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Guides

How to Build a Home Recording Studio

Alex Harris-MacDuff

Alex Harris-MacDuff

5 May 2021

How to Build a Home Recording Studio - Voquent

When looking into how to build a home recording studio, there are many things to consider.

Learning how to build a home recording studio can feel like a daunting task, but don’t worry, we’ve got you.

We’ve identified some things you will need when making a home studio. We also made sure to include expert advice from our in-house audio engineers. 

Let’s dive into it!

 

A Professional Microphone

Duh? Right? Well, before you start thinking about your DIY home studio setup, you will need to get a hold of a microphone.

But the process isn’t as simple as it may first seem to a newcomer. There are many options out there, and different microphones serve different functions.

how to build a home recording studio 

Condenser mics offer higher sensitivity than dynamic microphones, the most common alternative. It is ideal for picking up everything within its frequency range. This means it will pick up every whisper or shout with a clarity that is hard to beat. 

There are also two types of condenser microphones: large-diaphragm and small-diaphragm. Large-diaphragm condenser microphones are ideal for voice over purposes due to the wider frequency response. 

For more information, read our blog on the best microphone’s for voice over.

 

Audio interface

The audio interface interprets the audio signals from the condenser microphone to your computer. It consists of a pre-amp and an AD/DA converter, which work together to enable the digitalisation of the analogue audio signal.

The AD/DA converter handles converting the signal itself while the pre-amp drives, making the sound louder A high-quality audio interface will improve the sound of the digital recording.

The pre-amp will amplify the sounds that matter without amplifying the sounds that don’t. Generally, the higher quality of the pre-amp, the lower SNR. An audio interface takes the sound signal from the mic and converts it into a digital signal for recording.

When using a large-diaphragm condenser mic, it’s vital to choose an interface with phantom power. Phantom power boosts the signal from a condenser microphone by sending power to it along the XLR line.

Some older microphones will have separate power sources you plug into the wall, but this isn’t very common anymore – most condensers use phantom power to boost the signal before it even gets to the pre-amp, which boosts it even further.

Check out the excellent buyers guide to audio interfaces for more information.

 

Pop-shield

A pop shield sits in front of the microphone and filters out sounds that you may not want in your recording. It helps to reduce the presence of sounds like plosives, sibilance, and some breaths that may be in the recording, but unwanted.

It absorbs some of the hard and jarring ‘p’ ‘t’ ‘d’ and ‘s’ sounds, naturally produced during speech and singing.  You can make a pop filter if you are looking to stretch your budget (and an old pair of tights), but buying one isn’t too expensive.

They’re not particularly hi-tech, but they’re a requirement!

 

Microphone stand

Holding a microphone for professional voice over recordings will open the door to all kinds of unwanted sounds in your recording. So, it’s important you get a microphone stand.

There are countless quality stands available, but you will undoubtedly need a stand with rubber feet. This will stop the stand from moving when you don’t want it to and reduce any rattling from the environment.

Adopting the use of a cradle or shock mount will reduce the microphone’s movement too. This will eliminate small rumbles due to environmental factors – things like a heavy truck or train shaking the ground. A cradle or shock mount acts as a suspension for your microphone.

As a last bit of advice, always record on a level surface.

 

Acoustically treating the environment

Arguably the most important aspect for a home studio set-up is an acoustically treated room.

Sound waves bounce off any surface, particularly hard surfaces like bare walls – this is where acoustic treatment comes in. It can help reduce the reverb and reflections that a mic will pick up from an untreated room. Without it, it will sound extremely reverberant.

how to build a home recording studio

There are various acoustic treatment options available, depending on your budget. DIY treatment with a pillow/duvet fort is a plausible low-budget solution. They don’t look great, so I’d avoid turning the camera on for a Zoom call, but they do the job fine when set up well.

Other simple techniques like picking your placement in the room, closing the curtains, or putting the mic stand on top of a rug are low-to-no cost fixes too.

You can get self-standing acoustic panels, which are like big acoustic shields but these tend to up the cost even more. High-end acoustic treatment means permanently taking over a spare room or walk-in closet – so do keep that in mind.

Learn more about acoustic treatment options in this article to help you learn how to build a home recording studio.

 

Studio headphones

When starting, it is a common misconception that any old headphones – or even earphones – will do but this is not the case.

Earphones are a big no-no in professional audio across multiple disciplines, including voice over. 

Ideally, you will want to go for closed-back headphones as they are ideal for keeping sound inside the earpieces themselves. Their closed-back negates how much sound escapes and thus bleeds into the recordings.

Also, avoid noise-cancelling headphones, these introduce all sorts of problems that are too complicated to explain here!

To find out more, you can also read our in-depth article on headphones for voice over.

 

Cabling

Without the right cables, you can’t do any recording.

Many people think that the condenser microphone will be a USB plug-and-play piece of hardware, but this is not true. A condenser microphone requires XLR cables to transmit the audio information to the audio interface. This interface will then connect to your computer or MAC via USB cable. It may seem easier to cut out the middle-man (the interface) and just get a USB mic, but this is really a false economy.

USB mics are never as high quality as even cheaper large-diaphragm condenser and audio interface combos, and generally introduce a lot of unwanted noise and hiss.

You will always need at least an XLR cable and a USB cable to connect everything to the computer – not just one or the other, but both. That moves us onto the next piece of hardware you will need, but more than likely will already have…

 

PC or MAC

Along with all the specialist audio hardware, you will need a central hub to record the audio, and this is where your PC or MAC will come into play.

Generally speaking, you won’t need a particularly powerful machine for recording a single voice over channel. Most of the audio interfaces out there will be compatible with a PC or Mac’s input ports. There is usually a USB input, but can sometimes be Thunderbolt or (if you’ve got an old computer) Firewire.

Most built-in motherboard sound cards will do the job in terms of processing. Yet, upgrading to a dedicated sound card will improve various things. There are various sound cards with lots of connection types and features, such as DSP and plug-ins. However, for voice over recording, we would recommend using what you already have. You only need a standalone or upgraded sound card if you are mixing a lot of things to a high level OR you are recording more than one or two tracks simultaneously.

The only limitations for your PC or Mac will come from the Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) software you use. The best processors (aka CPUs) and RAM will increase your editing potential and rendering speeds. If you don’t plan on doing any video editing you can pretty much ignore the Graphics Card as a component. Always check the manufacturer’s website for the minimum specs for any DAW.

Read more about the top operating systems and editing software for voice over.

 

Software applications

Even with everything else purchased and plugged in, you won’t be able to record without a Digital Audio Workstation (or DAW).

Audacity is a reasonable, free application that records voice over to an acceptable standard. While you can also use this to edit your audio, it isn’t something we recommend. Audacity doesn’t have the same functionality as other paid applications. It’s fine for basic edits, but for more professional delivery specs and editing, a bespoke DAW is much better.

If you are looking for something more professional, then there are several options. On a PC, Reaper or Adobe Audition are good choices. For Mac, we would recommend ProTools or Logic. Garageband is free on a Mac, similar to Audacity, but it does have certain limitations that make it not ideal for VO since it is primarily a music production DAW.

However, Pro-Tools is the industry standard, so having a familiarity with it will be very useful for your career!

 

Conclusion

That’s it! Now you know how to build a home recording studio! 

 

5 Tips for Perfect Microphone Technique

Alex Harris-MacDuff

By Alex Harris-MacDuff

Some people say rock 'n' roll is a matter of life and death. I can assure you, it's much more important than that.

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