RS Recommends: The Best Recording Kits for Your Home Studio
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Recording music at home is easier than ever. Now, whether you have a rough song idea in your head or you’re putting the final touches on a track, the best home studio recording kit can give you all the capabilities of an entire professional setup right at your desk, in your bedroom or anywhere you take your laptop.
How to Choose the Best Home Studio Recording Kit
A home recording bundle will typically include the essentials of everything you need to get started. Here’s what ideally should be in box so you can get started ASAP.
Audio Interface: Otherwise known as a preamp, this is probably the most important component besides your computer. The sound of your vocals from the mic, or guitars from the amp, is too powerful to go directly into your studio program, and a preamp helps level it out before it gets recorded digitally. Preamps with two combo inputs let you record from two mics, two guitars, keyboards, synth or any combination of them. A good preamp will also cut down on delay, which makes recording way more difficult than it needs to be.
Microphone: If you’ll be laying down vocals of any kind, you’re going to need a mic, and the best ones will pick up the little nuances and things that make your voice truly unique. However, not all mics are the same. There are two main kinds: condenser mics and dynamic mics. For vocals, a condenser mic is the way to go. These are best for recording what’s right in front of it, where you’ll be when you’re singing. A dynamic mic can be better for non-electric instrument recording, or for a whole band surrounding it.
Mic Shield: When recording vocals, mic quality is important, but so is the shape and size of the room you’re in, and particularly if it has bare walls. Your voice can bounce around, reverberating and causing an unwanted echo effect that can’t be removed once it’s done. A mic shield is an easy fix for this, as it stops your vocal projection a few inches after the mic picks it up. It leaves you with a clear, clean and reverb-free recording.
Cables: Often overlooked, don’t forget about the cables. It’s a huge letdown finally receiving your studio bundle in the mail only to find that no cables are included. For starters, you’ll need a few XLRs for mics, 1/4-inch for instruments like guitars and a USB for phantom powering some equipment. And it never hurts to have a spare RCA and 3.5mm headphone cable.
Software: Many of these bundles come with their own software, often known as a DAW — Digital Audio Workstation. These not only provide a place for you to put down and edit all your different instrument recordings into one final track, but can also offer up a whole bunch of extra instruments and sounds digitally (and often free) too.
Extras: A shock mount for the mic is a nice addition, especially if you’re recording while sitting at a desk. Same goes for a pop filter to cut down on hard vocal sounds.
The Best Home Studio Recording Kits
Dropping cash on a studio bundle is an investment, but it can also be life-changing as you learn more hands-on recording techniques to create the music you love. Here are our favorite kits to buy now.
1. Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 Studio
Focusrite’s Scarlett Solo preamp has been a favorite among home recording artists for decades, and this bundle takes it a step further, including everything you need. It comes with a basic version of Pro Tools, an excellent DAW studio program, along with plugins and digital instruments too.
During our tests, recording through the preamp sounded clean and free of crackles, clipping or buzzing, leaving a pristine track to work with. The included CM25 MkIII condenser mic comes with a 10-foot XLR cable and captured bright sounding vocals on the first go. Closed-back headphones are included, and are high quality enough to notice the little details in your tracks. Free plug-ins are added to your Focusrite account every few weeks too, so there’s always something new to experiment with.
2. Shure SM7B Cardioid Dynamic Vocal Microphone Bundle
Shure has been crafting microphones, phonographs, headphones, radios, and other audio products for nearly a century now, and if you’re looking to do a variety of recording projects at home, this bundle is ready to go when you are – even if all you have is your laptop and a simple DAW.
As for the mic itself, the SM7B is great for vocals and studio recording, but also proved to be excellent for podcasting and streaming as well.
This seems to have the best of both worlds when it comes to mics – attributes of both cardioid and dynamic. The mic’s cardioid pattern lets you naturally project your voice from pretty much any angle and still captures it evenly, while the dynamic cartridge inside keeps vocals sounding clear, rich and professional.
Electromagnetic shielding also helped to cut down on one of the most annoying aspects of recording for beginners – picking up unwanted signals, frequencies, and equipment noise that often adds background buzzing to your tracks.
Along with the mic, you’ll also get a boom arm with desk clamp, pop filter, XLR cable, and velcro straps.
3. Mackie Studio Bundle with CR3-X monitors
This set comes with two microphones, as well as two CR3-X monitors to hear your tracks without headphones (though they’re also included).
The set’s EM-91C condenser mic captures vocals straight-on and works best with a sound-absorbing surface behind it. Meanwhile, the EM-89D dynamic mic lets you record instruments directly.
The passive audio interface has multiple inputs and an array of adjustable features, along with Mackie’s Big Knob to make setting levels easy without taking your eyes off the screen. A mono button lets you instantly check your connection for interference, while a mute is great for quieting things down without touching your set levels, or killing screechy feedback from a misplaced mic before it gets loud.
4. M-Audio Complete Recording Bundle
M-Audio has been a recognizable brand in home studio setups for years, and its sleek, shiny Air interface in this bundle performs well. At 24-bit/192kHz resolution, this connects via high-speed USB and leaves little to no latency.
A Nova condenser mic is included with a shock mount and XLR cables, as well as over-the-ear studio headphones that work smoothly, whether you’re using a Mac or PC. Extras included are versions of ProTools and Ableton Live Lite, and 2GB of loops.
5. PreSonus AudioBox Studio Ultimate Bundle
PreSonus’ bundle contains everything an a musician needs to record, mix, and master studio-quality tracks at home. The AudioBox USB 96 allows you to record up to two tracks of high-resolution audio at once, then listen back to your song on both the HD7 headphones and Eric E3.5 speakers until they sound just right. Making sure your recording is well-balanced in both scenarios is critical.
The hardware included in this bundle is top-notch, but it’s complemented by PreSonus’ Studio One Artist recording suite. This software allows you to tweak your recordings to achieve sonic perfection. PreSonus says the software included with this bundle is worth over $1,000 on its own, which makes this a particularly good deal.
No home recording bundle we’ve come across is this well balanced; Persons’ AudioBox Studio Ultimate Bundle is truly the full package.
6. Vocaster Two Studio
Created by Focusrite, the Vocaster Two was built to help you achieve your podcast dream, no matter if you’re just starting out.
The DM2 dynamic microphone helps the host come through loud and clear, with auto-set features that handle things like gain and presets. A mute button is readily available too for when you need to quickly go off-mic, and Bluetooth capability allows you to take calls while “on air” and record them too.
This also includes closed-back headphones and, of course, the Vocaster Two interface, with headphone volume knobs for both host and guest, and inputs for everything including XLR mics and speakers.
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