The Atomic Garden is a professional analog/digital hybrid recording studio located in the San Francisco Bay Area. The goal of this studio is to provide the highest quality recordings for the most affordable price possible. All budgets welcome!
I've been recording music for the last ten years. Since the beginning, it's been a priority of mine to keep my recordings feeling organic and sounding true to their source.
What I like about the process is that I get to help musicians mold their vision into a finished product. I've always hated the whole "producer in engineer's clothing" scenario. So, my initial approach is kind of hands off, but I have over 15 years of experience writing, playing and recording music that I will gladly share upon request.
Everyone approaches their own music differently. In response to this, I have tried to be as flexible as possible when it comes to recording. This means there are no set ways that a record has to be made here. Some people want to record live in the same room, like it's band practice. Others want to track one instrument at a time to ensure that no detail gets overlooked. Comfort is key here. Whatever situation will yield the best performance is the correct one.
I love music, and I love recording. When I work with people, their music is as important to me as my own. I hope you enjoy the website, and if you have any questions, please don't hesitate to ask.
Thanks to Lev Perrey, Karin Austin and Jane Tyska for help with the photos.
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I am always looking for ways to improve the sound of my place. When I started, the studio was all digital. I will say, it was a good way to learn and it's extremely convenient, but there was always something missing in the quality and character of the sound.
High quality digital recording is very transparent. It tends to be very true to its source. Too much, in fact. It doesn't add anything, inherently. The end product has a tendency to sound cold and synthetic -- not like those classic recordings we all know and love...
...which brings us to analog.
After a lot of reading, researching and listening, I found myself gravitating more and more towards the analog side of recording. Since I had no prior experience, the whole thing seemed a bit mysterious, but was very intriguing.
As it turned out, the analog domain had everything I was missing: all the things that make a listening experience pleasurable, but you can't quite put your finger on.
Analog equipment, and especially tape, imparts a kind of organic character onto the sound that makes it very pleasing to the ear (these things include tape hiss, tonal shaping, compression, saturation, distortion, etc). It's like comparing a film photo to a digital photo. At a glance, they may seem the same, but upon further inspection, there are things like grain, contrast, and color balance that make film feel more alive and rich. It's the kind of characteristics that can be very difficult to emulate. I like the real thing.
Ten years later, the studio is now more analog than digital. Almost everything gets recorded through analog hardware and onto tape. Once the tracking is done, the audio gets transferred from the 2" tape machine to the computer using one of the highest quality digital recording systems available today. This means that all of that analog character and quality is preserved, but now there is an opportunity to take advantage of the many benefits of the digital realm (such as flexible editing, inexpensive archiving, easy automation, etc). The idea here is the best of both worlds.
Ok, that's tracking and editing, but what about mixing?
Mixing is another area where digital audio programs can fall a little short. It's all about the mixer. Audio recording software attempts to emulate the analog console with a virtual/digital mixer. With this, you lose a lot of the tone, depth, imaging and "glue" that comes from running a mix through an analog mixer or console, not to mention another bonus to the analog mixdown -- more tape.
With all of this in mind, I put together my analog mixdown chain. It consists of a small analog console, a hardware equalizer and compressor combo, and a 1/4" tape machine. The addition of this chain has caused one of the more dramatic improvements to my recordings. It amazes me everyday.
So let's recap: We track through hardware and onto tape. Then, from the tape, through some more hardware, and into the computer. Then from the computer through the mixer, some more hardware, to tape one more time and BOOM! Magic. Anyway, I realize this may be a little hard to grasp and that it's a pretty foreign concept to most people... and that's what the contact page is for. Let's get nerdy.
Ok, one more thing. Tape sounds fantastic, but it is expensive. One reel of 2" tape (about 33 minutes of recording time) costs around $300. Most projects require one or two reels. This cost is one of the more prohibitive aspects of analog recording. A band with an $800 recoding budget doesn't want to drop $600 just for the tape. Fortunately, I've got you covered. Since I eventually transfer all of your audio into the computer, the tape can be erased and used again on a different project. And tape can take several passes of this before it starts to degrade. So, a single reel of 2" tape costs $50 here. And since each reel only gets used 6 times, everyone basically gets brand new tape for a sixth of the cost. Get stoked.