Things have been pretty crazy in the world lately, so it’s no wonder that more music is being made at home than ever before. Engineers, producers and mixers have been taking full advantage of this shift for a while now with how simple it is to create a basic production setup in a spare bedroom.
Musicians are also taking advantage of the flexibility a home recording studio offers. They’re realizing that they don’t need the big, expensive equipment to get a good sound at home – a few select pieces of gear and they’re good to go.
As a result of all of this, we’re seeing artists pump out more and more professional music from the comfort of home than ever before and it’s changing the way the music industry is approaching production. It’s all thanks to the benefits of the new virtual recording studio.
The first move toward virtualization came in the form of affordable hardware. Less expensive gear with smaller footprints than traditional recording equipment are extremely common today from small interfaces to mastering-grade headphones. People are embracing portability with minimal sacrifices to functionality.
For most artists and producers, this means they can get away with a laptop, interface, and simple monitoring solution. This new wave of music pros understands that it’s not going to take a 40+ channel board to help them achieve the sounds they’re after. An input or two, some good virtual instruments & a decent pair of headphones or small speakers are all they need.
This shift also shows that the industry is moving away from quantity toward quality. Who cares if you’ve got dozens of inputs if you don’t have the microphones, cabling or stands to use them? Even if you do, when are you ever going to use all of them other than maybe an occasional live band or drum session?
We’re choosing function over flashiness – a great choice for any aspiring artist.
Along those same lines of thought, some hardware manufacturers are really starting to question what features are important to their clients. Guitar amps no longer need to be hundreds of watts when you’re tracking at home. Instead, technology is keeping pace with demand by creating lower wattage amps with more flexibility or something even cooler – modeling options and digital options that sound better than ever.
And that 100-watt beast of an amp you bought for tour? It can finally find its place in the virtual studio too thanks to revolutionary new load boxes and the impulse responses you can use with them.
Of course, not everything modeled is exclusive to guitar amps. Microphones and even some preamplifiers are taking full advantage of the virtual studio environment as well!
How many times have you heard someone say that it’s about pairing the right microphone to a singer and that’s why there is no “perfect” vocal mic? Now how many times have you thought about the implications that has on your studio budget? Who can afford to keep a massive collection of mics available for every singer?
With the virtualization of recording studios, a handful of manufacturers are showing that there’s an answer that doesn’t require breaking the bank – microphone modeling. With companies like Townsend Labs and Slate Digital releasing modeling microphones, any home studio can access some classic sounding microphones for about the cost of a single, high-end mic.
When put head to head against the real deal, most professional engineers can’t even hear the difference in blind tests. That’s all the reassurance you should need to realize that this kind of tech works.
Beyond hardware, there are some solutions like virtual instruments and virtual guitar rigs that take things in a completely digital direction. Yes – you’ll still need a way to record your track into your DAW, but from there the entire workflow can happen in plugins.
Plugins like Toneforge Misha Mansoor address many of the common aspects of guitar tone like pedals, amps & cabs, but they also go a step farther to give you post-processing that usually requires additional tools like compression to get the sound to fit in your mix. This new style of all-in-one tone solution is designed from the ground up to combine the roles of musician and mixer.
Downstream, you can completely cater your digital workspace to replace a full-size recording studio with ease. Between hardware emulation and new digital-only processors, mixers have more options than ever to get any sound they want from analog tape saturation to multi-band compression.
It’s an extremely good time to get into the audio space as virtual studios are on the rise and it’s looking like they’re here to stay.
Looking to Start On Your Virtual Workflow?
If you’re new to the concepts discussed here and you’re not quite sure how you’re going to be able to record your music without the use of hardware like your guitar amp, we’ve got a great resource available called Getting Started With Impulse Responses.
In this guide, we’ll walk you through the process of tracking a guitar DI, loading up your favorite virtual guitar rig, and making use of impulse responses from some of the most sought after pieces of gear.