Sunday, July 12, 2020
Home Office and Desk Setups 8 best budget home recording studio desks

8 best budget home recording studio desks [2020]

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We’ve finally been getting around to setting up our spare room as my home studio and wanted to look into a new studio desk. After finding a bunch of crazy expensive options (along with some less expensive ones), we realized that there are not many desks for studios for most of us to choose from.  But that’s not to say that it’s an impossible task, as there are some absolutely great budget home recording studio desks out there.

This very topic is actually one of the reasons we started this site.  After doing a good amount of research on this, we figured that other people would benefit from this as well.  Our search was focused more on budget-friendly solutions, as well as home and bedroom studio situations.

For that reason, we’re omitting some of the bigger and more expensive desks like the ultra-popular Argosy, Omnirax, AZ-Studio Workstations, and the like.  We’re also looking at keeping the price ceiling at around $1000.  Yes, that’s still pretty expensive for a desk, but for studio furniture, it’s pretty reasonable.

We also plan on putting together an article about using non-specialized desks as a home recording studio desk, and that will come soon enough.  But for now, let’s get on with the show.

What makes the best home recording studio desk?

A good home recording studio desk needs to do a few things well, and thankfully it’s not much.  But depending on your current gear, your planned upgrade path, and your room situation will dictate most of what you’ll be looking for in a desk for your studio.

Plenty of main surface space

Take a look at your current desk.  What’s on the work surface?  What can go, what needs to stay, and what do you wish you had there?  Some people want room for a MIDI controller.  Keyboard, faders, button strip, full control surface, etc.  Others just need their keyboard, mouse, and that’s it.

Personally, I don’t have plans to add a keyboard or other sort of instrument controller, as I pretty much never use one.  So far.  But I do want to add a second set of monitors eventually and with that some sort of monitor control box.  I’m not terribly demanding here, but many do need to have their controllers right in front of them.

Rack space for your outboard equipment

The main difference between a recording studio desk and a regular desk is the rack space.  A majority of desks above 45″ is usually the presence of 8U of rack space, usually divided up into two 4U bays.  So look at your gear, what do you have?  What do you plan on buying for sure?

A quick note:  A rack “U” is one unit of vertical height in your rack.  Power conditioners and smaller equipment is 1U, whereas a lot of pre-amps are 2U, or twice as tall.  Usually, 8U is plenty of total space for the home recording engineer, and if you need more, there are add-on options.

Personally, while I don’t have anything rack-mounted other than a power conditioner, I do plan on upgrading to a larger interface, and perhaps a nice mic pre or two.  Having the gear in racks is nice, keeps it out of the way, hides your cable clutter, and generally keeps things in order.

While many people are skipping expensive outboard equipment in favor of mixing “in the box”, there’s still some critical hardware you’ll end up with as you progress, like the power conditioner, larger audio interfaces, patch bays, and usually at least a mic pre and compressor.  If you think you’ll be getting serious about at least one signal chain, it’s worth planning ahead and getting some rack space.

Room for your computer displays

What’s your current display setup for your studio desk?  Single widescreen display?  Dual widescreens?  Planning on being a baller and upgrading to a nice big ultrawide (or two)?  Well, not only do you have to think about the top shelf room for the display(s), but also for your studio monitors.

If you have smaller 5″ or 6″ studio monitors, it’s not the end of the world to put them and a single 23″ to 27″ all on the same surface.  More than that on either piece of hardware, however, and you start looking into either much larger desks, or speaker stands for your monitors.

Cable management and computer placement

Need a keyboard tray?  Is the desk high enough to accommodate one without slamming your knees into it?  Most desks don’t come with a tray, so you’ll have to buy one separately, and take the main surface height into consideration when you do.

Do you have somewhere designated for your computer tower (if you don’t use a laptop or small form factor PC/Mac?  Is your tower currently resting on the carpet?  You should probably fix that, and a desk with a bottom shelf is a great option.  Otherwise, you can get a CPU/tower caddy to get the tower up off the carpet a few inches.

Speaking of computer placement, cable management is also critical for an easily organized and operable setup.  Will your new desk have some management trays and routing holes?  Or will you need to go crazy with the cable ties or cable clips?  It’s always easier to find a desk with good options here, as it will reduce the amount of extra work involved.

Studio desk size

The size of desk you buy is often the most deciding of factors when look at when setting out to find a desk.  A lot of home, project, or bedroom studios are limited in space, and so choosing a recording studio desk that fits whatever is available is paramount.

When I initially wrote this, I had just an inexpensive Ikea Linnmon desk with Adils legs that is about 47″ by 24″.  I bought this years ago when I moved into a new place as a new computer desk.

SEE ALSO:  Tannoy Reveal 502 studio monitors review

It’s big enough for two 23″ monitors and small speakers, but ended up with one display and my Tannoy Reveal 502 monitors.  I also had the display on a much too tall riser, with my Furman M-8X2 Merit Series 8 Outlet Power Conditioner and Surge Protector and old M-Audio Fast Track Pro sitting underneath it.

Before the riser, the Fast Track Pro always sat awkwardly on the desk, and adding the power conditioner just exacerbated everything.  But even with this newly available space, the desk itself was definitely too small and it soon became time for a much needed upgrade to a better studio desk setup.

A comfortable office or computer chair

Yes, technically this doesn’t have anything to do with the desk itself, but there’s no stronger deterrent to wanting to sit at your desk than a terrible chair.  And keeping with the budget theme of this guide we’re not going to be suggesting a crazy (but crazy comfy!) chair like the Herman Miller Aeron or Mirra, don’t worry.  You don’t need to break the bank to get a comfortable, feature-rich chair for your home studio, you can find some great mesh office chairs under $200.

SEE ALSO:  7 computer stand/cpu caddy options - Get your PC off the carpet!

Large recording studio desks

Now that I have the room to grow, I’m thinking more and more that a larger desk is in order.  I also have plans to replace the Fast Track Pro with something much more new and capable, so that will be (most likely) another rack-mount device.  So what are the options like when looking for a large recording studio desk?

Acme Furniture Eleazar Music Recording Studio Desk

Acme Furniture Eleazar Music Recording Studio Desk, Natural Oak
  • Rectangualr music recording studio desk
  • 1Piano Keyboard Tray
  • 3 Stands

Last update on 2020-07-11 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

The Eleazar Studio Desk is a new addition to the list, but with the availability of the Studio RTA desks we’ve traditionally recommended, we really like this desk as our new go-to large studio desk recommendation.

While there aren’t many details and we can’t track down the exact rack space information, it looks like there’s anywhere from 9U to 12U of available rack space in three divisions.  Each rack bay has a shelf for either studio monitors or displays.  This would make an excellent setup for a single ultrawide in the middle and larger 7″ or 8″ monitors on each side.

The whole desk is on wheels and does offer a slide-out keyboard tray.  This is probably the best budget alternative to the Studio RTA Producer Station, especially at that larger size class.  But it’s an excellent alternative to higher-priced Argosy-style desks and is worth your consideration.

Studio RTA Creation Station

Studio RTA Work Station Maple
  • Work Station Maple
  • The Studio RTA Producer Station is the ultimate centerpiece for your home or project studio
  • The dual 19 in

Last update on 2020-07-11 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Not long ago, the Studio RTA Creation Station (most often listed as the “Studio RTA Work Station” nowadays) was a popular choice.  It’s basically a 60″ wide desk, with the top shelf at about 55″.  It’s big enough for two 23″ (maybe 27″) displays, an ultrawide, or a single normal display and your studio monitors up on the top shelf.  Dual 19″ rack bays keep your outboard gear organized, and there’s enough room on the main surface for a keyboard smaller than an 88-key device.

Not much going on in the way of cable management, but there’s room for your tower down below, and I suppose you could always install a keyboard tray underneath the main surface if you need it.  But finding this desk is getting increasingly more difficult, which is a shame because it’s a great compromise between the size groups above and below it.

Studio RTA Producer Station

Studio RTA Producer Station Maple
  • 26-1/4" wide slide-out keyboard shelf
  • Ergonomic workspace
  • Dual 20-space racks

Last update on 2020-07-11 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

If you search for a recording studio desk, the Studio RTA Producer Station will often be one of the first ones you find.  And this thing is huge.  72″ wide main desk surface, with the top shelf at 60″, it will easily accommodate most display/studio monitor combinations within reason.  There’s plenty of cable management options, and dual CD racks.  Y’know, if you still keep physical media all over your desktop.

And rack space, glorious rack space.  5U rack bay up top, dual 13U bays below.  It has a tabletop large enough for an 88-key instrument, keyboard tray, mini keyboard tray.  And wheels.  And like most Studio RTA studio desks, it comes in the maple pictured above, or a cool dark cherry finish.  Although that one seems to not be easily found in most online retailers anymore.

But yeah, it’s big.  It would take up at least 80% of the wall where my mix position needs to be in my room.  But it would also negate the need to get speaker stands for my monitors if I wanted to run dual displays (or an ultrawide).  And for some rooms, this would be perfect, for sure.  If you have the space and also have a ton of outboard gear, this desk is pretty much the answer.

 Studio Trends 46″ Desk

Studio Trends 46" Desk - Maple
  • Two 4-space racks
  • Height adjustable
  • Four casters for easy mobility

Last update on 2020-07-11 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Studio Trends is another manufacturer you’ll find in your search for a budget recording studio desk, and hence its inclusion in this article.  They have just about the same style of products that Studio RTA and On-Stage Stands stuff, coming in a maple or cherry/mahogany finish.

In Studio Trends’ infinitely clever naming scheme, it’s readily apparent that this is a 46″ desk.  So don’t plan on running dual displays or an ultrawide unless you plan on putting your monitors on separate stands.  Just like most other studio desks it does some with casters (which are optional on most desks) and some cable management, however unlike the Studio RTA gear, there’s no bottom shelf to place your computer tower.  Gotta put that on the floor, or somewhere else.  Or you can be a cool kid and get yourself a computer tower caddy.

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All in all, it’s a good desk though.  Dual 4U rack bays, cable management, and it matches up with their various extension sidecars.  They also make a 30″ desk that has a single 4U rack bay, which is good for a much tighter space, or maybe a secondary station in your project studio.  If you have a studio assistant whose sole purpose in life is to time-align things, stick them on that.

Omnirax Presto Studio Desk

Omnirax Presto Studio Desk Black
  • Desk surface accommodates large keyboard controllers, control surfaces, smaller mixers 8 rack spaces in 2 bays.

Last update on 2020-07-11 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

The Omnirax Presto is basically your middle point between the Studio RTA Creation Station and the Studio Trends 46″ desk.  With both main and shelf surfaces at about 55″ across, you’re not losing any shelf space, while you slim down the overall shape, shedding about 5″ to maybe help fit into your mix desk location.  Just like the Studio RTA though, it does have a bottom shelf for CPU tower placement, along with the dual 4U rack bays.

The Presto does come in black (or gray, according to some), maple, or mahogany/cherry finishes.  However, don’t be fooled about that keyboard tray–it’s not included, sadly.  But overall, if you need something bigger than the Studio Trends 46″ but can’t fit the Studio RTA Producer Station, this isn’t a bad option at all.  And from what I can tell from the reviews, the hardware seems to be a better quality, as no complaints about the assembly could be found.  But at more than twice the cost, it seriously better be solid.  Good god.

Ultimate Support Nucleus-Z Explorer Studio Desk

Ultimate Support Studio Furniture (NUC-Z-BDM)
  • Integrated dual 4-space rack units, for a total of 8 desktop rack spaces
  • Built-in cable management tray
  • Stylish and sturdy desktop constructed from unique, patented powder-coated MDF

Last update on 2020-07-11 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Okay.  This one is a bit of a reach in the whole “budget recording studio desk” range, but hear me out.  It’s a 60″ wide desk with dual 4U rack bays, full-width top shelf, and the main surface is about 23″ deep.  As far as a recording studio desk goes, this is pretty great for the money.  And Ultimate Support is a company that I’ve always felt good about, going back to my childhood.  My dad was a working musician, and I remember when he upgraded from his heavy, clunky PA speaker stands to some nice, light Ultimate Support stands.  And they never once failed during all of his gigs over decades.  So yeah, I have no qualms about putting my studio on top of one of their desks.

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The Nucleus-Z Explorer does have most of the other features as the rest on the list, including some built-in cable management and the ability to add on a keyboard tray along with extra floor-standing rack space, but it definitely looks completely different.  This is probably the closest you’ll get to that “Argosy look” without dropping the “Argosy cash”.  Not saying that the rest of the Nucleus line is cheap by any means, but this is definitely the little brother to the Navigator, which starts at well over a grand.

Honestly, I’d love to have something like this in my room, but it’s definitely a bit of money.  And it doesn’t have a bottom shelf for your CPU tower, but that’s not necessarily a dealbreaker.  Also, it’s one of the higher main surface heights in the list at about 30″.  Most of the rest of these are around the 26″ height, so keep that in mind if you’re looking into the Explorer.

Small recording studio desks

I initially wasn’t going to cover any of these just because I dismissed them for my own search.  But honestly, might as well show what options are available in the under 46″ range.  Sometimes space is at a premium, and that shouldn’t stop you from working, so let’s take a gander, shall we?

On-Stage Stands WS7500 Wood Workstation

On-Stage WS7500 Series Wood Studio Workstation, Rosewood
  • Perfect for the home studio
  • Ergonomically designed for maximum comfort and work efficiency
  • Compact Z-frame and slide-out keyboard tray keep your set-up clean and sleek

Last update on 2020-07-11 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

This is probably the absolute first desk you’ll run across when you start searching for studio desks.  While I’m including it in the small desk category, it’s not tiny.  I thought it would be less wide than its actual 43″ width, but there it is.  It will most likely cap you out at a 23″ display and 5″ monitors, and I’m guessing that will be a tight fit.  Don’t even think about dual displays or an ultrawide unless you plan on throwing your monitors on speaker stands.

On-Stage Stands makes all sorts of support gear for musicians and studios, and this desk is pretty highly rated on any site you find it for sale.  If the Ikea Linnmon is just a hair too big, but a 30″ desk is too small, this one’s a great option, and available in a maple and all black.  There is also a side car rack and a corner angle extension so the rack can be easily reached and still maintain a contiguous table surface.  Overall, a good option when working in a price (and space) budget.

Studio Trends 30 Desk

Studio Trends 30" Desk - Maple
  • One 4-space racks
  • Height adjustable
  • Four casters for easy mobility

Last update on 2020-07-11 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

I briefly mentioned this desk when discussing the 46″ version, and it’s basically identical, sans 16″ in width.  As a result, it halves your rack space down to a single 4U bay, but hey, if you’re cramped for space, most likely there’s not enough outboard gear to need more than that.  All in all, it’s a solid little desk.

Conclusion

We know that finding the right home recording studio desk is a bit of a challenge, especially now that the Studio RTA and Studio Trends desks are nearly impossible to find.  There are occasionally some other good options that do pop up, but the classic go-to desks are definitely getting harder to track down.

That said, we know there are still some great studio desks available, and we’ll keep hunting to find more options.  We’re also working on putting together the non-studio studio desk guide, or however we end up putting it together, so keep an eye out for that.

What about your setup?  Do you have a recording studio desk you love for your home studio?  Is there a must-see desk that we’ve missed somehow?  What sort of cool hacks have you found?  I’d love to see anything clever or unique down in the comments below, so post your photos and let us know what you’ve done.

Lou Wheelerhttps://www.creatorbeat.com
Musician, photographer, and tech nerd in Sacramento, CA. Currently learning audio engineering and video production while spending way too much time on YouTube.

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[…] setup. There are a lot of studio-friendly desks out there, and I’ve previously written a guide on buying a home recording studio desk on a budget that you may want to take a look […]

[…] speak for the speakers) need to be set up in a certain way for proper listening on your home recording desk. Some users may prioritize multiple monitors above tower placement, or there may just be not enough […]

[…] absolutely still put out more sound than the room needs.  I’ve upgraded to a much larger desk for my studio setup and the sound stage has definitely improved with that wider […]

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