Home Recording Studio On A Budget
A home recording studio on a budget seems like it’s an impossible task, but it’s entirely possible if you know where to splurge, and where to be cheap.
Professional recording studios can be extremely complex and confusing. If you’ve ever walked in to a professional studio, you’ve probably stood in awe of most of the equipment. But, despite its complexity and high cost, the basics of recording are not that difficult to master, and can be easily translated to a home studio.
Below, you can find our guide to setting up a home recording studio on a budget. We have decided to list 2 budget options: Budget, and Super Budget. Budget is a balance between quality and saving money, or the equipment with the most bang for your buck. Super Budget is about creating a home studio at the bare minimum, of course at the expense of quality.
We want you to make informed decisions with your music-making, so take some time to digest the information below.
Recording Equipment Overview
It would be impossible to list all of the equipment used in studios. Luckily, the basics of recording only require a few pieces of vital equipment. These include a computer, DAW/Audio Interface, Headphones, Mic(s), Mic Stand, and Cables. Below is our picks for “Budget” and “Super Budget” recording gear. Budget will range from $350-$1300, largely dependent on your computer. Super Budget will range from $60-$80.
Don’t feel like buying each piece individually? See Price On Amazon
Overall, this is a great starter recording kit for a good price. Eventually, you might decide to upgrade the microphone to a more expensive piece, but you’ll still be able to use the rest of the bundle just fine!
You would be hard-pressed to be able to record without the above 6. So we will consider that list our ‘necessities’. The next list are things that are not necessary, but are certainly suggested for a easier and better sounding production process. These include:
Getting Started: In-depth Equipment Reviews
A large part of sticking to a budget is utilizing what you already have. We’ll make the assumption you already own a computer or laptop that you can use for recording.
Despite professionals using expensive computers, if you already own a Mac or powerful PC you are already ahead of the curve, and can put that money towards other equipment. However, if your computer is extremely slow, we would recommend taking a look at getting a new one. Recording can be a hefty load on a computers processing power.
If you’re happy with your computer, below is an in-depth breakdown of the equipment needed. We also listed what the professionals use for each piece of equipment, and a budget-friendly, and super budget-friendly alternative for each.
DAW stands for Digital Audio Workstation, and is the software used to record music. In general, professionals use Protools.
The Audio Interface is the hardware that you use to connect your microphones or instruments to your computer. Think of the audio interface as the ‘middle man’ between your instruments, and your computer receiving that information. Professionals will typically have ridiculously expensive and complicated interfaces – which are not necessary here.
Despite this being a crucial, and arguably most important piece of equipment, you do not need to splurge here. You can buy a DAW/Audio Interface package for relatively cheap (about $100). We recommend purchasing a bundle, so there will be no compatibility issues, and just makes the set up process that much easier.
But we can even go cheaper here if your budget calls for it (and you have the right computer). If you have a Mac you most likely have Garageband already. Garageband IS in fact a DAW, and you can hook your instruments straight to your computer with cables such as a USB Guitar Cable and a USB Microphone. This effectively eliminates your DAW/Audio Interface expense completely, and also covers your microphone expense.
Headphones are an extremely important part of the recording process. Even if you opt to go for studio monitors, you will still need a pair of headphones for mixing. For that reason (while keeping budget in mind), for a home studio on a budget it is okay if you skip on studio monitors, but not okay to skip on headphones.
Don’t go for the cheapest pair either. These will be your only tool in determining if you are getting the right sound. Our recommended pair is the Sony MDR7506, which run about $75. If you want to learn more about headphones, you can view our recent in-depth article here.
The cheapest option here is to simply use whatever headphones/speakers you have laying around, such as iPhone headphones, or your computer speakers. But even $20 Behringer HPS3000 are still a super budget-friendly option.
Sure, there are microphones in the $30-$50 range, but out of all these pieces of equipment we feel the microphone is the one that you don’t want to be too cheap with. A microphone is a large part of what determines your sound quality.
We feel the Audio-Technica AT2035 does a great job at balancing cost vs. quality (and it even comes with a pop filter and xlr cable!). Audio-Technica has been around for awhile, and have typically received top praise as a budget-friendly, high-quality microphone manufacturer. This is also a good choice for musicians who want an adaptable microphone, able to record guitar and vocals with ease.
Since our “Super Budget” section excludes an audio interface, your only option is a USB Microphone. Our top-pick for budget friendly USB Microphones is the CAD U37 for it’s insanely low price point and surprisingly decent quality.
There’s no need to splurge on an expensive microphone stand. For both budget and super budget went with the Samson MK-10 Microphone Boom Stand, for it’s low price point and good quality.
Its light build and sturdy steel construction make it a no-brainer.
XLR and Guitar cables (1/4″ cables), are tremendously important to the recording process. Without them, you wouldn’t be able to connect your mic/instrument to your audio interface. Luckily, these cables are not expensive at all, and if you decided to go with the Audio-Technica AT2035 microphone, it already comes with an XLR cable.
Check out our list of favorite guitar cables here.
The CBI MLC20 is our pick for XLR cable for it’s incredible price point and good build quality. We like that it’s 20ft. of cable, but would recommend not going past this length, because issues with interference can arise.
No XLR’s needed with USB microphones.