Recording in a professional recording studio is great. You get the experience of skilled producers, engineers, and session musicians, not to mention a perfectly treated recording space. However, it also costs a lot of money. What if you want a professoinal recording but don't have a small fortune laying around? It's time to setup your own home recording studio!
What gear do I need?
You only need 5 things to setup a home recording studio:
- A computer with a decent processor speed and a good amount of RAM. I'm currently running on an iMac 2.33GHz with 3 gigs of RAM. The more RAM the better.
- A good quality condensor mic. A condensor mic is good for picking up sounds directly in front of it. If you move to the side at all, sounds start to fall off. If you're only going to get one mic, this is the kind you want. It works great for vocal, guitar, and most other instruments. A condensor mic is also import for a home recording studio, becuase you'll be less likely to pick up sounds in the environment, like street noise or pesky bird calls. Condensor mics range widely in price but for a professional sound I would stay within the $300 - $500 range. It's not till you get to microphones like the Nueman U87 in the $1000 + range that you'll start to see any difference in sonic quality. I personally use the Blue Bluebird mic and have acheived some very nice recordings with it.
- An audio interface. An audio interface is what you need to get sound into your computer. Typically, and audio interface with one or two inputs is all you need. If you want to record more vocals or instruments at once you'll need an interface with more inputs. In audio interface also allows you to hook up a keyboard or MIDI controller. Again, prices vary widely but staying in the mid range is a good idea. More expensive interfaces may have a tube pre-amp to help "warm up" the sound, but in my opinion, it's not necessary for a basic setup and you can still get great sound quality without the more expensive gear.
- Recording software. There are many different software programs out there for recording. A few of the main ones are Pro Tools, Logic Pro, and Cubase. I'm running Pro Tools LE 8 with their Mbox audio interface that's included. This setup has worked well for me, however, I would recomend taking alook at the other major recording programs as well. You can acheive professional grade recordings with all of them but depending on your needs, one may be better for you than another. The main varitions you'll see between programs vary have to do with the graphic interface, plugins included, and software instruments that are included. For instance, Logic Pro has a very user-friendly interface and comes with an impressive set of high quality software instruments that can save you money buying extra software to get the sounds you need.
- Monitor speakers and/or headphones. It's a good idea to get a good pair of studio speakers or headphones. This will help you get a better picture of the sound and is espcially important when you are mixing tracks together.
Do I need to put up acoustic foam on the walls?
I've done quite a bit of research on acoustic foam and I've found that to do it right, it can be pretty costly. Acoustic foam is engineered to absorb specific frequency ranges. So it doesn't work to just slap up some egg crate foam on the walls. That won't do any good. While acoustic treatment is nice, it's not necessary to get up and running and start producing great sounding stuff.
What about sound proofing?
Sound proofing is more expensive than acoustic treatment because it usually involves some sort of structural modications to the room. The basic idea is that you have to add a layer of space between the walls in order to trap the sound from coming into the room. Other special materaials may be used as well to further block the sound. As you may have guessed, sound proofing can come with a major price tag. Unless you have tons of noise outside your room, you can usually get by with a good condensor mic.
So, in conclusion, all you need to setup a home recording studio is a computer, condensor mic, audio interface, recording software, and monitor speakers and/or headphones. Have fun setting up your new recording studio!