Home Studio Setups: Audio with Some MIDI - dummies

By Jeff Strong

The most common home studio setup includes one or two MIDI devices connected to a digital recorder and one or two microphones plugged in to record vocals or an instrument. The following illustration shows this typical setup. Here, the guitar and bass may be either miked from the amp or plugged directly into the mixer using one of the following three techniques:

  • Use a direct box: a device that changes the impedance level of your guitar so that the mixer can process the signal.

  • Plug your guitar into your amp and run a cord from the line output of the amp to the mixer’s channel input.

  • Use the Hi Z input of your mixer, if this input is available.

    The most common home studio setup includes both live-instrument and MIDI connections.
    The most common home studio setup includes both live-instrument and MIDI connections.

The setup in the illustration consists of a stand-alone recorder, a separate mixer, and a computer running MIDI sequencing software. Here’s how you connect the equipment in this scenario:

  • Plug all your instruments into the channel inputs of the mixer. For example, insert a TS plug into a 1/4-inch jack and an XLR plug into an XLR jack.

  • To connect the synthesizer to the MIDI controller (computer), run a MIDI cable from the MIDI-output jack of the MIDI interface to the MIDI-input jack of the synthesizer.

    The connection between the MIDI interface and computer depends on your MIDI interface. This connection is usually made using a USB port, but you can find MIDI ports in many audio interfaces. In this case, the connection type depends on the type of interface you use.

  • To connect the mixer to the recorder, run 1/4-inch line cords from the direct-output jacks of the individual channels to the line (track)–input jacks of the recorder.

    The illustration shows only one cord running from the mixer to the recorder (and one running from the recorder back to the mixer), but you can have as many cords as you have direct-output jacks in your mixer or line-input jacks in your recorder.

    For example, if you have an 8-track recorder, you have cords running from channels 1–8 of your mixer into the track-input jacks 1–8 of your recorder. Of course, if your system consists of a studio-in-a-box or a computer-based system, you don’t need to run these cords because the connections are made within the box.

  • To monitor the tracks of the recorder, run cords from the individual line-output jacks of the recorder back to the mixer. You would generally plug these cords into channel inputs 9–16. Again, if you have studio-in-a-box or a computer-based system, you don’t need to do this.

    If you connect your recorder and mixer as outlined, you have channels 1–8 on your mixer controlling all the inputs and channels 9–16 controlling the recorded tracks. If you don’t have that many channels in your mixer, you need to jockey some cords around. The routing possibilities are almost endless with a mixer. Check your owner’s manual for recommended setups and routing suggestions.

    As an example, suppose that you have a 12-channel mixer and an 8-track recorder. If you don’t intend to record more than 4 tracks at a time, you can use tracks 1–4 for your channel inputs from your instruments and tracks 5–12 for the track inputs from your recorder.

    If you need more inputs and don’t want or need to listen to the tracks as you record, you can allocate fewer channels for track monitoring and more for instrument inputs.

  • Run line cords from the main left- and right-output jacks of the mixer to your power amp (or powered speakers).

  • Run speaker cords from the power amp to the speakers. (You obviously don’t need these if you have powered speakers because the connection is internally wired.)