This website is dedicated to the voice over, talk show host, podcast, talk radio crowd to help you get the basic equipment that you need to build a home recording studio of your own. Mainly dealing with audio (often mono) for voice overs, remote broadcasting, home studios, etc... This is not necessarily intended for the musician, although some of the content may be valuable in such endeavors.
Any off the shelf computer ($400+) provided that
the following minimum specs are included:
 At least a 2GHz processor or better.
 At least 2GB of RAM (memory).
 At least running WinXP (Service Pack 3) or better.
 At least 200GB Hard Drive.
Any monitor will do since you'll be primarily working with audio. Most standard on-board sound cards can work just fine. However, on very low end computers, there are anomalies that will make audio skip, have a high noise floor, or other undesirable effects. At a minimum you'll want a specific line-in port (usually blue) in addition to the mic port (usually pink). The line-out port will usually be green.
You don't want a computer with a really loud fan, as it may get picked up by the mic or soundcard and interfere with your production. Desktops are usually better and cheaper for this purpose, though it can be done with a laptop, especially if you're going to do mobile production.
You also want to insure that there is not software (games, messaging clients, quick-time / real-audio, skype) that starts automatically and may interfere with audio production. Typically this software can be found in the start-up folder and/or system tray (right-click on the taskbar, choose properties, and uncheck "hide inactive icons' in the notification area). Verify that you have 40% or more of your HD space available.
You should also have the following: A high speed internet connection; A UPS (uninterruptible power supply) or battery back-up; and surge protection on both power and phone/data lines.
A sound card:
For getting started, an on-board soundcard may work for
you. If you'd like something better, consider the following cards:
The Delta44 from M-Audio ($150-$200).
The FastTrack USB card from M-Audio, MSRP $130. BSW has these for $99.
A digital audio editor:
GoldWave is the most advanced and complete audio editor available for around $50. It includes all of the common audio editing commands and effects, plus powerful built-in tools such as a batch processor/converter, a CD reader, and audio restoration filters that cost extra in other similar programs. Comprehensive, easy to use, and efficiently engineered, GoldWave offers the best value in audio editing software. With over 10 years of development and widespread usage, it has an excellent and unmatched track record.
This program is shareware, allowing you to download and run a fully functional copy of it before you buy it. This software is also well suited for visually impaired people too. GoldWave is our top pick because it has great tech support, is continually being developed, and has all the features needed for basic audio editing.
GoldWave also has a great manual, with an introduction to audio editing, definitions of audio terms, a glossary, and more. This is unusual for a program of this price. The manual alone is worth $20 or more. It's available as an HLP, HTM, &/or PDF files.
You should also install RazorLAME and copy the LAME_ENC.DLL to your "C:\Program Files\GoldWave" directory. This will add MP3 support and capabilities to GoldWave. If you want Windows Media (WMA) support, you'll need to have Windows Media Player 9 or greater installed on your machine. You can also try other software editors, such as the free, open-source program Audacity. Or if you have big dollars you can use Adobe Audition. If using a Mac, I hear that Garage Band works well.
A sound / mixing board:
For a real audio editing studio, a mixer is a must. Some people try to hook their microphones directly to their computer; this saves money, but rarely works well (unless it's a USB "microphone"/device; see below). Furthermore, you lose the ability to control volume and the ability to hook other devices to your computer (CD/DVD player, voice recorder, cassette deck, MD deck, etc...). Best of all, the mixer allows you to control each item independently. The mixer is what makes the difference between an amateur and a semi-professional production. Finally, a mixer ads the abilities to route audio to several locations (acting like a distribution amp).
Here's some of the mixers that we recommend:
Behringer XENYX-1202 - $90 (inexpensive quality gear)
Mackie 1202VLZPRO - $300 (name brand, industry standard)
There are millions of opinions about what microphone is best. You will have to test as many as you can get your hands on, and pick the best one that fits your vocal style, personal preference, and budget. You'll also want to definitely get a windscreen/pop-filter.
Here's our recommendation:
Most inexpensive mic is a Behringer like the 3 pictured below. With a windscreen - $6 (windscreen for above mics)
You can get these in packs of 3-5 from Behringer or Sennheiser for less than $100.
Another possible choice, especially for those who want to forgo a mixer,
would be a USB "microphone"/device, such as:
The Rode Podcaster USB mic (link).
Or, if you want to use your own mic, the MicPort Pro (link).
Popular name brand mics:
Shure SM58LC - $100 (a decent vocal mic, favored by musicians.)
Electrovoice RE20 - $400 (a favorite of talk radio hosts)
BSW REPOP - $40 (the pop filter for the RE20 above)
You also will need a mic boom, and possibly a riser
(depending on your situation). I recommend the
OC White PROBOOM-B
that comes with a riser - $100.
A set of headphones / speakers:
earphones, there's no issue of having your monitor on with the mic open. We
recommend you use headphones - especially when recording. If you have speakers
on while recording you may get unwanted feedback or echoes in your audio. If you want open-air
speakers for post production (after the live recording is complete), you can
just about any set of powered speakers. Get the best you can
afford. I would count on spending at least $40+ on Altec Lansing or the
like. You can also purchase a great set of powered studio monitor speakers from
Behringer B2030A for $280.
Here's our recommendation:
Behringer HPX2000 - $20 (round, open-air, quality headphones)
(Optional) Production music:
We strongly recommend buy-out music. There is also licensed based music that you have to pay for on a monthly or yearly basis. This becomes quite costly over time, and is not recommended. Remember with term licensed music; if you ever stop paying for the service; you must immediately stop the use of any productions that used the licensed music. With buy-out music, since you now own the music, you are free to use your productions, anytime, forever, as you see fit. Some good choices are Airtime and I A Music. Also Sound Ideas has some good production music as well.
(Optional) Phone feed:
You may want to have your equipment hooked up to a phone line so that you can do guest interviews, remote broadcasts, or send a feed to a remote location. The best way to accomplish this, is to use a telephone coupler or hybrid. There are many available, and you get what you pay for. If you buy a simple coupler, it will act as an interface between your mixer and your phone line. This is a very simple device, and does not provide good separation, and will not adapt well to the wide variety of phone line connections in the real world. However, it will certainly do in a pinch for occasional use or recording of in-bound audio. A hybrid, on the other hand, is great for conversational audio. It has much greater separation and advanced, built-in technology designed specifically for adjusting on-the-fly to most levels of audio, as well as the rejection of undesirable hums, noise, and variations. Simply put, if you're recording occasional in-bound audio a coupler will do just fine, but for constant use, you will need a hybrid.
There are many choices in this field. Here are a few
Broadcast Tools TT1 - $120 (coupler/hybrid)
Telos One - ~$600 (digital hybrid)
If you are doing a talk show, you will want to
have studio quality audio between your home studio and your network
uplink facility / syndicator. This will typically be an ISDN line (or possibly,
a POTS line codec). You can also Audio
Compass, affordable but effective solution for your remote broadcasting needs.
For national satellite syndication, contact the
Accent Radio Network via
email or call
You can purchase your cables online, or locally from a music store (most expensive), Radio Shack (expensive), or Big Box Mart (cheap, but limited selection). You will need a mic cable for every mic you intend to use, plus one back-up. This is an XLR M-F (male to female) cable. These will cost about $10+ each. You will also need two 1/8" stereo headphone jack (TRS) to 2 RCA jacks. If you'll need more than one person in-studio recording or hosting at the same time, you'll need a headphone distribution amp. If you only have two people, a simple 1/4" stereo splitter (1 male to 2 female) may work fine. If you're going to connect other devices, you'll need appropriate cabling.
XLR cable 1/8" TRS to RCA cable
General Cost Expectations:
We assume you have computer $0
Behringer Mixer $100
Boom & Riser $100
Pop filter $6
If you change any of the above listed options, you'll of course need to adjust accordingly. This is just a general cost expectation for the minimum expenditure system.
Help & Consulting:
If you would like guidance or remote assistance in setting up your own recording studio, you have several options: You can call toll free with your questions to TechWatch Radio on Saturdays from 10am-11am ET at 866-222-2368. We'll answer your basic questions on-air for free. If you require immediate assistance, or more in-depth consultation, please go to the contact page, and email Jay & Sam, and either of us can do private consulting at a hourly rate for you.
The Fine Print:
This website is for informational purposes only. We make no guarantee nor are we liable for any way you use (or misuse) the information presented herein. We are not endorsing any specific products or retailers; again these are just suggestions. © Copyright 2006-2009 - Audio Light Productions, Inc.