Basic Home Recording Studio Setup | 6 Essential Tools Used by Professionals

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Running a professional home recording studio may not require as much equipment as you think. To give you a better idea, we’ll be studying what a basic home recording studio setup resembles and using mine as an example.

If you already own a personal computer, you’re more than halfway there. It’s actually the core element of any recording studio, but its capacity will determine how much you’ll be able to handle. We’ll definitely be covering computer specifications first. However, there are 5 other components that we’ll be needing to create a fully-functional recording studio. So if you were to visit any producer’s home, they would most likely be using these 6 components exclusively to produce music. And this applies regardless of the genre of music you’d like to create. But we will be taking the type of projects you’ll be undertaking when we talk about computers. So let’s get into it! Let’s find out what a basic home recording studio setup looks like.

Laptops/Desktops

The mechanics of digital recording aren’t that different from those of analog recording. Your computer’s hard drive disk (HDD) has the ability to read and write your tracks much like the tape reels of the day.

basic home recording studio setup

Depending on what kind of tasks you intend to execute, you may require a high-performance computer. Anything related to audio will require a lot of random access memory (RAM) and a powerful central processing unit (CPU).

Both laptops and desktops can achieve the minimum system requirements for processing audio. When purchasing a computer, make sure it has a dual-core CPU and 4 GB of RAM at the least and a HDD of at least 500 GB running at 7600 RPM.

Keep in mind that the more tracks, sample libraries and VST plugins you run simultaneously, the more RAM you will need (16 GB is not uncommon) so make sure your machine is up to par with your needs.

Digital Audio Workstations (DAW)

As the core of your setup, your digital audio workstation (DAW) will have a great impact on your workflow. They are all fundamentally the same, but you will notice that certain DAWs cater more to specific needs.

basic home recording studio setup

Some products to consider are Pro Tools, Cubase, Logic Pro, Reason, FL Studio, Ableton Live, Sonar and Reaper amongst others. With all the choices at your disposal, it may be a challenge to select your first DAW but let’s sort them out.

Logic Pro runs exclusively on Mac OS, Pro Tools caters to professional studios and Cubase is pretty accessible to everybody. Reason, FL Studio and Ableton Live all cater to electronic music so they will not function quite like the others.

I personally own one of each (Cubase and Reason) to give me maximum flexibility, but the best way to start is to demo each one of these products to determine which is your best match.

Monitors/Headphones

You’re going to need to hear your work during the production process, so monitors and/or headphones are essential. Ideally, you should consider having both since headphones tend to exaggerate panning and because monitors aren’t isolated.

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Some may stress the importance of owning the perfect pair of monitors, but the truth is most people listen to music with earbuds. I’m not saying you should settle for less, but I personally stress the importance of equipment that sounds best to YOUR EARS.

Exaggerated bass response is the only thing I worry about, so steer clear of monitors/headphones that boost any frequencies. You are looking for a flat-response, or as close as you can get to it.

In the mixing/mastering stage, you should actually listen to your tracks on as many devices as possible to create that perfect balance (this includes earbuds and your phone’s speaker).

Audio Interfaces

Have you ever wondered how music from the physical world is capable of entering the digital world? Audio interfaces are like the bridge that allows us to translate sound waves into binary code.

basic home recording studio setup

A basic audio interface should include at least two XLR and two ¼ inch inputs along with 48v phantom power. These pieces of hardware have become quite accessible and will allow you to begin recording some real tracks.

You may decide that you need an interface with more inputs depending on your situation (drummers for example). Certain models come in the shape of mixing consoles featuring several inputs for maximum flexibility during mixing.

For instrumentalists who do not have the luxury of owning amplifiers, audio interfaces also serve as preamps and virtual amplification software can be used to simulate the sound of an amplifier.

Microphones

If you intend to record any real instruments, you will absolutely need a microphone to get you started. A good dynamic microphone should be enough for most of your recording needs whether it be vocals, guitar cabinet, snare drum, etc…

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Once again, your needs will determine how many microphones you will need to own but for most, one will do the trick. Vocalists and most instrumentalists will require one microphone, the only exceptions are drummers and pianists.

If you would like to use stereo recording techniques, you will then need a minimum of two microphones. Ideally, you should also strive to own one of each type: moving-coil (dynamic), condenser and ribbon microphone.

The more microphones you own, the more flexible you can be when it comes to tracking any particular instrument (or combination of), but you can even get started with a USB microphone if you like.

MIDI/USB Controllers

Programming MIDI with a mouse and keyboard can become quite a tedious task, so I recommend providing yourself with a decent MIDI/USB controller as well. Every writer uses an alpha-numeric keyboard to write, so every musician should use a musical keyboard to compose.

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Composers will require a fully-weighted 88-key keyboard to compose without limitations, but producers of electronic music can do with a 49-key semi-weighted keyboard. You may not even need a controller if you don’t intend on doing any programming, it all depends on your needs.

I started out with a 49-key semi-weighted keyboard and recently added a fully-weighted 88-key keyboard to my setup, so start small and work your way up. Unless you have any proficiency with a keyboard, you may find 88-keys to be intimidating at first.

This last essential element of a basic home studio setup is completely optional, but believe me when I say that it will make things A LOT easier.

Some examples of basic home recording studios setups

In case you are still a little unsure of where to start, I will provide 3 examples of different studios to give you some sort of reference. If you are an electronic music producer, professional composer or independent musician(s) this is your lucky day!

Electronic Music Producer

  • Laptop/Desktop: dual-core CPU, 4 GB RAM, 5200 RPM HDD
  • Digital Audio Workstation: Reason, FL Studio or Ableton Live
  • Monitors/Headphones: headphones
  • Audio Interfaces: none, or basic two XLR/two ¼ inch
  • Microphones: dynamic and/or condenser
  • MIDI/USB Controllers: 49-key semi-weighted keyboard

Professional Composer

  • Laptop/Desktop: quad-core CPU, 16 GB RAM, 7600 RPM HDD
  • Digital Audio Workstation: Pro Tools, Cubase or Logic
  • Monitors/Headphones: headphones and monitors
  • Audio Interfaces: none, or basic two XLR/two ¼ inch
  • Microphones: none or dynamic
  • MIDI/USB Controllers: fully-weighted 88-key keyboard

Independent Musician(s)

  • Laptop/Desktop: quad-core CPU, 8 GB RAM, 5200 RPM HDD
  • Digital Audio Workstation: Pro Tools, Cubase or Logic
  • Monitors/Headphones: headphones and monitors
  • Audio Interfaces: mixing console with several inputs
  • Microphones: moving-coils (dynamics), condensers and ribbons
  • MIDI/USB Controllers: 49-key semi-weighted keyboard and fully-weighted 88-key keyboard

Your home recording studio will grow with time

Building your home studio will require time and dedication so enjoy the process of acquiring more expressive freedom. By creating more music, you will begin to realize when there is a need for an extra piece of equipment.

As you progress on your musical journey, your intentions may evolve as well so let your studio grow with you. I started off as an independent musician and now find myself somewhere between the 3 examples I described above.

Your home recording studio is a reflection of your musical ambitions and will allow you to create without limitations. Professional recording studios still have their place, but you could honestly create masterpieces in the comfort of your own home in today’s day and age.

I’d love to see how your recording studios are coming along, keep us posted in the comments!

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