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Recording music is an art, and a science all rolled into one. Of course, you could whip out your phone and hit the record button, but we’re guessing that’s not why you’re here.
There’s a method to the madness if you want to do it like the pros. And, a fundamental part of it involves learning how to build a recording studio.
Now, while this may sound like a Herculean task, it’s a pretty straightforward process. Without further ado, here’s the ultimate beginner’s guide to 10 essential gear you need to build a recording studio.
1. How to Build a Recording Studio 101 – Get a Computer
But, not just any computer – you’re going to need a powerful one. A Mac or Windows-powered PC is at the heart of every recording studio. The device you get ultimately depends on the recording software that will run on it.
Before you buy a new one, it helps to consult the manufacturer’s website to see that its minimum requirements meet the threshold you need to run your selected programs. The rule of thumb is – always get the one with the highest RAM and processing power you can afford.
2. Digital Audio Workstation
A digital audio workstation (DAW) is the software you’ll use for recording, mixing, editing, and mastering your sound recordings. With so many different options available, the one you pick ultimately boils down to:
- Your computer specifications
- How much you can afford to spend on it
- The type of music you intend to record
To build a recording studio that rivals some of the best ones in the industry, invest in a paid DAW. The Image Line FL Studio 20 for Mac and Windows is one of the best DAWs around. Although there are a ton of free ones available for download, these will not deliver the caliber of sound quality you’re looking to get from your studio setup.
3. Audio Interface
Next, you’ll need to get the actual sound into the computer during the recording session, and out of it during playback. An audio interface is a device that provides the means to do this.
It can be a PCI sound card that you install into your computer or an external device that you connect to the PC via a USB interface or FireWire. You might argue that PCs come with a built-in soundcard or audio interface. So, why would you buy a new one?
As much as these built-in interfaces may be okay for listening to music or watching movies, the fact remains, they are not ideal for recording. Ensure that the one you get is compatible with your computer.
4. Studio Monitor
Studio monitors, or near field monitors as people sometimes call them, are not actually “display monitors” in the strict sense of the term. They are speakers.
But, they aren’t designed to accentuate, cut, or boost different sound frequencies like conventional home speakers. These provide flat frequency feedback.
It’s always better to get large monitors since these are highly effective in reproducing low frequencies – something that’s hard to achieve with smaller ones.
A microphone and its respective stand are essential parts of building a fully-functional recording studio. You have two options to choose from –a condenser mic or dynamic mic.
Dynamic mics, on the other hand, are great for recording high sound-pressure-level (SPL) instruments like drums and guitars, or a live sound setting.
6. Studio Headphones
Studio headphones are different from your regular ones. Standard headphones won’t be of much help in a studio setting. You’ll need special ones that give you a balanced sound signature, without boosting or accentuating any of the recording details.
You can opt for semi-open, open-back, or closed-back studio headphones. We recommend getting the latter since they are designed to prevent the sound from spilling through the headset and getting picked up by the mic.
7. High-Quality Balanced Audio Cables
These are what piece all your recording equipment together to pass the audio signals to and from the various devices effectively. A high-quality, balanced cable has both a positive signal and an inverted version of it, to cancel out all unwanted noise.
You’ll also need to get the right connectors to join the cable to the equipment. The main ones include male or female Tip-Sleeve or TS connectors, for short, Tip-Ring-Sleeve or TRS connectors, for short, and X-Series Latching Rubber or XLR connectors, for short.
8. Backup or External Hard Drive
Recordings take up a lot of disc space. It is always a good idea to get a dedicated backup or external portable drive to not only free up your computer’s internal drive but also back up your recordings in case anything goes wrong. Recreating a masterpiece is darn near impossible to do if you end up losing it.
9. Pop Filter
A pop filter is a net-like material placed between the recording mic and the singer’s mouth. It is designed to catch the blasts of air produced when the singer enunciates “b” and “p” sounds before they hit the mic’s diaphragm.
Pop filters are not typically used with all types of microphones. But you will need them if you have condenser mics because of the high level of sound sensitivity that comes with these types of mics.
10. Acoustic Treatment
The final thing you need to do is sound-treat your recording space. It involves installing acoustic foam panels to soundproof the room and prevent sound reflections during a recording session. Alternatively, you could consider getting a set of bass traps if you’re on a tight budget.
Create a Masterpiece With the Right Equipment
There you have it – everything you need to build a recording studio.
While having high-quality recording equipment is an important piece of the puzzle, keep in mind that no two recording situations are the same. Plus, your audience will not be listening to your music under the same conditions.
You need to be able to intuitively identify potential problems that may arise and let them advise every technical decision you make. It is a skill that takes time and experience to master. So, be patient. You’ll learn as you go along.
Are you interested in recording vocals? Check out our blog for the best studio recording microphones worth checking out.
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