What equipment do I need to start recording?
Do you want to start recording your songs, but don't know what equipment to get first?
With the few things you can learn here, you will be able to make the right choices for yourself and start recording your first songs with the right equipment.
What equipment do I need to record a song?
In the end, a recording is always to follow the same procedure:
1) Capture the signal
2) Convert it to data
3) Store and finally editing the data.
So, let’s start with the most important tool you´ll need.
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 think about what you want to record with it?
Ask yourself if you want to record mainly vocals, acoustic instruments, or both.
For your first recording, two types of mics are worth considering:
- Condenser mics
- Dynamic mics
Condenser microphones - pros and cons
Condenser mics are more sensitive to sound than dynamic mics, therefore they give you a more detailed sound.
That means, if you want to record vocals or acoustic instruments, a condenser microphone is a great choice.
Condenser mics are particularly good for:
- Acoustic instruments
- High speech quality for podcasts, streams, etc.
- Studio sound quality
Dynamic microphones - pros and cons
If you want to use your mic on stage, a dynamic mic makes it easier to avoid unwanted feedback.
Dynamic mics are good for:
- Live performances
- Recording in untreated rooms
- Loud sources like drums and guitar cabs
Our recommendations for your first mic.
To start your producer career, we would recommend going with an easy-to-handle mic, like the LCT 240 PRO or LCT 440 PURE. These mics are easy-to-use with an unbeatable price-performance ratio and are made for vocals and instruments.
The LCT 440 PURE includes 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.
If you plan to go for very detailed recordings, you should give the LCT 540 S a try; this mic offers a very high performance, especially on low-level sound sources which makes it the perfect ASMR microphone.
How do I connect a microphone to a computer?
First, you need a device that converts your microphone signal to digital data. It sounds complicated at first but is quite simple: all you have to do is find the right audio interface.
Although you will find a lot of technical specifications and countless setup-possibilities, there's one main thing you should consider in finding the right one for your needs: How many inputs do I need?
How many inputs do I need on my audio interface?
To choose the right audio interface, you need to know how many channels you want to record simultaneously. For every single signal you want to record at the same time, you will need an input channel.
Be aware that 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.
We suggest grabbing an easy to use interface with two microphone preamps and a headphone output. Most of the available interfaces today feature a connector that you can use for both, connecting a microphone or an instrument cable.
Having only two inputs doesn't mean that you are limited to only two recorded tracks. It 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, offering at least two microphone preamps with XLR-Inputs with an onboard easy to use gain-knob on the interface itself, offering 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. As these types of microphones have active components inside, they 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.
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 an application, which is 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.
For a start, we would recommend going with a free version as the task of recording is, in general, a primary feature, 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.
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.