I hear it all the time: is my computer fast enough to run Pro Tools? What interface should I get for my recordings? Should I get Yamaha NS-10s or the PreSonus Sceptre CoActual Active Studio Monitors?
The truth is, you don’t really need the fastest computer for Pro Tools, or the most expensive interface, or even the most expensive speakers for that matter! Not to say that you shouldn’t pick up a pair of the PreSonus Studio Monitors if it’s in the budget (as they sound incredible!), but as you enter the world of recording, these decisions aren’t actually that important.
Then what is important, you might ask? The most important thing that you can do for yourself as an up-and-coming producer/engineer is to simply do just that: produce and engineer. A LOT!
So the question becomes “what do I really to get myself started?” Here’s our list of must-haves:
1. A good, solid laptop.
Not only is a laptop the most cost-effective option for your home studio, it’s also got some other benefits. The noise from the fan is generally less noticeable than in a desktop computer, and you are also a little more free to work on-the-go if you prefer! (Taking your mixes in to your car and being able to tweak them there is a great option to have!)
This is not to say that if you have a great desktop, you should invest in a laptop. A good computer is a good computer, and a desktop will do just fine.
Whether it’s a desktop or a laptop, just be sure it is powerful enough. It doesn’t have to be the fastest computer on the market, but here’s some good specs to shoot for: 8GB of RAM, 2.2 GHz Quad-core CPU, and decent sized internal hard drive (500GB+) with a speed of 7200 rpm should do the trick!
If you feel like going for the extra security and stability, an external hard drive may be a great option. Just be sure it’s 7200 rpm, and USB 3.0, Thunderbolt, or Firewire 800!
2. A functional audio interface.
Depending on your desired setup, an interface with 2 mic pres/inputs and 2 outputs will do the trick for most all home studios. The only reason you would need more than that is if you plan on recording more than 2 tracks simultaneously, perhaps for recording live drums, or using more than 2 mics to capture an acoustic instrument. If that is the case, a 4×4 interface might be more your size.
People always ask about which interface to purchase. The truth is that they’re all great products, and if you’re buying from a reputable company (AVID, Focusrite, PreSonus, the list goes on…), you’re making a good purchase.
3. A DAW.
It doesn’t matter if it’s Reaper, Reason, Pro Tools, StudioOne, Cubase, … (the list goes on…and on) Neundo, or Logic Pro, just pick one that fits your budget and go with it!
4. A microphone.
Simple as that. This can be a dynamic microphone, like the Shure SM58 for $99, or a condenser microphone, like the Audio Technica AT2020. Both good choices!
5. A good set of studio headphones and/or studio monitors.
A good set of headphones, like the Sennheiser HD-280 PROs for $99, and/or a great set of studio monitors like the Yamaha HS5s are a good place to start. If you want to pick one or the other, the choice is up to you! There are plenty of great products out there, so shop around and find what you like best!
6. Good cables!
Try to find yourself some good microphone XLR cables and 1/4″ TRS cables. You’ll need two 1/4″ TRS cables (one for each speaker), and an XLR cable for each microphone you’re using. You’ll need a good 1/4″ cable for you guitar or synthesizer input as well!
Pick up these essential items, and you should be on your way to recording your music!
Then check out some of our series on how to get great sounding recordings like the pros!