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How to set up a home recording studio

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Written by Becky T

Published Mar 28, 2023

Do you dream of spending long afternoons recording music in the comfort of your own home? Perhaps you’re looking to professionalise a podcast and are unsure where to start? We’ve got good news for you. Thanks to the increasing availability and affordability of recording equipment, you can create your very own home recording studio setup with a few simple steps.

So, what exactly is a home recording studio? Most home setups represent simplified versions of the big-budget studios graced by major bands and recording artists. As well as microphones and a decent computer, you’ll need equipment such as a MIDI keyboard, an audio interface, and studio monitors. While this gear may sound sophisticated and costly, you’re likely to stumble upon a few bargains if you shop around carefully.

To help you navigate the confusing world of recording tech and create an excellent home recording studio on a budget, we’ve put together a step-by-step guide below. Of course, we appreciate you may wish to make the most of professional recording space if you’re recording something special. As such, we encourage you to explore our music and podcast studios in London if you’re looking to achieve a crisp sound and enjoy a roomy collaborative space.

Summary:

  1. Find a peaceful space
  2. Soundproof your studio
  3. Invest in a comfortable chair and desk
  4. Purchase a powerful desktop PC or laptop
  5. Find a compatible audio interface
  6. Choose appropriate studio monitors
  7. Select your digital audio workstation (DAW)
  8. Set up your microphones
  9. Invest in decent headphones
  10. Buy a preamplifier
  11. Add a MIDI keyboard
  12. Storage space (and the odd decoration!)

1. Find a peaceful space

Before you start purchasing gear for your home recording studio setup, you must choose a peaceful space where you won’t encounter disruptions (a tricky task if you have kids or live on a busy road!). If you’re a solo songwriter or run a small-scale podcast, you may find that a spare bedroom is large enough for your studio. However, bigger musical outfits may wish to create their own dedicated space for regular recording sessions, in which case you may need to clear out an entire room.

As well as choosing a space that suits your lifestyle, there are a few extra factors to take into account. Firstly, you should avoid low ceilings and square rooms, as this will cause soundwaves to reverberate throughout your studio and ruin the quality of your recordings. Secondly, we recommend choosing a carpeted room with a solid door and few windows, as this will minimise echoes and ensure your recordings are as clean and smooth as possible.

image of a man recording music at a desk in his bedroom
Image by CottonBro Studio

2. Soundproof your studio

If your chosen room is vulnerable to unwanted sounds and disruptions, it is possible to minimise noise pollution. You can soundproof the space by applying acoustic foam absorbers to your walls and bass traps in the corners of the room. While we recommend purchasing professional-grade sound absorption materials for a few hundred pounds, you can use regular foam or even fabric if you’re working with a tight budget.

image of a home recording studio with absorption materials on the wall
Image by Soniq Sounds

3. Invest in a comfortable chair and desk

If you’re planning to spend lots of time in your recording studio, you’ll need a supportive chair and desk to prevent backache. Plus, your desk should be big enough to house your various pieces of recording kit. If money is tight, try exploring second-hand furniture stores or online sharing sites – you may stumble upon a gem!

image of a home recording studio
Image by Caught in Joy

4. Purchase a powerful desktop PC or laptop

Technically speaking, almost any PC or laptop on the market is capable of music production. However, low-grade computer specs could result in poor sound quality and frustratingly slow performance. As such, we don’t recommend opting for the cheapest machine. If necessary, you should try to slim down spending in other areas to make way for a decent computer.

So, what should you look for when shopping for a PC? The following minimum specs should offer a helpful guide:

  • A quad-core (i5 or i7) processor with a clock speed of at least 2.4 GHz: The processor is responsible for the overall speed and performance of the PC. Choosing a high-performance model will help render and export your tracks quickly and reduce lag time.

  • At least 8GB of RAM: The higher your computer’s RAM, the more tasks you can juggle at once. While 8GB of RAM is enough to produce professional tracks, 16GB or even 32GB will help you pull off large projects.

  • A large screen: Although large screens are tricky to transport, they ensure that your editing interface is clear and intuitive. If you would prefer a portable laptop, you may also wish to invest in a separate monitor and HDMI cable for your home recording studio.

  • At least 500GB of internal storage (HDD or SSD): You’ll need plenty of storage to install your editing and recording programmes, virtual instruments, and recorded material. We generally recommend opting for an SSD storage system, as they tend to be quieter than HDD options. However, the latter may be preferable if you’re working with a tight budget or would like even more storage space for large projects or sample libraries.  

  • A robust operating system (64-bit): Most creative editing programmes require at least 64-bit operating systems – the default for modern PCs and Macbooks. 
image of two large computer monitors on a desk in a home recording studio
Image by XXSS

When it comes to the types of PCs and operating systems you should choose, there are no hard and fast rules. However, if you enjoy working with Apple products, you’ll know that Macbooks can be very expensive. At the same time, Microsoft PCs may not offer the same flexibility or ease of use. If you want to keep prices low, it’s worth sourcing individual parts and building a custom PC that suits your needs.  

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5. Find a compatible audio interface

An audio interface is designed to convert both analogue and digital sound signals into a format your computer recognises. While you may be able to record material without an audio interface, investing in one of these handy tools will allow you to use more than one microphone at a time, utilise multiple headphone and speaker outputs, and utilise guitar and keyboard inputs alongside your mics.

The type of interface you require will depend on how many outputs and inputs you require during recordings. Remember – having more inputs allows you to record more sound sources simultaneously. You’ll also need to choose a model that is compatible with your laptop or PC.

image of a Focusrite audio interface
Image by Karolina Grabowska

6. Choose appropriate studio monitors 

Studio monitors are large speakers specially designed for professional audio production. While standard speakers tend to produce pleasant sounds that cover up sonic imperfections, studio monitors are designed for careful listening. A decent pair of studio monitors will pick up any issues with your recording equipment and help you edit your tracks to perfection.

If you’re wondering what type of studio monitors you’ll need, you must consider the size of your home recording studio. Large studio monitors can cause problems in small rooms thanks to their low frequencies. For small or medium-sized rooms, we recommend investing in studio monitors with six-inch drivers. For larger rooms, you may wish to opt for eight-inch drivers. Anything higher than eight inches tends not to be suitable for home studios.  

image of a large studio monitor speaker
Photo by Paul Esch-Laurent

7. Select your digital audio workstation (DAW)

A DAW is a piece of software designed to handle your computer-based recording, production, and editing. DAWs can vary significantly in price, so you’ll need to do your research before selecting an option that works for your needs. Here are just a few of the programmes you’re likely to encounter:

  • Apple GarageBand: Free with all Mac computers, Garageband comes with a substantial array of software instruments and virtual guitar amps. You can generate percussive elements with the programme’s drummer tool and edit your tunes to perfection using Garageband’s smart controls. While the programme is great for beginners, it’s unavailable on non-Mac PCs.

  • Avid Pro Tools: Considered one of the best DAWs for industry professionals, Pro Tools is packed with features and advanced editing tools. Even better, you can test the waters with a free version.

  • Audacity: First released in 2009, Audacity is a completely free application that allows you to record and edit audio on a timeline. However, the software cannot record MIDI, so you’ll need to find alternative programmes through which to use virtual instruments. While Audacity is great for beginners, we recommend putting a portion of your budget towards a DAW if you need advanced features.

  • Steinberg Cubase 11: Cubase 11 is perfect if you’re looking for excellent MIDI editing capabilities. What’s more, its audio production, editing, and mastering features are superior to many other programmes on the market. It’s worth noting, however, that Cubase 11 is a little costlier than its competitors.

  • FL Studio: If you’re a fan of creating electronic music, FL Studio is a pleasingly addictive software. Offering a huge variety of synths, virtual effects, and samplers, the application allows you to get creative and produce cutting-edge soundscapes. However, you’ll need to install plugins to access these effects, and FL Studio isn’t great for completing production tasks.
image of a woman using audio production software on a computer in a home recording studio
Image by Kelly Sikkema

8. Set up your microphones

It goes without saying that you’ll need high-quality microphones in your home recording studio. Obviously, you’ll need at least one microphone for recording vocals, instruments, and other sounds. However, we recommend purchasing at least two microphones for those moments when you need to record two tracks at once.

Before you purchase any new mics, it’s crucial you understand the different models on offer. There are three primary microphone types, including:

  • Condenser microphones: These mics are considered highly versatile and will happily record any instrument. They’re a little more sensitive than other types of microphones and require a small electrical current to function. As such, condenser microphones tend to be less popular in live settings.

  • Dynamic microphones: Dynamic mics are among the more commonly used models (you’ve probably seen them at popular music venues). As well as handling very high volumes, dynamic mics are durable and rugged, making them a great option for rock musicians.

  • Ribbon microphones: As with condenser microphones, ribbon models require external power and are rare outside recording studios. Ribbon mics use very old technology which produces sound as audio waves meet a moving ribbon inside the microphone. While this technology can produce rich sounds, the ribbons are very fragile and may snap when confronted with high volumes.  

If you’re a rookie musician, we recommend investing in a dynamic microphone. As well as operating without the need for extra power, dynamic mics offer durability and affordability. However, if you’re after detailed, textured sounds, a ribbon or condenser mic may be more appropriate.

Remember – you’ll also need stands for your microphones and a microphone cable with XLR connectors. If you want to plug the mic directly into your computer, you’ll need an XLR-to-USB cable. While some mics come with these accessories, you must check you have all the relevant equipment before you start using your home recording studio.

image of a microphone against a black background
Image by Erkan Utu

9. Invest in decent headphones

Over-ear headphones are essential in every recording studio. Also known as “cans”, decent studio headphones are crucial for monitoring, producing, and mixing. While you may feel tempted to purchase headphones online, it’s worth visiting a store to try on different options. As well as selecting a pair that feels comfortable on your head, you should ensure they provide a firm seal around your ears. A strong seal will ensure the sound doesn’t bleed out and affect your microphone(s) during recording sessions. Obviously, you’ll need several pairs of headphones if you plan to record with multiple people.

image of a pair of headphones against a white backround
Image by Kinkate Gruber

10. Buy a preamplifier

A preamplifier – also known as a preamp – will add warmth and body to your tracks. If your microphone sounds a little flat and underwhelming, a preamp could provide the sonic boost you need to bring your project to life. Whether you’re recording vocals or instruments, we recommend investing in a preamp if you’re looking to maximise the quality of your final product.

image of a preamplifier
Image by Norman Hermle

11. Add a MIDI keyboard

MIDI keyboards are piano-style devices that have quickly become staple elements of contemporary recording studios. As well as providing a host of virtual instruments with which to experiment, MIDI keyboards can help streamline production processes such as sampling, patch changes, and more. In other words, a MIDI keyboard could help you edit and layer performances – great news if you’re an electronic music producer or want to experiment with sampling. One of the great things about MIDI keyboards is that they’re relatively inexpensive, with cheaper models coming in at under £100.

image of a MIDI keyboard
Image by Cedrik Malabanan

12. Storage space (and the odd decoration!)

Finally, we would be remiss not to mention the need for storage space in your home recording studio. As your musical talents develop, you’re likely to invest in even more cables, stands, and musical equipment, meaning you’ll need at least one large cupboard to store your items. If you’re concerned about security, it’s worth investing in a lockable cupboard to keep your expensive tech safe.

It's also a good idea to invest in a few decorative items to ensure you enjoy spending time in your studio. If your room is a little dark, invest in soft lighting and a few mood-boosting houseplants. For those with uninspiring rooms, why not add rows of your favourite vinyls or hang your prints of album covers on the walls? Once you’ve started making a name for yourself in the music or podcasting worlds, you may also wish to display awards or documents of your achievements on the walls. Get creative, and don’t be afraid to make the room your own!

image of a living room with vinyl storage shelves fitted into the wall
Image by Charlotte May

What are you waiting for? Set up your home recording studio today!

Now you know how to set up a home recording studio, it’s time to start investing in new equipment and launching your next project. Of course, while home recording studios are great for working on projects in a relaxed environment, rehearsal spaces and professional recording studios have their place in every creative’s life.

For example, you may wish to hire band rehearsal spaces in London if you need to practise for an upcoming gig or browse music video locations if you’re looking to add visuals to your latest track. Fortunately, Tutti is here to help when your home recording studio isn’t up to the job. Our catalogue of stunning local spaces is perfect for hiring affordable creative spaces. Whatever your project or budget, our hosts have a wide range of spaces to hire for virtually any creative purpose.

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