Let’s talk about why home recordings and studio recordings sound so different.
The biggest difference in the home recordings vs studio recordings is the sound of the rooms. The recording rooms in the studio are acoustically engineered to absorb and reflect certain frequencies so that you get the purest form of the source. Untreated rooms tend to have more reflections of sound (higher rt60) which leads to an undesired sound. Sound waves are like light waves. Imagine standing with a flashlight in a dark room where all the walls are made of glass. You would end up seeing multiple reflections of this flashlight bouncing off of the walls. The same applies to sound, when you generate sound in a room the sound waves move outward reflecting from the surfaces of the wall, these waves keep on reflecting till they are devoid of energy.
Now imagine placing a microphone in front of a sound source, when sound is generated from the source it will directly reach the microphone as shown in the diagram below.
Similarly, there are these reflections that are bouncing off the walls, but since they are traveling a long distance they will reach the microphone a little later. With a lot of Untreated rooms, these reflection times are longer which end up muddying the sound of the source even more. On the other hand, the live rooms in a studio are designed acoustically to have the right balance of the direct sound to the reflected sound so that the source is captured in its purest form possible.
This is an obvious point of difference between the two, recording studios usually tend to have a higher quality Analog to Digital and Digital to Analog convertors. They also have a number of varied microphones in their mic locker which can be used for specific voices.
Professional recording studios also use Digital Audio Workstations like Pro tools to record the source in the right way without any artifacts, which the engineer can then use to manipulate and use various tools like Compression, Equalization or add effects like Reverb and delay to get the desired effect.
The final and the most important point that sets these two apart are a seasoned set of years. What most people fail to under is that although the recording is not rocket science, in order to make professional sounding recordings one needs to take care of the smallest details like figuring out what microphone to use, what is the right gain staging, how to use the compression, EQ, FX etc.
It’s best to do leave these tasks to a professional so that you can focus on the performance. Another thing that an engineer brings into the picture is perspective, usually, when working on your own projects for a long period of time one tends to lose perspective and you get seasoned to what you’ve been working on. The right engineer will help guide you on how you can tweak your performance, so that you can sound your absolute best.So when should you go to the studio and when should you record at home? Home studios are the best to practice your performance and gauge how you sound on record. Home studios are good to create a basic demo that you can further take to the studio to refine.