Types of Recording Studios

November 23, 2006

I was talking to a friend of mine last night about recording studios and rate cards. He was trying to figure out what a reasonable rate card would look like for someone’s home studio.

Recording studios can be divided into 4 categories:

  • Top-tier
  • Mid-tier
  • Project
  • Home

Top-tier studios are easy to identify. The rate card is typically $100/hr and higher. You are generally paying for world-class acoustics, design, personnel, equipment and related services. Cherry Beach Sound in Toronto is an example of a top-tier studio.

Studio Z

Mid-tier studios can offer similar capabilities to a top-tier studio. However, some elements of the studio, usually the equipment, are not as expensive as the top-tier studios and the rate card goes down accordingly. Rates might be in the $60/hr and higher range. Lydian Sound in Richmond Hill is an example of a mid-tier studio.

Studio Z

Project studios are usually independently owned and may or may not operate as a commercial facility. Producers, engineers, and some artists may establish such project studios. Generally they can compete well in terms of capabilities with the mid-tier studios. They are often located in a home. The rate card, if applied, may be similar to a mid-tier or even a top-tier studio. They are significantly different from a home studio in terms of construction, acoustics and equipment. Some of them look and perform very similar to a top-tier studio. Tim Mosley’s personal studio is an example:

Studio Z

Home studios are odd beasts. Some are very rough. With very limited budgets, there is little if any consideration given to acoustics. Equipment is very low-cost and the range of equipment is usually quite limited. Recording experience is random. A home studio is set up as a hobby but some people try to make money with their low-cost home studio. Here is an example of a home studio:

Some home studio

What is a fair rate card for a home studio? Personally, I would buy a computer, some recording software and hardware, and a dynamic mic rather than pay someone to work out of their home studio. I would wind up spending about the same amount of money and probably achieve a similar quality of recording.

sugarfixx July 21, 2007 at 1:11 pm

I am not so sure that you have the full knowledge abot what you are talking about when it comes to Home Studios.
As I am a recording engineer, mix engineer, producer, arranger, songwriter and musician that has contributed on more than 50 albums released in Europe, America and Asia including three albums that has reched Billboard top 20. I have seen a lot of studios. A lot of pre productions are done in what we call home sudios to save cost and to work out ideas for the tracks.

My experience with home studios was as yours until the late 1990′s. But after year 2000 all the home studios I have been working in includes ProTools TDM or HD rigs with AMEK, NEVE, AVALON or similar high end mic pres and at least one decent microphone such as AKG 414Tl, AKG C-12, Neumann U-87, Audio Technica 4033.

Most of these home studios are owned by songwriters or independent artists/ producers and they are more than happy to rent it out for 200 – 300 US$ a day.

I am aware of people that are not making a liing from music that puts up some recording stash on their room but that can not bee called a HOME STUDIO.

I simply feel you have left out what the termhome studio stands for in your roundup of 4 categories of studios. It should maybe be 5. HOME STUDIO is a STUDIO normally quite similar to a project studio but at the owners home.
Project studios are typically at a location an is a place that a team of people makes their music while home studios is one guy at home doing the same.

But please use some bucks and biy som recording software instead I am sure you will be satisfied..

:-) Sugarfixx

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Sugarfixx July 21, 2007 at 1:16 pm

Actually your project studio is quite much nicer than others from an aoustic poin of view looks like you have put a lot of effort into it.

Cheers :-)
Sugarfixx

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Richard Cleaver July 21, 2007 at 1:40 pm

Thanks Sugarfixx. My studio is very well equipped.

I suggest you re-read my post:

“Project studios are usually independently owned and may or may not operate as a commercial facility. Producers, engineers, and some artists may establish such project studios. Generally they can compete well in terms of capabilities with the mid-tier studios. They are often located in a HOME. The rate card, if applied, may be similar to a mid-tier or even a top-tier studio. They are significantly different from a home studio in terms of construction, acoustics and equipment. Some of them look and perform very similar to a top-tier studio.”

I used the term HOME STUDIO to describe the type of environment I see most often in a house: an area in a corner of a basement with a PC, Pro Tools LE on an MBOX, and a couple of mics. In North America at least, most home studios fall into that category. Studios where serious recording work takes place have to invest much more money into equipment and acoustics to produce a competitive sounding product. Many of those studios, what I call project studios, are in people’s homes.

Hope that clears things up for you as you seem to be saying the same thing.

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Pat January 1, 2008 at 8:28 am

Was not Bruce Springsteens album “the River” recorded recorded in his kitchen? Even simpler equipment than your “Home Studio” categorization. To me this proves that equipment and this whole discussion is of very small if not no importance when creating artistic music recordings.

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Richard Cleaver January 1, 2008 at 8:45 am

Hi Pat. No. Bruce did not record “The River” in his kitchen. You can read about the background to this record, which was recorded in New York City at the Power Station (now Avatar Studios) during a 16-month period, here. They used a wonderful Neve 8068 console and a very skilled production team. Creating a competitive sounding product is very hard work. And it is still the case that great sounding music recordings are rarely accomplished in the kitchens of people’s homes. Let me know if you find one. I’d love to hear it.

Producing “The River” was a huge amount of work. To quote the engineer:

Dorfsman recalls cutting several versions of “The River,? trying out different tempos and a more embellished rock ‘n’ roll arrangement. “I don’t, in general, remember the specifics of each song,? he admits. “We were doing multiple takes of every song 20, 30, sometimes 40 times, so things really blended together. Bruce cut something like 50 songs, with multiple — at least 15 — takes of each tune. We had over 400 reels of tape. But I do remember, when we first heard “The River,? I looked at my assistant and went, ‘Wow, this is great.’ It had a special vibe and everybody — at least everybody at my end, in the control room — knew it was a special tune when we cut it.?

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b June 27, 2010 at 1:38 pm

I agree 100% with this post. From a business perspective, when an artist searches for a studio to record tracks at, they have many things to consider. Recording is not difficult and technology is making it increasingly more affordable to handle the basics. Once an artists steps out of the realm of his home/project studio, they are looking for quality equipment, environment, expertise, and customer service. In my opinion, since home/project studios are increasingly more common, there is an opening for experienced engineers and producers to improve customer value by operating in a tier above home & project studios(Most of which will e in homes). NO, it doesn’t take an extreme amount of money and equipment to make great recordings, but it does require a minimal amount of experience and basic knowledge of the industry. Studios that do well are often associated with very popular engineers and producers who just happen to have a studio. I mean, when a keyboard player shows up to a show with a Casio, I have a general idea of the quality I’m going to get out of it, EVEN if he can play his ass off. Inversely, many spend thousands on a studio and have no idea of how to use the great tools they spent all their money on. Just a thought.

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Mark October 13, 2012 at 9:25 am

“Was not Bruce Springsteens album “the River? recorded recorded in his kitchen? Even simpler equipment than your “Home Studio? categorization. To me this proves that equipment and this whole discussion is of very small if not no importance when creating artistic music recordings.”

Not sure a bout Bruce, but many artist prior to the Pro tools Mac revolution had to get by when analog equipment on single tracks, some of whom did do the recording part of their albums in living rooms, kitchens, garages etc. . ( Beatles, lil wayne etc. . . )However, before any of the music was released it was tweaked after the recording process. (mixing / mastering) What I have learned in my few years in music is that a laptop and a good education of sound in synths, DB levels, mixing and producing in general matters way more then the equipment itself. If you dont know what compressors, limiters, modulators or other plugins are or do, you will waste your time regardless of whether its on your DAW or your thousands of dollars worth of hardware. If i can offer any advice to music production it would be READ READ READ. Learn what there is to do and what you want to do ( produce, record etc. . . ) FIRST. Once you know what your contribution to the music industry will be, you will have a better idea of what you need instrument /hardware wise. If you have never produced, recorded before, achieving a commercial grade sound not to mean a great sounding song takes TIME, education and dedication. Pro Tools, Logic etc are 10 times as powerful as most people know. Lesson – Learn what your doing, then spend the money.

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Richard Cleaver October 15, 2012 at 2:30 pm

Thanks Mark. Agree with your comment that it does take time, effort and dedication to make a good sounding record. To which I would add, a great room with great gear and some great production talent also helps :-)

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Rob Haskell October 23, 2012 at 11:08 am

No slight intended, but I did find the (Beatles, lil wayne) example kind of funny…..

Not sure I would have ever thought to put those two together into one example….

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stuart February 12, 2013 at 9:14 pm

for an album recorded on a home studio, in this case 4 track tape, i recommend tom robinsons hope and glory, available free on his website.

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steffy December 26, 2013 at 6:34 am

Very nice post the four types of project recording studio was good to see these all image are deserving the sound design studio. thank you:)

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