If you’ve ever wondered what gear you’ll need to start home recording, wonder no more…
Home recording technology has moved on at an astonishing pace in recent years. Only a decade or so hence, a digital 16-track recorder would cost thousands of pounds. These days, a Zoom R16 is less than £300, and offers 16 playback tracks with 8 simultaneous recording channels, onboard effects and even built-in mastering tools.
As a result of this technological revolution, home recording has never been so accessible, affordable and powerful.
Nowadays, the computer has made home recording even more affordable. One of the great things about using a computer for recording is that most homes already have one, ready to be used.
If this is you, but you don’t know where to start, here’s a mini guide to the home recording essentials.
The hub of most modern home recording, and professional recording set-ups, the computer is the most essential item. It will act as your multi-track recorder, effects processor, mixer, and even synthesizer, sampler, or just about any other instrument you might need.
Both Mac and PC platforms are equally adept as the heart of a home studio.
These days, even a modest PC or Mac should be able to run scores of audio tracks without breaking into too much of a sweat.
Audio applications tend to be quite demanding of computer resources. If you’re buying a new machine, aim for the fastest CPU (at least dual-core), most RAM (at least 2GB) and biggest hard-drive (ideally at least 7200rpm spin speed).
If you already own a machine that’s a few years old, use the above as a guide, but check the minimum requirements of the software you intend to use…
Software is equally essential for home recording. The software allows the computer to effectively emulate a studio full of hardware recording equipment, along with other audio tasks.
The main piece of software you’ll use for recording is a DAW (Digital Audio Workstation). This acts as a multi-track recorder, mixer, effects processors, and host for software synthesizers/ samplers/ other instruments.
There are countless packages available, but several major players. Steinberg Cubase, Propellerhead Reason, Ableton Live, Cakewalk Sonar, Pro Tools and Apple Logic are arguably the most widely used available.
In essence, all carry out the same functions (i.e. multi-track recording, and running effects and instruments) but in slightly different ways, with different interfaces and additional features.
The best way to decide which is the right package for you is to download a demo from the supplier website, and try it out first. Additionally, many audio interfaces come with ‘LE’ versions of full-priced DAWs…
The Audio Interface is effectively an external soundcard. Though your computer is equipped with a sound card already, as these types of card are not generally designed to be used as a part of recording set-up, it will most likely suffer from latency issues. These means that there is a noticeable delay between what you are performing, and what you are hearing back from the computer.
A dedicated audio interface will take this delay down to just a few milliseconds, so you won’t even know that it’s there.
An audio interface also provides a means of getting audio sources into, and out of, the DAW. The interface you’ll need very much depends on the sort of recording you want to do. So, for a singer-songwriter, a simple 2-input and 2-output device may well be adequate. For a full band, you might need something with far more channels of input, such as the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 Studio Second Generation (2nd Gen) Recording Package, for example.
If you only intend to record audio tracks, this will not be essential. However, if you intend to use virtual instruments, you’ll need a means of playing notes into your DAW, and controlling them. This is where a USB keyboard controller comes in.
USB controller keyboards range in price from around £60 upwards. If all you need is a basic note-input device, then something small and basic may well suffice. More expensive keyboards offer more keys, better playing action and more additional controllers for tweaking synth and effect parameters.
Monitors/ Monitor Headphones
If you want a great recording and great mix, you need to be able to hear what you’re doing accurately. A pair of studio monitors will enable you to do this. KRK produces a wide range of monitors for all budgets.
There are accessories, such as cables, that you’ll also need, plus some other bits and pieces depending on the projects you intend to work on (microphones, for example). However, the items listed above are key, essential items.
If you’d like more information, or help specifying equipment to your own needs, call our stores or customer service team (01925 582420).
Joe is a contributor for the Dawsons Music blog. Specialising in product reviews and crafting content to help and inspire musicians of all musical backgrounds.