I recently read an article entitled “Can Award-Winning Recordings Be Made In A Home Studio?” But before I even read a word of the article, I had my hackles up (a thing my wife says when something gets her quickly in “defensive-mode”).
That’s because the title alone made me say “what do you mean by “home studio,” and what awards are you talking about?
We (my wife, Lisa Theriot and I) were finalists for an award called a “Voicey Award,” bestowed by Voices.com for voice-over recordings. So based on that, I’d say “of course” to the question posed in the title. We recorded our audio in a home studio, as did the eventual winner of our category.
The other thing that got me a bit rankled is that I generally despise the idea of awards for media productions. We make recordings for various reasons but few of us are out to “win an award.” Heck, most folks I talk to would be really happy if they could just get their audio to sound more professional.
Who cares about an award? And my last word on awards and home studios is to point out how many major non-home studio recordings there are that have not won awards.
OK. Now that I’ve got that out of my system, let talk about the article.
First, the author [note: the original article seems to no longer exist] specifies what he means by “award” (or at least level of award) when he says “i.e. – Grammy.” He’s talking specifically about music and not spoken-word/voice-over work. And he’s talking really prestigious, world-stage awards. That narrows things down a bit.
Next, he suggests that his definition of a home studio is “everything is in the spare bedroom,” because he states that it would be improbable to win a Grammy because you can’t fit a whole band (and that’s debatable) or an entire orchestra into a bedroom.
Well, when you so narrowly define “home studio,” you make it much less likely for a recording made that way to be capable of winning a Grammy. Also, tell that to Billie and Finneas Eilish, who won 5 Grammy Awards in 2020!
However, as the article goes on, there are suggestions that under the right circumstances, it is absolutely possible for a home studio recording to achieve Grammy caliber. It mostly comes down to the performance and the song. After that, it comes down to the knowledge of the engineer.
Yes, it is a fact that a large commercial recording studio is going to have more gear options, and that gear is likely to cost a LOT more than the typical home studio is likely to ever be able to afford. Also it is a fact that most recording and listening spaces in large commercial studios will have superior acoustics, which makes for more accurate mixing and better mastering.
Oh, yeah – the mastering thing. The author did not specify whether a home recording that is sent to a professional mastering facility counts as “a recording made in a home studio.” It should. Even the big studios send mixes to separate mastering facilities.
And this, for me, is the elephant in the room. Take 100 people off the street. Heck, even make them music loving people. Then ask them to listen and tell you the difference between a 24-bit/192KHz recording and a 16-bit/44.1KHz recording, and I would wager they could not tell you.
I’d even be willing to bet most of them could not say which was an mp3 if you threw that into the mix! The purist may argue that the difference would be noticeable when played on a super high-end audio system.
Maybe. But then what percentage of the music-consuming public are listening to high-definition music on high-end systems. A very tiny fraction.
So though on paper, the audio created in a home recording studio cannot, by the specs, go head-to-head with the major studio recordings, at the end of the day I say “so what?” People listening to music don’t look at specs. They listen to music. And the specs mean nothing if the recordings sound good. And recordings made in home studios are perfectly capable of sounding good.
Now for my final take on this question – do most recordings that people make in their home studios sound as good as the pros?
In my experience they absolutely do not. That is because the gear is so affordable and anyone can get it now. That means there are thousands of people making home recordings with gear they don’t know how to use.
I’ve said this many times – people with no audio knowledge, but with a million dollars worth of equipment can (and usually do) make crappy recordings if they know what they are doing.
However, someone who DOES know what they are doing can make awesomely professional sounding recordings with a few hundred dollars worth of gear. It’s about the knowledge. One other thing I also say is that you can get that knowledge on Home Brew Audio. We make the daunting techno-jargon easy to understand so you can make great – even award-winning audio – in your home studio.
Check out some of our free videos to get started!