Recording vocals at home: Headphones, monitors and accessories

Recording vocals at home

In part two of our feature on creating a home studio, SARAH JONES looks at headphones, studio monitors and accessories.

QUICK NOTE: Before we get started, you may find it useful to first read part one of this feature, which provides an overview of how to take your first steps towards recording vocals at home.

Headphones and studio monitors

Headphones are essential for tracking instruments in this studio setup to avoid feedback and bleed from monitors. Closed-back, over-ear headphones are ideal because they provide the best isolation and cleanest recordings. (Audio won’t leak from the headphones and get picked up by the mic.) Because they offer these features, the AKG K361 and K371 headphones are a great choice. Plus they fold up, so you can enjoy your productions on the go.

Regardless of the style of music you make, studio monitors are the workspace’s hub and the lens through which you evaluate your mixes. To make accurate decisions about a mix, producers reference music on studio monitors, which provide flat, neutral sound reproduction.

Size-wise, monitors need to be powerful enough to handle a mix’s dynamics, but small enough to run efficiently in your space. The JBL One Series 104 or 3 Series MkII studio monitors check both boxes, making them great additions to any home studio.

Accessories and extras

Here’s where the fine print comes in: you can start recording with just five pieces of gear, but you’ll need a few accessories including a mic stand and cables for microphones, instruments and monitors. Don’t cut corners with a flimsy mic stand; a sturdy model reduces vibrations and won’t get knocked over easily. Also, consider buying a pop filter if your mic doesn’t come with one. You can record without one, but pop filters are relatively inexpensive and make a big difference when recording vocals.

If you’re making music with synths or MIDI devices, you’ll need a hardware MIDI controller. Its functionality should match your production style—whether you like to use a keyboard, faders, jog wheels or pads. Roland, CME, Korg and many others offer good options.

Other ideas: a good tuner, a system for taking notes and backup storage in the form of a physical drive or cloud storage.

Acoustic treatment is a complex process best left to its own article, but for now, just understand that foam and other wall treatments designed to manage reflections in your space are not the same as soundproofing. Things might sound better in your room, but music will still flow right through your walls if you crank it up.

The long game

A common scenario: the more comfortable you get with your gear, the more gear you want. It won’t take very long to master all of the ins and outs of your setup, and you might find yourself shopping around for more microphones, plug-ins and outboard gear sooner than you think.

But remember, your gear is only as good as your skill using it—from your practiced performance to careful mic placement to creative use of effects. So study up on tracking techniques, invest a little time in ear training and learn every last gear function. Pretty soon, you’ll be recording like a rock star.


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