In a nutshell, you should splurge on things you can’t make or do yourself, and save by DIY’ing everything else. No matter how you slice it, home recording will cost some money, because you just can’t make good music from low-quality equipment.
1. $150-$500: Microphone
It’s actually not that expensive to get a studio-quality microphone. In fact, many studios still use the $150 Shure SM58 .
If the Shure SM58 doesn’t have the sound you need, you can spend more on more expensive microphones. We’d recommend not going above the $500 mark on your first recording. If you haven’t nailed the art of making a home studio, then a super expensive mic is not going to help you more than a mid-range one would.
2. $0-$100: Software
There is some decent software out there, like Ardour, that you can get for free, but it’s usually not that user-friendly. If you have the time to learn to get the best out of free software, do it, but you could save 50+ hours just by springing for cheap software like Reaper, Sequel, Sonar.
Buy the newest studio version of any software. The quality per dollar goes up with every version, and if you like plug-ins, the newest versions will always serve you better.
3. $0: Pop Filter
Pop filters are no doubt important, but they’re something you can DIY and not have to worry about. Check out that link to see how you can make one yourself using things you probably already have at home!
4. $150-$300: Two Sets of Headphones
Two? Yeah, you need both isolation headphones and open-back/in-ear ones. Isolation headphones keep you on track while recording; open-back help you hear better when playing the tracks back. Spend a little extra for low-end studio quality headphones.
5. $200: Acoustic Panels
This is a DIY project. You’ll save money by building them yourself, but you still need high-quality materials. Shop around with insulation suppliers to buy sound-absorbing rigid fiberglass panels, of a density of 3lbs or more. You should be able to manage about 6-8 panels for about $100. Breathable fabric and wood frames will cost you the other $100.
The good news is that all of these items are one-time purchases. Once you’re set up and ready to record, you’ll be using these items for years to come!