How Much Does it Cost to Build a Home Recording Studio

Thanks to all of you who took the time to respond to our user Poll about which topics to publish next. There was a clear winner!

“I have $xxx to spend on Home Recording gear…What should I buy?”

People often come to me asking me whether they should buy this pre-amp, that compressor, or this piece of software.

Few people can ignore cost as a limiting factor on their available choices. So, in this 1st part today, we’ll cover

  • what equipment to buy
  • based on your budget
    • $100
    • $300
    • $550

In Part 2, we’ll cover what equipment to buy with budgets of:

  • $1,300
  • $2,200
  • $3,000

Then in the final part:

  • $4,500
  • $7,500

Please feel free to let us know if you found these examples useful. Just use the Comments section at the end of each post.

PS: Of course there’s much more than just budget to consider. Click this link for more information on our step by step guide to Selecting Sound Recording Software and Equipment – that Works for your recording needs.


I have $100 to spend on Home Recording Studio Equipment, what should I buy?

You won’t be able to get much music studio equipment with this. Here’s what you could do…

  • Click the next link and buy a Shure SM58 dynamic microphone ($100) – This all purpose microphone is a basic good quality piece of studio equipment.
  • Using either an XLR/USB or minijack adapter, plug it into your friend’s computer and start recording using the basic audio recorder that came with the operating system, or…
  • Download Audacity (free) to get started.

I have $300 to spend on Home Recording Studio Equipment, what should I buy?

If you can borrow a suitable computer, you should be able to just about get started.

Watch for end-of season sales, and you’ll be able to get some basic music studio equipment with this amount of money. For example…

  • Click the link and buy a Shure SM58 dynamic microphone – This all-purpose, durable microphone is a basic good quality piece of studio equipment.
  • Using either an XLR/USB or minijack adapter, plug it into your friend’s computer and start recording using the basic recorder that came with the operating system, or…
  • Start with downloading Audacity recording software (free).
  • *A CD burner is essential if you want to be able to output your music to CD – the computer should have one already.

*Note: CD or DVD output is required for high quality recording masters. However, given the popularity of mp3 distribution, you may decide a CD/DVD Burner is not a priority for your type of sound production.


I have $550 to spend on Home Recording Studio Equipment, what should I buy?

You will be able to get some good music studio equipment with this amount of money.

Go to your favorite online store, or click the link and buy a Shure SM58 dynamic microphone  – This all purpose, durable microphone is a basic good quality piece of studio equipment.

  • Using either an XLR/USB or minijack adapter, plug it into your friend’s computer and start recording using the basic sound recorder that came with the operating system, or…
  • Get started with Audacity.
  • A CD burner is essential if you want to be able to output your music to CD – your computer should have one already.
  • CDR80 80-Minute Blank CDRs in Spindle (50 discs)– You need to get some blank CDs to record onto!
  • Sennheiser HD25-1II Professional Headphone – These fantastic, flat-response headphones will let you hear very clearly what you are working on and you will start to learn to listen accurately to music before progressing to studio monitors. BE WARNED – Studio headphones do not give a totally accurate representation of sound but this is not really a problem for many applications.

I have $1300 to spend on Home Recording Studio Equipment, what should I buy?

Cheap music recording equipment? Not at this quality of gear! But you still want to aim for best value – and we’ll have lots more great advice on this in future.

Buying tip: For now, just one point – apart from special offers (for example, Musician’s Friend currently has a rebate offer on SM58’s) – you’ll probably find it hard to find much price difference between the major suppliers.

However, look for the vendor offering free shipping. This may well more than outweigh any price difference and can be very worth while!

With a budget of around $1300, you will be able to get some great music studio equipment. Go to your favorite online store, or use the links below to buy:

  • Rode NTK Tube Condenser Studio Microphone  – This high-quality condenser microphone will make a worthy addition to your studio. This mic is great on Vocals and live instruments. Using an XLR/USB or minijack adapter, plug it into your friend’s computer and start recording using Audacity free software.
  • A CD burner is useful if you want to be able to output your music to CD. If you already have one on your existing PC, most likely you’ll have a CD burning package included. If not, download Nero, or CDBurnerXP Pro (free).
  • CDR 80-Minute 50-Pack – You need to get some blank CDs to record onto!
  • Sennheiser HD25-1II Professional Headphone ($200) – These fantastic, flat-response headphones will let you hear very clearly what you are working on and you will start to learn to listen accurately to music before progressing to studio monitors. BE WARNED – Headphones do not give a totally accurate representation of sound but this is not really a problem for most people.
  • Propellerhead Reason Studio Combo Software Bundle ($400) – Stand alone music station software (Win/Mac). This combined with Pro Tools Free will give you a lot of ability to be creative.

I have $2000 to spend on Home Recording Studio Equipment, what should I buy?

You will be able to get some great music studio equipment with this amount of money. As above, go to these links (or your favorite online store) and buy:

  • Shure SM58 Dynamic Microphone ($100)
  • Rode NTK Tube Condenser Studio Microphone ($530)
  • CD Burner (on existing PC?) and Nero (or CDBurner XP Pro) Software ($80)
  • CDR 80-Minute 50-Pack – Blank CDRs in Spindle
  • Sennheiser HD25-1II Professional Headphone – Studio Monitor Sealed ($180)

This time, also include:

  • Mackie HR624MKII 2-Way Active Studio Monitor ($450 each ) This pair of reference monitors are great to start recording on. They give you accurate sound so you know what you are listening to. These are active monitors which means they don’t need a separate amplifier.

I have $3000 to spend on Home Recording Studio Equipment, what should I buy?

You will be able to get some great music studio equipment with this amount of money. In this case, we’d suggest moving up a couple of gears in the software department.

Go to the links above, then add…

  • Apple Logic Studio Music Production Software ($400-500) – The professional package for composers and musicians wanting to write and record. This is a fantastic program that will do everything you need it to and more.

or

  • Cakewalk SONAR Producer Recording Software ($350-400) – An alternative to Apple Logic. With not the complete functionality of Logic still a very popular program.

Budget Between 4500-7500 USD

You will be able to get some great music studio equipment with this level of budget. Go to your favorite online store, or click the links provided below, and buy:

  • Shure SM58 Dynamic Microphone – This all purpose, durable microphone is a basic good quality piece of studio equipment. Plug it into your friend’s computer and start recording using Pro Tools Free downloaded from the Digidesign website and record using this.
  • AKG C414 B-XLS 5-Pattern Condenser Microphone  – This microphone is great quality and very useful features. A must have in the recording studio. Great on acoustic guitars, vocals, drums, bass, electric guitars – almost anything.
  • dbx 386 Dual Vacuum Tube Mic Preamp with Digital Out  – A great channel processor with built in pre amp, eq, compressor and de esser. Not only does it sound good but it has an onboard A/D converter that sounds great and is virtually unclipable! This means you get a great quality digital input to your computer.
  • *A CD burner is useful if you want to be able to output your music to CD. If you already have one on your existing PC, most likely you’ll have a CD burning package included. If not, download Nero ($80), or CDBurnerXP Pro (free).
  • CDR 80-Minute 50-Pack – Blank CDRs in Spindle ($40) – You need to get some blank CDs to record onto!
  • Sennheiser HD25-1ii Professional Headphone – Studio Monitor Sealed ($180) These fantastic, flat-response headphones will let you hear very clearly what you are working on and you will start to learn to listen accurately to music before progressing to studio monitors. BE AWARE – Headphones do not give a totally accurate representation of sound but this is not really a problem for some applications.
  • Mackie HR624MKII 2-Way Active Studio Monitor ($900) approx – This pair of reference monitors are great to start recording on. They give you accurate sound so you know what you are listening to. These are active monitors which means they don’t need a separate amplifier.
  • Apple Logic Studio Music Production Software $400-500 – The professional package for musicians wanting to write and record. This is a fantastic program that will do everything you need it to and more. (Apple Mac only)

or

  • Cakewalk SONAR Producer Recording Software $350-400 – A Windows based alternative to Apple Logic. While not as fully functional as Logic, still a fantastic program.
The MOTU 828mkII FireWire/USB 2.0 audio interface is a great interface for studio or remote recording. Incredibly expansive in its level of control and versatility, the 828mkII delivers DSP-driven mixing and monitoring in any situation. At the studio, clubs, or rehearsal, you can connect anything you want and monitor it with no separate mixer needed. The superb front-panel control array and backlit LCD allow you to directly access the entire mix or individual settings. There's no channel sharing, either. Its 20 inputs and 22 outputs include 2 mic/guitar inputs, TRS analog I/O, separate main outs, 24-bit ADAT optical I/O, MIDI, sync, and 24-bit S/PDIF digital I/O up to 96kHz. Includes Audiodesk software, a sample-accurate workstation for Mac OS with 24-bit recording/editing and 32-bit automated mixing/processing/mastering. Mac/PC.
  • Mark of the Unicorn (MOTU) 828mk3 Firewire Audio Interface – Firewire 24/96 ($750) – The 828mkII contains everything you need to turn your computer into a powerful 24-bit, 96kHz digital audio workstation. The 828mkII provides 10 channels of pristine 96kHz analog recording and playback, combined with 8 channels of ADAT digital I/O and stereo S/PDIF. This great soundcard does all it’s processing externally.

Dave, I have $7,500 or more to spend on Home Recording Studio Equipment, what should I buy?

Now this is getting serious! You will be able to get some incredible music studio equipment with this amount of money. Click the links above and below to buy:

  • Shure SM58 Dynamic Microphone ($100)
  • AKG C414 B-XLS 5-Pattern Condenser Microphone ($950)
  • Focusrite ISA428 Pre Pack 4-Channel Microphone Preamp ($200)
    The ISA428 Pre Pack provides all you need to record your session with precision and Focusrite sonic performance. This incredible sounding channel strip delivers top quality sound. A must have – if you can afford it!
  • CD Burner (on existing PC?) and Nero (or CDBurner XP Pro) Software ($80)
  • CDR 80-Minute 50-Pack – Blank CDRs in Spindle ($40) – You need to get some blank CDs to record onto!
  • Sennheiser HD25-1ii Professional Headphone – Studio Monitor Sealed ($180)
  • Mackie HR624MKII 2-Way Active Studio Monitor ($900) approx
  • Apple Logic Studio Music Production Software ($400-500)

or…

  • Cakewalk SONAR Producer Recording Software ($350-400)
  • Mark of the Unicorn (MOTU) 828mk3 Firewire Audio Interface – Firewire 24/96 ($750) –
  • Apple iMac 24 – Personal Computer with Combo Drive ($2,000) – The new iMAC family gives you power in a choice of three ultrafast models. Whether you prefer the ultra-compact 17-inch model, the coveted 20-inch powerhouse, or the stunning 24-inch beauty, every new iMAC is loaded with advanced capabilities.

When you’re at this level, you need -decent- equipment, but not the best.

The Rode NTK is a decent microphone for 500 bucks, but the MXL V69 can be had for 300 dollars less on sale, and sounds just as good.

Studio Projects also makes some decent mics for the 100-200 dollar price point.” Get the Rode NTK over the MXL V69- They do NOT sound the same,(Marshall does not make great professional sounding condenser mics, but they can be used for certain projects)

If you’re looking for the lower priced alternative- you were right on the money with studio projects. Their C-1 or their CS series are really nice for the money you pay. They also have an “imitation” of the rode NTK- and it actually sounds better.

The NTK tends to give off a high silibance, which can really mess with the higher frequencies in the mixdowns(like the “s” and “f” sounds.) while the studio projects TB1 doesnt give off any high colorations, providing a more true sound.

Also, another thing to consider when choosing a computer: what platform are you going to record on?

ProTools is the standard and it can be used on both mac and PC, but a lot of the “free” or downloadable plugins can only be used n the PC, while there are very few free ones for a mac/

Not to mention you have to buy a Digidesign or audio interface to use Protools.

Logic only works with mac, and that seems to be the best thing going on right now, as it is the total package, and is more user-friendly than Protools.

PCs have many programs that are similar to both programs, and at a fraction of the cost as well.

Cakewalk seems to be the best in my opinion right now, but Propellerheads- the company that brought us Reason and Recycle(both highly recommended software additions to your arsenal)has released “Record” which basically allows you to now record straight onto reason and give you the ability to use reason’s devices to shape your sounds that come from record.

Verdict

This is my advice to the “SERIOUS noobie on a budget trying to start a vocal/guitar studio”

  1. Get a computer that has at LEAST (more is always recommended) 4 gigs of RAM and decent soundcard.($600)
  2. Next, get a decent pair of headphones($150).
  3. Get a decent mic (go with the studio projects C1 or the Rode NT-1A ($200)- you will always use these) and a small b
  4. Get the Propellerhead Record Reason Duo ($400).
  5. You can spend $200 on a decent pair of monitors after, but for the beginning, you can use computer speakers.($50)
  6. You will have to also take into account phantom power for the mics: Alesis makes a small $80 mixer that connects via USB to the computer-the MultiMix 4.
  7. And you’ll probably spend $100 on cables, and another $50 on a GOOD mic stand that won’t fall while holding your mic.
  8. You will more than likely need a midi controller or keyboard too, especially if youre considering making your own instrumentals. ($50 – 400- depending on what you want to spend)

Chances are you got a computer and speakers already. so that’s $600 out of your way.

For a mic booth, you can just hang some heavy blankets on the wall to “soundproof” or deaden the sound where you are recording. that’ll save you some money on soundproofing.

so in reality, if you’re serious about starting a recording studio you’re going to eventually need at least $1500 to just start up. And you WILL be spending more over time. yeah you can get alternatives to gear, but you’ll relaize that you want to actually sound better.

I don’t care what you say now, but you’ll come to understand what I’m talking about if you’re really serious.

Also realize, that this will eat up a great amount of your life that you’ll be spending learning the software, recording, mixing, and setting up/breaking down (especially if this is a home studio and you have to put it away when youre done) sidenote word of the wise- creating file templates will shave a lot of time setting up.

Think about this, soak it in, and trust me.

We will be happy to hear your thoughts

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