View Full Version : Some Thoughts on Home Recording

06-08-2011, 12:22 AM
I am moving house soon & have a small room that I am going to build a recording studio / music room in. After a bunch of searching on what to get & how to do this or that I have come up with the following conclusions about it all.

When searching for "beginner studio" or the like you invariably get threads with all kinds of specific budget gear recommendations. While this is fine it doesn't really address the beginner portion of it. I can appreciate the "get the best you can afford" sentiment, but many of us are just looking to get our feet wet & don't really need a lot of the fancy gear recommended. Check my soundcloud page for a few songs I mixed down last year using nothing but garage band & an interface to plug my uke into.

I'm going to be building my studio as follows. I welcome any comments & suggestions.

My 2 year old MacBook. Its already been upgraded to 4gb of ram & it just got a new hard drive, so I'll be installing everything fresh & keeping it uncluttered.

If I was starting from scratch & on a budget I've seen some nice Mac Mini's go for as low as $250! If I ever go stand alone that will be the route I go.

External HD
I've read that you want a good drive to write to initially, so I am going to get a 7200rpm external that connects with a fire wire. 1TB is around $250

GarageBand! Yes there are more powerful applications but I'm betting that the majority of us are going to first lay down a rhythm track, then solo over the top of it. Add some drums and job complete! Gband does all this just fine.

When its time to upgrade I'll go with Logic from Apple. More powerful but still a familiar interface & the GBand files will port straight over.

Check out this EXCELLENT article (http://www.apple.com/pro/profiles/ritz/) about how Lyle Ritz, famous bass man & ukester, made his "No Frills" album at home with nothing but a uke, a Mac & Garage Band. Really puts it into perspective.

I/O Device
I bought a firebox type unit last year so I'll keep using that. Can't remember the brand right now but it allows me to plug my uke into it, then runs a USB into the computer. It is fully supported by GBand, is self powered & has 2 inputs so that I could hook up a mic as well.

If I was starting again I might go with a small mixer, or a firewire connected box, but this won't slow me down at all.

Midi Controller
I'd like a midi keyboard & drum pad unit but for now I'll just get a cable to run from my electronic keyboard. Its a nice Casio so if it works well I'll just leave it at that.

2 channel computer speakers. Likely some logitech ones with the sub. Basically whatever I can find on kijiji

No idea. Whatever decent ones come my way.

Some type of condenser mic. Probably a shure. Again, whatever I can find for a deal on kijiji

Besides all the above I'll build some bass traps in the corners & do my best to soundproof the room on a budget.

I'll also need a computer desk, nice comfy chair, music stand & stool. Once thats all together I'd also like to get a used bass to put down some proper bass lines.

Is there anything else that I should consider?


06-16-2011, 06:13 AM
I found the trickiest part to be the sound proofing part "on-a-budget". Suggestions thrown my way included egg carton foam mattress or any kind of mattress topper, uhaul moving blankets, curtains, bookshelves... u get the idea.
I love my mackie 1404 mixer but I'd recommend my Alesis 4 channel mixer with the USB for recording, the 8 is firewire but most pc guys don't have firewire.
Oh and there's a FREE drum machine in the app store right now...
send picts when you're done!

06-16-2011, 06:50 AM
Thanks for the great link to the Lyle Ritz article.

06-16-2011, 07:40 PM
Consider upgrading your monitors at the earliest opportunity. If you can't hear a problem, you can't fix it.


06-22-2011, 12:50 PM
Sounds good! No pun intended...

Driftin' Duke
06-27-2011, 02:28 AM
I would second knadles advice about some decent monitors, and if you are putting this together in a small room, don't by big ones. I suggest you buy ENCLOSED headphones that don't spill out too much sound while overdubbing into a mic. Is the soundproofing really necessary, because unless you are pepared to spend megabucks, the effects of egg trays and mattresses is miinimal. They are generally used as a cheap way to help with control room acoustics. Sealing doors and windows helps with mid to high frequencies, but it doesn't help with staying alive, and unless you intend to build a floating room, forget about trying to keep bass frequencies in or out. Oh my, I sound so negative, sorry, but I think you'll be very disappointed with cheap soundproofing ideas.

Because I now live on the road I bought a battery powered Zoom R16 and with a couple of condenser mics, Rode NT2 and Beyer MCE 84, and a notebook running Cubase I think I get fairly good results as compared to the home studio I had using a Layla soundcard, large mixing desk and powerful PC running Cubase. Unless I was desperate, I wouldn't record next to a busy road, but I don't mind a bit of background birdsong and the last session I did was in my folks living room. (A couple of the results can be found here:- http://www.myspace.com/569900536 ) I feel performance is the most important part of recording and being able to capture it in crystal clear super hifi is a bonus, but not essential, and I can totally recommend having an audience while you record, even if it's just one person.

Best of luck with your project, DD

Driftin' Duke
06-27-2011, 03:07 AM
Sorry sharp21, I forgot to ask what soundproofing problems you were trying to overcome before I put my twopenneth in.

06-27-2011, 04:47 AM
Thanks for the reply!

We are moving into a home with a small room that I'll be converting. No windows & it is kind of L shaped so it shouldn't be too bad. I was thinking of building some bass traps in the corner...

But as of yet Im not sure what the audio challenges are yet. Just trying to put the gear together


06-27-2011, 08:27 AM
Please understand that soundproofing is different from acoustics. Soundproofing prevents leakage between spaces. Acoustics is how the room sounds when you're in it.

Acoustical surfaces can be categorized into absorptive, reflective, and dispersive. Unfortunately, most inexpensive acoustic solutions don't work all that well. The problem is that the human ear works between the frequencies of (approximately) 20-20,000 Hz. That's a huge range, and a surface that behaves a certain way at one frequency is unlikely to behave the same way at another. For example, using that lumpy foam stuff that they sell for beds will certainly absorb some of the midrange frequencies, but it will almost as certainly be reflective or dispersive at high frequencies and be acoustically transparent (essentially nonexistent) at low frequencies. So using that stuff can create more problems than it solves.

Thick, unfaced fiberglass insulation make a pretty good broad band absorber. Cover it with a loosely woven jute cloth and you'll end up with a cheap solution, assuming absorption is what you want. That's mostly what you'd be looking for behind the speakers, but a whole room made like that would be an uncomfortable environment. Avoid egg crates and shag carpeting. They don't work, and the '70s are over.

The cheapest dispersion solution (and keep in mind this is imperfect) is bookcases. Stuff 'em with books of varying depths (or pull the books out so the spines are at varying depths) and you'll end up with a rough approximation of the RPG diffusers that you'd mortgage your house to afford. Do that on a few of the walls and there's a good chance you'll end up with an okay sounding room for recording.

Bass traps are problem solvers. They look cool and "acoustic," and many people who set up studios buy them right away, but I wouldn't recommend spending the money without hearing the room and determining if there's something going on that bass traps would fix.

If it's soundproofing you need...that can be a whole other (and far more complicated) issue.

And don't listen to the sales schmoes at Sam Center. They exist to separate you from your money. If you want to learn more about acoustics, start with some of the F. Alton Everest books and work from there.

Hope that helps,


06-27-2011, 10:54 AM
That helps a lot! I'm setting up in a room downstairs in the meantime & am trying to get some experience at gauging how the acoustics are.