So you've decided to start recording at home and want to build your own studio? You'll discover quickly that there are a plethora of options that span quality and price for every aspect of your new studio. If you're reading this article, chances are you're on a budget and can't afford to drop $100,000+ on treating your room and purchasing the top of the line professional studio gear. The good news is that all of that stuff wouldn't really do you any good anyways unless you really know your way around a studio already. If you're just getting started, the best thing you can do is research as much as possible and read as many reviews as you can before you buy a piece of equipment. If at all possible, try out the piece of gear before you buy it.
With so many options there's definitelty some crap out there that you'll order online, take out of the box and hate from day one. This is not the way to build a studio on a budget and will end up costing you hundreds more in the end. Don't buy based on price, but on value instead. When putting together a home recording studio on a budget you want gear that won't break and get in your way and will give you the best sound you can afford. The good news is there's a ton of really great home recording gear available now at reasonable prices. The purpose of this post is to offer suggestions on which gear will get you recording music for under $1000.
While there are other methods of recording, these days digital is the most cost effective way to get started. There are so many home studio owners who use software for recording that there is a huge community of people to help you learn how to do just about anything. Computers have dropped in price considerably over the past few years and will most likely continue to do so. Just about any new computer you'd buy today will be sufficient for multitrack audio recording.
Recommended Computer Specs:
You can find a computer that meets these specs for about $400-500.
Now, once you have your computer, you'll need software to run on it that you can use to record. This is known as a DAW or Digital Audio Workstation. There are a number of paid and free options available, but, if you were able to get a good deal and find your computer for $400, or already had a computer, you can spend a little here and it will be well worth it. While there are a ton of great DAW software products out there, we've selected the ones that cost less than $100.
DAWs less than $100:
Ok, so you have a computer and recording software. Now you need a way to plug in microphones and instruments to your computer. For this, you'll need an audio interface. Now, unlike the computer and DAW, the audio interface you choose matters quite a bit. The biggest decision you'll have to make is how many channels you need. Interfaces usually com in 1,2,4,8,16 and 18 channels and the number of channels equals the number of instruments you'll be able to record at once. So if you plan on recording any drums, you'll want more than 2 channels or you won't be able to use more than 2 mics on your drumkit at a time. However, if most of the recording you do is just you singing with an acoustic guitar or rapping over beats, you could probably get away with a 2-channel interface. Its important that whichever interface you get, you make sure it can handle 24-bit audio. This way you know the audio is entering your computer at a high enough bit rate. Here's a list of some interfaces we like for under $200.
USB Audio Interfaces for Under $200:
No studio is complete without at least one microphone. Microphones are great for recording vocals but also come in handy when recording instruments. Even things like acoustic guitars (which you could plug directly into your interface) get a different, some would argue better, sound when recorded with a micriphone instead. Microphones definitely range in price and go well into the thousands of dollars, but if you're just starting out, don't worry about getting the top of the line mic. Yeah, they sound better, but you can still get great sounds out of cheaper mics. Depending on where you are in your budget by the time you get to this stage, you may want to spend a little extra on a better mic. If so, check out our article on choosing a vocal mic for your home studio. If you just want to stay in budget and not have your vocals sound like crap, here's a list of some good mics to check out.
Microphones for around $200
It's really tough to recommend an ideal setup within the budget that will work for all scenarios, so we've put together lists for what we would get for a solo artist or a group. We've also broken it down by if you have a computer or not since the computer makes up the majority of the bugdet and already having one allows you to purchase a better setup.
Solo Artist with no computer
Group with no computer
Solo Artist with computer
Group with computer
There are many more options for each of the components above, but the setups we've described will get you started making great sounding recordings for under $1000. One of the best parts about having a home studio is that, once you have a basic setup, you can upgrade pieice by piece as you feel like it. Having a solid computer, DAW and interface will allow you to switch out other components such as microphones, preamps, other outboard gear, etc and constantly improve the sound of your recordings.