Home Recording Equipment

Home Recording Equipment

For most musicians, songwriters and bands, setting up a home studio is commonplace these days. Here is a quick look at the equipment you will require besides a suitable computer for the studio.

Home Recording Equipment

Audio Interface

In extremely basic terms, an audio Interface a device which you plug into your computer via either usb, firewire or pci slot. Depending on the type of audio interface it will various 1/4" jacks, Mic Line inputs and spdif inputs. So this is how you get you instrument or voice recorded onto your computer.

Audio Interfaces are usually of three types:

  1. PCI Audio Interfaces with Breakout Box – These fit into a PCI slot on your motherboard
  2. USB Audio Interface – These plug into the USB port on your computer
  3. FireWire Interface – This is a cable which plugs into the FireWire port on the computer.

All of these interfaces have their pros and cons. The PCI interface is good for multiple inputs/outputs as well as data transfer. However, the quality of its recording may not be up to the mark. The USB 1.1 suffers due to its high latency, but the USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 offer good data transfer speeds as well as plug-and-play functionality. The FireWire is highly portable, but also expensive.

Studio Monitors

Unless you hear how exactly your score sounds, how will you be able to judge whether it is good or not? This is where Studio Monitors come in. Studio Monitors are speakers which let you monitor your output.

They come in two types; Passive and Active.

Passive Monitors are those that require a separate amplifier and Active Monitors are those which have built-in amplifiers so that they can be directly plugged into your audio interface.

Active Monitors

A good set of studio monitors will deliver a flat frequency response, thus allowing you to hear all parts of your score evenly. If you use normal speakers, you may not be able to discern the correct level of certain frequencies, causing you to boost or mute them and thus leading to wrong mixing.

Studio Headphones

Say you are dubbing a chorus over a background score or a vocal over an instrument track. How will you discern whether the vocal or the chorus is recording correctly if you output both through your speakers? This is where Studio headphones come in.

There are 2 different types of studio headphones to choose from.

Earphones block outside sound from interfering with your hearing. Additionally, will prevent sound spill from your earphones into your mic recording. It is essential that earphones are light and comfortable for long periods of use.

Mixing Desks         

A mixing desk is a device used for audio production. It works by mixing the routing of various sub-tracks in a track, by manipulating the levels and frequencies within a score or its timber and tone, and by varying other similar dynamics of audio inputs.

Mixers mix various analog and digital signals and give an output which is a combination of the individual parts. A simple example would be inlaying a vocal over a backing track or combining two different vocal tracks into a duet over-laid on a background score.

Mixing desks are used in Malls, Recording Studios, Sub-ways and Airports, Radio and T.V. Broadcasting stations etc. 

Mic Preamps

The signal generated by a microphone, especially dynamic mics, are often so weak that they cannot be transferred to the mixing desk or software console. Microphone preamps boost the mic signal to something called a line-level. This helps transmit the output to the mixing desk at an acceptable level of strength.

This increase in mic output strength allows the mixer to manipulate the output by adding effects or combining with other signals for mixing and mastering. It is worth bearing in mind that a mic preamp ‘colours’ the audio output of a mic, as such, different mic preamps will give different sounding recordings.

Learn more about Mic Preamps.

Microphones

Microphones are basically of three types: Dynamic, Condenser and Ribbon.

Dynamic mics are the ones you commonly see in the hands of singers. Karaoke style, they are cheap and versatile.

Condenser mics are of the more expensive variety. They need something called +48V Phantom Power, so make sure your sound card has an input for it. Condenser mics take power from this input. They tend to deliver crispier sound quality as compared to dynamic mics.

These days USB powered condenser mics with in-built preamps are also available. These are suitable for plug-and-play operation.

These are the important components you need to keep in mind when planning to buy equipment for a home recording studio.

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