Home Recording Studio for beginners with under $600
A complete home studio guide for a beginner with all the necessary tools to start music production.
We have gone from the age when a recording studio would cost as much as your house to the time when you can afford the basics to start with a minimum wage. Music instruments, audio effects, track arrangement, mixing, mastering, and dozens more stuff can now happen in your computer.
Audio recording and music production is an exciting, creative and rewarding activity. In 2019, there is affordable technology that anyone can acquire and build a home quality studio with all the essentials.
How much costs a home recording studio with all the essential tools?
The investment you will have to do for a home recording studio now compare to the one needed a few years ago is incomparable low.
The sector of recording studio equipment changes rapidly. When I started to build my own home recording studio, I wanted to buy all the possible stuff that I could afford. High-end PC, the best DAW, and the MIDI controllers that famous music producers were using. Even synthesizers, high-quality recording devices and later on a room with premium sound isolation. The point is that I had more than I can afford, and I don’t mean financially.
The number of studio relative products in the market is large, resulting in big competition, great quality and at excellent prices.
The story here is that you don’t need to spend big to get what you want. Unless you are semi-pro or pro music producers, you do not need analog synths, expensive sound cards or other studio and recording tools. A PC or laptop, a music production software and studio quality headphones are the absolute musts. From then on, there are a few studio tools which can help you achieve better results with more comfort and more productive behavior.
Especially at the beginning when you haven’t started to make money yet, you don’t want to spend big bucks on some tools that you will not be able to take full advantage of.
Let’s start with what you will need to start recording your ideas, mix them, edit them and create a full track.
- Computer PC
- DAW (music production software)
- Studio Headphones
- Monitor speakers
- MIDI keyboard controller
- Audio interface (sound card)
A reminder that those are just the basics but still enough to create a Top Quality Track!.
1. Computer PC (desktop or laptop)
I guess that most of you already own at least one PC in your household. As a beginner, you do not need the latest iMac or MacBook Pro to start music production. Start with the one you already own and then find The best computer for music production to invest your first savings.
Windows or MAC? There is no right or wrong answer! Each choice has its pros and cons, and since it’s not an old PC that cannot handle a “light” DAW and some plug-ins, you will be good to start. A desktop would be ideal for working with since they are more powerful than laptops for the same amount of money. Plus they have larger displays. A laptop, however, is not a bad option especially if you have some money to invest in a good but cheap monitor in order to better view your work/project. For more check the best laptop for DJing.
The computer is going to be your center of operations and is a vital part of the home studio. So take the time to clean and delete unnecessary stuff, apps, etc. In case you are searching for a new computer for your home recording studio, check out our latest article with the best options.
2. DAW (Digital Audio Workstation)
Our first purchase should be the music production software where we will produce our tracks. Later on, you will learn to use many DAW’s and use the best one for each job.
With the music production software, you will be able to turn your first ideas into sounds and tracks. Then edit and adjust your sound with the necessary audio or midi effects. And the last stage with mixing and mastering your tracks into a whole song.
With the addition of a sound card, also known as an audio interface, you can connect your studio microphone and record live instruments, vocals or anything else you are inspired to add into your songs.
When you will purchase an audio interface or MIDI keyboard controller there are many possibilities that it will include a PRO daw software, such as Ableton Live Lite, Cubase or Pro Tools.
If we avoid the expensive but premium DAW’s such as Ableton Live, Cubase, and Pro Tools there are still some very good, cheap or even free software to start music production.
- Logic Pro X – $199.99
Musicians who use it: Hardwell, Avicii, Armin Van Buuren, Carl Cox, Above&Beyond, Adele, Kygo, Hot Since 82
Logic Pro is a MAC running digital audio workstation. It is a complete platform that you can record/edit/mix and get from the first idea to final mastering of the track. It is no mistake that the biggest names of the music industry use this software to produce their songs.
- Image-Line FL studio (check price on Amazon.com)
Musicians who use it: Avicii, Martin Garrix, David Guetta, Bassjackers, Gesaffelstein
FL studio is the best seller daw on Amazon store and popular software among EDM and Big Room producers.
The daw by Image-Line has a great collection of loops and sounds. Also, a significant number of virtual instruments, plug-ins, sampling, and natural beat-making.
- GarageBand (free)
GarageBand is the most popular free DAW available, it is, however, available only for MAC OS users.
- Audacity (free)
Audacity is a close second (free daw) that both MAC AND WIN users can enjoy it.
Approximately money spent = $0
You can explore other options like Cubase, Reaper, FL Studio, etc. – just remember that there is no difference in audio quality between DAWs, and no DAW “sounds” better than others.
Every DAW offers all the necessary tools to produce a complete track. Furthermore, there are a few plug-in instruments and effect to download completely for free. More at the best free VST plug-ins for music production.
3. Studio headphones
For under $100 you can get some of the best studio headphones on the market. Including the Sony MDR 7506 that was used by legend Mick Jagger. Even with that budget, you can purchase a pair of studio headphones that offer durability, comfort and excellent sound response.
What to look for before you buy one?
Your biggest concern here is what type of headphones you will pick. Closed-back kind of headphones that provide excellent isolation and won’t pick-up background noises. Open-back type of headphones that will offer better sound quality but will not offer ideal isolation.
Our picks for the best four studio headphones under $100:
- Sony MDR 7506
Musicians who use it: Mick Jagger, Linkin Park, Paul Van Dyk, Helios
If the artist’s names above didn’t convince you, visit Amazon.com store and you will be surprised by the number of excellent reviews by users around the globe.
- Audio Technica ATH-M40X
The sound quality is very good (close to ATH-M50X), the isolation is outstanding and in total is an excellent value for money choice.
- Shure SRH 440
Shure SRH 440 is a very comfortable pair of studio headphones. The headband might be a little bit tough, but you can attach one of your own. The ear-cups are replaceable to ensure long product life.
- Sennheiser HD 280 Pro
Sennheiser HD 280 PRO is a very popular pair of studio headphones. It’s built-quality, the good isolation and price range make it an excellent option for any home recording studio.
Approximately money spent = under $100
Find out more about the best studio headphones under $100, updated on 2019.
4. Studio monitor speakers
The studio quality headphones will not give you a realistic representation of a stereo mix so that you will need the Studio monitor speakers for your music production. And that is why we go big here. Being able to hear what you’re recording and mixing is very important to create a quality track.
You cannot rely on any hi-fi or computer speakers in your home recording studio. Those devices are designed to make the sound more attractive to your ears. Studio monitor speakers are essential. We will forget, for now, the expensive choices of Genelec, Yamaha or Focal Alpha and let’s check options under $150 a piece.
Good monitors sound flat and offer a clear, balanced sound. Don’t forget that the room will also affect the sound of your monitors.
Here is where we are going to spend half of our $600 budget. Well, first of all, we buy two products, instead of one. And second, these are our main output source when we will do mixing & mastering.
Prices vary, and new offers appear from time to time, so here are our choices under $300 for a pair, that we found in 2018:
- JBL LSR 305
The model by JBL offers a great sound with well-defined bass and smooth the mids and highs. The very low price tag makes it an excellent “value for money” purchase. That way you might save some for some bucks for your other purchases.
- KRK Rokit 6
In many home recording studios, you will notice the yellow feature woofer by KRK. The deep bass response and clear highs make it an ideal choice for all electronic music genres.
Here is an important note on how to place your studio monitors. Position yourself in the middle of the two speakers at ear level. Your head and each monitor should form a perfect triangle. That is the best monitor placement that will achieve great acoustics in your studio.
Approximately money spent = under $300
Check out the best studio monitor speakers of 2019 for your home recording studio.
5. MIDI keyboard controller
The tool that will make your room look more like a music studio is more affordable than you think. You still won’t have to sacrifice on quality and features because all keyboard below are made by top brands in the music industry. (Novation, Arturia, Alesis, and M-audio!)
If you want to create your own music or learn how to play keys then a MIDI keyboard controller is essential. It will easily connect with your PC via USB and will integrate with all major DAW’s. In fact, some keyboard controllers come with a free DAW, and most packages even offer VST instrument plug-ins to start making music from day one.
What to look for before you buy one?
Keys count, action-type of the keys and most importantly to integrate with your DAW software. For our budget, our choices stay at 25 keys and one with 32. Action type we will go with “synth-action” which is the most common on MIDI keyboards; along with semi-weighted for bigger key-count models.
Choices here are plenty, but our top 4 picks are:
Novation Launchkey Mini 25-Note MK2
Amazingly this small tool has a pretty good range of features. Except for the 25 synth-action keys, eight dedicated knobs, and control buttons, it offers 16 velocity sensitive multicolor launch-pads. It lacks a proper pitch and mod wheel, but Launchkey mini mk2 is an extremely compact tool.
This 25-key keyboard features eight velocity pads with a nice “spacey” blue LED illumination and four assignable pots and buttons. Pitch bend and modulation wheel are not missing here. It comes with Ableton Live Lite, SONiVOX Twist and AIR Music Tech Xpand!2.
Arturia Minilab MKII 25
This tiny and white tool offers more than it looks and the included software makes it another excellent value-for-money purchase. The two banks of 8 velocities sensitive RGB backlit performance pads and the 16 full-size rotary encoders make it a hard to resist tool.
M-Audio Axiom AIR Mini 32
The only 32 key-count keyboard controller you will probably find in the market around our budget. You will find eight velocity-sensitive trigger pads and eight assignable knobs. It also includes Ableton Live Lite.
Approximately money spent = under $100
For more about the best cheap MIDI keyboards check our article.
If you want a keyboard that will produce its own sounds, check The Best Synthesizer Keyboards for Music Production under $500.
6. Audio interface (sound card)
An audio interface is a device that allows you to connect instruments, microphones and sound outputs to your computer. Unless you’re planning to exclusively use VSTs and samples in your productions, or have a built-in sound card in your PC, the audio interface is a necessity. A bad interface can hurt your recordings and sound, so you don’t want to go with something on the low end. In fact, the two models below are great for any beginner home recording studio and on a budget of only 100 dollars.
Audio interfaces use USB, FireWire or Thunderbolt to connect to Mac or PC. For this budget, however, our choices are limited to USB connection. You will probably have to install a simple driver for your interface as well.
Steinberg UR22MKII 2-Channel
The ratings of this interface are nearly excellent. With one instrument input & one microphone input with low-noise is an ideal option for beginners. If, however you manage just a few extra bucks from your purchases before and go for the AudioBox iTwo 2×2 would be ideal. It comes with one mic input and one more instrument input.
Focusrite Scarlett Solo (2nd Gen)
One more tool that offers a mic preamp with plenty of even gains, and one newly-designed instrument input. It will handle seriously hot guitar pickups.
Approximately money spent = $100
For more information check the best audio interfaces under $200.
I still find it amazing that you can begin to produce music with such a small budget of $600. That is a perfect beginner home recording studio that later on you can invest on studio microphone, drum machines, and synths.
A studio quality microphone will be a great addition to your recording setup. Goes without saying that the quality of your recordings (vocals, drums, acoustic guitars, piano, etc.) mostly depends on your microphones – DAW and audio interface also have an impact. There are plenty of free or premium drum samples, and music loops to create beats and sounds. If, however, you are more of a hardware type, check the best drum machines under $500.
What is next, am I ready for music production.?
Once you’ve got all your equipment, you just need to connect it all up. At first, you will need to install your DAW software to your PC or laptop. Then, connect your audio interface and update the preferences so that it will see it and be able to use it. Connect the monitor speakers and studio quality headphones to the sound card and last your MIDI keyboard to your computer.
An ordinary desk will probably fit all of the above studio tools. There are desks and workstations in the market specifically designed for studio use, and they can be a big help to routing cables and placing your gear in the right places. However, they are extremely expensive and if you are a beginner and already own a big table, then there is no need to purchase a new one.
Do your study
After you have done all that, you’re going to need to learn a little about mixing and working with your software. Except for the manuals, the best possible free education will be youtube. There are also free of charge or paid courses that justify the money and time spent. Far more, you have the opportunity to attend schools with pro equipment or watch online courses from the comfort of your home studio and use of your own equipment. If you have friends that produce music visit them and check out what they are doing or just ask.
The are plenty of guides and articles on the web about ideal home recording studio tools for beginners. Do your own research, compare and find the best studio gear for you to begin music production,
Do not hesitate to post your comments and questions. My team and I would be happy to help!
Have fun shopping…