Today we’re going to be talking about something that I get asked about a lot as an audio engineer; how to build a home studio? What do I need, how much is it going to cost? What is acoustic treatment? How do I connect everything? It’s an overwhelming and complicated topic.

I’ll give you a basic list of things that you’re going to need if you want to get started with recording or producing music at home. We’re going to talk a little bit about how much it’s going to cost in terms of cash/money.

Just to start of, if you are somebody who is interested in starting producing music at home, welcome to the brotherhood! It’s a whole lot of fun. But it can also be extremely intimidating for beginners. However, it is not as complex as many of you may think. This is why we’ll walk you through the list of things you will need to build your own home studio. Keep in mind, that these set of rules apply to any studio setting.

List of Things You Will Need To Build Your Own Home Studio

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1. A Computer (PC or Mac)

It really doesn’t matter if you have a Mac or a PC. They each have their pluses and their minuses, but both are going to work just fine. It will change your software options just a little bit (personally I use Windows 10 on a Dell Desktop). Whether it’s a desktop or a laptop, a Mac or a PC, it doesn’t really matter. You are going to need something. Another important thing to keep in mind is the specifications of that computer (processor speed, ram etc..). Fortunately, pretty much all computers these days are going to have no problem running basic audio software. You really don’t need some crazy powerhouse computer! My computer has a 6 cored AMD processor, and 24 GBs of ram, and even that is already a lot (everything runs smoothly). When you’re just getting started any computer will really do job. It’s only at a later stage, when your projects get bigger, that you’ll need to think of a more power computer.

2. An External Hard Drive/SSD

You can get an external hard drive/SSD for super cheap these days, especially on amazon/ebay. It’s always nice to have a little bit of extra storage on your computer, where you can store your files and your project sessions and if you end up downloading some sample libraries at some point, you’ll have a place to put those as well. You don’t need something massive (terabytes, and terabytes of space), but 256gb external hard drive will be a great addition! It’s a good recommendation, especially if you enjoy music as much as I do. You’ll be shocked how much data you’ll require, when recording different song ideas and all that kind of stuff. Therefore, I would definitely recommend an external hard drive of some kind.

3. A DAW (Production Software)

What software/DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) will you want to work with ? It’s a buzzword we use to describe music production software. I use Presonus studio 1. It is my personal DAW of choice. It’s a wonderful piece of software. But it would probably be a little bit advanced for a beginning user. You will need to decide on what piece of software you would like to work with.

4. An Audio Interface

That sounds like a very complicated term that means some crazy technical thing, but it isn’t really. An audio interface is basically a box that you plug into your computer, usually over USB, that allows you to plug in microphones, guitars. In turn, the interface takes that sound/signal and turns it into computer language (binary) that the computer can understand and store as data. The audio interface is also where you connect your speakers through. And who sends that digital audio back out and converts it into normal sound that can be recreated by speakers. You can think of the audio interface as the brain of your whole studio. There are lots and lots of excellent budget options from companies like Focusrite, Steinberg, Behringer. There are a lot of very cheap options out there. They are also generally very easy to set up. You don’t need to have a lot of technical know-how to get them installed. It’s something that you’re going to need in order to have your home studio functioning properly.

5. A Good Pair of Headphones 

Any basic pair of closed back headphones will do just fine. There are lots of options available from companies like Audio Technica, Sennheiser, Tascam. They can be found pretty easily on any music website like guitarcenter or musicians’ friend. You can also purchase them on amazon/ebay, anywhere you like. You will want to make sure that they are specifically closed back headphones. What that means is that the ear pieces are completely covered in some type of hard material like plastic. This prevents the sound from leaking out of the headphones. When you’re a guitar player and you’re recording a guitar part. You want to be insulated from any external sound, so that you can get a very clean interpretation of what you’re playing, while you’re playing it.

6. A Pair of Studio Monitors

« Studio Monitors » is a fancy term for a speaker. The ones I’m using from a Danish company called “Dynaudio”. They’re high end. But there are of course lots of affordable options for studio monitors out there. You can get a pair for as little as 100 or 200$, that will serve you just fine when you’re starting out. Studio monitors are not just called speakers because they’re built and designed slightly differently from regular speakers. The speakers that you are probably familiar with, which you’re using in your home theater system or in your car, are designed by their manufactures to sound really good. They make it sound as if the speakers have a natural EQ, that emphasizes treble frequencies, and bass frequencies. It tries to make the sound a little bit different, in order for it to sound « very big » and « in your face ».

We don’t want that in a recording studio. What we want is a speaker that is designed to play back the sound, as naturally and neutrally as possible, without altering it in any way or emphasizing any part of the frequency spectrum. They’re also called reference monitors, and they are very accurate in terms of the sound that they put out. It’s not going to push the sound of your music in any direction. It’s just going to let you work on it, get it to sound it exactly how you want. Once it sounds good on studio monitors, when you take it to other studio speakers, it’s going to sound even better.

7. A MIDI Controller

If you’re a keyboard player of any kind, you’re definitely going to want a MIDI Controller or a MIDI Keyboard. This looks exactly like a piano, but it doesn’t actually make any sound on its own. You also connect it to the computer using USB and you can use it to control software instruments. Software instruments are plugin pieces of software (AU/VST) that operate within your DAW. They let you get all kinds of fun sounds (synthesizers, pianos, organs, electric pianos, ambient sounds kit etc…). Ultimately the MIDI keyboard is just there to let you play it like a piano. If you ever took piano lessons when you were a kid, or you’re a keyboard layer now, this is definitely going to be an essential part of your studio. It will let you play all of your software instruments and get your tracks going.

8. A Microphone

If you’re a singer or instrumentalist of any kind (acoustic or electric guitar, or you sing), you’ll definitely want a good quality microphone. This is another thing where there are a lot of misconceptions about how much you need to spend on a microphone. You can absolutely get really good quality microphones for as little as 50$ or 100$. My best budget recommendation is the MXL 99B. You can usually find them new anywhere from 50 to 80$ (very simple, very easy to use, comes with a few great accessories like a shock mount that holds the microphone in place, and prevents it from getting knocked around). In addition to the microphone, you will need a cable, a microphone stand, and I would also recommend picking up a pop filter, which you screw on the microphone stand and it prevents your breathing or plosive sounds from damaging or interfering with the signal that the microphone is receiving (how to record vocals) .

9. A Computer or Office Desk

The last component of your setup that you’re going to need to worry about, are what you physically set everything up on. You will need some kind of a desk. You can use everything from a cheap and basic computer desk that you get at a Walmart, up to a big and fancy custom built desk like the one that I have here. Obviously you’re probably not going to need a complex desk if you’re just starting out, and you don’t have piles and piles of rack to deal with. But any basic computer desk will be fine. You just want it to be nice and sturdy and have enough room on it for whatever equipment you either already have or feel you’re going to need.

In addition to that, definitely get a good comfortable office chair if you are not planning on playing guitar or bas or something like that, you can get one that has armrests. If you are a guitar or bass player, I would recommend one with removable armrests so that it’s a little bit more comfortable to sit in while you play an instrument.

10. Acoustic Treatment

The final thing we’ll talk about is acoustic treatment. Acoustic treatment is designed to treat the sound of the room where you find yourself in. This is a very complex topic but also a very important one. Suffice to say that it is a very important part of setting up your recording studio.

Conclusion | That was a rough overview of the basic equipment that you’re going to need to set up your first home recording studio. It can sound like a lot, it can be intimidating and it is a fair amount of stuff that you’re going to need to invest in to really do it correctly. But what you will get out of that investment is years and years of enjoyment and inspiration, and creativity, and potentially a whole career. That’s what ended up happening for me. I would definitely suggest that you guys get into it and have fun with it first and foremost. We get asked all the time how much is all of this going to cost $. That ultimately is up to you. It can cost as much as 50,000$ like my own studio. Nonetheless, I obviously have much more than these basic components that we talked about. I would say that you shouldn’t need to spend much more than about a 1000$ to get everything that you really need. That is of course assuming that you already own a computer. Everything else is a little bit less expensive. That is really going to be the priciest item on this list. You can get microphones for under a 100$, a pair of monitors is going to cost you 100$ to 200$. Headphones 20$ to 50$. None of its is particularly expensive on its own. It does add up a little bit, once you factor in everything. If you want to invest more than that you certainly can, and if you want go by with less than that, you can certainly do that as well.

A central piece of music production equipment is the audio interface. Its importance can be underscored by the fact that it provides the conversion between digital and analog audio signals. Digital audio is converted from your computer (0100110) into an analog audio signal which goes anywhere from -3.3V to + 3.3 V. This conversion can also be made in the opposite way (from analog to digital). Both of these processes have a specific name: digital-to-audio conversion and audio-to-digital conversion. To perform these functions there are responsible chips that are DAC’s (digital-to-audio conversion) and ADC’s (audio-to-digital conversion). Most audio interfaces have both of these chips.

A central piece of music production equipment is the audio interface. Its importance can be underscored by the fact that it provides the conversion between digital and analog audio signals. Digital audio is converted from your computer (0100110) into an analog audio signal which goes anywhere from -3.3V to + 3.3 V. This conversion can also be made in the opposite way (from analog to digital). Both of these processes have a specific name: digital-to-audio conversion and audio-to-digital conversion. To perform these functions there are responsible chips that are DAC’s (digital-to-audio conversion) and ADC’s (audio-to-digital conversion). Most audio interfaces have both of these chips.

A central piece of music production equipment is the audio interface. Its importance can be underscored by the fact that it provides the conversion between digital and analog audio signals. Digital audio is converted from your computer (0100110) into an analog audio signal which goes anywhere from -3.3V to + 3.3 V. This conversion can also be made in the opposite way (from analog to digital). Both of these processes have a specific name: digital-to-audio conversion and audio-to-digital conversion. To perform these functions there are responsible chips that are DAC’s (digital-to-audio conversion) and ADC’s (audio-to-digital conversion). Most audio interfaces have both of these chips.