Building a home recording studio is a HUGE project…isn’t it?
It takes months of planning, research, and preparation…doesn’t it?
Well most people think so, but the truth is…
Getting started is far easier than you might imagine.
Because REALLY… all you need is a few basic essentials.
And in today’s post, I’ll reveal exactly what those are…
As I walk you through the entire step-by-step process of building your first home recording studio from scratch.
So let’s get to it. First up…
Why Simple is Best
The fact is, not only is it possible to start off with just a simple studio…it’s actually preferable.
Because just like with any hobby, by attempting too much too soon:
- you get overwhelmed,
- you get discouraged, and…
- you eventually quit.
And all that time and money you invested goes to waste. 🙁
So to avoid this fate, just keep it simple. But you might be wondering…
How cheap is too cheap?
Since home recording can be expensive…musicians often search for the cheapest possible solutions to recording their music.
And that’s fine, except…there is such a thing as “too cheap“.
While it is technically possible to build a working studio for as little as $400-$500…
There are strict limits to what can be accomplished in such a studio…and I really wouldn’t recommend it to anyone truly serious about recording their music.
Instead…here’s what I do recommend:
The Perfect First Studio for Newbies
With the following 7 items:
- A Computer
- DAW/Audio Interface Combo
- Studio Monitors
- A Few Cables
- One Mic Stand
- One Microphone
What you have is a simple working studio, perfect for anyone just starting out with home recording.
And here’s why:
- It allows you to start ASAP with a minimal investment in both time and money.
- More importantly…it’s the perfect foundation to build upon later as your skills mature.
So here they are…the 7 items to start your studio:
1. A Computer
When starting a studio from scratch, the computer is the biggest expenditure by far.
Because as common wisdom states:
Ideally, you want the fastest one you can afford.
But these days, virtually everyone already has a computer of some sort. And virtually all computers are fast enough to at least get you started.
So in the beginning, regardless of your budget, I recommend using what you have for now.
If and when you want to upgrade later on, here’s what I recommend:
- Classic Example: Macbook Pro
2. A DAW/Audio Interface Combo
If you don’t already know…
The DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) is the software used to record, edit, and mix music on your computer…
And the Audio Interface is the hardware used to connect your computer with the rest of your gear.
These two items can either be bought separately, OR as a combo. But your first studio…I highly recommend the combo.
- It’s one less item on your shopping list.
- It’s cheaper than buying them separately.
- It offers guaranteed compatibility and tech support.
Plus, the two companies that offer these combos are among the best in the business: Presonus and Avid.
Presonus offers a free copy of their Studio One Artist DAW with the following popular interfaces:
- PreSonus AudioBox USB – (price/reviews)
- Presonus AudioBox 22VSL – (price/reviews)
- Presonus Audiobox 44VSL – (price/reviews)
Avid offers a free copy of their Pro Tools 12 DAW with the following interfaces:
Personally, I’d recommend the Pro Tools option to those willing to spend that much. But for most people, the Presonus options are priced a bit more reasonably for first-timers.
Having said that, if you don’t mind purchasing your DAW and interface separately…
There are still tons more options to explore, and I cover them all in the following two articles:
When you’re just starting out, most of your time is spent recording by yourself.
Which is why in the beginning, all you really need is one pair of headphones.
For studio purposes, there are 2 very-specific designs considered standard:
- Closed back headphones for tracking – which offer optimal isolation at the expense of lesser sound quality.
- Open back headphones for mixing – which offer optimal sound quality at the expense of lesser isolation.
While open back headphones are considered more of a luxury…for your first studio, closed back headphones are a necessity.
And in this post I reveal the best options for both:
As a supplement to your headphones, I also recommend an extension cable…since standard headphone cables are always too short.
A word of caution though: With THIS cable especially, I highly advise getting the best one you can afford, as cheaper ones have horrible signal problems from the constant movement.
Personally, I like this one: Mogami Headphone Extension Cable 25′.
4. Studio Monitors
Despite the fact that many home studios now do the majority of their mixing on open back headphones…
Traditionally, mixing has always been done on speakers…
Or as they are commonly known in pro audio: studio monitors, or nearfield monitors.
Compared to consumer speakers, which are designed with various tonal “enhancements”…
Studio monitors have a much flatter frequency response, which provides a more neutral, uncolored sound to objectively judge your mix.
And while they can get pricey…there are still plenty of affordable options for beginners as well.
These are the top ones I recommend:
- Classic Example: KRK Rokit 5 G3
5. XLR Cables
One day, your studio will have a TONS of different cables…
But for now, you only need 3:
- 1 long XLR cable for your mic, and…
- 2 short ones for your monitors
For a standard project studio in a small 10×10 room, these are the EXACT ones I recommend:
But before you buy those monitor cables, double-check that the stereo output of your audio interface has XLR connectors. Sometimes they use TRS, in which case, you’ll need these instead:
As you can see, good mic cables can get fairly expensive, so if you’re looking for something in a different price range, or you just want to learn more…check out this post:
6. A Mic Stand
While many beginners assume that all mic stands are the same…
The truth is…a solid mic stand is one of the most worthwhile investments a new home studio can make.
However, since mic stands can get pricey, and most beginners are on tight budgets…
A cheap reliable stand such as this one is more than adequate when you’re first starting out.
But if you’re looking for something different, or just want to learn more about mic stands in general, check out in this post:
And for the last item on the list.
As I’m sure you’ve noticed, the one super obvious piece of gear I’ve neglected to cover thus far is of course, microphones.
The reason being…
It’s a pretty huge subject, to which I’ve actually dedicated an entire chapter of this website:
For now though, if you prefer to keep things simple and start recording ASAP…
Just start out with 1 or 2 essential mics for now, and expand your collection over time.
So for the most common instruments, here’s what I suggest:
Since most people start out just recording vocals, the “classic” large diaphragm condenser vocal mic I recommend is the:
For any “high-frequency-rich” instruments such as acoustic guitar, piano, or cymbals…the small diaphragm condenser mic I recommend for starters is the:
For drums, percussion, and electric guitar amps, the best mic to start with is undoubtedly the:
For bass guitar, kick drums, and other low frequency instruments, a great mic to start with is the:
Looking for a Shortcut?
If all this research and decision-making seems a little overwhelming right now…
And what you REALLY want is for someone to tell you EXACTLY what to buy…
I can help you with that as well. 🙂
Just download the following 2 Guides, and I’ll spell it out for you, step-by-step:
- The Official E-Home Recording Studio Starter Package for Beginners
- The World’s Cheapest Recording Studio
In the 1st guide, I’ve assembled an entire package for beginners which I’ll share with you for free.
And if that package is outside of your budget, in the 2nd guide, I show you how I built a working studio for the least money possible.