Whatever your situation, I'd like to offer some simple advice and tips on gear to buy for a beginner wishing to create a modern recording and mixing solution at home on a budget.
The good news is that you may already own what the majority of your budget will be allocated to - the central hub of your "studio", which is a laptop! Most people already own a laptop of some description but there are a few things to consider if you're going to be recording and editing audio regularly.
Firstly, you need the "spec" of your machine to be of a certain standard. A minimum of 2GB (preferably 4GB) RAM is recommended and at least 1.6GHz processor. Any new Windows or Mac laptop will easily cater for this. The more memory and processor power you have, the better.
Then you need Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) software, within which you will do all the recording and mixing of your music. If you have a MacBook Pro, the good news is you already have software which will be up to the job called GarageBand. This comes free with a newly shipped MacBook. But then you will still need an additional audio interface. If you are working on a Windows machine you have several other low-cost options.
The option which makes the most financial sense for a beginner to music production is to use the software which comes free with your audio interface. An audio interface is simply a piece of gear which connects to your laptop via USB and allows you to plug audio cables such as a guitar lead or microphone into your laptop in order to record the results. As most bedroom studio owners will be making recordings of maybe 2 inputs; guitar/keyboard and vocals for instance and then overdubbing further instruments later, the audio interface only needs a couple of inputs.
Let's look at some options. The first only has 1 mic input, the rest have 2.
Obviously if you are wishing to record more sources at the same time (such as drum kit for example which requires the capture of several microphones), you can upgrade to an interface with 4 or 8 microphone inputs.
Now you have the laptop, software and interface to capture your recordings. All you need now to get going is a few more essential accessories. Presuming you are already equipped with a musical instrument such as a guitar or keyboard that can be plugged straight in, you will now need a microphone.
There are different types of microphones for different applications and many different manufacturers. A versatile microphone for recording vocals and acoustic instruments is the large-diaphragm "condenser", also known as a "capacitor". These start at around £40 and go up to well over £2000! Luckily you can get satisfactory results on the cheaper end of the spectrum. There are too many microphones under £100 on the market to list in detail but I would personally recommend:
Audio Technica AT2020 Condenser Microphone £76 RRP
You will then need a pair of studio headphones in order to hear the finer details of your recordings and also minimise annoyance from neighbours or family members! You will also need these for when/if you overdub any further instruments on your recordings. Similar to microphones, the price range is wide but as a starting point here is a very popular pair of budget headphones from Sennheiser who are one of the leading brands.
Sennheiser HD-201 Closed Back Studio Headphones - £16.99 RRP
If you are recording vocals it is a very good idea to invest in a "pop shield" to minimise the poppings of "b" and "p" sounds in a recording. When you make these sounds you expel a sudden blast of air in the direction of the microphone, which isn't ideal for a professional sounding recording. These are around £10 to £20.
As you can see, these days it's possible to get a home recording setup for around £200 if you already have a laptop. Welcome to the world of music production!
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