A musician with a good personal computer can assemble the components for a great home PC recording studio for $300 to $500. Backing tracks can be a great asset for playing venues that feature few musicians with a big sound.
Guitarist, vocalist, percussion or bass players can record in high quality at their home studio, upload samples to their website, and provide the full arrangement at live gigs.
The Basic Studio Components
- Audio Interface
- DAW Software
- Condenser Microphone
- Studio Headphones
To get the ‘analog world’ onto ‘computer world’ you need the audio to digital converter. The units are categorized by what is going in (audio) to what comes out (digital).
If you are recording mono tracks and layering one track at a time, you can go for the 2/1 units. Most converters will handle an instrument and a vocal input simultaneously, thus the ‘2/1’.
Since I record a stereo piano or a synth part, I would use a 2/2 unit. If you need more inputs that my one or two concepts, get a mixer. The 1/1 unit is called a “solo type”, but I found the duel units only about $30 more.
This is your digital audio workstation. A virtual studio that resides on your computer. I assume you have a computer, but if you don’t, you will have to expand your budget an get one. Most computers will handle this software. I suggest getting a laptop because you can take it to a gig, otherwise, desktops are powerful enough and you can find one for real cheap.
The great thing about laptops is that you can bring them to a gig. With your arrangements at a gig, you can master your background tracks to cover “no show” band members; or provide music during the breaks that are not on your playlist.
The software can be bundled with other hardware, like your audio interface or a keyboard controller. I purchased a keyboard controller that came with a DAW software and provided sounds for live play. As a controller, it ran off of the power from the USB cable; very useful in the studio. Astonishing price of my keyboard was only $300.
A condenser microphone is unlike the common dynamic type microphones, used in “live” gigs. The condenser is more sensitive and is more suitable to the recording studio. The audio interface will usually provide “phantom power” to the unit that makes it more active in response.
The condenser type microphone needs an “LXR” cable, to ensure proper impedance to the digital audio interface. Studios of the ’70s to the 90s’ used the condenser microphones costing thousands of dollars, but now the same technology can be had for around $100.
Studio Quality Headphones
Forget about getting a set of studio monitors right now. Good headphones are not that expensive. The big plus about headphones is that you eliminate bleeding of the recording back onto tracks. Keeping the recorded tracks isolated is important when it comes to editing and mixing the tracks faithfully. The studio monitors are for a group of people to listen together. Monitor speakers are colored by the room they are in so, they are not an ideal representation of the final mix. You can add them later for $150 or more, but they are not that essential to the recording process.
There are several items you will need to get to complete your studio.
- An XLR cable for the condenser microphone.
- A microphone stand, with a boom attachment.
- A microphone “pop filter” for your vocals.
I recommend researching these items as a whole. I have found that you can get an audio converter bundled with DAW software, condenser microphones, and accessories at a killer price. I searched the internet for hours for the best values at a modest price. With three hundred dollars I can get “studio reality” (not including the keyboard or computer).