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What equipment do I need to start recording?

Do you want to start recording your songs? Learn how to do it easily right here.

Mar 27, 2020 8 min read

LEWITT Content Team
Enthusiasts at work

How to record a song at home

What equipment do I need to record a song?

A recording always follows the same procedure:

1) Capture the signal
2) Convert it to data
3) Store and edit the data.

Let’s start with the most important tool you need, the microphone.

What's the best microphone for recording?

The microphone is the first and most important component in your signal flow. Take your time to make a choice and ask yourself, if you want to record mainly vocals, acoustic instruments, or both. 

For your first recording, two types of microphones are worth considering:

  • Condenser microphones
  • Dynamic microphones

Condenser microphones - pros and cons

Condenser microphoness are more sensitive to sound than dynamic microphones and give you a more detailed sound. They are particularly good for:

  • Vocals
  • Acoustic instruments
  • High speech quality for podcasts, streams, etc.
  • ASMR

LCT 440 PURE for vocals

Dynamic microphones - pros and cons

If you want to use your microphone on stage, a dynamic microphone makes it easier to avoid unwanted feedback. They are great for:

  • Live performances
  • Recording in untreated rooms
  • Loud sources like drums and guitar cabs

MTP microphone

    Our recommendations for your first mic.

    Start your producer career, with something like the LCT 240 PRO or LCT 440 PURE. These mics are easy-to-use, offer an unbeatable price-performance ratio, provide studio quality sound, and are made for vocals and instruments.

    The LCT 440 PURE comes with a shock mount, a windscreen, and a magnetic pop filter.

    • Shock mount - attenuates noise, shock, and vibration transmitted through mic stands, booms and mounts.
    • Windscreen - prevents loud pops from occurring when aspirated air from spoken or sung consonants like "p" and "t".
    • Magnetic pop filter - effectively reduces pop and hiss.

    LCT 440 PURE

    If you want something for ultra-detailed recordings, you should give the LCT 540 S a try.  This studio condenser microphone offers a very high performance, especially on low-level sound sources. It is the perfect ASMR microphone.

    Do you want to have a mic that you can also use for performing on stage? Then we recommend the dynamic handheld microphones MTP 250 DM or MTP 550 DM. Both of them are tailored for vocals. 

    How do I connect a microphone to a computer? With an audio interface!

    To record your audio, you'll need a device that converts your microphone signal to digital data. And all you have to do is to find the right audio interface.

    Good thing is, there's one main criteria you need to consider when you start: How many inputs do I need?

    How many inputs do I need on my audio interface?

    You need to ask yourself how many channels you want to record simultaneously. Because for every single signal you want to record at the same time, you will need an input channel. 

    Not every input listed on the specification sheet can connect a microphone. Stick to the term “microphone preamp” or "analog input", this is what you will need to focus on. 

    For your first audio interface, one that features two microphone preamps and a headphone output will be just right. Most of the available interfaces today feature a connector that you can use for both, a microphone or an instrument. 

    Interface

    Note: The fact that you have only two inputs doesn't mean that you are limited to only two recorded tracks. It only means that you can only hook up and record two analog sources at the same time.

    What is a microphone preamp?

    Essentially, the preamp is needed to match the sensitivity of the microphone to the level of your sound source to get the perfect image. The quieter a sound source is, the more gain the preamp needs. 

    The best way of connecting a microphone to the preamps of your audio interface is a 3-pin XLR-connection. It's not only the most reliable but also the easiest way.

    How do I set the right gain level on a microphone preamp?

    The gain of the preamp can be set either by a knob physically on the interface or via an associated software. The right amount of the gain is almost always shown via a “level meter”. 

    For a satisfying result, try to keep the level in the green area by adjusting the gain during checking (playing, singing, etc.) your sound-source. 

    Avoid the red area, often called “clip” or “peak” – this will add unwanted distortion to your recording which will lead to a bad outcome.

    What audio interface do I need to get started?

    For the start, go with an interface that has at least two microphone preamps with XLR-Inputs. It also should have an onboard easy to use gain-knob on the interface itself with a level meter or some kind of clipping indicator.

    If you want to use a condenser microphone, make sure that the preamps provide “48V phantom power” and an XLR-connector. Condenser microphones need this special power supply voltage to work.

    What your audio interface should feature:

    • 2x preamps with analog input via 3-pin XLR
    • 48V phantom power
    • USB 2.0 connector or similar
    • Headphone out

    For a good start in the home-recording studio world, here are some examples of very affordable interfaces:

    What computer do I need to record audio?

    As long as you don't have to handle a full professional recording studio, even a laptop can be enough to start recording. The type and brand of your computer are not important.

    home recording

    Nevertheless, here are the absolute minimum requirements your computer should have to run proper audio-recording software are:

    • Operating system: Windows 7 or higher, Mac OS X 10.11.6 or higher
    • Processor: Intel Core i5
    • RAM: 4 GB (8 GB ‘recommended’)
    • Hard drive: At least 10 GB free space

    Those requirements are just enough for starting and developing your experience. But of course, more is better. 

    What's the best software for recording? What is a DAW?

    For recording, editing and mixing, you need a software called Digital Audio Workstation or DAW.

    DAWs can be found from basic to professional, from free of charge to high price, but all offer mostly the same basic features. 

    Reaper

    For a start, we would recommend going with a free version. Concerning the task of recording there is no significant difference between all DAWs except the look. 

    Here is a list of DAWs you could try:

    Microphone stand and cables - what do I need?

    What to get:

    • Microphone stand - avoid plastic and don't go for the cheapest model
    • 1x XLR cable (5metres long) per microphone you want to connect
    • Don't go with the cheapest but don't spend a fortune either
    • Avoid plastic connectors
    • Pop filter for recording vocals

    You will need at least one 3-pin XLR cable for each microphone you want to connect. Most microphones do not include any cables, you will have to find and buy this separately.

    XLR

    Unexpectedly you will find a huge price range for a simple cable like this - and we can say, yes, there is a difference, but honestly, it is not important at the beginning. 

    Just don't go with the cheapest as these can break easily and avoid plastic-connectors. We recommend to get two 5m cables.

    A pop filter is great if you want to record vocals. It helps you to keep your recording clean as it will effectively reduce pop and hiss sounds.

    Headphones or studio speakers for recording?

    To hear what you are recording, you will need headphones. 

    If you want to invest in a nice pair, we'd recommend looking for closed headphones first, meaning that you are isolated from outside sound and hear better what you are recording. 

    Don't use speakers while recording, to avoid the output of the speaker in your recorded track. Studio speakers are useful for controlling your mix and for the mixdown, but we do not recommend recording with them.
     

    If you have problems, we are here for you.

    However, here are some things that will lift your spirits:

    • You will learn immensely by making mistakes and will get better every day.
    • There are no rules, only guidelines - so be creative and try new things.
    • There are people around the world that can help you anytime.
    • Never give up.

    Do not hesitate to ask us via our social media channels or email. We will be glad to help you anytime and connect you with a caring community of audio enthusiasts talking about their recording experiences.


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