Document 176966

Before You Jump In ...
Quickly before you begin I just wanted to welcome you and thank
you for taking the time to learn how to build an awesome studio for
Being able to record what I want, when I want, has been the turning
point for me and my music career. I hope to help you do the same.
Who Should Read This Guide?
This guide is for all ages, all skill levels, but best suited for audio
beginners. I was a beginner once, and this is the guide I wish
someone had written for me.
By learning from my experience, you can avoid the countless
mistakes I made getting started. Mistakes that undoubtedly cost me
years of progress and thousands of dollars.
A Little About Me
How to Build Your Own Music Studio
My name is Jamie and I have been doing this for over 10 years. I
went to The Media Institute for my formal education, and been
engineering and producing ever since.
I consider myself extremely lucky to be able to do what I love for a
Even though I went to college, most of my learning has happened in
the studio. Learning by doing has been one of the most important
realizations I've made and that's why I always advise that anyone
who is interested in music production to just start. Even if you don't
know what you are doing.
Today I will help you start!
The Legal Notice
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neither the author nor the publisher assumes any responsibility for errors,
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informational purposes only. The author and publisher shall in no event be
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Every effort will be made to correct any incorrect or inaccurate information –
and corrections can be emailed to: [email protected]
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How to Build Your Own Music Studio
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How to Build Your Own Music Studio
Table of Contents
How to Build Your Own Music Studio
Getting Started With The Basics
How to Read This Guide
What I Am Working With
A Little Anecdotal History
Avoid My Mistakes
My System (An Outline For You)
A Note About Computers And Using DAWs
Which Operating System Is The Best For A Home Studio?
The Equipment You Will Need
How to Treat Your Home Studio
Monitor Placement
So What Kind of Microphone Should I Get?
Different Kinds of Plugins
Your Home Studio Checklist
How to Build Your Own Music
Building a home-based studio is a big project that takes planning,
money for the necessary equipment, and the determination and
persistence to see the project through.
This guide was created to help those people looking to build a home
based studio for fun or or to make money (or both).
If you fit that description, sit down, get comfortable and take notes
as I guide you through the process of building a great sounding
studio, while teaching you the fundamentals of sound.
Getting Started With The Basics
Like you, I understand the need to save money. I’m going to help you
build a quality studio for as little money as possible.
Alternatively, if you just own a laptop or if your system is a bit dated,
there are ways that you can get a decent system for cheap and then
build it up from there.
First off, I’m going to say that not every recommendation will apply
to everyone. But for most people starting from scratch, you should
expect to spend up to $1,000 or more. But if you’re lucky and
resourceful, you can definitely find ways to save money.
How to Build Your Own Music Studio
There are plenty of ways to do this, and depending on whether you
already own a computer or not, we’ll go into ways that you can turn
your system into a bangin’ studio-grade machine that you can use
for recording right away.
How to Read This Guide
To help you get the most out of this information, I will be showing
you both what's recommended for beginners and an example of a
working setup.
Additionally, we will go over each piece of the studio in detail,
explaining what it does, why you need it, and which brands are
On the last page I have included a basic studio equipment checklist
so you can keep track of what you already have and what you still
need to save up for.
If you follow this guide, you will be making and recording your own
music in no time!
What I Am Working With
To start things off, I’ll walk you through a working setup, mine! This
should help you see how everything fits together.
Most audio engineers will tell beginners to first invest in; a
computer, a pair of monitors, and some microphones (which I agree
with in part). But honestly, the most important aspect of any
home studio is your acoustic treatment, and monitor
How to Build Your Own Music Studio
Read This – It's Important!
The reason room treatment is so important is quite simple.
Standing waves, room reflections, and improper monitor
placement (don’t worry; I’ll explain what these terms mean) will be
your biggest obstacle to producing a quality recording or production
of any kind.
Additionally, it will prevent you from learning how to record, mix,
and master properly.
A Little Anecdotal History
I can attest from personal experience that it doesn’t really matter
over the long run how good you think your ears are or what kind of
monitors or equipment you have.
If your environment isn’t properly treated, your work will suffer.
My Story – Some Things to Avoid
I was once a proud owner of a pair of Mackie HR824’s. But back
then, I didn't know much about audio engineering and acoustics.
I just hooked up my speakers in the corner of my room and went to
town making beats as I learned my way around my recording
The biggest obstacle I had to face was working in an environment
that was poorly designed for a pair of high-powered nearfield
I had them set up in the corner of a room, and thanks to my huge
bed, carpeted floor, and chair across the room, some of the room
modes and frequency problems that I experienced created problems
while recording.
I wish someone would have told me how important this stuff was
when I started!
How to Build Your Own Music Studio
I put myself in a position that hampered my ability to listen properly
from the start. This drastically slowed my progress.
Avoid My Mistakes
1. Monitors Were Too Close
My monitors were placed far too close to my central listening
position. They were less than a foot away from each ear.
Usually, the rule of thumb is that for nearfield monitors with woofer
sizes between 6-9 inches, you’ll want to position them at least 2 ¾ to
3 feet away from your position and no farther than 9 ft. away.
With the HR824’s so close (less than one foot!), I often had to lean
back and forth to adjust for my “sweet” spot.
As I found out much later, if you find yourself having to do this a lot,
you’re way too close to your monitors.
2. I Was in The Wrong Place
My location in the room was a corner on top of a built-in desk with
just enough room for me to place the monitors.
This arrangement created a ton of phasing and room mode
How to Build Your Own Music Studio
3. No Acoustic Treatment
I had no acoustic treatment in my room whatsoever! Eventually, I
did buckle down and buy myself a pair of decouplers (a.k.a.
isolation pads). But I hadn’t ever really gotten around to purchasing
full-on acoustic treatment for the whole room until I moved into my
4. No Monitor Stands
Not only were the monitors too close, but the low-end energy that
they generated would often shake the desk that I had been working
on at the time.
I didn’t think anything of it, but I later learned that the improper
dispersion of that low-end was affecting my ability to mix properly.
This lead me to finally springing for monitor stands. However, you
can build stands yourself if you want to. This article shows you how:
(How to make your own stands)
Proper Setup Makes a Huge Difference
Needless to say, after getting some proper padding, bass traps
installed, and placing my speakers at a proper distance, mixing and
mastering became MUCH easier.
Every sound I hear is crystal-clear and I can easily monitor various
levels without having to constantly “move around” to figure out
what’s going on with my mix!
How to Build Your Own Music Studio
On the next page I have some pics of my setup so you can see what I
How to Build Your Own Music Studio
My First Almost Complete System
My System (An Outline For You)
All in all, my setup is fairly simple and consists of the following:
My computer is a custom built PC running Macintosh Lion 10.7.5.
(Also known as a Hackintosh)
 Quad-core 3.31 GHz processor
 8 GB of DDR3 RAM
 128 GB Crucial SSD
 1 TB Hitachi SATA
 500 GB Western Digital SATA
 500 GB LaCie External Hard Drive
 Logic Studio (DAW)
A simple MicroKorg coupled with an M-Audio Uno interface.
However, I will be upgrading to a proper MIDI interface in the near
future (the keyboard you see in the corner in one of the pictures is
actually broken, unfortunately).
I simply borrowed the MicroKorg from a friend (and he hasn’t asked
me to return it yet..). The Uno interface cost me $40, which I bought
brand-new at Amazon.
How to Build Your Own Music Studio
Basic MIDI:
Monitor Speakers:
Two Dynaudio BM5a’s (an awesome pair of monitors with a very
flat-frequency response and excellent imaging), for which I
exchanged my Mackies (plus an extra $100) at Guitar Center.
A Shure Beta58 microphone. A fairly standard Mic.
A fantastic ART Tube MP Studio preamp, which cost me roughly $30
Acoustic Treatment:
Roughly $350 of acoustic treatment, which include the basstraps,
the panels, and the monitor decouplers.
A desk and two stands (highly recommended!), which cost roughly
How to Build Your Own Music Studio
Be creative here. Ask friends, use craigslist, of discount stores.
Recording Tools:
A PreSonus Audiobox, which I also bought used for around $100.
Various commercial and freeware plugins and synths. The
commercial plugins all roughly amount of up to $300-500 in terms
of cost. (I collected them over a few years)
Bottom Line
If you were to duplicate my studio setup piece-by-piece, you’d end
up paying somewhere in the ballpark of $2,500 for equipment.
What's important to know is that you do not have to buy everything
immediately. You can get a few things to start and build as you go.
How to Build Your Own Music Studio
Below is a picture of the some the plugins that I use in Logic and
another of a track that I’m producing within Logic, which is a DAW
that’s exclusively made for the OSX platform.
A Note About “Hackintoshing”
And Using DAWs
Before I go on any further, I do want to issue a fair warning to those
of you considering using a Hackintosh as your main studio
computer. (A Hackintosh is a Mac custom made with PC parts.
Ideally to save money)
First and foremost, the only real reason I am using a Hackintosh is
because I own a copy of Logic 8 which I didn’t want to waste.
Secondly, I couldn’t justify spending more than $2,000 on a Mac Pro
when I could simply buy a custom system with the same exact specs
for $700 and install a copy of OSX on that machine.
If you’ve never used Logic 8 before, let alone a Mac, then I would
suggest sticking with a Windows-based solution so you can save
yourself some headaches along the way.
For those of you who happen to be technically savvy or diehard Mac
users who are looking to upgrade a bit with a custom-built system.
Then “Hackintoshing” might just be the answer you’ve been looking
High Quality DAW’s
How to Build Your Own Music Studio
Also, if you would prefer something besides Logic, there are plenty
of amazing alternatives, such as:
 Pro Tools
 Cubase
 Ableton
 Reason
 Fruityloops
Which Operating System Is The Best?
Honestly, it really depends on what your preferences are. Windows
users typically cite greater compatibility with more VST plugins that
are written and compiled as .dll files (you can read more about .dll
files and VSTs by clicking on the respective links) and more
flexibility when it comes to configuration.
Whereas Mac users claim to enjoy greater stability, compatibility
with Class-C audio and MIDI interfaces, with less latency issues.
My Advice for Beginners
That being said, my advice is to go with what you know best and
what you’re most comfortable with. But keep in mind that
eventually you will want to learn how to use both Windows and
There’s nothing worse than dealing with an engineer or producer
who simply can’t work on another platform because of some illconceived prejudice towards working with a Mac or working with a
Windows-based PC.
So suck it up!
How to Build Your Own Music Studio
One of the biggest strengths that you must develop as an audio
engineer is being flexible enough to adapt to the needs of your
client, and that ultimately involves keeping an open-mind and
having the willingness to get the job done in both worlds.
The Equipment You Will Need
How to Build Your Own Music Studio
The Neve 8058 in Studio B at the MediaTech Institute.
Now that you have a general idea of the equipment you will be
looking for.
I'm going to go through each piece individually and make some
suggestions to save you money.
#1 - Buying a Computer
I'm sure that a bunch of you know more about computers than I do,
but for the purposes of this guide, I will assume that most of those
reading this aren't computer experts.
Before we begin, it should be noted that most computers purchased
after 2010 will likely have all the resources you will need to handle
your studio needs.
Listed below are four excellent options for getting the right studio
1. Buying A Pre-Built, Ready-To-Go, Computer:
This is what most people will do. It's easy, most new computers can
handle most of your recording. Plus, you can get started right away!
Here are a couple decent options:
 ASUS Essentio CM6730-06 Desktop (Windows)
2. Building Your Own System From Scratch:
If you are a computer whiz, this option will save you the most
money. Building a computer by hand guarantee’s that you get
exactly what you want, and nothing you don't. Plus, when you buy
the individual parts by themselves, you end up spending less money.
For more detailed information about building your own computer,
you can refer to this excellently written article on Lifehacker.
How to Build Your Own Music Studio
 Apple I-Mac 27 Inch Desktop (Macintosh)
3. Buying a Custom-Built PC From A Company:
There are a few sites out there that do sell custom-build media rigs
at varying price levels.
These include:
 Primal PC
 Outlet PC
Of these three sites, Outlet PC seems to have the most competitive
prices for machines that come well-equipped with power and the
latest software.
#2 - Monitor Speakers
How to Build Your Own Music Studio
Throughout this guide, I've used the term “nearfield monitors”. For
those asking; “What the heck is a nearfield monitor?”
A nearfield monitor (or reference speaker) is a audio device that’s
designed to output a signal as evenly as possible across the entire
frequency spectrum without any sort of distortion, coloration, or
enhancement to the signal itself.
Essentially, what you hear is what you get; there’s no fluff, no flam,
and no hype of any kind.
When recording or doing a mixdown, you want to know exactly
what you’re doing at all times. The only way for you to do that
properly is by constantly listening to a signal that is uncolored, clear,
and evenly balanced from 20 Hz to 20 kHz.
So, what would an example of a good pair of monitors be?
Monitor Recommendations
The Dynaudio BM5a’s that I own are an excellent example of
nearfield monitors that deliver warm, crystal clear sound that’s
consistent, accurate, and pleasing to listen to. But they are pretty
If you aren't willing to fork over this month's rent for studio
speakers, here are some quality and budget friendly alternatives.
Other great, low-budget monitors include:
 KRK Rokit Powered 5 Generation 2 Powered Studio Monitor
 Alesis Monitor1 MKII Channel Studio Monitors
Both of these are extremely popular and highly rated.
As someone who made just about every mistake in the book when it
comes to proper home studio setup, I can’t stress enough how
important it is for you to get it right from the start when it comes to
monitor placement and room treatment.
In his incredibly in-depth and detailed article, Paul White walks
readers through the importance of proper monitoring and how to
address acoustic problems in your environment that are holding you
back from putting out a great mix.
How to Build Your Own Music Studio
Back To Monitor Placement And Room Treatment
What I’m going to do now is walk you through a short-and-sweet
version of how you can get your studio treated as quickly as possible
without having to tear down any walls.
First things first, I do not believe you need to go overboard and treat
your entire room.
I was able to achieve outstanding results using nothing but several
acoustic absorbent panels, a few well-placed bass traps, and a
handful of pins. That’s it!
How to Treat Your Home Studio
Here are my hard-and-fast rules on how to get your home studio
treated as quickly as possible:
Kill Room Modes Using Bass Traps
How to Build Your Own Music Studio
1. Room modes are pockets of sound that accumulate mainly in
corners (as well as other areas) as sound travels throughout a room
and are most often made up of low-frequency material, which exists
in instruments such as bass, rumbles, kicks, toms, etc.
The reason you want to reduce room modes in particular is that the
accumulation of those room modes decay at a slower rate than what
is produced by your monitoring system.
This will result in partial phase cancellation and create a sort of
“muddiness” that can make it exceedingly difficult to understand
what exactly is happening with your low end.
When I first put up my bass traps, every single problem that I had
with bass had simply disappeared and I didn’t have to perform quite
as many soundchecks in my car by burning my bounced files onto
countless CDs.
So if you’re wondering how you should treat your room; just go get
yourself a bunch of bass traps and treat the corners of your room
Do-It-Yourself Bass Traps
In regard to cost, you’re going to end up spending a fair bit if you’re
looking to get acoustic bass traps, but there are DIY options that you
can consider if you’re willing to put in the time to acquire all the
necessary materials and know a little about carpentry.
As building bass traps is something that I don’t have much
experience with, I’ll refer to you to a couple of awesome guides that I
found, each of which you can read and download as .pdf files for
your own convenience by clicking here and here.
How to Build Your Own Music Studio
Additionally, here’s another great article about bass traps by Ethan
Winer that contains quite a bit of detailed information about the
different types of materials that you can use to build great bass traps
and how they should be applied for the best results possible.
Buying Bass Traps
Of course, if you’d rather not put in all that work or simply don’t
have the time to build your own bass traps, then my best advice
would be to simply save your money and look for bass trap kits on
Amazon or
In regards to size and dimension, the bare minimum size that you’ll
want for a bass trap (for an average-sized apartment) is 12x12x17,
which is fairly standard.
Acoustic Treatment 101
2. After the room modes have all been taken care of, the next order
of business will be toning down all those annoying flutter echoes
that occur from reflections off your front, side, and back walls.
How to Build Your Own Music Studio
If you’re not sure just how bad it really is, try clapping your hands
once really hard and listen to the “ring out” that is produced
The best way to treat those is by purchasing acoustic panels (like
this one) and lining them up around your room. However, as I'm
sure you have noticed, those panels aren't cheap. But don't worry, if
you are willing to learn, you can build your own.
For all of you DIY types, here’s a guide that will help you build great
homemade acoustic panels!
A Final Note About Treatment
Many of you may be thinking that the primary purpose of acoustic
treatment is to kill as many reflections as possible.
The actual goal is to reduce reflections so that they don’t interfere
with the direct sound.
Leaving you with only sound coming from your monitors and not
the rest of your room.
For more detailed information on acoustic treatment, check out Paul
White's article on the subject: here.
Monitor Placement
Phew! Now that we’ve got all the acoustic treatment out of the way,
let’s move onto monitor placement.
Without getting into any obscure theory or physics, I’m going to give
you some more hard-and-fast rules on where you can place your
monitors for the best results.
Rectangle vs Square Rooms
If your personal home studio doesn’t happen to be set up in a
rectangular shaped room, that’s not necessarily a problem, but if
you can move into a room that is more rectangular, I’d highly
recommend it!
The reason that rectangular rooms are superior to square rooms for
setting up a studio is that, in a square-shaped room, all the resonant
How to Build Your Own Music Studio
Rooms come in varying shapes and sizes, but more often than not,
most rooms tend to be rectangular in shape.
room modes in the room will more or less be in the same frequency
range. This will only exacerbate the acoustic problems and
monitoring issues that I described earlier.
Nonetheless, with sufficient and properly installed treatment, a
studio can sound just as good in a square room as it could in a
rectangular room.
Placing Your Monitors
Depending on the size of the room in question, your monitors
should ideally be placed in either one of the narrow sides of the
rectangular room.
Well, as I alluded to earlier in the guide, low frequency bass energy
tends to build up in “pockets,” and most of the time, these pockets
tend to be located in corners or very small, enclosed spaces.
How to Build Your Own Music Studio
Even with treatment applied, those reflections won’t disappear
completely, but will be better absorbed and distributed.
By placing your monitor closer to the corners, you will hear a more
even low-end response than if you were to place the monitors closer
to the middle of the room.
The Importance of Your Monitors
The type of monitor you’re using will determine the best placement.
If you happen to be using a pair of DynAudio BM6a’s, then you
would want to place them a little bit farther from the corner than
say, a pair of BM5a’s.
This is because the BM6a’s are better equipped to reproduce sounds in
the lower frequency spectrum.
A Tip for Placing Any Type of Speaker
Position your monitors about a foot and a half from the wall, hook
them up to your laptop or iPhone (via an eighth to a dual-quarterinch splitter that will allow you to hook up both monitors) and play
some of your favorite reference songs that you know by heart and
listen to how they sound on the monitors.
If something doesn’t sound right or if one of the songs you know has
great low-end detail that isn’t coming out right for some reason.
Then scoot the monitors back until things start sounding full.
Find The Sweet Spot
I’ve provided a diagram below that will give you a pretty good idea
of what I’m talking about.
How to Build Your Own Music Studio
Additionally, you’ll also want to make sure that both monitors are
facing towards your “sweet” spot, which will more or less be located
wherever you prefer to sit while mixing.
How to Build Your Own Music Studio
#3 - Audio Interfaces
Okay, so now that we’ve got acoustic treatment on our walls and our
monitors in place, it's time to figure out exactly how we're going to
hook up the computer to the monitors. This is where an audio
interface comes in.
There are several audio interfaces that you can choose from, but
picking the one that's best for you will depend upon your specific
If your goal is a simple setup that’ll allow you to record no more
than two sources at a time, then you can't go wrong with a PreSonus
Audiobox USB, which is one of the best audio interfaces that you can
get on a budget.
The controls for the interface are all easily accessible and the sound
is crystal clear.
If you are a pro, you will be looking for something a little more
advanced, such as the Babyface RME or the Apogee Duet (which is
for Mac users only).
Why Do I Need An Audio Interface?
Given the advances that we’ve made with computers and
technology, I wouldn’t be surprised if you actually could run a DAW
session without a problem using nothing but your computer’s builtin soundcard.
However, there are plenty of issues that you will likely run into if
you choose to go this route:
1. Not Enough Inputs:
Good luck if all you’ve got to start with is the interface that your
motherboard came with.
Most consumer-grade soundcards will come with two basic RCA
outputs and often aren’t made with pro audio applications in mind
that are designed for recording, mixing, and mastering.
How to Build Your Own Music Studio
Looking to record a band with your in-house setup?
2. Latency Issues:
Latency is usually an issue when using lower grade audio
But, first what is latency?
Latency is the amount of time that a signal is delayed due to a
series of processes and calculations that occur between the input
and the output of said signal.
In other words, every time you plug in your favorite hardware synth
or guitar to try and record it.
There will be a certain amount of latency (delay) that’s generated as
your CPU processes all the instructions necessary to detect, convert,
and route the signal to its final destination.
Latency and Recording
Latency isn’t exclusive to recording. Every time you insert a plugin
or synth, your CPU has to process a new set of instructions in order
to accommodate all those synths and plugins. So, the more plugins
you add, the more latency that can occur.
How to Build Your Own Music Studio
The latency you’ll experience with most consumer grade audio will
range from really bad to absolutely abysmal.
For this reason it’s always better to use a product that is actually
designed to manage latency without interfering with your mixing or
So, you owe it to yourself to get a decent audio interface that can get
the job done right from the start!
3. Sound Quality:
Unless your native soundcard is fully capable of performing AD/DA
conversion at the highest fidelity level possible, then you need an
audio interface that can provide you with consistently clean,
distortion-free audio.
Remember the rule I shared with you regarding nearfield monitors?
It applies here as well!
Having a proper interface will allow you to concentrate on
recording and mixing and less on constantly having to tweak menu
preferences in order to dial in the right sound.
There are also three different port types that audio interfaces use:
I. USB - As one of the most common connection ports to date. USB
(which is short for Universal Serial Bus) is widely supported by
many audio interface manufacturers.
However, as USB does rely on a shared network bus, any additional
USB devices that you hook up will also consume resources.
How to Build Your Own Music Studio
But if all you’re using are devices like thumb drives or a keyboard
and mouse, then you’ll be fine.
II. Firewire - Officially known as IEEE 1349, Firewire is a
proprietary connection interface developed by Apple during the late
1980's and the early 1990's.
It has become a popular choice for users desiring greater transfer
speeds between devices.
If you’re curious about how Firewire stacks up against USB 2.0
overall, a detailed article written by James Galbraith walks you
through a series of benchmark tests that he performed using USB,
Firewire 400, and Firewire 800.
III. PCI Express - Short for Peripheral Component Interconnect
Express, most users who use their PCI Express bus report far faster
speeds and lower latency than when using either USB or Firewire.
#4 – Microphones
For a proper home studio setup, microphones are usually
considered the most important pieces of equipment.
How to Build Your Own Music Studio
They are the very first link in the signal chain and by default, the
determining factor in the quality of a recorded song.
I would suggest that you take your time when choosing a
microphone. Making a mistake and saving $20 now can significantly
diminish the quality of recording you do going forward.
There are Three Different Kinds of Studio Microphones
1. Dynamic Microphones:
These microphones are ideal for those on a smaller budget.
They work based on the electromagnetic principle. This means that
they generate sound by transmitting vibrations through a magnetic
field via a metal coil.
As the metal coil responds to the vibrations that pass through the
diaphragm (the outer covering), it will displace the magnetic field in
proportion to the overall amplitude and frequency of the sound
wave, which will then be transmitted to the output leads.
Popular options include:
 Shure SM57
 Shure SM58
 Electrovoice RE20
Up next, condenser mic’s.
How to Build Your Own Music Studio
 Shure Beta 58
2. Condenser Microphones:
These are slightly more expensive than their dynamic counterparts.
Condenser microphones are well-known and long-revered by
veteran audio engineers.
Condensor Mic's are popular for the warm, full tones, color, and
character that are naturally imbued onto each instrument and voice
that pass through them.
How They Work (Technical Stuff)
The way they work is slightly different, as the main force that
governs the functioning of any condenser (also known as a
‘capacitor’ mic in the U.K.) is called the electrostatic principle.
Inside of a condenser microphone such as the Neumann U87, there
are two plates, a movable diaphragm and a fixed backplate. These
plates are charged positively and negatively in a respective fashion
in order to create a capacitor.
Whenever the movable plate vibrates because of an incoming sound,
the capacitance changes by increasing and decreasing as the plate
moves back and forth. Which causes the voltage to change inversely.
How to Build Your Own Music Studio
In order to transfer this change to the output line, a high-value
resistor is placed within the circuit that will again invert the voltage
as it passes through from the capacitor.
The resulting signal will need to be processed by an impedance
conversion amplifier in order to preserve the characteristics of the
Naturally, in order for this process to occur and for the signal to pass
at all, the movable plate, the backplate, and the resistor all need to
be fed a constant electrical charge. If that seems like a lot of
information for your brain to swallow; don’t sweat it!
What you need to understand about condenser microphones is that
they tend to pick up a lot more sound than dynamic mics. This is
because they produce such a high impedance signal (for more info
on impedance, read this article).
This isn’t to say that condenser mics are better than dynamic mics
(there are many excellent dynamic mics), but they are often the best
choices for adding a sort of “warmth” or even-harmonic distortion
that can make an otherwise dull recording sound pleasing and rich
in terms of timbre and tone.
Popular options include:
 AKG C214 Large Diaphragm Condenser Mic
 MXL V63M Condenser Studio Microphone
 Neumann TLM 102 Condenser Microphone
3. Ribbon Microphones
This tends to be thinner in older models and, therefore, outputs a
lower-level signal.
Because of this, older ribbon mics often need to be powered by a
step-up transformer, but newer models have undergone various
advances and no longer require the use of external power during a
recording session.
How to Build Your Own Music Studio
Ribbon microphones are built on the electromagnetic principle like
dynamic microphones. But where they differ is in the design of the
coil itself.
Popular options include:
 MXL 990 Ribbon Microphone
 MXL R144 Ribbon Microphone
 MXL R40 Ribbon Microphone
So What Kind of Microphone Should I Get?
When deciding what type of microphones you should pick up, the
first thing you should ask yourself is, “What am I going to record?”
It may seem like an obvious question, but if you’re only going to be
recording guitar and vocals in a small studio setup, then there’s no
point in purchasing high end pro mic's for the whole band.
How to Build Your Own Music Studio
In terms of cost, dynamics tend to be cheaper than condensers, but if
you’re going for high-quality results and a full sound, then including
a couple of nice condensers in your setup would be a great choice!
#5 - Plugins & Hardware Processors
Now that you’ve got all the essential ingredients you need to cook up
some hot tunes (and make a little money from your efforts), we can
start delving into some of the plugins you can use to spice up your
recordings and mixes.
Before I go any further, however, I’ll briefly explain what a “plugin”
is and why plugins are essential.
What Is a Plugin?
In the ubiquitously digitized audio and music industries, effect
plugins are as essential to an audio engineer as tools are to a
They allow adjustments and processing to be made to recorded
audio files.
This way they can be localized within the context of a mix in a way
that is both technically satisfactory and aesthetically enjoyable.
In other words, they allow you to intelligently strip down, tighten
up, fatten up, spread out, and literally transform the elements in
your mix so that you end up with a product that sounds as superbly
creative and professional as possible!
Of course, plugins can't make you a better audio engineer or
instantly turn a bad track into a good one.
However, in the right hands, plugins can make good tracks great.
How to Build Your Own Music Studio
Long Story Short …
Different Kinds of Plugins
1. EQ
How to Build Your Own Music Studio
EQ is shorthand for equalizer, which basically allows you to
manipulate the frequencies and amplitude of a signal by shaping it
using a number of different curves and filters, as seen on the next
EQ’s are very important tools for audio engineers because they
allow you to scoop out unwanted frequencies that would otherwise
clutter up and muddy your mix.
They can also boost desired frequencies in order to enhance the
overall tone and character of a particular sound.
If you’re not sure where to get started, here’s a link to a whole suite
of EQ plugins for you to get your hands on.
Most standard EQs (like the stock EQ you’ll find in your DAW) will
allow you to make very precise cuts and boosts.
Whereas other EQ types will work much like older analog EQ’s and
make “broad-stroke” changes to your audio for more of a dramatic
If you want to move beyond freeware and stock EQ options, then I
would suggest checking out sites like Universal Audio and FabFilter,
which feature great plugins to choose from!
2. Compressors
Aside from EQs, compressors are the second most commonly used
plugin in the audio industry.
But what are compressors for?
The difference between all these peaks is called dynamic range.
What compressors do is decrease dynamic range so that the overall
amplitude of a signal is more consistent.
How to Build Your Own Music Studio
If you look at the image below, you’ll see that there are several peaks
and dips at various levels in the waveform.
As you can see in the second image I’ve applied an extreme (ratio set
to 100:1; attack set to 7.6 ms, release set to 122 ms; gain reduction
of up to -21 dB) dose of compression to the signal.
How Can Compressors Help My Sound?
Compressors are not only used to reduce the dynamic range of a
signal but also to enhance the “punch” or fullness of a sound.
As the transients of a signal are squashed down, the content within
that signal that was previously less audible becomes more audible.
As a result, the sound becomes tighter and more focused.
How to Build Your Own Music Studio
Certain types of compressors can impart a certain sense of warmth
and harmonic distortion to a signal.
Which many engineers and musicians find to be pleasing, especially
when applied to low-frequency material like basses, synthesized
bass lines, or drums.
Free Compressor Plugins
In regards to freeware compressor plugins, there are tons of cool
sites that you’ll stumble upon with a Google search, but if you really
don’t know where to start, I recommend that you check out this fine
list of freeware compressors.
Other Plug-Ins And Effects
If you dig through some of these freeware sites, you’ll find all kinds
of plugins you can choose from, such as:
 Delays
 Reverbs
 Choruses
 Flangers
 Distortion units
 Bit-crushers
 Filters
There are tons of plugins available when you do a little searching!
Should you download all of them at once?
If you have ample space on your hard drive, go for it!
Pick the plugins that suit your style or fit your needs the best. Then
experiment with them as much as possible.
Find Some Plugins Here
With that being said, here’s a great plugin website you can start
How to Build Your Own Music Studio
My personal suggestion would be to limit yourself to one or two to
start off with so you can familiarize yourself with all the things those
plugins can do. Then add more later.
Now that you have all of your tools in place, it’s time to start
This guide was designed to show everyone who wants to make
music that you don't need to be rich to create great sound. You just
need to be passionate and be willing to spend some money to get
I was hesitant about getting started myself, but now I can say it was
the best decision I ever made.
Want More Information?
If you are looking for some more info, you can check out these
 How to Become and Audio Engineer
 What is a DAW?
 Entry Level Audio Engineering Jobs
How to Build Your Own Music Studio
 Stock Music 101
Or, If you can shoot me an email: [email protected]
Congratulations! If you have made it this far, it's pretty clear that
you really care about this stuff.
If that’s the case, you owe it to yourself to at least try. Who knows,
you may end up doing what you love for a living!
Your Home Studio Checklist
Below I've put together a little checklist to help you as you build
your home studio.
I've included the most important pieces of equipment you should
target to get started.
In each category I've listed a couple of options. Some are more
budget friendly than others, but all the items listed are high quality
and very popular for beginners in the industry.
How to Build Your Own Music Studio
I like to buy my equipment from Amazon. You can find this same gear
on different websites and in some stores, but I always find the best
prices on Amazon. Plus, I trust them and they have a great return
Studio Equipment Checklist
Fruityloops 10
Propellerhead Reason 6
Pro Tools 10
Alesis Monitor1 MKII Channel Studio Monitors
KRK Rokit 5 Studio Speakers with Two 18ft XLR Cables
Shure Beta 58 Dynamic Mic
AKG C214 Large Diaphragm Condenser Mic
Audio-Technica ATH-M50
Beyerdynamic DT 770 PRO
PreSonus AudioBox USB 2x2 USB
Focusrite Scarlett 2i4 USB
Alesis QX25 25-Key Advanced USB/MIDI
M-Audio Oxygen 25 25-Key USB MIDI
Thick Pyramid Style Acoustic Foam 2"
Auralex Studiofoam Designer Kit
Monitor Speakers
Audio Interface
MIDI Controller/Keyboard
How to Build Your Own Music Studio
Acoustic Treatment
Monitor Pads
Auralex Monitor Isolation Pads (decouplers)
Bass Trap
4 Corner Bass Trap
Computer (If you don't have one already)
ASUS Essentio CM6730-06 Desktop
Apple iMac 27-Inch Desktop
How to Build Your Own Music Studio