Build A Home Studio On A Budget

Ready to build your own home studio on a budget? Many people think of recording studios as the big time studios that cost hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars. You know the places where the big artists go? Studios that may cost hundreds of dollars an hour to use, a hefty price for many beginning musicians.

Home Studio PictureWell I have good news for you! Now thanks to technology advancing over the past few decades, artists without a huge budget have numerous options to build a home studio for getting their work out to the public.

While it is hard to beat the quality or expertise professional studios offer, I am writing this article  to show you how a musician can make their own home studio setup for under $1000 or even just $100s depending on what they want to use to achieve some great sounding results.

There are many different way to build a home studio setup. I will mainly focus on the DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) setup for now since it is a good start for the solo musician or small group. So far I have only spent about $750 over time and really only need to spend a few hundred more for my ideal basic studio setup.

Your audio recording equipment does not have to be exactly like mine. I am just showing what works well for me. The equipment combinations are endless when building a home studio.

If your a musician I will assume you already have at least one instrument since you are looking to record now so I will move on to the First component of a DAW studio.

Chances are you are reading this on a PC or Laptop computer. If so that is good! You already have one of the main components for your own studio. I will start by listing the key components I have in my small home studio then I will go into more detail and the price of each item.

Computers for Home Audio Recording

LaptopI’ll begin with my PC. Any decent computer should be able to suit your needs as a beginner. Most of the products I will mention have the minimum specifications they require on the package so if your computer has higher spec numbers you will be fine for most projects when you build a home studio.

Using a Laptop home studio setup can be beneficial if you have space restrictions or desire mobility. With a laptop you have a portable recording studio that can record on the go almost anywhere you choose. You can learn more about Laptop based home studios if you like.

Audio Software

Next on the list of your home recording studio setup is the software. This subject has probably caused so many arguments and wars in the home audio world that it should probably be outlawed. Prices can range from simple free recording software such as Audacity up to programs costing hundreds of dollars.

FL Studio BoxesThe program I use for most of my audio is FL Studio. After a few months of learning how to use the program it suits all of my needs and I really like the software. As a bonus they provide lifetime free updates which means you get every future version released for free. They are the only big audio software company that I know who do this. Prices range from $50 to $300 for FL Studio.

  • Each audio software program offers its own unique features and abilities.
  • Search Zzounds for DAW Programs to see prices and reviews to decide which one sounds like the best for you.

To me good audio results depend more on ones own knowledge and abilities than the software itself.

OK so far I have spent $300 (I bought FL Studio Fruity Edition for $100 and later upgraded to Signature for a total of $300) and you can stop here if you just want to make some electronic music. Although I would recommend some decent listening equipment as well if you do not already own some.

Studio Monitoring Equipment

KRK RP8G2 Rokit G2 Powered 2-Way Active Monitor Whether you choose to use Studio Headphones or Studio Monitoring Speakers you will want the best you can find or afford so every detail in your tracks can be heard.

  • Look for good Frequency Response Range.
  • You want the playback equipment to have a pretty “flat” sound.

What I mean by “flat” is the headphones or speakers do not add anything of their own to the frequencies they are playing. The object is to let you hear the way the actual audio sounds as closely as possible.

The KRK Rokit RP8G2 monitors pictured to the right are the ones I currently use, and the newest addition to my home studio.  They sound great, and are a good value for the price. They will put you over budget though if you are trying to stay under $1000.

 

Seennheiser HD280 Pro HeadphonesI have started out with a pair of Sennheiser HD 280 Pro headphones. They cost around $100 and while some people complained about their “lack of bass” I found they work just fine for me and I was amazed at how many different sounds they allowed me to hear. Remember with monitoring equipment it is about exact sound reproduction not enhanced sound reproduction.

As for studio monitors (speakers) my budget has only allowed me to buy a pair of headphones until recently due to monitors more expensive price tag. A good pair of headphones and monitors is definately the best of both worlds. You can always add monitors later like I did.

The question now is studio monitors or headphones? I would suggest both because they each have their benefits in sound production.

Headphones:

  • With headphones you can cut out much of the background noise while working on your audio projects.
  • Headphones allow you to work quietly when you have the need to do so.

Close Range Monitor speakers:

  • Since they are not right on your ears they allow you to hear the left and right channel difference in sound traveling through space so you can fine tune how the timing from each channel reaches the listeners ear.
  • Good for working on projects with others.
  • Easier to get a good picture of the sound stage with.

The cost for my Studio setup is now $400 going with the headphone route for the time being. Next I will discuss my Audio Interface.

Audio Interfaces For A Home Studio

M-Audio Fast Track Pro USB Audio Interface If you are wondering what an Audio Interface is think of it as a hub to get the music or vocals from instruments or mics into your computer for recording. Its rather simple really, you connect the audio interface to your computer and then connect the instruments, mics,or both to your audio hub. There are also connections for other audio equipment. These connections vary by model and price. Some also include free audio software so if you just plan to record you might not need other audio software.

The audio interface I use for my sound is a M-Audio Fast Track Pro ($200, pictured above) and it does come with some free basic audio software. I can connect 2 instruments or mics at the same time which is plenty for my needs. So far the nice little M-Audio hardware unit has given me no problems. For recording many instruments or vocals at once such as with live band recordings you might want to look for a hub with more connections. Audio interfaces such as these can usually be hooked up to your computer with USB or Firewire connections. Good for a home studio setup on the go.

Another option is a good Soundcard. You will need some computer know how to install one of these. I wanted to go with a portable setup using a laptop so I chose the audio interface instead. Check out a wide selection of audio interfaces here.

Total out of pocket cost so far is $600. Now on to Midi Controllers!

Home Studio Midi Controllers

M-Audio Oxygen 49 v3 49-Key USB Keyboard MIDI Controller Midi Controllers come in many different styles and flavors and can be used for a variety of different tasks in your home studio setup. Midi devices do not make sounds on their own. Instead the send information to the audio software program telling it what not to play or parameter to adjust.

I chose to buy a Midi Controller Keyboard from M-Audio. It is called the Oxygen 49 ($150, pictured above) and comes with 49 keys and several sliders and knobs. What I really like about this keyboard is the ability to play any software instrument with it and connect the knobs and sliders to the software knobs and sliders in FL Studio for a real audio hardware feel. You can buy knobs and sliders separate from keyboards with prices ranging from under $50 and up. For now I prefer the combination since I am limited on space.

While this is not a necessary addition for building a home studio unless you play piano, it can really help increase your work flow and production. Like all things though budget is always a factor. Here is some more information on midi controllers that work well with FL Studio, or you can browse a large selection of midi controllers here.

My new total amount spent over time after adding the Midi Keyboard is $750

Home Studio Microphones

Shure SM57 Cardioid Dynamic Microphone If you are a vocalist or have instruments without jacks for plugging them in then you will want to have at least one microphone in your home studio arsenal. There are many different mic types for different purposes. You will have to find the type that suits you best. This is the final element that I need to buy to feel I have a decent basic home studio setup.

Prices ranging from under $100 to thousands. The one I own right now is the Shure SM-57 (pitured to the right). It also has an optional stand and wire upgrade for it priced around $110-120. After much research I found this mic to be a very affordable all around mic that can be used for instruments and vocals and is great for micing guitar cabinets and drums.

I have been pleased with its performance so far. This is a mic can also be found in most professional studios. It does need a lot of gain to bring the recording levels up so a good preamp might be needed. I will add more mics to my collection as time goes. For now one will be enough though. Check out more mics for your home studio.

With the Shure mic my total cost to build a decent home studio that can turn out great results is around $860-$870. Under $1000 just like I promised. One great thing about a home studio is how I bought each of these items over time to build my studio.

Build Your Own Home Studio

You can add as you go and sky’s the limit for how much you can spend (as long as your bank or significant other agrees). While this is the cost for my basic home studio, the price for yours can be considerably less depending on what you want or need. Zzounds has everything you need to get your own home studio up and running with the lowest price guarantee.

To make building a basic studio even easier zZounds has a special offer that includes everything you need to get going once you have the audio software.  The Producers Hardware Package includes Studio monitors, headphones, a midi keyboard, mic, audio interface, and all the cables needed to make the connections. The price is great at only $620 (or 4 monthly payments of about $160 with pay as you play) to get your home studio up and running. You can find out more details here.

Hopefully you now have an idea of how to go about building your own studio. For me this really has been an add as I go project that will probably last the rest of my life. Have fun building your own home studio. =]

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