The $999 Home Studio

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The MXL V 67i offers outstanding sound quality at a very affordable price. Shure's SM-57LC is a must-have for every home studio.
The MXL V 67i offers outstanding sound quality at a very affordable price. Shure's SM-57LC is a must-have for every home studio.

As the cost of home recording technology has continued to fall, the list of products and their available features continues to grow. So it seems timely to ask the question, “Can you put together a viable home recording set up for less than $1000?” To help answer this question, we turned to pro audio veteran, Richie DeCarlo at Philadelphia’s music superstore, 8th Street Music. Let’s see what gear goes into a prototypical home studio rig and how much bang for the buck can you get with a grand.

8th Street Music has been serving musicians for nearly seventy years, and was one of the first music retailers to have a significant online presence, opening their web sales operation in 1996. When I called Richie to ask his advice about how to go about deciding on what equipment would make a solid home studio in the price range, he laughed and declared, “There are so many ways to go today – and the choices just keep improving.” In large part, that’s because manufacturers have been able to take advantage of overseas manufacturing to bring costs down while working to keep quality at a level that is more than adequate for a typical home studio.

We started with the microphone selections. “The first thing you’ll need is a good quality condenser mic for vocals and acoustic instruments. We happen to have one of my favorite condenser mics on sale (for $169) at the moment, the MXL V67i. It’s a large capsule dual diaphragm mic that delivers excellent tonal response. One unique feature is that the two capsules, which you can flip between with a switch, that have completely different characteristics – the front side has a warm, rich sound; while the back side capsule has a brighter sounding capsule that many engineers describe as ‘airy.’

The M Box 2 interface along with Pro Tools LE is one way to go to build up a home studio system.
The M Box 2 interface along with Pro Tools LE is one way to go to build up a home studio system.

Next, I’d get the Shure SM-57LC, which is a workhorse and good for recording just about any instrument or sound. It’s also a very rugged mic, so it can take plenty of use, while doubling out on the gig for any number of applications. That will add a hundred dollars to your cost, but is worth every penny.”

Recording system
With regard to your recording system, “there’s a few ways to go,” Richie offered, “depending on your individual preferences. If you’re going to be primarily working at home, and not go to a club or concert to record, I’d get Pro Tools LE with an M Box 2 interface. ($449 at 8th Street.) It’s an industry standard program for digital recording and with the M Box interface, you can record two input channels at a time. Also, you’ll be able to save and open your files at any professional studio, making collaboration much easier.

TASCAM's DP 02 CD is a fully featured all-in-one recording system with plenty of on board signal processing and built-in CD burner for mixdown.
TASCAM's DP 02 CD is a fully featured all-in-one recording system with plenty of on board signal processing and built-in CD burner for mixdown.
The new DP-008 makes it easy to take your home recording studio anywhere you want to record and includes two built in mics for recording on the fly.
The new DP-008 makes it easy to take your home recording studio anywhere you want to record and includes two built in mics for recording on the fly.

“If you want to record live at gigs, rehearsals and concerts, I’d lean toward one of the all-in-one recording systems like those available from TASCAM,” Richie continues. “The DP-02 CD is a complete recording studio in a compact system that feels and performs like the legendary Porta-studios of yore. With faders, pan knobs, EQ and effects controls that don’t require multiple layers of menu navigation, it’s a bit more intuitive than many other similar products. Your songs will be stored on the unit’s internal 40 GB hard drive, and easy interface with a home computer is available through a USB connection. It also has built in reverb, effects, mastering software and an on-board CD burner so you can finish up with a final mix ready to share. Street price is $399.

Going even smaller, TASCAM recently announced the DP-008, a mini-me version of the all-in-one multitrack recording system that literally fits into the pocket of your gig bag. While it does not have as many tactile surfaces of the DP-02, it does offer enough bells and whistles to serve as a great introduction to basic home recording, and it’s small enough to go on the road, track a demo in the van, or even out in the wild, as it runs on four AA batteries. The DP 008 has the ability to accept standard XLR mic inputs, but also has two built-in mics to record on the fly at a moment’s notice. Rather than storing data to a hard drive, it records to an included 2 GB SD card and can accommodate up to a 32 GB SDHC media card. Street price is $299.

A pair of VLA-4 powered monitors makes it easy to mix your project.
A pair of VLA-4 powered monitors makes it easy to mix your project.
Another good choice are the M-Audio series of small powered monitors, the DX-4 system mentioned by Richie is being replaced by the new AV 40 system at the same price point.
Another good choice are the M-Audio series of small powered monitors, the DX-4 system mentioned by Richie is being replaced by the new AV 40 system at the same price point.

Monitors, stands, and more
What else do you need? “Powered monitor speakers make mixing easier than simply relying on headphones,” according to Richie. Sticking to our under-a-grand budget, he came up with two sets of competitively priced monitor systems. “TASCAM’s VLA-4 speakers sound very good at this price point. They have a 4” woofer and 1” tweeter and a bass port design. At roughly 8 lbs. each, they’re small enough and light enough to fit just about anywhere. The others we offer are the M-Audio DX-4 monitors. The specs are very similar to the VLA-4s, so either pair will work well for this level of home studio.”

“Don’t forget to add in a pair of boom mic stands and two good quality 25’ XLR mic cables. Depending on which recording system you go with, you’ll need a pair of speaker leads to connect your recording system to the monitor speakers. At that point, you are ready to set up and start recording,” Richie concluded.

What’s the cost breakdown for these three options?

Pro Tools LE-based system     TASCAM DP 02 CD system*  
Pro Tools LE w/ M Box 2 $449   TASCAM DP 02 CD $399
MXL V 67i condenser mic $169   MXL V 67i condenser mic $169
Shure SM-57LC $99   Shure SM-57LC $99
Pair of On Stage boom stands $60   Pair of On Stage boom stands $60
Pair of Rapco 25’ XLR mic cables $40   Pair of Rapco 25’ XLR mic cables $40
TASCAM VLA 4 powered monitors $149   TASCAM VLA 4 powered monitors $149
Pair Rapco 6’ speaker cables $30   Pair Rapco 6’ speaker cables $30

*Deduct $100 from this system if you opt for the gig-bag sized DP 008

Based on these three systems, there are plenty of options to get you into a fully functioning home recording system that meets the $999 challenge. One thing to keep in mind is that all three digital recording systems will have a learning curve, and the advantage to a digital audio workstation (DAW) design such as Pro Tools is that you have a mouse, keyboard, and computer monitor interface to record and edit your music. The all-in-one systems have limited visual monitoring functions, relying primarily on small LCD displays that may require you to click through various levels of menus and sub menus to access a particular feature or function. Before putting down your credit card, it makes sense to visit your local music products store and get an in-depth demo of how these or other home recording systems work. Then, ask the sales rep if you can have some time alone to see what it’s like to navigate each system. After all, you’ll likely be spending hundreds of hours recording, so the ergonomics and system design are worth giving a hard look before you take the plunge.

We didn’t have time or space to delve into acoustics for home recording, but suffice it to say, the environment you will be using to record will have its own effect on everything you track, so keep in mind, you may eventually need to do a little sound treatment, especially if you record a full band. More on that in a future issue… till then, happy home recording!

Story Links
Home Studio Tips from a Big Studio Designer
Pro Tools LE M Box 2
MXL V 67i
Shure SM-57LC
M- Audio DX 4 monitors (the company appears to be replacing these with the AV 40s at the same price point and almost identical response)

TASCAM VLA-4 monitors

In his thirty-plus years working in the music business, Keith Hatschek has been a musician, educator, recording engineer, producer and marketing exec. He currently teaches Music Management at the University of the Pacific, where he recently helped install a Pro Tools HD recording studio as part of Pacific’s Conservatory of Music. He’s the author of The Golden Moment: Recording Secrets of the Pros and How to Get a Job in the Music Industry.

47 thoughts on “The $999 Home Studio

  1. one thing I’m not certain of and the article doesn’t mention:
    what is the purpose of a home recording studio?
    if you just want to record yourself for fun, then I can see it costing under $1000…
    if you want to put your songs on YouTube…
    if you want to make a recording to sell to your fans…
    again, maybe…
    if you want to make a decent demo to submit for airplay…
    probably not…
    and if you want to compete with professional recordings or submit to a major label…..
    then, definately not…
    before investing $1000, think about what the goal is for your studio…
    I converted my garage into a “project studio” and the initial building costs were well over $1000…
    in fact, closer to $3000…
    that’s if you want to do it “half” right anyway…
    hanging blankets, rugs, egg crates, weather-proofing and the like, DOES NOT work if you want a serious, dedicated recording space, home studio or not…
    once you decide to use a garage let’s say, then you need to soundproof…
    you don’t want sound coming in OR going out…
    double walls, doors and ceilings, owens fiberboard, genie clips, resilient channel, green glue, soundproof sealant, rockwall, drop ceilings, raised floors, u-boats, lumber, electrical, paint, supplies, etc, etc, etc…
    once you’ve built a viable space, THEN you can think about room treatments…
    you can build your own bass traps and other treatments, but some you’ll need to purchase…
    and cables???
    I have over 100 cables in my studio…
    not cheap ones, because quality DOES matter…
    at anywhere from $10 to $35 each, let’s say $22.50 each on average, that’s $2250…
    and monitors are a HUGE big deal…
    I would never buy inexpensive monitors…
    you need “truthful” (sometimes painfully so) monitors to hear what’s really happening…
    you can get them on eBay (eg) for under $300 used if you get lucky…
    NO WAY to have a decent home studio for under $1000…
    unless again, it’s just for fun…
    my “project” studio CAN NOT even begin to compete with even a fairly well-equipped studio and I have sunk over $35,000 in so far!!!
    I have some mid to good pieces of gear from Avalon, Drawmer, BSS, SPL, Klark-Teknik, Rane, Ashly, an Otari R2R, Event 20/20bas, Neumann and other assorted “pretty good” mics, power supplies, patch bays, Line 6 echo, Lexicon, and two 16 track Tascam SX-1’s and other gear like headphones, headphone amp, mic stands, and other stands, guitar amp, bass amp, pedals (many), midi controller, asst’d percussion, and on and on and on…
    but NO Neve consoles, Pultec eq’s, Neumann U87’s, Fairchild comps, Studer R2R’s, etc…
    just a decent to fairly good “project” studio set-up…
    so, I ask again…
    what is the purpose of a home recording studio???
    what is the purpose of YOUR home recording studio???

  2. I like your blog – quick question – What I have so far:

    I-mac with core dual processors currently running garage band (will eventually go with LOGIC PRO)
    midi keyboard
    AKG Condenser Mic

    I like Garage band just for starters, but the audio is terrible when I connect a regular mic or my guitar through the input of my computer.

    I’m thinking I should buy the Tascam DP 02 listed above because of the “phantom” which is needed for my AKG mic.

    So, with that said, what I am getting from reading about recording is that everything I have will plug into the Tascam System, which then, can either be mixed directly on that unit, or can then be channeled into whatever software I use (Garage Band or Logic) for final mixing.

    The only question I have now is 1) How do I get the drum track created on Garage Band into Tascam Unit if desired for CD copy, 2) what format are the tracks recorded in and when I transfer the track into my software, is it compatible or do I have to convert it?

    Please Advise, Thanks, StevieG

  3. Pingback: Audio Blog
  4. The Tascam DP-002 mentioned above is NOT $399 with the CD burner-it IS $499. There are two models of the DP-002, one is the DP-002CD ($499 w/CD burner) and the other is the DP-002CF ($399 w/Compact Flash Card storage). You show me anyone selling the CD version for only $399 and I’ll show you a whole bunch of people that would buy TWO!
    In my humble opinion the best deal out there for the money and the quality is the Zoom HD16CD-8 inputs (XLR or 1/4″ TRS) and 16 tracks each with ten virtual tracks (160 tracks) 80GB hard drive, built in CD burner, mixdown and master, great drums, bass, rhythm and effects, A STAND-ALONE unit (no computer needed) OR it comes packaged with Cubase LE and the unit can be reconfigured into a controller for the Cubase DAW. I’d highly recommend that if you spot one BUY IT!, because Zoom (Samson) has discontinued this item (and the HD8) and replaced it with the Zoom R16 (which is also a GREAT piece of equipment)

  5. I’d have to agree with the article, that basic setup would do just fine for a demo or first solo album.
    I now have about $10k in my setup but still have a long wish list.
    Thanks for all the gr8 articles, looking fwd to the new ones in 2010!

    1. Hi Arlo–very nice production and sound. I like your vocal tone !
      seems all the info i gather though are from users with very few tracks i,e, folk rap, which makes recording gear purchase much easier to decide on. Still comparing sytems. I like your set up you suggested-it works very well for you. everyone has gear suited for them and that’s the whole key.
      I like your stuff and your a good guy–your from georgia-no wonder. thanks again for
      your input. any other advise? I’m all ears.

      1. What are your goals ?
        Gear is seductive & expensive
        buy used stuff , thats what Pro studios do .
        I bought two $ 700+ AKG mics for $400 for both ,from a music store saved about a grand and sold one of them ( It sound just like a new one )
        This stuff will litter your life if you let it .
        Don’ t let your gear own you , or all your time ,
        If it is to time consuming , toss it in the lake or give it to an enemy .
        Figure out what you want to do in recording and buy well used gear in that direction , sorry Im all out .

        The only new thing I can think of over $400 would be a Macbook or a Porsche & maybe not the Porsche .


  6. We have been working on our home Studio (My Son’s Room) for about a year this will make a wonderful addition to our studio,
    Freddie C. Howard
    Howcee Productions Gospel
    P o Box 104, 231 Six Ave.
    Beatrice Al. 36425

  7. Honestly, I spent 450.00 for my studio. Doing rap music, I don’t need all of the outbourd equipment. I use sonar 9 and reason for my production. I use a MXL V 67i condenser mic, A 6 CHANNEL BERHINGER MIXER AND A KEY RIG.
    Im using compressors in the waves ssl and all the plug ins from waves. I use cubasis wave lab lite for final mixing. I have gotten pretty good with what I have, and honestly its all I need. Thanks to the Dr. Dre Earphones!!!!!

    1. Mr.Dollar can you tell me what a “Key Rig” is please? and with this set-up, do you get 24/44hz
      or 24/96hz guality ? How do you like the Dre phones compared to say a good Sony pair?
      I suppose you use some drum loops or a Drum machine of some sorts?

      1. I love the Dre Headphones. They Are really rich in sounding, and excellent for mixing. The Key Rig is the smallest midi controller. 23-24 keys something like that, but I actually use Reason for production and sonar 7 for recording. I dont use loops because they all sound happy to me, I create my own loops and some instruments tru reason.

  8. If you want to listen to voice recorded on a h4n listen to the hairobay track on my myspace
    the voice needt a little more volume , I havent gottn back to it yet , but an easy fix


    1. Hi Arlo
      can you type up a direct link to that myspace track please?
      I’d like to hear the quality of a ” h4n” you recorded on.
      thanks, Rick.

  9. Well fellows, I’ve heard just about enough, about Pro Tools. Just beacause they say it’s the industry standard means nothing. The bottom line is the WAVE file when finished. If it’s good then your Good. I also use Cubase 5, Tascam US-1641, a pair of Mackie monitors, a NI plug-in bundle (Komplete 6) an Axiom 61 to map and control midi. For great vocals, guitar and bass, I use the Line 6 pod X3 Pro which I link in S/PDIF and then futher edit using the plug-ins in Cubase. And must say it sounds Damm Good. And this is before any mastered work is even done. The bottom line is make sure everything you use is compatible with your other onboard and outboard gear (due to lantecy issues). And by all means do your HOMEWORK on every peice of gear you purchace, making sure it is expandable in the future. Technical stuff changes everyday. So make sure you keep up. I hope this helps. And by the way I run on a (PC) Quad core. with 2 TB external hard drives. Later RON B.

  10. Unless you have a studio or even if you do or a sound guy
    Get yourselves TWO of Zoom h4n for less than 300 or two for $600
    get a sure sm58 $100 with a foam wind screen for voice
    M audio monitors I payed $300

    This set up gives you ( Eight mic inputs )and 4 with phantom power for live performance
    and five mics , ( five stage mics cost 500 bucs ) Don’t waist you money .
    at up to 24/ 96
    SD card with up to 34gigs of space

    record with the zooms then mix & master with the bundled software , burn a cd on your laptop
    or record from the house board onto one h4n and mix then master through what ever efx box you wish
    to the other zoom amd you have a mastered mix

    or multi track on the zoom without any computer

    I have recorded a live set at a small venue into one H4n at 24/48
    one senhouser mic for voice
    two guitars in an acoustic amp
    line out into the h4n and using the on board stero mics on the h4n as well ,
    without a mixing board

    mixed it in the H4n through my cars aux input on the way home that night

    Played it back through the the acoustic amp in the morning
    to get the same sound with efx

    then lined out to a ( zoom H2 ) for a master track
    and got as good as you can get .

    You see ( most of the time not always )what you get needs to be fixed in the mix anyway , and by the time you tinker with it
    its not gona sound like the live thing you did any way .

    But if you want a great thing that you will use and can cary in a gig bag or guitar case , the H4n is it

    I have had , Pro gear , big nice expensive mics , nice pre’s and friends with all the gadgets
    and pro gear , and pro gear is the best , but , it takes 90 mins to set this stuff up right
    and mic placement takes another 30 and even when i get free studio time , im worn out by the time the set up is done ,

    One H4n and a couple of great stage mics is all you need / don’t waist your money .

    remember when recording from a mix board , the siglnal sent to the h4n needs to be a mic signal
    or tape out or sometimes it clips even when the maters say its not

    the best thig to have is a sound guy that has good ears and gives you what you want , and you dont even know what he is using so you can just do the art .
    but if you have to record yourself

    get the H4n and forget about it . and by the way the zoom h2 is the best sounding acoustic guitar mic
    i have ever heard …….

    1. Thnaks for reading my inquirys and posting input. I apprecieate it.
      I will look into all gear you suggested. Glad someone out there is reading and willing to assist.

  11. Wow, okay fellas you got my head spinning on recording gear. I’ve been researching home recording for some time. I like the thought of recording to a mulit-track ( such as the Zoom hd-16 w/ cd, as mentioned above)
    than mastering on a P.C.which makes sense. Record your tracks , send to p.c. mix, master , burn.
    Please adivse me on a home system. Though my home is not set up for this at all so this is and issue too.
    I want zero latency, high quality. (how important for me is it to have midi,word clock on audio hardware?)
    Pro tools 8? mbox? m-audio pro tools ? Cubase???? ATraction 3 I hear is simple to use,would this be cool for me? I want to invest hopefully just one time . I am so not into swapping and shipping.
    Budget–$ 3,000 IF need be. Seems every set up has issues. Mulit-tracks have small lcd’s and menus. digital / software, you are a slave to mouse and monitor screen. But that would be okay if I can send tracks to computer because then it’s editing,mixing and mastering. I also read issuses on proceesor lagging when adding effcts or using plug-ins. WOuld this be an issue if I had a MAC-PRO ?
    So, I desire a system with a happy medium. Any and all advise would be greatly appreciated. Thomas and Steve on this site seem to have very good points and advise.
    I know you heard or read request like mine a million times, but I want to get on the road of recording My originals and occasionaly my 4 piece band either all at once or bass/ drums, guitars than vocals.
    thanks guys. RIck

  12. Why Pro Tools? I worked in a ‘professional’ studio for years. Otari 54 channel board, tons of outboard gear, and yes, Pro Tools. In my opinion, however, Pro Tools is highly overrated. Especially when there are programs for less money with very similar features that sometimes come bundled with interfaces with 8 or more inputs. At my home studio I’m running Cubase with a Tascam US-1641 interface. You get 16 inputs recordable at the same time plus, in my personal opinion, Cubase runs much better on a PC than Pro Tools does. Just offering another suggestion, you do your own research, but for what it’s worth, use your money mostly on 1. sound treatment; and 2. microphones.

  13. Hey Kiddies!

    Don’t forget… recording with headphones CAN be fun and educational!

    Sometimes even necessary.

    I recommend ipog earbuds.

  14. Good I’m all set. I have the DP02-CD, Shure SM57, MXl 990 & MXl 991, Samson CO-1 & SM-58 plus 10 other Mics, so I have the mic thing covered. I f I want to do better on the effects end than what comes in the DP-02CD, then I have the Lexicon MX200 Dual processor effects in my road rack, which stays in the studio when I’m not gigging. Of course I have boom stands & tons of mic cables including Mogumi Gold & silver cables I use mostly in the studio.
    Good wind screens, decent natural acoustics, because of the shape, layout & materials this room is made from.
    The only thing i need is a decent pair of monitors, & maybe something like Cubase Le, if I want to master in my computer instead of on the DP-02CD. I usually play back on several different speaker sets to get a good idea of how the end product will sound. but really need to get said monitors. What do you guys think. What might I be missing? I would really appreciate any In put, as I am in the early stages of my 2nd CD. First one was done entirely in a pro studio. I’m trying to do some of the tracking in my home studio to save some money. Some will be done in the pro studio, and I want all of it mastered at Wickerbrook studio if I can afford it. Then of course manufactured again by Disc Makers.

    1. You need some flat frequency monitors. They don’t have to be expensive though If you’re looking for a professional sound without so much buck look into older series such the Ellesis Monitor 1 Series. It’s non powered you would need to get a power source but you can find them used for about 100 bucks but they were comparable to NS-10’s in their time.

  15. Oh I forgot to add That a good used set of Alesis M1 or M1 MK2s Powered monitors are easily found on Craigs list or E-bay for around a Hundred bucks…..

    BTW ……..Pardon my spelling on the last post…I was in a hurry!!!!

  16. I use Pro Tools 7.4 LE and a Digi 003 rack which would take yu over budget….BUT IF I was going to keep it under a $1000 I’d go with a ZOOM HD16 (8 XLR Pre-amps, Great effects and Drum machine, 80 gig hard drive with USB connectivity to PC or MAC and comes with CUBASE) for $599
    Or a Zoom R16….(same 8 at once recording with 8 pre-amps…records to 32 gig SD card, runs on batteries or AC, Connects to PC or MAC, Can connect 2 units together for 16 in at once) $399
    Then I’d Buy 2 CAD GXL 3000 Large Diaphram Mics. For $119 each. I have 2 and they are better sounding than my SHURE KSM 44 wich cost 6 times as much!!

    1. so, how are you liking your sound quality with your pro tools 7.4 / 003 rack ? Do you plug instr. directly into the
      racks input or do you use a pre-amp as well? What quality in comparison using
      the alrenate gear you suggested would one get? what are the specs on youy PC ?
      I get it though-keep it under a $1000 is the topic here, Just curious how your system produces.
      Thanks a bunch-hope your still out there?

  17. I currently run CakeWalk Pro Audio 9 with a 4×4 m-audio sound card. Has anyone noticed a huge difference in sound quality when processing audio from Pro-tools? I personally have become accustom to CakeWalk… is there a big difference between CakeWalk and Pro-tools and can pro studios still open and collaborate with calkwalk being virtually the same platform as pro-tools? Most people that hear my recordings think I recorded at a pro-studio. Would it be worth switching over to pro-tools at this point? Ive been recording w/ calkwalk for over 10 years. It is possible to get a quality DAW at under $500 utilizing your desktop computer acompanied by a good processor and some innovation.

    Sound Card: M-Audio w/audio interface software $150.00
    CakeWalk Pro-Audio 9 – Free with my Sound Card
    Shure Mic – free from a friend Mic Cable- $30
    Powered Monitors – $150

    Im currently in the process of building a portable studio with a laptop as the brain…can anyone recomend a really good Audio interface with quality for the price? Im considering going with Yamaha Audiogram 3 @ $119.00. I need the RCA and 1/4 ins/outs. I considered staying with M-audio because of sound quality but, couldn’t find anything with the ins/outs I was looking for.

    Recording is an Art – Franklin

    1. I say if it works for you, go for it. If you need to track at a ‘pro’ studio you can always mix down to a wav file or cd and track the parts along with that. It happens all the time.

      1. Hey, thanks for the reply Thomas…That confirms what I thought. I’m not looking to learn a new program with a learning curve at this point which would just interupt creative flow. I’m going to stick with what I know and continue my oldschool form of production. Thanks again.

        Music is therapeutic to the soul – Franklin

  18. Not sure how you are using the mikes. With two stands, assume both would be used for recording, say, a group. Is the idea to use the v67i for lead vocal/solist, and the 57LC for background/group? Or would it be better to have two 57LC’s for left/right with a larger chorus? Plus the v67i for solist?

    1. Alan, you are on the right track, however if you are going to be doing a lot of choral recordings and arrangements (as it seems you will be doing) or really anything including a backing section and a soloist, you will want to go with something completely different. Rather than using 57’s for your background, I suggest finding a nice, cheap matched pair (preferably with consecutive serial numbers to ensure accuracy) of small diaphragm condenser microphones. The MXL 993’s are a great option for under $200, and that is for both! If your budget is slightly higher, may I suggest getting either a pair of AT4041’s for around $500 (for both) or maybe even a pair of AT 4040’s. The latter would be large diaphragm condensers, which would most likely give your recordings a slightly warmer feel than the small diaphragm option. The AT4040 runs for about $300 per mic, but the money is well worth it. The microphones sound very natural and warm.

      If you really would like to get in to it, you can try and find a couple of nice multi-pattern condenser microphones with a figure-8 pattern. This sort of microphone will pick up sound in front and behind the diaphragm, but cancel sound entering from either the left or the right, therefore making stereo miking techniques much more viable and lending the recording to a wider stereo image. In addition, these bi-directional microphones will pick up a lot of the ambient room reflections created by the group, giving the recording a more natural feel (assuming the room sounds good, ie a concert hall or acoustically designed room).

      The problem with the SM57’s is that they are not exactly suited for this application. The article says you can record just about any source with a 57, however it fails to mention that not every source will sound good with this mic. In theory, you can record anything with a barbie dream microphone and ken’s magic mixer, but it WILL NOT sound good. The SM 57 has a natural low-end roll-off (it does not pick up lower frequencies very well) and some fairly drastic peaks in the higher frequencies (around 10 kHz). In addition, the 57 is a dynamic microphone, which is great for live sound applications, and will not require phantom power, however is not as sensitive to transients and minute details as a condenser would be. This is because of the operating principal of the two microphones. The dynamic has a much thicker diaphragm than the condenser which means it takes more to move the diaphragm of a dynamic mic than it does the condenser. Because of this, the transient peaks and details of the backing group will not be picked up as clearly with a dynamic microphone, especially at larger distances (which would be the case were you to be recording a choir or string section in stereo).

      I know that was a lot of information, but I hope it helped. Please feel free to e-mail me with any more questions.

  19. I understand that the monitors need to connect to whichever recording system you are using, but if you are using powered monitors you shouldn’t need Rapco speakers cables that are speced above. Instead you need either 1/4 line cables or more XLR, depending on what kind of input and outputs the recording system and monitors have . Some people don’t realize there is a difference between speaker cable and shielded line level cables.

    1. Mark is indeed correct. If you are running powered, active monitors as the article suggests, you will have the cleanest sound from your speakers if you used a balanced cable to run to your monitors. If you use a standard speaker cable, you are not only adding noise by eliminating the shield from your cable, but you are also undoubtedly running an un-balanced cable which can add a lot of noise depending on how long the cable run is. Your best bet is to go with a balanced, low imedance cable with either 1/4 TRS (Tip Ring Sleeve) or XLR connector, depending on the connections on the back of the interface/monitors. Running your entire system with balanced cable can make all the difference between clean and noisy recordings.

  20. Great post,

    Couple of quick opinions. While I love the MBox, if recording drums is part of the plan, then I’d want at least 4 ins, so I’d either:
    Get an MBox 2 pro (Which would take you over the budget)
    Go for M-Powered Pro Tools as the hardware is “More for your money” is it were
    Or you could go for a recording platform like “Reaper” and then you’re free to choose whatever hardware you want.

    Just thinking out loud like.

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