My wife can sing. I mean, seriously…my wife can really sing!
Her lifelong dream has always been to sing so I, a web designer and graphic designer (with some past basic musical experience in high school) embarked upon getting her recorded at home. Why? Because the recording studios nearby want around $45-100 per hour to record her. I figured I’ll invest $500 into this venture and record all I want without worrying about time constraints and studio fees. So this article will go into detail about the recording equipment I purchased to get the job done down ‘n dirty. I performed about 20 hours of research into the equipment in order to pick the best equipment at the best (aka lowest) price.
First, here are some Basic Requirements for Recording at Home with a Computer
- You must have a computer already. Duh. It must be a relatively new computer with a Firewire port. Mine is a $500 Compaq Presario SR1710nx with 1gb RAM, 3400+ Sempron AMD processor, an integrated sound card and a 100gb hard drive running Windows XP Home. This was more than enough but obviously anything faster won’t hurt.
- You need to know something about music. At least understand what an octave, key signature, and vibrato is. I was a cellist in Orchestra and this knowledge proved to be pretty good. It’ll be hard to record if you can’t express what you need.
- You need to be technically savvy. That is, you should probably be savvy enough to open an application and make your way around without much help. But if you do need help, you understand there is such a thing as message boards, Google Groups and Bit Torrent.
Buy the Recording Equipment for your Home Studio
Enough BS. Let’s get to the home studio recording equipment I bought. I found this home studio equipment by visiting and posting tons of requests at Message Boards across the internet. The most useful by far turned out to be Studio Central, by the way.
This was the best winning vocal microphone at the lowest price I could find. Everyone tried to sell me on the Shure SM57 for $99, but I wanted something that could capture some serious crisp, detail in the home recording studio. This microphone produced that crispness. You need to be careful though, because it can capture too much detail. For example, my wife was listening to the music through her headphones and the damn microphone actually picked up the music from her headphones.
One thing I learned quickly about Studio Projects B1 microphone, though, was that you can’t really hold it very long (needs a mic stand) and it needs to be kept 9 inches from the mouth or it becomes overwhelmed or ‘muffled’ (my term). The crispness lives around the 9-12 inch distance.
Also, make sure your home recording studio is sound-proofed and ready to record. This leads me to my next 3 basic purchases…
My wife got tired quickly and I purchased this microphone stand. I went for the cheapest microphone stand but it turned out to be great. This helped her sing even better since she was standing upright and could project easier. Of course, if you plan on recording instruments, you may want to invest in a microphone stand that is adjustable for about the same price.
My wife had this habit of bringing the microphone really close to her mouth. I mean, like, 1 inch from it. I blame this on that darn MTV. In the recording sessions I could clearly here the muffliness (I made that up) every time she got close to it. So I got a 6″ Pop Filter to kill 2 birds with one stone. Firstly, it kept her at least 9 inches away which vastly improved the vocal recording. Secondly, it removed all the B’s and P’s and added even more crispness to the vocal recording at home.
I admittedly didn’t see this coming. The Studio Projects B1 microphone came with a microphone holder, a storage bag and even some extra shock absorbing rings, but it did not come with a very necessary XLR Cable. We got the 10′ XLR microphone cable because I didn’t need her being too far from the already-quiet PC.
Ok, I’m cheating here. These headphones came free with the Presonus Firebox you’ll read about later. Zzounds was running a promotion and I jumped on it. I’m pretty sure that promo is over, though. The headphones are pretty basic and sound decent. And hell, they were free. For the record, though, they’re $29.95 but any pair will work for now.
I’m going to catch heat for this…but I simply couldn’t afford the $400 on a decent monitor. And I don’t have the space either. So instead, I monitor the home recordings using the free AKG 55 headphones. Then I export the file as a WAV and listen to the results on the computer. While recording, my wife has a separate Headphone that plugs into my computer that plays the tracks using Windows Media. I know….ghetto. But it works fine for now.
Aha! Up until now, you’ve probably been asking yourself “What the hell is he plugging the Microphone into to record?” Well, it’s a PreSonus Firebox 6×10 FireWire Recording Interface. Here’s how it works.
- Plug your microphone into one side of the XLR cable.
- Plug the other end of the XLR cable to the Presonus Firebox.
- Plug the Presonus firebox into your computer’s Firewire port (install the driver and Cubase software first dude!).
- Press the “phantom power” button.
- Launch Cubase LE (comes free with the Presonus Firebox).
- Make money from your future recording career.
This machine is beautiful, effective and extremely professional and well built. It installed perfectly and started working flawlessly. For recording vocals at home, the Presonus Firebox was a perfect choice with the Studio Projects B1 microphone. But just in case you aren’t sold, check out the excellent video tutorial of the Presonus Firebox in a real studio.
Presonus Firebox comes with Cubase LE, professional recording software for free. This saves you several hundred dollars in comparison to the SX version. Cubase LE is perfectly capable of getting the job done but you’ll need to learn it first. There’s a couple of sites out there on Google that can help, but having a book to guide you is indispensable. So get off your butt and learn the right way, producer-dude! Click here to see the books they have available at Amazon or check the ones below. Don’t stress the difference in versions…the books will cover the basics and once you upgrade (you will, trust me) it’ll help you learn the extra features in the heavyweight versions.
Final Tips for Getting the Home Recording Studio Right
- Please, please please. I beg you…install the drivers for the Presonus first. Then install Cubase LE. Then plug in the Firewire cable. Don’t you dare let Windows try and install the drivers for such a sensitive piece of equipment. I will personally show up at your door and swat you in the face with a black leather glove like a proper Englishman. Wait…I’m not English.
- Make sure you turn on the Phantom Power or you won’t hear squat.
- Have fun and use the forums at Studio Central to learn more. Everyone there is very helpful as long as you put some detail into your post and use a good, descriptive subject for your post.
- Make sure you’re sound-proofing the room correctly.
Final Cost for the Home Recording Studio: $473.75
Told ya! Now go save some money and make your dreams come true. By the way, the recording of my wife’s voice at the very beginning of this article was made with this home recording studio within 20 minutes of setting everything up. I still have a lot to learn but I’m very happy with the quality of the equipment and the great service and prices I received from Zzounds.com. Enjoy the “Home Recording Studio” ride.