Home Studio Guide: How to Build a Home Recording Studio Setup
Your home studio is your music creation hub. It’s the place where your inspiration and workflow meet and your tracks take shape.
Advances in technology and consumer electronics have made recording at home more accessible than ever before.
The idea of making quality music at home and mixing it yourself used to be unthinkable.
But today’s inexpensive and even free home studio recording equipment can sound fantastic.
More and more musicians are choosing to record and produce at home, in their bedroom or garage rather than rent time at expensive studios—and you can too.
First steps: home recording studio equipment essentials
A home studio is a collection of equipment for recording or producing music at home.
A basic home studio is made up of several pieces of equipment that function together to let you produce music.
Any home studio setup will need this recording equipment:
- Laptop or Desktop Computer
- DAW software
- Audio interface
- Studio Monitors
In this guide I’ll go through each in detail and lay out some good options producers of all skill levels.
Use the menu bar on the left to navigate between the sections of this guide.
1. Music Computer: Digital music production center
The majority of today’s music production takes place in the digital domain. To record digitally, you’ll need a computer.
But here’s the good news– Modern computers have plenty of processing power for audio tasks. You won’t need to buy a special, souped-up machine to start your home studio.
A desktop or laptop with decent specs has enough processing muscle to get you started.
PC or Mac used to be a hot debate in the pro audio community, but in recent years the difference between the two platforms has diminished.
Use whatever type you’re most comfortable with.
But if you already know you’re going to be putting your music production computer through its paces with lots of demanding plugins, here are the computer specs that matter most.
CPU processor speed is still one of the most significant factors when it comes to processing power for audio.
Look for more cores and faster clock speeds for a better overall processor.
Running an SSD (solid state drive) as your system boot drive is one of the best upgrades you can make for your PC in general.
But it also helps for music production. Using an SSD makes your computer more responsive and quicker to start up.
You’ll see the benefits if your DAW and other music applications are installed on the extra fast SSD.
You may think you need to max out your computer’s RAM to get the best performance in your DAW.
This isn’t always true. 8 GB of RAM will handle basic audio tasks just fine.
But if you’re planning to run multiple instances of heavy multi-GB sample libraries at low buffer sizes, you may want to expand.
How to Reduce Annoying DAW Lag
How to Choose a Music Production Computer
The 10 Best Music Production Laptops
2. DAW: Studio recording software
DAW stands for Digital Audio Workstation. It’s the main computer program you use to record, edit, mix and arrange your music.
If your home setup was a traditional recording studio, your DAW would be the tape machine.
But modern DAWs can do so much more than that. DAWs allow you to record and edit MIDI as well as audio.
MIDI is the language that digital instruments like synthesizers and drum machines use to communicate with each other. It’s also how you input musical information to virtual instruments inside your DAW.
Choosing a DAW is a big decision, so we put together a guide to help you choose between the best options.
The 12 Best Free DAWs to Create Music
The 10 Best DAW Apps in the World Today
What is MIDI? Music’s Most Powerful Tool
Are You Getting the Most Out of your DAW?
3. Audio Interface: Play and record audio with your computer
The next main item in your home studio is your audio interface.
Every sound that comes in or out of your DAW has to pass through your interface to get where it’s going.
An audio interface is the piece of gear that converts analog signals from your microphones or instrument to digital input you can record in your DAW.
But it also converts the digital signals in your DAW back into to audio you can hear with the your speakers or headphones.
That’s just as important. Hearing your tracks in full quality is essential for making informed mix decisions.
That’s what makes your audio interface such an essential part of your home studio.
We put together the ultimate list of the 52 best audio interfaces and a detailed guide to picking the right one so you can find your perfect audio interface.
The 52 Best Audio Interfaces on the Market
How to Choose an Audio Interface for Your Home Studio
4. Headphones: Hear your tracks properly
Next you’ll need some way to listen to the tracks you’re laying down in your DAW.
You might prefer to use studio monitors for the majority of studio listening, but headphones are an essential tool in any home studio.
Your headphones will always be important for tasks like tracking and mix referencing.
And despite what many pro engineers say, it’s completely possible to mix music well on headphones.
If you’re working with a limited budget, starting off with a good pair of headphones is a good solution until you can afford a set of monitors.
The 25 Best Studio Headphones For Musicians
Why Mixing on Headphones Is Better Than You Think
Reference Tracks: How to Improve Your Sound With Mix Referencing
5. Studio Monitors: Mix better with the right speakers
Headphones are important for any home studio, but mixing on them exclusively can be fatiguing during long sessions.
Most engineers do the majority of their work using near-field monitors.
Studio monitors are specially engineered speakers designed to sound clean, clear, flat and neutral.
Unlike consumer audio speakers, these listening tools are not designed to flatter the music or make it sound more pleasant.
In fact it’s almost the opposite.
Studio monitors reveal every flaw in a sound so you can address it in the mix. That extra detail is the insight you need to make your tracks sound great
Still, all studio monitors sound different and choosing the right ones is a highly personal decision.
Check out our guide to the best studio monitors to find your perfect pair.
The 40 Best Studio Monitors for Your Home Studio
How Do Speakers Work: Understanding Audio Reproduction
6. MIDI Controller: Play virtual instruments in your DAW
MIDI stands for Musical Interface Digital Interface. It’s the language your digital music tools use to communicate with each other.
MIDI carries the information that tells synthesizers and virtual instruments which notes to play, when to play them and other types of musical gestures.
You can write MIDI manually using the mouse, but most producers find it easier to play the notes using a MIDI controller.
A MIDI controller is a hardware device used to input MIDI. MIDI controllers can have keys, pads, knobs, sliders or a combination of input types.
Most home studios include a MIDI controller. If you need help choosing one, check out our guide to the 50 best MIDI controllers available
The 50 Best MIDI Controllers in the World Today
The 10 Best Ableton Controllers Available Today
MIDI Editing: 6 Essential Tips for Better MIDI Tracks
7. Plugins: Use audio effects in your DAW
Plugins are the software sound tools you use in your DAW for, mixing, synthesis, effects, sampling, mastering and more.
Most DAWs come with a capable set of built-in plugins that are more than enough to create a professional sounding track.
But third-party plugins are how you expand your sonic palette and make your sound your own.
Maybe you want to assemble the perfect virtual instrument rig with your synth plugins.
Or maybe you’re an effects junkie always on the hunt for a new reverb plugin.
Whatever your niche, plugins can be incredibly inspiring.
They’re a huge part of what makes producing music so exciting.
The 200 Best Free VST Plugins of All Time
The 11 Best Delay Plugins for Every Mix Situation
The 15 Best EQ Plugins to Shape Your Mix
The 15 Best Reverb Plugins for Every Mix Situation
The 14 Best Modulation Plugins for Adding Movement to Your Mix
8. Microphones: Record your vocals and more
Unless you’re making music exclusively with VSTs or samples, you’ll need to capture your sounds with a microphone to bring them into your DAW.
There’s an enormous number of microphones out there—and not all of them are well-suited to every task.
We put together a special guide for choosing a microphone based on which source you’ll be recording.
But if you just want to get an idea of what’s out there, check out our list of the 30 best microphones.
When it comes to microphones, we know there’s one source that’s on everyone’s mind: vocals.
There’s no easy to way to recommend the perfect mic for every singer, but matching your mic to your singing style is a good way to start.
The 30 Best Microphones on the Market Today
Buying Your First Mic: The 4 Step Guide
Microphone Types: How to Choose The Right Mic
9. Samples: Sounds to use in your music
Samples are the perfect way to start with music.
A well-rounded sample library is a helpful home studio staple.
The raw material for samples can be found anywhere there’s audio. But be careful.
Using copyrighted material in your songs can result in getting rejected by digital distribution services or worse—being sued for copyright infringement.
The best way to work with samples is to get access to a library of pre-cleared samples that are ready to use in your music right way.
Check out LANDR Samples for the best samples, packs and loops—curated by AI.
The 10 Best Sample Packs on LANDR Samples
How to Use Selector to Find the Right Sample Faster
10. Audio Cables: Connect your gear together
With all this gear in your studio you’ll need the correct cables to connect it all up.
There are many different audio cables types but they all have a purpose in studio context.
Your audio interface, microphones, instruments and monitor speakers may all need a different type of cable to connect properly.
If you need a refresher on the different types of cables that are out there, use this guide to find out how to make your routing work for you
Everything Musicians Need to Know About Audio Cable Types
11. Acoustic treatment: get your space sounding right
Recordings are always impacted by the acoustics of the space you’re working in.
Whether the acoustics of your recording and mix room is an artistic choice or borne out of necessity, there’s plenty of optimizations you can make to improve room acoustics.
We’ve covered acoustic treatment in-depth in past articles but here’s a quick rundown of the bare essentials.
In general, the corners and walls of your space will always send reflections that could add unpleasant echoes to your recordings.
So treating walls and corners with paneling or even heavy curtains is an excellent first step.
When it comes to your mix desk make sure the centers of your monitors are ear-height and pointing towards each side of your head.
Ultimately your space needs to be comfortable and encourage creativity—simple things like adding a couch, carpet and some paint on the walls will help deaden the room and make it somewhere you want to hang and create.
Acoustic Treatment: How to Get a Better Sounding Room
Home sweet home studio
No matter how humble the component parts may seem, a collection of gear for producing music makes up a home studio.
Putting one together is one of the most exciting parts of being a musician.
Use this guide to take the stress out of buying the right gear for your home studio.