Home recording is the practice of recording in a private home, rather than in a professional recording studio. A studio set up for home recording is called a “project studios” or “home studios”. Home recording is practiced by indie bands, singer-songwriters, hobbyists, podcasters, documentarians, and even top-name acts. The cost of professional audio equipment has been dropping steadily in recent years, and information about recording techniques has become increasingly available due to the internet. These trends have resulted in a dramatic increase in the popularity of home recording, and a shift in the recording industry toward recording in the home studio.
At minimum, home studios consists of a recording device, monitoring equipment (speakers and/or headphones), input devices (e.g., microphones) and musical instruments.
Until the late 1970s, music could be recorded either on low-quality tape recorders or on large, expensive reel-to-reel tape machines. Due to their high price and specialized nature, reel-to-reel machines were only practical for professional studios and wealthy artists. In 1979, Tascam invented the Portastudio, a small four-track machine aimed at the consumer market. With this new product, small multitrack tape recorders became widely available, and grew in popularity throughout the 1980s. In the 1990s, analog tape machines were supplanted by digital recorders and computer-based digital audio workstations (DAWs). These new devices were designed to convert audio tracks into digital files, and record the files onto magnetic tape (such as ADAT), hard disk, compact disc, or flash ROM.
A modern DAW consists of a personal computer with a quality sound card, a hardware audio interface (which handles analog-digital conversion) and digital-editing software. Editing software is now widely available at various price points (including free): examples include Ardour, Pro Tools, REAPER, Ableton Live, Cubase, Sonar and Reason. Many software synthesizers, effects and tools are also available, often in the form of plugins.
As an alternative or supplement to a DAW-based system, some home recordists use studio hardware (known as “outboard gear”), which is increasingly available to the home consumer market. This class of hardware costs less than professional studio hardware, but operates at a lower nominal line level than professional studio gear. Outboard gear is frequently used for analog processing or for tasks requiring dedicated processing power. Types of outboard gear include: audio mixers, microphone preamplifiers (preamps), instrument preamplifiers (known as “direct boxes”), effects units, compressors and equalizers.
Home recording has tended to focus on commonly available instruments, such as acoustic, electric and bass guitars, drum sets, pianos and vocals. With the advent of MIDI, many new devices, such as synthesizers, samplers, sequencers and drum machines, became available to the home recording market. These days, MIDI equipment, including keyboard/keypad controllers as well as synthesizers, are often connected to the computer, which is used to sequence instruments, manipulate MIDI songs and store the songs as files.