10 Things to Keep in Mind when Building a Home Studio

Congratulations on making the decision to set up a home recording studio. With your own studio, you can audition for voice over jobs as much as you want, improve your narration abilities and most importantly, be available to your clients for work. There are many options as far as equipment is concerned, and it should be easy to stay within a relatively small budget.

1. Recording Space

The first thing you’ll want to do is decide on a location for recording. A smaller space is easier to set up than a larger area and with the right sound absorbing/dampening material, you can create broadcast quality audio. The goal is to remove as much life or echo as possible. This can be done with sound absorbing material such as Auralex. Find a room without windows if you can. A walk-in closet would be perfect.

2. Digital Audio Workstation

Mac or PC? It doesn’t matter. I recommend that you use an operating system that you know since there will be a learning curve for understanding how to use recording software. There is no sense adding more to your educational stack by having to learn an unfamiliar operating system and recording software.

3. Computer Audio Interface

To get your voice into your computer, you need a computer audio interface (CAI). A single input is all you need to get started. The Apogee One features a single input interface that’s simple to use. Another choice is the MicPort Pro from CEntrance that allows you to convert an XLR microphone to USB. Others to consider include the Fast Track Ultra CAI form M-Audio that will allow input of multiple voices simultaneously. Also take a look at the Lexicon Omega Studio. Since you’ll be using a condenser mic, make sure that the CAI you purchase has 48v phantom power.

4. Software

Take a look at Adobe SoundBooth, Audacity (which is free) or use GarageBand if you go with a Mac system. Also on the horizon is Adobe Audition for Mac, which is currently in Beta. You want to record spoken words and get them to a file format that can be used in post production. ProTools is overkill. While it is the standard for experienced musicians and sound engineers, its not well suited for beginners. Keep it simple.

5. Microphone

The Rode mics are great introductory hardware and they do an amazing job. Other mics to consider would be the Audio-Technica 2020 or 2030 and the Blue Bluebird. Since no voice is the same, it’s a good idea to audition a variety of mics. Some work better with deep resonating voices, while others do a better job with higher voices. Make sure you get a cardioid pattern condenser mic and pick up a pop filter. If you are buying over the net, check the return policy of the retailer. Order 2 or 3 mics and return the ones that fail your audition.

6. Headphones

There are a number of options for headphones. Consider those from reputable companies such as Sony, Sennheiser, AKG and Audio-technica. If you are purchasing a computer audio interface make sure to purchase one with headphone amps built in. There really isn’t a need for a separate headphone amp.

7. Cables

When you purchase your hardware, ask the sales person to set you up with appropriate cables. Monster makes an excellent line with several price points. DO NOT GO CHEAP ON CABLES!!! EVER!!! You’ll need cables for mic, monitors and connecting your CAI to your computer.

8. Monitors

Hearing what you recorded should be done with speakers equal to what your audience will be using. If your audience is primarily listening to the audio you create with their computer, then a smaller monitor is all that’s needed. Since you’re recording spoken word, stereo is not important. Consider self-powered monitors made by Mackie, Behringer, and JBL.

9. Stands

On Stage makes a great line of mic stands. Also consider a music stand to hold your copy while you read. Make sure to purchase solidly built stands.

10. Work Desk

Look for a desk that is comfortable to sit at and will hold all the gear you’ve purchased for recording. The desk should have a top large enough to accommodate your computer monitor, keyboard, mouse, audio interface and a pair of studio monitors.

This should give you enough information to start thinking about how you’ll assemble your home studio. In future posts, I’ll go into each one of these areas in more detail.

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