When you first start out in professional audio, it can seem a bit overwhelming. Between all the audio and music lingo being thrown around, and all the different websites offering tutorials, it's easy to get confused pretty quickly, especially if you're new to music and audio in general. When I decided I wanted to make a career, I ended up spending a fair amount of money ignorantly on sound equipment that I thought was necessary to start up my studio, when in fact I ended up wasting my money. So, where do you start?
First, I think it's necessary to understand what you really need to create a home studio-just the bare essentials. In my opinion, you need a microphone, an audio interface, a pair of speakers or headphones, and a DAW (Digital Audio Workstation). This is arguable, but for anyone to start recording something and get familiar with the stuff you'll be working with, this is a great start at the very least.
There are a few different types, but we'll stick with the most common one, a condenser microphone. The nice thing with these is they generally have very good sound quality, and the first mic I got was $50. You'll need a mic cable to go along with this, but you can find many mic bundles with the mic, a cable, and stand, ect. One thing to note is that condenser microphones need to be powered by phantom power, that's the 48V symbol that you'll run into a lot. A microphone preamp just provides phantom power to the mic, that's all you need to know for now. You can get a USB microphone, which can be convenient because it both provides power to the mic and converts the mic signal into a digital signal, one that can be received by your computer. The other option is to get an audio interface, which is what I would recommend for a home studio.
An Audio Interface
An audio interface basically is the connection from your microphone to your computer. A microphone produces an analog signal , and computers only operate with digital signals. So an audio interface has both preamps (to provide power to the microphone via phantom power) and Audio to Digital (A/D) convertors. In addition, interfaces have at least two outputs for your speakers, and most have a headphone output. So you can plug your mic into the interface, plug the interface into your computer, and you're ready to record!
If you want to record a song, you're going to need some software to do all your recording, editing, mixing, and mastering. This is where the DAW comes in. A DAW handles all of your audio needs, and there are many different options to choose from. Because I plan to work in a professional recording studio, I chose Pro Tools, and have worked with it for around 5 years now. If you are planning on working in a studio like me, you need to at least be very familiar with Pro Tools, because it is an industry standard, nearly every studio uses it. This is not to say that it is the best choice for you, but I highly recommend that you learn it. There really is no better DAW, each one has its own pros and cons, and it is up to you to try different DAWs out and see what you personally want to work with.
This may sound like a lot to buy, but it can all be purchased for relatively cheap. My studio now has a net worth of around $3,000, but I started with around $200 (well, I technically started with a $20 Walmart mic and free software, but that doesn't count as a studio). I had a crappy computer, got a $50 mic (I believe it was an MXL condenser), and purchased a $150 audio interface and Pro Tools-MP (a cheap, outdated version of pro tools), and that was my studio, and to be honest, I made some pretty decent stuff with that setup! So get out there, put some money into starting a studio, and get working on making music!