How to Set up a Home Recording Studio for Under $500


Creating quality recording doesn’t always have to cost so much. Here is the ultimate guide on how to set up a recording studio in your bedroom for under $500!

Considering you already have a space in your room to set up a recording workstation, here is a list of stuff that you’re going to need:

•    OneSpace Stanton Computer Desk ($37)

•    Office Chair by BestMassage ($25)

•    HP Elite Small Form Desktop Computer ($160)

•    Audacity DAW (FREE)

•    Behringer Audio Interface ($39)

•    Audio-Technica AT2020 Microphone ($89)

•    Audio-Technica ATH-M20x Headphones ($49)

•    Mackie CR3 Studio Monitors ($80)

TOTAL PRICE: $479

We didn’t just pick the cheapest equipment; we chose the right gear that gets the job done despite the low price.

In recording music, always think about the quality, not the quantity. Although purchasing expensive gear helps, you don’t have to spend a lot of money to get the desired quality.

WORKSTATION OR DESK

Choosing the right desk is essential. If you plan on spending a lot of time working and recording, you’re going to need a desk that is durable with a style that meets its functionality.

The OneSpace Stanton Computer Desk has an elegant and sleek design. The pull-out keyboard shelf is essential for saving space. This desk is made of metal, steel, and PVC that makes it durable.

(Product Dimensions: 29.5 x 19.6 x 27x.5 inches)

For only $37 you are getting the most of what you paid. It also has a lower deck for your CPU.

HELPFUL TIP: If you already have a desk in your room that you think is suitable for your studio, you don’t have to get a new one. You can allocate the money towards gear or software plugins you might need.

ALTERNATIVE DESK OPTIONS:

  • FURRINO 14054EX

(Price: $37)

The Furrino 14054EX is another right choice. The simple and stylish design will look good in any room. It features a top deck for your studio monitors and desktop monitor. This desk does not have the sliding keyboard shelf.

  • AMERIWOOD HOME ALTRA OWEN SERIES RETRO DESK

(Price: $47)

If you have a couple of extra dollars to spend, you could opt for this desk. It’s a simple desk with just one shelf perfect for minimalists. The retro vibe of this desk looks gorgeous.

(Product Dimensions: 26.7 h x 40 w x 19.5 d inches)

CHAIR

Besides having a beautiful desk, you will also need a nice chair to sit on. You will probably be working for hours, especially when trying to get the perfect sound. That is why you’re going to need a comfortable chair to sit on for long periods.

The OFFICE CHAIR BY BESTMASSAGE is an excellent chair to do work in. It provides extra comfort from its thickly cushioned seat. It offers lumbar support, and it is ergonomically designed for maximum comfort.  It is durable with a heavy-duty metal base with 360-degree swivel.

For 25 bucks you should go all-in with this office chair.

HELPFUL TIP: Again, if you already have a chair you are comfortable working in. There is no need to get a new one. You can save money for other projects.

ALTERNATIVE OPTIONS:

  • STUDENT MESH TASK OFFICE CHAIR

(Price: $28)

Another good office chair with a heavy-duty plastic shell back. It has breathable mesh for your back and a countered fabric seat cushion. The height of the seat is adjustable to suit your height. You can also get this chair in a variety of different colors.

  • ERGONOMIC OFFICE CHAIR by PAYLESSHERE

(Price: $35)

If you already have a desk and have more money to spend on a chair, this is another good choice. Aside from the breathable mesh back, it also features armrests for more comfort.

COMPUTER

For recording, a computer must have at least 4GB of ram. Having low memory can result in your computer crashing and not able to finish your recording tasks.

You can get this HP ELITE FORM DESKTOP COMPUTER for just $160 on Amazon. It has an Intel Core 2 duo processor that is perfect for recording. It has 8GB of memory, 500GB hard drive space, and WIFI. It includes everything you need like the keyboard and mouse and monitor so you can use it immediately after your purchase.

The specs of this computer suit all your recording needs.

HELPFUL TIP: If you buy a computer that you will mostly use for recording, don’t install any other unnecessary applications. It can slow down the computer.

ALTERNATIVE OPTIONS:

  • HP ELITE SMALL FORM DESKTOP TOWER PC

(Price: $220)

This is almost the same as the first one except for the better processor. It has the Intel Ci3-2100 and a 1TB hard drive. It is significantly faster and has more storage space. I would say that the first option is good enough. However, if you have a couple more dollars to spend, why not.

  • LENOVO CHROMEBOOK S330

(Price: $169)

If you don’t want a bulky desktop, you can try this laptop. Though the ram and hard drive space are lower, it can still do the task. It is better if you’re into minimalistic setups. Laptops are better for on the go recording. For this price, you will only get 4Gb of ram and 32GB of SSD space.

  • LENOVO 130S

(Price: $165)

Another good laptop with 4GB ram and 64GB of hard drive space. The downside of using these laptops is it is not as easy to upgrade and repair than desktops.

If you’re pretty low on the budget, I would suggest getting a desktop. At a lower price, you can get a desktop like the HP Elite that can get the job done. Desktops are easily upgradable if you get the extra cash.

RECORDING SOFTWARE

Note that you’re going to need software for recording on your computer. There is a bunch of computer recording software in the market, but the best ones cost about $200 or more.

AUDACITY is a free opensource digital audio workstation. It has a ton of features that can help you record the best quality if you learn how to use it.

KEY FEATURES:

RECORDING- Audacity can record live audio from microphones, audio interfaces, or mixer. It can also digitize recordings from other media like videos. With this DAW, you can record music and podcasts.

EXPORT/IMPORT– You can Import, edit, and combine audio files into different formats.

SOUND QUALITY– The downside of this free software is that it can only support up to 32-bit sample rates. The paid software can support 64-bit audio samples.

PLUGINS- It supports most plugins like LADSPA, Audio unit effects, VST.

EDITING- Editing is easy with the cut, copy, and paste feature. It also has an unlimited undo and redo in a recording session.

EFFECTS- Real-time preview of effects. The plugin manager handles the installation and addition of effects from the menu.

ACCESSIBILITY– Maximize workflow with an extended range of keyboard shortcuts.

ANALYSIS- Spectrogram view mode for visualizing and equalizing frequencies. It also features a Plot Spectrum window for detailed frequency analysis.

For a free DAW, Audacity sure has a lot of features that you can utilize in recording your music.

HELPFUL TIP: Try different methods in recording to get the best quality from this free DAW. You can adjust the input and output of your audio interface. Try experimenting a lot. When you get familiar with using this software, you can do wonders that can compare to any paid software.

ALTERNATIVE SOFTWARE:

  • REAPER

(Price $60)

Reaper is another alternative if you want a 64-bit sample rate. It has an easy-to-use interface. It has the same features as most DAWs. And you don’t have to buy the software. You can evaluate it for as long as you want before purchasing.

AUDIO INTERFACE

Any live audio you plan to record on your computer must go through an audio interface. Recording directly on the computer microphone will not sound right.

The Behringer Audio Interface is a good enough audio interface for your budget recording studio. It features two inputs, one for XLR and a ¼ inch input for guitars, bass, and keyboard.

It is compatible with most recording software. Just plug it in the computer through USB, and you’re ready to record. It also features the XENYX, a mic preamp that is licensed by Behringer.

HELPFUL TIP: For better recording quality, try adjusting the levels on your software and audio interface. Getting the right amount of frequencies is essential for better quality recording.

ALTERNATIVE OPTIONS:

  • BEHRINGER XENYX 302USB MIXER

(Price: $59)

This is not exactly an audio interface, but USB mixers such as this one can do the same function.

A mixer can also be used for playing live. Its five inputs can make live recording possible. You can record up to 5 instruments simultaneously.

  • TASCAM iXZ

(Price: $34)

The Tascam iXZ can be used with mobile devices so you can record on the go. If you decided to buy a laptop, you can bring this along and record away from home when inspiration strikes.

  • MIDIPLUS SMARTFACE

(Price: $37)

This audio interface also has an XLR input and a ¼ inch cable input. It has the same features as the Behringer Audio Interface. I added it to the list if you want an alternative design.

MICROPHONE

A good microphone is essential in recording quality audio. I chose the AUDIO-TECHNICA AT2020 cardioid condenser microphone because it is not as expensive as most microphones.

It may not be an expensive mic, but it is not the cheapest for your studio. This microphone looks great. It can record up to 144 dB. This mic requires the phantom power from the audio interface to record.

HELPFUL TIP: Make sure you buy the XLR version, not the USB. You can buy the USB version and eliminate the use of the audio interface, but for a higher price. Although without the audio interface, you won’t be able to record instruments.

ALTERNATIVE OPTIONS:

  • MXL 990MIDNIGHT

(Price: $100)

This is an excellent microphone for recording vocals. The design is very attractive. It has a vintage look that would look good set up in your bedroom/music recording studio. It has a lot of good reviews based on its looks and performance.

  • AUDIO-TECHNICA AT2020 USB

(Price: $129)

Unlike the original Audio-Technica 2020, this one is connected via USB and does not require Phantom Power from an Audio Interface. If you don’t plan on recording any guitars, you can save a lot of money with this.

HEADPHONES

Headphones are essential in mixing and mastering a produced track. Choosing the right set of headphones is crucial in setting up a recording studio.

The AUDIO-TECHNICA ATH-M20X is an excellent choice for monitoring your audio tracks. It has enhanced low-frequency performance so you can hear the lowest bass frequencies. The single-sided cable is convenient and won’t get in the way when working. The design is elegant and tasteful.

For only $50 bucks, it looks and works as professional studio headphones.

HELPFUL TIP: In choosing headphones, it is better to try them at the local music store and see what the right fit for you is.

ALTERNATIVE OPTIONS:

  • ONEODIO DJ HEADPHONES

(Price: $33)

This is an alternative with a lower price. It is very comfortable. It comes with a 9.8 feet detachable cord that is long enough to move around the room. It features a swiveling ear cup so you can do single-ear monitoring anytime.

  • AKG K240STUDIO SEMI-OPEN OVER-EAR PROFESSIONAL STUDIO HEADPHONES

(Price $67)

These headphones look and sound fantastic. They are slightly more expensive than the others, but still a lot cheaper than most professional studio headphones. It has a classic design. It is designed for professional quality for most home studios. They are very comfortable to wear for hours.

STUDIO MONITORS

Studio monitors are another essential piece of equipment for your bedroom music studio. They’re not only useful for testing out tracks, but they are also great for just listening to music when you’re not working.

The MACKIE STUDIO MONITORS CR3 are mini-monitors that will get the job done. They are built with studio quality with a wide frequency range. With these monitors, you can hear the lowest of lows to the highest frequencies. Most recording artists and producers use this product.  

The ultra-compact design will look good for the aesthetic of your home music studio. For only $80, these monitors are the best choice for the money.

HELPFUL TIP: There is a speaker simulation software that can download to hear how your mix sounds like on different monitors. One is SpeakerSim by NoiseAsh for $29. If monitors are not in your budget, click here to check out the software.

ALTERNATIVE OPTIONS:

  • BEHRINGER 1C-BK ULTRA-COMPACT

(Price: $79)

These are slightly bigger than the Mackie CR3’s. It features high power handling and outputs up to 100 watts. The simple design will likely blend with any decorations in your bedroom music studio.

  • SAMSON SAM30

(Price: $100)

For an extra $20, this alternative product features Bluetooth connectivity to eliminate the use of wires. The modern design looks eccentric. It also has a front panel LED indicator, level control, and Bluetooth pairing light in the back.

RELATED QUESTIONS:

What is bit depth or sampling rate? (16bit, 24bit, 32bit)

The bit depth or sample rate is the amount of audio information that comes from the audio interface into your computer. Each DAW can process up to a certain amount of bit depth.

it determines the amount of headroom or space to adjust the audio levels higher without compromising the quality of the audio.

Imagine a low-quality photo being stretched or zoomed into. Despite being pulled and stretched, the quality should remain the same.

 24bit is enough to produce high-quality music.

What is a Cardioid Microphone?

There are three polar patterns in microphones

    Omnidirectional

•    Figure-8

•    Cardioid

The cardioid pattern is a combination of omnidirectional and figure-8.

The frontside of the cardioid microphone has a 2x stronger signal. It is useful for getting the best quality of audio in recording and performing.

There are two types of cardioid mics

•    Supercardioid

•    Hypercardioid

These two types are more directional to get better coverage when recording audio. The supercardioid is much narrower than the hypercardioid.

By using cardioid mics, you can record where the mic is pointing and filter other sounds. This is better for recording because it eliminates unnecessary audio in your recording.

IF I HAVE EXTRA MONEY, WHAT GEAR SHOULD I BUY?

If you have extra money to spend on your music studio, I would suggest getting a MIDI CONTROLLER. It helps you play the notes you are recording more accessible than programming the notes.

Let’s say you already have an elegant desk and you have extra money for something else.

Get the MIDIPLUS AKM320 32-KEY MIDI CONTROLLER. It has 32 velocity-sensitive keys. It also has a pitch wheel, a modulation wheel, and octave up and down buttons. It costs $35 on Amazon.

MORE MIDI CONTROLLERS:

  • AKAI MPK MINI MKII

(Price: $99)

One of the best-selling midi controllers I the market right now, I always suggest this to friends. It has eight assignable pads with two banks. It also has a four-way joystick for modulation and pitch manipulation. It also features 16 assignable knobs for quickly adjusting parameters on your DAW.

This 25-key midi keyboard has the most features you will need from a midi controller.

  • NOVATION LAUNCHKEY MINI

(Price: $90)

Novation, the creators of the launchpad, has created yet another great midi controller that has It all. It features 16 multi-colored backlit velocity-sensitive drum pads and eight knobs for navigation and control.

ADDITIONAL TIP: When you purchase any of these midi controllers, they come with recording software and free plugins.

WHAT ARE VST PLUGINS?

Virtual studio technology or VST plugins are third-party apps that producers use to enhance their tracks. They can either be virtual instruments or effects. A plugin is a software that is used within different software.

Buying virtual instruments costs lower than buying the actual device. There are several free VST instruments online that have superb quality.

THE $500 YOU SPEND

You can spend your $500 studio budget in different ways. You can buy headphones and not buy monitors, or Vice Versa. You can use the extra money to get a midi controller or a better laptop.

If you plan on buying the stuff you need for the bedroom studio at once, you can purchase bundles on AMAZON.  They offer bundle packages that will save you money.

You can also use the extra money to buy the best Virtual Instruments and third-party software.

FREE VST PLUGINS

Here is a list of some of the best free plugins to start off your budget-friendly recording studio:

  • TYRELL N6

The Tyrell N6 is a compact synth that features:

  1. Virtual Analogue
  2. 2 oscillators, noise and ring modulation
  3. 2 LFOs and 8 waveforms
  4. Audio source mixer
  5. Over 580 factory presets
  • TOKYO DAWN RECORDS PACK

Tokyo Dawn Records is offering a free package filled with useful VSTs to enhance your recording tracks. Their package includes:

  1. TDR LIMITER 6 GE- Modern Dynamic Compressor that features six specialized modules.
  2. TDR NOVA- A Dynamic Equalizer for precise tone control.
  3. TDR KOTELNIKOV- Features a wideband dynamic range controller that perfectly suits stereo bus compression.
  4. TDR VOS SLICKEQ- This equalizer is designed for mixing and mastering to get impeccable sound.
  • MFREE FXBUNDLE

Melda Productions offer a variety of modulation effects for free. Here are some of their free effect plugins:

  1. MAUTOPITCH- an auto pitch software perfect for vocal tweaking
  2. MAUTOPAN- a good effect for modulating the stereo sound of your audio track
  3. MBITFUN- an effect that explores different textures and distortion
  4. MFLANGER- a free flanger effect that creates spacey tones for your recording
  5. MPHASER- bring monotonous clean tones to life with this phaser
  6. MTERMOLO- an exciting tremolo effect that sounds great with guitar tracks
  7. MVIBRATO- add dynamic range to your tracks with this cool vibrato effect
  • VINYL BY IZOTOPE

This free plugin is a vinyl simulator. It is excellent for creating lo-fi hip-hop tracks. It features advanced filtering, modeling, and resampling. It creates an authentic vinyl simulation. It’s like listening to audio straight from a record payer.

  • MT POWER DRUM KIT 2

This is an amazing acoustic drum simulator. This plugin is great for creating rock and roll drum tracks. You can adjust the velocity of the drum tracks to make it sound more realistic. It comes with several drum patterns if you’re experiencing writer’s block.

if you get extra money to spend on virtual instruments, try these DAWS:

  • KORG GADGET 2 FOR MAC

(PRICE: $299)

This is one of my favorite DAWs. This may not be the cheapest software, but if you actually buy all the instruments included in KORG GADGET 2, you would spend a fortune. This DAW comes with over 40 different instruments that you will surely enjoy.

You can purchase the full DAW with all the plugins, or the plugin package that can be used with a different DAW for a lower price.

Most DAWs on the market have free demos so you can try their product before actually paying. You can always explore with free versions before deciding to buy them.

ADDITIONAL TIPS:

To get the most out of your equipment, try using different methods in music production.

  • Find a spot with better acoustics

Search for places in your bedroom that has good acoustics. Installing acoustic treatment pads will definitely help. Click here to read a separate article about useful accessories for your bedroom music studio.

  • Adjust microphone positioning

Sometimes, the quality of your recording depends on how you position your microphone. Trying different angles on your microphone will help you find the best position to get the sound you want.

  • Adjust levels on audio interface or DAW

The loudness and softness of audio waves affect the output of your audio tracks. With recording a track with a higher bit rate, there is enough room to adjust the mix without compromising the quality.

  • Always aim to improve sound

Don’t be contented with the quality of your sound, there is still room for improvement. Send out tracks to your friends and ask for their honest opinion and constructive criticism.

  • Watch YouTube videos that teach recording techniques.

YouTube is filled with tips on recording. Watching videos from experienced producers will surely help you improve the quality of your tracks.

  • Consider the type of music you will be producing.

Before buying all the equipment, ask yourself; what genre of music will you be making? What kind of gear do you need? Will you record guitar and bass tracks, or will you produce all midi tracks? Deciding about this early on will help you save money in the long run.

With all the tips and equipment listed above, you can create almost any kind of music with the right patience and skillset.

CONCLUSION

Make the most out of your purchases by learning how to use them. Read the manuals and explore the features of your gear. The limits are only set by the user, not the equipment. KEEP ON CREATING whether it’s your job or it’s just what you love to do.

For a guide to creating a minimalist bedroom studio, click here.

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