For any musician or sound engineer, building a home recording studio involves a surplus of gear. Knowing the basic gear needed for a home recording studio can be overwhelming for most.
Narrowing down a basic list for gear is something you should do before you begin building your home recording studio. This article will help narrow down what basic gear you need for a home recording studio. You may also find some useful gear you might’ve not realized are needed for a home recording studio.
Basic Recording Studio Needs for a Home Recording Studio
The most important gear piece for any home studio is the computer behind it. You can narrow your decision on your computer between a laptop or desktop. Both have their advantages, and it’s important to decide which type of computer you want before you start looking at specifics.
The advantage of having a laptop is that you’re able to bring it anywhere. Having a laptop makes it possible to record music whenever and wherever you need to. If you want to record some practice sessions easily, having a decent laptop will make the entire process a lot smoother.
The disadvantage of having a laptop is that it’s hard to find a laptop that is as powerful as a desktop. The goal is to be able to create a great enough place to record and make music. Portability should come 2nd when you’re deciding on a computer for your home studio. People will come to where you are to make music, if it’s a great place to record.
As noted, the advantage of having a desktop is being able to build it to your liking. If you don’t want to build a computer, you can buy pre-built desktops as well. For a home studio, I highly recommend a desktop over a laptop since desktops tend to be more powerful than laptops. Professional studios tend to use desktops over laptops because of this reason.
Definitely invest a decent chunk of change into your computer. When you think of “gear” for a studio, a computer isn’t something that normally comes to mind. People think of amplifiers, microphones, etc. All of which are important, but a computer is where you’ll be spending most of your time at your studio. Keep that in mind when you plan out what computer is best for you.
A DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) Software
DAW Software is a software that is used for recording, editing, and producing audio files. In other words, this is the program that’ll be used throughout the entire recording process.
It’s important to figure out what DAW software is best for you. There are several different variations of DAW software, that range in price as well.
The decision behind picking a DAW software depends on your budget, and whether you use a pc or mac. Like the decision on what computer you should buy, know that the amount of money you put towards a DAW software is what you’ll get back in return.
There’s plenty of free DAW software that’s very easy to use, and gets the job done. However, once you learn more about recording, you’ll realize you’ll want to have the ability to do more. If you only plan to record for fun, then you won’t have to worry too much about the higher end DAW software. Keep in mind that having free versions of DAW software will you make your recording ability very limited.
Some computers come with free DAW software already installed. For example, all macs come with Garageband; a free DAW software that is popular among beginners. Besides computers, a lot of audio interfaces come with a DAW software to use. You can also look at free versions of industry standard DAW software, to get a taste of that specific DAW software and if it’ll work for you.
DAW software that is more expensive is more beneficial to someone who is looking to create an amazing studio. Expensive DAW software is for not just creating demos, but to also record and release music. All the industry standard DAW software tends to be a bit pricey. However, once you pay for the software, you’ll always have the newest version of that specific software.
It’s important to know what you want to accomplish with your own home studio, and how much you’re willing to spend on something as essential as DAW software. If you want to make an incredible home studio, the answer is to never cheap out. DAW software is one of the most essential pieces of gear for a home studio.
A MIDI controller is a hardware or software that generates and transmits MIDI data to MIDI-enabled devices. A lot of the time this is done to create MIDI drum tracks. This is a way musicians and sound engineers can create drum tracks without having a drum kit or drummer present.
MIDI keyboards are a must for people who write or record rap, pop, or lo-fi music. As noted before, they’re great for people who don’t have a big enough space to record drums. MIDI keyboards are great to use if you want to emulate a drum kit very easily.
MIDI keyboards are also great for producers. Because of the wide array of sounds you can get from a MIDI keyboard, MIDI keyboards are one of the most sought out products for producers.
Besides the drum track, MIDI keyboards are great for a written piece of piano. Just like it says in the name, you can use a MIDI keyboard for keyboard parts.
Just like everything else, you can find a wide variety of prices on MIDI keyboards. Even if you have a big enough space to record drums, definitely get some sort of MIDI keyboard just to have. You never know when you might want to use it, and how useful it can end up being.
It’s important to know that when you’re building a home studio, the more variety of things you have to record with, the better.
A MIDI controller/keyboard is an important piece of gear for anyone who is building a home studio.
For more information on Keyboard Controllers. Read our reviews for the Best Keyboard Controller Review & Buyer’s Guide.
In simple terms, an audio interface is something that expands what you can do on a computer for recording. Most audio interfaces give you the ability to connect microphones, guitars, keyboards, and more. An audio interface is an essential piece for any recording studio.
Once you have a solid computer, and DAW software, an audio interface is one of the most important parts of a studio. A lot of studios can have up to ten to thirty audio interfaces at once because of the vast differences in sound each one can give you.
Think of an audio interface as what you’ll constantly use to record an instrument or vocals. You need an audio interface to make sure you can record the best possible sound from something.
If you’re only looking to casual record music, definitely look into the cheaper audio interfaces that are available. A lot of the cheaper audio interfaces are just direct-in audio interfaces, that go directly from a cable to your computer. The direct-in audio interfaces are very easy to use, and great for people who aren’t looking to make a world renowned studio.
The more expensive audio interfaces are a necessity for people looking to create a professional home studio. Almost all the professional studios in the world have multiple audio interfaces, so keep that in mind when you plan out your home studio. It’s definitely something you’ll want to continually invest in.
For more information on Audio Interfaces. Read our reviews for the Best Budget Audio Interface Review & Buyer’s Guide.
Just like when you see a live band, microphones are just as important for recording music as they are for live performances. If anything, microphones are more important for recording music.
There are several different types of microphones you’ll need for your studio. Two of the main types of microphones being Condenser and Dynamic microphones. Condenser mics work better with high frequency instruments such as cymbals and piano. Dynamic mics work better on drums, and electric guitar because of how well they work with low-mid frequency instruments.
Because of the amount of microphones you’ll need, microphones are one of the most expensive aspects of a studio. Once you begin purchasing all of them, you’ll realize how fast it can add up.
First and foremost, you’ll need a microphone to record vocals. If you only want to record demos, and casually record music, you can get away with just having a microphone for vocals. You can use a MIDI keyboard for drums, and DI everything else, but you’ll still need some sort of microphone for vocals.
The more expensive the microphone, the better it’ll be. If you’re looking to save a few bucks on a simple home studio, you can find some cheap recording packages that come with a microphone.
These packages are great for simple home studios. However, you cannot cheap out if you’re looking to build an amazing home studio.
Besides a microphone for vocals, you’ll need microphones for drums, amplifiers, acoustic instruments, and much more.
Microphones tend to be one of the most expensive aspects of a studio, but they’re something that can turn your home studio from decent to great. The more microphones you have, the better. Start out small by buying just a decent vocal microphone, and branch off into buying a few other microphones for drums and amplifiers.
Keep in mind that microphones are one of the most important pieces of gear for a home studio.
For more information on All Purpose Mics. Read our reviews for Best All Purpose Microphone for Recording Review & Buyer’s Guide.
When I mention headphones, I don’t mean airpods. Headphones are an important piece of gear for your home studio because it’s how you’ll hear your recordings.
I highly recommend noise-cancelling headphones. Noise-cancelling headphones will make you be able to fine-tune a song to perfection. After you buy a great pair of headphones for yourself, realize you’ll need to buy a few more pairs for anyone who records in your studio.
The better quality headphones will give you the exact sound you’re creating, and will make it easier on your ears to figure out what you need to adjust. It might seem like shelling out a few-hundred bucks on headphones seems like the least of your worries gear wise. However, you’ll soon realize how big of a difference headphones will make on your recording experience.
Keep in mind the amount of headphones you’ll need gear wise. If you plan on doing huge projects that involve a lot of people, then you’ll need several pairs of headphones.
For example, if you’re recording vocals or drums, then you’ll need a pair of headphones for the person who is actually doing the recording. Having multiple pairs of headphones is a must for any type of studio.
I recommend a great pair of headphones for yourself, and a good amount of headphones for anyone who records at your studio.
For more information on Studio Headphones. Read our reviews for Best Headphones for Music Production Review & Buyer’s Guide.
Studio Monitors (Studio Quality Speakers)
Studio monitors are great for a studio because it’s how you’ll be able to play your recording to an entire room at once.
Besides playing a finished track back to people to make sure they like it, studio monitors are great during the recording process.
For example, studio monitors are great for recording an instrument like guitar. The studio monitors make it so every person in the room can hear exactly what’s going on.
You don’t necessarily need to shell-out a ton of money on studio monitors, but having a pair will make your entire recording process a lot easier.
Besides the actual recording, studio monitors help emulate how a lot of people will end up hearing the music you record. If the music you record ends up being released, then a lot of people will listen to it in their car.
The range of studio monitors will make it easy to demonstrate a recording to multiple people at once and what you need to do to that song to perfect it.
You don’t need to spend a lot of money on studio monitors, but it’s important to buy studio quality speakers. If you buy something that isn’t of great quality, then your recordings might playback weaker than they actually are.
For more information on Studio Monitoring. Read our reviews for Best Studio Monitors Review & Buyer’s Guide.
XLR Cables, Mic Stands, Pop Filters
XLR cables are what you’ll need to connect your microphones to your audio interface. Having an abundance of XLR cables should be considered when you’re buying them. When a cable breaks, and you need a backup.
One of the necessities for a home studio are cables in general. Keep in mind to have enough cables for the people who use your home studio with you.
Having an abundance of cables is great if a person has a crazy idea that requires a lot of cables. You’ll come out as a savior for being prepared. Plus, relying on the exact number of cables you need will only cause unnecessary stress on yourself when you need another cable.
When you record vocals, the person or yourself can’t be sitting down while singing. It’s important to have a few mic stands available for them to choose from.
No matter what type of studio you plan on creating, pop filters are a must. Pop filters are a noise reduction filter for microphones. They make your microphones sound significantly better, especially when you record vocals.
For any recording, it’s pretty difficult to get away with not having a pop filter of some sort.
XLR cables, mic stands, and pop filters are all important for your studio since they’re what you’ll use to record vocals.
For more information on XLR Cables, Mic Stands,and Pop Filters. Read our reviews for Best XLR Cables Review & Buyer’s Guide, Best Mic Stand Review & Buyer’s Guide and Best Pop Filter Review & Buyer’s Guide.
Acoustic Panels, Bass Traps, Diffusers
Wall Acoustic panels are used to absorb sound. Meaning they’re not used to soundproof a room. Rather than blocking out sound coming from outside, they soak up all of the unwanted noise. Which makes your space have a way better listening environment. You can place acoustic panels throughout a room for them to work effectively.
Diffusers are used to make all of the sound energy in room evenly distributed. Generally speaking, diffusers vary from space to space on where you should place them.
All three of these are pieces of gear that’ll make your home studio top-notch. It’s important to figure out how to make your studio sound better.
Of the three, acoustic panels are generally the most important sound enhancement you can have on a room. However, you’ll definitely want to invest in all three in order to perfect the sound of your room.
Once you end up perfecting the sound of your room. You’ll realize what a difference it can make on your recordings. However, if you’re casually making music for fun. Then obviously you don’t need to shell-out money and time on different types of panels. Definitely use your money to get the other gear on this list first, before you look into sound treatment.
For more information on Acoustic Panels, Bass Traps, and Diffusers. Read our reviews for Best Acoustic Panels Review & Buyer’s Guide, Best Bass Traps Review & Buyer’s Guide and Best Acoustic Diffusers Review & Buyer’s Guide.
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HOW TO: Setup a Home Music Studio for Beginners (2023)
Everything I listed in this article should give you a general idea about the basic gear needed for a home studio. Before you buy anything, always give yourself a budget and plan out the space you have for your studio. Know the basic gear before you dive into other types of gear.
Realize what you want to do with your home studio. Whether you want to build a studio that is equivalent to a professional studio, or just want something you can use to casually record music.
Remember to look at this basic gear list clearly, and to not jump too far ahead. For example, you shouldn’t buy a pop filter if you don’t own a microphone yet. Buying equipment that you can’t even use will only delay yourself from building the best studio for you. Start out small, and make monthly goals for yourself.
Knowing your goal from the beginning will help plan out what necessities you need for your studio. No matter what type of studio you end up creating, always think of it as an on-going project. Even if you already invested thousands of dollars into. There’s always a better piece of gear that can improve your studio.
Be happy with the studio you’re creating. Once you get the basic gear out of the way, you can start adding pieces of gear to add your own flavor to the mix. Eventually, you’ll have a solid home studio that’ll impress any musician or gear nerd.
Never stop creating, and continue to buy gear to help your studio. You’re only as good as the equipment around you. If you surround yourself with gear that isn’t up to standard, then you’re only holding yourself back.
Gear is expensive, but it’s worth it. You can’t expect to accomplish anything without an investment. If you want to create a home studio, then go out and buy the gear to do it.
About the Author
Michael-B is a Music Producer, Musician, and Formally Trained (and was Certified by the Recording Institute of Detroit in 1986) Recording Engineer. As of 2022, He's built 3 home recording studios go back to 1987, where he wrote, played all the instruments, and recorded his music. Michael B is also a Writer, Chief Editor and SEO of TrackinSolo.com