Every musician needs some way to record themselves at home (even though we firmly believe in the importance of working with a professional for your RECORDS). So here is our guide of the best home recording gear for most musicians in 2023.
Unlike most of the internet that will just recommend whatever they can make money off of, I only recommend gear I have personal experience with and can vouch for.
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Best Audio Interfaces for Most Musicians
When starting to think about home recording gear, most musicians need to get an interface (since most musicians have a few mics lying around).
Budget Interface: Focusrite Scarlett 2i2
As far as budget interfaces go, the Focusrite 2i2 is probably the one to get. It's not too expensive and just works. You get two inputs, outputs for monitors, and a headphone out. It's only $169, but isn't crap.
If you want to stay in the same relative price range, but get more inputs and TWO headphone outs, you could also step up to the Focusrite Scarlett 8i6.
I've used Scarletts for years as my backup/mobile interface and they always just work and are built like tanks which is great if you're touring and need to throw it in bags, etc.
Mid-Tier Interfaces: Focusrite Clarett Series
The Focusrite Clarett series is like the bigger brother to the Scarlett Series. They're still rock-solid and easy to use, but just nicer (a little better sounding, higher quality components, etc). This is probably the minimum I would use if I were wanting to record stuff that will actually get released (but as always, the song and performance is always more important than the tones).
Higher-End Interfaces: Apollo X Series
If you're wanting to get some serious tracking done at home, I point people to the Apollo series. They sound great, are quite reliable, and built well. Also they look sexy sitting on the desk. I had an Apollo for years and it was great. I know tons of amazing producers who have recorded hits using nothing but an Apollo, so you'd have no excuses!
You can get the Twin Duo or x4 if you want something simple, affordable, and portable. If you want to get a rack Apollo x8 or x8p for your always-wired-up home studio, those are cool too, just a lot more money!
There are tons of other great pro-level interfaces, but I want to keep this list to stuff that's the best option for most musicians, so I'll keep it at that!
Best Studio Monitors For Most Musicians
One of the most important elements of your home recording gear: your studio monitors. Let's look at a few options available.
Budget Studio Monitors: Yamaha HS5
At $400 a par, Yamaha HS5s are a great entry-level monitor for most musicians. Since you're probably in an untreated room, a smaller speaker will probably be the way to go, and these will do the job without breaking the bank. Since they're small, they won't make you *feel* the kick or subby 808s, but you can have a decent window into the mids and highs – which is critical for setting tones.
A lot of people use the larger versions of these (HS7 or HS8), but I feel like if you want to have a larger monitor, my next suggestion will wipe the floor with them for not that much more.
Budget-Ish Studio Monitors that are GREAT: Focal Alpha 50 and Focal Alpha 65
The Focal Alpha 50 and Focal Alpha 65 monitors are SHOCKINGLY good for the price. I think they sound as good as a lot of monitors that are twice as expensive. I still have a pair of these bad boys in the closet as my backup pair. Before I bought my first fancy pair of speakers, I replaced a pair of HS8s with the Alpha 65s. Even though the Alphas the HS series are supposed to be more or less in the same class, the Alphas lead to WAY better results.
Warning, these monitors are usually sold as SINGLES rather than pairs, so just be careful when you buy them.
Mid-Tier Monitors: Focal Shape Series
The Focal Shape series takes what's great about the Focal Alpha series and just refines it a little more. Still sounds great like the Alpha series, just with a little more detail. For the sub-$2000 price range, I think these are definitely a great option.
Entry-Level Pro Monitors: Barefoot Footprint01
I realize this is starting to get out of the realm of an introduction to home recording gear, but I really like the Barefoot Footprints. They are the little brothers of the monitors I personally use (Micromain26s). The Footprints take what's great about their high-end designs and put it in a smaller package. At $3999 a pair, you may laugh at me referring to them as “affordable” but really these things are serious tools and if you want to INVEST, they're a great investment.
Beyond this price point, you really should be going to demo the speakers for yourself and not reading recommendations from someone online! I'd encourage you to go check it out for yourself.
Best Headphones for Most Musicians
One of the most overlooked parts of people's home recording gear: headphones.
Here's the thing about headphones: tracking and mixing headphones are two separate beasts. For tracking, you want closed-back headphones so the sound doesn't bleed into the microphone. For mixing and other critical-listening tasks, you usually want open-back headphones. I'll recommend some for each application.
Tracking Headphone Option 1: Beyerdynamic DT770 Pro
The Beyerdynamic DT 770s are great tracking headphones. Why? Because they sound good and are COMFY. Don't underestimate the value of comfort when tracking. Probably my first choice if I had to get a single pair.
Tracking Headphone Option 2: Sony MDR7506
Only $99 but the Sony MDR7506s have a nice full sound. I've always been particularly impressed with how solidly they reproduce bass without going into over-hyped territory.
Tracking Headphone Option for Drummers: Vic Firth Isolation Headphones
Sometimes (read: most of the time) drummers have a problem of needing their monitor mixes (and thus the click track) obnoxiously loud. Probably because they're banging on one of the loudest instruments in existence.
The Vic Firth Isolation Headphones kinda remind me of something you'd find at a gun range. It's often nice to have a pair of these isolating headphones around so your drummer can actually hear their mix… also so you don't get the click track in the overheads.
Best Headphone for Critical Listening: Sennheiser HD 600
The Sennheiser HD 600s might be one of my favorite pairs of headphones of all time. If you need to critically listen to anything (especially low end) these guys are a LIFESAVER. Like they've literally saved my butt on a few projects when I could tell I was in a room with a messed up bass response. I think if you're in an untreated room, these are a great investment because they serve as a flat and neutral reference.
Best Mics for Most Musicians
This is a GIANT rabbit hole that I'm half tempted to not even go into because it really depends on so much. But I'll at the very least point to a few options.
Best Vocal Mic Under $500: Aston Origin
The Aston Origin is probably one of the mics I would suggest if you can only afford one microphone. It sounds great on most vocalists, it can be put on a guitar cab, you can record an acoustic guitar with it, etc. It's really a great desert-island mic that's pretty affordable at less than $300. Even tho it has a little bit of a pop filter built-in, I'd still get another pop filter to go with (like their fancy pop filter and shock mount combo). If I had only $1000 to spend on home recording gear, this would be at the top of the list.
A Good Vocal Mic if You're in an Untreated Room: Shure SM7b
The SM7b has become a little bit of a meme online, but it's still a great mic. It's a great option if you're not in a treated room as it's a little less sensitive to bad rooms than a condenser (like the Aston Origin).
It doesn't sound great on everyone. If you make chill music, I'm not sure it's the right mic for you. But if you scream or rap or do anything where you're really going hard right up on the mic, it may be just the ticket. If it doesn't work for your vocals, it can also be used to record amps or kick drums with ease.
The other pro of this mic is that if you ever start doing videos, streams, or podcasts, it's a great option for that
A big drawback of the mic is that if you have a budget audio interface, you might get a lot of noise with how much gain this mic requires. I'd make sure I have at least a Focusrite Clarett or an Apollo with this mic.
The All-Around Instrument Mic: Shure SM57
The Shure SM57 is probably the most used mic of all time and is a stable of home recording gear. You could mic up an entire drum kit with nothing but these. It's the standard for guitar amps. You can record vocals with it if you need to. Heck, you could literally use it to hammer a deck. I think everyone should have at least one of these in your backpack to bring to gigs if needed.
The Best Reflection Filter for Vocals in an Untreated Room: Aston Halo
It's not the sexiest piece of home recording gear, but if you're recording vocals in an untreated room, you might want a reflection filter to help control the sound a little bit. To me, there's really only one worth your time: the Aston Halo. At $329, it's not the cheapest reflection filter out there, but it's well worth it. Other filters cause weird frequency shifts but the Halo sounds way more natural. Plus it comes in purple which is rad.