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Home studio vs professional studio
Music producer Dom Bishop weighs up the cost and effort to build a home studio against renting a professional recording studio.
If you’re used to producing at home, taking the punt to try out a professional music studio and leave the four walls of your home studio can be a bit daunting. On the other hand, you might be spending more and more time at a rental studio and wondering if it might be cheaper in the long run to set up your own at home. This is where the home studio vs pro studio debate begins.
A home studio setup is more convenient, there's no rental fee and no travel. A pro studio on the other hand, should have better equipment, greater soundproofing and more privacy.
In the below guide, I've broken down everything you need to know about recording at home vs studio rental. If you’re wondering whether you should rent a professional studio, invest in setting up your own home studio or do both, this guide should help you get to the bottom of what you really need.
Table of contents:
What are the differences?
Home Recording studio:
The home recording studio or ‘bedroom studio’ is a studio that – you guessed it – resides in your own home. Whether that be a bedroom, living room or even your garage. You’ll find that most artists solely use this setup are beginners or hobbyists.
Professional Recording studio:
A professional recording studio is a space designed solely for the purpose of recording audio in a controlled environment. These studios have been built in a very specific way in order to provide the best environment for working musicians. Alongside this, you’ll usually find an on-site sound engineer here to maintain the studios and help you during your session – at a fee, of course.
Home music studio setup
It’s important to make your home recording studio setup comfortable, spacious and appealing to work in – your production sessions might last hours after all.
Whereas professional studios are meticulously built, specifically for recording purposes, your home recording studio design will be limited by the space available in your house.
If you have a spare room in your house that you don’t use, you have the option of creating a professional home studio. Of course, not everyone has the privilege of a spare room and more than likely, you'll be setting up in your bedroom to begin with.
If you're setting up a bedroom home recording studio, try to dedicate a specific area for working. Always ensure that this space is tidy. If you’re having to plug in equipment or move things around every time you start a production session, it can dent your flow and you might find your creative spark fizzes out.
I’m sure you’ve heard the saying “A clear workspace is a clear mind” – well that especially applies to musicians. Simple additions like house plants and nice home studio lighting go a long way in making your workspace a pleasant place to be. You want to feel relaxed every time you enter your studio (even if it's just an area of your bedroom) so you can get in the right frame of mind to make music.
If you simply don’t have any space available and find yourself having to reset your home recording studio desk every time you want to produce – it might be worth trying out a professional studio. Being able to get in the flow with no distractions is incredibly important, so be honest with yourself about what you need.
Pros of home music studio setup:
- Quickly get your ideas down
- Customise your surroundings and lighting to suit your preferences
- Cheaper (only having to pay for the equipment you need)
- Don’t have to worry about travelling
- Access to kitchen for snacks (an absolute essential)
Cons of home music studio setup:
- Limited space for equipment and guests
- Having to buy and set up your own home recording studio kit
- It’s very expensive to fully soundproof your studio
- Distractions (parents, housemates, pets, the tv – to name a few)
Home studio equipment
The home recording studio equipment you need will depend on what it is that you're hoping to create. Below, I've created a list of home studio essentials for bands and producers, DJs and podcasters. Of course, there are loads of different headphones, speakers, microphones et cetera on the market, these are just my recommendations for building low budget home recording studios.
For Bands & Producers
Every artist is different but most bands and producers will need the following recording studio home equipment:
Two x Studio Monitors: Yamaha HS7 - A set of monitors I swear by. They've been my go to speakers for my home studio for around six years and I've never looked back. They have a solid bass response, meaning you can get a true feel of your music. (£149 each from gear4music.com)
Headphones: Audio Technica M50x - Another long-stander in my home studio. They may seem a bit pricey, but they’re sturdy, comfortable and a great reference. What more could you need? (£150 from gear4music.com)
Audio Interface: Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 - Another piece of gear that you’ll see most industry heads point you too as perfect beginners’ equipment. Affordable, multiple inputs for recording in vocals or various instruments and a simple usb cable input. (£150 from gear4music.com)
DAW (audio-editing software): Audacity – if you’re looking for a very basic audio editing software, Audacity ticks all the boxes. You can record in new audio or input existing audio, as well as apply basic effects. Of course, this may be more appealing to any musicians that work strictly with audio. But if you’re looking to work with more advanced DAW’s, then you’ll absolutely love the next section – where I go into the best software for your home studio. (Free from audacityteam.org)
Microphone: Audio Technica AT2020 - This affordable, reliable, and most importantly, crisp-sounding cardioid condenser mic is one of the best microphones for your home studio that I can recommend. (£90 from gear4music.com)
Popfilter: Microphone Pop Filter Shield by Gear4music - A pop shield can make the world of difference when recording in vocals. Place this in front of your mouth when talking and remove any unwanted pops in your voice (£9.99 from gear4music.com)
A quick note for artists looking to record vocals – I have handy tips for ways you can put together an affordable DIY Vocal booth in your home studio. I’ll go into that a bit later, when I talk more in-depth about soundproofing.
We’ve also put together a quick guide that covers all the equipment for music production you’re likely to need, in more detail.
Here’s a list of equipment to get you underway:
Two x Studio Monitors: Yamaha HS7 - Again, I’m going to go with these. They’re great for production, yet still pack a punch big enough to rattle a few windows – having said that, respect your ears and your neighbours. (£149 each from gear4music.com)
Headphones: Sennheiser HD 25 Light Headphones – I’ve decided to go with these mainly due to their lightweight feel. When you’re bopping about having a mix and constantly removing them, the last thing you want are heavy-feeling headphones. These are light and have a great sound. In my opinion, for the price, you can’t beat them.(£85 from gear4music.com)
DJ Controller: Pioneer DJ DDJ-200 – If you’re looking for an affordable home DJ studio setup, you’re probably not going to want to shell out on a full set of CDJs and mixer. The DDJ-200 may not have the same feel as CDJs, but the usb-powered controller has the same features – just a tad simplified. (£165 from gear4music.com)
If the controller doesn’t take your fancy, we’ve put together this handy list of controllers you can use to start DJing from your home studio.
- USB stick: Samsung 3.1 USB, 64gb – Finally, you need the most important thing – a stick! There’s hundreds of different USBs out there, and they’ll all work. I’ve gone with my reliable Samsung stick. There’s multiple sizes to choose from, feel free to go bigger if you have more tunes. This is stylish, solid (I’ve had a few dodgy plastic ones snap) and has a transferable speed of over 300mbps. (£11 from Amazon)
You don’t need much equipment to build a home podcast studio, just:
USB Mic: Blue Yeti Mic - A great place to start would be a USB mic and my go-to would be the Blue Yeti Mic (£90 from Amazon). Assuming you already have a computer, this is the ultimate beginner’s setup for podcasters wanting to get things off the ground. This simple USB microphone is incredibly user-friendly and has top-grade sound for its price, as well as an adjustable input.
DAW (audio-editing software): Audacity – Going back to this trusty piece of software. If you’ve shelled out on a mic and are needing something super cheap to record your audio into – this is your best bet. Record audio, input audio, edit audio – what else do you need? (Free from audacityteam.org)
Hopefully you now have a better insight into what you might need to get your home studio off the ground. Just remember, this equipment is by no means the best available.
Setting up a studio can be expensive – even when you’re buying beginners equipment. Depending on how often you tend to use your equipment, booking a professional studio could be a more viable option. Say for example you record a podcaster once a month – spending £100 on a basic recording mic doesn’t really make much sense when you could book out a professional studio for a couple of hours and use top of the range recording equipment in a fully sound-proofed studio for a fraction of the price.
Assess your situation. If you can afford it; booking out a professional studio for the industry-standard equipment is definitely worth it – maybe try it out before you invest in a full home setup. Just a thought!
Probably the biggest difference between using a professional music studio and using your home studio is the room acoustics and sound-absorbing material used.
Professionally hand-crafted studios are designed to provide the truest representation of sound being played from the studio monitors. The studios are also fully-soundproofed, meaning you can crank up the volume with no interruptions and still get a true sound.
When it comes to soundproofing your home studio, you can buy sound-absorbing foam to put on the walls – this helps with absorbing the sound within your studio and stops your music from echoing around your room and sounding muddy. However, the common misconception is that this absorption will also sound-proof your room. Unfortunately that’s not the case.
A fully sound-proofed home studio requires applying proofing material in between the walls of your studio, making it harder for sound vibrations to travel through – which is beyond most of our budget. If, like me, your neighbours call your landlord at the whiff of a kick drum, then heading to a professional music studio will be a much better option.
If you're determined to improve the acoustic treatment of your home studio, here are a few tips and things you can buy:
Choosing a suitable location: Most of us probably don’t have a spare room laying around and just use our bedroom instead. That’s absolutely fine, I do the same. Just try and find a space that’s big enough for all of your equipment and (if possible) symmetrical. You’ll want to keep your monitors away from any corners.
Consider absorption objects: If you can afford to, purchasing sound absorption foam is a solid investment – you can get a 24 pack on Amazon for around £20 and this will do the trick. Applying these to the walls of your studio will help reduce the audio from echoing around your room and creating a muddy sound.
If your budget doesn’t stretch that far – pillows, duvets and curtains also do a good job at absorbing sound! Avoid windows where possible though, simply shutting the blinds makes a world of difference.
- Placement of sound absorbing material: As I said before, your monitors will want to be away from the corners. This is because sound gets trapped in corners and therefore creates peaks in certain frequencies. Once positioned, angle them at 45 degrees, creating an imaginary triangle between each monitor and your listening position.
When you’re placing your absorption material, it’s important to think about the direction the sound travels. Draw an imaginary line from the direction of each monitor. Once you reach a wall, this is where the audio will bounce off. Placing your absorption material here means it’ll absorb some of the sound, giving you a cleaner sounding listening experience.
- DIY Vocal Booth: If you're thinking of recording vocals in your home studio, it’s possible to put together your own vocal booth. There’s a few ways to do this. You basically need to create an enclosed space that’s going to directly absorb the vocals. One example of this could be to place the microphone inside a cardboard box with blankets draped over.
You essentially need to create a small room inside your studio to isolate the vocals – use your imagination, listen to how it sounds when recording and adjust as you see fit.
Time and effort required to set up a home music studio
If you’re worried about the idea of setting up your home studio. Don’t fret. It’s usually not too much effort if you’re just starting out. Most of the effort goes into actually researching the equipment and deciding which suits your needs. But hopefully, you found my equipment list relatively helpful and in turn conquered most of the legwork!
Before you purchase anything – be sure to check the measurements of all your equipment. I’ve personally made the mistake of purchasing a desk, only for it to be way too big to fit in my room. School boy error. It works both ways too, if your desk is too small – you might not be able to fit all your equipment on! Check all the measurements – it might even be worth drawing out a rough plan of where you expect it all to go once it arrives.
Once you have it all on your doorstep, you’ll find that most equipment is fairly user–friendly once setting up. It goes without saying, just give the manuals a quick read through for instruction on how to set anything up. There’s not really much more to worry about in terms of setting up! If you’re a bit of a DIY expert, you should be fine setting up speaker stands and desks on your own, but they can be a bit fiddly – ask your housemate to give you a hand if needs be and sort them out with a pot noodle for their troubles.
Cost of building a professional home recording studio
There may be a few of you out there that have saved up a bit of pocket money and are considering building a fully-fledged recording studio in your own home. Well let me just tell you, don’t expect to see much change from that pocket money – it is very expensive.
How much does a home recording studio cost? Expect to spend anywhere from £100 - £1000, depending on the equipment you buy. But if you’re looking at installing soundproofing, top of the range monitoring, reshaping your room space to make it more suitable for production and of course purchasing industry-standard gear – it can end up being £10,000+.
Like I said, it’s very expensive to kit out a home studio fully, which is why not many do and opt for a professional studio space instead. Before you go knocking down walls and investing in state-of-the-art equipment – be sure this is something you want to dedicate your entire life to. And of course, be sure to drop your landlord (and neighbours) a quick DM.
Maintenance of the studio
Although an obvious point, not many actually truly look after their home setups. Each equipment you have in your studio will come with a manual that will include how to correctly look after your equipment. You might think you already know, but it’s worth giving it a quick read through to ensure you’re setting up your equipment and packing it down correctly. This includes shutting down and unplugging your equipment.
A prime example of this would be ensuring you turn off your monitors before unplugging your audio interface – I know a few people that have blown their speakers doing so!
One of the many benefits of using a professional music studio is the access to a sound engineer. An engineer can be the difference between knowing how to use the equipment and getting the most out of the equipment – a privilege you wouldn’t get in your home studio. Unless of course you are a sound engineer, in which case you probably don’t even need to read this section.
When does it make sense to use a home studio?
- You don’t have time to spend hours in a studio
- Getting a quick idea down
- Working from home
- Testing out ideas and new skills
- Working on your projects everyday and looking to invest in your own equipment
When should you rent a professional studio?
- Working with an artist or guest
- Get away from distractions
- Mixing down or mastering a track
- Listening back to a project loud in a trusted space
- When you want to work with an engineer who can provide feedback
- Record vocals in a soundproof vocal booth
When deciding whether a home studio or a professional music studio is for you, there’s no right or wrong answer. We’re all different stages of our career and heading down different paths. For some of you, you might be content having a small setup at home. That’s what works for me! But for others, you might need a space to get away from distractions and get your ideas down in a professional environment.
If you’re still unsure, try out a studio for a day (you can book for as little as £10 per hour). If it’s not for you, then you can look into setting up a home studio. It's always worth doing a little research and trying alternative solutions before investing your hard earned money.