Purchasing your own recording studio equipment is the fastest and most rewarding way to get your musical ideas into a permanently-listenable state. While it will cost you several hundred to several thousand dollars to get up and running, depending on the level of quality and complexity you desire, the equipment will pay for itself in the long run. No longer do you have to log expensive studio time elsewhere. With home recording studio equipment, you do everything yourself at your own pace. Not only does it result in a satisfying collection of music, but you gain valuable experience and may be able to offer your services to other musicians.
When you're just starting out, you don't need to break the bank with the most expensive equipment. You should, however, buy quality gear either new or used. You'll also need a number of basic components, without which proper recording will not be possible.
- Console and Interface: These components are the nervous system of any home recording setup. The console is a multi-channel board, also called a mixer, that processes sound to be recorded. Nowadays, the interface is likely a computer with an installed audio recording program. The interface captures recorded sound and allows for editing and finalization. In the past, commonly used interfaces included reel-to-reel recorders, cassette multi-trackers, ADAT machines or digital hard drive units. Computers simplify the process. Sound passes through the console where the levels are equalized then moves through the interface for recording.
- Patch Bay: This device is not always necessary, depending on your console. Essentially, it increases the number of inputs into which you can record at once. Patch bays consist of a specified number of jacks for running additional instruments, microphones or processors into the recording console.
- Preamp: While many consoles have built-in preamps, an external preamp is often desirable for better control of sound shaping. A preamp connects to the sound chain just before an audio signal enters a recording console. It allows you to control the amplification of a signal and shape it, giving it a better tone. A quality preamp is a necessary component of even the most basic audio setups.
- Microphones: In order to transfer the sound of vocals, acoustic instruments or externally-played amplifiers, microphones are needed. Microphones come in all shapes, sizes, types and levels of quality. A basic home studio should be equipped with, at minimum, a good cardioid vocal mic with a large diaphragm, a set of drum mics and a few basic utility mics. Stands and cables are also necessary.
- Compressor: This unit helps to control the volume of a signal so it doesn't clip, or distort during recording. A good recording console will likely have a compressor built in. Compressors are also available as external and digital plug-in units.
- Speakers: So that you may hear your recordings play back, a set of quality studio speakers are vital. Like the preamp, don't skimp on this component. You'll want to be able to hear the subtlest of sound nuances clearly and cleanly through your studio speakers.
Once your beginning setup is in place, you may find that you'll gradually want to add more pieces or upgrade the components that you have in place. These basic pieces, however, will get you started.