Basic Gear List: Starting Your Own Studio

Basic gear needed to start your own home recording studio.

This guest post was written by Emerson Maningo. Emerson is an independent record producer and music publisher. You can visit his blog Audio Recording Tips for more free tutorials on home recording, mixing and mastering. Re-blogged from makeitmusic.net and edited for current relevancy.

This is a beginner guide on how to get started in home recording. Assuming you already have the necessary instruments (guitars, drums, bass, guitar amplifiers etc.), you need the proper recording equipment to transform your work into a professionally sounding demo. This post will list the most basic gear needed. It also includes important buying specifications for quick reference.

1. Computer hardware

You need at least one fully operating computer consisting of either a PC desktop, laptop or Mac. Specifications for the computer are important. You should aim for at least:

  • 2GB to 4GB of RAM (4GB preferable if you can't afford 8GB)
  • Latest set of Intel processors (Pentium 4 Dual core)
  • At least 2 USB ports and a dedicated Firewire port (important)
  • PCI video card (on board cards have less memory and aren’t recommended)
  • Internal hard disk drive of around 1TB (recommended)

2. Operating system

Your computer hardware should be powered by at least one stable OS, depending upon your computer type. Windows XP Service Pack 3/Windows 7 or MacOSx.

3. Recording software (DAW)

Your recording software should support ASIO recording (important), multi-track or multi-channel recording (also important). There are a lot of great options out there for recording software. Do not use free recording software as it lacks a lot of important features for multi-track recording capability and audio interface support. Your recording software should be fully compatible with your operating system and hardware.

4. Firewire (recommended) or USB Audio interface

Look for the one that supports ASIO drivers for recording. The number of inputs and outputs depends on your need. If you are a singer/songwriter that will be recording only two-tracks at the same time (guitar and vocals), then a two-input audio interface is enough. Make sure these inputs have pre-amps on them (important). Make sure there are at least two outputs (so you can monitor using your headphone or the nearfield monitor). Also – it should capable to record at least 24-bit/48KHz resolution. Do not use PCI soundcards or audio interface. Also make sure that your Firewire/USB audio interface supports 48V phantom power for your condenser microphones.

5. Nearfield monitor

Do not use hi-fi monitors; they are different from nearfield or reference monitors. If you are shopping on Ebay or Amazon, type in the search box: “nearfield monitor” and then select from the results. When buying nearfield monitors, they do not need to be very expensive. Just make sure that they are well supported by the community as often indicated by positive feedback and ratings.

6. Cables and connectors for connectivity

If you are using a Firewire/USB audio interface, you need a Firewire or USB cable from the audio interface connected to your computer. You will need the appropriate TRS jacks/RCA jacks for connecting your nearfield monitors to the audio interface output in addition to XLR and 1/4 inch cables for connecting your guitars and microphones.

7. Vocal condenser microphone

This will be used for recording vocals and guitars. It does not need to be very expensive but it should have a frequency range somewhere around 20Hz to 22 KHz. Choose a vocal condenser microphone with high user/community ratings.

8. Dynamic microphones for recording guitar amps

If you are recording distorted guitars, you will be using amps. The best way of recording guitars using an amp is to use dynamic microphones. There are many to choose from and it really comes down to preference.

Once you have all the above equipment, follow the steps below to finally create your home recording studio:

  • Install recording software first
  • Install the audio interface drivers (for USB or Firewire)
  • Connect the Firewire/USB to your computer Firewire or USB port
  • Configure your recording software to record from the USB/Firewire audio interface (refer to the audio interface manual for details)
  • Connect your musical instruments (condenser microphone or guitar jacks) to the audio interface input

Now you are ready to record!

To follow: We will continue with another list on items needed to take your studio to the next level!