These are the building blocks of your home studio. The following should be your main focus when you begin.
The main thing to focus on when building your home studio is your room. Do you have a nice quiet place that that doesn’t echo or emphasize certain frequencies? You don’t want to record everything in a bathroom or concrete basement. You want a dead room. You can always add reverb later, but if your room is too live, you will end up with unwanted frequencies that you can’t remove. Put up some carpeting or blankets if you have to.
Next you’ll need a decent microphone. Luckily the prices of mics have dropped considerably. You can get decent mics now for around $100. You can even get by with one microphone if you have to. Although, a stereo pair would be better.
You need to plug your mics into something like a mixer or an audio interface. The mixer will provide power to your microphones and lets you adjust levels, pan, and EQ. Make sure you get a mixer with at least 4 inputs. Even if you only have one mic now, you will probably need to plug in multiple things at one time in the future.
Once you’ve got your mics set up with your mixer, you can adjust levels and make a great mix, but you still need a way to get the sound into the computer. You’ll want to get a professional audio interface. The audio interface lets you connect your mixer to your computer, and it handles the conversion from analog audio signals to the digital signals that your computer needs. Don’t rely on the soundcard that came with your machine. Spend some money here.
You’ll need a decent computer to record with. I’m not a Mac guy so I’ve always used PCs. They are much cheaper and can be just as good as an expensive Mac. Get something with at least 80 gigs of hard disc space. You’ll want as much memory as you can get. And something with a fast processor. Nothing else really matters.
Don’t rely on your crappy computer speakers for monitors. You’ll need to spend a little money here as well. Get something that is designed for monitoring. Stereo speakers may emphasize certain frequencies and make your mix inaccurate. Make sure you listen closely and test any monitors before purchasing. Monitors may sound different to your ear. Find something you like.
Get a decent pair of headphones. You will be wearing these a lot, so make sure you find something that is comfortable. Something that covers the entire ear. Also, make sure that they sound good. Test a few out, find what sounds best for you.
Last but not least, you will need some sort of software for recording. If you ask other home studio guys what they use, everyone will tell you something different. Everyone has their own preference. There are some for under $100 and there are some for much more. Try a few demos, find what’s easiest for you to use.
The first things you should buy are a decent mic, mixer, audio interface, monitors, software, headphones, and a computer. With just these items it is possible to make professional sounding recordings, depending on how your room sounds. Don’t skimp on any of these items, these are the main tools you’ll be using on all of your recordings. You can always add more stuff as you go.
A home studio is a work in progress, but if you start with decent equipment, making great sounding recordings should be a breeze.