How much should I budget?
A question that I hear loads on forums and blogs concerned with home recording, fortunately the recurring theme in this series has been to help you keep the cost down when building your own home studio. The most simple way to do this is to borrow bits and pieces where you can, but supposing this isn’t possible or you are wanting to put in a more permanent rig, how much is it going to cost?
Obviously different recordings will have different requirements, but if we run through the different components we can build up a list that should be a useful starting point when it comes to cost. From there, you can cut it right down for little acoustic demos, or scale it up as much as you like to the rig of your dreams!
This article assumes you want to record drums – and will cover everything you need for a multitrack session.
If you want just a nice one-mic rig for vocals / guitar then we’ll cut to the chase – you need a Focurite Saffire Pro 14 interface, a Rhode NT1A microphone, a mic stand and an XLR cable – about £300 in total.
There are two things that I’m going to leave out of this list, the location the recording is done at, and a computer to record on. Both are huge variables in terms of cost and quality, and it’s also probable that you can get access to a suitable room and computer without spending a penny.
Easy. Reaper with a $40 licence is the obvious choice here, it will reliably put down as many tracks as your computer and interface can handle. Not only that, but it’s compatible with Mac and PC and a huge array of plugins so you can mix to your heart’s content.
In terms of value for money, the Presonus FireStudio Project at £340 is hard to beat, as it’s not too expensive and gives you 8 decent quality mic amps over firewire. 8 channels is enough to record a rough guide track of the average sized band should you need to, and when it comes to record a drum kit you will have plenty of space to play with.
Ideally, you want to end up with a few dynamic mics to record drums, some small diaphragm condensers as overheads or guitar mics, and a large diaphragm condenser for vocals and acoustics etc. That should more or less cover you for most things. Shure do a very good 6 piece drum mic set called the PGDMK6, which includes 2 condensers for overheads, 3 tom/snare mics, a kick mic AND 6 XLR cables from around £320 depending on where you buy from.
For a larger diaphragm condenser, the Rode NT2-A is an excellent choice and well worth investing in. At £250 it’s not exactly cheap but it really does sound good, and if that’s too much then you could always go for the NT1-A at £150. A really nice mic like the NT2-A is actually a reasonable investment despite the price, because mics generally hold their value very well so long as they’re not damaged. Even more so than mixing desks and interfaces so splashing the cash here won’t be throwing your money away.
Personally, I would feel a lot more comfortable with this rig if it had a really solid mic that will perform well on just about anything it’s pointed at, just to cover things like guitar cabs and maybe even a second snare. Enter the legendary SM57 for £90. You don’t even need to read this article to know they’re great mics.
These usually range from about £10 to £20 and honestly it’s worth paying for the better ones as they are higher quality and last much longer. Considering the Shure drum mics come with 3 rim clips, an extra five mic stands will allow you to use all eight channels of your interface if you need to. You will also need two more XLR cables to supplement the 6 from the Shure set, budget about £10 each for these.
You are going to need something to listen to your recording on as you mix and overdub. A pair of speakers are probably easier to mix on if you’re not used to working on headphones, and we recommend the Adam A5’s at about £470 for this. Alternatively, you could go for a high end pair of headphones such as the Sennheiser HD650’s at £250. If you can afford both speakers and headphones then get both, they work very well together as mixing tools. If you can only afford one, then personally, I would go for the HD650’s as their frequency response goes much lower and are more portable.
Don’t forget about your musicians though, if you plan to run overdubbing sessions, then they will need a pair of closed-back headphones to monitor on too, DT100’s are pretty much the industry standard here and cost about £110, but they almost certainly won’t be up to the quality you would need to mix on.
The Total: £1980
Assuming you’ve got a computer, and somewhere to record then the complete rig here breaks down as follows:
software – Reaper: $40 (about £25)
interface – Presonus: £340
Shure drum mics: £320
Rode NT2-A: £250
mic stands: £100
mic cables: £20
monitoring Adam A5’s: £475
The Bare Bones: £1175
If the monitoring speakers aren’t a necessity, and you can make do with the musicians using your mix headphones as monitors, then you can quickly cut down £585 from the total. Choosing the NT1-A over the NT2-A will save you another £100. I would be reluctant to let the SM57 with a mic stand and cable go from the rig but it would save you a further £120. Doing all of this would leave you with a very simple set up of seven mics, an interface, cables, stands and mixing headphones. The bare bones of a recording rig.