4 Ways To Get Recording This Iso

Article by Amelia Lancashire

These days, with a lot of us stuck at home in isolation, we have a little bit of extra time on our hands. So why not get creative and use this time to finally get stuck into that recording you’ve always been meaning to do…

Yes, this sounds like an exciting idea, but before we get ahead of ourselves we need to figure out how we’re going facilitate this recording – how are we going to get our voice or our instrument onto a device that we can edit and mix to create that amazing track we’ve been dreaming up? There are many ways to go about doing this, but not everyone wants to get an audio engineering degree or has a trust fund to afford a lavish home studio setup, so here are four ways to get recording without bending your brain or busting the bank.

1. Audio Interface

The most popular and common way to start recording is based around an audio interface. This is a device which lets you plug in a microphone or instrument and then converts their analog signal into a digital one that a computer will understand. Basically, it’s a way to get what you’re playing or singing into some audio software (known as a DAW – Digital Audio Workstation) that you can then listen back to and edit or mix.

Now there are many different configurations of audio interfaces and the trick is finding one that suits your needs. Every audio interface consists of inputs and outputs, so it’s a matter of deciding how many of these you will require. Typically, if you’re just singing, playing guitar or keyboard, you will only need a one or two input interface, that will let you plug in your instrument or microphone of choice (generally a condenser if you’re wanting those crispy, crystal clear vocals). When looking at outputs, if you’re just doing some basic recording and mixing, you really only need to make sure that you have two main outputs for your speakers or studio monitors and a headphone output – any good audio interface will provide this.

From here, the only other thing to look out for is software: what DAW, if any, comes with the audio interface? If you have already been mucking around on some audio software and you’re happy with the DAW that you have, then this doesn’t really affect which interface you choose. But if you’re yet to acquire a DAW, then take note of what software is included with the audio interface, as this may very well influence your final decision.

You may be wondering how much one of these bad boys will set you back. The good news is a basic audio interface (such as the Behringer U-Phoria UM2) will come in under $100. But if you’re looking for something a little fancier, with a few more bells and whistles, then brands like Focusrite, PreSonus and Steinberg all have audio interfaces ranging from $199 to $339 that will have you covered.

“But what if I don’t have a mic or headphones?” you say, well a recording pack may very well be an avenue for you to look down. These typically include one of the audio interfaces we’ve already looked at, bundled with some headphones and a microphone (as well as all the required cables). This will give you all the elements required to set up a basic home studio and start recording.

2. iPad/Tablet Recording

If you’re struggling to get your hands on a computer or want to get a little more portable with your recording, then maybe you should consider recording onto an iPad or tablet. Whilst similar to recording with an interface (and yes, a few audio interfaces can facilitate iPad recording), an iPad-specific recording device is often the most portable and streamlined way to go.

The most popular variety of tablet recording devices is a range by IK Multimedia, most commonly known as ‘iRigs’ (though they have a multitude of products designed to work with iPads, iPhones, etc.). Like an interface, these devices let you plug in your microphone or instrument and record into audio software on your tablet, such as GarageBand or Cubasis.

Deciding on a device to record with really depends on what you’re trying to record. Do you play keyboard or guitar, maybe you sing? Or maybe you’re a god damn virtuoso and want to do all three – there are options for that too! Just look for a device that suits your individual needs. Starting from around $75, these gadgets are an awesome portable and budget-friendly way to get into recording.

3. USB Microphone

Don’t play an instrument? Just wanting to do some vocal covers or rap over some beats? Then an audio interface may be overkill, particularly if you’re just starting out recording and don’t want to shell out the big bucks for a recording setup. If this is the case, a USB microphone is a very attractive option, allowing you to sing, rap, talk (or cry?) into a microphone that directly plugs into your computer via USB – no audio interface required. These microphones will generally feature a headphone output as well, allowing you to monitor audio from your computer.

Beyond your musical needs, a USB microphone is also great for Zoom calls, Twitch streaming, etc., so one of these all-in-one mics will improve your audio quality across the board. Even if you decide to invest in some fancier recording microphones down the track, you’ll still have this handy mic in your arsenal for all your content creation needs. With options from Rode and Audio Technica starting from around $150, you can’t go wrong with a USB microphone for laying down those tasty vocals.

4. Portable Audio Recorder

If being tethered to a computer or iPad isn’t your vibe, then perhaps you should consider a portable audio recorder. Larger variations of these handy recorders from brands like Zoom allow you to plug in external microphones and instruments to record to an inserted SD card, which you can then transfer to your computer for editing and mixing when the time is right.

These are great devices for getting down song ideas or recording on the fly and can be quite useful in letting you record at a moments notice when creativity strikes, without having to wait for the PC to boot. Many of these recorders also double as an audio interface, for when you decide it’s time to sit down at the computer and multi-track those guitar riffs.

For those of you who are also into videography or creating YouTube videos, these devices are great for recording sound for video, either using the onboard microphone or plugging in your own, making a portable audio recorder a great creative tool across the board.

So take the time to figure out which of these recording methods best suit your input needs, creative style and the outcome you want to get from your recording experience. With options starting under $100 and a little extra time on our hands, there are now no excuses to put off doing that recording you’ve always talked about!