Time to set up a home recording studio kit! HOME RECORDING IS THE BEST WAY TO WORK ON YOUR MUSIC AND NAIL DOWN DEMOS - OR EVEN RECORD A WHOLE ALBUM! READ OUR HOME RECORDING EQUIPMENT GUIDE FOR BEGINNERS TO HELP YOU GET STARTED.
Setting up a home recording studio kit is easier than ever. Today, there are many ways you can make good-quality recordings by yourself but, by far, the most popular and convenient way is to use your home PC computer / laptop / iPad as your main "studio". Here's our guide to some of the best gear you can find!
Just as you'll never see two guitarists with the absolutely same set up, you are unlikely to ever find two home studios which are the same. There's simply so many options available, so many combinations of gear, that each person will find what suits them better in terms of space, budget and needs. This guide aims purely to point you in the right direction of some of the best studio / recording gear available right now.
WHY SET UP A HOME RECORDING STUDIO?
Having your own recording studio is still the best way to make demos, hone your craft, and learn a bit more about studio techniques. Nothing beats recording on a proper, professional studio, but if you don't have any previous experience with recording, it may prove frustrating for you and for your sound engineer/ producer!
Also, if you're just a beginner with little chance (or no interest) in getting signed, why spend lots of money on a professional recording, when you can get excellent results at home, and much cheaper? But even professional musicians love having their own recording facilities.
When you record at home, you can have more peace of mind, because you don't need to worry about studio rates, so you can take your time when recording parts, overdubbing etc., and you can also pretty much record whenever you feel like! From The Beatles to the Arctic Monkeys, most popular musicians have recorded at home, where they developed ideas before recording them on a proper studio.
Read our blog, "The Home Studio of the Stars", for photos of famous musicians in their home studios. CLICK HERE In a nutshell, there are three basic products you must own in order to record at home, on your computer:
But before we dwell further, let Dagan take you through the basics of home recording gear and how to create a home recording studio kit , in this quick video:
CHOOSE A GOOD RECORDING MICROPHONE
A good recording microphone is essential
A condenser microphone is a studio essential and the first thing you need when putting together a home recording studio kit.
There are different kinds of microphones, which may be suitable for different things (vocals, guitar, drums etc) and even two mics of the same kind may sound very different between each other - good quality mics often have "characters" all of their own - one may sound brighter, darker, warmer, and so on.
That's why professional studios always have a large assortment of different microphones, and many record producers have their own particular preferences, their own favourite mics. Having a few different mics to choose from is essential for any project or professional studio.
CONDENSER MICS: A STUDIO& home recording studio kit ESSENTIAL
If you're only getting one microphone, your best option is to choose a condenser microphone. This is the most common type in recording studios, the most versatile and useful, and able to provide you with a richer sound.
Condenser mics are more sensitive, warm and great for capturing the ambience - and because of this, they're versatile: for instance, you can record your vocals & guitar at the same time (see Elvis pic) or vocal harmonies with other singers, like in The Beatles used to do.
It's always best to try and spend around the £100 mark, as you need to make sure you're getting the best quality possible when recording your vocals, so if you are on a budget and you CAN stretch a little, we recommend aiming for around the £110-£170 price range.
The cool thing about this award winning microphone is the fact you have three switchable patterns to choose from, making it an incredible home studio and professional recording studio condenser.
You can choose from Omni, Cardioid and Figure-of-Eight which means you're capable of recording studio quality vocals, guitars and a myriad of other instruments.
The built in pop shield means you don't need any external filter and the built in mic stand connection works in combination with the shock resistant chassis. This means your 1" gold evaporated capsule not only records at incredibly high levels, but is also safe from handling noise.
This is ideal for home studios and recording studios alike.
We think Microphone packages are great for beginners because they come with accessories you'll need if you use a condenser microphone: especially a pop filter which is essential because condensers are so sensitive that your "P" and "SH" sounds, when you sing, may cause slight distortion!
We love the Rode NT1-A Condenser Microphone Package as it includes the awesome Rode NT1-A condenser mic, an XLR, shock mount and pop filter. This is essentially everything you need (minus audio interface) to record high-quality vocals. Whether you're singing or recording spoken word vocals, this excellent package is ideal.
RIBBON MICS VS. CONDENSER MICS: WHICH ONE IS BETTER?
A good alternative to condenser mics is to get a RibbonMicrophone. These mics look a bit like condensers, but are actually dynamic, but with a ribbon element instead of a moving coil.
When you're choosing recording microphones, some studio engineers prefer the sound of a ribbon mic over a condenser. Technically, there's no "better" option as it comes down to personal preference.
What’s the difference
between a condenser mic and a ribbon microphone?
In summary: Condenser mics are known to create a more accurate depiction of the sound source, without adding anything to the sound. Ribbon mics, are known to add a warmth and extra character to the subject they record.
In a nutshell, a condenser gives you an almost exact replication whereas a ribbon mic adds its own character.
This may be a feature you want, as some producers want more 'life' in their vocal takes.
Ribbon mics can be described as dark and smooth and are great when using to record bright, harsh sounds, or to simply get a warm and "vintage" quality to your sounds, whether recording vocals or, especially, placing it in front of an electric guitar amp cabinet. Maybe you don't "need" one... but if you do get one, it could easily become your favourite type of mic! Worth checking out, for sure.
Can you show me some good ribbon mics?
You got it! Here are 3 ribbon mics we love here at PMT. Be advised though, they're not always budget friendly but totally worth the extra investment if you want that ribbon mic sound and 'life' to your recordings.
Marantz MPM-3500R Ribbon Microphone
Ribbon mics can be quite costly, as you're paying fro the quality and feel that a ribbon mic provides. However, the Marantz MPM-3500R Ribbon Microphone is actually quite budget-friendly at just £129.99.
The low-mass ribbon pick-up diaphragm picks up the subtle details and nuances that condenser mic can often miss out, whilst the figure 8 pickup pattern means you can record a lush room sound too!
SE Electronics Voodoo VR2 Active Ribbon Microphone
The hand tensioned aluminium ribbon provides a warm, detailed sound that really brings your recording s to life whilst the frequency range of 20 Hz - 18 kHz ensures you can record a variety of different instruments in high quality.
This award-winning microphone has 4 settings with 4 very different voices all achieved via 4 discrete signal paths. The key feature here is the 'dark, Vintage' setting, which offers a sound reminiscent of a ribbon mic, but with the added protection of Astons's almost unbreakable construction.
It's like owning four incredible microphones in one. You also have a Class A mic preamp built-in which means there's no need for an external gain lifting device, thus saving you money!
This is yet another example of Aston's commitment to creating fantastic microphones that studio producers, home studio owners and musicians can really rely on in terms of sound and construction.
The other popular type of mics are dynamic microphones. They are very rugged, and the type commonly used on live venues. They're not as sensitive as condensers, so they only pick up the sounds right in front of them, and are great when recording loud guitars and drums.
They are often the most budget frienldy kind of mics, but it's always best to get the best you can afford to ensure a good sound. Dynamic microphones are commonly used for live vocals, such as the classic Shure SM58 (found on 99% of venues around the world - or so it seems!) but not used as often when recording vocals. However, it doesn't mean they can't be used this way: Brian Wilson, one of the greatest songwriters and music producers ever, famously used a Shure Unidyne III 545 (the older version of the popular Shure SM57 mic) to record his vocals on the Beach Boys' masterpiece Pet Sounds. Butch Vig also used the SM57 on Nirvana's Nevermind album to capture Kurt Cobain's vocals.
Dynamic mics can handle louder sound sources like drums, guitar cabs and loud vocals. They can also be used on brass instruments too!
Dynamic mics only record what is in front of them, so they have a great off-axis rejection, but less "life" which is fine if you just want to record an instrument with its own tone.
You can see the SM57 being used on a Marshall cabinet (pictured).
Can you show me some of the best dynamic mics?
Sure thing! The likes of the Shure SM57 and the Shure Sm58 are two of the most iconic and widely used options, but we also have a few more recommendations too!
At under £20, it's not going to break the bank, but it'll certainly stand up to a hefty rehearsal and live schedule.
You have a supercardioid Pickup Pattern so the off -axis rejection ensures your voice is heard correctly. The high SPL capability and Max 135 dB ensure syou can record snare drums and mic cabinets with ease whilst the high performance capsule allows you to capture accurate sound that will transfer beautifully to recordings.
Shure SM58 Dynamic Microphone
Never trust a best dynamic microphone list without the Shure SM58 Dynamic Microphone. This is an industry-standard live vocal microphone and a consistent choice for perfoming artists as it's so reliable and extremely robust.
The pneumatic shock system inside not only reduces handling noise but protects the capsule from damage should you drop it - it happens!
The Uniform cardioid pickup pattern isolates the main sound source, your voice for example, and minimizes background noise so it can be used to record vocals as well as used live. A great all-rounder all vocalists should own.
We actually created a complete comparison which you can watch here.
Shure SM57 Dynamic Microphone
The Shure SM57 Dynamic Microphone is an absolute must-have microphone for any studio owner. We can't really stress this enough, but you can record almost ANYTHING with this and achieve incredibly accurate results.
You have a contoured frequency response that provides clean, accurate reproduction of your sound that retains all the tone you've worked so hard to hone - whether a drum snare or guitar amp.
You can also enjoy rich vocals that are incredibly detailed.
Best for mic'ing up drums, guitar cabinets, brass and vocals.
sE Electronics V7 Supercardioid Dynamic Microphone
Next up we have the SE Electronics V7, which is slowly becoming a contender to take the 'industry standard' crown for pro level live vocal performance and vocal recording.
You have an internal windscreen so there's no need for a pop shield and the specialized voice coil ensures accurate, responsive and clean reproduction of sound whether you're using it for live or studio recording.
Watch our video below and learn how to record vocals!
CHOOSING YOUR AUDIO INTERFACE FOR RECORDING
A good Audio Interface is essential if you're using a home computer, tablet or mobile device to record music, podcasts or any type of sound.
The interface will convert the analogue signal from your microphone into digital data, transmitted in most cases via USB, on to your computer. There are many good audio interfaces that won't break your bank from the likes of Focusrite, PreSonus and Native Instruments and we've even covered the best cheap audio interfaces in previous blogs, which should help you get started.
Fortunately, if you have a home studio and you want to create a home recording studio kit, you don't have to spend a great deal to get an incredible value interface. So with that said, whether you're on a budget or not, we recommend the following options that won't break the bank:
The likes of the SSL2 USB Audio interface places all the coveted vintage Solid State Logic studio tools into convenient, portable USB audio interface.
This is an extremely affordable option that actually provides studio level 24/192kHz conversion. This means anything you record is super high quality.
We love this audio interface in particular as it provides 4K Analogue Enhancement and a High-Frequency EQ Boost which adds a vintage flavour that only full size Solid State Logic desks have been able to provide - until now!
You also have 2 x class leading mic preamps built in, so there's no need for a gain lifter and the high current headphone amp ensures you hear exactly what you're recording.
If you need an array of different inputs and outputs then the Native Instruments Komplete Audio 6 Mk2 Audio Interface is the ideal option. You actually have 6 inputs and 6 outputs at your disposal here as well as MIDI in/out connectivity making it the perfect option for home producers.
You also have 2 headphones outs so you can podcast with guests or record two musicians at the same time.
This is also great if you're just starting out as you get 1.6GB of MASCHINE Factory Selection collection of samples, one shoots, loops and instruments and so many sounds and effects that you'll barely need anything else!
VU meters allow you to keep track of levels, 48v phantom power ensures you can use condenser mics and the USB2.0 bus power makes it easy to transport.
If you can afford to step up your budget a little, this is totally worth it.
Finally, you'll need a great music software package otherwise known as a DAW, to make sure your recording efforts are captured perfectly! Professional recording studios have a whole range of gear designed for maximum sound quality: reverbs, EQs, compressors, vintage gear, multitrack recorders... most of us can't afford that stuff, or even fit them in our houses!
The best music software gives you everything you need and then some, from unlimited tracks to a wide array of sound samples! You need a home recording studio kit with some good software.
Another great buy is the Reason 11 audio workstation that has been one of the most intuitive, forward-thinking music production DAWs for the past decade.
This version costs around £300 and is actually a very powerful and versatile recording tool, providing everything you need to get started on music production. With everything you'll need contained within one piece of software, you can record, write and sequence music from scratch with a host of top quality samplers, synthesizers and drum machines. But Komplete 12 and Reason 11 are but two of the excellent recording software packages available today, so make sure to view what else we have on offer, for even more choices.
NATIVE INSTRUMENTS KOMPLETE 13
Most audio interfaces already come bundled with some software, that should be good enough to get you started, but if you buy something separately you'll get more, and better features.
The new Native Instruments Komplete 13 is very popular at the moment, giving you LOADS of great samples, in 39 bundled products. It's the industry standard.
The PreSonus Audiobox USB 96 Studio Recording Package has everything you need including Studio One 3 recording software, HD7 monitoring headphones, an M7 condenser microphone and the PreSonus AudioBox USB 96 bus-powered interface which offers exceptional value for money.
You have 2 x combi inputs to record microphones and line level instruments as well as a clear headphone out for instant monitoring. Ideal for podcasts, music and voiceover work.
Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 Studio 3rd Gen Recording Package
Next up we have the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 Studio 3rd Gen Recording Package. The interface alone offers two of the best performing Mic Preamps ever used in the Scarlett range whilst the two high headroom instrument inputs can handle the heaviest of humbuckers, smoothest of single coil sounds, drums, vocals and even active guitar and bass pickups.
You can also record and mix up to 24-bit/192kHz quality, which is studio level sound quality.
In the box you have a Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 3rd Generation USB Audio Interface, a large Diaphragm Condenser Mic, a set of HP60 MkIII Headphones, 3-Metre XLR Microphone Cable and a USB Cable (Type C-A) to hook it up to your computer. It's basically everything you need to record your next masterpiece in one convenient recording package.
Using a stand-alone digital recorder can be an easy, more hands-on approach. Even though most people today make music on their DAWs, there are those who still prefer the more old-school multi-track recorder alternative.
These are good if you don't want to stare at a computer screen, or if you don't own a particularly good computer. But gone are the cassette tapes of the past - and, for the most part, the CDs and Hard-Drive recording of a more recent past, too!
The best of the most recent digital multi-track models, such as the QSC TouchMix range. These are extremely powerful digital mixers that can record straight to a standard SD memory card. This is a great improvement, because hardly anyone uses tapes now, of course, and having a built-in CD burner is not an advantage these days anymore, when most music is listened to online. And removing the HD recording means that today's modern multitracks work quieter and are less bulky.
The reason some people prefer digital multitrack recording is because they don't require a computer nor separate audio interfaces, and are therefore more straightforward to operate - just like in the "old days":
You plug a mic or instrument to the unit, and you record and mix a song!
Whether you're an old hand at playing piano or keyboard, or you're a guitarist who needs something they can use to lay down some atmospheric chords, trigger samples or just add a certain flair to their music, MIDI keyboards and keyboard controllers are great to have on-hand. We've covered some of the best cheap MIDI keyboards in our blog, but here are two of our favourites that won't break the bank.
Akai MPK Mini 3 MIDI Keyboard
The Akai MPK Mini 3 MIDI Keyboard is a budget-friendly MID keyboard that will help you create music quickly. It's also a lot of fun to use thanks to the 25 mini keys with dynamic expression and precise articulation. The 8 bankable MPC performance pads will come in handy when it comes to sampling and the built-in arpeggiator is alot of fun to use.
For way under £100, you get a lot of functionality!
Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol M32 Keyboard
Next up we have one of the industry standard MIDI keyboards - the Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol M32 keyboard. Again, for under £100, you get an incredible amount of functionality including 32 note synth-action, custom NI keybed and the really cool Touch-Ribbon Pitch and Modulation Strips.
Preset browsing via the KOMPLETE KONTROL software and the onboard OLED parameter display are both really great additions for the live musician.
There are also 8 x touch-sensitive control knobs and 4 x directional push encoders so you can manipulate sounds easily.
Apart from what we've already mentioned, it'd be a good idea to get yourself a good pair of studio headphones at the very least, and, hopefully, also a pair of studio monitors- which are not absolutely essential for beginners just getting a basic recording setup at home, but which will benefit you greatly when mixing and listening back to your recordings with the best possible sound fidelity. A set of monitors will take your home recording studio kit to the next level and allow you to make good decisions when mixing.
The KRK monitors are a great choice, used by pros worldwide but also available at some affordable prices. For a more sophisticated setup, some Outboard & Effects rack units are also recommended, and most professional studios will have a few.
And don't forget: you can visit your local PMT Store to check all the latest studio gear in stock, and to chat to our product experts, who can help you to find the best gear for your needs and create a complete home recording studio kit for you! Or call our customer service team on 0151 448 2089 for more info on setting up your home studio!