If you’re an aspiring musician, sound engineer, or music producer, the temptation to make your next gear purchase looms over you like a giant. Unfortunately, not everyone can invest rockstar amounts of money into their home studio and need to be selective with the accessories they purchase. If you want to make your home recording studio better, but don’t have an unlimited budget, here are some great upgrades that’ll give you the best return on investment. Whether the gear you have just isn’t cutting it or you’re starting from scratch, here are a few upgrades that can improve the overall quality of your home studio productions.
The Basics: A Room
Before you can get started with purchasing fancy accessories and the latest technology, you need to focus on the most important piece of gear you have: the room. If you invest in some DIY fiberglass panels or decide to have the professionally installed, that will have more of an impact on your sound than microphones and other accessories for a couple of reasons: focusing on the room will improve the sound of every single thing that you record in your space, and it’s going to help improve the sound of your monitors. If you haven’t spent time making a room in your home or your garage “studio friendly”, that should be the first thing you focus on. Once it’s sound proofed and ready to go, you should feel comfortable exploring the other options on this list.
Mic preamps are crucial pieces of gear for any recording or practice studio–you need them to capture sound flow with clarity and crispness. If you’ve never used a mic preamp before, many professionals recommend purchasing a strip of four microphone preamps, which will support simple stereo tracking. So, what does a preamp do exactly? Most microphones have a very low, almost unusable output. Fortunately, microphone preamps allow musicians to bring that level up to something that’s usable. Some preamps are intended to add color to your sound, while others simply take your sound and make it louder (without any type of alteration.) Ultimately, the type of preamp you decide to choose is up to you, but home recording studios should have at least a few microphone preamps handy.
A Powered USB Hub
Although a powered USB hub isn’t a must-have, it’ll help keep your studio organized and your computer free to deal with other tasks. Nowadays, almost everything is powered by USB: your computer mouse, microphone, and midi controller are just a few of the items that are almost always powered by USB. With a USB hub, you can charge all your USB devices from the convenience of a single location. While you can purchase a traditional USB hub, we recommend opting for the powered version. Since a powered hub draws its power directly from an outlet, you can plug it directly into a socket or use an extension cord, effectively freeing up your computer’s precious resources. Plus, you can find quality USB hubs for as little as $20-30, so it’s not a major financial investment to make.
An All-In-One Microphone
When it comes to microphones, you can have a few different types that all do different things, or you can invest in a single, all-in-one microphone. When it comes to home recording studios, we recommend the latter, as it’ll save space and money. And, the more space and money you have, the more accessories you can add to your studio over time. So, what should you look out for in a microphone? Something that is versatile enough to satisfy all your recording needs–guitars, drums, percussion, bass, vocals, etc. Similar to preamps, most microphones either reproduce your sound exactly, or add a bit of hyped color to the sound. We recommend the former, especially if you’re just starting out and aren’t ready to experiment with your sound quite yet.
Photos, videos, recordings, music…if you’re a serious musician, you have a ton of stuff you need to save and have constant access to. In most cases, much more than can be stored on your computer. While some musicians opt to store things in the cloud, others prefer to store things on something a little more substantial, especially since recording artists need to be careful about losing data and backing up everything on a regular basis. Most professionals have backups of their current projects on at least three different devices, but a single external hard drive should work just fine in this situation. A terabyte or two may seem like too much, but trust us, it’s better to have too much space than not enough. Plus, you can use the hard drive to back up photos of your family, school work, and other important documents.
If what you hear from your current setup isn’t translating well to your ears, than you should seriously consider investing in a new set of speakers. At the end of the day, owning an accurate set of speakers is the difference between producing a blurry mix that’s difficult to sort through and one that accurately represents your performance. When purchasing studio monitors, look for something that’s compact enough for your space, reliable in terms of power and efficiency, and has professionally balanced inputs. Some monitors even let you tailor the sound of the speaker to accommodate the acoustics of your space.
Last but not least, soundproofing blankets are an economical way to control sound reflections, making them a great choice for those with a modest budget. While some recording studios rely on foam, sound panels, and diffusers to control sound, soundproofing blankets work well in a pinch and can easily be transported from place to place. Obviously, working and recording in a professionally soundproofed room is the best choice, but these blankets are a great temporary solution. Plus, they cover more area than foam and are easy to move around.
For more inspiration, check out Six Recording Studio Essentials.