Have you decided to be your own audio engineer?
Are you stapling sound baffling up to the walls of your home office this very minute?
Are you ready to record a single, broadcast a podcast, or start your career as a for-hire voice actor?
Whatever the reason, you’re going to need the right gear to make it happen. Let’s start at the beginning, shall we?
Do You Have the Right Computer?
Before you start grabbing microphones by the fistful and tossing them into your online shopping cart, you’ll need to make sure you have a computer that can record, manipulate, and store audio without having a heat stroke.
Luckily, this step is easier than ever.
There’s a whole plethora of recording programs for all kinds of devices, including tablets and phones.
However, if you’re designing a music studio (or any kind of home recording studio), you’ll be better off with either a desktop or a laptop – which is going to be up to you.
Laptops are more portable and have a smaller footprint, but desktops are generally cheaper and can be upgraded easier. Whichever you choose, make sure to use either Windows, Linux, or an Apple operating system – something like a Chromebook doesn’t have the ability to install recording software.
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Audio Software: To Pay or Not to Pay?
There are as many options for audio software as there are fish in the sea.
However, the big question is: how much do you want to pay?
If you’ve got a comfortable revenue stream and don’t mind a little learning, ProTools is the option most professionals go with. It’s an extremely robust piece of software that is used every day in recording studios and mixer booths the world over.
If you’re looking for something less financially painful, check out free programs like Audacity to get started. Audacity can cut, alter, amplify, copy, and paste music no problem, and can layer multiple tracks without a fuss. You lose some of the more advanced options of ProTools, but Audacity is still a very workable solution for most home studio needs.
The Right Interface For You
Unfortunately, unless you have a USB microphone (which has its own issues), you’re going to need a device that amplifies your microphones to line-level.
A device like a sound board, mixer, or USB interface takes the low-output signal of your mic and boosts the gain, making it a requirement for a home studio.
The kind of interface you’ll need depends on your intentions.
A basic two-channel interface or mixer records two channels (two microphones/inputs) and inputs them either through analog or through a USB into the computer. If you’re planning on recording bands or a multi-host podcast, you’ll need something bigger.
Interfaces and mixers come as big as you need them, from 4 to 8 channel in the “affordable consumer” range to 16, 24, 48 and greater channel boards for the professional spaces.
All that matters is that your interface inputs match your microphone cables (be it XLR or ¼), and that you have the number of channels you need.
Can I Get the Microphones Already?
Yes, you can!
Now’s the time to grab the dynamic or condenser mics of your choice (and boom stands to match).
Dynamic microphones are going to better for simple jobs, durability, and ease-of-use, while condensers are going to better if you’re concerned about perfect sound quality or have significant space concerns – whichever you choose is up to the job you intend and your wallet.
Always Be Accessorizing
What else will you need to get your home recording studio off the ground?
Make sure you have all the audio cables you need – XLR, ¼, 3.5 mm, whatever your mics are using, and make sure you have decent length cables (and a few spares) for all. Better to have more cable than not enough.
You’d also be smart to grab a few foam pop-guards to throw over your microphones to save yourself from those “Ps” and “Pops.”
If you’re recording at a table, tripod table microphone stands could be a smart bet – while boom microphones can be used at a table, the geography of the space may make it difficult.
A comfortable set of headphones is also a must-have item for monitoring your levels as you record. It may be necessary to grab a few pairs if you’re recording more than one person at a time.
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The Basics to Get You Started
Audio equipment is like any other field of tech – there’s as much equipment out on the market as you’re willing to buy.
And if you’re a hard core audiophile who loves gadgets, we advise you Godspeed on your quest to collect it all.
However, for most home studios, the above equipment is all you really need to get you started right now. And remember: you can always upgrade any of your equipment later, so don’t be afraid to try the basics first.