Guys and gals, we are literally living in the golden age for music creators and producers!
For all the negatives that came with the hyperproduction, it made producing great-sounding music available for virtually anyone.
As a result of that, gone are the days of “you get what you pay for”. For a relatively small amount of money you can buy equipment that produces higher quality sounds than professional studios 15 years ago. After all, sonically speaking, those early Britney Spears records didn’t sound bad, right?
Producer Confidential has been in the game for decades now, spearheading many of the chart-topping music trends. With our own eyes, we have seen the dizzying development of musical equipment and the incredible drop in prices.
Of course, you – our readers, are not naive. You know that everything comes at a price. More widely available affordable top-end music gear – more competition.
But, since our credo in the music biz has been solidified, we have developed a passion for helping out someone who is just starting out, because we understand the grind and hustle. That’s just our way of giving back!
And who knows, we may just be tutoring the next Producer Confidential wunderkind that will continue the great tradition of this secret web of producers that is responsible for much of the #1 hits in the past decades!
The 4 Elements
You know how the 4 basic elements are earth, wind, water, and air? Yeah, that’s all fine and good, unless you literally live and breathe music. In that case, the 4 basic elements look very different.
So, this intro will serve as a “Basic Studio Equipment 101 (808 maybe? See what we did there…Hehe) for Dummies”.
The 4 categories you need to think about are:
- Sound sources
- Sound capturing
- Utility gear
- Sound storage
Oh, btw, if you are not a total newbie, skip this part and join us in the next paragraph.
Ok, so, before we jump in, let us explain these 4 elements and see what they consist of.
There are two subtypes of sound sources. The sound producing sources and sound reproducing sources.
Sound producing sources can be whatever you feel is most important to you. It can be a MIDI Keyboard, your voice, an acoustic guitar, etc…Literally everything. After all, we need some sounds to record, right?
Sound reproducing sources are what you use to playback the already recorded sound. So, what we usually need in this respect are headphones and studio monitors.
Ok, we know that you can sing like a hummingbird, but we need something to capture that sound. In this category falls stuff like microphones and your audio interface. If you don’t know what an audio interface is, let us explain first…It is an external sound card that enables you to capture higher quality sound, it allows you to connect different instruments to your computer and amplifies the signal that you are recording.
In order to make your computer, sound card, microphone and monitors connected, you need some specific cables.
Since some of the cables you need come with the devices (e.g. the cable you use to connect the sound card with your computer), we are only going to focus on the stuff you usually need to get separately which are in this case the XLR cable and the ¼ cable.
Also, you need a mic stand, in case you are to mic a certain instrument. A pop filter is also a must since it makes your vocals sound instantly more professional.
We are going to assume that you have some sort of computer. It Doesn’t matter if it’s a Mac, PC, a laptop, or whatever.
What you need to have in order to store the sound our source produces (MIDI keyboard, guitar, vocal, or whatever) to our hard drive is the DAW. The DAW stands for “Digital Audio Workstation”. It is basically the hub that receives all the signals from the audio interface, processes them, and sends them to your sound reproduction devices (studio monitors or headphones). The DAW is what allows you to record sound on your hard drive, it allows you to use different plug-ins to mix your sound, and allows you to use even some digital VST instruments.
Now that we got that out of the way, let’s get to the meat and potatoes of today’s discussion – the home studio for under $200. We have carefully cherry-picked the options you have on the market and came up with a great “bang for your buck” budget home studio configuration.
Under $150 Home Studio Setup
Just a disclaimer – We’re not sponsored by Behringer, OK? It’s just that they are making decent equipment at ridiculously low prices.
Ok, let’s go through our 4 basic home studio elements within this specific price point:
- Sound sources:
- midiplus AKM322 MIDI Keyboard Price: $47
+ Having a MIDI controller in your studio is just a must, and this one is an incredible product, especially at this pricing point.
– The main downside is – no drum pads to bang on.
- PeohZarr Headphones Price: $13. 99
PC Genie: The reason we are featuring a pair of headphones instead of studio monitors is that we want to eliminate the effect of an untreated room. The way you perceive the sound your monitors make is hugely influenced by your room. If your room is untreated, a nice pair of headphones will save you some headaches.
+ With these, you are getting some decent noise-canceling properties. Very important – you don’t want the sound of your click track bleeding into your recording!
– As with all cheap headphones (all headphones for that matter!), some frequencies are hyped and others depressed, but that’s just the reality of mixing with headphones.
- Sound capturing:
- Behringer BA 85A Dynamic Microphone Price: $24.99
PC Genie: You may be asking yourself why did we put in the dynamic microphone as our choice instead of a condenser one? Well, the price is the obvious one. It is easier to get a good dynamic mic at a low price than a condenser. Besides that, we are assuming, since you are going for the cheapest confo, that your room is not acoustically treated? Well, in that case, you don’t want a super sensitive mic that picks up all the bad stuff that an untreated room sports.
+ This is a great example of how more expensive does not mean better for every situation. A good, robust dynamic mic like BA 85A will make sure to pick up the goodies only and leave all the bad stuff out.
– Lacks the finer details that you would in a scenario of recording in a well-treated room.
- Behringer U-Phoria UMC 22 Audio Interface Price: $65.29
This one’s a total superstar, given a price range.
+ It’s Midas mic preamp allows for great quality sound capturing. The input you have here is both an XLR input and an instrument input. You also have the headphones output, as well as the monitor outputs. The coolest thing here is that you have the 48V phantom power, so you can connect a condenser mic, as well as the dynamic one. The fact that it’s connected to your computer via USB makes it also highly portable.
– The main drawback is that it records at a 16-bit rate only. Also, it features only 1 mic preamp.
- Utility Gear:
- XLR Male to Female Cable Price: $7.99
+ An incredibly important part of your home studio setup. Helps you connect the mic to your audio interface.
– Not the highest quality.
- ¼ Cable Price: $5.48
+ This one is crucial for connecting your instruments to your audio interface.
– Not the highest quality.
- YOTTO Microphone Pop Filter Price: $6.99
+ It’s just a piece of plastic with some fabric attached to it for God’s sake…Of course it works great!
– See above.
PC Genie: Pop filter is used to smoothen out the explosive letters we sing, such as B, or P. It makes the sound more even, pleasant to the ear, and professional. If you do not have extra spare bucks for a pop filter, you can use your mom’s old socks to put in front of the mic. And no, it’s not a “YO MAMA” joke – it really works.
- Tripod Microphone Stand Price: $17.54
+ Good, reliable mic stand.
– What can go wrong here, Jeez? It’s not rocket science, isn’t it Mr. Musk? Maybe we shouldn’t mention him with Mr. Bezos’ affiliate links…
- Sound storage:
- Reaper DAW Price: $0
+ This is an incredible DAW that was made for producers by producers. Absolutely hassle-free and highly intuitive. You can get it for free and use it that way as long as you want. You can also buy it (if you want) for only 60 bucks. If you stay in this game for a longer period of time, we encourage you to support the incredible folks at Reaper and buy this fantastic product.
– Cons? No cons here, swear to God. You have to try it to believe it!
Clickbait allegations starting in 3, 2, 1…
See? We did it after all. We are relieved that the title was not clickbait, after all.
All things aside, we are very glad to have shared our brains with you in the hopes of you kickstarting your musical journey. The better gear will come as time passes by, so the thing that stays are the songs! After all, we listen to music because of the songs, right? Better yet, we are living in an era in which an under $200 home studio equipment can sound better than some major-label debut albums of the decades passed. Be sure to reap the benefits of this!
In the meantime, all of us at PC have your back, and you can always come here among these pages and find some cool tips that will help you advance your music career! Peace!