For those of you who wish to work from home in the recording industry – you are obviously going to need to need home recording equipment. What type of gear you will need to get started will vary based on the type of recording you plan to do from home. For example, if you only plan to record narration for online videos or podcasts you will need less equipment than if you were trying to record music. Another thought is how much you plan to record at one time, one or two tracks and adding vocals in layers requires less equipment than if you plan to do more than two tracks or recording a full band.
One of the most important pieces of home recording equipment that you will need is, of course, a microphone (or microphones). To start out – especially if you have a very small budget – I recommend a USB mic like the Samson Q1U, which only runs about $ 49. If you plan to only do voice-overs or simple solo-type music, this just might be enough for you. There are several more advanced models of USB mic as well that you can upgrade to. If you have the budget though, I highly recommend a completely different kind of mic (not USB) called a large diaphragm condenser mic, such as the Rode NT2-A, along with an audio interface box like the Avid Fast Track or Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 . A mic / interface combo of that type will start at about $ 200. Again, if you're planning to record a band, you'll need more mics and a larger interface capable of recording multiple sources at once.
If this is the year 2000 or greater (It's 2015 where I live), then along with the microphone and interface you will need to have a computer. Most people reading this will already have one, so it will not be much of an issue.
You will also need recording software. Most computers nowdays come with some basic form of recording software, but that is not going to be quite enough for those wishing to make some money from recording. Rather than spending money on professional recording software many professionals use Audacity, which is available to download for free. Audacity has an amazing array of features and capabilities for the price, which, as I mentioned in case you missed it, is FREE. I would also suggest adding a program called Reaper for $ 60 (unless and until you start making 10-20 thousand clams a year using it.
This next bit of studio equipment stirs up quite a lot of controversy. I refer to studio monitors, as in loud-speakers. I've written before about how our ears lie to us at the best of times, but even the most honest of ears can be easily tricked by things like the room you mix in, and the loud-speaker response. In an ideal world you would do your critical listening and mixing in a room that does not mangle multiple frequencies before they get to your ears (Google the term room acoustics for more detail on that fun little topic), even if reproducible on perfect speakers . Also, you would have perfect response from the speakers in this perfect world. If your mixing room is a bedroom, as it is for most home recordists, just know that what you hear is already mangled in several ways. You can improve that situation, if you have really good speakers, but it is not easy (I refer you again to the topic of room acoustics).
Another way to monitor is through headphones. To start out, you do not need anything special in that department as long as you can hear what you're recorded. For music, you'll want at least one pair of closed-back headphones for overdubbing so that the sound coming from the headphones does not bleed down your calls into the microphone.
What is the best monitoring solution then? Should you buy special monitor speakers? My heretical advice is that if you're recording music, yes you should. Mixing while listening to sound coming through the air is too critical when recording several instruments and vocals, etc. But if you're definitely recording voice-overs and narration, then I say you can get with the speakers on your computers along with your headphones, at least to start out. In order to compensate for audio-mangle-age, do your final listening on both your headphones and your computer speakers. Then listen in the car, you iPod, and sometimes a few other systems, to make sure your final product sounds good on all of them. That's the trade-off for not having monitor speakers in a rented bedroom.
So what kind of monitors should you buy? Well there are two main types, active and passive. I'm saying that active monitor speakers are better to have than passive speakers. The reason is that they have the amplifier built into them, where as the passive speakers do not. And the reason this is a good thing is that passive speakers require you to also have an amplifier as a separate piece of gear altogether, which will drive the cost up, as well as adding other logical and electrical complications.
So in a nutshell, in order to outfit yourself with the basic home recording studio equipment, you'll need:
- A computer
- Recording Software
- Microphone (s) (USB at least and standard condenser with interface if you have the budget)
- Monitors (both headphones and speakers)
No matter what equipment you purchase the most important thing to remember is that knowledge of the key audio fundamentals is far more useful than expensive equipment. If you lack basic knowledge you will always end up with poor sounding audio, no matter how expensive the equipment is. Remember this mantra: knowledge trumps gear . There are gazillions of people making crap records every day with really expensive gear. But if you have some basic knowledge, you can make great records with very modest equipment. Therefore, never let an employee talk you into the most expensive equipment in the store, in most cases the $ 50 USB microphone will provide you with the professional sounding results.