An Affordable Home Studio

(A moodboard of some of my favourite and affordable home recording products)

Recently I’ve been inspired by a lot of Instagram photos and blog posts showing some beautiful home studios and digital audio workstations, with some fantastic pieces of equipment and even samples of work produced in these cosy home-based stations.
Unfortunately my own little home set-up isn’t quite as impressive as the ones I obsess over online, but with Christmas just around the corner (and my second student maintenance loan income too) I decided to get inspired about improving my range of equipment by researching some great quality, affordable kit that will bring benefit to any home studio.
Above, you'll be able to see a collage of this range of equipment, proving not only is this kit affordable and effective but looks very professional too. I’ve had experience working with each and every bit of equipment listed here and I can honestly say that for their cost and ability they work insanely well. If you're after reliable appliances for your own personal use at home or even in a professional environment then you don't really need to look much further!

1. KRK Rokit RP5 G3 Active Monitor
These monitors are honestly just fantastic to use for mixing and mastering at home. They are used in so many professional recording establishments as reference monitors and are great beginner monitors for training your ears to decipher certain elements of a mix and for finding those annoying little frequencies that always seem to pop up in a recording. Roughly a single monitor values at £108-£110 online but have been known to see at £80-£90 each as B-stock, so keep your eyes peeled. If you're questioning now whether or not its worth it to spend this much on these monitors then I can proudly tell you that it is. These were the first monitors I ever actually learned to mix on in my High-School when I studied GCSE level Music Technology and if I hadn't have learned on these then I reckon I’d be really quite stuck in mixing when it came to studying my diploma. Trust me, these are a great price for starting reference monitors as the cost for monitors tends to just shoot up from here.

2. Beyerdynamic DT 770 PRO Studio Headphones - 80 Ohm
When it came to studying my first year of my Music Production diploma, I decided to make an investment on these brilliant headphones. They are, in my opinion, completely and utterly faultless. These closed-back beauties can be used for mixing, mastering and even during recordings in a live room or in your bedroom - they do not spill anything onto a recording even at ridiculously high volumes. May I also add that I’ve gone hours on end mixing with them and have not experienced any ear-fatigue or discomfort, its like having tiny little pillows around your head. Not to mention, Beyerdynamic as a brand are fantastic. If any part of your headphones become damaged or break (which is almost physically impossible because of how durable they are) you can order the part online or send them off to be fixed! Most of the time, if one tiny component of your headphones break you’d just throw them away and fork out loads for a new pair. But not with Beyerdynamic, making them super reliable and resourceful. These headphones retail at £100-£108 online and are completely worth the investment. Three years on I still use these headphones on a very regular basis and I’m still very impressed.

3. Macbook Pro
Now although this seems like an obvious choice, Im going to walk you through my decision to put it on the list. By having a Macbook Pro you can take your work on the go with you which is something I've often found to be quite handy (especially when it comes to hand-in dates at university). I’ve been able to mix in the car on long journeys, on the bus to work or uni and once or twice in my back-garden when British weather hasn't been drastically disappointing.
Some of you may suggest another laptop brand which is absolutely fine too but in the grand scheme of things you're really compromising your options. With a Macbook Pro you can use almost every kind of music software including my personal favourites Logic Pro X and Protools, but with other brands you're limited to software like Audacity and Cubase. MacBooks these days range from around £1,042 to £2,000 depending on spec and model.

4. Logic Pro X
I’ve been lucky to have access to a wide range of so many impressive musical softwares throughout my whole music education and career. The one I've had the most fun with however? Logic Pro X. You can create so many different things with Logic and it’s very easy to use too. You're able to customise your tools, preferences, layout and setting to create a software that works so well for you. There are endless options for inputted MIDI sounds as well as multiple tool options to edit with. I've used this software for about three years, both at home and on professional recordings for musicians and record labels and its very reliable. I’ve also been able to use this software for multiple projects too — from sampling audio to foley art projects with inputted media.

The software costs £199.99 and is worth every penny.

5. Moon Gel
For those of you who know me and have worked alongside me in a recording studio then you'll know how much I love Moon Gel. A. The name is hilarious, B. It’s super fun to play with and squish around, and C. It works actual magic when it comes to controlling the sound of a drum-kit. Whether you need to dampen your toms or just control a messy snare, moon gel is the answer.
Moon Gel retails at £6.99 and is now non-toxic, not that I’d recommend eating it anyway…
However if you are wanting an edible alternative to Moon Gel that will also work on dampening/controlling your drum kit in a recording then you could use Hartley’s jelly cubes, and yes, I’ve tried and tested this method too — it works just as well and you can get it from your local supermarket for about £1.

6. PreSonus AudioBox USB 96 Audio Interface
If you're after a simple USB interface for your home studio then I’d definitely recommend the PreSonus AudioBox USB 96 Audio box. This interface just works fantastically. I use this interface at home in my own set-up and have honestly never had any problems with it at all. You just plug it in with a USB 2.0 cable and away you go!
The interface gives you the option to input two XLR’s or Jack cables at a time meaning you can easily record anything you desire too at home. For those of you who are after more inputs, you can also buy a similar PreSonus interface with more inputs and have the same quality recordings. On the back of the interface you've also got a MIDI cable input, a headphone input and inputs for speaker cables too.
This fantastic bit of kit provides absolutely no latency and allows you to control both inputs, the mixer, the headphones and the main volume output by the dials too.
All in all, this is a product I've enjoyed using for many years now, and it’s a bit of equipment that anyone should have for their home recording set-up.
The PreSonus AudioBox USB 96 Audio Interface retails at £73 online.

7. Korg microKey 49 key MIDI controller
Now if your someone who likes to compose their own music at home or on the go then you’ll know how essential it is to find a MIDI controller that isn't to confusing to set-up and doesn't require too much effort to use. The Korg microKey is a MIDI controller that can simply be plugged in by a USB 2.0 cable and will work very well in conjunction with any music software.
The 49 key Korg microKey retails at £74 but there are multiple sizes that you can choose from that vary in price. 
At home I use a 37 key Korg microKey, purely because one day I hope to be a lot more portable and on the go with my music production meaning I can fit this small MIDI controller in a backpack. This cost me £64 to buy.

8. Marshall DSL1CR 1W 1x8 Valve Combo with Reverb (amp)
This Marshall amp is a great little amplifier for budding guitarists who keep their playing to themselves at home. The amp is great for low-level playing and includes the effect of reverb meaning that whether you're just jamming out in your room or recording from an ample you can add in that must-have little bit of reverb to make things a lot more ambient. The amp retails at £239 online and is great if you're just getting used to your bearings when it comes to playing guitar.

9. A good reliable set of cables!
This is really something that should go without saying. The amount of times I have 
lost my mind trouble shooting technical problems just to discover that the XLR cable i’m using is a bit worn out and dodgy, is astonishing.
It’s something that I profusely try to avoid in a professional recording setting and something I want to avoid even more at home when I'm in a complete chilled out zone, making relaxed music.
The great part of this is that cables don't even cost that much to buy! were talking £10-£20 for a decent brand like Stagg or Fender, who in my experience make the most durable long-lasting cables.

10. Sennheiser e 906 Super-Cardioid
This little weird-shaped microphone packs a punch when it comes to recording… well anything ! In my personal experience it works best on guitar amps with any desirable effect that you choose to play with. The microphone is a super cardioid making it great for picking up the sound of a room if you're wanting that extra bit of ambience or even for adding a natural human touch to a recording. It also has a switchable presence filter for different requirements with three adjustable sound characteristics; one to boost the presence range, one for "normal" presence and one to attenuate the presence range — really making the possibilities of this microphone quite endless. The mic values at £159 which is great value for such a compact super-cardioid microphone that records excellently.

11. Shure SM57
Ol’ reliable SM57, a dynamic cardioid microphone which has served so many, so well over the years. The microphone is really in the hall of fame for how good it is, from picking up classic guitar tones from amps to amplifying husky power vocals in a live sound setting, the choices are plentiful. Again, I've worked with this equipment for quite some time now and I love using it in any musical environment. You can buy the microphone for £90 online but you can often find it from around £50 secondhand or in a shop.

12. Shure SM58
The sister of the Ol’ reliable SM57. The SM58 microphone is a microphone that is more commonly used as a vocal microphone in both live sound and studio sound. If you're not a vocalist and just want a basic microphone for whenever you need to include vocals in a piece then this is the right microphone again.
The best thing about these microphones is that they are honestly immortal. I've never seen a broken SM58 in my whole career of being involved in music. They are just indestructible. If you're after an SM58 they retail at £90 but again you can find then secondhand for around £50.

13. Rode NT2-A 
Now, onto one of my most favourite microphones to have ever been created which is in my price range, the Rode NT2-A. This microphone blew me away when I first discovered it. Not only does it provide the user with crisp, clean and beautiful recordings but it also comes with the ability to interchange between three polar patterns, three position variable high-pass filter (flat, 40Hz or 80Hz) and a three position pad (-0dB, -5dB or -10dB).
You get the option to record in an omni directional, a cardioid or a figure of eight polar pattern, meaning you can full control how you record something, a factor of this microphone that I find amazing.
The microphone retails in a kit complete with a cradle, a pop shield and an XLR for £262, or you can buy the microphone alone for £250.

14.AKG Drum Set Session 1 Drum Microphone Set
Last but definitely not least (in anyway shape or form) we have the AKG Drum Set Session 1 Drum Microphone Set which is phenomenal drum microphone kit that I’d recommend for any drummers at home who want to make their own recordings. The set comes complete with seven microphones including overhead condenser microphones, which is something I find to be very impressive, especially considering the price of the pack!
The microphones are of such a good quality and even come with their own clips (which I wouldn't suggest for an actual recording but serves well in live sound). The pack costs a mere £240 which is such a great price for not one, not two but seven microphones!

This concludes my article on affordable and professional home equipment, and I really hoped you enjoyed reading it and found some sort of benefit. As a sound engineer, I do often get asked about the best start-up equipment that is also cheap and I always recommend at least one of the things off the list above. The truth is, even though there are even cheaper alternatives to some of the products on this list, they are definitely not better. Sometimes buying cheaper or from off-brands means that you essentially buy twice and I know how tough it is to be on a musicians salary. If there is anything at all I can help you with, please feel free to get in touch.

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