Part 1 in a 3 part series - covering the essential gear for an effective home studio.
Building a home studio can be an expensive, very involved process if you want to set up a totally professional environment. But, on the other hand, a nice hobby studio that is capable of high-quality recordings IS entirely possible without breaking the bank.
This page will list many of the pieces of gear that are needed when planning your studio, followed then by some gear that is cool, and necessary in some cases, but, if money is an issue, like it is for most of us, it can wait until a later date.
Quite obviously, some of the first pieces you will need are a mixing board, multitrack recorder, speakers, and some microphones.
The mixing board requirements vary from person to person. If you are a one man band, recording all instruments yourself, you can use a significantly smaller board than in the "band" environment. The phase of the recording process which demands the most from a board is recording the rhythm track, meaning the initial taping of drums, bass, and rhythm guitar (or, whatever your rhythm section happens to consist of). If you are a one man band doing it all by yourself, this is minimized, and if your drum tracks are sequenced, you can easily get by with something as small as the Behringer MX602A, it is a 2-mono and 2-stereo channel mixer (that six channels) the 2 mono channels have 1/4 inch or XLR inputs for your guitar and bass DI boxes, or miking your cabinets, plus the stereo channels are perfect for sound card outs from your PC or sequencer. One step up from that is the MX802A which gives you 2 more mono channels, this is the mixer I personally use because it is small, and just in case I use a live drummer for some tracks, it has the inputs to handle it. I list Behringer mixers here because it is what I prefer and recommend because of it's cost/performance ratio is the best in my opinion. However, Mackie, SoundCraft, and many other manufacturers make some fine boards as well.
Multitrack decks are the next thing to consider, and there are many formats to look at as well. Some of the cooler little units for home studio situations record to cassette and have mixers built right in them, these usually come in 4 and 8 track models. Tascam makes some great one such as the 414 MKII compact 4-track recorder or it's package special which includes some nice headphones and tapes. This series also comes in 4-track models with 6 channel boards like the 424 MKII and it's package special with headphones and tapes.
But Cassette is far from your only choice, growing in popularity, even among the hobby studio crowd, is hard disk recording and PC recording. My personal opinion on this is leaning toward PC recording. My reasons are these...Hard disk recorders are quite expensive for what they do, for a little more money, you can have a hard disk recorder IN your PC, plus, you them also have an awesome PC as well for gaming and surfin the net reading fine websites like this:-) You do need a high-powered PC to do over 6-8 tracks of audio, but it is worth it, PC's are more user-friendly due to the fact they have an entire monitor to use as a user-interface, not just a couple rows of text in a little display. And with programs such as Cakewalk Home Studio, or Pro Audio, or, Steinberg's Cubase VST, it makes recording one your PC fun and easy, and get some great recordings from it.
Speakers are an obvious need for a studio, duuuhhhh...there are many to choose from. The pros and cons of each style and size will be discussed in Lesson 3 - Setup and Wiring. But, it had to at least be mentioned here in the necessary equipment section so as not to overlook it when planning your investment.
Microphones can be an expensive proposition if you believe the hype behind its marketing. I have some friends who have spent huge money on microphones and it drives me nuts. The sound is almost to damn clear to be real. I record almost everything on mics that cost less than $100 and I get sound I am very happy with. For links to good microphones that I recommend, visit the Miking Tips page of the recording section. If you are solo artist, 2 or 3 well chosen mics should set you up fine, if you are in a band environment, more mics are necessary, which are determined by the number of instruments in your band.
Effect units such as reverb, compression, delays, and others are needed strictly on a personal taste basis, however, in the best interest of the music, a good reverb and compressor is usually required, and compressors many times include limiters and gates on the same unit. Consider the Alesis 3630 for a good quality sound and usually under $200 it is a bargain for any hobby studio. Also Nady makes a good economy model, and for you with more discriminating tastes, the DBX 1066 is a high-quality, and high-priced unit. For reverbs Digitech makes some great reverb sounds on the S-100 for a good price. Most any other effect is strictly on an if-you-use-them basis such as delays, phasers, flangers and things like that.
This is by no means a comprehensive list of what is available, or what is needed, but, it does get your started in the right direction. This section will be added to periodically, as this is one of the sections which is being concentrated on currently.
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