In my most recent post, I talked about the process I used to make demos. I’m lucky enough to have amassed a healthy arsenal of recording gear, and I have a penchant for spending my hard-earned dollars on more stuff.
That being said, the only reason I have more gear now is because I make money recording EPs and demos for other artists. When it was just me and the band making demos, we made do with very little.
After reading about the process of making demos, you may have decided you want to give it a shot. So, in this post I will be laying out an ideal home studio setup for two different price ranges.
I will create setups for budgets under $500 and under $1500. Not only should this suit your personal financial abilities, but it will give you and idea of what you should add to your studio if you run into extra cash!
The Ideal Home Studio: Under $500
I’m not going to lie, if you only have $500 to spend, you’re going to be pretty limited in what you can do. But that’s not to say you can’t make it work! For the purposes of this budget, I am going to assume that you: a) have a computer, and b) have all the instruments you require.
Pretty much everyone has an instrument and some sort of computer. Even a cheaper Chromebook that has to be used via Chrome can use an internet recording service like UJAM or Audiotool.
That being said, if you have a PC or a Mac, I would strongly recommend a piece of free or low-cost software such as GarageBand or Reaper. A web-based DAW (digital audio workstation) has very strict limitations.
Here is what you need to build a basic home studio under $500. I’ve included my gear recommendations for each item, along with the price.
For starters, you’ll need:
- A computer (if you have one already, use it!)
- A DAW/audio interface combo (Avid Fast Track Duo with Pro Tools Express, $233)
If you have a Mac, I would recommend a Scarlett 2i2 for your audio interface, which costs $175. This way you get a great interface and you can just use GarageBand, which is sufficient for most recording needs.
I would always recommend getting a two-input interface (or more). That way you can record in stereo from keyboards and record more than one thing at a time.
You’ll also need:
- One set of headphones (Audio-Technica ATH-M20x, $49)
- 1 large diaphragm condensor microphone (Audio-Technica AT2035 large diaphragm studio condenser microphone bundle with shock mount, pop filter, and XLR cable, $150)
- 1 pop filter
- 1 XLR cable
- 1 shock mount
All of the above items can be purchased for $150 in a killer package from Audio-Technica. This was my first mic, and it has served me very well. I have recorded drums, vocals, room sounds, strings, acoustic guitars and more with it. And it sound pretty darn good!
Are there microphones that sound better? Yes. But this is your best bang-to-buck ratio.
Finally, you’ll want:
- 1 mic stand (Musician’s Gear Tripod Mic Stand, $35)
Pretty simple right? With this gear, you can make some pretty great demos.
The Ideal Home Studio: Under $1,500
If you’ve got $1,500 to spend, you can have some real fun building a home studio. Let’s break it down into what you need.
To be clear, I’m assuming that you already have a decent PC or Mac and the instruments you need to record.
A DAW/Interface Combo
This all depends what you need to record. If you’re recording live drums, you’ll need at least four inputs, so let’s start there.
One of my favorite USB audio interfaces is the Steinberg UR44.
It sounds great, it’s well-built, and it comes with Cubase. I’ll admit that Cubase is… not my favorite DAW, but it’s absolutely usable. This comes in at around $300.
Studio Monitors, Cables and Stands
If you have $2,000, I’ll always recommend a decent pair of monitors and stands. You get a much better monitoring experience if you have stands, and you’ll churn out way better mixes with than without.
For beginners, I recommend the KRK Rokit 5 G3’s.
Coming in at just $300, you can’t go wrong. The fact is, these are great entry-level monitors, which is why everybody uses them.
To accompany your new monitors, buy a pair of Ultimate Support JSMS70 Speaker Stands. These come in at around $75. You can also easily make your own (that’s what I did) for around $50.
You’ll also need a couple of stereo quarter inch cables for your monitors. These will come in at around $50 for the pair.
Microphones bear the brunt of my gear buying fetish. Here are my top picks.
1-2 SM57 Microphone Packages
Every studio needs at least one SM57. If you can, pick up two. You get a great mic, a stand, and a cable, all for just $150.
1 Large Diaphragm Condenser
Generally, you’ll use this microphone for vocals. However, it can also be used for drums, guitars, and anything else you want. Here are my top picks under $300.
I mentioned the Audio-Technica AT2035 package earlier, and it includes a lot of the accessories you’ll need. It only costs $150 to boot. This was my top choice in the under $500 section, and remains my top choice here.
If you’d like to step things up a bit, my personal favorite is the Blue Microphones Bluebird condenser mic. Coming in at exactly $300, this mic looks and sounds great. I love it.
A Matched Pair Of Small Diaphragm Condensers
Really the only pair worth buying in this price range is the Samson C02. Samson does not have a good reputation, but these microphones are legit, especially for just over $100.
If you pay a little more, the AT2021’s come in at $160 for the pair. They are also a good option.
All of this stuff comes in at $1,335, which is not bad considering the amount of music you’ll be able to make!
Did I forget something? What does your home studio look like?
Setting up a home studio need not cost a lot of money. Plus, you can upgrade as you are able. This is really the best approach, since you won’t have to stretch your budget. Buy responsibly, because studio gear can be addicting!