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 14 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 20 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 and Scott Evans 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 (especially tape) imparts a kind of organic character onto the sound that makes it very pleasing to the ear (these things include 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. And I like the real thing.
14 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 mixing chain. It consists of a high end analog console, hardware equalizers and compressors, and the most sought after vintage 2-track tape machine. This signal path has dramatically improved the quality of my recordings. It amazes me everyday.
Another option (for the analog purists) is to skip the computer entirely. Track to 2" tape, mix manually through the console to 1/4" tape and thats it. Just like they did before digital recording was available. I am liking this workflow more and more these days. There are many potential benefits to this approach. Inquire within if you would like to know more.
Ok, one more thing. Tape sounds fantastic, but it is expensive. One reel of 2" tape (about 30 minutes of recording time) costs around $350. Most projects require one or two reels. This cost is one of the more prohibitive aspects of analog recording. A band with an $1000 recoding budget doesn't want to drop $750 just for the tape. Fortunately, I've got you covered. Since I usually 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. That is why using a reel of 2" tape is FREE here. And since each reel only gets used a handful times, everyone basically gets good tape for no cost.