Regardless if you’ve just begun rapping or already have invested a decent amount of time into your craft, one thing is for sure; you’re going to need your own affordable home recording studio setup at some point and time. And this guide is going to be the perfect blueprint on guiding you through how to accomplish just that!
You Don’t Need The Doctor
For many, the thought of having their own recording studio is daunting and quite intimidating. I mean, after all, isn’t that something only the professional gurus like Dr. Dre are supposed to have? And building your own recording studio is going to cost like 10’s of thousands of dollars right?
You see, once upon a time that was the case but now due to the evolution of technology in this “digital age”, the barrier to entry has drastically been reduced and it’s become the norm for rappers to have their own affordable home recording studio setup.
Here are a few of the major reasons why it’s important to have your own recording studio.
- Having your own studio gives you the ability to spend as much time as your little heart desires to work on your songs without the time restraints you would face recording at someone else’s studio.
- This also provides you with the freedom and flexibility to experiment with your voice to improve your delivery and get the best vocal takes possible.
- Recording at someone else’s studio can also make you quite nervous especially your first studio session which can negatively affect your performance. And to be quite honest, not all studios have good vibes and there is no place like home.
- Also, the experience gained by recording in your own studio will make you more confident and comfortable if you decide to record in someone else’s studio later on.
Having your own studio can really boost your productivity in the following ways.
- As your working on your songs you can quickly record your vocal takes into your software of choice just to get your ideas down so you don’t forget them later. And later on you can come back to them to polish them up if needed.
- Using a DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) which is basically the software you will use to record your vocals, will also allow you to loop sections of a song that you’re working on so you don’t have to keep rewinding and fast-forwarding the instrumental to get where you want to be.
- having your own affordable home recording studio setup will also make it much easier to collaborate with other rappers, producers, and musicians. Need someone to hop on that 2nd verse of your song? No problem! Simply export the current rough draft of the song and e-mail it to them. No more waiting for the engineer from the studio to “find the time” to send you a special version.
- Even if you’re not to the level of writing your own songs just yet, having your own recording studio can make practicing and developing your rap skills so much smoother and fun! For example, are you trying to learn your favorite rappers flow? Load it into your recording software and loop the section you’re trying to learn.
- Trying to nail down your 4, 8 and 16 count? Record yourself practicing over an instrumental and play it back to judge how well you did. Simple!
- Oh, one more major advantage of having your own studio…It can save you a lot of money! If you get good enough at recording your own vocals, you can skip paying for studio recording time at someone else’s studio and just send your vocals off to be mixed. Or if you’re feeling courageous you can even try to mix your own songs within the software you used to record them! How awesome is that!
- Even if you still record the final version of your song at someone else’s studio it’s still likely going to save you money because you will be much more prepared for your session which will result in it taking you less time.
- Having your own affordable home recording studio setup can also make you money! You don’t have to be a Grammy-nominated mixing engineer, with a wall full of platinum plaques to charge a local rapper who’s trying to record their first songs.
Speaking of money, earlier I said that a recording studio doesn’t have to cost you 10’s of thousands of dollars. So how much total would it cost you to set up your own home studio? Drum roll please…… less than $500 bucks!
Now just for clarification, that price doesn’t include a computer. This setup is assuming you already have some type of computer. But if you don’t already have a computer, I’ve already written an article that breaks down the best laptop for recording vocals.
But If you’re still a bit skeptical of that figure and think it’s not possible to have a professional recording studio for that cheap then I want you to remember this wise saying.. “What’s most important is not what you have, but what you do with what you have”. Remember that!
The Deception of Gear
I’ve recorded in studios that had around $80,000.00 worth of equipment that was churning out garbage-quality recordings and mixes. Do you know why? Because the person working the equipment didn’t know what they were doing. In most cases the gear usually isn’t the problem, it’s the person operating it.
Here’s one last example and then I will end my rant; scouts honor. If I were to blindfold you and play you one vocal take that was recorded on two mics at the same time. One mic is a $50 mic and the other mic is a $5,000 mic. I’m willing to bet you will struggle to identify which recording was done with the $5,000 mic because it’s not going to sound “$5,000” better. They will likely sound slightly different but they’re both going to sound great!
With this little setup, which I’m calling “The Poor Mans Recording Studio” it’s 100% possible to get professional-sounding vocal recordings on a budget that is tight as spandex! Remember the key is learning how to work the equipment properly!
But here’s how you can pull it off by only getting the bare essentials of what you will really need without compromising any quality.
Affordable Home Recording Studio Setup – 2023
Audio interface – PreSonus Studio 24c 2×2 – $129.99
The first thing you need is an audio interface. Basically, your audio interface is the hub for your recording studio. It’s how all of your components such as your microphone, speakers, and headphones connect to your computer using one simple USB cable. Your audio interface also allows you to easily control your volume levels for all of these components as well.
Using an audio interface such as the PreSonus Studio 24c 2×2 gives you low-latency monitoring. This allows you to hear yourself in real time while you’re recording.
The PreSonus Studio 24c 2×2 will be perfect for your needs. It’s also going to power your microphone using what is known as “48V Phantom Power“. Basically, this is a built-in amplifier that’s going to give your high-quality microphone the juice it needs to perform. You need to make sure the +48V switch is turned on, on the front of your audio interface for your mic to work. Remember that!
It also has two input channels on the front and each input can use either XLR (mic cables) or TRS 1/4 (line in instrumentals cables for guitar, etc.) You’re likely not going to need the second input unless you need to record a podcast with a guest or something.
This interface will also come with a USB cable which you will need to connect to your computer.
On the back, on the far right is where you will connect your headphones which you will be using while you’re recording.
To the left are your Main Outputs. This is where you would connect your speakers also known as “studio monitors”.
And to the left of that are your MIDI in and Out connections for hooking up Midi Keyboards which are used for making beats on your computer.
All you need to get started are headphones but in my efforts to get you up and running while spending as little as possible, I’m leaving speakers and midi keyboards off the list but don’t panic! I will include a suggestion for both at the end of this article in case you want to splurge a bit!
Microphone – MXL V67G – $79.00
The next step to having an affordable home recording studio setup is purchasing a quality microphone. There are many different types of microphones but the type of microphone you will need is called a Condenser microphone with a cardioid pattern. This is the most common type of microphone for recording vocals.
The cardioid pattern means it’s a directional mic. Basically, this means that the mic is only going to pick up what’s in front of it while canceling out what’s behind it. This is really important, especially because most of us are recording in our bedrooms, and having this function on the mic will allow you to face the back of the mic towards anything you don’t want to capture in your recording such as computer fan noise, A.C. vents, windows that my leak sound from the outside like traffic, or children playing, etc…
With that being said, always make sure you’re recording in the front of the microphone. It’s a very common mistake for beginners to record into the back of the mic and wonder why their recordings sound like hot garbage. Usually, if there is a logo on the mic, it’s on the front of the microphone so make sure you’re rapping into that side of the mic.
The MXL V67G is the perfect mic for our “Poor Mans Recording Studio”. There are mics that are cheaper, but you can’t beat the recording quality of this mic in this price range. If we’re going to splurge on our shoe-string budget it needs to be on a good mic! It’s going to be the biggest contributor to how well your recordings actually sound!
XLR Mic Cable – $12.49
Now we need to connect the microphone to the XLR Mic input on the front of the audio interface so you will need what is known as an XLR cable to do that. That’s pretty much all you need to know about this. Nothing fancy or sexy about it. It’s just a cable!
Mic Stand (floor) Option 1- $31.87
You are also going to need a mic stand. Now there are two main types of mic stands I recommend. The first one is a Tripod Boom Mic Stand. This is a floor-standing mic stand that will give you the flexibility to adjust the height of your microphone to fit your needs perfectly. Regardless if you wish to record while sitting down at your computer or while standing up, this mic stand has got you covered.
Mic Stand (desk) Option 2- $36.99
If you prefer to record sitting down at your desk then you’re going to love the Tonor adjustable suspension mic stand. This mic stand clamps to your desk and I use this thing every single day and I love it because it’s never in my way. I can easily move it away from my face when I’m not using it, plus it doesn’t take up any extra space in my studio.
Shockmount – $8.27
All you have to do in order to connect your mic to your mic stand is attach what is known as the “Shock Mount“, which is small metal or plastic piece which screws onto the bottom of the microphone.
This device separates the microphone from the mic stand which helps prevent anything that bumps into the mic stand from being picked up while recording.
It has a little “elbow/arm” looking thingamajigger that protrudes off one side which is what you screw onto the threads of the arm of the mic stand.
So you first connect the shock mount to the bottom of the microphone. Then you connect the elbow of the shock mount to the threading at the end of the arm of the mic stand. It kinda sounded like we were building a human being for a moment there!
Pop Filter – $13.99
Something else you’re going to need is a pop filter. This is also known as a windscreen or a popper stopper. If you’re really scraping the bottom of the financial barrel and don’t mind being a domestic abuse victim then you could make one of these by stealing your mom’s pantyhose and using a clothes hanger.
But ain’t nobody got time for that! Go ahead and cop one of these which easily connects to the arm of the mic stand by a screw-on dohickey so that the front of the screen covers up the front of your mic.
The purpose of a pop filter is that it greatly reduces what is known as plosives. Plosives are basically large bursts of air that are generated when you say words that begin with “Puh”, “Buh”, “Duh”, “Huh”, types of sounds. If you’ve ever heard wind noise being picked up on a video camera’s audio recording it’s essentially the same thing.
A simple pop filter will greatly reduce any plosives from sneaking their way into your vocal recordings and it makes a huge difference in the quality of your vocal recordings. Don’t skimp on this! Trust me!
Isolation Shield – $32.99
Another cheap but powerful addition to your affordable home recording studio setup is using something known as an Isolation shield. This will act as a miniature recording booth because it separates the microphone from the rest of the room which helps with preventing unwanted noise from the room.
And the Penypeal Mic Isolation Shield is perfect for this!
You may notice that it comes with a built-in “pop filter” which is the circle on the front, but from my experience, I find it’s best to double up and use an additional pop-filter which I’ve already recommended above.
Audio-Technica ATH-M40x– $116.40
Now, how in the world are you supposed to hear anything if I’m not including any speakers on this list!?!… headphones!!
First, you need headphones in order to record your vocals because you need to hear the instrumental and your voice at the same time! But the mic needs to only be recording your voice.
If you were recording your vocals while playing the instrumental in the background over some speakers then you’re going to pick that up in your recording which is going to sound like trash! Don’t do that! Please don’t ever do that! It’s a cardinal sin of home recording!
Recording using headphones eliminates this issue! Also, what’s dope about the Audio Technica ATH M40x is they are “Closed Back“. This basically means that the back of the headphones is closed off which drastically prevents audio from escaping out of your headphones and leaking into the microphone.
We’ve Got A Bleeder!
If you were recording using what is known as “open-back” headphones which are more popular amongst DJ’s then it would basically sound like a speaker was playing in the room.
So remember closed-back headphones isolate sound from escaping the headphones and open-back headphones let the sound run wild!
Another reason the Audio Technica ATH M40x’s are dope is they come with two different-sized cables. A coiled cable and a straight cable. Each cable is 3.5mm in size which will connect to your smartphone or laptop but It also comes with a 1/4 adapter for connecting to your audio interface.
And one last thing I love about these headphones…they are so freaking comfortable and they will last you a long time! And when the pads stop wearing out you can purchase replacements I think it’s very important that the headphones you pick are comfortable because you’re going to be wearing them ALOT! The last thing you want to deal with when you’re trying to nail that perfect vocal take is your ears hurting from wearing uncomfortable headphones!
Reaper (Digital Audio Workstation) –$60!
The last and final piece to completing your affordable home recording studio setup is your DAW. This is basically the software you will be spending all of your time writing and recording your songs.
There are many different DAWS out there such as Pro Tools, FL Studio, Logic, Ableton, Reason, Cubase, and the list goes on. And honestly, they’re all great!
There’s only one problem with these for our “Poor Mans Recording Studio”. They all cost a significant amount of money! And many of them are moving to a subscription model so you’re always having to pay them more money which I’m not a fan of!
I’ve been using different DAWs for over 20 years and out of all of them the one I recommend the highest is REAPER and here’s why.
- Reaper comes with a fully functional 2-month free trial. After the 2 months is over you can still use the fully functional program for free, you will just get a pop-up box reminding you that your trial is over. Reaper essentially is running off of an honor system which I love and makes the program accessible to everyone!
- Speaking of everyone, Reaper works on Mac, Windows, Linux, and even Chromebooks, which means you could collaborate on your project with anyone.
- Reaper is also open source which means it gives everyone access to its source code so that anyone can customize it and build upon it which has created an awesome online community of people who’ve made Reaper even more awesome!
- The full version only costs $60! And you can install it on as many devices as you wish!
- Reaper is constantly adding updates on nearly a weekly basis!
- Overall I feel that Reaper is THE DAW that offers the most value and freedom to its users.
So that completes everything you will need for the “Poor Mans Recording Studio” to start laying down your own songs with professional equipment in the comfort of your own space without breaking the bank!
The Total Cost of Everything!
Audio interface – PreSonus Studio 24c 2×2 – $129.99
Microphone – MXL V67G – $79.99
Shockmount – $8.27
XLR Mic Cable – $12.49
Mic Stand (floor) Option 1 – $31.87 / Mic Stand (desk) Option 2- $36.99
Pop Filter – $13.99
Penypeal Mic Isolation Shield – $32.99
Audio Technica ATH M40x’s– $116.40
Reaper DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) – $60
GRAND TOTAL = $485.99
PreSonus Eris E5 XT 5.25 (Pair) $220.00
And in case you’re feeling a little boujee and are wanting to splurge on some studio monitors (speakers) I’d recommend the PreSonus Eris E5 XT 5.25’s They are great quality and at this price point, they can’t be beaten! They’re sold as singles so be sure to order two!
TRS 1/4 Studio Speaker Cables $17.99
You will also need two TRS 1/4 speaker cables which will connect from the back of the PreSonus speakers to the “Main Outs” in the back of the PreSonus Studio 24c 2×2 audio interface.
PreSonus Eris 8 in Subwoofer $199.99
If you’re into making beats or you’re just wanting to hear those thunderous lows while listening to your favorite songs the PreSonus Eris 8 inch Subwoofer will be an awesome addition to your studio, and at this price point it will be really hard to “beat”.
AKAI PRO MPK Mini MK3 – 25 Key $99.00
When it comes to picking the perfect keyboard there are so many options and different price points. One of the most important things to consider is how much space your keyboard is going to take up in your studio. Unless you are already a trained pianist then you likely won’t need a keyboard with a lot of keys. You will likely be playing one octave at a time as you nail down those dope melody ideas.
This is one of the reasons the AKAI Professional MPK Mini MK3 – 25 Key will be perfect for most producers. The keyboard covers 2 octaves at a time and you can easily shift up or down an octave with the click of a button.
It also has 8 backlit velocity-sensitive drum pads, a joystick, 8 programable rotary knobs, and an LED display.
What’s Tha Move?
I hope that this guide is not only helpful to you, but I hope it also encourages you to not be afraid of trying to get your own recording studio setup. Everyone deserves a proper workspace that nurtures their creativity and serves as a bridge to transport your ideas and creations with the world at large!
Just what i needed, thanks Cole!
This gives a great overview and is well sorted – really helps me out. Thanks Cole, you’re the best!