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Recording, mixing, and distributing music previously required going to a recording studio, cutting a demo, and sending it to local radio stations or record labels. The process has been greatly simplified, and you can achieve equally good (if not better) results by turning part of your room into a recording area.
We did our research and found seven pieces of recording equipment that cost less than $ 200. All of these technologies will work with both Mac and PC computers and will not require any proprietary apps or software. We’ve also chosen gear that can all work well together, so you can refer to our guide over time as your studio begins to come together.
If you are curious about what you need to record music at home and want to stick to a reasonable budget, you can find all the essentials below.
1. AudioBox iTwo PreSonus
An audio interface acts as the link between your instruments (including microphones) and your computer, so it’s the only piece of equipment you absolutely need need to record digital music. The PreSonus Audiobox iTwo is a two-input interface, which means you can use it to record two instruments at the same time. You can adjust the gain (volume) of each individually by turning the two small knobs labeled “1” and “2” to avoid distortion.
The Audiobox iTwo can record 24-bit music at a sample rate of up to 96kHz, which means you can create higher quality music than a CD. Keep in mind that recording high resolution audio files will require a more powerful computer and the files will take up much more space.
One of the main reasons we recommend this interface is that it is bus powered, which means it will draw power from your computer’s USB port. This makes it much more portable, as you won’t need to find an outlet to plug it in.
PreSonus bundles the Audiobox iTwo with its Studio One recording software, which includes over six gigabytes of audio samples. An audio interface is the foundation of any recording environment, and the PreSonus AudioBox iTwo is a great place to start.
2. Audio-Technica ATR2100x-USB microphone
Audio-Techinca’s ATR2100x-USB is one of the few microphones designed for easy digital recording and live concerts.
The microphone has a USB port, which allows you to connect it directly to a computer without an interface for fast recordings, and XLR, so you can plug it into a mixer during a concert. This flexibility makes the ATR2100x a great all-around choice for musicians.
This microphone can record 24-bit audio at a sample rate of 192 kHz, which is far superior to CD quality. It also has a headphone jack, so you can listen to yourself record directly from the mic itself. If you want to record music and to play a few shows, the Audio-Technica ATR21000x-USB is an excellent mic choice.
3. KRK RP5 Rokit G4 studio monitor
Studio monitors are different from standard bookshelf speakers in that they are specially designed to handle very low or very high frequency exposure without any distortion. The idea is that you, as a musician, can make the music sound like you want it to ring before playing it to the public.
KRK’s RP5 Rokit G4 are equipped with two speakers: a 5.25 inch woofer which manages the mid and low frequencies, and a 1 inch tweeter to manage the high frequencies. The speakers even have a mini LED display on the back that shows you how it adjusts its frequency response based on its location in your room. You can perform other adjustments and calibrations by downloading the KRK Audio Tools app on your smartphone (iOS and Android).
If you want to mix your music using a set of speakers and want ultra fine control over the sound of your music, the KRK RP5 Rokit G4 studio monitors get our recommendation.
4. Sony MDR7506 professional large diaphragm headphones
Sony’s MDR7506 are a pair of on-ear headphones that serve the same purpose as the studio monitor speakers we just recommended. The headphones have large 40mm drivers and are tuned for “flat” sound, so you’ll hear your music with precision instead of boosting the bass or treble.
There’s no way to change the sound of these headphones without going into your recording app’s software settings, but it’s a good thing. These headphones are designed to handle any combination of frequencies you throw at them without distortion, so your music sounds great to your ears.
Sony bundles the MDR7506 with a 1/8 “to 1/4” adapter, so you can plug them directly into your audio interface while recording or mixing.
5. Braided cables
Using a damaged instrument cable increases the chance of audio anomalies such as hum in your recording.
These cables from GLS Audio are covered with a durable and flexible tweed material. Underneath the tweed are layers of copper and plastic to further insulate the cable in the event of an accidental cut. The cables have rubber near the areas where they end to disperse heat more effectively.
These are the only cables I use when recording and have never heard any weird or unwanted distortion during playback. GLS also makes XLR cables for microphones in the same materials, which I have also used regularly without any problems. There is a lot of debate about the actual impact of cables on your recording, but it’s definitely best to use one without cuts or marks on it.
6. Adobe Audition (Subscription)
We’ve only covered the hardware so far, but your recording software will also have a big impact on your music outcome.
Adobe Audition is professional audio editing software that is basically Photoshop for music. The app makes it easy to record multiple tracks, make precise edits and fades, change the EQ, or reduce unwanted noise. It’s even designed to handle very precise tasks, like repairing damaged sound or remixing an existing track.
It may take a while to get your feet wet, but Adobe Audition is extremely powerful software. If you’ve tried free audio editing apps and aren’t happy with their limitations, this will be a substantial upgrade.
Adobe Audition is a subscription app that costs $ 21 per month on its own, but it’s also part of Adobe’s Creative Cloud package, which includes software like Photoshop, Premiere, and InDesign for $ 53 per month.