In the simplest of terms to have a “home studio” you need 3 things:

  1. A way to capture the sound: a microphone or other input device
  2. A way to record, mix or adjust the captured sounds: tape recorder, mobile device, or a computer and a Digital Audio Workstation (DAW)
  3. A way to reproduce the sound so you can hear what you have recorded: headphones or audio monitor speakers.

So let’s look at this from 3 levels of complexity and cost.

  1. Cheap & easy home studio
  2. Mid-priced home studio
  3. Expensive home studio

In all these examples, I’ve assumed that you already have a computer at your disposal.  Laptop, desktop, Mac, or PC doesn’t matter.

Cheap & Easy Home Studio Options

In this first installment of our series on building a home studio we will look at the cheap and easy home studio options. We will cover everything you need to get your home studio up and running for less than $300.

Capture

If you just want to capture some ideas or record a basic demo, there is a super simple easy way to do that.  All you need is a USB Microphone. Luckily there are lots of budget-friendly mics for vocalists available.

Also great for recording podcasts, a USB mic connects directly to your computer with a standard USB cable instead of the XLR cable used by most other microphones. Good examples of a USB mic are:

home studio gear basics - The iRig Mic Studio microphone

The iRig Mic Studio

home studio basics - blue microphone yeti

Blue Yeti USB Microphone

blue microphones - snowball usb microphone

Blue Snowball USB Microphone

home studio basics - apogee mic 96k

Slightly more expensive is the Apogee  MiC 96k but, man, does it sound good!!

By simply plugging in the USB mic, you can capture acoustic instruments and vocals quickly and easily.

To save some money you can purchase these microphones used from sites like Reverb.

If you already have a mic that you like, you can use an XLR to USB converter like the Blue Icicle or the iRig Pro from IK Multimedia.  These converters or adapters allow you to use any regular mic and plug it into a USB port on your computer.

Capturing instruments directly can be done with an USB input device like the GuitarConnect Pro from Griffin or the aforementioned iRig Pro.

Recording

If you are an Apple computer owner, you’re in luck. GarageBand, Apple’s simple to use DAW software, comes preinstalled on many Macs and is easily available in Apple’s App Store.

apple garage band for recording

For Windows users, there are several freeware/donationware DAWs on the market including Reaper by Cockos.

The best free recording software DAWs will be more than enough to get you started.

Other inexpensive DAWs include:

Listening/Monitoring

For playback or “monitoring”, a decent set of headphones is a good place to start.

When we say good, we don’t mean the earbuds that came with your phone.  Spend at least $100 on some decent studio headphones like the  Sony MDR-7506 Headphones.

Sony-MDR-7506-Headphones

You want something that gives you a flat frequency response so your recording will sound good on multiple playback systems (car, home stereo, mobile device etc).

By using headphones with a boosted bass response like those from Beats by Dre, your mix may end up lacking bass on other systems.

More on frequency response and mixing in another post as well as more expensive ways to build a quality home studio.

Cheap & Easy Home Studio Total Cost: $150 – $300

For more ideas, view Reverb’s take on the essential gear you need by genre and view our complete list of home studio gear recommendations.