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to buy when setting up a home recording studio

By Richard Harfield, HW Audio Ltd, Bolton.

There are a million different combinations of equipment that you can choose,
and the well-known names all make gear that should work well together and,
given enough time and experience, you can produce professional studio quality
results with it.
Bruce Springsteen even recorded an album on a basic cassette based portastudio
(remember cassettes if you are over 30?) . The album is called Nebraska, and is
surprisingly good.

Basically you have 4 options as to the means of recording

1) An all in one portastudio these are
made by Tascam, who invented the
portastudio, initially recording on
cassette, then they progressed to card
storage and now they have their own
hard drives built in. Some will also
record your finished mix to CD for a
permanent record of your creation, or

as a master for duplication.

2) A computer based system. This can either be PC or Mac. If you buy a Mac,
which is the more expensive option, it comes pre-loaded with the program or
software you need. As standard it comes with GarageBand, but can be
upgraded to Logic, a more comprehensive package. If you are going down the
PC route, you will need to either buy a program, or the program quite often
comes bundled with other gear that you will need, normally the recording
interface more about that later

3) A tablet based system.

These tend to be simple 2 track
app-based recorders, which are
used with an audio interface.

4) A mixer with dedicated channel recording output, such as the Line6
Stagescape M20D or one which will directly interface to a computer such as
the Yamaha 01V.

With the portastudio option, its a simple matter of deciding how many channels
you need; this is determined by how many mics you would want to record at the
same time. For example, a drum kit might require 6 or 8 mic channels, where an
acoustic guitar may only require 1 or 2. Add a microphone (see our PA buying
guide for more details on mics) , a pair of headphones for monitoring, and a set
of powered speakers for mixdown and you have the basic set up.

With the computer based option there are a few more things that can be bought,
which makes the system more versatile, but also slightly more complex.

You may need

Microphone (unless you are only recording from a source like keyboard or
electro-acoustic guitar)
This is most likely to be a large-diaphragm
condenser microphone like the one shown
left, which would give best results.
However your studio will still produce ok
results with a conventional live
microphone if your budget doesnt run to
a studio microphone.

Audio Interface or Sound card. This is not to be confused by the internal
soundcard in the computer which is not suitable for quality recording. It needs to
have at least one XLR socket on it with phantom power for powering condenser
mics (see PA guide for explanation of phantom power).
Basic interfaces cant be expanded,
but more sophisticated ones have
ADAT expansion ports which allow
extra channels to be added simply,
normally in groups of 8.

Computer Mac or PC you decide according to budget. Macs are more stable
and are on in seconds, unlike pcs which can take several minutes to load

Midi Controller Keyboard

In the program that you use to record your music are things called plugins.
These are programs or apps which enable you to do various things including
accessing a range of midi controllable sounds, accessing loops, inserting
compressors, gates, de-essers and many
other effects into your recordings.

Many of these plugins can be
controlled by a controller
keyboard. At its simplest it is just a
keyboard to control on-board midi
sounds such as piano, strings etc.;
at the other end, keyboards are
available to control a whole raft of
parameters on your program.


These are used to listen to one track and play in sync the next track to be
recorded, without getting overspill of the tracks you have already recorded onto
the track you are recording.
Studio headphones have the following characteristics:
Closed back, to give isolation from what you are listening to, to open mics
Flat frequency response and neutral sound you hear what is actually recorded.

Studio Monitors

Studio monitors are designed to sound as
neutral as possible. These days most monitors
are active ; that is they have amplifiers built in
them, which makes life a little easier.
You will need a power socket for each though,
and a signal lead to each one.


Mic stand, monitor speaker stands, pop shields, acoustic tiles and reflection
screens are also desirable extras.

Tablet based system

Primarily aimed at the iPad market, units such as the Focusrite iTrack combine a
studio grade mic preamp with an iPad / Mac interface and a free recording app
to make recording high quality sound on the move. Its a great first step, but you
will soon realise the shortcomings of the system and want to trade up.

Mixer based recorders.

If you are a live band who want to record
your performances in a live situation, but
then want to record overdubs, or remix at a
later date, then there are quite a few digital
desks which have real-time recording of
each channel direct to USB. An example of
this is the Line6 Stagescape M20D mixer.

Its a very sophisticated, yet intuitive mixer which can record 16 channels to USB,
which can then be imported into your favourite DAW program for mixing, Or if
you want something more sophisticated, and what you would find in a smaller
pro studio, the Yamaha 01V96 which is a full featured digital desk with moving
faders, and perfect integration with Cubase which is included.

So, in short, there is a lot to think about. Our experts at HW Audio are always
happy to help you in specifying your home studio, just give us a call.