How to Get Unbelievable Results from your Home Studio | Soundways

Home Studios


Home studios are more popular than ever.  The introduction of affordable equipment has democratized the recording process.  Enthusiasts can produce high quality music from their bedroom.  This has caused some young engineers to turn away from large studios.  There are some definite advantages to being able to produce music from home.  However, small rooms can introduce problems in the recording and mixing process.

Poor acoustics lead home studio engineers to craft mixes which don't translate.  A mix may sound great in the studio but, doesn't on other speaker systems.  Engineers need to ensure that their mixes translate accurately.

Core Production Workflow


 

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The Core Production Workflow optimizes mix translation to all playback systems.  It allows engineers to focus on the audio core.  The core is the frequency range which the human ear finds most sensitive, 2kHz - 5kHz.  Engineers have previously used monitors like NS10's to hear the core.  These speakers work for many mixing applications.  However, they introduce distortions and aren't accurate for mixing bass.  

Reveal is the first plug-in developed for core listening.  Place Reveal on your master bus.  Turn on Critical Listening mode to make EQ and level adjustments.  Listening in this context ensures that adjustments are made with the highest level of precision.  

Listen to your mix with Critical Listening engaged.  You may find that your kick drum or bass instrument has disappeared.  If this is the case, place LowLeveler on your kick or bass instrument and adjust the Upper Bass (Harmonic).  Turn off Critical Listening mode and adjust the Low Bass (Fundamental).  This workflow ensures that your bass is harmonically balanced and translates to all systems.  

Here are some tips to improve your home studio:

Tip #1:  Treat Your Room


Home studios are often in rooms that weren't acoustically designed.  This can lead to bad mixes, wasted time, and added frustration.  Use acoustic treatment to improve the sound of your room.

Room modes are a series of resonances created by a room.  These resonances typically exist between 20Hz - 200Hz.  Use absorptive acoustic panels or bass traps to reduce room modes.  Place absorptive panels on walls and ceilings near your monitors.  Place bass traps in the corners of your room to reduce bass build-up.  

Flutter echo and early reflections create problems in the mid-high range.  Use absorptive and diffuse acoustic treatment to reduce reflections.

Tip #2:  Select Great Monitors


A great pair of monitors are important for crafting quality mixes.  However, you don't have to spend a fortune.  

Some large monitors may produce too much bass for a small room.  Engineers often add a subwoofer in hopes of improved bass response.  If not calibrated a subwoofer can create more problems than benefits.  

To pick the most fitting monitors for your room, it is best to test them yourself.  Try to arrange a demo of several pairs from your retailer.  Listen to mixes that you know sound good on each pair and decide what your like best.  Differences in monitors can be subtle.  It is best to choose what sounds best in your room.  Go with your gut instinct and don't think that you need to spend a fortune.  

Tip #3:  Choose Appropriate Microphones


Choosing the best microphone for the source is essential for making quality recordings.  Cardioid patterned microphones are most fitting for home studios.  Omni and bi-directional mics pick up a large amount of room sound.  If your room isn't acoustically designed use cardioid polar patterns.   

Dynamic cardioid mics are best for recording electric guitars and drums.  These microphones are affordable and can serve a variety of sources.  Some dynamic microphones can even work for recording vocals.  Pick out dynamic mics if your studio focus is on guitar amps and drums.  Try a Shure SM57 or an Electro-Voice RE20.  These are two legendary microphones with affordable price tags.  

A cardioid condenser microphone is essential for recording acoustic instruments and vocals.  If the focus of your studio is vocal overdubs or acoustic guitars, find a cardioid condenser.  These microphones range in price, some costing thousands.  However, you don't need to spend a fortune to get a quality cardioid condenser.  The AKG C414 and Shure KSM32 are affordable microphones that may suite your needs.  

Tip #4:  Get a Good Preamp


A great preamp can add warmth and body to a recording.  Many recording interfaces come with stock preamps.  However, these aren't optimal for producing high quality recordings.  To improve your home studio, find a good preamp that fits your needs.  

Several popular styles of preamps have become affordable.  API and Neve preamps are noted for their classic sound.  API has an aggressive, mid forward sound and fast response time.  Neve is know for a smooth saturated sound that can add body.

In recent years, manufacturers have produced affordable replica's of these designs.  Listen to high quality preamps and find which you prefer.  Check for similarly designed preamps with a more afforable price tag.  You don't need to spend a fortune to get a classic analog tone.

Tip #5:  Expand Your Knowledge


An engineer's skills are the most vital part of the recording process.  Never stop learning.  Never stop seeking knowledge and experience.  This is what will truly improve the quality of your recordings.

If possible, learn from someone who has experience in the industry.  Try to get a studio internship and try to gain some real-life experience.  There are many schools that offer courses for recording and music production.  Check if your local university offers a music production class.  Watch Youtube Tutorials and read recording blogs.  Dig in and find information that is relevant to your recording process.