Jason Keath posted about building a home studio on Facebook and asked if I would throw in my two cents. Jason is a mensch and I realized that my comment would be one of those annoying five page Facebook comments so it was much easier to write an entire manifesto here.
I probably know about 5% of what you need to know to build a studio, but that doesn’t matter because there are two easy options. Either call Parsons Audio and spend the money or talk to some podcasters who are always experimenting with cheap stuff, which is often pretty good thanks to the current level of technology.
First things that come to mind:
Do you really want to build a studio in your house and lose a room? Renting allows you to not have weirdos in your home, will sound fantastic, and means that you won’t have the UPS guy ringing the doorbell or the General Lee driving by honking the dixie horn. It’s also just like the gym, when you go you will get the job done, if the equipment is in the house it will probably end up as a clothing rack. On the other hand, the big upside is setting up a bunch of stuff and then never having to take it down. Let’s say you’re sold on that. Most people I know have an office and create a studioffice. Or maybe an officudio. Or something.
Noise kill: John Federico makes a great point about Dynamic vs. Condenser mics – I’ve found it easier to use dynamic mics in a room with carpet and some stuff on the walls than trying to make sure everyone is out of the house and gluing up foam egg crates. Capturing the room noise before and after recording and then using Soundsoap hides a huge array of sins.
Who’s doing the talking? If you have four people around the table with some microphone technique, then nice mics and headphones are great. These Sony headphones are good enough that if someone doesn’t like them you can yell “BRING YOUR OWN DAMN CANS.” Shure SM58 is a workhorse for a microphone, but if you want similar guts but a lot cooler looking, the Elvis Mic fits the bill.
The thing here though is if they are not broadcasters it may change things – for podcast guests sometimes a lavaliere mic is great because public speakers who move around a lot may not always be in front of the mic (off axis), or worse yet tap or kick the table (why you see the 10,000 pound tables in the studio). An old NPR trick is to have a lav mic on the brim of a baseball hat, the placement works and you don’t have to mess with people’s clothes.
Also on furniture – finding chairs that don’t creak is important. Metal submarine style chairs are an option, although standing up or having a barstool can improve vocal projection for the group.
I like to keep a computer out of the equation for panel discussions (although the fanless Macbook may change that). I run a Mackie mixer into a Marantz digital recorder, it’s been solid for years.
Of course then you’ll start thinking that you might video some of it so that requires cameras and light….