Music Gear for the Home Studio

Posted on: January 27th, 2014 by AF No Comments

How to setup a home recording studio

I am sitting here listening to “Big D and the Kids Table” mulling over ideas for our music blog, playing Norsk casino, and with the Ska music blaring the muse hit me.  I am going to write a series of articles about what gear you should get for a home studio.  Don’t discount a home studio, many artists have made incredible music from their home studio or even old-skool 4 tracks.  I used to have two reel to reel players and bounce tracks tracks back and forth.  I thought that was genius, because I couldn’t afford anything cool, but I made it work.

This will be a many part series of gear that you will need to get your home recording studio off the ground.   Every fledgling artist knows what gear they need, but they are not sure which gear they should get.  We are going to break that down for you.  In this series we are going to cover: Speakers, Recording software, Computers, Amplifiers, Microphones, Wiring, Mobile Devices,  Mixers, USB Mixers and cabling.  We have set these types of studios up many times over.  You can get started with one of the “Boxed” studios for around $250, but they do not include everything and we will go over that.  Just remember to set a budget because things can get very expensive, so you will have to decide is what you want really what you need..?

In this series I will break each series down into sub categories of what kind of artist you are.  For example, which microphone should I choose if I am a Vocalist, guitar player, or drummer.  This will be difficult in certain hardware areas and I am sure you, the reader, will have a lot of questions.  This will be a basic get you up and running Home Studio articles so we will stay away from Midi and advanced recording for now.

I will creating these articles from the point of view from a well rounded artist that plays every instrument and want to write music with analog instruments or digital.  You should have every option at your finger tips and be able to write dance music, play guitar, sing and play piano all on one setup.

As a caveat you will need to be able to experiment have some musical experience and the will to learn.

Since this is the first article I am going to kick it off by creating an overview of some of the basic gear you will need.

Firstly you will need a good direction of what you want to accomplish. Will you be creating demos, publishing to YouTube, recording your entire band or recording electronic music (Dance, R&B, Sampling)

For starters you will need a list of the gear you will need and a basic budget, so let’s get started.  I will go over each one of these in depth later.
A decent computer, either Mac or PC $699
Studio Monitors – Speakers $150, $699 – $2500
Audio Interface – USB Mixer – $100, $799 – $1000+
Cables – USB, Audio, 1/4″ inch cables, 1/8th to two RCA(phono),  Phono to 1/4″ adapter
Software $99, $299 – $1000+
Microphone – $99 – $399+
Piano / USB – $99 +

Let’s start with the heart of this operation, a computer.  You can go either way on this PC or MAC, we have used both.  I started writing music on an ADLIB Sound card with dragging MIDI notes around on a monochrome screen, oh how we have advanced.  That aside, be prepared to spend at minimum $699 (new) on a PC and $600 (used) MacBook Pro on eBay. Having an Internet connection via or your preferred provider helps, too.

You will need a compute with a lot of hard drive space.  Not to worry if you buy a PC, they are easily upgraded, the newer models of the MacBook and MacBook Air, not so much.  the MacBook Pro will not be a problem, save for the 2014 models.

Buy a computer with at least an Intel i5 or equivalent (2014). Lesser processors will work, like the Core 2 Duo, but those are quickly going away.

You want your computer to have 8GB of ram, if you buy one with 4GB, it will work, but I would upgrade it to 8GB.  The more ram you have the more efficient your machine will run.

I would get the biggest hard drive you can afford.  You do not have to buy it now, you can upgrade later or add external storage.  FYI, Do not run your programs from external storage or try to record to external storage.  If you are running out of space, move your backups/archives to the external storage and work off of your internal drives.  This will help with any recording issues down the road.

Video card – really doesn’t matter unless you are wanting to do double duty, like play games or 3D modeling.

Operating systems –
PC: windows 7 or 8 – Recommend a fresh install
MAC: 10.8.x – upgrading is simple through the App Store.

Before you read this next paragraph, let it be known, I can build a PC in under 10 minutes, probably blindfolded, same goes for a MAC. I am not partial.
I know you are thinking; What computer should I buy, MAC or PC.  It depends on what you are used to, what your future holds, and what your friends/band-mates are using.  If my friends were using a pc and we wanted to collaborate, I would stick with PC, same goes with MAC.  If I was branching out on my own and I was only going to collaborate once in a while, I would get a MAC.  If you wanted to save money and just get recording music, get a PC with your favorite software.  Remember this is only for a home-recording studio not high-end, that would require a lot more money.

There is a third option that not as powerful, but can work, you can buy an iPad with Garage band.  I use this all the time to write little tracks either electronic, analog instruments and vocals.  This is a pretty cool option.  I also use it as a guitar effects processor when I don’t want to lug equipment around.  I just bring my iPad/iPhone a guitar input, power chord, some cables and away I go.

The next article will revolve around which software I should buy for which computer and why.