I agree that in today’s scenario, a music production setup is not as tough as in 10 or 20 years ago, because the whole music production technology is shifted from analog hardware to software-based recording.
Today music production setup is not that hard like 10 years ago. At least, music production enthusiasts think so. The result – the concept of an apartment music studio is widely selling in the market.
Thanks to this transformation, music production is now becoming so affordable today. But that does not mean, you go to market, buy a cheap audio interface and microphone and start recording on your home PC.
The problem is when you go to validate your idea of setting your minimalist apartment music studio, without having the required minimum knowledge of how and what equipment and software to choose, chances are, you would through your money on cheap and useless stuff.
This guide will answer all your pre-setup queries and give you detailed knowledge of choosing the right gear and software for your apartment recording studio.
Well, let’s begin…
What is an Apartment Music Studio?
When we see the history of recording studios, especially before the 90s, there were big investments needed to start one. There were tons of hardware needed to start a good recording studio, which costs big dollars. Hence it was not a single person business.
But after the evolution of computer technology and digitization of music production, that “investor” approach has been shrunk to the “single person investment” approach.
Now we can start a recording studio with minimum investment.
All the recording process is now computer-based, so today we need only an I/O device (audio interface) and a computer to start recording in our bedroom.
However good software is needed to get the best quality audio tracks. Even it’s much more affordable than past big studios.
You can start minimalist music production setup with just a few thousand dollars.
Here comes the term “apartment music studio”. In cities where space is limited an apartment music studio approach is the best business for music producers. We just need a few hardware and software to make it happen.
Let’s talk about the hardware and software needed to start and minimalist music production from your apartment.
Hardware Required for a Minimalist Music Production Setup
However, music production is totally transferred from analog to digital domain, we still need some hardware for I/O processing, etc.
Here, in this section, we’ll discuss the most required hardware needed for a minimalist apartment music studio and the examples as well.
The first even investment you should do is buying a computer for your recording studio. However, you can’t do it with your average home use computer or laptop.
You need a computer that should be fast enough to tackle all the processing for at least 32 tracks simultaneously.
I know, you can finish with 4-8 tracks but extra resources will help you when you get a big project.
Here are my recommendations to buy a computer for minimalist music production.
- Processor – Minimum Intel i5 (Latest generation)
- RAM – minimum 8 GB
- Hard-disk – 1 TB minimum
- Motherboard – USB 3.0, Firewire, HDMI, PCI slots required
- Graphics – 1GB minimum graphics card is needed to handle VST plugin graphics
- Power backup – 1KW UPS with half an hour backup
In the case of laptops, all the above recommendations will be applicable. PCI, UPS are not required on laptops.
I always prefer an Apple computer such as an iMac computer or Macbook laptop for recording purposes as they are durable and the performance is amazing. The added benefit of purchasing iMac is you get a world’s best monitor screen with it.
but if you do not have budget, you can assemble the same configuration by yourself.
The second most important hardware we need in our minimalist recording studio is…
There are several types of audio interfaces available in the market. From 2 channel inputs/outputs to 32 channel I/O there is a big range of audio interfaces.
There are hundreds of companies manufacture audio interfaces so “choosing the best fit for us” from the ocean of audio interfaces is a tough job for us.
So, first of all, you’ll have to write down your needs before going for any audio interface.
Here are the criteria you can refer to choose the best audio interface for your apartment music studio.
- How many inputs and outputs you really need for your work?
- Do you need more than 2 pre-amps?
- How many headphone outs do you need? (You can use headphone amps instead)
- Do you have Fire-wire connection on your computer/laptop? Connection type is very crucial so the first search for the connection type your computer supports.
- Quality of A/D converter. Search for the reviews about it on forums.
- Do you need an optical ADAT connection? If not then don’t go for an audio interface that has Optical ADAT. Otherwise, you will end up your inputs and outputs
- Check the reviews of the audio interface on Amazon and other leading online shopping sites.
If you want to buy audio interfaces as per the above criteria, refer to my article “9 Best audio interfaces of all time”.
So, now we have our input device (audio interface) it’s time to choose the output device (studio monitor).
Studio monitors are 3rd most essential gear for a recording studio.
And most confusing one, also…
Almost all of us get stuck in choosing studio monitors due to limited knowledge of sound theory.
Theoretically, a good studio monitor should have a flat frequency response. That means, there will be no modification in the actual sound, which is quite common in ordinary speakers.
However, totally flat frequency response is not possible in the real world scenario, we must choose nearly flat ones.
You can refer to my article “How to choose best studio monitors” if you wanna go deep inside.
In short, here are some common criteria to choose a good studio monitor for your home studio.
- It should have a nearly flat frequency curve – refer to respected studio monitor documentation.
- Your studio monitor should have a magnetic shield to avoid radio frequency interference.
- Minimum 5″ woofer and 1″ tweeter is good for better output.
- It does not create much distortion in high volume.
- Should be durable.
- Should be responsible for the low end, especially below 50 Hz.
Still confused in choosing studio monitors for your home studio?
Refer to my articles,
However, there are portable vocal acoustic sets available in the market to record vocals inside a normal room.
Okay, leave acoustic treatment for now and focus on microphones. So, what kind of microphones do you actually need for your home studio?
It depends…upon the work you want to do in your studio
Do you want to record vocals, or acoustic guitar, or drums? There are several types of mics available for different tasks.
If you want to record vocals then you need a condenser mic, where if you want to record only acoustic instruments then you can do that by condenser as well as dynamic mics. Drums have their own color so you need drum mics to record them.
Generally, a good condenser mic(cardioid) is sufficient to record vocals and guitars. But it’s not so easy that it looks like.
Every condenser mic has its own features and color. You cannot go with any random one and hope for the best results.
Here are those features and criteria your condenser microphone should have.
- The frequency curve should be slightly upwards in mid-range frequencies so that it could record the mid frequencies prominently. You can refer to the mic’s documentation for it.
- Your condenser mic should responsive from the 40Hz-18kHz minimum.
- The cardioid pattern is sufficient, but it has other patterns than its added benefit to you.
- It must have low sibilance – Which is quite common in low priced mics.
Would you like to lost your data due to unexpected power cut?
Obviously not. Right?
Power cut is a major problem in tier 2 countries like India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. However, it’s a problem of tier 2 countries but doesn’t underestimate it if you live in the USA, Canada, etc.
Power cuts can happen at any time and from any cause. So, it’s better to get at least a UPS to save your work and costly recording gear from power failure.
When it comes to power backup solutions, APC is the best company to choose from. They have a wide range of power backup solutions.
However, you need a few extra bucks to buy APC products but once you own, it will long last to years. Just one thing to remember is, Always check the batteries and if damaged, immediately replace them.
For apartment studios somewhere from 600VA to 1000VA UPS is sufficient. I suggest, don’t go for more then 1000VA as it’s sufficient to power up your all apartment studio gear.
Software Required for a Minimalist Music Production Setup
The main fuel of an apartment studio is recording software and plugins. Or we can say, software and VST plugins are the backbones of a minimalist recording studio.
We are very much dependent on VST instruments, DAWs, and effect plugins to produce music in a minimalist recording studio.
VST instrument plugins and DAWs come in the fractions of money spent on hardware recording setup and if operated well, can deliver results almost like hardware recording.
In this section, we will learn about the software and plugins required to start an apartment minimalist recording studio.
DAW (Digital Audio Workstation)
Just like in hardware audio recording setup, where a mixer is used to balance, record and mixdown different tracks, in digital audio recording setup a DAW or digital audio workstation is used.
However, there are several free and paid DAWs available in the market but not all will give the aspected results.
Well, don’t worry, you won’t have to go anywhere for recommendations. Just read my article “11 best DAW software for home studios“
Above mentioned guide will help you in choosing right DAW software as per your needs.
Note: A DAW software comes far cheaper than a hardware mixer and provides limitless possibilities.
VST Effects Plugin Bundles
The other type of software that you need for the apartment music production setup is VST effects plugins.
VST effect plugins are add-ons that make your DAW more powerful by providing different effects to use in channel strips and a master channel.
They are the replica of actual insert effects used in hardware setup. And the best thing is, they are used as the same way as in hardware setups. You have to use them in insert effect channels provided in the DAW.
However, most of the DAWs have their own set of effect plugins and they are sufficient to deliver pro mixes, but if you want more functionalities, presets, etc then you should go with pro effect plugin bundles available in the market.
There are tons of VST plugin bundles available in the market but I recommend only 3 of them.
- Fabfilter effect plugin bundles
- Waves effect plugin bundle
- UAD VST effects (Needs UAD hardware processor)
However, VST effect plugins are optional so you can leave them initially, but the other type of VST plugins that I have mentioned in the below section is essential for minimalist music production.
Wanna buy some cool plugins?
Sample Library and Virtual Instruments
When it comes to minimalist music production in your bedroom, sample library and virtual instruments become the essential software for use.
Sample library and virtual instrument plugins are the set of tones and sample sounds to make the music production much easier – without owning a real instrument.
If you are planning to start creating music from your apartment then it will be clear that you don’t have much space and infrastructure to record live instruments.
Well, in this situation virtual instrument plugins help us to produce music without bothering about the space and infrastructure.
Just install them on your computer, connect a MIDI keyboard to the audio interface, open a MIDI instrument track, assign your virtual instrument to the track, and start producing your music with the MIDI keyboard.
There is no need to possess the instrument in real. You can play the same instrument tone with your MIDI keyboard.
There are tons of virtual instruments available in the market. Few sources are given below.
Well, now you know what are the basic needs for starting a minimalist recording studio for apartment music production.
All the gear and software that I have mentioned above are essential for you as a beginner, however, you can drop one or two things.
But, a computer, audio interface, DAW and virtual instruments are most essentials.
Let me know how this guide has helped you, and share your own thoughts in the comments section. And, don’t forget to share this useful article with like-minded people on social media.
Best of luck…
Gautam Roy is a recording engineer and a blogger from India. He loves music, writing and travelling. He is also an active investor and a successful entrepreneur.