Setting up a Home Studio is the goal of many people who are passionate about audio and music.
If you have come to this page, you are certainly part of the category too, so I assume that you already have or are willing to set up your own personal space where you can work on your productions or those of friends or customers.
The term Home Studio is used to indicate environments that are also very different from each other, so I start with a minimum of definitions, so as to be able to understand each other better, and continue with a list containing everything necessary for its realization.
I anticipate that the content of this article is indicated to you if it falls within even one of these descriptions:
Write music via a DAW:
Produce music using virtual instruments or sample libraries (eg Kontakt).
Produce your own tracks using sample & loops.
Record your own songs or those of friends or customers.
Do the post production (editing, mixing, mastering) of your songs or of your friends or clients.
This guide will be useful both if you make music an amateur activity, and if you intend to make it a professional activity.
Well, having made this premise, I start immediately by giving you a first smattering of the concept of home studio itself and an idea of the costs involved.
Home Studio for Home Recording and Music Production:
If you have read the introduction of this article carefully, you will have realized that I intend to give useful information to even diametrically opposed figures.
What can a producer who writes music by sampling other pieces have in common with a musician who wants to learn how to record his instrument?
They probably have little in common with regards to musical tastes, but certainly a lot in common with regard to the equipment and software they need.
The term Home Studio generically defines an environment suitable for audio and music production or post production, so the room of a producer and that of a musician, composer or home recordist can be called the same way.
In reality, they are also very different environments, united by the fact that they are usually located inside the home, or in any case by having hardware inside them that, although of excellent quality, does not equal the cost or number present at the interior of a professional studio.
To keep things simple, I distinguish the different home studio models into three categories, based on what their specific purpose is.
We therefore have:
- Home Studio where real instruments (acoustic and / or electric) are recorded.
- Home Studio in which music is produced through virtual instruments and / or samples and / or packages of loops & samples.
- Home studio for post production (editing, audio restoration, mixing, mastering, etc.).
- According to your needs, it is obviously possible to set up the studio in such a way as to make more actions possible in the same space.
So if you want to create a Home Recording Studio, you can easily prepare the space not only to record but also to mix and finalize the songs.
If you want to create a Music Production Studio you can, in the same way, buy the necessary equipment both for writing the songs and for performing their post production (mixing and mastering).
Below you will find everything you need to set up any type of studio. From time to time I will specify what purpose each component serves, so that I can understand whether or not you need them for your specific situation.
In addition, I will indicate both the equipment that absolutely cannot be missing, and other accessory equipment that, even if it would be better to have, are not strictly necessary.
Before introducing you to all the paraphernalia, I’ll answer the fateful question …
How Much Does a Home Studio Cost?
It is a question which obviously I cannot answer exactly, but which I can still answer by giving you some general indications.
Potentially, if you already have a computer, you can get away with just $ 150.
Potentially, if you don’t set budget limits, you won’t even get away with $ 150,000.
I’m not exaggerating, the figures involved can vary a lot, based not only on how much equipment you choose to buy, but also and above all on its quality.
You can buy a microphone for $ 100, just as you can buy another one for $ 10,000.
You can buy a mixer for $ 200, just as you can buy another mixer for $ 200,000.
Precisely because of these variations in costs, setting up a professional studio can cost millions of euros.
Once again I assure you that I’m not exaggerating:
So, if you don’t have a few million euros yet to invest for a mega-galactic studio, settle for a home studio, but it will at least live up to your expectations!
Once you have finished reading this guide, with all the references to which I refer, you will have a much clearer idea of what expense you will have to face for the construction of your home studio.
Not only will you know the costs, but through the information I will give you you will also know many specific models for each equipment illustrated.
Where to start?
From the component that cannot be missing in any studio, the computer.
The Computer (the Workstation)
Except for a few purists, anyone who wants to work on audio and music needs a computer.
There are a disproportionate number of models on the market, portable, stationary, all-in-one, rack, cheap and expensive.
Then there is the crucial choice between the Windows environment and the Apple ecosystem. There are so many decisions to make.
Considering that the computer will be the center of your home studio, consider purchasing it very carefully.
If you already have one and don’t want to replace it, try to always keep it optimized.
If you choose to buy a dedicated one, carefully select its components based on the use you will have to make of them. Otherwise you risk taking, for example, processor, RAM or hard disk under or oversized according to your real needs.
The result would be to have an under performing computer or, conversely, one for which you have spent extra money unnecessarily.
What you need is a real workstation, that is a machine built and addressed to carry out specific tasks that require a lot of computing power.
I wrote an entire eBook on the choice of computer (workstation) for home recording and music production. It is impossible to summarize it all in a few lines, if you want to deepen the subject, then I refer you to my guide Enjoy Your Workstation – The Guide to Choosing a Computer for Home Recording and Music Production.
The second thing your studio absolutely cannot miss, no matter what you do with it, is a software DAW.
DAW stands for Digital Audio Workstation, and commonly indicates software such as Cubase, Logic Pro, Pro Tools or Ableton Live.
Software that is capable of giving you everything you need for your work with audio and music.
Everyone needs to have a DAW, but not everyone needs to have the same one.
If you need to record or mix it is best to choose a recording and mixing oriented DAW, such as one of the first three I mentioned earlier.
To produce electronic music it is perhaps better to focus on something else, such as the excellent Ableton Live.
If you want to get analog sounding mixes without using external plugins, you might find Mixbus interesting.
The choices are so many! You can also opt for one of the various free solutions.
The costs for the paid ones are variable, but roughly between $ 100 and $ 600.
You are spoiled for choice!
Personally at the moment I use Cubase, I find it one of the best if you want to follow the entire production process on a single software, from composition to mastering, passing through editing and mixing.
I also created an online course designed for those who want to learn how to use it from scratch or almost. Find all the info here: Learn Cubase!
The Sound Card:
Another element that cannot be missing in any type of studio is the sound card.
The sound card is a hardware component that allows you to manage the sound flows into and out of the computer.
Forget the one integrated in the PC, you absolutely have to buy a new one, to start better if external.
So you will be able to record by connecting microphones, electric instruments or MIDI keyboards, and you will have a much better listening than that offered by the model integrated into the computer.
You don’t always need to spend a lot. If you don’t have to record or you just need one or two inputs, you can easily manage with less than 100 $.
If you want more quality, costs naturally increase.
As with the computer, the criteria to be taken into consideration when choosing a sound card are many.
Find all the information you need, explained in more detail, in my article Sound Card – The Ultimate Guide to Choosing the Best Model for You.
Headphones are also an essential element for any type of studio.
The costs vary a lot, reaching in some cases a few hundred euros. But I assure you that you will find several models valid even between $ 30 and $ 130.
If you plan to record in your studio, consider at least one headphones (preferably closed) for each musician playing at the same time as the others.
If you are involved in production and in your studio you will be alone, obviously you only need one (even open or semi-open).
The main reason for choosing to buy a headset even when monitor speakers can be used is undoubtedly the cost.
Spending $ 100 for a headphone you already have an excellent result in terms of sound quality.
A pair of $ 100 monitor speakers, on the other hand, is hardly ever worth buying.
The Monitor Speakers:
Because the qualitative results you can get by using speakers instead of headphones are much higher.
This is due to various factors, physical in the first place, and psycho-physical in the second place.
Yes, you can use a headphone to great advantage to clean up a track of background noise, but forget about being able to get a mix done using just one headphone.
Maybe you have incredible skills and talent and you don’t really do shit, but trust me when I tell you that a mix done exclusively on headphones, when it is then heard on normal speakers tends to sound much worse.
Conversely, a mix that sounds good on monitor speakers sounds even better when it is heard in headphones!
It is an unwritten law that cannot be applied to 100% of situations, but which is true on the vast majority of occasions.
So my advice is this: if you are on a budget, start with a headset, but as soon as you can afford to spend a little more, immediately switch to a pair of monitor speakers.
Among the thousands of models on the market I recommend some in particular. Find them all here: Nearfield Studio Monitor Speakers (cheap) | Buying Guide.
The MIDI Controller:
Now that you have known all the equipment necessary for any occasion, I begin to introduce you to those accessory or necessary only for particular applications.
If you want to record and mix in your home studio, you do little or nothing with the keyboard.
However, when the focus of your workspace is on producing and writing music, the MIDI keyboard controller becomes very important.
There are very small keyboards, comfortable to hold near the PC keyboard, perhaps to quickly browse and hear the presets of a synth, and then there are those with more octaves that, in addition to the note keys, also have physical controllers useful for driving other parameters. of the virtual instrument with which they are used.
These keyboards communicate with the DAW and virtual instruments via MIDI protocol, which is why they are called that.
The most common cuts are those of 25, 49, 61 and 88 keys, with the addition of rotary controllers, faders, pads and so on in a variable number.
Some are suitable for use with special software.
Among the main selection criteria are:
- Range in octaves (number of keys).
- Type of key weighting.
- Number and type of controllers (knobs, faders, pads, etc.).
- Compatibility and communication standards (such as NKS or VIP).
- The price range is very variable, approximately from $ 50 to $ 1,000.
You obviously only need one or more microphones when you have to record, I’m not telling you anything new.
But do you know which microphones you need?
There are three main families:
- A Condenser
- A Tape
- The members of these three ensembles transform sound waves into electric current in different ways.
Dynamics do it in a similar way to ribbon ones, while condenser microphones follow different logics.
If you’re starting to build your own microphone park and still don’t have the option to purchase a model for each specific instrument and situation, my advice is to start with models that are good for multiple occasions.
The category that probably guarantees good performance in front of so many different recording situations is that of large diaphragm condenser microphones.
Sure there are many other good microphones, but the members of this family are often more “adaptable” than those of the others. I repeat, often not always.
If you nevertheless want to focus on a dynamic microphone, you will find several interesting and cheap models on this page. If your purpose is to record vocals, you will find a mix of dynamic and condenser models in this other article.
You can use a dedicated mic preamplifier when you want higher quality than your sound card offers or when you need extra inputs.
In some cases, external preamplifier offer much higher performance than the preamps built into low-mid-range sound cards.
To give you a term of comparison also in relation to costs, the one you see in the image above, the Focusrite ISA One, is sold at a price comparable to that of a low-end sound card with 8 microphone inputs.
Keep in mind that ISA One has only one input (Mic or DI).
However, you can choose an external preamp with multiple inputs (technically it is more than one preamp placed in the same container) to expand the number of inputs on your sound card and stay within a low spending limit.
A model of this type is the Focusrite Scarlett OctoPre, which also having an ADAT digital output allows direct connection with a sound card via a single cable (ADAT Lightpipe with Toslink connectors) and without the signal having to face further AD / DA conversions. .
It may seem strange to you, but in many home studios the mixer is completely useless.
When someone tells me they want to spend the first money on their studio just to buy a mixer, what I usually do is dissuade them.
Assuming that in various circumstances it is fundamental, in many other setups it is just one more device in the audio chain that does not add anything concrete to the management of audio signals (if not complexity and noise).
If you have to record a few channels at a time, it is better to invest in a sound card with integrated DSP (so as to have low latency monitoring), rather than in the combination mixer + card.
If you have thought instead of buying it to manage listening when, for example, you have multiple pairs of monitor speakers and / or headphones, it is better to focus on a dedicated monitor controller or on a sound card with monitor controller functionality.
Think of it like this: choose to buy a mixer only if strictly essential (for example when you use your space also as a “rehearsal room”).
Each extra piece in the audio chain introduces complexity or problems of various kinds, so avoid if you can avoid.
The argument is valid both in reference to analog mixers (which potentially introduce disturbing noises) and in reference to digital mixers (which potentially introduce latency and the need for clock configurations).
A further alternative is to opt for a mixer that doubles as a sound card.
The gist of the matter is: carefully evaluate your needs before opening your wallet.
The DAW Controller:
So how do you manage your mixes without a physical mixer?
Simple, with a DAW controller!
A DAW controller is hardware whose purpose is to facilitate the management of the DAW (but think a little!) Or the plugins you use in it.
There are various types of them:
More similar in terms of aesthetics and / or functionality to digital mixers, such as the Presonus Faderport 16.
With a small form factor and extremely cheap, like the Korg nanoKONTROL 2.
Dedicated to controlling specific plugin families, such as the Softube Console 1 MKII.
If you really are not satisfied, you can turn your gaze to a type of controller that will become more and more widespread over the next few years.
I am referring to touch controllers.
One example above all: Slate Digital’s Raven MTi2.
Again, a good DAW controller can be useful for home recorders as well as composers, musicians and producers.
Now it’s time to figure out where to put all this nice poo you bought.
You can choose the IKEA hacks option (you can find a lot of documentation on the net about it), you can build the desk you need yourself (if you have a minimum of manual skills and equipment to do it), or you can prefer a ready-made solution.
In the latter case, know that the costs involved start on average from $ 150-200 and tend to rise rapidly based on the size and housing that the desk must have.
On the blog I have already talked about one of these furnishing elements: Output Platform. Its price is quite high, I don’t know to what extent the aesthetic factor can counterbalance the economic one.
A low-cost alternative is the Millenium SD-120, which is within $ 200.
Cables and Accessories:
Well, now that you have arranged all the equipment in your desk, you just have to do one last thing, connect everything!
You will need a good number of cables (obviously proportional to the number of hardware you have).
You will probably need both cables for carrying analog signals and cables for carrying digital signals.
One of the general rules to be applied when choosing cables is to avoid unnecessary lengths.
For example, if you have to connect the sound card to the monitor speakers and these are one meter away from the card, you will never buy 3 meter cables! At best, if you are unable to build them yourself, you should choose cables that are no longer 1.5m long.
To solve any problems of excessive lengths, with all the negative consequences that ensue (useless expense for the unused portion of cable, greater probability of encountering interference in the signals, disorder on the work surface and so on), I would like to recommend a solution that will be very useful to you.
I’m talking about a service called Cablo Custom, provided by Smap Audio, one of the most renowned online stores that sell in Italy and of which I have recently become a partner.
This service allows you to do one very simple thing: create the cables you EXACTLY need.
I’m not just talking about being able to choose their exact length, but also the exact type, make and model of each individual cable and connector.
Everything is done not according to an industrial process, but thanks to a real-life technician who prepares the cable by hand.
Through an online configurator you choose all the specifications of the cable and see in real time, based on the components you select, how its cost changes.
Once the configuration is complete (if you have clear ideas it takes 30 seconds for each cable, no more) you can choose to proceed with the order.
Unless you are able to source the raw material yourself and build the cables or have a trusted dealer willing to do so, the Cablo Custom service is definitely the best option.
If you want to learn more, you can find more info here.
Either way, you don’t just need audio cables but power cables as well.
As I also explain in my Enjoy Your Workstation eBook, the latter would be good to run them through a power supply with built-in interference filter, or alternatively you may want to resort to a UPS.
The last items on this long list that will be useful to you are:
- Pop filter, for use on microphones if you are recording vocals.
- Microphone stands for recording. From the straight ones for singers, to the adjustable giraffe ones for every type of instrument, to the dwarfs for bass drums and amplifiers.
- Hard disk for session backup. Never ever leave the projects you are working on or have completed on your PC alone.
- You should have at least two copies of each project in your DAW; one of these you can put on an external HD.
- To do this you can also choose an inexpensive product, such as those of the Western Digital Elements series.
- You may also find some of the “gadgets” you find in this article very useful: 10 Accessories that cannot be missing in your Home Studio.
That’s almost everything, you are missing only one last element, alas the most problematic.
You can also have the best equipment in the world, but if you produce music or mix in a room with uncontrolled acoustics, you will hardly be able to take your work to a high level.
This is one of the reasons why I mentioned at the beginning of the article that in some situations the use of headphones is indispensable. In fact, with a headset there are fewer problems related to the listening environment.
On the other hand, using only a headset risks bringing enormous problems, greater than those you would have from listening through monitor speakers in an untreated room.
Unfortunately there is no way out, with audio it is always a game of compromises between what you want and what you can actually do.
Telling you what you specifically need is really too complex not knowing the peculiarities of your room and not being able to assume that you have a full knowledge of the main concepts of acoustic physics and can interpret exactly the acoustic response of your work environment.
So I’ll just tell you this: consider the acoustic treatment of your home studio as an element of primary importance.
Whatever your budget, allocate a good percentage to acoustic treatment and, if you need it, also to acoustic insulation.
Without having to spend astronomical sums, know that you can buy cheap absorbent acoustic foam panels to reduce reverberation and any resonances in the mid-high frequencies, and angular bass traps of the same material to attenuate the lower frequencies.
Absorbent panels are available in different variations, thicknesses, shapes and sizes, as well as bass traps.
You could also save a little something or have a better aesthetic result by focusing on a pre-made kit (these are generally calibrated on the cubature of the room on which they will have to be applied).
I would say that’s really all now!
I have shown you all the main elements that cannot be missing in a self-respecting home studio, giving you many practical examples and giving you indications on specific models.
I hope this guide will be useful for you as a starting point to be exploited profitably for setting up your home studio.
Writing it took a lot of time and energy, so I salute you by asking you a small favor: share it with your friends!
In this way you will help me to make it known to others and will therefore allow me to help as many people as possible.