The Basics Of Home Recording Studio Design

The following albums have one thing in common:

  • Billie Eilish – When We Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?
  • The Rolling Stones – Exile on Main St.
  • Radiohead – Ok Computer
  • Nine Inch Nails – The Downward Spiral

Pretty iconic stuff, right? But would you believe the fact that they were all recorded at home? That said, before you say it – we know. Some of these homes were more extravagant than an average house, but these musical masterpieces prove that you can create good music or record a podcast with a home studio. 

That said, all of this depends on your home recording studio design. Whether you’re in an abandoned kitchen, garage, or attic, several things come into play when you’re designing a home recording studio. In the past, the top studio-quality gear was out of reach for people who wanted to record music at home. 

In 2021, even though a home studio can be a big investment, you can set up a studio with a budget that’s between $2,000 to $20,000. However, it would be best if you remembered that perfect is a subjective term. What we value may not be something that you value. At the end of the day, it’s your budget, your space, and most importantly, your vision.

A Few Basic Tips

Selecting the Right Room

Most homeowners don’t think about creating a home recording studio inside their home when building a home. As a result, homes can lack high ceilings and the necessary structural requirements (like a soundproofing pad) for a home recording studio design. Then again, some rooms perform better than other rooms.

If possible, pick a room with a wooden door, a carpeted floor, and not many windows (preferably none, but that’s rare). Try to look for a space that is almost “dead” and does not have a lot of echoes. If it’s too quiet, remember that you can always add digital reverb, but if there’s excess noise, it’s almost impossible to get rid of unwanted live reverb.

Walk-In Closets Can Be Recording Booths

A clothes closet in your house can be a good spot for a recording booth. You can use the rest of your room as a control booth. The hanging clothes can absorb irregular frequencies, and the door will stop external noises from coming inside. 

If Possible Soundproof Your Room

Consider giving your room an acoustic treatment that kills the reverberating sound. You can purchase foam sound absorbers that can be stuck up on your wall, and they’ll absorb all undesirable sounds. Some sound absorbers, like bass traps, can also fit into corners. Buying soundproofing foam can cost you somewhere around $300, but if you’re trying to save money, you can also use fabric or lower-grade foam. 

Get a Desk and a Chair

You’re going to spend most of the time in your studio on a desk while being seated on a chair. Get a desk that is ergonomically suitable for several hours of music recording. 

Once you’re done nailing the basics, you can start focusing on the bigger problems at hand. 

Your First Home Recording Studio Design: Go Big or Stay Small? 

When you’re starting a home design from scratch, keep it small scale. Whether you’re a voice-over artist, an avid podcaster, or a musician, you can get your studio up and running with only a few elements. Those are:

  • A microphone
  • A PC
  • Studio monitors
  • Workstation software
  • An audio interface to tie everything together.

Even when you focus on these basic objects, there are still several things you’ll have to consider, and these choices can be overwhelming. Your initial approach must be to get specific: what do you want to do with your gear? Do you want your gear to be mobile? Consider getting a portable recorder. Are you going to make your podcasts with only one narrator? Get a single mic. Do you have a big rock band? You’re going to need several mics and many audio inputs. 

It’s also important to know about what you won’t need. Home studio gear usually has excess bells and whistles, but you should focus on prioritizing sound quality. This way, you won’t be stuck with mediocre gear with tons of extra features that you’re never going to use. 

Consider Beefing Up Your Computer

Your computer is the brain that powers your home recording studio. Be it music processing, mixing, or recording, it plays a vital role in every step. In an ideal world, every person would have a computer dedicated to music production, but it’s not something you must have. Most modern computers have the power to handle basic audio processing, like a podcast. 

The moment you start adding more instruments or people into the mix, audio production will quickly take up a lot of your RAM and your computer’s storage. So if you’re hoping to create elaborate albums with a band that has eight instruments, you’ll soon run into a wall. 

At the very least, consider upgrading your computer’s RAM and save all files on an external drive. High-resolution audio files are large, and your computer (if not upgraded) may take a lot of time to process them. So if you want work done fast, get more RAM. Consider getting the SanDisk Extreme SSD. It has read times of up to 1,050Mb/second.

Audio Interfaces: The Ins and Outs

Your studio will need a way to get sound from instruments into the computer. This is where you’ll have to get an audio interface. An audio interface will convert an analog signal from your instruments, mics, and other sources into a digital signal that your computer can interpret. Once into the computer, your audio interface will then show that same information on your PC in a visually presentable form. 

You can get audio interfaces in several different configurations and connect them to different instruments. But first, think about what you want to record. If it’s just you and your guitar, you’ll only need a 2-channel interface. But if you’re performing with a live band, you may want to get eight channels.  

Recording gear, microphones, instruments, and other devices are all going to use different kinds of inputs. Some other considerations you’ll have to make will be high-speed computer connections and digital I/O. Some interfaces also have built-in audio mixers and effects. If you’re looking for a place to start, consider choosing between these options:

  • Universal Audio Twin
  • Focusrite Scarlett 
  • PreSonus AudioBox 96

But if you’re only recording audio with your smartphone, consider getting a casual but capable device like a Roland Go: Mixer Pro-X.

Core Equipment You’ll Need

Home recording studio design shouldn’t cost you a fortune, but several people can go way overboard their budget. What you should focus on is your skill. Get to know your instrument completely before you think of getting an upgrade. 

Now remember, there are going to be eight vital pieces of equipment that you’ll need for a top-notch home studio:

  1. A microphone
  2. A microphone cable
  3. Monitor speakers
  4. Pop shield
  5. Headphones
  6. Acoustic treatment
  7. Microphone stand
  8. Audio interface

With these eight essential elements, you can start recording whatever you want to in your studio. But even in this list, some items are optional. For instance, you won’t necessarily need an acoustic treatment or speakers since many people can mix audio with headphones. 

Now let’s delve deep and understand what each of them has to offer. 

A Microphone

Start with an AKG Pro Audio for your studio. Here’s why: 

Give preference to AKG mics when you’re recording music from home. They’ll reject sound coming from the background so they’re almost perfect for crowded rooms. Large-diaphragm condensers should be your second option. These mics give vocals a great sound, and acoustic guitars will sound great, too. If you’re thinking of getting a good mic for recording only, then consider getting the sE Electronics sE2200a

This mic’s a good condenser, good for vocals, and a great mic for general use, too. However, if you want to add another mic to your studio, you can also get a dynamic mic. These mics usually sound great on percussion, guitar tabs, and in some cases, vocals, too. 

Microphone Cable

Pretty boring, but important nonetheless. 

You don’t need to spend a lot here. If it works, it works. You’re going to need an XLR cable since it’s a good middle-ground for several accessories. Don’t opt for the most expensive option, but don’t go for the cheapest either. 

Monitor Speakers

It can be difficult to know how to mix if you don’t have studio monitors. These speakers are going to produce a flat response, so you’ll hear the mix you’ve created exactly as it sounds. A hi-fi speaker can optimize the sound, which isn’t good. You can mix using headphones, too, but that will take a lot of experience and practice. 

Even if you have experience, it’s always worth it to check your mix on a monitor. If you get an affordable option like Yamaha HS8, make sure your room has been acoustically treated for this size, too. If your room is smaller, go for Yamaha HS5. However, it doesn’t matter which speaker you buy. Just buy a pair, and stick with them for a long time. Learn what they sound like, and your mixes will get better.

It would help if you also considered investing in monitor pads or monitor stands. Be careful about how you set your monitors up.

Pop Shield

If you plan to record vocals with your setup, you’re going to need a pop shield. These aren’t too expensive, and they can prevent unwanted sound from going into your recordings. 

Headphones

In the case of headphones, you’re going to have two options: 

Open-back headphones are used for mixing. 

Closed-back headphones are used for monitoring when you’re recording something. 

For a safe bet, go with closed-back headphones. You can still use them to mix (remember to mix at a low volume). The Sennheiser HD headphones are a great option. 

Acoustic Treatment

These are fiberglass or foam panels that can soak up the natural sound of the room. When you’re recording or mixing, you’ll want the room to be as neutral as possible. This way, your results won’t be colored by the audio interruptions you may be recording unintentionally. We prefer fiberglass panels because you can make them yourself, too! 

Microphone Stand 

Just like every other secondary requirement for a home studio, opt for the middle ground. You’ll need one stand for every microphone but remember: they can wear out with time. If you get a cheaper option, you’ll have to replace it quickly since it’ll have a short life. 

We’d recommend getting the K&M 210 Stand. It can last long and isn’t that expensive either. 

The Audio Interface

Most people opt for a USB audio interface. This piece of equipment will let you connect headphones, microphones, and speakers to your computer. Since you’re building a home studio for the first time, go with any option from Focusrite. If you want more channels (perhaps for a choir), you’re going to need a bigger interface. Eventually, as you start to use your studio more, you’ll want to upgrade and get something that has a better converter or a preamp. 

Wrapping Up

The more comfortable you get with your home recording studio design, the more you’ll want to add shiny new instruments to the mix (even if you don’t need them). It won’t take you long to understand how your home studio works, and very soon, you’re going to be looking around for options that are high-end and have more effects to offer. 

At the end of the day, all you need to remember is that the top-of-the-line equipment won’t necessarily have a huge impact on your ability to play an instrument. Every day, remember to be humble, go back to your roots, and try to remember why you picked up a guitar in the first place. It could’ve been after you listened to Angus Young or Jimmy Hendrix playing a solo, but regardless of who inspires you, don’t forget your love for the rhythm in an obsessive race to build the best studio.