Posts

Best Recording Studios in the World

At the request of many folks who follow this blog, I have created a photoset at Flickr with pictures from some of the recording studios profiled in this blog over the years. The photoset can be found here.

Types of Recording Studios

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.

Record on Wheels

Although a few years away, I have been diligently preparing and planning for our retirement years.

Rather than carry two fixed location properties during retirement, one in Canada and one somewhere south, we have thought about getting an RV. As we will be relatively young retirees, an RV would provide us with a condo on wheels to travel across North America.

I have even picked out some potential models. The Mountain Aire from Newmar, pictured below, or a tricked out Dutch Star.

Mountain Aire

So, as a plan, that seemed to be fine. But what about the studio? Then an idea came to me. Okay, maybe it was planted by Wayne Hawthorne of Click Track Audio in Ottawa.

A mobile recording studio.

Here is the floorplan of Wayne’s mobile recording rig.

Clicktrack Floorplan

Admittedly, I don’t think my wife would approve of the cube van look. And no place to sleep. Nor quite as sleek as the Mountain Aire. But maybe I could tow the mobile recording rig behind the RV?

Clicktrack Van

My Own Room

An unexpected honour has come my way. I provided a donation to the Music Industry Program of the College of Media Arts and Design at Drexel University in Philadelphia.

In recognition of the donation, I will have a studio room named after me.

I will have to make the trip down once the room is finished.

What to Buy

I recognize that a lot of people read this blog. And, sometimes a post will be taken as a personal message. This post is in response to about a dozen or so emails that I have received over the past several weeks.

I have had a number of students, primarily from the States, ask me questions about how to set up a recording studio in their homes. And I tell them that there are three critical elements to getting a decent sound from a recording studio:

  1. The recording chain (microphones, preamps, converters, recorders)
  2. The playback chain (recorders, converters, amplifiers, monitors)
  3. The room

And, to get a competitive product, there are no shortcuts. It takes a lot of talent, a lot of money and a lot of time to produce a great sounding record. Just because you have a computer, a soundcard and some cheap gear does not mean that you will produce the next Alison Krauss quality of recording.

For example, one request I received ask me for a recommendation on a good quality vocal recording chain. A minimum budget for a quality condenser, preamp and compressor would cost somewhere around $3,000 – 4,000. However, if the room is not prepared for recording, it is largely inconsequential as to which mic and preamp to buy.

The sound of the room has such a major impact on the overall quality of the recording that even with decent equipment the end result can be compromised. That is one of the main reasons why casual home recording can never produce the same quality result as a commercial studio. The other, of course, is that it takes talent and experience to do quality recording.

There are exceptions. Chris Schwartz, formerly of Ruffhouse Records, built a home studio. With a home studio like his, pictured below, you can get a competitive result. Assuming, of course, that you know how to engineer and produce.

Otherwise, consider a home recording environment for what it is. Okay for family and friends and a place to have some fun.

Serious recording won’t happen in a cheap home recording environment but it can be a great place to learn and to gain some experience.

Ruffnation Control Room

Ruffnation Talent Room

Firehouse 12

Firehouse 12 recording studio is located in New Haven, CT. The studio offers a vintage API Legacy 48 input console, a Studer A827 2”? tape deck, Pro Tools HD3/Accel system, as well as Nexo PS 15/PS 10 speakers with Camco amplification. The talent room is 1,200 square feet with a 15 ft. wood ceiling and bamboo floors.

Firehouse 12 Control Room

Firehouse 12 Talent Room

Milestone

Well, it looks as though we have finished final mixes for the Mercy Train project. We started tracking the project in March of 2005. And, after hundreds of hours of recording, editing and mixing, we put the final touches on the songs today.

I still have a bit more work to prepare the material for mastering. Rick Hutt will be doing the mastering work for this project. I first worked with Rick about 25 years ago at his studio in Kitchener. A very talented individual. Amongst his many achievements, he won the Canadian Country Music Association’s Producer of the Year award.

What a delight it has been for me to work with Jamie and Skip. I will look forward to working with them again.

Timbaland

Hip-hop producer Tim “Timbaland” Mosley completed a private recording studio in Virginia Beach. The studio was developed with his long time engineer, Jimmy Douglass along with some help from Walters-Storyk Design Group.

The studio is roughly 5,000 square feet and features a Neve VR-72 console and Pro Tools HD.

Timbaland Control Room

Timbaland Talent Room