Just recently several friends have been asking for advice on where to start when it comes to getting a professional and affordable home studio setup together. The great news is that it’s easier and cheaper than ever before to get the gear you need to make really high quality recordings. Because of the recent inquiries, I’ve decide to assemble this list with my current suggestions.

Computer – $699

Getting a Mac is probably the way to go since that’s what most of the industry uses and it’s the most common operating system that you’ll encounter in other studios you might find yourself working in. There’s lots of options out there between laptops and desktops so ultimately you’ll wanna get what’s best for you. I’m going to suggest getting a Mac Mini. It’s a great balance between power and portability. Plus the cost is very reasonable and you can add any display you’d like. The model I’ve selected has :

  • 2.6GHz dual-core Intel Core i5
  • 8GB memory
  • 1TB hard drive
Mac-mini

Display – $157

Save some money by skipping the pricey Apple displays and check out this 23.6 option from ASUS. It’s LED backlight and operates at 1080p with DVI and HDMI connections.

asus-display

Software – $199-$699

I’d suggest going with one of the 3 majors: Pro Tools ($699), Logic ($199) or Cubase ($549). All of these options will give you a nice selection of plugins (compression, eq, delay, reverb, etc.) and software instruments like drums and synths. Essentially they all have fairly similar features. Installing one program and sticking with it would be my advice. Great records have been made using all 3. If you have a friend that already has experience in one of the programs, you might want to choose the same one so you’ll have someone that can assist you as you learn.

pro-tools-11

Audio Interface – $699-$899

Universal Audio has been making some great interfaces and plugins lately. Check out their Apollo Twin Duo. It’s a great balance of cost and quality. You’ll also receive some credit to spend towards their amazing plugins. If you feel like you can get by with a little less plugin processing power, you can save $200 by going with the lighter Apollo Twin Solo. Either interface will give you 2 inputs with preamps and 4 outputs as well as a nice big knob for controlling the pre amp and monitoring levels. The interface only works with Mac computers and requires a thunderbolt connection which the Mac Mini listed above offers.

apollo-twin

MIDI Interface – $69

If you’re going to be using software synths and drum machines you’ll need a way to get midi information in and out of your computer. For most, a basic 1×1 or 2×2 interface will work just fine. I’m going to suggest the M-Audio MIDISport.

Maudio-Msport

Studio Monitors – $598 pair

Well there’s tons of options out there in the world of monitoring. I’ve always been a fan of what Yamaha makes so I’m going to suggest their latest HS7M’s at $299 a piece. They have a nice frequency response, are amplified and really help your mixes translate in the real world. There’s also some buzz around these JBL LSR305’s at the moment. They’d be a great lower cost option at $300 for a pair. Remember you don’t necessarily need to have the most current and trendy speakers. Developing familiarity over time with the monitors you choose will lead to the best results.

yamaha-hs7

Microphones

When it comes to mics, a good place to start might be going with 1 dynamic and 1 condenser microphone. Dynamic and condenser mics generally have different sonic characteristics and having one of each will cover a lot of ground depending on the application. Here are a few good options I’d recommend:

Dynamic Microphones:

Condenser Microphones:

shure-sm57
shure-sm7
akg-212

Extras

There’s just a few additional things you’ll need to get everything connected and up and running. Here’s a list:

  • Microphone, Instrument and Midi Cables (Mogami is a great brand)
  • Microphone Stands
  • A Pop Filter for vocal recording
  • Headphones – Listen to many options and choose the pair that sound good to you
  • Speaker Stands
  • Computer keyboard and mouse – Your choice
  • Additional Software Add-Ons (Not required)
mogami-cable
senn-hd280

The Bottom Line

If you add the total cost estimates you’ll end up somewhere between $4000-$5000 (maybe over if you purchase all the microphones and several third-party plugins).  If this seems expensive and you are on a tight budget just remember that you don’t need to purchase everything at once.  Perhaps just start with the computer, recording interface, software, a pair of headphones and build gradually from there.

Brent Hendrich

Brent Hendrich first began recording and mixing music in the late 90's while attending high school. Now as a Nashville music industry professional, he along with Eric Westmaas operate Matchless Mix. In his free time he enjoys running, camping, wine and cooking.

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