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Book Review: 'Home Studio Setup' by Ben Harris
“Home Studio Setup” by Ben Harris, subtitled “everything you need to know from equipment to acoustics”, is intended to be an all in one resource for setting up a home studio. What are the pros and cons of this book?
The Strengths of “Home Studio Setup”
If you are completely new to music production, audio recording and electronics, this book gives you a good introduction from the true start, dedicating the first chapter to acoustics and relating this immediately to a studio’s layout.
“Home Studio Setup” provides information on how to build your studio, including cost saving alternatives to the professional grade products and the pros and cons of different materials. Too many other books tell you to buy the most expensive options on the market under the false assumption that these items are the best.
The Weaknesses of “Home Studio Setup”
The book’s initial section on digital audio workstations, where it gives the definition and benefits of using a DAW or digital audio workstation, is still valid. This is true for its explanation of various pieces of equipment like MIDI controllers and samplers. The software recommendations and technical advice in this section, however, is obsolete. The section on analog versus digital mixing consoles, though, remains relevant, since the low cost of analog sound mixers makes them popular with hobbyists.
The suggestion of putting a lava lamp in the sound studio for lighting is a reflection of the author’s aesthetic tastes, not a practical suggestion though treated as such. Likewise, the advice to put art and other décor in the sound studio is almost a distraction from the technical information in the book. After all, that cool art you put on the wall could alter the acoustics you so careful crafted per earlier diagrams and technical specifications.
Observations about “Home Studio Setup”
The book offers a look at the history of sound recording, something that is interesting but not really value added. The information on how digital audio workstations record sound and track it to video when necessary is useful to those not already familiar with this.
“Home Studio Setup” devotes a chapter to microphones. While the explanation of various types of microphones is useful for those unfamiliar with it, the book lacks information on the wireless microphones that are becoming common.
This is repeated in Chapter 9’s matrix on how to pick the right microphone for your application. Therefore, this book doesn’t include information on the antennas and other equipment required to support them. Instead, the book has several pages on the cables required and their pros and cons. For example, Chapter 7, Section 2 describes several “connections” scenarios on how to connect everything to your audio interface – and all the connections it discusses are wired. The information on the acoustics of various instruments and the impact of different types of microphones is important.
If you know nothing about acoustics, sound processing equipment and audio recording, “Home Studio Setup” remains a good introduction to the subject. Note that its advice on audio processing software and many pieces of hardware is so dated that it shouldn’t be used to make a decision on what to buy, though recommendations on sound studio layout and sound absorbent materials are still true today.