9 Essential Music Studio Equipment For Beginners

Thomas Leypoldt Holding Dell Optiplex 7010 SFF

Do you wonder what music recording equipment you need in order to create music like a professional? Then this article is for you.

Building a home music studio does not have to cost you a fortune. Even though music production can be a quite expensive hobby, I have tried to come up with great, affordable alternatives to some of the equipment mentioned here.

Here is the music production equipment you need in order to build a powerful home music studio:

  1. A Computer
  2. A Digital Audio Workstation (DAW)
  3. Studio Headphones
  4. MIDI Keyboard Controller
  5. Audio Interface
  6. Microphone
  7. Acoustic Room Treatment
  8. Studio Monitors
  9. An External SSD/HDD

I have underlined my key tips in the pale blue info boxes that look like this. Beneath these info boxes, you will sometimes find a link (some of these are affiliates) to my recommended products. I only recommend products I’ve actually owned or tested in person.


1. Computer

If you don’t have a dedicated music production computer yet, I would actually recommend that you get a Windows PC.

Why? Because if you are on a budget, or are unsure if music production is something you will fully pursue yet, you will get much more value for money in a Windows PC.

Also, the PC components for a Windows computer are in general much more affordable than the Apple components.

Windows computers are in general much more customizable than Apple computers too, making a Windows PC a much better bang for your buck.

More options with Windows

Most Apple computers have limited upgradeability compared to a Windows PC. And that’s just a shame if you want to keep your Mac up to date with the latest models and software requirements.

I’ve used Apple products for over 10 years (and this article is written on a Mac) but for music production, I made the switch over to Windows in 2019.

That has turned out to be a great decision. The only thing I really miss is the Mac operative system. I think the interface and user-friendliness of the Mac OS are miles better than the Windows OS. In my humble opinion, of course.

BUT, as stated: If you are on a budget, you will get tons more value for money buying a Windows PC.

What makes a computer good for music production?
A decent amount of RAM and a powerful CPU are maybe the most critical components in a powerful music production PC.

That is why you should look for:
Minimum 8GB of RAM
An i5 CPU (minimum)


In a music production PC, a powerful CPU is, in my experience, much more important than lots of RAM (16GB of RAM should be plenty for most people). When you look for music production PCs, I recommend you visit PassMark to check out how high the CPU is ranked.

BEST ‘VALUE FOR MONEY’ MUSIC PRODUCTION PC

DELL OPTIPLEX 7010 SFF

Amazon Renewed is a quite cool concept. There you can get really good deals on computers that cost a fortune back in the day when they were brand new. They could even be better NOW than when they were new – with the latest operative system, increased RAM and a better CPU.

The DELL Optiplex 7010 is just awesome. It’s got amazing power for its small form factor, and it’s surprisingly quiet too! I personally use this model myself at the moment, and I am very happy with it. It handles heavy processing and loading of large VST libraries without any problem.

There are, of course, way more powerful computers out there, but if you are looking for a good deal, this DELL Optiplex would not disappoint you.

Click the title to check out the specs and price on Amazon.

Me, drooling over my DELL Optiplex 7010 SFF.

You can read more about how I got an awesome and powerful music production PC for a total of $299 in this article.


2. Digital Audio Workstation (DAW)

A Digital Audio Workstation (commonly shortened ‘DAW’) is the software where you can record, edit, mix, and master your music.

It goes without saying that this is a critical component of your music studio, and there are lots of different options out there.

Which one to buy?

It’s important to ask yourself what you are going to use the DAW for. Are you going to record audio like vocals and acoustic guitars mostly? Or are you looking to work with MIDI?

Most DAWs handle all these things, but how well they handle them differs. For example, if you are going to work with MIDI, I highly recommend that you first and foremost get Cubase or Logic Pro.

Are you going to work with live audio however, I would look further into Ableton or ProTools.

There are FREE DAWs out there too
If you are on a budget, you could consider trying some of these free DAWs:

1. ProTools First (Mac, Windows)
2. GarageBand (Mac)
3. Cubase LE (Mac, Windows)
4. Audacity (Linux, Mac, Windows)

BEST DAWs

Logic Pro & Cubase Pro

I love both Cubase Pro and Logic Pro, and I have been been working quite extensively in both of these DAWs. In fact, I can easily recommend them both. They have everything you need in a DAW, and they are both pretty straightforward to understand compared to other DAWs out there.


LOGIC PRO(s & cons)

Buy Logic Pro if you are using Apple products and if you want a studio graded DAW for a very affordable price.


CUBASE PRO (s & cons)

Maybe the best DAW for MIDI editing out there
Comes with great, professional effect plugins like a fantastic EQ
Has, in general, more features than any other DAW out there
Expensive
Uses e-licensers and dongles, which can be quite the pain sometimes

Buy Cubase Pro if the price isn’t an issue and if you need the DAW with the most features, the best MIDI editors and quality built-in effect plugins.


Even though I use Cubase Pro at the moment, I used Logic Pro for over 10 years. I love them both.

3. Studio Headphones

Whether you are planning to get a couple of studio monitors for your home music studio or not you should get a solid pair of headphones first.

Here’s why:

  • You might not have the optimal room treatment for the studio monitors to thrive. I’ll come back to this.
  • If you are making music from your bedroom or living room, chances are that you would like to be up late sometimes to create music. A pair of headphones will ensure you not getting complaints from your neighbours.

Bear in mind – studio headphones are not as honest and revealing as studio monitors. One of the reasons is that you are not getting a true stereo sound like you would with the monitors.

But they are at least way better than the built-in speakers of your PC, or standard, cheap PC speakers.

Headphones that are suited for music production should be
1. Over-ear
2. Comfortable to wear during longer studio sessions
3. Robust
4. Honest. What I mean by this is, some headphones artificially boost the lower or higher frequencies in order to sound better. This is not what you want, because they are coloring the sound, giving you a false frame of reference when you are mixing.

BEST STUDIO HEADPHONES

Audio-Technica ATH M50x

The Audio-Technica ATH m50x is very comfortable to wear and gives you an amazing, clean sound quality. Also, they are very affordable, robust and overall build quality is very good.

In addition to being comfortable to wear during longer sessions, they are quite honest too. This is very important in order to create a mix that sounds good across multiple devices.

If you want to check the current price on this, check it out on Amazon by clicking the title.

Audio-Technica ATH M50x Headphones
Audio-Technica ATH M50x Headphones

4. MIDI Keyboard Controller

If you play the piano or are going to work with different VST libraries like Native Instruments, Spitfire Audio or Nexus, you are definitely gonna need a MIDI Keyboard Controller.

The question is: which one?

There are a ton of different options out there – some are extremely expensive, and some are ridiculously cheap.

What to consider when buying a MIDI Keyboard Controller
1. How many keys do you need? A fully sized, 88-key keyboard is, in my opinion, a must-have if you are a pianist, but this might not be the most practical size for an electronic music artist.

2. Are you going to be a lot on the road? In that case, maybe you should go for a portable, lightweight keyboard that will easily fit in your backpack?

3. How many MIDI controller options do you need? Do you just need the faders, or do you need a great range of other buttons as well?

BEST MIDI KEYBOARD CONTROLLER

Komplete Kontrol A49

I wanted to meet you in the middle – the best choice for most people out there would be a medium-sized featured-packed MIDI Keyboard controller that fits in your studio, as well as being possible to bring on your travels.

And the Komplete Kontrol series from Native Instruments fits the bill here.

The overall build quality is very high, and it is perfectly integrated with Native Instrument software, like the Komplete Kontrol software, which mainly lets you browse through all your Kontakt libraries with ease.

If you want a smaller or larger size, this model also comes in 25 keys and 61 keys.

MIDI Controller Keyboard Native Instruments

You can read more about my favorite MIDI controllers here.


5. Audio Interface

An audio interface is integral if you want to record high-quality audio. The audio interface is a professional version of a sound card and it can handle latency issues your PCs integrated sound card can not.

The main task of the audio interface is to convert audio signals into digital signals, so you can work with them on your computer.

In addition, an external audio interface extends your input options considerably. Your computer has only a limited set of out-and inputs. With a solid audio interface, you will suddenly have XLR inputs, optical, guitar, microphone and more.

Side Tip:
You could improve your computer’s integrated sound card with the free ASIO driver download ASIO4ALL.

ASIO is the most common protocol in audio interfaces and will improve your sound card’s ability to tackle latency issues. This free download won’t help with the sound quality of the built-in microphone though, so if you need to record audio, you’d still be better off getting an audio interface.

I’ve picked out two options for you in this case – one of them is the Scarlett 212 (3rd gen). This is a brilliant and affordable audio interface for you who are on a budget, but really need the key features that an audio interface offers.

The other one is the Apollo Twin Mk2. What makes the Apollo so good, you ask? Well, it features some great plugins and is, of course, a quality build.

But the reason I recommend this is basically because it is a very capable audio interface with amazing sound quality. It is used by professional music producers like Tony Platt (AC/DC, Bob Marley) and Trevor Lawrence Jr. (Eminem, Dr.Dre).

Click their respective product names to check out the price on Amazon. If you click the Focusrite, you will discover a bundle deal, which I think is great value for money!

The Apollo Twin Mk2.

Click here to read more about the audio interfaces and discover why these two are my favorites.


6. A Microphone

A quality microphone is easily one of your most important equipment if you do a lot of live recordings.

There are a ton of really good microphones out there. And they are different types too. Which one to pick – a condenser or a dynamic microphone?

A condenser microphone is much more delicate and sensitive than a dynamic microphone, picking up finer details in the recordings.
This makes the condenser great for complex, soft vocals and overtones.

The dynamic microphone, however, is not as sensitive as the condenser, making it a much better alternative to recording loud vocals, drums, and other loud instruments.

Remember
Most types of microphones must be connected to an audio interface in order for you to record your vocals, instruments, etc.

The exception is if you use a USB microphone, which has a built-in amplifier. Then you could just plug your microphone directly into your computer and record.

BEST MICROPHONES

Sennheiser MK 4 & Shure SM58

Best Condenser Microphone
The Sennheiser MK 4 is the condenser microphone I personally use, and I really like how good it looks. The silver and black finish that really compliments each other nicely.

And of course – it feels solid and durable. And the most important trait of all, it performs wonderfully.

It produces a crisp, professional, quality sound. Being a condenser microphone, it also picks up the finer details in vocals and acoustic guitars really, really well. You will not go wrong with this!

Best Dynamic Microphone
This legendary dynamic microphone has probably at some point been used by basically every famous artist you know. It is wonderfully affordable and should be an integral part of any studio setup out there.

In other words, a definite go-to microphone if you need a microphone that can withstand loud vocals, drums etc.

Click their respective headings to check out their price on Amazon.

microphone sennheiser MK 4

7. Acoustic Room Treatment

In order to get the best results when recording through your microphone, you will need a room that is acoustically treated.

Your goal is to get as real results as possible in a room that does little with the sound – making it easier for us to tweak the EQs, etc., of the recordings.

Check out this video for a very helpful tutorial on how to acoustically treat your studio.

Use the things in and around your house
To make your room much more suited to record audio, use blankets, carpets, furniture, bookshelves, curtains, etc. to cover your walls and floors.

However, be aware that picture frames and table lamps tend to vibrate (not a good thing) and could create disturbing noises in your recordings, so I would stay clear of using these things.

8. Studio Monitors

First things first – studio monitors are generally the better option over headphones when it comes to mixing your music.

A pair of quality studio monitors do not color the sound of your production. This is what separates them from regular speakers – studio monitors have a flat frequency, which helps to provide you with an honest sound. Which in turn gives you greater results in your mix.

(However, you get the most out of them when you have an acoustically treated room.)

In addition, studio monitors have a much better (and truthful) stereo image, which is hard for the headphones to replicate.

The result is often that you will hear a clear difference in how the stereo image sounds between the two of them. So, if you can, mix the stereo image using studio monitors.

Volume Adjustments
When you listen to your mix in headphones, you will find the result to be drastically different when switching over to studio monitors.

Typically, the volume of the kick drum or high strings might be higher in studio monitors. Trust your studio monitors over your headphones in this case.

BEST STUDIO MONITORS

Yamaha HS5

In 2014, I bought what has become my absolute favorite pair of studio monitors within a very acceptable price – the Yamaha HS5.

They are really honest, meaning that they won’t color the sound. Some monitors might boost the lower frequencies, but you can trust the HS5 to give you the results you want.

Do you want more reasons for why I love the HS5? Okay – here you go:

  • They are extremely easy to set up
  • They are really capable and honest, at both low and high volumes
  • Perfect size for most home studios. Even professional studios use them.
  • Excellent build quality. They will last you for years to come.
  • They have been with me for 6 years without having any problems, ever.
  • I even used them connected directly into my TV for a little while, since they are active speakers with built-in amplifier).
  • They are very affordable considering their quality and longevity.

As you’ve probably become used to by now – click the heading to check it out on Amazon.

9. An External SSD/HDD

Yes, there is a lot of minor equipment you will need as well. The most important accessory of them all could easily be an external drive. Why?

Because you could store every VST library, every Logic Pro/Cubase project, and all exported files on the external drive.

In addition to saving a lot of storage space on your computer, it will also perform much, much better.

Benefits of having an external drive:

  • Great for storing all your VSTs
  • It makes your whole music library portable. You could easily just plug it into your laptop to continue your work on the train.
  • And it makes it easier for you to navigate – if you have designed a good system and infrastructure, that is.

Quick Tip:
Make sure that you have a plan for systemizing all your future files the very second you buy an external drive. this will save you hours (maybe even weeks) of frustration at a later stage. Yup, I speak from experience.

BEST SSD

Samsung T5

Being the same size as a credit card, this won’t take up much space. However, it provides you with a lot of storage space and blazing fast writing and reading speed. This makes file transfers quick and easy.

You should definitely check out the Samsung T5 at Amazon. Last time I checked, the price on the 1 TB version was really nice. Maybe you are still in luck?

Click the heading to check out the Samsung T5 on Amazon.

External Drive Lacie

One Final Advice

Around the web, you will find similar articles with 30 ++ items beginners ‘need’ for your home music studio.

I say different. To begin with, focus solely on the items on this list.

Because, before you leave this article and eagerly begin building your home music studio – my final advice would be to focus on getting equipment that is of high quality.

The items on this list are sure to last you for years to come. I know so, because I’ve been using all of them myself. And the price of all these items is therefore quite affordable when you think of all the years of fun you are going to have with them.

So – quality over quantity!

Suggested Further Reading

Thomas Leypoldt

Hey there! My name is Thomas and I have been a film composer for over 10 years, delivering music to feature films, documentaries, video games, and commercials. I share everything I have learned on this website, to hopefully be of help to your own development as a musician.

Recent Content