When it comes to recording audio, time in the studio can really add up in cost. As time adds up, everyone involved in the session may feel the need to rush in order to save on expenses, yet rushing through recordings never yields favorable results. In an effort to save on the price of recording, as well as adding the convenience of recording audio whenever you need to, building your own home studio may be the best option. While the process will require time and money, it can truly pay off in the long run.
DIY recording studios present a number of benefits in addition to saving costs, but before you get there you need to follow the correct steps and find the right equipment to really reap the rewards of your very own studio.
The Right Location - Sound Isolation
Preference is the main factor in deciding where to put your home studio, but you must also consider how well a room will contain sound and provide isolation from your neighbors. Once you’ve chosen the perfect spot for your studio, you’ll want to ensure it’s properly isolated for recording. Here are some ideas for optimal recording:
Sealing – Using common materials such as foam or rubber, seal the doors to your studio, and any visible air gaps, to keep the sound in (and your neighbor’s sound out!). This affects both the quality of your sound and the peace of your neighbors.
Ventilation – Once your room is sealed, you’ll need ventilation so you and your equipment can breathe. These vents may need to be covered by an acoustic box, as you’ll have compromised a bit of your insulation with the vents.
Raised Floors – Sound is vibrations. Vibrations will travel easily from room to room through material that is touching one another. Raising or ‘floating’ the floor for your recording room will reduce the vibrations that are carried throughout, providing much needed isolation. Foam padding and particle board are materials that can be used for this.
Recording Quality - Acoustic Treatment
The materials used on the walls, ceiling and floor of your DIY studio play a critical part in the overall quality. These materials will either reflect, absorb, or diffuse the sound. The choices that you make, such as wood floor versus carpet, or sheetrock walls versus foam panels, determine not only the quality of the audio recorded by your mics, but also how accurately you hear the sound coming from your speakers. This affects all the decisions you make, from mic placement to mixing.
Reflection - Hard materials such as sheetrock and glass will add reflections to your sound which is usually problematic. These materials will make your sound too ‘live’ and it will be difficult to listen properly.
Absorption – While you can easily soften your sound with carpet and other furniture, it is highly recommended that you use proper absorption on the walls and ceiling, such as prefabricated or DIY acoustic panels. A ‘dead’ room will let you hear your sound more accurately.
Diffusion - An acoustic diffuser is material like wood that provides some reflections without making them too echoey. Some diffusers in studios are recommended.
After you’ve correctly isolated and treated your studio, it will then be time to start rolling in the equipment. This is where money will really become a factor, but don’t take the cheap way out. As mentioned, you’ll save money in the long run. If price is a major factor or you are a beginner, here is what you’ll need to get started:
Computer – A fast computer is best for recording, but when money is a constraint, you can use what you have.
DAW and Audio Interface – The Digital Audio Workstation is the software used to record and edit your sound. The audio interface will connect your computer to your other equipment.
Monitors – Monitors (or speakers) are a very important consideration. You will listen to all of your sound through the monitors you use. Make sure you get pro audio monitors which have a ‘flat’ response, rather than using home hifi speakers which will color the sound you are hearing. Keep in mind, the larger the monitor the lower the bass frequencies it can reproduce. A small sized monitor will not be able to playback low bass frequencies.
Microphone – There are a large variety of mics that range in price. You won’t want to take the cheap route here. Most studios have one high-end mic and an assortment of cheaper ones as well.
Headphones – Professional headphones are very important in your home studio. Closed headphones are good if you need to keep the sound from bleeding out onto any open mics.
Cables – You’ll need an XLR cable for your mic—be sure to get a good quality mic cable. Cables for most everything else can be fairly standard.
There’s a lot of work that goes into building your own home studio, but more often than not, the work is well worth it! You’ll save on costs and have access to your studio as you please. There are many online resources for learning these details. Be sure to do your research, and your work building your home studio will be rewarded.