It wasn’t too long ago where you had to book time at the super expensive studio in town just to record your demo. Things have changed so much in the last 10 years, where you no longer need to do that. Instead, you can build your own. Use this cheap home recording studio equipment list to build it from the ground up.
So what does it take to do this. Honestly, it takes a little bit of money, and a lot of passion and motivation.
I realize it’s a bit overwhelming and confusing. Like what do you need, whats it for, and how do you use it? I put together this guide to help clear things up and make your home recording studio list not seem so impossible to achieve.
This guide will touch on the more important equipment a home recording studio should have. Let’s assume you have the instruments and the voice to make some sweet tunes. I’ll just go over what you need to capture it.
I just want to let you guy’s know that recording at home isn’t hard, in fact it’s easy and fun. Anyone can do this and I encourage you all to give it a try!
Table of Contents
COMPUTER OR LAPTOP FOR MUSIC PRODUCTION
The digital mother-ship for your home recording studio. It’s important to have a decent computer to plug everything into. It has to be fast, for reasons like, if you have multi tracks going with effects on them, all that makes your computer think and it needs to process fast and efficiently.
For full details, you can read about our best laptop for music production here. I go into MACS Vs. PC when it comes to a home studio. Also go into details about RAM and HARD-DRIVE space, and every other little detail.
Can you use an old or cheap computer for recording? Sure, I have done it before. And these work great for small projects, like a 2-piece band. Keep in mind, you are able to go back and record as many tracks as you like, but recording at once might be limited to 2-4 instruments
I recommend you read our guide on a laptop for music production. Moving on with the cheap home recording studio equipment list, continue reading.
DIGITAL WORKSTATION (DAW)
A Digital Workstation is the main piece of software. All instruments go through here using your computer or laptop.
The DAW for short will be what you use, this will be your studio. Yes, they even make it have a look and feel of a large studio. I love seeing equipment boxes with fader’s and stuff it makes it seem more real. Don’t get me wrong, the sound reproduction is incredible, I just am a visual person and like to see the dials that I turn using the mouse pad. It’s really cool!
There are lot’s of popular DAW software brands, at this point in time I would guess most people use Pro Tools. But there are many options out there and really, they all do the same thing. (Ableton Live, Apple Logic, FL Studio, Propellerhead Reason,etc.) Visually they might look different, but the concept of recording onto a computer is the same.
I recommend you read our guide for best digital workstation here.
This piece of home studio equipment is what you plug your microphones and instruments into. You then send that signal to your DAW and computer for processing and recording.
These audio interface’s are amazing. They actually provide a lot of extra awesome features that you might not be aware of. Here are just a few great things:
If you don’t know this, the stuff listed above would all be a separate unit/equipment in larger studios. For home studio equipment this is the all-in-one money saver piece you need!
I put together a guide on best audio interface, you can read that and get some ideas for some affordable units.
We are all familiar with microphones, and now it comes down to what one should you use. For studio microphones it can get confusing. Let me just explain a few microphone types real quick.
The most common microphone you will find in the recording studio is the condenser mic. These are large and small diaphragm microphones that will require phantom power or come with its own power source to use.
Condenser mics are really sensitive and they respond to sound quicker than a dynamic mic, and they have a great high-frequency response. Mics like this have a thing called transient response. The quicker the transient response the “crisper and less muddy” the sound will be. You need at least one good condenser mic for vocals and acoustic guitar’s.
Condenser Microphones sound great on:
Vocals – Acoustic guitars – Cymbals – Pianos – Strings- Brass – Snare – Toms
Dynamic microphones are second if not first most popular mics you’ll find in any recording studio. They are a general purpose mike, you could really put these types on anything and get a decent recording out of them.
The Sm57 is my workhorse for many different instruments in my studio. It’s always good to have a few of these in your tool box. They are affordable and can handle loud guitar amps, and snare drums really well. I also like these mic’s because they are small and rugged and don’t require any batteries or power source.
Dynamic Microphones sound great on:
Snare drums – Vocals – Guitar Amps – Drums – Horns – Bass – Kick Drum
Of course, there are many more types of microphones, these are the two I recommend when starting off. I have a guide on drum mics that go into detail about mic’ing drums and which ones you should use to get the best drum sounds for recording.
Another essential tool for the home recording studio are microphone stands. You’re going to need a couple of them for sure. But did you know that microphone stands come in many different shapes and sizes.
Each are designed for all different shapes and sizes. So take into consideration what you need them for.
- Guitar mic stand
- Drum mic stand
- Vocal Mic stand
- Boom Mic stand
Keep in mind, if you’re using a large heavier Microphone, you’re going to want a good support at the bottom. Some have heavy steel that weighs enough it won’t tip and some have leg extensions that work like a tri-pod.
If you’re recording vocals with a condenser microphone then you need to invest in a pop filter. This helps with singers and rappers who have explosive breath and pop, usually from words with “p” and “b”. Also, they help keep moisture out of the microphone.
They work by mounting to the microphone stand using the hoop connected to the “goose neck” part of the pop filter. The round mesh diaphragm will be directly in front of the mic. You want the shield to be about 1 1/2 inch away from the mic. And from the there the singer should be another 3 inches away from the pop filter for best results.
CABLES AND CONNECTORS
Once you get the essential set-up you will soon realize that you need cables and connectors. Not just for hooking your microphone up to, but you need cables for the audio interface to the computer to the mixer or preamp. They are necessary for your studio.
Here is a list of common cables your studio might use:
- RCA: (Phono) great for keeping the mix in stereo, also used on mixes and multi-track gear.
- 1/4: GUITAR AND SPEAKER CABLE: (tip and sleeve), these this type has two conductors.
- 1/4″: TRS(tip, ring and sleeve): These are used for balanced signals or stereo. Good for connecting to monitors, etc.
- XLR: These are your microphone cables, male to female 3 pin.
- ADAPTERS: You’ll find the need to make a cable work for you in some way, by using adapters it is possible, I have a jar full from over the years.
One quick way to mess up your studio is cables, keeping the cables neat and out-of-the-way will make them last a lot longer. So, when you’re not using them, wrap them up without kinking them and keep them out-of-the-way.
You’ll need to get at least one good pair of headphones and a couple cheaper headphones for recording. Headphones are important for recording in isolation to keep the sounds from bleeding to the next input.
If you can afford 2 to 4 good sets of headphones then I say go for it. But if not, do what I mention above. Why one good one? I like to have one good one for tracking without the rest of the band. Things like recording vocals or mixing, you’ll have more control and less outside noise coming in. So, that’s why I use 1 good one.
Cheap headphones work great for recording the initial tracks. Lets say Guitar, drums and bass are all tracking in the same room assuming the amps are in separate areas. The headphones are good enough for you to hear whats going on and track your instruments.
Depending on what you plan on recording and how many people will be recording at once, then you can figure out how many headphones you will need.
Assuming you’re recording a 3-4 piece group, you’re going to need to split that headphone signal 4 way’s. So the best way to do that is with a headphone amp. This connects to the source like our audio interface or computer. The main signal goes to the amp, each headset will connect to the 1-4 or more inputs. You can then have control over volume and even some go a lot further.
A good set of studio monitors is an essential part of your studio. You need a good flat source to playback the instruments you are recording. These will be your workhorse while mixing for hours on end.
They are designed to be a flat frequency. They provide and accurate reproduction of instruments being recorded. So if something doesn’t sound good, you know it’s not the monitors.
The nice thing is most monitors are now powered. The advantage there is that the amp is custom to work for those speakers. I have found that you can get a good set of powered monitors for around $300.
Having good quality studio monitors and headphones are key essential gear to have in your studio. For the sake of the end product, this will all be decided through your monitors. We rank this one high on the cheap home recording studio equipment list.
The rest of the gear listed below serves a purpose and can be accrued over time. In the mean time to cut cost, you’ll be creative and find neat way’s to make things work, like isolating your guitar amps and vocals. Which brings me to sound proof.
Eventually you’ll want to damping or sound proof your studio. Doing this will be beneficial to your sound capturing but also for your neighbors and roommates.
Do a test and see if the room is a good sounding room. But if it sounds like a basketball court, it might help to get a few of these for acoustic treatment.
- Acoustic panels
- Bass Traps
- Vocal sound proof
Any of these could make a big difference. Sound does like to travel and in turn make the overall instrument sound like the room, where as say your guitar or snare is bouncing off the walls.
But, let’s say you just want to make an isolation booth, you could get a box of 48 wedges for just under $100, that would be enough to make the room.
It’s not required to have a midi controller, but it is nice to have at least a 25 key midi controller in the studio. You can do some fun things with them and they are reasonable in price.
Have you thought about a virtual instrument? With a small home studio setup, you’re likely to not have every instrument available to you. So, that’s why I like to have this midi keyboard on hand. You can seriously access an unlimited amount of virtual instruments via the internet or create your own.
Sure it’s not the real instrument, but in a pinch you could add a tambourine or extra thick bass to the kick drum or dial-up the 70’s moog. Its unlimited!
CHEAP HOME RECORDING STUDIO EQUIPMENT LIST
This list will be constantly growing, but in the mean time this is a great essential home studio list to get started with. Have fun, and keep on making great music!