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Q: Can an expert engineer make as good a recording in a home studio as he could in a million-dollar studio?

A good home studio might have $20,000 worth of equipment. A pro studio might have $1,000,000 worth of equipment or more. Can the home studio compete?

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Question from an Audio Masterclass student: “If two engineers with the same level of ability were to make recordings in two different settings, one in a multi-million dollar studio, and the other in a $20,000 home studio, would I be able to tell which recording was made where?”

This is an excellent question that deserves to be tested in a real-life experiment. But for now we can only speculate...

The first point is that the recordings would be different. Different engineers have their own styles. So the question becomes whether the differences in the studio setting would overshadow the differences in production style.

Technically, the recordings would be as good as each other in terms of frequency range, distortion and noise. Home studio equipment is as good as pro equipment in this respect.

Pro studio equipment has a wider range of facilities. This means that the pro studio recording potentially could be more complex, or more fine-tuned. The home studio recording might be simpler and more 'rough and ready'.

Pro studios have better acoustics than home studios. So the engineer in the pro studio could use the benefits of the acoustic space available. The engineer in the home studio would have to disguise the defects, perhaps by extremely close miking.

In mixing, the pro studio engineer would have the benefit of an acoustically uncolored control room that would allow finely detailed judgment of the sounds created. The home studio engineer would find that, even with near-field monitors, the sound of the room was coloring his judgment.

In summary therefore, although the home studio engineer might have the same level of ability, he would be able to work more flexibly in a pro studio. The recording produced might not be better, but there would be more options to explore, and the engineer would enjoy being able to work in a more relaxed and creative manner.

An up-and-coming engineer should always aspire to work in the best facility possible. Home studios are great, but pro studios still have the advantage.

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By David Mellor Thursday November 30, 2006
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