Pros and Cons of a DIY Studio Setup

Pros and Cons of a DIY Studio Setup

Similar to other home studio engineers, I’ve pined after the “classic” gear ever since I became serious about my studio setup. For example: 1176 blue stripes, LA-2A’s, Vari-Mu’s, 1073’s, Pultec EQ’s, etc. Seeing pictures and videos of the pros in the music studio with those iconic faceplates links that gear in our minds with the sound of our favorite records. It’s easy to make gear wish-lists from interviews with engineers talking about the sonic goodness of a particular piece of gear. Although, these “classics” are never cheap and are usually out of the budget of a small home studio. Plus, most of them aren’t made anymore or the modern versions aren’t touted as highly.

There are a few solutions to this problem.

Saving money to buy dream gear is always an option, but it takes time and patience. Certainly, some gear is just too expensive for a hobbyist to justify. Certain local music studios or music stores offer equipment rentals. For short-term use, this works well although isn’t sustainable in the long run. A lot of affordable gear is based on these classic designs. Unfortunately, the companies making this gear have to compromise somewhere in order to bring the price down. In short, if there’s a worry about a perfect recreation, these clones are a viable option.

What about a DIY (Do It Yourself) studio setup?

It’s not for everybody, but it is the most affordable way to get your hands on classic circuits with no compromise. Some kits come bundled with everything you’ll need. However, some only come with a schematic and a bill of materials. There are pros and cons to a DIY studio setup; here are a few of them.

Pros to a DIY setup


An assembled unit is more expensive. DIY projects require the raw materials, saving the cost of assembly labor. As a result, it’s amazing how much money can be saved on a DIY studio setup unit, even using the same or greater quality components as the original.


In addition to a great piece of hand-made gear, the skills that are learned from building your DIY gear are always useful. As a matter of fact, being handy with a soldering iron will save some time in a pinch. Not to mention, save a ton of money on cables (easy to build with basic soldering skills).

Understanding the gear

The knowledge of how a unit is put together, what components are used, and how the circuit affects the signal is useful for knowing when and where to apply certain types and styles of gear to recordings.


The door is wide open to make as many modifications as deemed necessary. Another point, these modifications are to the components, the circuit itself or just to the aesthetics of the unit. Imagination is the only limitation on what modifications your DIY gear has.

Discontinued gear

There are many popular pieces of hardware that are no longer manufactured, causing the price tag to increase even further. For this reason, any of these units will be found as DIY projects for a fraction of the price.

Advanced skills

DIY is a fantastic way to begin to learn about how to create processing circuits and how they work. It’s an essential first step for any aspiring gear designers and builders.

Cons to a DIY setup


It takes time and patience to learn a new skill and these projects require both. Plus, great attention to detail. The process of stuffing a circuit board with tiny components can be painstaking and feel tedious. For this reason, it’s important to take frequent breaks to keep yourself from becoming frustrated.

Requires special gear

A soldering iron and the ability to use it will be required. As a matter of fact, a pair of wire strippers, a multi-meter, and other specialty electronic tinkering gear may be required as well.

No name-brand recognition

Many clients have knowledge of studios and have dream gear of their own and may require or prefer a specific piece of gear. Even if a replica is spot on in every way, there is a certain weight carried by the name and the legacy of a piece of iconic gear that a replica does not carry and this may be a dealbreaker for some hard to please clients.

If you pick a cheap/easy design and cheap components, you will likely get what you pay for

An easy DIY project can be a good way to start small and build confidence, but don’t expect the world from the cheapest kit you can find. Incredible kits can be found for only a few hundred dollars.


The pros for a DIY studio setup greatly outweigh the cons. A lot can be learned working hands on, especially furthering your studio knowledge. In addition, it helps save money, and still allows you to own your dream gear. To top it all off, you get a top-quality, hand-made, custom built, one-of-a-kind piece of classic gear that you built yourself! Talk about rewarding!

Written by Cody Lindblom

Cody owns Dioskouri Studios in Belgrade, MT. Click here to learn more about Dioskouri and to book a session with him!