Let’s say you want to build the perfect home studio. There are some restrictions though, in that you can’t do any physical construction and you don’t have enough room for a console of any type. What would you buy? I have some ideas. Keep in mind that my suggestions below have lots of alternatives that will get you equal results, since this is so subjective. Here we go.
Remember, we’re not allowed to do any construction, but there are some kits available that really improve the sound of our room. Where not that long ago if you wanted acoustic treatment you had to do it yourself, now there’s a wide range of pre-made alternatives available.
One way to go is with one of the London kits from Primacoustic. Another might be to ask the consultants at GIK Acoustics. If you want to swing a hammer yourself, all the information you need is in my Studio Builder’s Handbook, or you can just watch this video if you want to do it on the cheap. Whichever way you go, plan on spending between $1k and $2k to do it right.
Companies like Argosy provide a lot of options for desks but there are others as well. Expect to pay some dough, but also expect to have it for a long time. I had mine custom built but it’s lasted for 20 years and still looks brand new. The cost will probably be in the $2-3k range.
There are so many great alternatives here. I use the Amphion One18’s (they’re passive) along with an Amphion 500 power amp. A larger room might require the Two18s. Another way to go is my buddy Carl Tatz’s Phantom Focus speakers and subwoofer. There are many great alternatives from Adam, ATC, Dynaudio and others. This decision is extremely important so it’s a place where don’t want to cheap out. Figure between $5k and $10k.
This is a dicey subject since the technology changes so fast. The problem is that the latest and greatest in terms of computer horsepower might not be usable for a while until the software catches up to it (I’m looking at you M1 Macs). It’s best to stay a generation behind to be sure that your DAW is stable. Pack it full of RAM (24G minimum) and a solid state drive.
It’s also nice to have an external drive bay filled with SSD’s for fast performance and backup. My favorite is the OWC Thunderbay 4, but there are many other alternatives as well. Speaking of which, be careful about the ports on your computer as they might not be compatible with your peripherals. Figure paying anywhere from $3-10k.
For your perfect studio, you probably want a variety of DAW software apps, from Pro Tools to Logic Pro to Cubase or Nuendo to maybe Studio One. There are a lot of pricing alternatives here, but figure around $1k for the DAW software. Then you’ll want some plugin packages from Waves, UAD (if you purchased one of their interfaces), Plugin Alliance, iZotope and others. You can go through $2k pretty fast so figure $4k to cover it all.
There are so many choices here. Many use a high-end multichannel interface from Apogee, Universal Audio, or Avid, then use a Crane Song Avocet as the ultimate clean monitor controller. If that’s too complex, there are plenty of really good stereo interfaces from UAD, Apogee, Antelope Audio and Dangerous Music. This is also a place not to skimp on, so figure spending $3k to $7k or so.
You’re going to want to do some recording so this is the perfect place for a couple of channel strips. I’m partial to the Rupert Neve Designs Shelford channels, but you’ll find a wide variety to suit your tastes. I’d figure around $7k for both give or take a thousand or so.
Another place not to skimp. You’ll probably want at least a small microphone locker, but start with at least one good vocal mic. There are so many that you could buy and never go wrong with. Personally I’d start with Mojave Audio MA-1000, but there are so many great alternatives from Neumann, Telefunken, Manley and many more. Then there’s the virtual mics that can sound like anything from Townsend Audio, Slate, and Antelope Audio. Figure anywhere from $3k to $10k for your high-end mic, and around $10k to $20k for your mic locker.
Cables, headphones, adapter cables, patch cables (and maybe a patchbay), external displays, backup drives, and more, there are so many small items that you’ll continue to buy long after your initial major purpose. Do you want a controller or are you good using a mouse? Figure at least $2k.
That comes out to around $66k on the high end, and $35k on the low end. Remember that money was no object when building our perfect home studio, so we don’t care too much about how much we spend. Sure you could spend a lot more if you want, but I’m not sure that you’ll hear much of a difference. Of course you can also spend a lot less and get by just fine. The alternatives are vast and getting more so every day.