Home Recording Studio Equipment
The audio enthusiast has numerous choices when it comes to home recording studio equipment. The first thing to consider is your computer, the backbone of any digital recording process. Desktops are usually more powerful and offer more options and inputs than laptops. That being said, the better laptops offer plenty of computer firepower to run any audio software and several continue to offer multiple inputs. More importantly though, if you’re a club or live venue DJ, having a portable laptop is a necessity. Additionally, you will have to decide between Mac and PC. In the music field, Macs outnumber PCs. Also, the Logic Pro DAW only works on Macs.
Once you’ve chosen your computer, the next thing you’ll need to decide on is your DAW (Digital Audio Workstation). The DAW is what you’ll use to record, edit, and produce music tracks. Your choice of DAW should be guided by two things: your goals and your music genre.
If your goal is to become an audio engineer, music producer or recording artist you are going to want to concentrate on industry standard DAWS. If your goal is to fool around and create some music for yourself and friends, then you might consider other, easier to learn, options for DAWs. Here are some of your options.
Industry Standard DAWs
If you are seriously considering a career in music, be it as an audio engineer, music producer, songwriter, recording or performing artist then you should choose one of the following industry standard DAWs—the people you are working with will most likely work with these DAWs and eventually you will too. It makes sense to start with a DAW that will be your workhorse as you become a pro, rather than learn some other piece of software and then having to re-learn anotther DAW. That being said, may engineers and producers know multiple DAWs and work with them regularly.
This is the de facto industry standard. Virtually every professional recording studio runs on ProTools. It has tons of plug-ins for audio effects and virtual instruments. It works on both Macs and PCs. It’s not the easiest software to learn, you’ll find as many engineers swearing at ProTools as those that swear by it, but even its detractors admit that it is extremely powerful. ProTools works well with all genres of music, and is especially geared for traditional recording studio work i.e. recording a rock band.
Ableton has been designed with the live performance artist in mind and is a staple for many a hip hop or live DJ performer. It is compatible with many hardware controllers and runs on both Macs and PCs.
In addition to being a solid DAW, Reason excels with its powerful suite of virtual instruments. It’s known for the intuitiveness of its work flow. It comes in both Mac and PC versions and is best suited for Electronic Music.
A Mac only DAW, Logic Pro has many fans. It’s particularly known for its range of high quality synths and can turn your Mac into a complete recording and MIDI production studio.
Not Quite Industry Standard DAWS
The following not quite industry standard DAWs, are perfect for those who aren’t truly committed to being a professional music creator—they are generally more user-friendly than the industry standard choices, and are certainly powerful enough to produce good music from start to finish.
Studio One 4.
PreSonus entry to the DAW market is rapidly gaining in popularity and is a good choice for someone who wants ProTools capabilities without its complexities.
Previously known as Fruity Loops, this DAW has perhaps the easiest learning curve and is particularly suited for the Hip Hop, live DJ or EDM musicians. It offers a mobile version as well.
This is another powerful DAW at an attractive price. It functions much like ProTools or Studio One 4 and is very customizable.
In addition to your computer and your DAW, you will need an audio interface. This piece of hardware is essential for getting external audio into your computer so it can be used in your DAW. The audio interface is used to bring audio signals from keyboards, electronic drum kits and microphones in a form that can be recorded on your computer. There are hundreds of audio interfaces to choose from. Where possible, get one from the same company that makes your DAW as this will eliminate compatibility problems. Make sure you have plenty of inputs to capture all your needs (for instance, electronic drum kits can take up to eight inputs) and ensure that the output’s interface connectors are compatible with your computer. The most common interface connectors are USB (has the slowest data transfer rate), firewire, thunderbolt and PCIE (the fastest data transfer rate.)
Other Recording Studio Equipment Items to Consider
Finally, there is a laundry list of other items you need to consider when setting up your home studio.
Microphones: gazillions of choices here. Determine what you will be using the microphone for and buy the best you can within your budgetary constraints.
Sound proofing: From the old-school, egg cartons glued to the walls, to today’s sophisticated and portable sound booths there’s a sound treatment for every room.
Microphone stands and cables, pop filters, headphones, playback monitors, midi keyboard devices needs will be greatly influenced by your genre of music.
It used to be that you needed many hundreds of thousands of dollars to build a recording studio. Today, as long as you have a quiet room in your home that is free from ambient noise, you can build an in-home recording studio is capable of producing music every bit as good as a professional recording studio on a very modest budget.