speech and instruments. I have shared the best options in setups to get you started.
I often find students and beginner music producers asking this question, "Can I use my ear pods or other entertainment headphones or speakers in my studio for mixing?"
The answer is a "BIG NO". Let me explain why.
Why do you need studio monitors or professional headphones?
When you are producing music, you need speakers/monitors or headphones that produce a flat frequency response. This helps you listen to your composition and music exactly how it sounds. Professional studio headphones or monitors produce a flat frequency response that is essential as a music producer. Studio headphones and monitors help you judge and analyse your sounds and mixes, honestly.
Imagine this for a moment. There is a very beautiful day outside. Green grass with mist, bright sunshine, birds chirping and clear blue skies.
You click a photograph using your camera that had perfect blue skies. You love the photograph, and you open it on your computer screen or computer monitor.
Due to your computer LCD monitor's low resolution and colours, all of a sudden the sky looks a little yellowish blue. How will you feel?
It will be misleading for you as a photographer, wouldn't it?
The same goes for the entertainment earphones that we use daily to listen to music. Most entertainment headphones that we use daily, e.g., AirPods, colour the sound.
Colouring the sound means boosting or cutting certain sound frequencies like bass, mids or treble.
For monitoring, if you do not have an acoustically treated room always use small studio monitors and a pair of studio headphones.
If you have a treated room, get yourself any monitors that you love.
Studio Monitors Specifications To Watch Out For
When buying studio monitors, you need ones that are accurate and provide ample power. Here are the specs to look for when buying home studio monitors:
Nearfield or Far FIeld: There are two main categories of studio monitors, Nearfield and Farfield. Near field, monitors have smaller drivers and can be positioned close to your listening positions. Near field, monitors can be positioned on stands or simply on the top of a studio desk. Nearfield monitors are ideal for home studios as home studios tend to be in a smaller space. Far-field monitors, on the other hand, generally have larger drivers and are placed along the perimeter of the room further away from the listening position, somewhere from 10-12 feet away. They're often mounted on or in the wall behind a studio desk.
Frequency Response: - A Perfect Human Ear can Perceive 20HZ to 20Khz. You need a studio monitor or headphones that can reproduce a flat frequency response for the broadest frequency spectrum. Most nearfield monitors with a 5-6Inch woofer and a 1inch tweeter claim to reproducer frequencies between 55Hz to 20KHZ. This is a good range for a studio monitor if it is flat. 8-10 Inch woofers go as low as 35Khz. for anything below that, you will need a subwoofer.
Amp. Power: Studio monitors require external power and amplification. Amp power is an important spec when buying a studio monitor as it relates to other specs like dynamic range, THD. Simply put, the more amp power, the better.
Max. SPL: Spl means sound pressure level. In common terms, how loud a monitor can get depends upon max SPL. At times you will need to listen to music at loud levels. Anything above 105Db is good for a home studio monitor.
Bass Reflex Port: Bass reflex speakers are more efficient and extend the bass more than acoustic suspension sealed boxes. If you are in a small home studio space, go for monitors with a bass reflex port. A front-firing bass reflex port will have an advantage for smaller studios.
EQ Control: Having an EQ control in your studio monitors enables you to adjust the monitors according to your room. This feature is a big plus for home studios.
Connections: How you can connect your monitors matter a lot. Most modern-day studio monitors will provide you with several connection options.
Now you have a good understanding of different studio equipment and their specs. Let us now look at different recording studio setups that you can start within your home studio.
Please take into account that these just reference setups. use them as a guide to setting up your studio according to your needs.
You can also replicate the same setups and I am sure you will have a good time
Diffrent Home Recording and Music Production Studio Setup : Equipment
Home Recording Studio Equipment Setup 1 — The First Basic Setup
If you are completely new to the world of music production and home studios, this setup is for you.
This is the bare minimum equipment that you need to start producing music. Yes, the bare minimum studio equipment for setting up a home studio. If you subtract anything out from this setup, it will become a pretty useless setup.
With this setup, you can start making electronic music. For this setup, you need the following studio equipment:
- High-Performance Computer/laptop/tablet
- DAW(Digital Audio Workstation)
- Studio Headphones
- Desk and Chair
High-Performance Computer or Laptop
When I say the word high performance, it means at least 8 GB Ram and at least a core i3 or Ryzen 3 processor and an SSD. You can use either windows or mac, the choice is yours. You can also use an iPad Pro, it will do fine for starters. Producing music on a Linux or a Chromebook is challenging to date and definitely as a starter, avoid it.
Some of the best computers for music production are Apple Imac M1, Apple Mac Mini M1, Dell XPS 8940, Asus ROG Strix.
If you are on a budget, try and go for a used 2015 Dual Graphics MacBook. It is one of the best machines for the price.
You can also build a machine on your own with the minimum specs mentioned.
DAW(Digital Audio Workstation)
DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) Like Ableton, FL Studio and Studio One, Luna, Cubase are good for Windows users. For Mac users other than the DAW mentioned earlier Logic Pro X, Garage Band are also among the choices to start with.
Chose anyone out of these. All these DAWS offer a trial version.
Most of the lessons I will share will be on Ableton and Logic Pro. So if you like the content I publish and share and will be learning more in future, these DAW will offer the advantage of being easy to follow along.
Some of the best professional headphones are Beyerdynamic 880 PRO, Audio Technica M30x, AKG K Series, Yamaha MT5.
I recommend Starting with Audio Technica M30x or higher models. Beyerdynamics are also great but cost a little more.
A Desk and Chair
Use any desk and use it as your workspace for now. If you have a laptop or iPad your setup is portable and you can work from any place for now.
Pros Of This Equipment Setup
- Gets You Started — This setup will get you started in the world of music production, and you can make all sorts of music that can be made using plugins, samples and DAW.
- Budget-Friendly — his setup gives you a taste of music production without breaking the bank.
Cons Of This Equipment Setup
- Very Limited Scope — you will not be able to do songs with 100 channels and sounds. Your machine is limited.
- Recording Is Missing In Your Recording Studio— Well, it just gets you started. This is more of an electronic music production studio. You can make beats and all form of electronic music that just needs a computer, DAW and plugins but if you need more, this setup will be a pain.
- Not the best workflow - One can make music with this setup but this will not provide you with the best workflow. You will need to draw chords, make changes using your mouse and keyboard.
Home Recording Studio Equipment Setup 2 — The Budget Home Studio Producer Setup
This set up is the one that will get you started for real. You can record and produce nearly all sought of music with this setup. With this setup, you will get all studio essentials for your home recording studio without breaking the bank.
For this budget home studio recording and music production setup, you need the following studio equipment:
- High-Performance Computer/ Laptop
- DAW(Digital Audio Workstation)
- Audio Interface
- Monitoring Setup
- MIDI Device
- Power Conditioning
Studio Desk and Chair
High-Performance Computer or Laptop
Get a machine with at least 16GB of ram, Core i5 or similar processors like AMD Ryzen 5 etc. NVMESSD at least 256GB.
Your best bet will be to build a PC on a budget. You can also get any laptop that meets these requirements.
These specs will ensure that you work smoothly without facing any problems while producing music.
DAW(Digital Audio Workstation)
All DAWs are great. The difference is the workflow that they provide.
Choose from the DAW that suits and meets your musical needs. If you are more into electronic music genres, DAWs like Ableton, FL Studio will suit your needs.
If you are into genres like rock, metal and will do a lot of tracking work go with Pro Tools.
If you have no clue which DAW might meet your needs, start with Logic Pro or Ableton or Studio One. These DAWs provide an all-around workflow with Logic Pro being the most user-friendly for beginners.
For this budget set up, buy an audio interface with at least 2 Input channels and one stereo output. I recommend at least 2 input channels because that enables you to record in stereo. We will be learning and using a lot of stereo miking techniques in the Tracking Module.
Some of the best beginner budget Audio Interfaces are
- Audience ID14MKII
- Motu M2
- UA Volt
- Focusrite 2i2 3rd Gen
Pick any one that meets your budget. I would personally go with Audient ID14 MKII if I have the budget as it outperforms other audio interfaces in its class. ID14 can also be used in the next setup by adding in I/O channels.
If I am low on budget, I would get the Focusrite 2i2 3rd gen audio interface and save a few bucks. The trade-off with getting 2i2 is that it does not provide the best dynamic range, preamps, and output power to drive high impedance headphones.
For monitoring, you will need a small studio monitor and a pair of studio headphones. Don't get big studio monitors if you do not have an acoustically treated room.
Some of the best Budget studio monitors for home studios are:
- Kali Audio LP6
- JBL 305
- Sonodyne PM 50 V2
- KRK Classic 5
- Presonus Eris 4.5
- Adam Audio T5v
If you plan on getting a big room and acoustically treating it, go with a six-inch or 8inch studio monitor. I personally love Kali Audio LP6.
If you are in a small room without any acoustic treatment, get 3.5-4.5 inch studio monitors. Spend more on headphones as they will be your best bet in a room without acoustic treatment.
Some of the best professional headphones are
- Beyerdynamic DT Series
- Audio Technica MT 30x and above
- AKG K Series
- Yamaha MT5
On a budget, Audio Technica MT30x are your best friend. If you can spend more, go for Beyerdynamic DT 990 or DT 880.
MicrophoneYou will require at least one microphone in your studio to get started with recording vocals, speech and instruments. Some good first budget all-around microphone choices for the home studio are
- Lewitt LCT440 Pure
- Lewitt LCT 240 Pro
- Audio Technica AT 4050
- Warm Audio WA47 JR
- Rode Nt 1
- Blue Spark SL
- SE Electronics X1
Some of the best budget instrument microphones for home studios are
- Lewitt 140 Air Small-diaphragm Microphone
- AKG Perception 170
- Lewitt 040 Air Small-diaphragm Microphone
- Shure 57 Small-diaphragm Dynamic Microphone
I will go for Lewitt LCT440 pure as the first microphone as it is a great microphone for vocals and instruments.
For this setup, you can opt for a 25, 49,61 or 88 Keys Midi keyboard. The choice is yours. If you plan on using the MIDI for just laying out chords, fo with 25 or 49 Keys. If you plan on performing using your MIDI go for 49 keys or above.
Some of the best budget MIDI keyboards are:
- Novation Launchkey
- Nektar LX Series
- Akai MPK Series
- Arturia Keylab Series
- M-Audio Oxygen
In this setup, I would go with Novation Launch Key 61 MK3 as it provides easy integration with Ableton and provides a lot of flexibility for performance. If you wish to save on MIDI, go for the Nektar LX series.
Without studio cables, all your equipment is just individual pieces of gear. When you connect it all, magic happens.
You need everything connected properly. In your home studio, you will need at least a few XLR Cables, TS Cables, TRS Cables, RCA Cables and MIDI Cables. Having a few extra cables in your studio is always beneficial.
Keep a Pop filter and one microphone boom stand. If you are not spending a lot on a Studio desk, buy a keyboard stand for your MIDI.
You can invest in a rack-based power conditioner like a Furman or a Samson if you plan to add a studio rack to your setup in future. Else you should invest in floor-based Online UPS which will act as power backups and power conditioner.
Studio Desk and Chair
If you like DIY stuff, you can build a studio desk. DIY desk is the best option as it will be customized to your space and affordable.
You can also buy a studio desk and chair but they will cost you a fortune. Some of the best desks for home recording studios are:
- Nucleus 2 By Ultimate Support
- On-Stage Stands WS7500
- Omnirax Presto
Pros Of This Equipment Setup
- You have all the power you need to create the best music.
- Flexible and upgradable.
- Best workflow on a budget.
Home Recording Studio Equipment Setup 3 — The Pro Upgrade To The Budget Home Recording Studio Setup
As you learn and grow, you can take the budget studio setup and keep building around it. This is the Pro home Recording setup.
We will be using all the elements from the previous setup and doing the necessary upgrade or additions as per your studio and musical requirement. The biggest difference will be the additin of studio rack and analogue gear.
For this home studio recording setup, you need them to upgrade/add to the following studio equipment:
- Upgrade Computer/ Laptop
- Add or Upgrade Audio Interface
- Add To Monitoring Setup
- Build Microphone Locker
- ADD MIDI Device
- Build A Studio Rack
- ADD Analog Gear
While this is a reference setup, each artist is different. So make decisions according to your needs and requirements.
Upgrade Computer/ Laptop
If you build a PC/Computer when getting started, consider the upgrades and perform them according to your needs. Most professional full-time producers prefer 32-64GB RAM, Corei7 or higher CPU, 2Tb or more NVME. Do the upgrade as per your needs. if you are comfortable with the previous build, stick to that.
Add or Upgrade Your Audio Interface
if you started with an audio interface that can be extended via ADAT or SPDIF ins and out, it is time to add additional ins and outs. If you started with a 2i2 or similar audio interface, swap them for an audio interface with more I/O as with growing studio, your ins and out requirements will grow. More channels always lead to more possibilities.
If you started with Audient ID14, use the ASP800, ASP880 or similar preamps.
This upgrade is only required if your channel needs are growing. Else stick to the previous setup.
Add To Monitoring Setup
The biggest changes you should make are in terms of your monitoring. Upgrade and add to your monitoring setup. But before you do that, consider acoustically treating your room. You can upgrade to 8-inch studio monitors with a subwoofer. You can also add to your studio headphones.
Build your Microphone Locker
If you record a lot of instruments, consider adding instrument microphones to your collection. if you need vocal variations, microphones will do the trick. Add microphones according to your taste and needs. Microphone addition never ends.
A decent mic locker in a pro studio would consist of at least 2 large Diaphragm microphones, 2 Instrument Microphones with a dew switchable polar pattern microphones.
ADD MIDI Device
If you turned out to be an electronic music aficionado, add MIDI devices according to your needs. A few more MIDI controllers never do any harm.
Again, perform upgrades additions according to your needs.
Build A Studio Rack
The biggest difference that you will make is to start building a studio rack and grow it. Add Preamps, Compressors, EQ, FX according to your needs. We will discuss studio racks in-depth as well.
Analog gear adds character and taste to sound. using analogue gear can be a game-changer. Consider your musical needs and add analogue gear like synth, amps etc to your studio.
For a professional studio built, it all depends on your needs and experience. I cannot suggest blindly here. If you are wishing for me to lay out an exact Professional studio equipment list for you to work with, believe me, you do not need any professional gear. Work on your fundamentals and learn as much as you can.
The biggest difference you can make to your home studio is by acoustically treating it.
Acoustic treatment involves a lot of topics like isolation, modes, reflections diffusion etc. In this article, we did not talk much about acoustics and the other two aspects. We will discuss at length about acoustic treatment in a different module in the coming articles.
In the next article, learn about studio signal chain and signal flow.