Asking how much it costs to build a home studio seems like a simple question to ask. Unfortunately, it’s not a simple question to answer. There are so many things you have to consider before putting a certain price tag on building a home studio, from the hardware to acoustic treatments.
Many find that the best practice is to purchase what they can afford at the time, even with a lower budget, and expand as they go. However you go about it, the quality of your equipment should still be a priority. This is a quality over quantity argument. It’s better to have fewer high-quality items than a room full of low-quality equipment that produces low-quality sound.
First, let’s discuss the cost of the main hardware and equipment needed and then the price of acoustic treatment so you can get a ballpark idea of the cost of creating a home recording studio.
What Equipment Will You Need and What Will Be the Cost to You?
The Computer, Audio Interface, and DAW Software
The heart of all your recording and mixing will be done on a computer or laptop. If you still have a fairly new system, you won’t need to purchase a brand new computer so you can save a good chunk of money this way since the computer is the most expensive thing you will invest in.
I strongly advise against using a tablet or cell phone to record and mix, but this may be a way that you can also save money if you think these will be sufficient enough for your project.
However, if you do need to purchase a new computer or laptop, there are specific qualities to look for such as the CPU and the RAM. The higher the number is, the better for you. The CPU will decide how fast your computer will run and how well the computer will multi-task. The RAM is your computer’s short-term memory.
Believe it or not, you don’t want to skimp on the brand you choose. Audio Mentor has a great list of the top 10 computer brands that work extremely well with recording and mixing music.
The top three brands that Audio Mentor mentions are the MacBook Pro, the Dell Inspiron, and the Asus ROG Strix. The MacBook Pro usually ranges from $500 (used) to over $1000. The Dell Inspiron typically ranges from $400 to $900. Lastly, the Asus ROG Strix is priced as well over $1,000. It’s one of the more expensive computers you can choose but well worth it.
You can also save a few bucks by purchasing a used computer. The only issue is to make sure you know the shape it’s in before buying because people can be sneaky when selling used items, especially online.
The audio interface is how you connect your instruments to your computer. It records the music you make and stores it on your computer so you can mix it later when you’re ready. When purchasing your audio interface, it’s important to examine the ports and operating system compatibility to make sure it will work with the computer or laptop you are using to record and mix.
Most audio interfaces come with the DAW (digital audio workshop) software so you shouldn’t worry about buying them separately–which will cost you much more.
Another major feature you want to look for when buying your audio interface is latency. Latency is the delay of sound between the music or vocals and the playback you hear in your headphones. Zero latency is much preferred, so you aren’t distracted and confused by the delay.
As discussed in the previous guide to minimalist vocal recording, there are a few other features you may want to invest in depending on what instruments you’ll be using and the type of microphone you purchase.
Sweetwater Sound has a great list of audio interfaces and the best brands to choose from. The Behringer U-Phoria is one that stands out among the others. It has several great features and includes its own DAW (digital audio workshop) software. This model isn’t pricey at all since it only ranges from $20 to $40.
Studio headphones are a must for not only listening to your music to mix but for the actual recording process. These aren’t like ordinary headphones that you listen to music with. With studio headphones, you can hear all the ins and outs of your recording so you can properly mix it.
Studio monitors, which resemble normal speakers, are another option but I prefer high-quality headphones. In most cases, headphones run cheaper than studio monitors, and they are easier to listen to your recording without any outside distraction.
Open-back headphones are the most commonly used studio headphones for the actual mixing process, which is when you will need headphones the most. They let a bit of the sound escape, without complete noise isolation, so frequencies don’t build up.
You will want closed-back headphones for the recording process since they have complete noise isolation. This is so you can’t hear distracting sounds and other instruments while you are recording your vocals or a specific instrument. They are great if you record as a band or have multiple people playing at once.
But, for now, for cost-saving measures, we will focus on open-back headphones to get you started. Wire Realm has a substantial list of the best open-back headphone brands. For me, picking out the brand of headphones is one of my toughest choices since there are several excellent brands.
My favorite brand from the list is good old, reliable Sony studio headphones. Depending on the brand of Sony headphones, they range from $40 to over $100.
Microphones and Microphone Stands
There are so many different types of microphones to choose from, and it’s not a piece of equipment you want to skimp on. The two main types of microphones are dynamic microphones and condenser microphones. The kind you choose for your home recording studio depends on what you want your result to be.
Often, people buy multiple microphones for different instruments and one specifically for vocals. As a beginner, just one will do, and only purchasing one will save you money.
Condenser microphones use polarizing plates that vibrate when sound hits them. This makes them sensitive to any sound. Music Repo has a great comprehensive guide and list of the best condenser microphones to purchase.
The Behringer brand is one of the best brands for condenser microphones that I’ve dealt with. There are numerous models and the price usually ranges from $50 to $100.
Dynamic microphones use a coil that hangs in a magnetic field, instead of polarizing plates. Sound vibrates the coil producing a very strong pitch. E-Home Recording has the best list of brands for dynamic microphones.
Shure, as a brand, stands out for dynamic microphones. This brand of microphone ranges from $40 to over $100. They are a bit pricier than the Behringer condenser microphones.
Microphone stands are a must so you don’t have to worry about dropping your microphone while recording. Luckily, microphone stands are fairly cheap, and the brand isn’t too much of an issue. You can purchase one as low as $20!
There are other items you may want to invest in such as pop filters and shock mounts. Thankfully, both of these run pretty cheaply as well, and any brand will work. Pop filters usually range from $5 to $20. Shock mounts usually range from $10 to $40.
How Much Will Acoustic Treatment Cost You?
Acoustic Foam and Acoustic Panels
Besides your computer, this is where you will spend the majority of your money. Acoustically treating your home recording studio can get pricey depending on how much space you have to cover with the treatments.
These acoustic treatments can be used for both your walls and your ceiling. They are mostly used to stop unnatural reverb and echoing, caused by too much reflection bouncing around your room.
Acoustic foam is a much cheaper option than actual acoustic panels but you will need more of it. You don’t want to purchase cheap quality acoustic foam. Make sure the foam is fire-rated so it doesn’t catch on fire too easy or spread any flames too easily. This is because when the sound hits the foam it converts to heat.
The easiest way to purchase acoustic foam is in twelve-packs. Price can vary on the different types of acoustic foam from wavy to an egg crate style of foam. This twelve-packs range in price from $20 to $60.
Acoustic panels can be much pricier since most of these panels are made of fiberglass. With that being said, you don’t need to purchase as many since acoustic panels absorb sound much better than the foam. So it will take far fewer acoustic panels in your room than acoustic foam. They work better than foam, as well. Six pieces of acoustic panels usually range from $100 to $200.
While the acoustic panels are there to prevent too much reflection, bass traps or bass absorbers will absorb lower frequencies, such as the bass notes in music.
Bass bounces around much harder and stronger than higher frequencies so it is something you want to nip in the bud as soon as possible or you’ll end up with poor quality sound while recording.
Bass traps go best in the corners of your room, and most are individually designed in a triangle shape, so they fit perfectly. This is because bass builds up mostly in corners. Much like acoustic treatment, bass traps convert the sound waves of the bass notes to energy.
Bass trap prices depend greatly on the density of the foam and quality. Usually, they are sold in four- or 8-packs. These traps can range from $20 to $100.
Soundproofing and acoustic treatment are often confused with each other. Soundproofing makes sure noise from your home recording studio doesn’t escape into other rooms. It also stops outside noises from seeping in to distract you and prevents this outside noise from ending up in your recording.
Soundproofing isn’t necessarily a priority, depending on your situation. If you are lucky enough not to have to worry about outside noises in other rooms from family members or heaters, then you can skip the soundproofing. You also should take into consideration whether the noise coming from inside your home recording studio could bother family members and friends.
If you do choose to soundproof your home recording studio, it can be expensive, depending on the size of your room. This can cost up to $2,000 for the equipment and professional labor, if not more.
Creating a home recording studio can get quite expensive in the beginning. It can cost you thousands of dollars if you are starting from the ground up. This doesn’t take into account any instruments you may want to purchase or courses you may want to take to enhance your skills or learn new ones.
If you have an extremely tight budget, you don’t need to stress yourself out too much over the cost of everything. You can use your current computer or laptop and buy only the basics to get you started. You can check out pawn shops for second-hand items. There are even free DAW software trials you can look into. Many Apple operating systems come with free DAW software of their own.
There are also several hacks you can research to cut your acoustic treatment and soundproofing budget down. You can use rugs and homemade panels to fight bad sound quality. Don’t let price tags discourage you from following your passion in the music industry or even creating a fun-filled hobby.