How To Build A Home Recording Studio In 2023
In the olden days, building a studio for recording, mixing, or mastering was not as simple as you might think. Apart from the difficulty of sourcing all the essential gear, cost is also an obstacle to making this happen. These costs could be your studio’s monthly rental, electrical bills, renovation, analogue gear, and so on. As we shift to the digital era, building your music workstation at home is no longer a dream. In this article, we will dive into the top 10 essential pieces of equipment to start your home recording.
- Acoustic Treatment
- Audio Interface
- Monitoring Headphone
- Studio Monitor
- Cable & Connector
- Pop Filter/Shockmount
- MIDI Controller
Top 10 Common Home Recording Essential You’ll Find In Today’s Home Studio
Do you actually consider whether your workspace is clear and noise-free before starting a new project? Is there any outside noise interfering with your work? Why is acoustic treatment first and foremost? The reason for this is simple: we want our source to sound as PURE & CLEAN as possible during the audio recording process. Acoustic treatment is a huge topic. As a musician, this may not be a required skill to learn. It will, however, be an added benefit if you plan on speaking the same language as the audio engineer in your studio. Without wasting any of your valuable time, let’s get started with some basic concepts and setup of home studio acoustic treatment now. As a recording engineer/acoustician, this is one of the most important skills to master in your profession.
1.1. The Myth: Acoustic Treatment = Soundproof?
Many people may misinterpret the phrases “Acoustic Treatment” and “Soundproofing.” Certain people may find the term “soundproof” appealing when setting up their studio. The answer is NO. The fact is, Soundproofing is just an element of Acoustic Treatment.
Acoustic Treatment, in theory, refers to the process and methods of dealing with acoustic issues in an untreated room/area. Background noise, overly coloured room reverberation, excessive flutter echos, muddy low end, and other issues are examples of acoustic issues.
*Notes: When compared to a vocal booth or recording room, a control room may have different design requirements and treatment methods depending on your final purpose.
1.2. 3 Elements of Acoustic Treatment
The acoustic treatment can be classified into 3 elements which comprising Isolation, Absorption, & Diffusion. A well treated studio should have a balanced combination of the 3 important elements to achieve best acoustic environment.
1. Sound Isolation – Stop or isolate all the sound travelling from an enclosed space to another unenclosed space or vice versa.
2. Sound Absorption – Cutting out excessive echo/reverberation and also noise level within the enclosed space.
3. Sound Diffusion – Ability to scatter all the reflected sound to an intended directions or all direction within an enclosed space.
1.3. Acoustic Treatment Materials
Have you ever seen “The Eggcrate Studio” which is actually covered with plenty of eggcrate boxes on its walls? Does it even absorb any sound reflections or work perfectly as an acoustic treatment material? Let’s find out more.
As a rule of thumb to remember, the greater the DENSITY of an object, the greater the effectiveness of SOUNDPROOFING. The lower the DENSITY of an object, the better the efficiency of SOUND ABSORPTION.
Now, let’s find out the normal density of the eggcrate box along with the materials that are deemed effective for soundproofing as well as sound absorption.
2″ Industrial Level Acoustic Foam Density: estimated around 30 – 50 kg/m3
2. PC – Your Creative Workstation
Thanks to the rapid development of digital technology, today we are recording analogue in a digital world. Before you hit the record button in your DAW, you must have a PC to install and run it, whether it is Windows, Mac, or Linux. It is still a hot topic to debate whether Windows or Mac is better for starting, but just choose one that you are comfortable with. It doesn’t matter which one you choose. Just stick with your budget, sharpen your skills, and you will be amazed that you can produce anything you like.
Tips On Recording History: Do you know? Back to 1800s, the analog audio recording started with phonautograph and phonograph, subsequently to wire and tape recording.
2.1. Is there any best spec to build your home recording machine?
Frankly, it all depends on how big and complicated your project is. If you are dealing with a few tracks and audio plugins, you don’t really need the best performing PC in the world. Inversely, if you are working on giant projects that require tonnes of tracks and plugins, your processing power, RAM, and disc space are things you should look into.
Minimum Specification Suggestion
- Windows 7, Windows 10, Mac OS
- 8GB RAM
- 1.8 Ghz Dual Core or Higher
- 500 GB Hard Disk Space
When you’re recording or mixing, having enough processing power will reduce latency, while having enough memory will let you run more plugins without lagging.
Once you have a PC, you will need a DAW, which is also known as a “Digital Audio Workstation,” “Recording Software,” or “Music Arrangement Software” by the general public. The digital audio workstation is a piece of software that allows you to record and arrange music more efficiently.
There are numerous DAWs on the market, both paid and open source. All you have to do is choose the correct one and put in some work and time to study it. To avoid plugin or license conflicts, we strongly recommend purchasing a lifetime license of a paid DAW.
3.1. Example of DAW
3.2. Why A DAW Cost So Much? Free or Paid?
There is no exact answer to this. The information that you may need to know is that the pricing of DAWs has been decreasing to the point where it is inexpensive for everyone who is serious about music creation to use it.
Most importantly, software developers must be compensated for their time and knowledge, both of which are significant expenses. Then, they must continue to provide ongoing support for the product, which is not free. In the same way, your client must pay you for giving them the best content on a regular basis.
If your jobs truly provide a good return, don’t be afraid to pay for the DAW that meets all of your job requirements. Although the majority of paid DAWs have fancy features, you should not limit your capabilities in any of these free DAWs. Instead, try to broaden your capabilities by using these paid features, which will eventually improve the quality of your output.
- Quality in-house plugins & sound samples
- More intuitive user interface
- Expand the limitation features of the DAW
- Fast support & software update
- Quality of plugin or sound samples could be limited
- Some audio driver or VST could be unsupported (Audacity does not support ASIO at this moment due to licensing issue.)
- Lack of immediate support when issue occurs
- Less intuitive graphic user interface
3.3. Standard Price Range of Different DAWs in Malaysia currency
The audio interface, also known as the sound card, is the heart of your home recording system. It is essentially an audio device that allows you to connect all of your gear, including microphones, headphones, effect processors, preamps, studio monitors, MIDI controllers, and musical instruments, to begin recording. In short, the audio interface changes your analogue signal into a digital signal or back into an analogue signal.
We won’t be covering the method of signal encoding method here. If you are interested, stay tuned to our upcoming chapter.
Factors To Consider When Choosing An Audio Interface
- Type of Power Connection
- No of Input/Output
- Audio Driver Support
- Form Factor
4.1. Powered via USB/Thunderbolt/Firewire/PCIe?
4.2. Numbers of Audio Input/Output?
Input – Microphone, Instruments, MIDI or Line (Synthesizer, Mixer, Effect Processors, Preamplifier)
Output – Headphone, Monitors, Subwoofers
4.3. Audio Driver
The most common audio drivers which we used to see in Windows recording are WDM/Wave, ASIO or WaveRT. For Mac recording, you will be using CoreAudio USB Driver.
In this article, we ain’t going to focus so much on Wave, Wave RT, or any other audio driver, instead we will look into ASIO, one of the widely used audio driver in the industry. Most of the audio interface nowadays integrated or provide the in-house ASIO driver (which usually comes with installation CD) or can be downloaded from official website. For some audio interface that doesn’t come with ASIO driver, you may also go to http://www.asio4all.com/ to download.
- ASIO is a trademark of Steinberg Media Technologies Gmbh
- Act as a driver that allowing your DAW to communicate with your audio interface
- Introduce incredibly low latency and high fidelity, which is ideal for recording and real-time monitoring at the same time.
- Best to use when using a lot audio input and output.
4.4. Form Factor
Remember, an interface can be as small as a portable for you to be a travelling musician to bring them along on your journey. It can also be as large or long as needed and rack-mounted.
- Singer use monitoring headphone to monitor their vocal closely.
- Instrumentalists monitor the accuracy and also tone of their instrument.
- Mixing engineer monitors and identifies tiny errors and details which sometime can hardly be detected on speakers.
5.1. Open Back VS Closed Back?
We recommend the open back design headphones for mixing since they produce a more natural, wide, and airy sound. It is not ideal for performers since real-time tracking during a recording session would cause sound to bleed into your mic recording.
- Perforated, Vented, Mesh Covered Earcup Enclosure
- Natural, Wide, & Spacious Sound
- Lack of Noise Isolation
- Completely Sealed Designed Earcup
- Focus, Solid & Punchy Bass Response
- Better Noise Isolation
You may also want to check out the best studio headphone here.
6.1. Type of Microphone in the Market
4 Common Type of Microphone To Discover In A Studio
6.2. Main Characteristics of Different Type of Microphone. Are They All Suitable For Studio Recording?
1. Condenser Microphone – also known as Capacitor Microphone or Electrostatic Microphone. They are widely and often employed in the field of studio recording due to their widest frequency response, fast transient response (Attack), and superior sensitivity, which provide greater sound quality as well as crisp and detailed sound images.
However, they are not always capable of handling high levels of sound pressure. You will need a 48V power supply to power them. Common recording applications include vocals, acoustic guitars, drums, and string instruments (Violin, Viola, Double Bass….)
6.3. Spending On A Recording Microphone
There isn’t a RIGHT or WRONG answer. If you’re a beginner who doesn’t want to risk overpaying for a microphone, stick to your budget and start practising with what you have.
Is there a difference between the cheapest and the most expensive? YES, in a technical sense! There are some variances in their manufactured components and specifications, but we won’t go into detail about them today. They are practically identical in terms of the concept you use to achieve the highest sound quality. Getting the one with the greater price, in our opinion, will eventually make your post-production tasks much easier, especially during the mixing stage, allowing you to save time and effort.
However, there is always a price point at which you can acquire a reasonably good recording microphone. There are many incredibly inexpensive “condenser” microphones available for as little as RM20. But, uhmmm… are you really willing to jeopardise the quality of your recording?
If you’re looking for a low-cost condenser microphone to start recording in your room, pick one from the RM300-RM600 series. Looking for a step-up for intermediate players? Proceed with the RM600 and higher microphones.
Keep in mind that anything that goes in and out of your gear might have an effect on your sound. The cost of your finished product is not the most important factor in determining its quality. For a successful voyage into music production, think imaginatively and practise wisely.
7.1. Active VS Passive
7.2. How Much Power Do I Need For My Home Studio?
7.3. One Way VS Two Way VS Three Way Amplify Driver
7.4. The Myth 1: What is the reason that most multimedia speakers are less expensive than studio monitors?
7.5. The Myth 2: Can I still mix with my multimedia speaker?
It is critical to select high quality cables and connectors for smooth audio signal transmission. Well-constructed audio cables and connections increase sound quality by introducing less noise and interference into the audio stream. Let’s take a look at the most common connector found on gear and cables in a home studio.
8.1. Balanced Cable VS Unbalanced Cable
Aside from the designed component, the key distinctions between balanced and unbalanced cables are the maximum cable run support for each connection and susceptibility to external noise interference.
|Cable Length Support For Optimal Performance
|50 to 100 feet (15-30 meters)
|15-20 feet (4-6 meters)
|Noise Suppression Ability
3-Pin XLR Cable – Balanced Cable. Connect our microphone, speaker/studio monitor, subwoofers, effect processors, and preamplifiers.
1/4 inch TS Cable – Unbalanced Cable. Connect music instrument such as guitar, keyboard and etc.
1/4 inch TRS Cable – Balanced Cable. Connect any output devices such as studio monitor, headphones or subwoofers.
RCA Cable – Unbalanced Cable. Connect devices such as studio monitor, preamplifiers, or music players.
3.5mm TRS Cable – Balanced Cable. Connect any output devices such as studio monitor, headphones or subwoofers.
9.1. Do I Even Need A Pop Filter During My Recording Session?
9.2. Eh, but how about that little “Spider Web🕸”?
We call them “Shockmount” in the studio. Because most studio microphone transducers are extremely sensitive to rumbles and vibration, a shockmount will be required to correct this.
Tips: To reduce total cost of ownership, not all mics, particularly those cheaper one, come with and require a shockmount. If you really need a shockmount, you can try your luck with any universal one that will fit snugly around your microphone.
Tired of using your mouse and clicking to manage your DAW? Perhaps a MIDI controller will make recording and mixing easier and faster for you.
A MIDI controller, often known as a control surface, is a device containing pads, buttons, rotary encoders, motorized or unmotorized faders, transport controls, and a joystick on its surface that allows you to send real-time MIDI messages. DAW or VST plugin functions can be designed and mapped to your controller surface.