Updated: Nov 7
Ever since One Direction stole the limelight in The X Factor UK many musicians have started to look at reality shows and online gigs as a platform to establish their music and careers. With the right guidance and quality gear assembled at their home studios it has been possible for many to be heard across a wider audience. As Billy Joel rightly said, “Musicians want to be the loud voice for so many quiet hearts.”
At the outset, let us clarify that there is no comparison between a home studio and a recording studio with pro recording gear - microphones to processors, limiters, compressors, EQ’s - all of which can make music sound great. Then there is the price tag that comes with it. There is also another line of thought that many musicians believe that music created should be straight from the heart – with only acoustic instruments and vocals. Over the years, given our close association with musicians and the music industry we often get asked this question time and again – what does one need to get a home studio setup without burning a hole in my pocket - so you can focus on just creating great music?
With the current lockdown structure looking like its not ending any time soon, most musicians have taken up to streaming jam-ups and live performances from their homes to connect with their audience. If you or someone you know is doing something similar then this blog is for you.
Home studio essentials:
Setting up your home studio without a budget constraint is certainly impressive but very seldom the case. So to make it easier for you, we are going to list down the essentials - or the must haves - in your home studio along with a few options / accessories that go with it to help you get a good recording or online gig. Within the blog we have linked products that are available at our online store for easy reference and purchase.
Right off the bat – you don’t need too many pieces of equipment to get the job done. The first four in the list are critical for your recording and must not be comprised upon. Within the optional list, you can work around some of these items. For example don’t necessarily need acoustic treatment, as a lot of musicians learn to mix on headphones.
Just after the list of items mentioned below, we have briefly explained the importance of each essential item and how this can add value to your recording. So here goes the list:
1. Audio interface
2. Pre amp
5. Monitor speakers
6. Microphone Cable & stand
7. Pop shield
8. Acoustic Treatment
ESSENTIAL ITEM #1 – Audio Interface
This simple box helps you connect the microphone, speakers and headphones to your computer and is the most essential piece of equipment if you are recording at home. For a beginner, the best bang-for-your-buck audio interface is either the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 or the Behringer UM2 Audiophile with a Xenyx Mic Preamp. This "studio in a little black box", as it is so often called, offers flexibility and ease of use for excellent results. It is also compatible with popular recording software including Avid Pro Tools or Ableton Live. Depending on your need for more channels if you have many musical instruments or a group of singers you could opt for a larger interface. Check out the deals we have on the Focusrite and Presonus range of
audio interfaces on our online store.
ESSENTIAL ITEM #2 - Preamp
Ever wondered why your voice sounds so transparent and lacked the warmth and volume of other performers? Try recording again after plugging your guitar or microphone into a preamp. It’s an easy and inexpensive way to get better source sound. To capture warmth in your vocals use an audio cable rather than an instrument cable. It certainly helps! Check out the Cordial Audio cable options we have online depending on your requirement. If you are unsure, call our store and our team would be happy to help you choose the best alternative for your budget and requirement.
ESSENTIAL ITEM #3 – Microphone
Choosing the right microphone requires a bit of research and understanding of your tone and voice. Our earlier blog on microphones can help you narrow down your options for you. While choosing a microphone, remember to choose one that captures decent clarity in vocals and provides a more natural sound that’s true to the original. Click here - to read previous blog on microphones.
ESSENTIAL ITEM #4 – Headphones
You have two options here for your recordings: closed-back or open-back headphones. For your first pair, a closed-back headphones is recommended. Audio Technica has a great range of headphones which fit the bill. Our choice would be the Audio Technica ATH - M20x.
ESSENTIAL ITEM #5 – studio monitors
Often we get asked why do I need a pair of studio monitors – won’t normal hi-fi speakers do? The straight answer is the difference in the sound. Studio monitors have a flat response so you will hear your recording as it really is – unlike hi-fi speakers which colour the sound. To make things easier, today the market has a range of models which are small enough to slide into a small space on your table or discreetly on the floor. Some homework here is required to ensure you place them in the right place to make sure you are listening to the output out any distortion. Instead of studio monitors, you can look at mixing directly on your headphones. However, we would recommend doing that after a lot of practice – begin first by listening to your mix on studio monitors. The Presonus Eris range are good for their price / performance so check those out at our store.
As mentioned, the other items - microphone stand, pop filter and acoustic treatment are important but optional especially if you are working on a budget. Should you have some extra cash to spare you should put the extra cash into buying a better quality microphone or a pre-amp. They certainly would add value and have a better impact on your final recording.
Finally download some good mastering software. Today mastering software is inexpensive, user-friendly, and very effective. Our online shop has some great pricing options catering a wide spectrum of budgets. Mastering software is a cost effective way for adding that much-needed volume and punch into your recording, especially for artists who are just beginning their careers and are recording a lot of material.
The best part about recording at home is that it gives you the time and freedom to experiment with different genres and styles without having to worry about the money clock that’s ticking away. Of course, it is hard work to build your network and connections in the music world. However, In the long run, it’s all worth the effort.
Knowledge is never wasted and time, money or a pandemic should not be the reason that you stop creating music. As you begin recording in your home studio, bear in mind that you are not going to get your recording, mixing and mastering technique right, overnight. But the knowledge and understanding that you get from recording at your home studio will certainly be of great use when you get your chance under the spotlight!
There is a reason why Reynolds is known as one of the best music stores (both physical & online) in the country. Log onto our online store to see the various deals we have going on this month and more!
Reynolds, bringing music closer to you since 1908.