Get your recording game on without breaking the bank
We’re lucky with the era we live in. Technology has made things so much easier on so many levels. As musicians, we can now fit pretty much an entire home recording studio setup into a bedroom or practice room. In fact, with the right gear, you could realistically put a working studio setup into a backpack and go and record on a hill in Brecon if you wanted. Might get a bit windy though.
Anyway, we digress. The point is that there are no real restrictions any more. Technology has democratised the recording process and made it so anyone with the inclination can have a go. Let’s take a look at what kind of home recording studio setup you could get for under £300.
First off, let’s make a couple of reasonable assumptions. First off is that you’re likely to own – or have access to – some kind of computer. Be that a laptop or a desktop. Providing it’s not ridiculously old you should be able to use that as the hub of your home recording studio setup. Second, we’ll concentrate on a few core instruments you’ll want to record, namely drums, guitar and bass, plus vocals. We’ll also put aside the dedicated single-box recording devices like the Tascam DP-006 and the Boss BR BR80 because, while they are superb bits of kit in their own right, we think the flexibility found in computer based recording will serve the budding producer better in the long run.
The absolute core of any studio is the means of getting the audio signal from the instrument or voice recorded and into a place where you can begin to ‘produce’ it. USB audio interfaces, which are effectively dedicated external soundcards, range in terms of size, capability and price, but all effectively serve the same purpose.
At the higher end, you can reasonably expect to record from multiple sources at once, for example using lots of microphones to record a full drum kit, guitar amplifiers and vocals, and the quality of the recording you get will be extremely high.
At the lower end, you’ll have less in the way of inputs – i.e. things that can be recorded at the same time – and the finished sound quality will be slightly less professional. It’s about cutting your cloth accordingly.
It’s worth noting however that, due to the importance of this stage in the process, it’s wise to allocate a good amount of your budget to your audio interface. For that reason, we’re instantly waxing a chunk of the amount mentioned on the Presonus Audiobox iOne interface.
Presonus is a well respected brand with a strong reputation in audio capture. Their high-end gear is found in top studios all over the world, and in the Audiobox iOne they’ve leaned on that heritage to create something which the bedroom producer can up and running with. It features both an XLR connection for a microphone and a 1/4″ jack input for instrument cables, and its rugged enclosure means it’ll survive many a trip to the rehearsal room and back.
Chances are if you have a guitar, you have the cables you need to plug it into the front of the audio interface. So we’ll instead focus on a versatile bit of kit you’ll need to coax the sounds out of acoustic instruments or vocals; a microphone. As with anything, these vary wildly in price and quality terms, but for the home recordist a good quality mic is one that can turn its hand to a variety of situations.
With that in mind we’ve gone for the Shure SM57, one of the most famous microphones in recording history. The SM57 is a dynamic mic, so is capable of handling extremely loud sound sources like guitar amps, but is versatile enough to record drums, vocals and acoustic guitars with ease. OK it won’t have the same skillset as a condenser mic, and there are probably less expensive mics we could have gone for, but we guarantee nobody who owns a Shure SM57 ever regrets buying it.
We’ll round this off with another important item; dedicated studio monitors. While you can record and mix using headphones, it’s not ideal and in the long run you’re always going to benefit from having a set of speakers so you can hear your recordings properly. Mixing, in particular, requires the ability to critically evaluate a sound and it’s not always possible to do this using headphones.
The Alesis Elevate 4 powered monitor speakers are active speakers, which means they don’t require an amplifier to operate, and they’ll provide a solid, flat frequency output with which you can mix your recordings to a far higher level of accuracy.
So there you have it. A decent home recording studio setup for under £300. Best of all, the gear we’ve listed above is of good quality and will continue to serve a purpose long after you’ve upgraded to higher-spec stuff. Invest wisely at the early stage and your equipment will provide with you many happy years of recording.