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Explore the Must-Have Gear for Recording At Home

There's no shortage of both gear recommendations and technical advice when it comes to recording your music. But much of that advice tends to be instrument- and aim-specific—are you recording guitars and vocals, or drums? Are you making heavier music, indie pop, or are you after more classic rock sounds?

While all of these questions can help inform what kind of gear and recording recommendations make the best sense for your use case, you may not have all of these answers before you start out. And that's OK! Below, our aim is to clear some of the noise regarding specifics and lay out exactly what we recommend for the easiest way to record your instruments, regardless of what instruments you're working with.

If you landed on this page looking for more targeted advice, keep scrolling to see a library of our more thorough instrument- and genre-specific recording articles.

But first, let's take a quick look at some of the best and best-selling beginner recording gear.

Best Beginner Recording Gear & Gifts

Essential Recording Gear

Explore the minimum required gear that you'll need to get started recording.

USB Microphones

If you're only recording one instrument or voice at a time and you want the absolute easiest and simplest way to do that, all you have to get is a USB microphone. A USB microphone can be plugged directly into your computer and can be configured to record a track straight into your DAW (digital audio workstation) of choice. If this is your style, we recommend using a free DAW like GarageBand (for Mac only) or Audacity (for Mac, PC, and other Unix-like operating systems).

What to Look for in a USB Mic:

  • Headphone Input — This is a great feature to have because it allows you to monitor your recording without the same slight lag that you'd get if you were monitoring through your computer with headphones.

  • Watch Out for Desktop Mics — It's important to make sure that you only get a desktop-specific mic (one that features a desktop stand that can't be detached) if you're intending to use it that way only—if you're a podcaster, for example. If you're intending to record your guitar or another instrument, look for threaded mics that you can attach to a shockmount for easy pointing and recording.

  • Pay Attention to Sample Rate — It's also worth finding a mic with a sample rate of at least 44.1 kHz and bit depth of 24 bits—higher is better, but these values are the minimum standard for quality digital audio.

Recommended USB Mics

Audio Interfaces

If you take the above USB mic-only route, you do not an audio interface. Technically it is a non-essential piece of gear, as USB mics offer convenience by combining the microphone, preamp, and converter in one unit. Still, we highly, highly recommend picking up some kind of audio interface, as it'll make your recordings much easier to capture—especially if you're trying to record more than one instrument or voice at one time.

Audio interfaces give you much more flexibility in not only how you record but also in choosing the gear you record with. For example, if you want to record with an XLR microphone, you'll need a standalone audio interface middle man to act as a middle man or bridge between your microphone and your computer/DAW.

What to Look for in an Audio Interface:

  • Number of Inputs — Most affordable audio interfaces feature two separate audio inputs, which you can do quite a lot with. If you're a singer-songwriter, two inputs is perfect for recording both your guitar and your vocals at the same time. If you're just recording one instrument, like a guitar, you can use both inputs for a stereo recording effect, to blend the tones of two separate mics, and more. If you're looking to record tracks at once, like for a full band, make sure that you find an audio interface with enough inputs to support your mics.

  • Preamps — Most audio interfaces feature built-in, decent-quality preamps. But one of the benefits of snagging an audio interface is that you can very well choose to bypass them and use your own preamps, or upgrade and experiment with different "preamp flavors" in the future if you so choose.

Recommended Audio Interfaces

XLR Microphones

If you decide to go with an audio interface, you can scrap the USB microphones and head straight into XLRs. Within XLR microphones, there are a variety of fun flavors to choose from categorized into three main types: dynamic, condenser, and ribbon microphones.

XLR Mic Types and Who They're For:

  • Dynamic mics are highly versatile, with great isolation (they focus in on the sound you're trying to record and don't pick up a lot of extraneous noise) and an ability to handle high volumes. If you can only afford one microphone that you intend to use in a lot of different ways, a dynamic mic might be for you.

  • Condenser mics are really excellent at capturing detail and nuance in your vocals and instrument performances. But be careful—because of their sensitivity, condenser mics can pick up much more outside and background noise. If you're in an echoey room or are recording in a place with questionable acoustics, you might be better off with a less-sensitive dynamic mic.

  • Ribbon microphones are perhaps the most unique, featuring a figure-eight pickup pattern and medium sensitivity. Ribbon mics are often praised for their very full sound and are great if you're looking for a vintage vibe. Ribbon mics tend to provide a really mellow sound because they don't register and pickup the highest frequency ranges, which is something to keep in mind with regard to what you're recording.

Recommended XLR Mics

Take Recording to the Next Level

Peruse our library of recording articles and gear guides below for more targeted instrument- and genre-specific recording advice and recommendations.

The Easiest Way to Record Series

More Microphone Recommendations

Recording Tips and Tricks

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