Building the perfect cheap home music studio can be daunting, and the prices can really add up fast once you add software to the mix. Here’s how to build the best home music studio on a budget, which should have just about everything you will need to make waves in the music scene. Today on Indiemusicmoney.com, I’ll be breaking down my own cheap home music studio! None of these products I am recommending are paid promotions, these are just my genuine, unbiased thoughts.
How Much Do I Need For a Cheap Home Music Studio?
Just quickly, here is how much a cheap home music studio is likely going to cost:
- DAW – £300-500
- VSTs – £0-£500
- Computer – £500-£3000
- Studio Monitors – £150-£1000
- Audio Interface – £20-£100
- Mic – £50-£400
- Misc Stuff – £50-£200
All in, this means a “cheap” home music studio likely isn’t going to be that cheap. I would try to set aside at least £1000, unless you already have a decent computer. If you already have a computer that will do the job, then £750 should be enough to pay for a DAW, speakers, an audio interface and a mic. Let’s get into my favourite cheap home music studio picks!
Music software is absolutely essential. It might seem like some software is needlessly expensive and isn’t a good investment but trust me – you don’t want to skimp on this part. I personally love using Ableton Live 11 as my DAW (Digital Audio Workstation), which cost me about £539. There are other DAWs available such as FL Studio, but I would definitely recommend picking this software based on which you prefer using rather than the price. At the end of the day, you will likely spend thousands of hours using this, so it’s definitely worth getting the one you truly love to use.
Both Ableton and FL Studio have demo versions, so you can try them both out and see which you prefer. If you are completely unfamiliar with both, typically producers who mainly make trap / hip hop beats often prefer FL Studio, whilst Ableton is the tool of choice for many other genres, such as Techno, Drum and Bass and Pop. Pro Tools is a very popular tool in the music industry despite being around for so long, but I personally prefer to work without it. At the end of the day, whichever DAW you end up using will probably not be a limiting factor in terms of the quality of your music, so just pick your preferred workflow. Unfortunately, a cheap home music studio is probably not going to be that cheap if you’re buying a good DAW. If you don’t feel like spending a ton on the software just yet, the FL Studio Demo version does let you export as WAV and MP3, the only downside being you can’t save or open .flp files (This is the file type of FL Studio Profits). I still sometimes use the demo version of FL Studio despite have paid for Ableton Live 11.
Music Software – VSTs
Once you’ve picked a DAW, you will probably want to get hold of some third party VSTs. Without a doubt, the best third party plugins and packs I have ever bought would have to be Serum by Xfer and Komplete by NI.
Serum is an extremely capable synth, with a super intuitive UI. It’s definitely the easiest to pick up in my opinion. Pairing this with the millions of available presets, it has to be the best $189 I have ever invested into making music.
Komplete is a package of a boatload of different tools from NI (Native Instruments). There is genuinely so much stuff that comes with this, that you will likely never even download let alone use them all. It’s a bit steep in terms of price (I think I paid about £400), but you will definitely love it.
It is worth bearing in mind that there are tons of great free VSTs worth getting too, so don’t worry if you’re on a budget. I will write an article on my favourite free VST plugins of 2022 very soon.
You’re obviously going to need a computer to run everything through. Personally, I use a desktop computer I built in 2020 for about £1500, since I use this for other work and also playing games. You can buy a more than capable laptop for about £500-£750. You don’t need to buy a Mac unless you have certain preferences when it comes to software, but if anything, I would argue you may find Mac OS a bit more limiting when it comes to finding software that works for you. Look for a PC with at least an Intel i5 or equivalent, and more than 8GB of ram and you should be absolutely fine. If you are the sort of producer who is likely to have 5+ instances of serum open at once and absolutely cannot stand lag, then it’s possibly worth going for a more beefy PC than if you mainly use samples.
Speakers / Studio Monitors
The absolute best balance of price to accuracy in my opinion are the KRK RP5s. For £240, I cannot find anything else that suits my sort of sound preference.
Some producers may consider these monitors to be overly bassy, in which case the Yamaha HS7s for around £350 are excellent too. If you are used to using non “Studio Monitors” then you might find these to be extremely flat, and might even thing your music actually sounds worse! This is deliberate though, as a flat and accurate sound is actually better for pushing you to create the best mix you can. Some would argue £250 isn’t exactly cheap, but I’m begging you – please don’t skimp on the studio monitors. You need accurate sound to make a good mix, and accuracy does come at a price.
Microphone – Shure SM58
You will probably be looking for a decent microphone, unless you purely produce instrumental music. As with the studio monitors, I’m just going to speak from personal experience and what I personally use every day. The Shure SM58. It’s accurate, easy to process and just does the job. For about £100 you would be hard pushed to find anything better than this little thing. I’ve been using the Shure SM58 in my home studio for 2 years, and I would never go back to a crappy USB mic again now I’ve moved. One important thing to consider with this pick is that you will also need an audio interface to make it work with your PC. Every cheap home studio still deserves good audio quality, and this will continue to be my favourite vocal mic, regardless of budget. I just don’t think I will benefit that much from a mic costing far more.
Audio Interface – M-Audio M-Track Duo
I don’t know a huge amount about audio interfaces, but I use this one. This fits the bill of a cheap home studio. It’s about £50 and it does the job absolutely fine. I’ve never had any issues with it. Plug your studio monitors into the back, mic in the front, and just forget about it. This was the easiest decision for me to make, because it simply felt like good value and has a ton of stellar reviews. As I say, I have never bothered spending hours of my life researching the absolute best audio interface, so there might be other great picks that I’ve missed out on.
This is another absolutely essential part of being a music producer. BACK UP YOUR SONGS! The last thing you want is for your PC to die, leaving hundreds of songs to be inaccessible. Whether you back them up to iCloud, Google Drive or buy a USB hard drive, just make sure that you are keeping your important work backed up. When it comes to which device I would recommend, just pick a 2TB Seagate up. Mine was about £50.
Conclusion – Cheap Home Studio
So there you have it, that’s covered just about everything you need to set up a good, affordable home studio. Depending on how much cash you are willing to invest, you can move up or down the product lines, but you will likely end up with a setup pretty similar to this. If you have a little bit of excess after adding it all up, I would recommend perhaps moving up to a larger set of studio monitors, such as the 8 inch versions of the KRK Rokits.
Remember, you can always upgrade your software. If you’re on a tight budget, maybe sort the hardware out first and then buy the VSTs as you go. Another golden tidbit I would absolutely recommend is to avoid complete entry level hardware. If you buy it and then end up upgrading, you would have saved money just going for what you actually wanted in the first place. I have bought 3 pairs of studio monitors in three years because I kept buying cheap. Starting with £50 bookshelf speakers, upgrading to low end £100 studio monitors, and finally getting a decent pair. I could have bought the one pair I actually needed and saved £150!
Now that you have got your home studio set up, why not take a look at making your first music release? Check out my article on how to release your music to Spotify, Apple Music and more cheaply here.