Big Fish Studios offers bands top-end gear and the feel of a relaxed country retreat in Olivenhain.
  • Big Fish Studios offers bands top-end gear and the feel of a relaxed country retreat in Olivenhain.
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Sure, you can self-record your album in your bedroom with a laptop, some software, and a few decent mics. Or, you could go the traditional route in a recording studio. But where to book your next project comes down to acoustics, gear, and vibe. As for budget, well, that’s what day jobs and Kickstarter’s for, right? Follows are a few of the hometown options and what sets them apart:

Earthling Studios

1401 Pioneer Way #8, El Cajon

When guitarist Scott Tournet from Grace Potter and the Nocturnals wanted to make a solo album, he picked Mike Kamoo’s Earthling Studios in El Cajon. The live garage-rock sound is Kamoo’s specialty. Earthling has one main room big enough such that bands can play together. The heart of Earthling is a 3M two-inch 16-track tape drive with Burl analog-to-digital converters. Parkway Plaza’s a short drive away, and virtually every kind of fast food is within walking distance. Owner: Mike Kamoo, 619-632-3081.

Big Fish Recording Studio

P.O. Box 230818, Encinitas

Big Fish in Olivenhain is like a country retreat, with full kitchen and lounge and an inviting outdoor patio and barbecue. But that’s not why Blink-182, Burt Bacharach, Finch, Sprung Monkey, Jimmy Eat World, Megadeth, or Charlie Musselwhite recorded here. The 30-by-35-feet main room is all about the drum sound. A vintage 1972 40-channel API console feeds into a two-inch 24-track tape drive, or Pro Tools, or both. Telefunken 251s, Neumann microphones, and more. The $400 for ten hours does not include an engineer. Owner: Paul Waroff, 858-756-2154.

Signature Sound

5042 Ruffner Street, Kearny Mesa

Signature Sound mixed a couple of tracks for U2 once; since, they’ve recorded a vast range of artists, from Rob Halford to Peter Sprague. In the heart of Kearny Mesa, they represent your industry-standard facility with a huge live-sounding 30-by-24-by-14-foot main room in Studio A (and an API 1608 32-channel console with Neve preamps). Call for rates. Studio B (B for budget-priced) is a smaller band room: $375 gets you eight hours with an engineer. Pro Tools HP throughout. Manager: Luis Arteaga, 858-268-0134.

Stealth Recording

7640 University Avenue, La Mesa

The backstory on Stealth Recording is that guitarist Brett Ellis wanted fatter, harder blues-rock mojo for his band than he could get anywhere else, so he built his own studio. The big vinyl sound in this direct-to-digital studio, he says, comes in part from tube mics such as their Telefunken V-72s. The other component is Grammy-nominated engineer Steve “the Chef” Russell. Located in an unassuming retail complex, the main room is band-sized and comfortable. Call for rates. Manager/co-owners: Tiana and Rick Mozart, 619-277-8689.

Studio West

11021 Via Frontera, Rancho Bernardo

Over the years, Studio West has become the place to go to learn the recording trade. Studio A has an SSL 4064 E/G console and is large enough to hold a hundred-member choir. You can fit your standard rock band into Studio B, with its 32-fader Digidesign ICON D-Control console and analog preamps and outboard gear. Studio C is reserved for vocal sessions and commercial voiceovers. The shop runs on Pro Tools HD. Rates on request. Lil Wayne, Duran Duran, and Barenaked Ladies are just a few who have recorded or mixed there. Owner: Peter Dyson, 858-592-9497.

Phaser Control

6320 Riverdale Road, Grantville

Phaser Control was designed with the sound of ’70s rock in mind. The interior of their one main room is a marvel of shiplap woodworking. Direct-to-digital Pro Tools, with eight channels of Neve preamps and eight channels of API preamps. The studio is tucked away in a Mission Gorge–area industrial park, but there is plenty of parking, and restaurants are within walking distance. Mariachi El Bronx, Silversun Pickups, and Peter Murphy enjoy the warm analog-ish Phaser Control sound. Rates on request. Timothy Joseph co-owner/manager, 760-846-2301.

If you’re just looking for rehearsal space, boom:

Phaser Control is inside the Studio 350 rehearsal-room complex. Band tenants get half off of the standard recording rate. Seventeen rooms range in size from 10-by-11 feet to 14-by-15 feet. The $420 to $625 per month includes free Wi-Fi, 24-hour secured access, live security cameras, parking, load-in, and stocked vending machines.

Rock and Roll San Diego School of Music and Performing Arts

3360 Sports Arena Boulevard, suite A, Midway District

Rock and Roll San Diego (behind SOMA in the Sports Arena area) offers 26 rehearsal rooms from 10-by-14 feet all the way up to Hendrix Hall, an 1800-square-foot soundstage with pro backline. This is where Ace Frehley, Pierce the Veil, A Day to Remember, Dokken, Great White, and Michael Schenker come to get tour-ready. The loading dock will accommodate a semi, and there’s room for tour buses in the parking lot. Lounge, kitchen, Wi-Fi, and private entrance. Ten of RRSD’s smaller rehearsal rooms are equipped with P.A. and backline. Rates range from $15/hour up to $45/hour to lockout Hendrix Hall. Owner: Mark Langford, 619-255-9594.

Adder Rehearsal Studios

8280 Clairemont Mesa Boulevard #112, Kearny Mesa

Adder Rehearsal Studios get high marks from hometown musicians for security, cleanliness, and individual air conditioning. Free Wi-Fi, vending machines, and 24-hour keypad access. Monthly lockout fees on individual spaces start at $450. Or, Room A is 20-by-19 feet, comes with backline, and rents for $22 per hour with a two-hour minimum. Room B measures 20-by-15 feet, also comes with backline, and rents for $20 per hour with a two-hour minimum. Manager: Nick Venti, 858-522-9505.

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