Home Recording On The Rise Thanks To New Hardware and Old Techniques

Recording music at home has always been an outlet to express creativity, but thanks to advances in technology, home recording has never been more popular, according to Product Specialist Joe Heaton. 

Joe has a lifelong passion for music, and has spent the last 20 years as a sound engineer, even building a studio in his own home, before joining world-leading audio engineering company AMS Neve four years ago. 

Home recording is experiencing a boom like never before, and thanks to new advances in technology, the end result can sound better than ever before. During the last few years, artists and producers all over the world set up studios in their homes to keep up with bills, and harness their own creativity, and the audio engineering industry has taken great strides of innovation to advance home recording.  

The great thing about home studios is that they are completely customisable, to suit any budget and available space.  While some have chosen to kit out a spare bedroom, or corner of their lounge, with a pair of small studio monitors and a laptop, there are also those who can afford to build an entire annexe, fitted with top-spec analogue consoles and the best possible monitoring systems.  

Recording studios almost always try to provide artists a comfortable space to be creative in, but nowadays it can be almost impossible to distinguish between a home studio recording and a track produced at a professional facility. 

Gary Barlow entertained the nation during lockdown with his heartwarming ‘Crooner Sessions’ duets, and is a massive fan of home recording. Last year he said: “Recording music at home and in a studio is different for me. I’ve had both scenarios in my career but I’m always drawn back to my own house and surroundings, because it takes the seriousness out of recording.

“With sound engineering, there are no rules, except use a Neve preamp.”

“Recording should be fun – never serious.” 

Anybody can set up their own home studio, but they do need to follow a couple of rules in order to get the best sound out of their set-up, by creating a good listening environment and monitoring system, and getting the right gear for their budget, whether it’s a thousand pounds or a million. 

Modern room-tuning and even gear-tuning calibration software programs are widely available at reasonable prices, and studio monitoring technology has also significantly improved over the past five years, meaning even an entry-level system will provide a flat frequency response and a great soundstage.  

The next thing to focus on is the gear itself, and thankfully, home recording equipment has come on in leaps and bounds in recent years, so this can be tailored to suit personal tastes, and budgets. Studio gear can be transparent, allowing the music to pass through without imparting any tone or ‘colour’, or or it can be used creatively to add weight. 

However, most producers would recommend a hybrid approach, which can easily be achieved at home, by combining digital and analogue gear in just the right way, giving life to mixes and helping tracks stand out. 

Microphones are the first piece of gear in any recording chain, and selecting the right one can be difficult, but there are many premium mics available at prices to suit any budget. 

As microphones turn soundwaves into electrical energy, the next stage in any decent home set up, echoed in every professional audio studio, is the preamplifier, which is almost as important as the mic itself. Preamp-microphone impedance matching is an important consideration that is often overlooked, but this allows the very best performances to be captured by the microphones  

Selecting the right preamp includes crucial choices and considerations about the final sound, and a lot can be said about using the preamp to add colour at this, the first gain stage. Crucially, a transformer at the preamp’s input stage creates magic, making anything recorded through it sound more real and musical. 

People can even now bring the legendary sound of Abbey Road or Capitol Studios into their own home set-up for around £1000, thanks to the new USB-powered plug-and-play Neve 88M preamp and audio interface. 

The analogue-to-digital converter (ADC) within an audio interface is the last stage in the signal chain before the sound is processed by digital audio workstation (DAW) software, and while there are many converters on the market, a transparent digital platform through a high-quality audio interface is considered essential. 

ADCs that allow audio to translate through the system without decreased frequency bandwidth, or dynamic range restrictions, create better sound, as does adding analogue equipment to enhance the tonal character of the recordings and mixes. 

At the end of the day, it really has never been easier to produce studio-quality music at home, with a little time, effort and knowledge. 

 

Welcome to issue 7 of Audio Media International