There are countless ways you can upgrade your home recording studio. From big ticket items like a new laptop or instrument, through to small inexpensive items which make life a bit easier. In this guide to cheap home studio upgrades, we’re going to concentrate on those small wins, including things which might not instantly come to mind when you think about home studio setups, but could have a huge impact on your workflow, motivation or inspiration.
Each of the items we suggest here will provide an instant upgrade to your home studio, either by changing the way you work or simply by helping you get better organised.
Some of our suggestions are pricier than others, but regardless of your budget you should find something on this list that will help take your studio setup to the next level.
Home studio upgrade ideas
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One of the best home studio upgrades you can make is to invest in a set of dedicated studio monitor stands for your studio speakers. Studio monitors often take up a huge amount of space on your desk, so moving them off gives you more room to add more gear. Plus, more importantly, it means you can adjust the monitors’ vertical elevation so the sweet spot is immediately in line with your ears, while also helping reduce vibration from the bass frequencies in your mixes.
Reason to buy: They will have an immediate impact on your sound
MusicRadar’s Choice: On-stage SMS6000 monitor stands, $79.95/£89.99
For DAW users, particularly those with large monitors, the endless scrolling and cursor-movements can become annoying. We’ve had great results by changing the way we interface with our machine. A trackball mouse like the Logitech M570 Wireless means the mouse itself can remain stationary, with all pointing, tracking and scrolling done by rolling the integrated ball with your thumb. This is particularly useful for anyone with a small desk space, and we’ve always found them to be ultra-precise and comfortable to use.
Reason to buy: More comfortable for long-term use
MusicRadar’s Choice: Logitech M570 Wireless, $40/£40
If your studio is home to multiple sound sources, you’ll know it can be frustrating having to change out wires and cables to record using a different instrument. By investing in a simple home studio mixer - we like the Mackie Mix8 - you can simply leave your connections in place and control which signal reaches your audio interface and DAW by altering the faders accordingly. This is helpful for people with multiple synths, for example, as it means you can leave them all connected and ready to use in an instant.
Reason to buy: Keeps multiple sound sources ready to record
MusicRadar’s Choice: Mackie Mix8, $89.99/£78.99
Continuing the theme of moving things off your studio desk; a gas sprung monitor arm is a simple and inexpensive way of introducing some adjustability to your screen while also making more room for… stuff. Gas-sprung arms have a number of benefits over traditional monitor stands, including the ability to move the screen around to wherever it’s needed, and also to free your desk of the footprint used by the standard monitor base. Most models allow for cable management too, so you’ll also see the benefit of a tidier studio. Need a new display? Check out our guide to the best computer monitors for music production.
Reason to buy: Free up more desk space
MusicRadar’s Choice: MOUNTUP Single Monitor Desk Mount, $29.99/£45
Mention ‘poor posture’ to most people and they’ll shudder. We all know we should sit up straighter, and take more breaks from the chair, but what if leaving the desk for a walk around the block isn’t feasible. Standing desks have grown in popularity in recent years, but can prove expensive. A simpler option is to use a desk riser, which folds down flat onto your existing desk surface but can be raised in height to enable you to stand up while working. Some models feature dedicated keyboard shelves, which means more space for monitors or other desk peripherals too.
Reason to buy: Give your back and shoulders a break
MusicRadar’s Choice: VIVO Stand Up Height Adjustable 32 inch Desk Riser, $129.99/£280
As our sound and sample libraries grow ever bigger, it helps to find better ways to store and organise them. A portable SSD, like the Samsung T7 (we like the Touch edition with added fingerprint security), is an inexpensive and reliable way both to back up our recordings and to store large volumes of files. As a solid-state drive it offers lightning quick access to your files, meaning you can stream directly from the external drive rather than directly on your computer. Now you can happily click ‘download all’ when updating your software and sample libraries without fear of running out of space.
Reason to buy: Good housekeeping for computer setups
MusicRadar’s Choice: Samsung T7 Touch (500GB, 1TB, 2TB), from $109.99/£129.99
If you look to the gaming world, another largely desk-based bunch, you’ll see they have a rather large attraction to RGB lighting. Everything from keyboards to mouse mats, illuminated with all the colours of the rainbow. Why should they have all the fun though? A simple colour-changing RGB strip light mounted on the back of your monitor will completely transform the ambience in your studio, making it a nicer place to while away the hours scrolling through snare samples.
Reason to buy: Adds a dash of colour
MusicRadar’s Choice: Govee LED Strip Lights, $24.99/£29.99
While a large collection of guitars is never a bad thing, it can cause problems if you’re having to step over them to get around the room. The simplest solution is to hang your guitars on the wall, where they can reside out of harm’s way. There are plenty of options, from basic metal hangers through to more ornate wooden versions, but whatever you choose be sure to affix to the wall using the proper method. Once installed, you’ll gain valuable floor space and something nice to look at on your wall.
Reason to buy: Protects your guitars and frees up floor space
MusicRadar’s Choice: String Swing CC01K-BW Guitar Hanger, $13.99/£13.99
It can be a bit overwhelming, with the sheer variety of studio headphones and earphones available today, to know which are the right set for your studio. In our experience, trying to balance the needs of a home studio with everyday utility like streaming podcasts, makes life very difficult. Our advice? Invest in a set of good quality, wired headphones which are purely, solely for the purpose of making music. Our personal faves are the Beyerdynamic DT 770 which, while at the top end of what you’d call cheap (check out our guide to best budget studio headphones if you want to spend less), are comfortable and accurate enough to be classed as specialist studio cans. Your ears, and your recordings, will thank you for them.
Reason to buy: Long-term comfort and audio quality
MusicRadar’s Choice: Beyerdynamic DT 770, $149.99/£159
Power and cable management aren’t the most exciting of subjects, but they do provide a degree of organisation and protection which shouldn’t be overlooked. As you introduce more equipment into your studio, it figures you’ll need more places into which you can connect power cables. A power strip tower allows you to add more plugs to your studio, while also offering protection against surges and overloads. Some models integrate filters too, which can help combat low-level humming and noise, helping improve your recording and playback experience.
Reason to buy: Improves organisation and safety
MusicRadar’s Choice: SuperDanny Power Strip Tower, $35.99
There’s no hard and fast rule to say a home studio must be paired with a studio chair. For many, the decision to pair their studio desk with a standard office-style chair happens without thinking, yet there is an alternative. We’ve long favoured the use of a stool over a chair, for a few simple reasons. Firstly, using a stool encourages good posture as you’re not leaning into a backrest. Secondly, and more importantly for guitarists, without armrests getting in the way you’ll find navigating your way around the neck much less restrictive. Look for ergonomic stools which move with your body, allowing you to keep your back straight on those long recording sessions.
Reason to buy: Improves your posture
MusicRadar’s Choice: Seville Classics Airlift 360 Sit-Stand stool, $110
Look at any pro studio and you’ll see walls covered with ridged foam. Far from being an aesthetic choice - although it can be that as well - acoustic foam panels serve a dual role of improving both your recording and mixing capability. They work by diffusing sound waves as they bounce around your room, meaning your recordings will sound purer and your mixing can be carried out with more accuracy. Deciding where to place them is both a science and an artform, so further reading is advised before you go sticking them on walls, but as a simple way to upgrade a studio they are hard to beat.
Reason to buy: A simple way to improve your recordings
MusicRadar’s Choice: Grageta acoustic foam panels, $22.99 (for 12)