The Cheapest Basic Home Studio Setup

Are you totally new to the recording game? Do you really just want to get started with the minimum spend possible? Well there are options for you.

Yes, it’s great to have high end equipment that costs thousands but we all have to start somewhere. There is plenty very good, affordable gear out there to get you putting out music right away. Read on to find out exactly what you need to get going.

The Five Basic Home Studio Essentials

To get your basic home studio started you will need these five key things:

  1. A computer
  2. A DAW
  3. An audio interface*
  4. A microphone
  5. Headphones

 *You could get away without an audio interface but I would recommend including one. There are very affordable, good interfaces available and they will allow more flexibility in what you can record. 

First of all I want to be totally clear that you are unlikely to get commercial quality results using the cheapest, most basic home studio setup. But you will be able to get good results. Technology has advanced so much in recent years that you can get very impressive results from low end equipment. And once you’ve started you can always upgrade, expand and grow your setup at the same time as learning your craft.

An Example of a Cheap Home Studio Setup for less than £500

As mentioned, there’s plenty of options out there so I quickly did some research to see what I could put together at a decent price. I managed to find decent options for all five key elements that came in at a total of just over £400. (I’ll be dealing in British money as that’s where I’m from but, if everything works as it should, the links in this article will take you to your relevant Amazon website to see the costs in your own currency).

The Computer

Asus Laptop

The computer is the most important part as it is the centrepiece of your basic home studio, it’s therefore also the most expensive and worth investing in. I found this Asus Notebook for around £250. It has an i3 CPU and 4gb RAM which isn’t super powerful but will be enough to start.

It may well be that you already own a computer, in which case you’ve saved about half your budget already!

The DAW

Without a doubt, the most commonly recommended DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) for absolute beginners on a budget is Reaper. It comes with a free 60 day trial. If/when you choose to buy, a Reaper license is just $60 (Just put aside one dollar a day for the trial period and you’ve got the money to buy it at the end!). It has everything you need to record, edit and mix your own stuff and is easy to use. It also supports VST plugins so you expand on it’s capabilities as you go.

For more info on Reaper, click here.

There are other DAWs, of course, and most will come at a higher price. You can always choose to upgrade to something like ProTools, Logic Pro, Ableton Live, Studio One or FL Studio when you’ve developed, and saved, more.

I personally use FL Studio as it is capable of recording, editing, mixing and mastering. But FL also has amazing functionality for programming and sound design, which is something I’m also heavily into. Everyone has different opinions on the best DAW for them so do check out the options and find the one which is right for you.

The Audio Interface

BEHRINGER XENYX 302USB

This is actually the first interface I had and used quite happily for a year or so. It’s a Behringer 302USB Xenyx 5 Input Mixer which has an XLR or 1/4″ socket allows you to plug in a microphone or guitar lead. It’s cheap and cheerful but it does the job.

The Microphone

As with so much audio technology there are almost limitless options out there with a huge range of cost and quality. Microphones are no exception, in fact they’re probably one of the bits of home studio gear with the most options available. At the most basic level you could get something like this for twenty quid. It’s not likely to be great quality but it should be enough to get you started.

One of my first mics was the Behringer C-1 Studio Condenser Microphone, which is around £30-£40 but is also one that requires phantom power so you will need to also invest in that.

As you get more of an idea of what you want to record and how you want to record it you will want to look deeper into the options available. Mics are a very important part of the recording chain and you will find a tonne of information online. Do your research before buying to be sure you are getting what you need.

The Headphones

Sennheiser HD 205-II Studio Grade DJ Headphones (Black/Grey)

A great pair of starter headphones are the Sennheiser HD205s. They come in at under £40 and are very comfortable and great sounding. I used a pair for a few years before upgrading to the HD380 pros (which I will soon be upgrading to HD650s).

Extras

There will always be other bits and bobs you need, including things like guitar leads and power supplies. So be prepared to spend a little on these kind of things. But even with those, the example setup I’ve described about comes in at around £450. If your budget is less than that you can look at buying second hand and take on board some other tips, as I’ve outlined in this article: Home Studio Gear on a Budget.

How Did YOU Get Started?

So that’s one example of a cheap, basic home studio set up for the total beginner. Do you have any plans for something similar? Or have you already set up your first home studio on a budget?

If so, please do let me know what you’ve been doing in the comments and, as always, I appreciate your thoughts and feedback on this article.


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