February 15, 2013

Building a Home Recording Studio

Max Kohl

Engineer

This post is part of our Non Sequitur Fridays series, which will feature a different Wistia team member’s take on a non-Wistia-related topic each week. It’s like our "employee of the month" but less "of the month"-y. Max Kohl doles out (Kohls out?) customer happiness at Wistia.

I think it’s a given that I freaking love music. I mean, who doesn’t? It’s one of the most amazing creations in the history of ever. Ever since my parents first gave me a portable cassette player and Will Smith’s “Big Willy Style” as a kid, I have obsessively listened to music at any moment I can. Right now, I’m listening to Explosions in the Sky, one of my all time favorite bands (check ’em out if you haven’t!).

As I listened to more and more music, my urge to create music grew as well. I still clearly remember my 10-year-old self being the happiest camper in the world when I got my first shitty no-name brand lefty electric guitar. The awful noises that came out of my tiny amp in those days most likely raised the blood pressure of my parents (sorry Mom and Dad), but to me, they were the most satisfying sounds my goofy ears had ever heard. My playing’s gotten slightly better over the years, but the childlike enjoyment of making music still remains every time I pick up a guitar.

Growing up, I played in several bands, some pretty good, some not so good, and even had the amazing opportunity to record a few EPs with some of my best friends. Now that I’m no longer actively playing music with other people, I’ve turned to writing songs on my own and dealing with the enjoyment/frustrations of solo writing.

The sounds in my head aren’t exactly just a dude and his acoustic, so I wanted to create a simple home recording setup to try and bring these ideas out into the real world. It’s taken me awhile to actually get a rig that I’ve wanted, but recently, it finally all came together. I’ve found that it’s pretty dang easy to create a nice home recording setup without breaking the bank.

Here’s the setup I’m currently rocking:

Akai MPK25 Midi Controller

This guy is awesome, a simple midi controller that provides a ton of functionality. While the keyboard only has 25 keys, it provides a great way to dial in sounds on midi instruments/flesh out chords and progressions. The drum pads are also fantastic for programming drum patterns and can be used in a similar fashion to an MPC.

Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 USB Audio Interface

I did a ton of research on audio interfaces, and this one seemed to be the best fit for my budget and needs. Boy, does it not disappoint. It has two inputs on the front for either direct-in guitar or microphone XLR inputs, and has two ¼ inch outputs in the back for monitors. While this is pretty simple compared to a lot of other audio interfaces, it’s perfect for simple single instrument recording at home. It also has built-in 48V phantom power, which is money for powered microphones.

2 x Mackie MR5mk2 Monitors

These bad boys pack quite a punch, and for the price ($149 each) I’ve yet to hear a better sounding pair of monitors. Even at damn loud volumes (sorry lady who lives above me), the sound quality is still precise and crisp. Even if you don’t have an interest in a home studio I would recommend these to anybody who’s looking for high quality sound for their desk computer.

Logic Pro

It goes without saying that this is one of the best DAWs (Digital Audio Workstations) out there today. I’ve yet to come across something I’ve wanted to do and haven’t been able to in Logic. It’s also ridiculously affordable compared to other DAWs, and comes with a bevy of software instruments that actually sound decent.

All of these combined give me a simple yet effective home studio solution. I have a ton of flexibility for sounds I can/want to create, and I don’t need a massive space in my apartment to record music. One of the most awesome parts about setting up a home studio is finding the equipment that’s right for you; there’s no one way to go about building out your rig, just find the pieces that fit what you want to accomplish. There’s also a ton of high quality and affordable equipment out there these days, so your wallet won’t scream mercy at you when you buy that new piece of gear to help you make the music you want.

While I’m still futzing around with ideas/songs, I’m excited to finally have this rig set up and to start fleshing out some new sounds I’ve been wanting to create for a while!

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