How to Build a
Home Studio for £500

Find out How to build a home studio for a solo artist with a budget of £500.

Introduction

As time goes on and we humans make incredible technological advances it never ceases to amaze me the sheer quality of equipment we have at our musical disposal. By some finger-in-the-air estimations we should be making better sounding recordings than ever with equipment we add to our home computers right?

So being true to my word I set out to see if I could put together a set up for a singer-songwriter for a notional £500. I tootled off to Andertons to see what bits and bobs one could add to their home computer to deliver a small home studio set up capable of tracking a future hit.

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Introduction

As time goes on and we humans make incredible technological advances it never ceases to amaze me the sheer quality of equipment we have at our musical disposal. By some finger-in-the-air estimations we should be making better sounding recordings than ever with equipment we add to our home computers right?

So what can you add to your computer to create a small home studio setup capable of tracking a future hit.

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Choosing the right DAW and Interface

Choosing the right centrepiece of the home studio can be quite daunting – the recording software package (often known as the digital audio workstation or DAW). There are so many of them! The popular ones are Avid’s Pro Tools, Apple's Logic Pro, Steinberg's Cubase, Ableton's Live suite and then there are whole host of other ones too. They all let you create a record from start to finish, but approach it in completely different ways.

While you may have heard that ProTools is the industry professionals choice, that's really only part of the puzzle. Each DAW comes with it's own unique workflow and feature set that cater for different musicians and music styles. Yes Pro Tools is the industry favourite in the top studios subscribing to the traditional recording process, but film composers often prefer Cubase when working with Orchestral samples and EDM producers prefer Logic or the unique workflow of Ableton Live.

The reason (pardon the pun) I'm suggesting these packages is broadly because of their heritage. Logic and Cubase were introduced predominately as MIDI sequencing packages which have come to add audio as processing power has permitted. Concurrently ProTools began as an Audio only Package and slowly added MIDI and latterly instrument capabilities. So if you're predominantly using synths or sampled instruments rather than live recorded instruments, you might prefer one of these other packages

The great thing is that most DAW creators now offer a free or more affordable, stripped down version of their software so that you can try before you upgrade to the full version at a discounted rate. This includes Pro Tools First (free) Ableton Live Intro (~£69)and Cubase Elements (~£79). What's more, you can often get a free copy of one of these DAW's as part of a bundle with your Audio Interface.

These days there's a huge range of professional quality audio interfaces on the market to fit almost all budgets. The value for your money these days is frankly amazing - particularly if you're just starting out and don't need a huge amount of inputs, outputs and esoteric features. Companies like Focusrite, Presonus, Audient, Roland and M Audio all offer a range of quality and affordable 1 & 2 input models that are great for singer songwriters and electronic music producers starting out. Chances are you'll never need to record more than 1 or 2 instruments/voices at a time, plus they're compact and perfect for recording when you've got limited space and gear.

What about microphones?

So before getting started you’ll also need a decent microphone or two; and the best all rounder studio mic is usually a condenser. There are so many affordable, yet high quality microphones, to choose from. Manufacturers such as sE Electronics produce a fantastic range of mics which will not break our budget here; plus they do a sweet bundle with a reflexion filter for around £200. The SE X1 S is a classic, able to do vocals, acoustic instruments like guitar and piano, plus it's good as a general room ambience microphone. The Reflexion filter allows you to create an acousitcally treated vocal booth area in any room; an invauable tool for any project/small studio.

You could also opt for the classic Shure SM58 dynamic mic (£95.99) for other applications you might need too.

Monitoring back

Whilst tracking you’ll need a pair of cans (sorry, headphones). Its best to invest in a pair which not only sound good, but are isolated so you don’t add spill to your recordings. Most are used to seeing the Beyer-Dynamic DT100’s which are classics coming in at £111, their voicing is not the most popular, but they withstand getting chucked about or trodden on (as frequently happens in a home studio). Other manufacturers produce some excellent sounding headphones but might not have yet earned the legendary build quality. Some cheaper, yet really good sounding cans are the Audio Technica ATH-M20’s coming in at £35

Anything else?

Also don’t forget the silly little things such as cables and your mic stand. You can get your Microphone cable (also known as an XLR cable) for about £ 13.99 and a Stagg Economy Boom Mic Stand can be bought for a mere £19.99.

With something like the Focusrite Interface, a SE Electronics mic and a solid pair of headphones its possible to get started and record some singer songwriter classics. What will you produce?

How to Build a Home Studio for £500 Budget Breakdown

  • Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 - £130
  • Included Pro Tools First Creative Pack and Ableton Live Lite - FREE with Interface

  • SE X1 S Studio Recording Bundle with Mic & Reflexion Filter - £210
  • Beyer-Dynamic DT100 Headphones - £110
  • Mic Cable - £14
  • Mic Stand - £20

TOTAL = £484

All prices and special offers correct at time of publication but subject to change without notice.

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