If you want to get started as a music producer and take things seriously you will need a beginner home studio setup where you can start writing, recording, editing, and mixing music. The first thing you will need is some music production software called a DAW or Digital Audio Workstation. You will later need a few key pieces of audio hardware like studio reference monitor speakers, some decent quality headphones, an audio interface, and a microphone. A home studio setup for beginners doesn’t need to cost a lot of money, in fact it’s possible to set up a home music studio for $500 to $1000 if you budget carefully and do your research.
Small Budget Home Studio
If you’re just starting out and you're on a tight budget for your home studio, you will want to focus on these 5 things first: 1. Computer 2. DAW software 3. Headphones 4. Audio interface 5. Powered monitor speakers.
Here are 6 examples of how you might spend your small home studio budget if you already have a decent laptop or desktop computer and you don't need a microphone right away:
Home studio budget: $200: Do your research and aim to purchase the light version of the DAW software that’s best for you.
Home studio budget: $350: Get the light version of the DAW software you want and some cheap but decent headphones.
Home studio budget: $500: Get the light version of the DAW software you want and some better headphones, or the cheaper headphones and a cheap but decent audio interface.
Home studio budget: $750: Get the highest tier of the DAW software and some good headphones.
Home studio budget: $1000: Get the highest tier of the DAW software, good headphones and a decent audio interface.
Home studio budget: $1500: Get the highest tier of the DAW software, good headphones, a good audio interface, and some decent powered monitors.
Read more about: Choosing the right DAW for you.
Headphones and Monitor Speakers
Choosing a pair of headphones and a set of active (powered) monitor speakers that have a generally “flat” frequency response will provide you with the most clarity when you’re mixing. The best headphones for production and best speakers for mixing are the monitors that sound best to you while maintaining an accurate stereo image and flat frequency response. Using a calibrated subwoofer and crossover will help you hear and feel the sub frequencies more accurately in your studio listening environment.
The best way to position your reference monitor speakers for your home studio is to set them up for playback and test them sitting in a “V” position from your head at eye level in different positions in the room before you set everything else up around them. Listen for echoes and blurred sounds, lack of clarity and boominess. Some of these things you can correct with positioning and some with sound absorption, diffusion, and decoupling techniques.
You’ll want to get the best audio interface you can afford but sometimes the most affordable audio interface isn’t the most popular audio interface. To keep your home studio setup low budget you will probably want to spend no more than around $200 but there are some very decent audio interfaces available under $200 if you do your research. Usually the quality of the A/D (analog to digital) and D/A (digital to analog) converters plus the number of audio inputs and outputs will determine the price.
Budget Home Studio Acoustic Treatment
Later down the road you will want to do a bit of budget acoustic treatment to your home recording studio in the form of sound absorption, sound diffusion, speaker decoupling, sound isolation and maybe some bass management by putting a couple of bass traps in the corners of the room. Randomness is great for removing standing waves and coloration from room sound so you will want a mixture of live and dead surfaces, non-parallel walls and an offset desk position will further randomize the sound as it bounces around your room.
The worst acoustics are found in a square room as it allows too many chances for standing waves to cancel or multiply which will result in mixes that do not sound accurate and translate to other listening environments like cars, headphones, clubs, and even just other sets of speakers. Proper positioning of some hung plants can provide a bit of acoustic diffusion in roof corners while also providing a cool vibe.
Creating a great vibe and atmosphere for singers and musicians is an important aspect to a home studio setup. A home studio desk and a vocal booth are luxury items for a budget home studio design. Use a regular desk until you can afford a custom recording studio desk and hang some thick packing blankets in a clothes closet for a makeshift vocal booth.
Conclusion: Keep your bedroom studio setup as a minimalist music production room until you can afford some better gear, higher quality studio monitors, a great sounding microphone, and some more budget studio acoustic treatment. Your minimal home recording studio setup will be great for starting out on your music production journey.
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