LA recording studios have a rich history, an exciting present, and a fascinating future. The longevity of music culture in LA and its constant reinvention make the city a special place for musicians and audiophiles alike. From big pioneering labels like RCA and Columbia Records, the dawn of the post-war music culture ushered in a wave of recording studios from east coast to west.
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Most Famous Recording Studios in Los Angeles
After the boom of west-coast recording studios, both commercial and independent, a new and exciting world of record making emerged. In the 60s, 70s, and 80s, recording studios were the heartbeat of the LA music scene and the homebase for some of the greatest musicians to meet, work, and collaborate.
As both a cultural hangout, party space, and functional audio arena, the LA music studio has long played a key role in creating some of the biggest names in the business. Many of the most famous LA recording studios have an extensive history and maintain some of their most coveted original recording spaces to this day.
Capitol Records was among the most notable in the LA scene during its heyday in the 50s and 60s, and its recording studio at the Capitol Tower saw such notables as Nat King Cole, The Beach Boys, and Frank Sinatra. This self-proclaimed homebase for artisan craft lives up to its name with 7.1 surround monitoring capabilities, Grammy-nominated sound engineers, and fully preserved original echo chambers that have housed some of the most notable musical recordings. The iconic Capitol Records Tower also boasts a stunning event space for formal events and showcases.
Since the 1960s, LA’s Paramount Studios has been recording some of the biggest names in music. From their legendary recording studios, founder Brian Brolin recorded and mixed for the Jackson 5, The Talking Heads, Jimi Hendrix, the B-52s, Sheryl Crow, The Backstreet Boys, and more. The famous Studio C Hidley-designed control room and affiliated Paramount Pictures offshoot also kept the Paramount dynasty firmly in the music television space. Today, Paramount Studios continues to host some of the biggest names in music with eight separate studios for pre-production, recording, and mastering. Their tracking and mixing studios feature an 80 channel SSL 9000J with Ultimation, while their overdubbing studios feature 56 channel SSL 6000E/G and a 40 channel SSL 4000E/G.
Founded in 1958 by Tutti Camarata, the Sunset Sound recording studio spent its first five years recording exclusively for Walt Disney. After opening its doors to outside artists, Sunset Studio saw the likes of Bob Dylan, The Rolling Stones, and Whitney Houston. Unlike many other studios of this age, Sunset Sound has functionally retained its original echo chambers and boasts a wide variety of vintage and state-of-the-art equipment. Within the humble three-room facility of the Sunset Sound space, some of the biggest artists of the past and present have created their masterpieces.
Henson Studios is located in the original space of Charlie Chaplin’s 1917 studio, which was later owned by Herb Alpert and Jerry Moss of A&M Records. After taking ownership in 1966, A&M Records renovated Chaplin’s former soundstages to create recording studios, including mixing and mastering rooms and reverberation chambers.
In 1999, The Jim Henson Company bought the studios and continued the legacy of delivering top-tier professional audio recording. Henson has hosted legendary musical icons over the years, including Carole King, John Lennon, Joni Mitchell, and many more. Their classic blend of vintage and new-age recording technology makes this a favorite among artists far and wide.
The Village Studios
The Village Studios boasts one of the more unique architectural spaces, as it was converted from a 1920s Masonic temple. This conversion occurred in the late 1960s, and ever since it’s been a stronghold of top-tier recording, mastering, and mixing for the music and movie industry.
Its auditorium and ballroom spaces also serve as event spaces, adding to the dynamic use of the building. Famous artists that have recorded at the Village include Lady Gaga, Fleetwood Mac, Bob Dylan, The Rolling Stones, and Phil Collins.
Modern Studio Equipment Inspired by the LA Recording Scene
If you’re far from LA recording studios or looking to build your own home recording studio, finding the right modern studio equipment f is key. Designing your space like the pros may come with time, but it’s important to know upfront what your core studio components are. Aiming for quality investments, even if you assemble your studio piecemeal, will ultimately help you get better sound quality, performance, and longevity out of your equipment.
Essential Equipment for Your Home Recording Studio
If you’re just getting started or looking to expand, here’s a helpful overview of what you’ll need. You may not be competing with the leading LA recording studios right away, but every legendary studio has to start somewhere.
Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) and Audio Interface
In addition to your computer, you’ll need a good digital audio workstation (DAW), which is the complementary software that pairs with your digital audio interface. As the heartbeat of your studio, this is the combo that allows you to properly capture the sounds you produce from various instruments, microphones, etc.
While studio monitors may look like speakers, they are specifically designed for the audio recording industry. Unlike commercial speakers, a studio monitor produces linear phase response, meaning there is no distortion or over-emphasis on certain frequencies. Monitors are also designed to handle the power of high volumes and rough elements of unmastered mixes.
Quality headphones are a must, particularly for remastering and mixing. For the sake of sound isolation and cost-effectiveness, you’ll likely want to focus first on using closed-back headphones. This is especially important if you’re working to further isolate and protect your space from outside noise. Open-backed headphones are ultimately susceptible to noise flowing both in and out of the headphones, despite their overall increased sound quality.
Microphones, Pop Filter, and Mic Stands
Over time, it’s likely you’ll amass a small collection of microphones and mic stands for various purposes. To get started, you’ll likely only need one or two, and the ones you choose depend largely on what types of sounds they’ll be capturing. For vocals, you’ll want a large diaphragm condenser mic, while higher frequency sounds (piano, acoustic guitar, cymbals) do best with a small diaphragm condenser mic.
You may quickly come to realize that a large portion of your home studio is about having the right cables for the right jacks, staying organized, and keeping your space tidy. You’ll likely have various power cords, AES/EBU cables, adapters, instrument cables, MIDI cables, all running across your workspace. Eventually, you may want to invest in some easy-to-use cable organizers for safety and sanity.
Setting up your home recording studio or professional space is all about finding the best quality products to suit your needs. Proper care accessories and cleaning tools help ensure long-term sound quality and reduce wear on your most prized possessions. If you’re looking for an upgrade on a most-used piece of equipment or hoping to add a new audio toy to the collection, we’ve got you covered.
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