Home Recording

Home Recording Studio Setup: Essentials You Need to Get Started

You can totally be forgiven for thinking that assembling a home studio setup is some arduous task, one reserved only for bearded techies who’ve been in the music recording industry since the ‘60s with shelves covered in Grammy awards. But there’s never been a better time to create a home recording studio setup, whatever your budget or level of expertise (or lack thereof!). Today, you only need approximately eight bits of gear to get brilliant results.

Unless you’ve been cave-dwelling in recent years, you’ve probably heard about how Billie Eilish and her brother Finneas crafted several of their Grammy-winning hits with streams in the billions, in a tiny room at their parent’s house with a very modest set of studio equipment. So take a deep breath, silence that inner critic, and realise that you, too, can create music with a radio-worthy sheen without breaking the bank or hurting your spine carrying huge bits of equipment into your home.


One of the biggest parts of the puzzle is simply a bit of clarity. For example, do you just wish to record your voice for a podcast, or sing over a backing track? In this instance, you could even just get away with plugging a USB Microphone into your laptop or computer. See our best affordable microphones guide here to get started.

For proper vocals and instrument production, however, you will also need to make a (small) investment in a microphone stand, and a pop filter. The latter stops the audio problem known as ‘plosives’ when vocalists pronounce certain letters like ‘p’ and ‘b’.

If you do fall into the category of recording vocals and instruments properly for your tracks, you will need an audio interface. But before you buy one of those, you need to make sure you have the thing the interface plugs into, and that is a…

Computer for Home Recording Studio Setup

Now, there have been romantic stories of producers launching their careers creating beats on old Playstations. However, in this day and age, and to harness the power and convenience of digital music production, you need a desktop computer or laptop that has the capability of running music software. Do you need to spend a fortune? Not necessarily. See our guide to computers for music production here.

Audio Interface for Home Recording Studio

So as we left off earlier, unless you’re only recording basic vocals, what you will find is that the audio interface is the mothership of any home studio setup and will be the backbone for all your recording equipment. But it needn’t be either a large or expensive mothership. 

Audio interfaces, also known as soundcards, come in a huge range of sizes and prices. 

For example, the Focusrite Scarlett is trusted by musicians the world over, which you can get for under £100. And then there are some more advanced ones for well over £1,000. Note that modern interfaces slot straight into your computer’s USB (double-check which type when buying). Our budget audio interface guide has you covered here.

DAW (AKA Recording Software)

If the audio interface is the mothership of your physical home recording studio equipment, think of the DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) as the mothership of your studio within your computer. In your DAW, you will be hitting record, producing your music with great plugins, and this is where the mixing, editing, and (some of) the mastering happens also. So pretty essential, to say the least. 

The good news is choosing a DAW shouldn’t be too overwhelming, because there has been a shortlist of the absolute leading contenders for some time now, which are:

  • Steinberg Cubase: A DAW with a lot of history, trusted by millions

  • Logic Pro: The most loved and used DAW for Mac

  • Ableton Live: Loved by musicians who need a DAW for live performance

  • FruityLoops: has kickstarted many EDM producer's careers

  • Reason: Another excellent choice particularly for electronic music

  • Garage Band: Comes free with Mac, a brilliant choice for beginners

  • Pro Tools: An absolute industry standard

Now, what about hearing the music you’re making?


All of the above is slightly redundant if you can’t hear the results from your lovingly assembled home recording studio setup. And at this point, you may be questioning whether to buy headphones, speakers, or both? 

Headphones are slightly more essential, especially in the early days of a home recording studio setup. This is simply because when recording, you do not want the sound from the speakers being picked up by your microphone — headphones solve this problem.

One thing to consider with studio headphones, though… There are two choices: open-back headphones and closed-back headphones. 

Open-back models are ideal for mixing due to their tendency to produce more natural sound quality, but if you’re creating your first home recording studio setup, this is usually considered slightly more of a luxury. 

Closed-back headphones are the most essential as they allow the listener to hear both the backing track and the instrument they are recording without bleeding back into the microphone. 

You can mix using closed-back headphones, just remember to mix at a low volume and to use a reference track. Here is Headliner’s handy beginner’s guide to buying your first pair of studio headphones.

Monitor Speakers for a Home Recording Studio

If your home recording studio budget is particularly limited for equipment at first, it is possible to get by initially with just headphones. In fact, some musicians and producers simply prefer working with headphones anyway. 

It's important to note that if you are working with someone else in the studio, they will also need a pair of headphones to be able to hear, and it will be a pain to have to pause the track and remove your headphones every single time someone wants to give feedback on the song you’re working on.

With all that said, mixing and producing is largely and traditionally done using speakers. And note the wording of ‘monitor’ speakers — a cheap pair of laptop speakers are not going to cut it in the world of music production. 

Studio monitor speakers have what’s known as a ‘flat response’, which makes them ideal for mixing. Whereas regular hi-fi speakers colour the sound, which is not what you want. Purpose-designed studio monitors give you more accurate feedback on your mix so that you can create a final mix that will translate well across a broad spectrum of playback systems, from high-end hi-fi to affordable earbuds.

It goes without saying that good monitor speakers can’t be bought at the price point of certain microphones and headphones – we are venturing into the slightly pricier territory. On the affordable range of the spectrum, three pairs come highly recommended by Headliner:

  • Genelec 8010A

  • JBL 3 Series MKII

  • Yamaha HS5

Cables - Hooking up Your New Recording gear

A home recording studio setup will not get you far at all if you don’t connect your equipment together. This is where cables come into play. 

Understandably, it’s often when it comes to connecting these specialist cables that would-be studio musicians get the most daunted. But fear not, because you only need three at this stage, and the actual plugging in is very easy.

All you need for the above is:

One long XLR cable to connect your microphone to your audio interface.

Two short XLR (or balanced TRS cables) to connect your monitors to your interface.

One bonus thing to consider, albeit not immediately, is acoustically treating your room. Once you’re settled with your setup, you will eventually want to consider this as it makes a huge difference on the results of your recordings. Once you’re ready, check out our piece on the acoustic treatment of our own recording studio.

Home Recording Studio Setup: The Bottom Line

After reading this guide, you’ll undoubtedly feel more at ease with the process of creating your home recording studio setup.

Once you have a better idea of the equipment, it really isn’t that daunting after all. Go with the ‘less is more’ approach initially, and you will both avoid overwhelm and learn to get brilliant results with a humble setup.

Best of all, there’s no need to decimate your bank account. Godspeed with your setup and music creations!