If you’re new to home recording, you will quickly find out that there’s a lot of gear to consider. And consequently, a lot of things you may overlook. So, to help you avoid forgetting any essential pieces of equipment, I have compiled a small list of 10 items every home recording studio must have. I will also offer some gear recommendations to get you going in the right direction.
This post is specifically aimed at newbies, so a lot of this might seem obvious or redundant. But you’d be surprised at how many people overlook the critical gear their home recording studio must have to make quality recordings and mixes in 2020.
1. A Home Recording Studio Must Have a Computer
This one is obvious, but every home recording studio must have a computer – duh. You have to make sure that you have a decent computer that can handle multiple tracks and plug-ins. You don’t need anything too fancy. After all, you aren’t editing video, you are mixing and recording, which does not require much power.
I strongly suggest getting a laptop for mixing and recording so you can create music just about anywhere.
Music radar has compiled an awesome list of the top 10 laptops for mixing music. Here are the top three.
- Apple MacBook Pro 2019
- Dell XPS 13 Laptop
- Huawei MateBook 13 Laptop
To be honest, I think these laptops are performance over-kills. I personally use a Macbook Pro 2013. It’s seven years old but works perfectly fine. Don’t worry too much about the power of the laptop. Just so long as it’s modern and can handle the latest version of your DAW (Digital Audio Workstation), you should be good to go.
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2. Digital Audio Workstation (DAW)
Your home recording studio must have a DAW. The DAW is essentially the computer software that you use to mix and record in. Your DAW is the interface that links all of your gear together, making it one of the most important tools in your creative arsenal.
Since you will spend the most time interacting with your DAW, it’s important to choose one you are comfortable with. There are many DAWs to choose from, and while they all allow you to create music, they all work differently. You might find that one DAW is better for you than another, so I suggest giving a few different ones a try.
Here are three of the most popular DAW in the market as of 2020.
- Avid Pro Tools
- Ableton Live
- Apple Logic Pro
I suggest using Pro Tools. It’s extremely powerful and an industry-standard worldwide, and knowing how to use pro tools can give you an edge if you’re looking for employment at a recording studio.
It should go without saying, but make sure that your DAW is fully compatible with your computer and all other hardware you intend to record with. So if you have a mac, make sure it works with a mac, and if you have a PC, make sure it works with a PC.
3. A Home Recording Studio Must Have A Good Microphone
It should go without saying, but every home recording studio must a proper studio microphone. You can also use the microphone to record guitar amps and any other analog sounds that you can’t or don’t want to plug directly into the audio interface.
Here are a few great microphones to start out with. These mics are high-quality and won’t break the bank.
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I suggest the PGA58-XLR. It is a versatile and durable mic that won’t hurt your pockets. The Shure SM7B is another great one but its really expensive.
If you are in the market for a new microphone, take a look at this video from Recording Revolution on how to choose the right microphone for your home studio setup.
4. A Mic Stand
Don’t forget a mic stand. This is easy to overlooked, but it’s also important, especially if you are recording vocals. Some artists don’t like holding a mic because it restricts their movement and expressiveness while singing. In short, your home recording studio must have this! Well, you don’t need it to be honest, but it will come in handy.
5. Proper Headphones
You can’t just use regular consumer-grade headphones to mix and record. Well, you could, but you won’t be hearing the playback how it actually sounds.
Conventional headphone manufacturers often EQ their headphones so that the music sounds good to the average consumer. The problem is when you’re listening to the music while mixing and recording, you won’t hear your music the way it actually sounds, you will be listening to it the way the headphone manufacturer designed it to sound. A pair of propper studio headphones will allow you to listen to the cleaners playback possible with no fancy bells and whistles.
If you have studio monitors, you are probably going to brush this one off. But don’t because another added benefit of having studio monitors is noise control. You will be able to keep while keeping noise levels in your home studio low, which is extremely important for those of us in home studios with annoying Karen-like neighbors.
Below are a few of my favorite headphones. I recommend the BeyerDynamics 770 Pro headphones. They have excellent reproduction without being too dynamic. You will hear your music the way that it was meant to be heard with these headphones. But don’t just take my word for it. They also have amazing reviews!
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6. Studio Monitors
You will definitely want to pick up a pair of studio monitors. As stated previously, conventional audio manufacturers coat their hardware with little EQ tweaks here and there to give their hardware more color. This is so that audio sounds nicer for the average consumer. But you’re not the average consumer; you are making the music. And as the music maker, you need to hear it as clean as possible. This is why a home recording studio must have a good pair of recording headphones and studio monitors is so important.
Below are a few great studio monitors.
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The Yamaha HS-5’s are a great choice if you want quality without spending too much. From my experience, the sound of the HS-5s is flatter than KRKS, so you really get the true sound of your mix.
7. A Home Recording Studio Must Have Propper Cables
If you are just starting out, you are probably overlooking this. But I can not overstate how important it is that you get high-quality cables. If you buy cheap cables, you run the risk of noise and interference sneaking its way into your recordings. Rendering the whole session useless.
This is the one area where you don’t cut corners (stay away from Hosa). I would suggest getting anything Mogami, some of the best quality cables you’ll find.
8. An Audio Interface
Your home recording studio must have an audio interface because it’s how you get your music in and out of your computer. You need something that has at least two inputs and decent digital conversion. In addition, something that comes with great emulation software. So in order to check off all of these boxes, I suggest the UAD Apollo Twin. It comes with great digital conversion and some great vintage gear software emulations.
Here’s one to consider that won’t break the bank.
9. External Hard Drive
You might think that your laptop has enough storage space, but you’d be surprised by how big these audio files can get. And having all of those files on your computer can overwhelm your computer and reduce the speed of your computer.
If you want, Install your DAW on your computer and save your work on a fast external drive. Preferably a solid-state drive (SSD). I don’t suggest any HDDs because, well its 2020, SSD drives exist, and HDDs have too many moving parts and the likelihood of disk failure is much greater because of it. And if you drop it, the likely hood of destroying your data in an SSD is much lower than in an HDD for those same reasons.
Here are three great portable SSD hard drives to consider
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External hard drives also provide you the additional benefit of taking your mixes anywhere so you can take your work to someone else or mix on the go.
You should also remember t0 always, always, always, back up your work and store your backups in multiple hard drives because hard drives, all hard drives eventually fail, and when they do, you don’t want to lose all of your work.
It’s not absolutely essential, but if you want to make the most out of your workflow, your home recording studio must have an external hard drive.
10. Acoustic treatment
It’s very typical to start buying gear before you treat your room’s acoustics, however acoustically treating a room is one of the first things you should do when setting up your home recording studio. Treating your room will reduce the echoes in your room, allowing you to get a cleaner, more accurate recording.
Treating a room’s acoustics will also slightly reduce the sound that reverberates through your walls, and reduces the overall sound of your studio. It’s not a full-blown soundproofing solution, but it’s a start, and your neighbors will thank you.
If soundproofing is something, you are interested in doing. Take a look at this post we published a while back where we cover how to soundproof your room on a budget.
So before you start buying all the fancy gear, consider riding your recording room of echos. Below a few items to help you reduce those pesky echos.
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Acoustic treatment is one of those things that are not necessary “per se” but if you want to be taken seriously, and you want the cleanest recordings possible, your home recording studio must have a good bit of acoustic treatment.
Whether you are just starting out or a seasoned professional, it’s easy to overlook some of the fundamentals of home recording and mixing and overlook the things every home recording studio must have. Hopefully, this post enlightened you to some gear you might just have overlooked.
Key takeaways: When building a home recording studio. Don’t forget to buy these items:
- A computer capable of handling recording software
- Digital Audio Workstation software
- Quality Microphone
- Mic stand
- Studio Headphones
- Studio Monitors
- High-quality cables
- Audio interface
- External harddrive
- Acoustic treatment materials
Did we forget any gear you believe every home recording studio must have? Let us know in the comments below. Want more home studio tips and content? Click here to see all of our blog posts. Thanks for reading, and never stop making music.