So, you want to build a home studio? There is no better time than the present to start accumulating your gear and capitalizing on holiday savings. After all, building any studio can be an expensive proposition. But don’t let it stress you out―as usual, B&H is here to walk you through the basics and help you decide what essential equipment you need, why you need it, and what you should be looking for when you begin your shopping spree. So, let’s begin!
The first item you should consider when setting up your home studio is the core of any modern studio: the audio interface. In the briefest possible words, an audio interface is a device that converts analog signals from microphones and electronic instruments into digital so they can be edited, mixed, and mastered on a computer.
The primary feature you want to look at when shopping for an audio interface is its number of inputs. If you only intend to record one or two signals simultaneously, small interfaces such as 2-input devices will serve you perfectly well. If you plan to record many things simultaneously, such as multiple microphones for drum sets or ensembles, you will want an interface with a higher I/O count, with six, eight, or more inputs.
The Universal Audio Apollo Twin X DUO is one of the most popular audio interfaces available for quality-conscious bedroom producers. The Apollo Twin series delivers pristine-quality preamps with an immense 127 dB of dynamic range, ultra-low distortion, and elite class analog-to-digital conversion technology supporting up to 24-bit / 192 kHz.
The MOTU M4 audio interface provides you with four inputs and outputs with high-class audio performance at a highly affordable price. You get a bus-powered desktop unit with 24-bit / 192 kHz conversion, virtual loopback for streaming, an easily read LCD screen, and MIDI I/O for music gear.
The Focusrite Scarlett 18i20 USB-C Audio/MIDI Interface gives you an impressive eight Scarlett mic/line preamps, along with two Hi-Z inputs for electric instruments, making it an ideal choice for larger production capacities. You get dual headphone outs, 24-bit / 192 kHz conversion, virtual loopback, and loads of I/O for pro gear like MIDI, S/PDIF, and ADAT, making this a great choice for recording whole bands or detailed drum kits.
Microphones are a dense subject, but we can cut through the noise and give you some essential basics. A microphone converts an acoustic sound to an electric one, and there are several ways of doing that, from condenser and dynamic capsules to digital or analog tube-based circuits. The main thing you want to determine is: what are you recording? Condensers are ideal for voices and sounds requiring a sensitive microphone, dynamic mics are great for very loud sounds or up-close recording like podcasting, tube mics deliver warmth and a very fat sound, and digital USB mics offer convenience and ease of use, especially when you only plan to record with one mic, because they can sidestep the need for an interface.
Among some mics, especially condensers, there are also large and small diaphragms, which offer differing recording performance. The AKG C414 large-diaphragm condenser delivers some of the best quality and features for its mid-range price. It gives you nine selectable polar patterns for every conceivable situation, a switchable pad for loud sounds, a low-cut filter for removing bass, and plenty of accessories to get you started.
On the other hand, the RØDE NT5 is a great small diaphragm condenser that gives you excellent low-noise performance for an exceptionally reasonable price, making it easy to pick up a matched pair for stereo recording.
The number one dynamic microphone every home studio should have at least one of is the Shure SM57 dynamic mic. This legendary mic is nearly indestructible, incredibly versatile, and best of all, quite affordable. Every pro studio has at least a few of these on hand, and so should you.
For high-end recording with vintage tone, the Warm Audio WA-67 Tube Condenser gives you a smooth, buttery sound, three selectable polar patterns, selectable HPF and pad, and accessories like a hard case and shockmount for a very reasonable price.
Finally, there are tons of USB mics on the market these days, but we recommend starting out with the RØDE NT-USB+. This microphone delivers broadcast-quality sound with its high-gain, low-noise Revolution preamp, internal 24-bit / 48 kHz sampling, and a built-in DSP chip for processing vocals internally while saving precious CPU load.
Nearfield monitors are special speaker monitors designed for playing back a wide range of audio content at a relatively close listening distance, ideal for the space of a home studio. You’ll always want to pick up a pair for stereo monitoring, and it is recommended you also get some sort of isolation, be it pads or stands, to separate your speakers physically from your desk to get the most accurate sound.
The PreSonus Eris E3.5 2-Way Nearfield Monitor Pair is one of B&H’s top-selling nearfield monitors, and it’s easy to see why, with potent 25W active amplification, durable 3.5" composite woofers, integrated 2-band EQ, versatile 3.5mm, 1/4", and RCA I/O, and protection against RF interference, overloads, heat, transient peaks, and subsonic content. And you get all this at an extremely affordable price, making this an ideal choice for creators looking to save money.
For a little more of an investment, the Yamaha HS5 Powered Studio Monitors provide you with exceptionally accurate sound reproduction, bi-amped 70W output, large 5" woofers, and advanced noise reduction technology for improved sonic clarity. These speakers can be purchased with isolation pads and cables for instant setup, delivering a package that finely balances quality with price.
Lastly, you can go big and avail yourself of the top-of-the-line speaker technology you’ll find in many pro studios with the Genelec 8330A SAM Series Active Studio Monitor. This speaker sports potent 100W amplification, a proprietary waveguide for finding the listening sweet spot regardless of room type, and sophisticated automatic software tuning for matching your monitor to your room response.
Before we wrap up here, it’s important to mention a product you might need to further improve the quality of your home recording: reflection filters. Reflection filters use some form of acoustic sound-absorbing materials to reduce the reflections of sound in your room. Since most home studios are built into untreated environments that can present a range of problems for getting optimal audio quality, compared to a purpose-built studio, reflection filters are a must. You can get panels for your walls to help control the sound in your room, or a filter specifically designed to wrap around your microphone.
The Auray RF-5P-R Five-Panel Reflection Filter is an ideal choice for isolating your sensitive vocal microphone during a recording, minimizing ambient noise and diffusing reflections. The sliding bracket makes it easy to use this filter with large-diaphragm condensers or handheld dynamics.
The Auralex ProPanel Acoustical Absorption Wall Panel is an excellent example of a quality sound-absorbing wall panel that will greatly enhance the sound in your studio without breaking the bank. The wall panels are best for enhancing the clarity of your monitoring.
While there are plenty more gadgets and tools you can use to further expand upon your humble home studio, we hope this list has provided you with a hassle-free starting point for your holiday shopping. If you have any questions, concerns, or simply some thoughts you want to share on the subject, drop us a line below, and we’ll do our best to answer all your comments and questions.