Studio
|

Best Essential Tools to Set Up a Home Recording Studio Every Music Producer Needs in 2023

Greetings, traveler! As you embark on your journey into music production and dive into the vast ocean of online resources, you’ll inevitably encounter countless home studio setups. You might find yourself pondering what essential equipment is required to kickstart your music-making adventure and building your first studio. Well, fear not, for I am here to provide you with a precise list of the indispensable gear that will set you on the path to musical greatness. 

If you think that a large studio is best, then this article may not be for you. This is for people who want a small studio, and a concise list of equipment they need to collect to make the home recording studio of their dreams.

Or at least start on it. 

What Studio Equipment is Considered Essential for a Home Music Studio?

My definition of essential equipment is the equipment you need in order to create music efficiently. Yes, you can technically make music with your phone and downloading apps that are free and cheap but when you begin thinking about creating a studio there are some items that are essential to bringing that idea to life. 

It is very easy to get lost in the world of music creation and buy things that are non-essential and because you think they will help or make you better faster, and that can’t be further from the truth. While buying a bunch of acoustic panels and transforming your room into a soundproof studio is all well and good, this takes up a ton of room, and…it’s really not essential to making or producing music. 

Especially electronic music. It’s needless and costly. It’s important to note that if you’re recording, acoustic room treatment is something you’ll need eventually and is great for home studios, but it is not needed at first when building a studio.

So, without further adieu lets get into the essential equipment for a home studio!

What Are the Top Essential Pieces of Equipment Needed for a Home Recording Studio?

Creating a studio can be a daunting and overwhelming task, but it doesn’t have to be. There are only TWO things you NEED to produce music; a laptop/computer and a DAW. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. 

With that said, in order to have a base foundational studio to grow upon, you will need a few different items and tools. 

I am going to list the absolutely necessary items (assuming you already own a desk), and then provide more items for a well-rounded setup that aren’t necessarily essential, but significantly more important than half the garbage out there. 

1. Mac or PC (Necessary)

Overview

Obviously one of the most important pieces of equipment that you will need to get started on building a home studio is a Mac or PC. I personally prefer Mac for music production because I am a big fan of Logic Pro and that can only be used on Mac. I use a 16” 2021 M1 MacBook Pro for my studio currently, and within the coming years I will be upgrading that as the latest and greatest roll out. 

If you prefer to use a PC, go for it! You just will have to use Ableton Live or FL Studio, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that choice and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Music producing is like a meal, everyone’s flavor pallet is different so make your studio your favorite comfort food. 

Key Benefits

This may seem obvious in modern times, but having a Mac or PC is essential in music production because you require a device that can record, mix, master, and save your audio files.  

Pricing

Expect to pay between $1,000-$2,500.

Opinion

The pricing of a Mac or PC varies greatly, but you will want a PC that is capable of running your DAW and additional VST plugins as you go along. As I said earlier, I am a fan of the Mac OS and Logic Pro for music production (PC for gaming, obviously). My MacBook is basically my studio computer and the center of my home recording setup. 

This is one area where I do recommend doing some “future proofing” with your equipment as it is likely to be your most expensive and most important. In fact, you could make music with nothing more than your laptop and a DAW.

My Home Studio

2. DAW (Digital Audio Workstation, Necessary)

Overview

A DAW or Digital Audio Workstation is an incredibly important piece of your studio because this is where all of the action takes place. This music software is where you capture the vocals or instruments you play, use VST plugins, create drum patterns, mix and master. It also allows you to see the frequency response of everything you have going on and add effects to those sounds to make the sound evolve into something else. 

There are many DAWs to choose from, but I recommend Logic Pro, Ableton Live, or FL Studios to begin. 

Key Benefits

Unlike apps that claim you can create music but you’re pigeonholed into their sounds, a DAW is like a blank canvas where there is no ceiling on the music you create. Think Dubstep and all of the crazy sounds that come out of that. That sound made with is nothing more than a DAW and a synthesizer plugin.

Pricing

DAWs start at $200

Opinion

Every DAW has strengths and weaknesses. At the end of the day, it really boils down to what you are wanting to do, and even then it comes down to what UI you prefer, and what computer you have. Every DAW to the best of my knowledge can be used to record and mix vocals and instruments. If you already have a really good PC for gaming, I would say there is little to no point in jumping into Mac just for Logic Pro when Ableton Live, FL Studio, and Pro Tools are available to you. 

I have a much more in-depth guide to DAWs where I discuss all of the different pro’s and con’s of each DAW, including some others I did not discuss in this article. 

Logic Pro for iPad

3. Audio Interface

Overview

An Audio Interface unit is a type of hardware that acts a central hub for all of your musical peripherals to plug into, that then routes the information to your DAW through your computer. This is an essential to have as it allows you to have your mic, headphones, and instruments (like electric guitar) all plugged in at the same time. The added perk for electric guitars is that you won’t need to play through the microphone and really boost your guitars amp to try to block out background noise.

Key Benefits

Aside from the ease of use and keeping everything plugged in, Audio Interfaces also come with pre-amps that can make the sound louder, as well as much cleaner and clearer compared to just plugging your headphones straight into the computer itself. 

Additionally, without this, your headphones will not give you truly accurate feedback on what is going on with the sound. 

Pricing

I recommend the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 which is $190 on Amazon. 

Opinion

The Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 is an awesome audio interface. I personally use this one and recommend it more than any others. It delivers perfect audio quality to my headphones and I love that I can plug in my guitar and use it to help me capture the notes I’m playing as MIDI or audio files. I’m not much of a vocalist, but I could play my guitar, sing, and listen to what I have programmed in the background all thanks to this device. 

4. Studio Headphones

Overview

Headphones are essential for any producer to have in their arsenal. A good set of studio headphones help you really fine tune sounds and hear the subtle differences that you may not be able to hear over studio monitors, or through other headphones not intended for music production. Being able to really pinpoint the frequency of the sounds you are making just helps make them even better.

Key Benefits

The biggest benefit to headphones is the fact that it’s noise canceling and can (and should) be used for fine audio tuning. There are certain subtleties that you can pick up on much easier with a pair of headphones than your computer speakers or studio monitors (or even your headphones without an Audio Interface). 

Pricing

I recommend anything from the Sennheiser brand. Their audio quality is top notch, and audiophiles everywhere know the brand. 

Sennheiser HD280 PRO Headphone are the best budget option for this brand, and start at $89 on Amazon.

Ermergherd Headphones!

Opinion

The Sennheiser HD280 PRO Headphone are pretty solid headphones. Their audio quality is top-notch, but the actual headphone part does begin to cause some ear and headaches after a while. I intend to upgrade mine at some point, but for everything I’ve done, these are fantastic and I can’t recommend them enough when building up your studio. Not only do they help with listening to your music, they also help when listening to other artists music and hearing what they’ve done.

5. MIDI Keyboard

Overview

A MIDI Keyboard allows you to play notes just like any other keyboard, with the added benefit of some MIDI control pads and other essential features for music creation. 

Key Benefits

A keyboard and MIDI controller all in one tool. This means you have less clutter around your desk. It is a great device to begin your studio with, but if I am being honest with you, you’re probably going to end up buying a separate MIDI controller and a larger keyboard eventually. 

Pricing

I went with the Novation Launchkey 49 MK3 MIDI Keyboard, which is $230 on Amazon.

Opinion

This is a powerhouse of a MIDI keyboard and it will do just about everything you need it to do. With it being only 49 keys you will probably eventually feel the urge to upgrade it to a full 88 keys, as well as eventually purchase a separate MIDI controller for more functionality. But this keyboard can’t be beat when it comes to an all-in-one package to kick off your studio.

6. Studio Microphone (mic) w/ Stand and Cable

Overview

If you’re a vocalist, or someone interested in recording different sounds from around the house, a mic is going to be essential if you want to record yourself or others. It goes without saying that a microphone is the piece of gear you’re going to need to make recordings. You’re going to need a stand to put the mic on, and are going to need a microphone cable if yours didn’t come with one so you can plug it into your audio interface. 

Key Benefits

A microphone that is dedicated to the purpose of recording vocals and sounds will have significantly better quality than your computer or gaming headphones mic. Make sure whatever microphone you get is a condenser microphone. 

Condenser mics rely use a thin, conductive membrane that makes it pick up extremely sensitive sounds based on the air pressure around them. These are often used in studios because of how crisp and accurate the sound capture is. They are more delicate than a standard microphone though. Head to your local music store and see if they can show you the difference before you buy and see it for yourself. 

Pricing

~$100 for a Sennheiser E835 Microphone on Amazon

Opinion

I don’t do much vocal work, but from what I have done this a seriously good recording device that is essential for any serious vocalist. It is important to pay attention to your recording space, and your mic should be positioned towards the center of the room. This is because sound waves bounce around and fill the room, so the sound of the room changes depending on where you are within it. 

Like I said, I don’t use my mic much at all, so my studio desk is against the wall, but if your studio is going to be used for recording that is something to keep in mind.

Tip: If you’ve already put up acoustic treatment in your house, cool, but if you haven’t you can just put your mic in the closet between some shirts on a hanger and it’ll do the same thing for you. Yay budgeting!

Bonus: USB Hub

Overview

A USB Hub is a great tool to have for your home studio because it gives you more USB and type-C ports, or whatever other bells and whistles you may want. 

Key Benefits

Device management and connectivity. 

Pricing

$25+

Opinion

Personally, I love having the ability to have more slots to insert things. 

Let me re-word that. I love having the ability to have most, if not all, of my devices plugged in. It just helps keep the workflow going, and frees up space for your other devices to charge and connect like your phone, desk fan, lamp, etc. It’s likely you already have a USB hub, but if not and you’ve been waiting for a sign, here it is. 

Bonus: iLok USB Dongle

Overview

Not really required until you start collaborating with other people but it useful for more than just music. This little device allows you to store your software licenses for plugins in it so that if you go to a studio or a friends house who also has some music products, you’ll be able to access and use them legally. 

Key Benefits

Carry your software licenses with you everywhere, literally, as it will fit on your keychain as well. 

Pricing

$55

Opinion

This item isn’t essential if you are just going to be you in your own home. However, if you start branching out and collaborating, it’s an important tool to have as it allows you to carry your software licenses around with you. It’s important to make sure you buy everything legally and don’t used cracked or pirated software in your creations because if you do and you publish music, you can be sued. 

Bonus: Studio Monitors

Overview

Studio monitors are like fancy consumer speakers for your PC, but meant for production. They offer better sound quality, and with a subwoofer, deep bass (obviously) and the build quality is more geared towards music production. These help test your songs in an open air that headphones can’t deliver and are better quality for this purpose than regular PC speakers. 

Key Benefits

Listen to your songs as you would if sharing with friends or family. 

Pricing

$100+

Opinion

A set of studio monitors is great addition to your home studio and really helps it feel more professional. If you have a computer setup you now have a full-fledged studio at home upon purchase with these guys (assuming you’ve purchased everything else above). You also have a decent home theater setup for one or two if you don’t have a TV. 

While some may argue these are necessary, they are not, but they are definitely an item you will want to have eventually and much sooner than other “necessary” equipment. 

Bonus: Acoustic Treatment

Overview

Acoustic treatment is material that is designed to absorb and capture sound and audio waves so that it makes the job of the microphone much easier, and for you to get clear and crisp audio recordings. 

Key Benefits

Listen to your songs as you would if sharing with friends or family. 

Pricing

$100+

Opinion

Acoustic treatment isn’t really necessary for most people. If you plan on doing a lot of recording, then it might be. It really depends on your space, budget, and need for recording. I would say this is the absolute last thing you’ll need, and I believe this is more of a desire thing than a need. I currently don’t record much, or any vocals, so it’s entirely pointless for me to have.

What Is a Home Studio?

A home studio has everything you would need to record or create music. There are budget setups all the way up to people building full-on studios within their own home. One day I hope to be able to build a full-on studio, but that is many years down the road. 

How Can a Home Studio Benefit You

Being able to create music from the comforts of your home not only provides you with an amazingly challenging and satisfying hobby, but it also lessens the gap between recording artists and amateurs. Back in the day you had to convince people you were worthy of studio time, and now, no one is stopping anyone from recording their art and releasing it. 

Some of it is super terrible, and its even more saturated and competitive, but should that stop anyone from pursuing their dreams? Absolutely not. 

Buyers Guide: How We Conducted Our Research 

I created this article from experience, and I plan to keep it updated as I grow and learn more about music production as well. The information shared here is all of the equipment I’ve built myself up to, and I have some other non-essential gear, but this is what I believe makes a basic and foundational studio to grow from. 

Conclusion/Wrapping Up

I am like you, a musical soul on a journey of creating the best music I can. Technically speaking, you are my “competition” but that doesn’t bother me at all because maybe someday we may create something amazing together. Never know how the universe will work itself out. 

I created this article to give you guidance away from the buzz of what isn’t necessary for the creation of music, and studio building to give you the barebones essential equipment especially if you’re on a budget. As you can see, there are only two things you truly need, but some others that help boost your quality of life. I hope you found this guide to building your first home studio useful.

Add In Frequently Asked Questions

  1. How much does a home studio cost to startup?

$500-$5,000 for a beginner studio, from super budget to fairly advanced. It can get significantly more expensive if you really want it to and varies on your floor space and size of your room. But, if you already have a computer, then you’re looking at an additional $1,000 for a decent setup.

  1. Can you run a music studio from your home?

You can, and many do! If you are going to start charging other artists to use your studio setup, you are going to make sure you have much better home recording studio equipment than what is listed here in order to build a proper studio. A lot of home or bedroom studios are not nearly as suitable for recording as an expensive studio.

  1. What is a good size for a home music studio?

Desktop size to an entire room in your home or larger. It depends on you, your goals, and the financial situation you are in or blessed with. 

  1. Is it better to record music at home or in a professional studio?

That really depends on you as an individual. For most people, having a studio at home is great and essential. Making music on your computer from the comfort of your own home is a great way to write music. Getting into a studio can provide some benefits you might not get at home, but may (and probably does) come with entry costs, studio times, and contracts. Plus you have to drive to get inside the studio and wait your turn from other artists making studio recordings. 

  1. Do you really need to soundproof a room for recording? 

Short answer, yes, long answer, no. There are things you can do to offset the lack of sound absorption in a typical room, but, if you are serious about doing vocal recording then sound proofing will be necessary. 

Similar Posts