Nov 14 2008

Building a Home Studio

Published by at 5:54 pm under music

Building a home studio can be very fun and rewarding for both the serious musician as well as the hobbyist.  This page is dedicated to helping you find the information you need to make the right decisions – home studio’s do not have to be expensive, nor should you be wasting you hard-earned money on equipment that either you don’t need, or can find the same functionality bundled in another product.

My biggest advice, is to make sure you shop around.  You can find dramatic differences in prices, and trust me, the Internet is not always the cheapest.  Be sure to check your local store.

While many of the links discuss both Mac and PC based home studio’s, most the information currently refers to building a PC based studio.

  • The power of forums

I would strongly suggest that you seek out and find robust community forums that lean towards your interests.  I love electronic music, both dance and ambient.  One of the best forums I found is centered around an indispensable book called “The Dance Music Manual” by Rick Snoman.  This book has become my bible and the forum supports like minded people.

On this forum I have learned a ton of information about all the different hardware and software available as well as tips and tricks on using them.

  • Choosing a sound card

One of the most crucial elements of building a PC-based home studio is the sound card.   To often we settle for the SoundBlaster or OEMed sound card that came with our PC.    The following link is a great resource – these guys have done a great job at analyzing the quality of a variety of sound cards in a variety of price ranges.

PCAVTech Sound Card Technical Benchmarks

I went with the M-Audio Delta 66.  It is an excellent card and callout box with incredible sound, my only annoyance with it is that I wish there was a place to plug in my headphones directly into the callout box so I can work on my music late at night without waking up my neighbors.  As it stands now, I have to route the output from the Delta 66 to my Alesis mixer just to a headphone jack.  Turned out that currently I don’t need the Alesis mixer as I only have one hardware component and it plugs directly into the Delta 66.

  • Choosing your software

The next important component to a PC-based home studio is obviously the software.   Before you run out and buy a $500.00 piece of software, realize that there are a lot of less expensive packages that offer quiet a bit more features.

I took a pretty good route to building out my studio.  I started off with cheaper semi-professional software and components and slowly invested in the professional equivalents.  My first software was ACID Pro which I got for a $299.00.  It is a great program to start out with – it is a sample looping program with MIDI support.  It is a great way to ease into music production if you are unsure that this is the hobby for you.  You can edit, re-edit, remix and generally create some amazing sounds and songs.  The problem is that it eventually stops short of allowing you to do which other software such as Cubase SX3 offers.   Basically the ability to completely compose original tracks.  Fortunately ACID can be used as a rewire device and can be incorporated into Cubase when you eventually upgrade.

  • Choosing your keyboards

One thing that I have found building out an electronic studio is that I have very little hardware.  I am currently using an M-Audio Radium 49 keyboard controller ($149.00 from  This is simply a keyboard that talks MIDI.  It has no built in synth engine but rather drives the various engines on my computer.  I am very pleased with it, but I really need to get their Pro 88 key hammer weighted keyboard controller ($499.00 from .  The Radium has done a great job, but the keys are plastic and small and I play piano so I need the weighted action of the keys.

I have found that my keyboard controller is all I need to drive my various VST engines and my one and only hardware sound module.

  • Choosing sound modules

So I would recommend that you save some money and buy the module version of the synthesizer that you are interested in.  Currently my only hardware module is an Access Virus Classic, which sounds absolutely amazing.  It creates the most amazing sounds and comes with 1024 preset sounds.  The Virus allows you access to every possible parameter to shaping sound that you can think of.  I highly recommend one.

  • The power of VSTs

VST is a technology invented by Steinberg, the maker of Cubase.  This technology allows your computer to host the synthesizer engine that would normally be found in the hardware keyboard or sound module.  It opens the door to an unbelievable possibility of sounds.  The technology is even maturing to the point where you can either load up TC Powercore expansion cards in your computer or use technology to distribute the VSTs across multiple computers.  There are two that I know of:  FX Teleport and Steinberg’s V-Stack.

  • Tips & Tricks

[more to come]

  • My setup

Computer: AMD Athlon 2500XP CPU, 2 GB RAM, 3 80 GB Harddisks and a DVD/CD-R burner.
Display: 2 17″ LCD monitors in split screen mode.
Studio Monitors: Alesis M1 Active Mk2.
Mixing Console: Alesis 10 channel mixer with all balanced I/O.
Sound Modules: Access Virus Classic
Software: Cubase SX3, ACID Pro 5.0, Sound Forge 6.0, HALion3
VST Instruments:  Vanguard, Sounds of the 70′s, Native Instruments Pro-53, Spectrasonics Trilogy, Spectrasonics Stylus RMX, Spectralsonics Atmosphere, NI Battery2, NI Absynth3
VST Effects: iZotrope Trash, plus what came with Acid and Cubase.
Sample Libraries: Ueberschall House Essentials, several other ACID libraries from Sony

On my list:

Spectrasonics Symphony of Voices sample library, EastWest Ra

Music Fundamentals

The Ravens spiral guide to music theory is just plain excellent.

MIDI Fundamentals

[more to come]

Recording Fundamentals

[more to come]

Do If Yourself…

[more to come]

Or Find a Label…

[more to come]

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