For most people, setting up a home recording studio sounds like a monumental task. Indeed, it seems like it’s difficult to gather everything that you will need for it. After all, many imagine a studio as having a lot of electronics and cables.
However, in reality, building a home recording studio isn’t as hard as you think it is. The trick is to get started with only the most important equipment (which aren’t a lot actually). And so, I am sharing here a home recording studio equipment list that only has the 6 most essential items.
Table of Contents
- The 6 Most Essential Studio Equipment
- The Best Computers for Recording Music
- The Best Audio Interface and Digital Audio Workstation
- The Best Microphones for Recording Vocals and Instruments
- The Best Recording Studio Headphones
- The Best Studio Monitors
- Studio Accessories
- Bonus Tips: Advanced Studio Equipment
- Putting Your Studio Equipment Together
The 6 Most Essential Studio Equipment
Click on any of the 6 equipment types below to immediately jump to its section in this guide. For each type, a good example is reviewed to help those who are looking for specific equipment suggestions.
- Audio Interface and Digital Audio Workstation (DAW)
- Studio Monitors
- Studio Accessories
The Best Computers for Recording Music
Nowadays, most computers are fast enough for home studio use. So if you already have one, use it for the time being.
But if you need to buy anyway, it might as well be one of the best computers for recording music. Below, there’s a review of a top choice to get you started in considering your options. Other options are also mentioned so that you’ll have enough to choose from.
Mac mini Review
Why get a Mac instead of the more popular and cheap PC? A good reason is that Apple devices are more stable due to their exclusivity. Anyone can build a PC, but only Apple makes Macs (hence, they are all literally the same). So if an audio software is compatible with Macs, then it will work with any one of them. And they will continue to work even after software updates.
That said, Macs don’t come cheap. So for most people, the Mac mini is ideal because it’s among the cheapest models. The mini has four USB 3.0 sockets, two Thunderbolt 2 connections, an SDXC Card Slot, a Gigabit Ethernet, an HDMI output socket, and Audio In and Out connections. In other words, you can plug in just about anything (like a turntable for example). However, take note that you would have to separately buy a monitor, keyboard and mouse. So if what you want is an all in one device, check out the laptops below.
The Best Laptops for Recording Music
The Best Audio Interface and Digital Audio Workstation
An audio interface is a hardware used to hook up your recording gear to a computer. Meanwhile, a Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) is a software for recording, editing, and mixing audio files on your computer. I recommend buying them together because it’s usually cheaper and the compatibility is guaranteed.
Below are some of the best audio interface and Digital Audio Workstation bundles available. A review of a popular option is provided to get you started in assessing your choices. Additional options are also listed below.
Avid Fast Track Duo with Pro Tools Express Review
With the Avid Fast Track Duo, you can simultaneously record two voices or a vocal and acoustic guitar. In addition, you can connect a keyboard, a music player and other equipment via the line-level inputs. The Duo is compatible with a PC, Mac or iPad (connecting cables are included). You can even record to your iPad using any iOS audio app.
The Avid Fast Track Duo is bundled with Pro Tools Express, but the interface can be used with other DAWs. Pro Tools is among the best DAWs because of its user-friendliness and flexibility. The Express is a light version perfect for beginners and those transitioning from another software. However, it can only be availed as a bundle with an audio interface like the Duo. Nonetheless, it’s upgradable to a full version at a discount that pays off a significant chunk of the Duo. To check the price and other reviews of the Avid Fast Track Duo with Pro Tools Express, click here.
Other Top Audio Interfaces and Digital Audio Workstations
- Presonus AudioBox 22VSL with Studio One Artist
- More audio interfaces with digital audio workstations
The Best Microphones for Recording Vocals and Instruments
To get your recording studio up and running, all you need is one microphone.
Preferably, that one should be among the best microphones for recording vocals, acoustic guitar and other instruments. Below, there’s a review of such a mic to kick start your evaluation of your options. Following it is a list of alternative choices that are equally top notch.
Shure SM57 Review
If you ask anyone who’s into recording, they’ll likely recommend a Shure SM57. It’s a dynamic mic and most studios probably have a half dozen of it already. The SM57 sounds great and can record almost anything: vocals, acoustic guitars, guitar and bass cabs, drums, etc. It can’t be claimed that it’s the best mic for everything, but it’s more than satisfactory nonetheless. It’s a jack of all trades and is great at being so. Because of such versatility, the SM57 is perfect for beginners who can’t afford specialized mics yet. And for a multipurpose mic, the SM57 is also relatively cheap (see the current price).
Other Top Microphones for Recording Vocals and Instruments
The Best Recording Studio Headphones
Just like with mics, all you need is 1 pair of headphones to get started. Because from the get-go, most of your recording sessions will be by yourself.
There are actually two types of headphones — closed and open back. The former is for tracking your recording, while the latter is for mixing. Open backs are kind of optional, because mixing is best done using studio monitors. On the other hand, closed back headphones are a necessity.
Below are some of the best closed back headphones for recording tracks. There is also a review of a top option to get you started in studying your choices. Additional options are also provided below.
Sony MDR-7506 Review
With a closed back headphone, the most critical feature is sound isolation. It should keep out external noise so that you can hear yourself clearly as you play. At the same time, it should keep sound from escaping into your mic and ruining the take. Those are what the Sony MDR-7506 can do, and it’s the reason why it is such a popular headphone. That said, you might think that such an air tight isolation comes at the cost of wearing discomfort. On the contrary, it’s comfortable to wear due to its moderate head-clamping pressure and reasonable pad thickness. Besides that, the Sony MDR-7506 also sounds too good for its very modest price tag.
Other Top Closed Back Headphones for Recording Tracks
The Best Studio Monitors
Conventionally, music mixing is done by using studio monitors. Basically, studio monitors are speakers. But unlike consumer speakers, they have a much flatter frequency response. And so, they have a more natural sound that allows you to objectively assess your mix.
What follows are some of the best studio monitors under $200 (for a pair already). A review of a popular choice is included to get you started in considering your options. Two more options that you might want to check are also listed below.
M-Audio Studiophile AV 40 Review
The M-Audio Studiophile AV 40 has an affordable price and a balanced and neutral sound. They aren’t boomy or pitchy and they can easily handle just about any thing you throw at it. Thanks to their woofer, you won’t experience buzzing at low frequencies. On the other hand, their tweeter also does an impressive job of managing the highs. The AV 40s are relatively small, making them perfect for home setups and auxiliary workstations. Their inputs should work for most setups and they also work well with larger monitors. Read more reviews and see the current price of the M-Audio Studiophile AV 40 by clicking here.
Other Top Studio Monitors
Aside from the main equipment discussed above, you’ll also need the useful accessories below for your home studio.
There will come a time when your studio will indeed be filled with a lot of different cables. But from the get-go, you only need 3 to get by, which are 2 short XLR cables for your monitors and a long one for your mic.
For microphones, I usually suggest the Mogami Silver 25ft XLR. As for the monitors, something like the Mogami Gold 6ft XLR will be just fine (don’t forget to get two). Now if in case your audio interface has TRS instead of XLR connectors, the Mogami Gold 6ft TRSXLRM is what you should get instead.
Most beginners think that mic stands are all the same, because of how simple they seem. But the truth is that they’re not, and like other things in life, with mic stands you do get what you pay for.
That said, some options are indeed a bit pricey, but if they are good then they are worth spending on just the same. Besides, a stand is an essential item anyway because obviously, you can’t be holding a microphone all the time. For most beginners with tight budgets though, something like the inexpensive On Stage MS7701B is more than enough to start with.
Bonus Tips: Advanced Studio Equipment
By now, you may have already managed to setup a basic studio with the essential equipment listed here. Eventually though, you’ll wonder about your next step to getting the kind of studio that you dream of. To give you ideas on that next step, this section will periodically feature a different and more advanced recording equipment.
The MIDI keyboard is a useful studio equipment and is hence a good step up for home studios. Basically, it’s a blank keyboard that lets you assign sounds to its keys. And so, you can combine all your keyboard sounds in one device instead of having to use separate keyboards, pianos or synthesizers. It maximizes studio space and you don’t have to spend for each of those other equipment.
Lots of brands have their own models now, but a standout MIDI keyboard is the Akai Professional MPK249. It’s got 49 keys, which is my preferred count (other counts are also available out there). It also comes with 16 drum pads which Akai is known for because of their MPC series of drum machines. Moreover, it’s got faders and knobs for FX and a couple of sounds to get you started.
Putting Your Studio Equipment Together
There you have it — a home recording studio equipment list that includes only the 6 most essential items. For more examples of microphones besides the ones mentioned here, check out the best vocal mics. Also, you might want to read this article about the design of recording studios.