Lately I’ve had a lot of people asking me questions around how I record my songs & covers, what gear I use when it comes to home recording studio equipment, and how they can start recording music themselves.
Maybe you’re an aspiring songwriter or producer, interested in breaking into the world of music production. Or maybe you’re a vocalist who wants to create cover videos and record yourself singing along to an instrumental. You know that doing it with your iPhone, won’t cut it – you need to pick out the right recording microphone and home studio equipment.
No matter your main drive or passion within recording music, I’ve learned it’s more possible than you would think to record and produce high-quality music in your own home – without having to pay top dollar for a recording studio setup.
I’ve spent the last few years piecing together my home recording studio and want to help you know where to start in building your own. My main goal with this blog post is to help you understand what recording gear you will need, and recommend the exact gear I have purchased myself.
Everything You Need To Get Started
- Laptop or Computer
- Audio Input Device / Audio Interface
- Recording Microphone
- Studio Headphones
- Studio Speaker Monitors
- Keyboard or Midi Controller
- Dampening or Sustain Pedal
- Acoustic Guitar
- Electric Guitar
- Electric Guitar Amp
- Studio Wall Panels
I like to think that my home recording studio gear falls into a happy-medium somewhere between budget-friendly and high-end studio. In some cases, I have upgraded from a more budget-friendly option, or I have a more expensive option that I hope to one day purchase. In those cases, I will do my best to provide options for “budget-friendly” and “high-end professional” for those that have more money to invest.
Alright, let’s jump into it!
Laptop / Computer: Macbook Pro 16 Inch
Though a bit pricier than a desktop mac or PC, I prefer to have something that is both portable and powerful. I’ve also been so embedded into the apple ecosystem that I really have no desire to use anything else. For me, those are the main reasons that I chose to go with a 2019 Macbook Pro 16 inch.
I’ve been really happy about that decision ever since I made the purchase in July 2020, and have had absolutely no regrets about it. My main concerns came down to cost and size, which I eventually just had to take the jump and try it out. Now that I’ve had the laptop for over 6 months I’d say the cost is well worth it because I’ll be able to use this laptop for YEARS, and the size is actually perfect. I’d rather have a large screen than have a smaller laptop.
Most important things to look at when choosing your laptop or computer for recording purposes? Processor, Memory, & Storage. I’ll post below the specs that I went with for you to see, but keep in mind you will be more than okay with slightly lower specs on each category. For example, I have the 64 GB memory, but you will do just fine with 32 GB or even 16 GB in most cases.
MacBook Pro (16-inch, 2019) Specs:
- Processor: 2.4 GHz 8-Core Intel Core i9
- Memory: 64 GB 2667 MHz DDR4
- Graphics: AMD Radeon Pro 5500M 8 GB; Intel UHD Graphics 630 1536 MB
- Storage: HD 2 TB (You can also opt for much lower storage and purchase a separate hard drive)
Audio Input Device: UAD Apollo Twin X
About a year ago, I sold my Focusrite Scarlett to a friend and upgraded to the UAD Apollo Twin X DUO. I’ve been loving this audio interface and plan to use it for several years longer. The quality of recording and processing is so high and it sounds much more professional than most other audio interfaces.
Compared to a lot of other audio input devices out there, the UAD Apollo Twin X does way more of the work itself. Which gives your laptop or computer some room to breathe, and more room for plugins. The other plus is that you will get a bunch of plugins from Universal Audio, and they’re my favorite plugins to use.
There are a couple of downsides or points worth considering but I still think it’s well worth it. First of all, these come in quite a bit more expensive than the other options outlined. You’re looking at $900-1300 depending on whether you get the DUO or the QUAD. If you can stomach it, I wish I would have gotten the QUAD to have more DSP – basically what that means is you have more processing space on the device to us more of Universal Audio’s plugins in a given project.
Recording Mic: Aston Origin (Bundled with Halo Reflection Filter & SwiftShield Mic Shockmount)
For several years I was using a cheap mic I inherited (stole) from my dad. It was starting to give me issues, so I made the decision to upgrade and purchase a new mic (an upgrade I should have made MUCH earlier).
I probably went to the local Guitar Center 8 times to test their microphones before I actually pulled the trigger and walked out with the Aston Origin in-hand. I kept second-guessing myself because everyone I talked to was unfamiliar with Aston and recommended different brands. But each time I tested that mic, it sounded so much more crisp and full of character. Maybe it was just a better fit for my voice or maybe many were still just unfamiliar with Aston since it’s a newer brand from the UK.
I’ve been so happy with this mic and have no plans to upgrade or chance any time soon. I’d definitely recommend grabbing the Halo and the SwiftShield Mic Shockmount in the bundle that I’ll link for you below. If you don’t have a treated room or live in a big city with lots of sounds, the Halo Reflection Filter will be a life saver for you.
Studio Headphones: Audio-Technica ATH-M50x (Bluetooth for multi-functional use)
When it comes to headphones for your home recording studio, there are a LOT of options out there. Like so many options that it’s hard to know where to even start. If you want to be careful about the decision, you can head to a local Guitar Center to try the options they have sitting out.
For myself, I had a few producer friends that raved about Audio-Technica and I knew it was a good fit for my type of music (alternative/pop/singer-songwriter). I also wanted to use these headphones for things like walking to work (I was living in San Francisco at the time).
I’ve been decently pleased with these headphones – the sound quality is top notch. The one thing I’ll say I didn’t like at first was how hard the headphones squeezed my head (probably more my fault for having such a large head). But I accidentally fixed it! I left it squeezed around my speaker monitor for about an hour and luckily it made it a bit more stretchy without doing any damage.
Of all my home studio equipment, this is probably something that I would upgrade next – so if you have any recommendations or thoughts, let me know in the comments!
Update (04/21/21): Check out my new post on “The 11 Best Headphones for Music Production & Recording in 2021”. For my next purchase, I think I will be buying the Beyerdynamic DT1770 Pro Headphones.
Studio Monitors: Yamaha HS8
Not too much to say about these monitors, they’re an incredible bang-for-your-buck pair of speakers. Depending on how loud you want to go, you could probably get away with the HS5’s or HS7’s as well. The HS8’s are a bit bulky on a desk, but that size obviously comes with positives as well in terms of loudness, bass, and sound quality.
Make sure you check out the studio monitor stands I’ll recommend below because they were life-changers that I didn’t know I need until I had them. Serious game-changers when you hear the difference in sound.
Studio Monitor Stands: ISOAcoustics Aperta200 Isolation Speaker Stands
I went 3 years with having my Yamaha HS8’s sitting directly on my desk, and I thought literally nothing of it. As I spent more time learning about recording and producing music, I realized I needed to train my ears better and I had heard it is important to get your speakers off the desk. After a lot of research and second-guessing, I decided to buy these high end isolation stands.
Believe me, I know that $200+ sounds like a high price to pay just for studio monitor stands, but I’m telling you it’s so worth it. I was absolutely blown away the first time I used them – and honestly mad at myself for waiting so long. I still remember putting on a Jon Bellion track that I had listened to hundreds of times and my jaw dropped – I heard distinct sounds that I had never heard before.
The IsoAcoustics Aperta200 stands will make listening, recording, or producing new music a much richer experience – and it will help train your ears to hear the finer details. This is definitely one of my top recommendations that I hope most people don’t decide to skip over.
Midi Keyboard: Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol S49 Mk2 Keyboard
I’m just gonna say it.. I LOVE this keyboard. It’s so fun to use, and the keys feel like you’re playing a piano or very nice electric keyboard. Most midi keyboards I’ve used in the past feel very cheap and flimsy – even the ones that aren’t cheap!
When I was keyboard shopping to upgrade from my low-end Novation midi controller/keyboard, I spent dozens of hours researching which direction I should go. When it came down to what qualities mattered most, I decided on a couple different factors:
- Semi-weighted keys
- Velocity-sensitive keys
- Software & plugins
- Size (I knew I wanted 49 keys as a nice in-between amount)
Once I mapped out for myself what was important, the decision became much easier. Out of everything in my music studio equipment, this might be one of my favorite editions. I used to record all my music thinking guitar-first & vocals second. Now I love to play the keys so I’m able to switch things up and just start laying down ideas with this amazing midi keyboard.
Dampening Pedal: M-Audio SP 2 Sustain Pedal
If anyone plays the piano or keys without a dampening/sustain pedal, I have no idea how you do it without it driving you absolutely nuts. I promise getting this low-priced sustain pedal for your home studio will greatly improve the sound & performance without having to spend a lot of fine-tuning in the DAW afterwards.
Not too much to note here, other than it should work with most DAW’s & keyboards to add a dampening or sustain effect to your performance.
Acoustic Guitar: Taylor 214ce-k Dlx Grand Auditorium Guitar
When I was in high school, I would regularly go with my buddies to the closest Guitar Center to play the guitars – no plans to purchase anything at the time, just to enjoy their guitars and get a feel of what we liked.
For myself, at that time it meant spending hours in their wood-lined acoustic rooms. I quickly learned that I loved the bright sound of the Taylor guitars, and I fell in love with the Taylor 214ce. What I love about this exact model is the look/feel of the Koa wood, as well as the size. It has a nice balance of brightness, while not feeling like it’s overkill which I’ve noticed in a small set of Taylor Guitars. Can’t go wrong with this guitar, or any Taylor in reality!
Electric Guitar: Fender Stratocaster (American-Made & Rosewood Fretboard)
One of the newest additions to my home recording studio equipment, the Rosewood fretboard, American-made Fender Strat is an incredible guitar. It’s perfect for almost all styles of music and has everything you need to shred some mind-blowing solos, lay down catchy riffs, and record with high-end sound.
Electric Guitar Amp: Boss Katana 50 MkII
This newer electric guitar amp by Boss is a great balance of affordable and quality. I think it performs best as a practice amp, and I even use it to record my demos and lay down tracks directly from the amp into my audio input device.
The “Brown” Amp Type is such an amazing tone and sound, I use it for the majority of my songs or recordings.
Studio Wall Panels: Acoustimac Sound Absorbing Acoustic Panel
If you have so much money laying around that you can afford $10k+ to sound-treat the room you use for your home studio, no need to purchase these. But if you’re like me and need to be a little more price-conscious these acoustic panels on the walls will do the job, and they will make a big difference in the recording quality of your tracks. I currently have 4 of them in my recording room, and actually love the way they look as well.
While living in San Francisco, the apartment I was in was very echoey, and only had hard-wood floors and some concrete walls. Luckily a big throw-down rug and these sound absorbing acoustic panels did just the trick to turn my harsh apartment into a decent home recording studio.
I hope these recommendations help you out with making decisions around gear for your home studio. As I mentioned at the beginning, these are the exact choices I went with, and the picture at the top is my own home studio with all the gear I’ve reviewed.
Worth calling out, all the Amazon links included in this article are affiliate links and help support the site. I appreciate you using the links if you decide to go with any of the gear I’ve reviewed.
Thanks again for reading, and please let me know if you have any thoughts, comments, or questions!