If you’re on the lookout for high-quality studio recording equipment, the odds are you might be clueless when it comes to choosing the best equipment for your needs. Don’t worry, your struggle will end here: this article serves as a decent introduction to this seemingly overwhelming topic.
Truth be told, the options to choose from are numerous. So, we plan to offer you the base information you must have for making a fully informed purchase. Evidently, the gear you carefully select should match the type of recording you plan on making.
That being said, let’s get right to it, shall we? First, we’ll have a look at the interesting history of studio recording equipment. Afterward, we’ll break down the main types of equipment, their features, and assigned use!
The compelling history of recording studios goes back to the 1800s when Thomas Alva Edison invented the phonograph. Originally, his intention was to enhance the telephone.
At that time, the phonograph facilitated a means to both record and play back sound.
In 1877, Edison added a patent, which would use foil cylinders. In ten years’ time, Emile Berliner, prominent inventor and engineer, came up with a solution to enhance the machine.
To be more precise, he designed the machine so that it would engrave the sound on a disk’s surface. As a result, in 1889, sound-reproducing boxes became widely popular. Another aspect worth noting is that the first recording studio ever opened was the New York Phonograph Company.
At the beginning of the 20th century, recordings would be reproduced on thick wax discs. The first artist that completed the first recording was Enrico Caruso – a noteworthy opera singer of the time.
Afterward, by the year of 1904, Lee de Forest invented the triode. This could be acknowledged as a preliminary point that would play a major role in the history of electronically recorded music.
Before 1925, performers that would record had to stay in the immediate proximity of the bell of a horn for a decent recording.
In other words, that required cramming a large orchestra or band in a limited space. Additionally, balancing the volume produced by each performer was impossible.
Nonetheless, thanks to the new technology, larger groups of singers were able to perform in their usual formations. What is more, until the late 1940s, recordings couldn’t be edited.
Still, that changed when the recording industry introduced the magnetic-coated sound recording tape. So, the addition of multi-track recorders in the 1950s facilitated studios to combine and edit separate tracks that would be recorded at different times.
One decade later, the upgrade to two-channel stereophonic sound enlarged the possibilities of sound mixing even further. That enabled studio engineers to implement distinct effects such as reverb and echo. In the 1970s, long-playing disks were substituted by cassette tapes.
This enhancement made music portable; we should also mention the noteworthy noise reduction. The upgrade to digital technology has significantly expanded the possibilities of recording.
At the moment, musicians can record, compose, and perform effortlessly and inexpensively.
Now we’d like to talk about radio studios. To begin with, a radio studio is a place where you can record audio professionally, or use it for live broadcast.
For the most part, the room is soundproof, eliminating unwanted noise that could minimize the quality of the recording.
Evidently, there are different types of radio studios. The choice of studio recording equipment is essential, in this respect.
For example, a basic radio studio might not be as impressive as an advanced or professional one. Nonetheless, it would have everything you need for broadcasting online.
Your goal should be to create a room with excellent acoustics and minimal noise. Ideally, you should focus on soundproofing the space.
Apart from that, sealing the door is more than mandatory. It comes as no surprise that many opt for a double door arrangement.
A radio studio is designed by taking into account the principles of room acoustics. The ultimate purpose is to create a space with optimal acoustic properties that would facilitate recording sound with accuracy and precision.
As we already mentioned, we will present to you the main types of studio equipment, and the functions carried by each of them. Where should you start? What are the must-have studio equipment items?
Hopefully, this list will help you in this respect.
The first item on your studio recording equipment buying list is a high-quality computer. For years now, massive tape machines would hold supremacy in the recording realm. In the past, it would take hours to set up a studio for recording.
Nonetheless, thanks to a computer, you can minimize the time and effort directed into the recording.
While it does increase the complexity of the process, it also offers almost the same properties as big analog studies that may cost up to thousands of dollars.
The good news is that, at the moment, everyone owns a computer of one sort or another. Twenty years ago, having a home recording studio wasn’t an available option.
Nevertheless, now, we’re dazzled at the excellent music one could produce in the comfort of his/her own apartment.
Virtually, almost every computer could be a decent starting point. In time, you might need to replace it with a more efficient one, but for starters, your current one could work just fine.
If you intend to purchase a new computer, I’m afraid I don’t have a one-size-fits-all kind of answer for you. You should make a decision depending on your budget, the portability of the device and the processing speed.
Whether you choose a Windows-based PC or a Mac, you’ll still be able to record music. Even so, you should be careful to consider the DAW you plan on using.
Additionally, you must take into consideration the computer noise. When it comes to small home studios, you might record in the same room where you keep the computer.
Therefore, if your computer makes a lot of noise, this could seriously jeopardize the quality of your recordings.
In this respect, you could maintain the computer cool by utilizing an air-conditioned room or use a laptop stand. As a general rule, you should position the computer as far away from the microphones as possible.
What is more, you might also consider placing a sound barrier between the computer and the microphones.
The DAW or Digital Audio Workstation is the software you’ll utilize for the actual recording. It is a program you install on your computer that enables you to record music from distinct sources such as guitars, microphones, electronic keyboards, so on and so forth.
It also allows you to transfer your project into an audio track – WAV or MP3 format, depending on your preference. On one side, the operating principle of a DAW is pretty simple, just as Photoshop is conveyed as being simple by proficient photographs and web designers.
Nevertheless, those who are proficient in Photoshop will most likely tell you that there is more to it than what meets the eye. The same applies to most DAWs.
The digital audio workstation is used for recording, editing and mixing music on the computer. In the simplest terms, it is one of the most important pieces of equipment you’ll invest in.
Since we covered the basics regarding DAWs, we’d like to move on to the main things that shouldn’t miss your focus.
For starters, the operating system of your computer will make certain software unavailable to you. In other words, there are some programs that work with Mac only, while others work with Windows only. You should carry this limitation in mind.
Secondly, the computer specs matter just as much when you want to purchase studio recording equipment.
Simply put, a DAW is a pretty powerful program, which has the means to minimize the performance of less powerful computers, especially when it comes to fully-loaded projects.
So, if your current computer is a bit sluggish, the odds are you might need to get a powerful one.
Simultaneously, you may also choose between free and paid software. If you’re a beginner, and you’re just starting out, perhaps it could be a decent option to choose a free alternative.
It’s true that free software has its share of limitations. Nevertheless, at the incipient stage, getting one of these could be a better option. You might get paid software when you’re 100 percent ready to commit to the costs.
In general, an audio interface represents a device that is responsible for getting the audio in and out of the computer. Such an item could be PCI cards you install in your computer. You may connect them via Firewire or USB, or a combination of the two.
Most computers come equipped with an in-built sound card, a.k.a. audio interface. Nevertheless, these will work fine if you intend to record YouTube videos. Still, they aren’t fitted if you intend to record and playback.
Let’s say that your recording needs are pretty modest and you plan on recording electric guitar and your voice. In this respect, the sound card will lack the necessary connections for a decent result.
As a result, an audio interface is a necessity if you want to create your own home studio.
Before you start comparing and contrasting different audio interfaces, you should establish the type of interface your computer is likely to accept.
While it might seem ridiculously straightforward, the most important consideration when you’re looking for a high-quality audio interface is the following: how many inputs and outputs do I require?
Think of it this way: you want to purchase something that will be functional in the upcoming years as well.
On that note, we advise you to think of future expandability. In other words, if you get an audio interface with two microphone inputs only, that won’t allow you to record a drum kit. This is just an example.
The bottom-line, however, is that you should carefully analyze your options before you make a decision. And try to think of how you intend to use the interface in the future, as well.
Your recording studio microphone represents the ears of your recording studio. It transforms sound into electricity, which is further transferred to the interface.
Just as every instrument sounds different, microphones come equipped with different functions and capabilities. For example, a professional studio microphone might sound better compared to a home studio one.
While there are plenty of items to choose from, you don’t need to get one dozen of microphones from the very start. If you’re a beginner, you’ll only need one decent microphone.
For instance, you may use it for recording the vocals, instruments, and additional parts, one step at a time.
Nevertheless, there’s no all-time rule that applies. It’s up to you to establish your needs and specifications. Only afterward should you make a purchase.
There are two major types of microphones, namely condenser, and dynamic ones. For the most part, dynamic microphones are utilized in live sound settings.
When it comes to home recording studios, they’re used in order to record guitar amps or drums.
Bear in mind that we’re discussing in broad terms. There are no fixed rules.
On the other side, condensers are preferred in recording studios. These are powered by phantom power, in most cases. So, you should make sure that your audio interface has the capability of supplying phantom power.
Additionally, condensers feature increased sensitivity, in comparison to dynamic mics. To that end, they will also record the details.
The bottom line is that a good microphone could add personality, color, and life to your recordings. At the same time, many performers prefer getting a USB studio microphone, as the USB connection is quite convenient.
While getting the best studio microphone is the key to nailing your recordings, it won’t ensure an excellent recording. You’ll still be responsible for reaching the perfect sound.
Among our top recommendations, we would like to mention the Electro Voice RE320 Studio Microphone, the Samson Meteor Mic USB Studio Microphone, the Blue Yeti Microphone and the MXL Studio Microphone.
Make sure you check our buying guide and see how you can choose the best microphone for you.
While they might not seem to be a mandatory investment, headphones represent a useful acquisition if you’re eager to set up your home recording studio.
It’s true that getting a reliable computer, audio interface and DAW remains a priority, but headphones matter, as well.
The primary reason why you should depend on a high-quality pair of headphones is that you’ll need them for recording. For example, let’s say that you’re recording the vocals and instruments at different times.
Evidently, you should be able to mute the studio monitors while you’re doing that. Concurrently, you should be able to hear what you record. That’s why we consider headphones to be quite a significant purchase.
Another scenario would be the following: if you’re recording yourself while playing guitar and singing, having headphones could be helpful. They could aid you to determine if you’ve positioned the microphones correctly, if the sound is good, so on and so forth.
As you might anticipate, the range of headphones available is vast. You can choose from open, semi-open or closed. When it comes to recording, though, one of the most dependable options is choosing closed headphones.
That’s primarily because these items are meant to prevent the sound from leaking out of the headphone.
If that happens, the microphone is likely to pick up the sound, and you don’t want that to happen. It could seriously impair the recording.
On the other hand, open headphones are advisable for mixing. Although mixing is, for the most part, done in studio monitors, that is not necessarily a rule. Especially in today’s world with state-of-the-art home recording studios.
To that end, open headphones facilitate an accurate frequency balance. Still, they aren’t suited for recording purposes.
Evidently, the semi-closed headphones account for the in-between alternative. These are well-balanced, and they offer sufficient isolation for optimal tracking applications.
Some argue that a studio monitor is one of the most important tools for getting an excellent sound. As a result, top studios don’t hesitate to invest in items worth thousands of dollars.
While that may appear just a tad unrealistic, considering that we’re talking about home studios, rest assured: you don’t need to go bankrupt if you want to get decent studio monitors.
While microphones are responsible for capturing the sound, studio monitors are utilized to reproduce it. Evidently, you should also rely on a high-quality audio interface, but that’s definitely not enough if the studio monitors and mics aren’t up for the challenge.
The reason why your choice of studio monitors matter when you’re looking for reliable studio recording equipment is that they will influence the sound. So, your studio monitors have to provide you an accurate picture of your mix.
When you start browsing for studio monitors, you’ll notice that there are plenty to choose from. These items come in different shapes and sizes. As a general rule, if the speaker is big, that would result in the excellent reproduction of low frequencies.
For example, a 3-inch monitor won’t deliver the same bass response as an 8-inch monitor would. The thing with some monitors is that they don’t capture low sounds, such as the deep bass.
So, you should determine the kind of music you intend to record, and afterward choose accordingly.
Simply put, a microphone stand is a free-standing mount designated for your microphone. It keeps the microphone in an upright position in a studio, on a stage, so on and so forth.
Evidently, your choice of microphone stand is imminently linked to your type of performance. For example, if you plan on using it for singing only, a solid base stand would serve your purpose.
On the other hand, if you plan on playing the guitar, as well, or any other instrument, a tripod could be a more convenient alternative. So, determine how you intend to use your microphone before getting a stand.
A crucial consideration is the durability. Accidents happen: you might knock it over the floor, which would make it subject to breakage. At the same time, you should take into account aspects such as transport, storage, and handling.
The cables you use in your studio matter more than you might think. Fairly speaking, each piece of equipment in your home studio is connected via cables. Therefore, investing in high-quality ones is mandatory.
Using high-quality cables could actually diminish the amount of interference and noise picked up in your recordings.
Truth be told, home studios are as noisy as they can get. To that end, if your system doesn’t pick up a lot of noise, your recording will be of superior quality.
Additionally, your cables have the role of maintaining the frequency response of your system. For instance, I have noticed astounding improvements in the quality of the sound when I upgraded the cables.
When it comes to your cables, make sure you put a lot of thought into making the right purchase. At the end of the day, the price distinction between the cheap and more expensive products isn’t that considerable.
Nevertheless, a decent cabling system could significantly enhance the sound of your home studio.
After reading this post, we are confident that you’ll have all the background knowledge to make the wisest decision when you’re shopping for studio recording equipment.
As with any other significant purchase, the most important consideration is to analyze your recording needs. Afterward, you should choose accordingly. That is the key to creating the ideal home studio.
We have more upcoming articles on the topic of studio recording equipment, as well as recommendations of products we’ve tested. So make sure you check them out, as well!