How to Start a Home Studio – A Very Complete Guide

Home Studio

Looking to record your latest sounds in the comfort of your own home? Well, you’re in the right place. A home studio is the perfect location to record, mix, and experiment in your own space with your own gear.

Of course, starting one can be a daunting experience. You have to consider the cost, the space, and the amount of gear you are going to need. It can seem like there will be a lot of planning involved, but it actually doesn’t take as much effort as you might think. You’ll be making music in absolutely no time at all. How? Just follow my advice.

If you are ready to embark on your home studio creation journey, now is the time to take a few minutes and really study this epic guide. Everything you need to know, and more, are clearly listed below for your reading pleasure. Make notes, get shopping, and start building your dream.

Part 1
What Do You Need for a Home Studio?

Mental Health Statistics and Support

Part 2
Home Studio Recording Kit

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Part 3
Building the Studio

Part 1

What Do You Need for a Home Studio?

It’s the first thing you have to consider before you can actually embark on your journey. What do you actually need to start a home studio up? Obviously, there are some basics like speakers and recording equipment, but it goes a bit deeper than that. Let’s check out a concise list of all the main gear (and the extras) required.  

Home Recording Studio Essentials

Here’s the big secret; you only need nine items to make the ultimate home studio. Sounds too good to be true, right? I assure you that it’s not. Here’s a quick list of those top nine pieces:

  • Audio Interface
  • Microphone
  • Microphone Cable
  • Microphone Stand
  • Pop Shield
  • Headphones
  • Monitor Speakers
  • Acoustic Treatment
  • Ear Training Software

That’s it, as simple as. Of course, many studios have a lot more gear than this, but you are only starting out. When you are new to the game, you don’t really need more than this. However, this is the complete guide, so I’m not going to just leave you with that. The next section goes into greater detail, listing every piece of kit you need alongside what they actually do (including the above).

Recording Studio Equipment List

Looking for the complete list of equipment you need to create a home studio that will both impress people and leave them envious. From the very basics to those that more seasoned artists will want, you will find it here. Plus, I detail what each of them is used for just to make sure you have a clear picture. Check it out below:

Home Studio Equipment
  • Audio Interface. This little box allows you to stay connected, hooking your mic, speakers, and headphones to your PC. The majority of the time, people choose a USB model, because they are portable as well as easy to connect. The smaller interfaces are best for beginners, and as you improve, you can increase the size and capabilities.
  • Microphone. You can’t have a studio without a mic, and finding the perfect one isn’t too tough. For home studio recording, you are going to want to stick with a cardioid mic as these reject sounds from the rear; ideal for rooms that aren’t quite perfect. Combine that with a large-diaphragm condenser and you are set. Plus, I have a really handy guide on how to choose the ideal mic that you can read through for more information.
  • Microphone Cable. No cable, no working mic, and you are going to need something that will last. My advice? Don’t go for the cheapest option, but don’t break the bank either. You can find a great balance XLR mic in the mid-range price bracket that will produce clear sounds and last an age.
  • Microphone Stand. Another essential, and I will note that this is a product that wears out quickly, and therefore buying a cheap one is not recommended. Instead, go for the mid-range again, as well as a stand that is adjustable so that you can have more flexibility when you record your tracks.
  • Pop Shield. This is necessary if you want to record vocals. If you don’t, you can definitely live without it. What the shield, or filter as it is also known, does is stop plosives from ruining your vocal recordings. It just helps to keep things clearer and ensure that the finished product is the best quality possible.
  • Headphones. For this, you have two options; closed or open back headphones. I’m going to recommend that you get the closed-back headphones as your first pair, because they are versatile and inexpensive. They are primarily used for monitoring when recording, but can also be used for mixing at a low volume and with a reference track. Open-back headphones are the best choice for mixing, but you don’t really need them until you are more confident.
  • Monitor Speakers. These are the thing you need if you want to learn how to mix. They have what is known as a flat response, which means you hear the sounds as they really are as opposed to them being altered or amplified. Even when you can hear the mix on headphones alone, you should always check your monitor speakers to ensure you have it right.
  • Acoustic Treatment. These are panels, normally made from foam or fibreglass, that will absorb the natural reverberation of the room. This ensures that the room remains as neutral as possible, so that the finished sound is as natural as possible and not tainted by the background noise of your home studio.
  • Ear Training Software. Do you need this? Not really, but I do think it is an invaluable piece of kit to have if you want to perfect your art. After all, what do you use to listen to music? Your ears. It helps you to gain the musician's ear, learning more about how to recognise notes, intervals, chords, and bands of frequencies. It really is recommended if you want to be the best.
  • Rack Mount. With this, you can go onto the next level in your recording dreams. While your previous setup could record a small number of simultaneous tracks, this machine will see that sharply rise. You can mix and match your equipment, customising your routing and signal flow to ensure that you get the exact results you were looking for.
  • Power Conditioner. The thing I love about rack setups is that no two are the same, but they all have a power conditioner. It keeps things tidy, and once you have one, you won’t know how you lived without it. Instead of having a mess of cables, this conditioner turns it all into one cable that offers surge protection, voltage regulation, and noise filtration.
  • Microphone Preamp. This will provide you with extra input channels, something you need as your skills expand, and you find yourself growing your home studio. It’s perfect for diversifying your kit and really opening your music up to further experimentation.
  • Headphone Amp. With new input channels, you are going to need more output channels too. This is where the headphone amp comes in to help. This is ideal for working with multiple musicians so that you can monitor your own performance, which makes the recording process easier for everyone involved.
  • Monitor Management. More outputs? I hear you, but there are for studio monitors, and trust me when I say you’re going to need them. As your skill increases and your studio becomes more advanced, you’ll find that you need to compare how your mixes sound on a number of different playback platforms. Why? So that when someone is listening to your music on cheap speakers, it’s still going to sound just like it does in the studio. It keeps the quality over a range of devices.
  • Virtual Instruments. When you are recording alone, it can be difficult to try and recreate the sound of multiple instruments; especially when a song needs them for maximum effect. Virtual instrument software is the best way forward, recreating the sounds you need in order to create the perfect tracks. They often sound pretty realistic as well, especially when you buy a top quality one.
  • MIDI Controller. Why play your virtual instruments on your computer when you could be using a MIDI keyboard. They are so much more fun to use, and also give an added level of interactivity to your recording session. Are they perfect? No, but they certainly do a great job of recreating the sound. I even have a handy guide that takes you through all the key details.
  • Electronic Drum KitIf you’re an actual drummer, I would suggest sticking with your physical kit, but for those who don’t play this is perfect. It’s amazing to see how much the technology continues to advance, and the sounds it produces are almost identical to an actual drumkit. For home recording studios, it is the ideal way to get the drums into your music.
  • Control Surface. As you probably know, all of the mixing and the cool stuff is done on your computer using the mouse. This does take away a good chunk of the fun and glamour that comes with mixing your own tracks. The solution? Buy a control surface. It is essentially a MIDI board that has been converted to look like those retro recording studio sliders, adding a bit more style to your process. Necessary? No. Worth it? Absolutely.
  • Software/Plugins. These are important, but they aren’t the be all and end all. There are loads to choose from, and software is something I will go into in a bit more detail later on. It can help to enhance your sound, make things easier for you, and produce better results overall.
  • Uninterruptible Power Supply. There’s nothing worse than losing all your work when the power goes out, and you need to be protected against it. This is basically a back-up battery, and it will give you precious extra minutes in order to save all of your work and shut your equipment down properly to prevent any damage or lost work.
  • Direct Box. As the cables in your studio extend, signal noise rises from the cables and can cause interference with your instruments; especially guitars. The direct box works by taking this unbalanced signal and rebalancing it, giving you a clearer sound and making your music a lot crisper. It’s an absolute must when you are using instruments.
  • Mental Health Statistics and Support

    Part 2

    Home Studio Recording Kit

    Now you know what you need, and you are ready to build your home studio recording kit. You’ll have to consider things like your budget and the amount of space you have available. In this chapter, I’m going to take you through some of the best software as well as how to get things up and running on a budget.

    Home Studio Software

    What is the Easiest Studio Software to Use?

    Before I get into the details, I want to let you know more about the kind of computer you are going to need in order to use your equipment and software. You can use either a laptop or a PC; this doesn’t have an impact on the way things work. However, you will need a minimum of 8GB of RAM and a powerful CPU in order to run it all. Now that we have that sorted, onto the software.

    This can actually come across as pretty daunting, but there’s no need to worry. I’m here to keep things simple and ensure that all the facts are made clear for you. So, what about the software, and what is considered the easiest to use? Take a look below and read through my quick software round-up for your studio.

    #1 DAW. The Digital Audio Workstation is one of the most popular pieces of software, and one that I have mentioned already. It can be downloaded onto your phone or tablet (I recommend the latter) and used to record, edit, and mix your music straight from your computer. It’s easy to use and makes a very computerised process fun again. Plus, it can make your studio setup a lot cleaner too.
    #2 Equalisation. This one is really good, and the chances are you have heard it in action. Ever listened to a track and heard all the instruments clearly at the same time? That’s Equalisation in play. It works hard to ensure that there is a balance between the sounds and no instrument gets left out; producing that lovely balanced sounds. There’s a lot to play with, and so many frequencies to explore.
    #3 Reverb. This tool brings unity to a mix, and it can completely change the feel of where the track was recorded. A lot has changed since its original use, and no more are the days of only being able to get that recording studio feel. Now, you can make it seem as though your track was recorded anywhere – from a gorgeous cathedral to under an old bridge. The possibilities really are endless.
    #4 Delay. If you are recording Dub music, this is the tool for you. It’s software that creates a repetitive echo in the music, filling space and creating a new sound that you can mix freely. It’s pretty useful, and while similar to Reverb, it is better for genres like Dub because of how specific it is.
    #5 Auto-tune. I was going to leave this one out, but it is actually just as important as the rest. It’s made history many times, as well as some best-selling albums, and can correct the pitch of even the worst singing. Even if you aren’t producing vocals to release, it’s a great way to test how your lyrics sound with your music. Not every lyricist and artist can sing amazingly, and that’s why we have software like this. It’s ok not to be great at every musical branch.

    Home Studio on a Budget  

    You’re on a tight budget but want to build a great home studio to get started in. I get that; we have all been poor hopefuls at some point. There are plenty of ways to achieve this with very little money, and I have all the best tips and tricks of the trade for you below.
    #1 Use what you have. Already got a computer that works, perfect. You can use that as your recording kit as well as your standard laptop/desktop. The same goes for any gear you might have lying around that still works. Make use of anything that you already have instead of buying new stuff. Even things like mic stands can be made with a bit of DIY instead of bought.
    #2 Go second hand. Visit charity shops and ask on selling pages on social media and dedicated websites. It’s amazing what people are selling for a low price or giving away for free. Honestly, you’ll be shocked that you didn’t discover it sooner. A lot of the kit is fantastic quality and in new condition as well, so that’s an added bonus.
    #3 Stick to the basics. I have listed a lot of fancy stuff, but you only need the nine essentials I listed earlier if you want to succeed. Some of those pieces are accessories as well, which means they are bound to be cheap. Don’t go all out when you don’t need to, and save your money for later on when your studio is ready to expand.
    #4 Shop around. Don’t go with the first website you see, shop around a little instead. You might end up finding a lower price for the same product elsewhere, and this is why it’s vital to check a number of places first. Weigh up your options and pick the ones that offer the best price for some potentially huge savings. It’s well worth the time taken to go through each one.
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    Part 3

    Building the Studio

    Now, we come to the most important part, building the home studio. This part will take some time and careful thought before you actually go ahead with any of it, but that’s because you can only really make this choice once. As soon as the studio is built, moving it will be a difficult task. So, follow each piece of advice I set down below and watch as your home studio comes alive.

    Home Studio Room Idea

    How to Choose the Perfect Room in Your Home  

    First, let’s take a look at the things to avoid when you are searching for that perfect room. They are as follows:

    • Small spaces. Otherwise, you will run out of space for all your kit.
    • Noisy rooms. Every sound around you is magnified by the microphone.
    • Carpets. It actually hurts the acoustics and wears out quickly; hard floors are the top choice.
    • Poor acoustics. This is found in rooms that are; small, have sloped ceilings, parallel drywalls.

    Once you have ruled these rooms out, you can get down to picking one. If it is still a little noisy, there is no need to worry too much; you can add soundproofing. Now that you have made your selection, the next thing you need to do is completely empty it. The floors, walls, and ceiling should be completely bare (save any light fixtures, of course). Anything that vibrates also needs to be removed.

    After this, you can set your acoustic treatment up. If you are a little confused about it, there is no need to worry; I’m taking you through it in more detail a little later in this chapter. It doesn’t take too long, but it can make or break your studio’s quality.

    Now for the fun stuff, getting your workstation ready to go. You can really take your time with this to create the optimum space for your recordings. Start with the desk and the chair, then move onto the rest. Keep in mind that your desk and chair are the very centre of your work area, and so you need to build around these pieces of furniture. My top tip is to ensure that the chair you choose is comfortable so that you can sit in it for prolonged periods of time.

    When you are arranging the rest of your gear, there is something you need to keep in mind. Are you working alone or with others? This can change the way you set things up completely, and I have a little advice for you for each scenario:

    #1 Going Solo. The classic way to do this is to place all of your equipment in a circle, which leaves you in the middle of everything for easy access and recording. Of course, if your room is quite small, this can cause some excess noise, and you should be aware of this. Additionally, it is only suitable for one artist and doesn’t work if you want more.

    #2 Group Recording. Think of your room as a mirror image. On one side, you are going to have your setup (musician), and on the other, you will have a replica (engineer). Flanking these, you will have all of your equipment, leaving more than enough spaces for two artists to perform freely. It’s perfect for this situation, but you can’t use it alone as it is impossible to jump between the two stations.

    #3 Hybrid. To solve any issues between going from solo to group performance, I present to you the hybrid method. It looks exactly like the group setup, but there is one key addition that makes all the difference. You’ll have a remote that can control the engineer station easily, allowing you complete control over all of your equipment without moving.

    The DAW remote is everything you need and more, and it’s a simple control panel app that you can download on your tablet. There really is nothing else like it, and it can be downloaded across all device types for easy access.

    Once the layout is done, you can move onto connecting all your gear up. This is the moment of truth when everything is powered and running for the first time. After that, the placement of your studio monitors is all that’s left. This is not a simple task, but one of the best ways to ensure perfect placement is to see yourself as the tip of a triangle and your monitors as the other two points. From where you sit at your desk, this should give you a clear idea of what to do.

    Where to Place Your Speakers

    Best Budget PC Speakers - Creative

    When you hear the words monitor and speakers, they are usually referring to the same thing in your home studio; the monitor speakers. The thing is, once you set these bad boys up, they are going to stay there, and that’s why you need to carefully consider their placement. Allow me to give you a hand with that part.

    The first thing to remember is that the majority of speakers have bass ports on the back. This means that if you place them up against the wall, they won’t work correctly. It’s something that you should always check with the manufacturer’s guide, especially as there are plenty of urban legends out there about distance and bass.

    If the speaker is the same distance from the side wall as the one behind them, move the speakers. This is because the equal distance builds something known as standing waves, causing low-end frequencies to appear louder than they actually are. Ensure the distance is not equal before you settle your speakers into place.

    If you have a larger room, the best place for your speakers is along the longest wall. This is because the reflection strength from the short walls is exceptionally strong and can cause disruptions, whereas the long wall reduces the power of these frequencies. By placing the speakers in the middle of the longest wall, you maintain sound symmetry and ensure that the results are as balanced as possible. Just remember, this is for large rooms only.

    You should also consider the ceiling as well, for one that is too close to your head can result in a distinct loss of bass. Make sure you position yourself so that your head and workspace are a good distance from the ceiling and not close to it. Additionally, I would like to remind you that placing the speakers so that your head is the tip of the triangle and they are the bottom points is vital for clear sound.

    Please remember not to put your speakers on their side. I see this too much, and they were not designed to be placed that way. In fact, when they are, they actually end up losing that sweet spot. You should also have them angled so that they are pointing towards your ears and never straight ahead. After all, you need to be hearing everything clearly.

    How to Add Acoustic Treatment  

    When you look this up online, I know it comes across as pretty intimidating. The first time I set my home studio up, I was terrified and nearly lost hope. However, it isn’t nearly as daunting as it seems, and acoustic treatments are actually a breeze to get through. Just remember that the process has two main goals to complete:

    • Correct any issues with the room
    • Create the ideal recording and mixing space

    That’s it, all you need to keep in mind when thinking about the endgame. The next thing you might be thinking is about how expensive it is. Well, it doesn’t need to be. Acoustic treatment can actually be pretty affordable. I will suggest that you avoid foam treatments, though, as cheap and tempting as they might be. They only affect high frequencies, and home studios need to be focusing on the low ones. Instead, go with Rockwool or fibreglass.

    Completely strapped for cash and already got a broken bank to contend with? No need to worry, there are some nifty tricks you can use when you are completely stuck. Take a look at these emergency absorber panels that you can use in a pinch:

    • Mattresses (seriously, they work)
    • Thick duvets
    • Thick curtains

    As we are done with that, let’s move onto adding acoustic treatment for different purposes. To start with, let’s take a look at what you need to do if you are using the studio for mixing:

    #1 Reflection Points. The side walls that are either side of the speakers are like a mirror, with sound bouncing between them. The walls where you picture the speakers to be should be acoustically treated to ensure efficiency and that the sound is not absorbed by the walls. A little air gap between the panels can also improve efficiency. You can even add absorption to the ceiling if needed.

    #2 Corners. The bass builds up the most in the corners of each room, but there is an easy way to overcome this. You can buy bass traps that have been made for the task, or you can place an acoustic panel across the corner to absorb the excess. The panels here should be nice and thick as well. Add an air gap to that, and the effectiveness is increased.

    #3 Speakers. After you have done all the wall work, you can create further acoustic treatment behind your monitor speakers. This means you can move them a couple of feet away from the wall without having to suffer through comb filtering from the various reflections. It’s a way better and more efficient setup to employ.

    Next, we can go into detail about how to add acoustic treatment for a home studio that is being used for recording purposes:

    #1 Be Reflective. Instead of focusing on absorption, your room should instead be aiming towards being reflective. All you need to do is remember that there is such a thing as overtreating your room, and this will have a negative impact on the sound. Keep it simple.

    #2 Be Flexible. Use panels that can be moved around as it makes your workspace more versatile so that you can change the setup as your recording studio grows. Not only that, but you can also adjust them according to your specific recording needs at the time; perfect for a variety of situation and instruments.

    #3 Split the Room. This is a pretty good method to use when you have two different purposes for the same space. That way you can dedicate one side of the room to mixing, and use the previous tips, while also leaving the other side “live” so that it can be used for recording. It’s a good way to ensure everything remains together and as effective as possible.

    To Conclude

    Starting up a home studio of your own doesn’t seem that hard, right? That’s because it’s not. It’s going to take some time, and a little money, but it doesn’t have to break the bank in order to be a massive success. I hope that this guide has been able to show you just how easy it is to get started and make your studio dreams a reality.

    After all, is there anywhere better and more comfortable to record your latest tracks than your own home? Whether you want to try something on a budget and with the basic equipment, or you would rather go all out, this guide is able to cater to that need.

    What did you think of my home studio guide? Was it as complete as the title suggests, or are there things you felt got left out? I love hearing from you, so feel free to leave a message in the comment section below.

    About the author

    Tim Rhodes

    As well as being Chief editor here at - Dan is a freelance writer and blogger, as well as tech, loves a chilled weekend river fishing with his mates.