Top tips: A beginner’s guide to home recording equipment

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THE COMPUTER

When building a digital home recording studio, your computer is the fundamental building block – the platform from which everything else will connect and run. The most important component is speed; the speed to manage large-scale projects; the speed of use of the software and an audio interface; speed to make sure you don’t worry about lag or waiting for your computer to catch up in the middle of a recording.

If you’re looking to invest in a computer for your home recording studio, here’s what you need to know.

desktop vs laptop

A desktop’s larger case can allow for more processing power, which means you get faster speeds and expanded storage. Desktop computers often have space for more inputs and outputs than laptops, allowing for a more sophisticated setup without committing to additional external hubs or ports, while the extra space also opens the door to extensive customization with respect to RAM, hard drives and video cards. .

SOUND INTERFACE

Your audio interface is the connecting gear that bridges the space between sound-creation gear and recording, editing, and mixing software. As a routing box, this is where you plug in microphones, speakers, and headphones.

Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 USB Audio Interface and 24-bit AKAI EIE Pro Audio Interface Expander

When choosing an audio interface, it is important to consider the following points.

Number of mic preamps

The number of preamps dictates the number of microphones you can record with at once. For vocals, you may only need one preamp. To record drums or multiple instruments at the same time, at least four preamps will probably be needed.

Loudspeaker outputs

Whether it’s XLR, 1/4″ or RCA, it’s important to make sure your interface and speaker outputs match.

Headphone jack

This is needed to connect headphones to your audio interface and allows you to hear the finer details while recording.

Microphones

When your home recording studio is just starting out, having one or two mics should cover all the bases. Choosing the right mic for you depends on the instrument you plan to record.

Generally, condenser mics are best suited for high-frequency instruments such as acoustic guitar, cymbals, and piano. While dynamic mics work well with high frequency instruments such as drums and electric guitar.

When you’re looking for versatility and quality across the board, a large-diaphragm cardioid condenser mic is your best bet. Its ability to pick up low frequencies, focusing only on the noise in front of it, and its ability to pick up high frequencies make it a versatile device.

Audio Technica AT2020

For electric guitar, however, the best mic to start with is a Shure SM57, which has an excellent reputation for recording guitar amps.

Shure SM57

STUDIO MONITORS

Studio monitors are necessary for playing and mixing your recordings. These are designed specifically for listening to recorded music, with a flatter response that doesn’t over-enhance or stretch your track’s frequencies – an important characteristic when trying to make objective decisions about your mix.

Adam Audio A7X & Audioengine A5+ Studio Monitors

While you can use headphones for this aspect of home recording, studio speakers provide a much better sonic overview with which to mix your music.

Active vs Passive

Active studio monitors have a built-in speaker, while passive studio monitors need a separate power amp to operate. When it comes to starting your home recording studio, the less equipment the better.

Near Field vs. Mid/Far Field

Near-field studio monitors are suitable for small spaces, such as a home studio. Mid-field and far-field monitors, on the other hand, are designed to be further away from your ears and therefore require additional space to operate.

LISTENERS

Along with your studio monitors, studio headphones are the gateway to listening to and working on your recordings. And in a home studio environment, provide the flexibility to work any time of the day or night, without causing a ruckus from neighbors.

Closed Back vs Open Back

Closed-back headphones provide better isolation while sacrificing some sound quality, perfect for monitoring. The reverse is true for open-back headphones, which offer increased sound quality and less isolation.

Open or closed helmet

It’s a luxury worth having both, but if you can only choose one, the greater isolation that comes with a pair of closed-back headphones is the way to go.

DAW SOFTWARE

The Digital Audio Workstation is the software that will bring your home recording studio to life. The all-in-one tool will allow you to record, play, mix and master your recordings until they are finalized.

Suite Ableton Live 9

It comes down to personal choice, but here are some of the most popular DAWs on the market:

Professional tools – Outstanding audio editing features and ideal for mixing.

Logic – comes with a huge library of sounds and plugins and is user-friendly, but only compatible with a Mac.

Ableton Live – perfect for electronic producers looking to use loops and sampling.

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