Home Recording Studio
April 3, 2004 7:02 AM   Subscribe

I'd like to set up a cheap "recording studio" for dialogue (not music). I'm shooting for NPR/"This American Life" audio-quality. What do I need and how much will it cost me? I'll probably have to do this in my apartment, so considerations include sound-proofing a small room in addition to recording equipment. One thing I don't need is a PC or sound-editing software. I have that. But I need recommendations for recording devices, mics, etc. This is for "audio drama" in which several people might be talking at once.
posted by grumblebee to Technology (17 answers total)
Not sure what kind of mic you should use, but I'd suggest getting a cheap mixer, like this Behringer, and plugging any mics into that and plugging that into your computer.
posted by bobo123 at 7:43 AM on April 3, 2004

Not to cut into grumblebee's question, but I happen to have found myself in the same position: guitarist/vocalist who'd like to lay down some acoustic tracks at a quality better than the static-filled computer mic I have.

I'd be interested in hearing what it'd take to make a good (inexpensive) and small home recording system, myself.
posted by precocious at 8:28 AM on April 3, 2004

I've been told the Shure SM58 ($100) is the mic you want for creamy vocals. Am I wrong?
posted by inksyndicate at 8:34 AM on April 3, 2004

Behringer also makes quite good mikes. You should also check out Rode. They are cheap, but good.

You should buy a large-diaghram condenser microphone with at least omni-, cardiod- and bi-directional pickup patterns. For example: AKG 414, Neumann U87 and Rode NT2000.

Buy a good microphone, don't save money there - you'll regret later.

on preview: SM58 is a stage mic, not the choice for studio.
posted by hoskala at 8:41 AM on April 3, 2004

Behringer mixers are a good "budget" choice as long as you don't touch the equalizers... Thumb-rule: a good mic in a good position is always better than eq.

You don't necessarily need a hardware compressor if you have a software-plugin to calm down the dynamics afterwards.
posted by hoskala at 8:45 AM on April 3, 2004

it's the shure sm57, inksyndicate. you can purchase one new for a little less than $100.

although i don't currently do any recording, i have a mackie 1202 (older model) mixer and a gadgetlabs wave 4/24 card that i bought on ebay from that purpose a couple of years ago. i was satisfied with the performance of both items (note: i am not a professional). they were approximately $150 each.
posted by lescour at 9:23 AM on April 3, 2004

SM58 stage vocals, dynamic microphone
SM57 stage guitars, picked instruments, vocals, dynamic microphone

Both are standards. Have been since the 70s. A very good choice for stage.

For the home studio you should consider condenser microphones. ( I just bought a couple of Behringer B5 mics. 95E, very good value for the money.)
posted by hoskala at 9:54 AM on April 3, 2004

This previous thread on soundproofing a room may you some offer valuable tips.
posted by Danelope at 9:59 AM on April 3, 2004

grumblebee: What do you mean by "cheap"? I'm betting the cost of a decent condenser mic will itself be more than you may want to spend.
posted by mischief at 10:27 AM on April 3, 2004

Response by poster: I don't have a set budget yet, though I'd love to keep everything under $1000. Under $500 would be even better. But I'm not sure what's realistic. Ultimately, I need to get the job done. So I'm interested in the cheapest solution, whatever that is.
posted by grumblebee at 11:02 AM on April 3, 2004

What will you be using to input the audio into your computer? A normal sound card really won't cut it. M-Audio has a line of decently-priced pro/prosumer audio cards that are a good starting point for audio I/O.
posted by zsazsa at 11:10 AM on April 3, 2004

under $500 is certaintly do-able. my recommendation is to get a m-audio usb duo and a nice condensor mic. you actually don't have to spend a fortune to get a really good one. a company called studio projects makes a copy of afforementioned u87 called a c1 that's gotten good reviews.
posted by mcsweetie at 12:48 PM on April 3, 2004

hey mcsweetie, thanks for posting that link to the c1 mic. that looks really interesting!
posted by edlundart at 2:47 PM on April 3, 2004

no worries! I've got one at home and I've been more than impressed by it. you can get one off of this fella for $200 with a free cable and free shipping.
posted by mcsweetie at 2:52 PM on April 3, 2004

I've found the Homerecording.com BBS a good resource for this kind of questions.
posted by mr.marx at 3:28 PM on April 3, 2004

Second hoskala's opinion: the SMs are workhorse stage mics, not studio mics.

You want to consider a number of things about your signal chain:

(1) Your room. The room you use should be as dead as possible. You want surfaces that absorb sound rather than reflect, and getting more serious means you want non-parallel walls or at least items (foam, wood) placed on the wall that make the surface irregular.

(2) Your mic. Decent condenser mic. Recommendations vary widely, but I doubt you're going to get out of this without spending at least $200.

(3) Microphone pre-amp. Again, recommendations vary. I've heard people get surprisingly good results out of a $100 ART Tube pre-amp. I've got a friend who isn't happy without spending insane amounts on this.

(4) A/D converter. The quality of the circuit that converts the analog signal to digital is pretty important.

Getting a box like the M-Audio Duo or Digidesign M-Box or Lexicon Omega combines steps 3 and 4, and will probably get you an adequate pre-amp and A/D converter for voice work and most home music studio work.
posted by weston at 3:52 PM on April 3, 2004

I'm planning on doing exactly the same thing grumblebee (recording audio drama, that is), and eventually I decided that using the local public access station's studio would be much more cost-effective. Here in Sacramento the public access station does both television and radio, and for the cost of membership and one class on how to use the equipment, I can get practically unlimited studio time. Then I can take the recordings home for mixing on my computer. I get to use better equipment than I could afford otherwise, and I don't have to worry about soundproofing my apartment.
posted by Acetylene at 12:52 PM on April 4, 2004

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