I'm planning to involve myself in music recording, and I'm starting with the voice. Hopefully once I get more experience I'll also record instruments.
For a starter, what gear is needed?
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All you need is:
Computer (PC or Mac is ok.)
Multi-channel recording and editing software (Audacity, Reaper, Cubase, Garageband, Logic...etc.)
External USB sound card with 48V phantom power
(Firewire is extinct. Don't buy anything with Firewire.)
(Be sure that it has 48V phantom power. There are fake marketing products with useless 15V phantom power.)
Condenser microphone (Condenser vocal mics are pretty sufficient for recording also acoustic instruments.)
Microphone stand with boom extension (Mini table top stands can be difficult for recording stand-up vocals and instruments
Acoustic foam (For room treatment.)
(Pillows, curtains, wardrobes and similar material are also useful for room treatment. I use a table top recording booth made from big ground pillows.)
At the most basic, all you need is a mic, a cable, a recorder and a quiet space. There isn't really a "most optimal", just a range of costs and qualities.
The most common set of gear for studio vocal recording would be to get a decent large diaphragm studio condenser mic, an XLR cable to hook it up, an ASIO audio interface (making sure it has phantom power for your condenser mic), a computer to run the system, a DAW software package (there are several free ones available to get you started) and a decent set of headphones or studio monitors to listen to your work on while working with it.
When you set it all up, make sure you setup the computer in a different room from the recording or use a computer that can cool itself without using fans that will be picked up on the recording. You also may very well want headphones to listen to what you have recorded while laying down additional tracks, but a set of studio monitors in the control room (where the PC is) so that you can listen to how it sounds played in a room when editing.
It may additionally be useful to get a small digital mixer as an alternative to the ASIO interface as that allows for some amount of mixing to be done from a control surface rather than relying entirely on software controls in the DAW, but this raises the cost quite a bit (possibly doubles it if you are on the cheaper end of gear).
Well for a starter kit, this is a really good deal: http://www.amazon.com/Focusrite-Scarlett-Studio-Interface-Recording/dp/B00AW91CPG/ref=sr_1_7?ie=UTF8&qid=1421127987&sr=8-7&keywords=focusrite