Ask any studio owner no matter how simple or advanced and they’ll all agree on one thing: their recording studio is always a work in progress. This is because there’s always something new we can add or change. And with new ideas and products coming out all the time, there’s really no limit to what we can find to make our studio the most unique and productive place for our ideas to come to life.
From the moment a soundwave is created and recorded to the final stage when it’s played on the speakers, there are several devices working simultaneously to make sure the process is done with the best possible end result. Among these devices there are some that we can almost always find in every recording chain. To help you focus on the fundamentals we’ll take you through the main components that are essential to run a functioning studio.
At the center of the studio should be your computer, even on a budget your computer should have a decent processor capable of handling multiple and heavy processes such as multitrack playback, audio effects, virtual instruments and audio rendering. Along with the processor, a good amount of RAM and a spacious hard drive have become a must for anyone who wants to get the specs right.
Whether we’re recording a voice or an instrument, a microphone is going to be absolutely necessary unless the instrument has its own audio output. For recording purposes there’s nothing better than condenser microphones. Their electronic properties bring the best out of the recording with a lot of detail and the appropriate texture.
Another great option is the Aston Origin, a microphone that has been getting great reviews from, well, anyone who’s reviewed it really. If you’re budget can stretch a bit, putting the Aston Spirit in your studio means you can record with the same microphone Noel Gallagher has been using recently.
The Audio Interface
The interface is probably the most important part of the chain as the quality of the interface will define most of the quality of our work. In some cases the interface acts as a preamp for the microphones, a mixer for the signals, and also takes part in the processing of the audio signal during recording and playback.
Besides the budget you intend to stay within, the most important consideration you should make is the amount of inputs and outputs you’re going to need. The amount of inputs simply means how many audio signals can be recorded at the same time, considering your limitations in space and logistics. The amount of outs have a lot to do with the amount of monitors you may want to use and some other practical uses that having extra outputs may have. Some audio interfaces also have Midi in and Midi out which could come in handy when working with traditional devices that communicate through MIDI.
And last but certainly not least is the type of connection desired to be used between the interface and the computer, currently there are three main options: USB, Firewire or Thunderbolt. Most entry level interfaces are USB because it’s the most common port and nowadays they perform as well as Firewire. Mac users could consider a Thunderbolt interface as this tends to be the fastest connection in the market.
One of the best brands that you could start with is Audient as they provide great quality at a reasonable price with a long heritage in quality preamps. For USB users the Audient iD series is a no brainer. However, if it’s Thunderbolt you want then consider the Focusrite Clarett Series, you won’t be disappointed.
Speakers and Headphones
Of course, you’ll probably want to be able to hear all the great music you’re making, so you’ll want a pair of headphones and / or some speakers. If you’re recording anything with a microphone, you’ll want a pair of headphones so you can hear your cue mix, but just record the source. The Roland RH5 are a great choice for the money. If you can afford them though, grabbing a pair of Beyerdynamic DT-770 Pro headphones will mean you won’t have to upgrade for a very, very long time. If ever.
For prolonged mixing and listening sessions, working on a pair of studio monitors is the way to go. While we might all want some Focal Twin6 monitors, budgets – and often our room – can make that less than practical. The M-Audio AV42 are a popular choice, particularly for smaller rooms that can be overwhelmed with too much bass.
Top monitor recommendations though, wouldn’t be complete without a mention of the Yamaha HS5. A quality studio monitor that’s great for seeing inside your mix, and is truly revealing on those critical vocal frequencies.
Ultimately, the gear you choose has to be the gear that’s right for you and the music you want to make. A studio for a Nick Drake -inspired singer/songwriter may not be the best fit for a grime producer.
As always, if you have any questions, please get in touch and we’ll work with you to put your creativity in the best studio for you.
Red Dog Music is the UK’s friendliest musical instrument and pro-audio dealer. Between our 5000 square foot Edinburgh shop filled with an incredible range of products, a spectacular shop in Leeds, and a London showroom in Clapham specialising in high-end instruments, dj and pro-audio, Red Dog Music has you covered from north to south and from performance to playback.