For recording newbies, it’s easily the most commonly asked question when it comes to their first studio:
What’s the CHEAPEST one I can build?
Strangely, it seems that NO ONE out there has yet answered it.
So in this article, that’s exactly what I’ll do, by attempting to actually build the World’s Cheapest Recording Studio for myself.
Here’s what I came up with:
The Total Price of the Studio
After scouring the internet, in an attempt to find the absolute best deals out there, I constructed a simple working studio with a total sticker price of just over 400 dollars.
Here’s what I bought:
The Gear I Chose and Why
For this ENTIRE studio, I compiled a total of 4 items:
- Digital Audio Workstation
These are the ones I chose, and why:
1. The Computer
Common recording advice states that since DAW software is resource intensive, you want to buy the fastest computer you can afford.
Normally, I’d choose a Macbook Pro…
But Apple is expensive, and I wanted something cheap.
So here’s what I chose instead: the Acer Chromebook at a price of around 200 dollars.
I chose it, almost entirely because of its association with Google. Hate on them all you want, but Google doesn’t make crappy stuff. So if there’s any computer in this price range that can deliver on its promises, it’s this one.
As it turns out, Chromebooks are also made by Samsung, HP, and Toshiba. I chose the Acer model because it was the cheapest and also seemed to have the best overall reviews.
2. The Digital Audio Workstation
For a DAW, normally I’d choose Avid Pro Tools…
But the problem is, Pro Tools and other mainstream DAW’s are expensive…and way too much for the world’s cheapest recording studio.
My first thought was to choose Audacity, (pictured to the right), as it is easily the most popular free DAW software on the planet. But as it turns out, Audacity runs on Windows and Mac, but not the Chrome OS.
So after a bit more research, I found that the Chome OS only supports online recording options, which is essentially a DAW within your browser. The two best free options I found were UJam and Audiotool.
3. The Microphone
For this studio, I knew right away that a USB mic was the only smart option.
By eliminating the need for either a mic preamp or an audio interface, it would save me HUGE money.
I also need it to be a dynamic mic, since in my opinion, condenser mics are worthless in rooms without acoustic treatment.
The mic I originally chose was the Rode Podcaster, since it is perhaps the most famous dynamic USB mic out there.
But then I discovered this one: the Audio-Technica ATR2100-USB.
At a price of around 75 dollars, it’s MUCH cheaper than the Rode Podcaster. It also has rave reviews, and includes a headphones jack with volume control, which would eliminate the need for a monitor management system.
Now…the final item:
Even the most basic home studio wouldn’t be complete without SOME sort of monitoring.
Normally I’d choose a Sennheiser HD280, but for this studio, I wanted to see if there was anything cheaper.
I found one: the Audio-Technica ATH-M20x.
Priced at around 50 dollars, you wouldn’t think to expect much, but the reviews I found on them were universally positive. So that’s what I chose.
What to Expect from this Studio
Now that I’ve covered the gear, let’s get a few things straight about this setup:
- Don’t expect it to record a world class tone, since there are no condenser mics and no acoustic treatment, among many other reasons.
- Don’t expect to do anything advanced with Soundation or any other free/cheap DAW.
- Don’t expect to record in stereo, don’t expect to record bands, and don’t expect to record drums…Since you only have one input channel.
Now here’s what you CAN expect:
If you’re new to recording, you don’t have a lot of money, and you want a simple and easy way to get your feet wet, this studio could be the perfect solution.
You’ll be able to:
- Record your voice or instrument into the computer
- Mix several tracks together into a complete song
- Turn those tracks into a stereo audio file, and share it with your friends.
If that’s ALL you want, this studio will get you there.