Home Recording Studio Setup – 12 Essential Items You Really Need

Martin Kristiansen

Martin Kristiansen

My name is Martin Kristiansen and I’m the founder and chief editor of HomeStudioIdeas.com. I’ve been playing, recording and producing music for the last 10 years.

So you’ve decided it’s time to get serious about your music and invest in a home recording studio. 

Good for you! 

Taking the leap to create your own custom recording space can be daunting, especially if you’re on a tight budget. 

Fortunately, setting up a great recording studio in your home doesn’t have to be frustrating or expensive. It can actually be a lot of fun. 

Audio tech has advanced so much that quality equipment is no longer unattainable to the average consumer. A suitable home recording studio can cost you anywhere from $1000 to $10,000, depending on the caliber of items you purchase. 

The best way to stay on budget when putting a recording space together is to know exactly what you need. You can save money in the areas you don’t need, and spend more on the components that will help you make great music. 

For example, if you’re not going to record in your studio, you can skip the cost of microphones. 

If your budget is minuscule, you can also save money by choosing free options for plugins and DAWs (more on that in a moment.) 

While we highly recommend a good pair of studio headphones, monitor headphones will work almost just as well if you need to save money. 

We musicians have to make ends meet, but we also need equipment that allows us to create quality work. That’s why we’ve provided this list of studio options for all price ranges. 

In this article, you will find all of the most essential products for your home recording studio (suited for your budget.) 

This includes:

  • Audio Interface
  • Computer
  • DAW
  • Plugins
  • Microphone
  • Microphone Cable
  • Microphone Stand
  • MIDI Controller
  • Pop Shield
  • Studio Headphones
  • Monitor Speakers
  • Acoustic Treatments

We’ll break down exactly what you need and why you need it. 

Whether you’re an experienced musician who needs an in-home workspace, or a beginner who wants to take advantage of a spare room, we’ve got everything you need to know. 

Read on to start building the personal audio recording space of your dreams. 


1. Audio Interface

Audio interface

An audio interface is crucial for your recording studio. It allows you to plug more instruments and devices into the unit, so you can have all of the equipment you need connecting to one device. 

It’s the central hub of all of your sound throughout the recording process. 

Not only does it convert the notes you play into a format your computer recognizes, but it also routes your audio from your computer to your headphones and studio monitors. 

Most of these devices connect to your tech via USB, but some use Thunderbolt or Firewire. These are a lot faster, but a lot more expensive too. Regardless, all of these types of interfaces will simplify your recording life. 

Audio interfaces have several important features for at-home recording artists. They prevent latency (or delay between the sound and the playback,) host dedicated drivers for high performance in all areas of sound delivery, and act as their own pre-amp. 

While your computer’s built-in sound card is fine for day-to-day use, professional musicians need an audio interface. 

Without one, you will experience significant delays and drops in the overall quality of your recordings. Additionally, you won’t be able to plug in as many instruments as your track might need. 

  • Budget alternative: PreSonus Audiobox USB 96
  • Mid-range alternative: Focusrite Scarlett 4i4
  • Premium alternative: RME Baby Face Pro FS

2. Computer

computer

This is one element of your home recording space you may need to invest a little more in. This is simply because how well your recording computer works will determine how effective your time in the studio is. 

When it comes to a personal music production computer, there are certain specs you should prioritize above others. Knowing what you do and don’t need helps with budgeting. You can save money on the aspects you don’t need and put it toward the components that will make your music shine.

For example, you don’t need to worry about graphics when purchasing a computer for recording. The first thing you should look for is processing power. This is important because how well your audio processes is dependent on your computer’s ability to transmit it instantly. 

You’re also going to use a lot of software, so you need to have the processing ability to run multiple applications at a time. We recommend at least a 2.4 GHz central processing unit (CPU.)

The next thing to prioritize is RAM. No matter how good your CPU is, you won’t get full power out of your PC without decent RAM. We recommend at least 4GB. 

Lastly, you will need as much storage as you can get. You want to be able to save as many audio files as you can, and those take up a good chunk of space. We suggest you purchase a computer with a minimum of 500G of storage. You can always add on more storage later with external devices. 

Another thing to consider is whether you need a desktop or a laptop. If you plan on using the computer strictly for recording in the studio, a desktop may be right for you. 

However, if you like to record live performances or mix beats wherever you go, a portable option will serve you better. 

  • Budget alternative: ACER Aspire 5A515
  • Mid-range alternative: ASOS VIVO Book Pro 17
  • Premium alternative: MacBook Pro

3. DAW

daw

DAWs stands for digital audio workstations. These are electronic software for recording, editing, and producing music.

With a DAW, you can record live audio and virtual instruments. You can also manipulate pre-recorded audio by looping, editing, mixing, or adding effects to it. Most importantly, you can adjust the levels of individual elements to create a clear and balanced track. 

You can access a DAW through a singular software program, or through a less common integrated stand-alone unit. 

DAWs are essential to the recording process. Luckily, there are quite a few free options out there. Some of the best-known DAWs include Fl Studio, Pro Tools, Ableton Live, and Logic Pro.

You get out of a DAW what you put into it. It’s important to take the time to familiarize yourself with whatever software you choose. Building your skills with one will help you develop practical experience with music production. 

DAWs can be incredibly simple or extremely complex, depending on what type of audio mixing they’re designed for. Each DAW has its own learning curve, so don’t get frustrated if it takes you a while to memorize the nuances. 

  • Budget alternative: Audacity (free)
  • Mid-range alternative: FL Studio
  • Premium alternative: Ableton Live

4. Plugins

Plugins are pieces of code you can add to DAWs to enhance their functionality (such as digital signal processing and sound synthesis.) They’re essentially a way to customize your DAW by making it more dynamic. 

There are several different kinds of plugins. The most commonly used ones are equalizers (which remove unwanted frequencies and fixes the tone and balance,) compressors (which control the range of volume,) reverb (which adds depth and space to the sound,) and delay (which lets you manipulate echos.)

It’s not the plugin that’s going to make your music great. It’s what you do with it. Using plugins, you can create something entirely unique. The possibilities are endless. 

Once you choose which plugin is right for you, play around with it. It’s going to take some time to learn and get comfortable with, but the results will be worth it. 

Plugins increase the quality of your recording and give you more control. They’re an easy way to manipulate your sound without spending a lot of money on extra software. 

Before you download another one, make sure you can fully use what you already have. All major DAWs have stock plugins that you can use from the get-go. Otherwise, you may end up with more plugins than you know what to do with.  

The best part? There are a lot of free options available. You can find our list of the best free plugin software here.


5. Microphone

microphone

There are several types of microphones available. Each is best suited for a different recording style and environment. Before you buy, make sure you know which one is right for you.

Dynamic microphones, also known as moving-coil microphones, are one option. They’re cheap and versatile, but they’re not sensitive to high frequencies, so they don’t pick up a lot of background noise. The sturdiness of dynamic mics makes them well suited for the stage. 

If you chose this mic, make sure you or the recording artist stays close to it while performing. Otherwise, you may get low-quality audio. 

Condenser microphones lie on the other end of the spectrum. They’re incredibly responsive and pick up even minor vocal nuances, which makes them great for high-quality recording. These mics are typically more expensive, but they’re small and great for a studio setting. 

If you go with this one, make sure you record in a quiet space or you may pick up unwanted background noise. They also require an audio interface with phantom power to function properly.

There are also different types of microphone connectivity. Your mic will be connected to your computer with either an XLR or a USB cable. 

XLRs are usually heavier, more expensive, and can’t work with a computer without an adapter or interface. Despite the downsides, this type of mic produces much higher quality sound than USBs. 

USBs, however, are easy to use, cheaper, lighter, and directly connect to your device. 


6. Microphone Cable

microphone cable

You might think that a microphone cable is one element you can skimp on, but we highly recommend you invest in a worthy product. 

If you cheap out on a mic cable or choose a poorly made one, your audio quality will suffer immensely. Not only will it wear out quickly, but it will also pick up interference from the surrounding area. 

Additionally, a bad microphone cable won’t be able to withstand the stress of being put away and set back up. If you plan on moving your equipment often, you need to make sure you get a mic cable that can protect the internal components throughout its lifespan.

Imagine moving your nice equipment out of your studio and onto a stage to perform. You’re all set up and ready to play a killer set – until your mic cable shorts out. If you buy a low-quality microphone cable, this could easily happen to you. 

If you’re going to invest in great headphones and microphones, you should get a cable of the same caliber. Luckily, a quality microphone cable isn’t expensive. 

In addition to price, you should consider the length of the cable. Typically, the longer the cable, the lower the accuracy of the sound. 

  • Budget alternative: Cable Matters
  • Mid-range alternative: Planet Waves Classic
  • Premium alternative: Mogami Gold Studio Cable

7. Microphone Stand 

microphone stand

There are several types of microphone stands. Each type is a unique style that’s best suited for a different environment. Which one is best for you will depend on how much space you have, where you’re recording, and your price range. 

There are:

  • Tripod (Standard) Stands: Great for general use for all levels of experience. These are the most affordable and commonly found. They’re easy to use and adjust. 
  • Tripod Boom Stands: These are similar to tripod stands, but boom stands have arms that give them a longer reach. This lets you change the angle and fix the height. This type is good for recording studios that many different artists use. 
  • Round Base Stands: These take up less floor space and are difficult to trip over. They’re perfect for the stage and small studios.
  • Low-profile Stands: This type of mic stand is best suited for recording instruments that are low to the ground, such as kick drums and cellos. They’re essentially miniature boom stands. 
  • Desktop stands: This is a smaller version of the standard mic stand. These are perfect for a small studio or bedroom recording setups. If space is an issue for you, this may be a good option. Desktop stands are the easiest to transport and put away. 
  • Overhead stands: This is the most expensive kind of microphone stand. It’s also the biggest one on this list, so make sure you have the space for it before you buy. These stands are best for recording at extreme angles, such as capturing drum overheads or the audio of several singers. It’s worth noting that it’s also the hardest type of microphone to find.

Now that you know what types of microphone stands are available, let’s look at prices. The cost of mic stands varies widely as some are significantly bigger than others.

  • Budget alternative: Samsung BT4
  • Mid-range alternative: Atlast Sounds PB 21X
  • Premium alternative: Tripod Boom K&M 21021

8. MIDI Keyboard/Controller

midi controller

MIDI (or musical instrument digital interface) controllers and keyboards translate MIDI data (input from the musician, such as a note) to a compatible device or synthesizer. MIDIs allows you to connect and access online libraries of sounds and play them all on one keyboard. Basically, it’s thousands of instruments in one device. 

Musicians use MIDI controllers because it’s much faster than inputting online musical data from a computer mouse and keyboard. This saves hours of time and stress. 

The most common types of MIDI device are keyboards. While at first, they appear to just be regular piano keys, they don’t make sounds. They translate the notes you play into MIDI waves that pass through a sequencer before producing noise. 

Be sure your home studio MIDI controller is equipped with keys, drum pads, and pitch and fade controls. This will give you total control over the sound you’re producing. 

  • Budget alternative: Akai MPK Mini MK3
  • Mid-range alternative: Arturia KeyLab Essential 49
  • Premium alternative: Nektar Impact LX88+

9. Pop Shield

pop-filter

No matter where you are or how great your equipment is, pop shields are vital for quality recording.

This device acts as noise protection for your microphone. After buying a nice microphone and a well-made cable, the last thing you want is popping sounds over your audio. Pop shields stop that unnecessary noise from showing up on your track. 

Pop shields prevent plosives (short sounds produced by the release of a consonant when air is blocked by a vocal track) and exhalations from causing additional feedback and overtaking the recording. 

Most pop shields are made with mesh nylon or metal material. There are advantages and disadvantages to both. Nylon is more affordable, while the metal produces a better sound and is easier to clean. 

If you’re torn between the two options, you can also purchase a dual-layered pop shield. These have one layer of nylon and metal mesh. 

The average pop shield will click right onto your mic stand. It’s a simple must-have for all home recording studios. Fortunately, there are incredibly affordable options available. 

  • Budget alternative: Neewer NWB-3
  • Mid-range alternative: Shure PS-6 Popper Stopper
  • Premium alternative: JZ Microphones JZ PF

10. Studio Headphones

studio headphones

It’s important to use studio headphones instead of regular ones in the studio. Not only do they have better, more dynamic sound quality, but they are designed to isolate the sound and prevent leakage. 

There are two common types of studio headphones–closed-back and open-back. 

Closed-back ones are more commonly used. They prevent sound from leaking out. If sound leaks out while you’re recording, it can be picked up by a mic and ruin the track. That’s why closed-back headphones are best for producers recording in the studio. 

Open-backed headphones are used more for listening to and manipulating pre-recorded material. The open area in the back allows air to flow in and out, so pressure doesn’t build up and alter the sound of the track. These are best suited for producers who like to mix beats. 

If you’re looking for an in-between option, semi-open back headphones are available as well. This type of headphone is great for producers who work with both real-time audio and track mixes, but don’t want to shell out for two separate sets of headphones. 

This is another component of your home studio you should prioritize. Not only do they need to be comfortable for multiple hours of use, but they also need to have clear and accurate sound. 

  • Budget alternative: Sennheiser HD 206 Studio
  • Mid-range alternative: Audio-Technica HTH-M50X
  • Premium alternative: Beyerdynamic DT 1770 Pro

11. Monitor Speakers

Studio monitors

What good is recording music if you can’t enjoy playing it back? 

Home stereo speakers might seem like a good enough alternative, but there is an entire world of high-quality, professional studio monitor pairs waiting for you. 

It’s one thing to listen to music someone else made, and another to listen to your own. When you’re tweaking the nuances of your tracks to get that perfect sound, you need to be able to hear the finer details. 

That’s why you shouldn’t settle for your average computer or home speakers. 

Another reason to use studio monitors is they usually have built-in active (meaning it doesn’t need external amplification) speakers in the unit itself. This allows more power to go through the other areas of the speaker and makes it so you don’t have to lug around an extra amp.

While most have active speakers, many studio monitors have passive ones instead. These require an additional compatible amplifier. 

In addition to active and passive monitors, you’ll choose between near-field and far-field. This heavily depends on how much room you have and whether you’re recording indoors or out. 

Near-field speakers will sit close to you or your recording artist. They are best suited for stands or sitting on top of flat surfaces. These are best for small studios or home recording spaces. 

If you haven’t set up your room acoustics yet, this is one way to negate the effects of the space. Near-fields are great for small frequency responses and accurate recording. This is because the close range reduces the amount of indirect sound the mic picks up. 

Far-field, on the other hand, are designed to be placed around the perimeter of the room. They take advantage of the space’s acoustics to produce a rich, quality sound. These are suited for larger recording studios and events. 

Just like with studio headphones, you will pick up a lot more nuance when listening through monitor speakers. 

  • Budget alternative: JBL 305 PMK11
  • Mid-range alternative: KRK Rokit G4
  • Premium alternative: Yamaha HS8

12. Acoustic Treatments

acoustic treatment

You can buy all of the best equipment out there, but it won’t give you quality sound if you don’t address your room’s acoustics. 

When you play or sing a note, that sound is projected into the room and bounces off every surface it comes in contact with. That residual noise travels back to your microphone and interferes with your recording. 

You want pure direct sound, not indirect reflected sound. There are easy ways to make rooms with terrible natural acoustics sound like professional recording spaces. All you need is acoustic treatment. 

There are three different types of acoustic treatments:

  • Diffusers: These scatter the reflection of the sound so nothing is trapped, and the natural tone is preserved.
  • Bass Traps: These absorb especially low frequencies, but they can absorb higher frequencies as well. These are best for small studios with lots of bass instruments.
  • Acoustic Panels: These are slightly less effective bass traps, but they do cover much more wall space.

While all of these are available for purchase separately, you can save money by buying all three together. There are several options for all-in-one acoustic treatment packages. 

  • Budget All-in-One Package: Primacoustic London 12 Room Kit
  • Mid-range All-in-One Package: Auralex Deluxe Plus Roominator Kit
  • Premium All-in-One Package: Auralex SFS – 112 Sono Flat System

Conclusion

You don’t have to set your music recording dreams aside while you save up for your studio setup. There are many options for great recording equipment in all budget brackets. There are also home recording studio packages available if you want to save some extra bucks (buying each piece of equipment separately is usually more expensive).

Home recording studios aren’t “one size fits all.” They’re dynamic and customizable. Different equipment will work better for different artists. 

Take into account how many other musicians you plan to have in the space with you regularly. You should also have in mind a specific type of music you want to make. Recording live instruments will require higher caliber equipment than mixing tracks. Make sure you know exactly what will work best for you before you buy. 

From microphones to monitor speakers, professional-grade devices make a significant difference in the quality of your music. Do your research and make sure the devices you choose are well suited for your space, your needs, and your goals. 

Now that you know exactly what you need for your home recording studio, it’s time to get started. Check out Home Studio Ideas for more tips and tricks for producing great music today. 

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