Recording studio

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Recording studio - in the control room / sound control room
Sound engineer at the mixer of the danish broadcasting company

A recording studio is a facility for recording and processing sound events . This can be all kinds of music , speech and noises for radio and television programs , movie soundtracks or sound creations for computer games .


Recording studios are at the forefront of the music industry's value chain , because they create the basis for the mass production of sound carriers with a finished master or mother tape . Often they also make the demo tapes that performers use to introduce themselves to record companies. It was therefore only natural that recording companies should get their own recording studios; This is how it began in terms of music history. In addition to these company-owned recording studios, however, independent recording studios began to establish themselves later. While the company's own recording studios usually record exclusively for the associated record companies, independent recording studios are dependent on commissioned production. Here a mediator between sound engineering, sound ideas and commercial skills has developed - the music producer . While the bottleneck in independent recording studios was (and is) mostly in raising capital , in-house recording studios are under pressure to capacity because of fixed cost control . Both of them constantly observe the development of the recording technology in order to be able to offer the latest technical standard.


Emil Berliner (front left), Fred Gaisberg (back left)

The first recording studio worldwide was opened by the pianist Frederick William "Fred" Gaisberg (* 1873, † 1951) in Philadelphia / Pennsylvania in early 1897 above a shoe shop on 12th Street. The first record store was also opened in Philadelphia in 1897.

Gaisberg worked for the German-Jewish emigrant Emil Berliner . This concentrated on playback technology ( gramophone , record ), but efforts also had to be made to improve the preliminary stage of playback technology, industrial recording technology. When Berliner demonstrated record production to members of the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia on May 16, 1888 , the way for industrial record production was clear. As a pianist, Gaisberg knew the interpreter's perspective and familiarized himself with the recording technology. At that time, the division of labor in the recording studio was small, because the tasks of the sound engineer , music producer and artist and repertoire manager were often combined in one person. That was also the case with Gaisberg, because he was also concerned with discovering performers. It is not known whether the title Little Kicker (Berliner # 254), a piano solo with Fred Gaisberg, written in Philadelphia on May 14, 1897 , was the first recording in the first recording studio. The first recordings of von Gaisberg as a pianist date back to November 17, 1892 in Philadelphia.

In July 1898, Gaisberg and Joe Sanders set up the first European recording studio in the Cockburn Hotel in London. Gaisberg's first studio recording in Europe was made here on August 8, 1898. For this purpose he used the clarinetist from the orchestra of the Trocadero Hotel. Fred Umsbach played Felix Mendelssohn's Spring Song ( Spring Song ). Further recordings in London were made with Syria Lamonte, an Australian singer who worked in a London restaurant. Gaisberg himself made recordings of his piano solos on August 10, 1898 (Berliner # 5503).

Gaisberg used his stay in London to record voices in Europe with his recording device from May 1898. So he came to Milan in March 1902, where he heard the tenor Enrico Caruso . On April 11, 1902, 10 recordings were made with Caruso in the Grand Hotel in Milan - the first record star was born.

In mid-1898, Berliner had the first recording studio built in New York. One of the first recordings in the New York recording studio was the Sousa's Band's Gladiator March on January 1st and 2nd. September 1898 (Berliner # 13). The Victor Talking Machine Co. record company was founded in October 1901 and opened its in-house recording studio in February 1900 in the Johnson Factory Building in Camden (across the Delaware River from Philadelphia ). It moved to Philadelphia in September 1901. Until November 6, 1907, most of the Victor recordings were made here.

The demands on recording studios increased as record sales improved. The sales of the Victor Talking Machine Co. with at least 1/3 market share in the USA rose from 1.696 million records in 1902 to 18.6 million in 1915. In Germany in 1908 a total of 6.2 million records were produced in Hanover. In September 1901, the Victor recording studios moved from Camden to Philadelphia, where they used the former Berlin offices at 420 South 10 Street . On October 8, 1904, Victor moved into a new recording studio in New York. When Harry O. Sooy was appointed head of the recording team at Victor on January 1, 1909, the role of music producer was born. On October 2, 1917, the 100-man large studio in Camden with recordings by the Boston Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Karl Muck is inaugurated for the first time. On February 27, 1918, the first recordings took place in Camden Trinity Church , a church converted by Victor into a recording studio. On January 26, 1925, the first preparations for electrical sound recordings were made in Camden, tests followed on February 9, 1925, and the first commercial electrical sound recording on February 25, 1925. The first electrical sound recording in Europe took place on June 24, 1925, namely by Jack Hylton's Feelin Kind O Blue in the HMV recording studios in Hayes / Middlesex.

Radio started in 1923 . A little later, the broadcasters separated the control room from the recording room. Previously, actors and technicians stood in a room around the microphone. In 1929 the BBC spoke of “Mixing Studios” for the first time in its Hand Book and explained the term, which was still in quotation marks, as follows: In longer radio productions such as radio plays , which were performed live at the time, there were two types of sound sources - the speaking voices and the noises. Originally both were housed in one room, but the listeners complained that they could no longer follow the narration due to loud effect noises. As a consequence, the London broadcaster outsourced the “Noise Effects” (thunderstorms through large metal foils, horse galloping through stone on stone, etc.) in a separate room; the effects makers overheard what was happening in the speaker's room.

“The sounds from both studios were transmitted via cables to a central control panel operated by the lead producer. This enabled him to 'mix' the two sound sources in the exact quantities required. "

The concept was so successful that the broadcaster ran large productions with more than three studios in the late 1920s. In one there was an orchestra, in another a band; the actors were also separated into groups to produce different acoustics. At that time the mixer was still called "Switchboard".

When around 1930 the cutting of records was the standard technique for preserving sound in good quality, record companies and related music studios sprang up, on November 12, 1931 Abbey Road Studios in London. The first recognizable independent recording studio used for commercial purposes was established in 1933 under the name United Sound Studio in Chicago . Bill Putnam founded his first recording studio under the name Universal Recording Corporation in 1946 and continuously expanded his recording studio empire from 1961 onwards.

In Germany, record companies initially used concert halls, theaters, exhibition halls (Cologne), Singakadamie Berlin or churches for recording purposes. In 1900 the first so-called “recording studio” was set up in Berlin-Mitte (Markgrafenstrasse 76) for Deutsche Grammophon AG, from which the Emil Berliner Studios emerged. The recording rooms were very small for symphonic recordings. The DGG therefore recorded on September 12, 1913 in the “Studio” - a small DGG factory hall in Berlin - with the Berliner Philharmoniker under Arthur Nikisch Beethoven's Fifth . Shortly after it was founded, Electrola set up its first studio in Berlin. Fritz Kreisler recorded Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy's Songs without Words (Opus 62 No. 1) here on December 14, 1926 , and Michael Raucheisen / Fritz Kreisler recorded Robert Schumann's Romance for oboe and piano (Op94) here on December 13, 1927. The move to Cologne was followed by the establishment of Electrola studios on Cologne's Maarweg in 1956, where the great Electrola hits were created.

The invention and introduction of the magnetophone in the 1940s replaced the direct-cut recording process for records that had been practiced until then .


Classical recording studios for recording music, especially studios for large ensembles (such as orchestras , choirs and big bands ), usually consist of several rooms or sub-rooms, which on the one hand are well shielded against external noises and on the other hand are equipped with corresponding acoustically damping room elements which provide the desired acoustics.

Control room

Is required at least one control room , at radio studios also control room called, in which one or more persons (for example, inactive musicians, sound engineers , mixer or a specialized manager) sit and coordinate the recording. From there, the recorded sound material is monitored and assessed via studio monitors ( loudspeakers ) and later appropriately mixed and edited. It contains most of the technology, such as mixing consoles, sound generators, effects units, tape recorders, computers and analog-digital converters. From here the musicians and singers are also fed material.

The control room needs inconspicuous, preferably neutral acoustics. The reverberation time should not exceed approx. 0.3 seconds over the entire frequency spectrum in order to make it easier to assess the recording and the subsequent mix. A common furnishing concept for control rooms is called Live End Dead End (LEDE); The front area of ​​the control room is designed to be highly absorbent, while diffusers and reflectors dominate in the rear area .

Recording room for drums
Recording room with grand piano

Recording room

In recording studios there are one or more rooms that have been acoustically adapted for the recording of speech, singing , musical instruments or even noises ; for example there is a drumbooth especially for drummers . The design can be very different: Classical musicians and big bands traditionally require large rooms with load-bearing acoustics and reverberation times between 1.6 to 2 seconds ("semi-dry acoustics"), while bands and speakers, on the other hand, need rather low-reflection ("dry") acoustics with reverberation times between 0.1 and 0.8 seconds in order to be able to act optimally as well as to create the possibility of being able to electronically edit the surround sound afterwards.

Regardless of the acoustic conditions, different recording methods can be used. Musicians and instruments can be recorded individually or as an ensemble; with more or less room acoustics as required. Before it was possible to generate surround sound electronically, echo chambers were used in some recording studios .

Technical room

In large recording studios, the machine or technical room is a small room, usually directly attached to the control room, and is used to accommodate the technical devices that would otherwise worsen the listening situation in the control room due to fan or other mechanical noises. These include analog tape machines, power amplifiers, computers and hard drives. The engine room should have adequate cooling. Small studios or home studios usually do not have a designated machine room. Instead, noise-reduced PC-like workstations are often used here.

Shielding concepts

With a sound insulation prevents noise penetrating from outside to inside or from inside to outside. Only in this way can recordings be made at any time of the day without being affected by traffic noise or other disturbances or having to pay attention to quiet times in residential areas or noise protection regulations . This is done by building double-wall systems (room-in-room concept) with insulation in between, whereby the walls are allowed to touch each other as little as possible, so only a low acoustic coupling is created. This creates an interior room with an additional outer shell. In such an arrangement, the floor is also softly supported, e.g. B. a floating screed floor on impact sound insulation mats. Naturally, when the sound passes through a medium, the suppression of high frequencies that are in the range of the wall thickness or below is generally better. Overall, thick and heavy materials have a better insulating effect.

Broadband absorber

Acoustic concepts

So-called sound attenuation ensures that the reflections of the sound sources that occur within the acoustically active space are appropriately controlled. This ranges from the support of individual frequency ranges to promote the musical effect to the setting of a homogeneous frequency and reflection time course for mixing and assessment to the complete cancellation of the sound for artificial outdoor recordings. This is achieved through mobile partitions or permanently installed acoustic elements such as absorbers, resonators and diffusers made of acoustically inert composite materials, multi-layer film systems and foam materials. Soft materials such as curtains, soft foam absorbers and carpets mainly act as destroyers of high-frequency waves from approx. 1 kHz upwards. Harder foams, wood and plastic elements, but also furniture such. B. reflect some of the high frequencies and have a broader overall effect. A mixture of resonator with integrated insulation also enables active sound destroyers, so-called bass traps, to be set up in the bass range. A number of diffusers can often be found behind the monitor speakers and, above all, on the rear wall of the control room and parts of the recording rooms . These consist of uneven surface structures that do not reflect incoming waves as a whole, but divide them and thus prevent standing waves, flutter echoes or one-sided overemphasis on individual frequencies. Staggered, unevenly installed bricks have a similar effect, preventing a flat wall during the construction of the building. Often you will also find inclined wall orientations where the four walls are not at a 90-degree angle to each other.

One room concept

The division between the control room and the recording room is not absolutely necessary if an artificial "room-in-room" solution is chosen. A (mobile) recording booth is used, in which a soloist or a speaker act, which means that overall only one studio room is required as a control room. Recording studios for pure sound design and sound processing for film , radio and computer games often only have a small or no recording room at all.


The sound equipment can vary widely. Studios for pop music usually have considerably more devices for changing and processing sounds than those for recording classical music . In the pop area, the technical possibilities of manipulation are deliberately incorporated into the arrangement and the overall sound, while recordings of classical music, in addition to small corrections, are more about a "lifelike" and spatial representation of a sound body.

Microphone technology

Condenser microphones

Depending on requirements, all known methods of stereo and surround recording are used in recording studios . The most common method is to record each instrument with a single microphone (mono), whereby the spatial impression (stereo, surround) only emerges later in the mix. Here are microphones unterschiedlichster designs and types used that sound either neutral depending on the design or support the inclusion of certain instruments or the voice sound. Thus, with speakers usually large diaphragm - condenser microphones - some with tube amplifiers - used while in stereo recordings mostly small diaphragm microphones - are used - also in capacitor technology. When recording drums and wind instruments, you can sometimes find dynamic microphones .

Analog tape machine

Recording devices

In the recording devices in recording studios is usually to multitrack recording , can record the various sound sources simultaneously on many separate tracks (i. D. R. 24 tracks or more), and thereby their subsequent blending with a mixer allow ( overdub ). Digital recorders have been used since around 1980 and computer-aided recording systems since 1990 ( Digital Audio Workstation ), which has pushed analog multi-track recorders into the background.

Interception technology

The quality of the monitors is of great importance , as the loudspeaker is the poorest link in the signal chain. In order to get an impression of possible sound scenarios for the end customer, several different monitor loudspeakers are generally set up in recording studios, some of which have become established as reference types. As a rule, these loudspeakers have a particularly even frequency response and a very homogeneous radiation pattern . A distinction is made between near-field (less than 2 m distance) and far-field monitors, which cover the entire room homogeneously.

Mixing desk and monitors


All devices in the studio such as monitors, microphones and effects devices are connected to the mixer, which is the central unit in the studio. This is where the feed mix for the musicians, interim results for listening in the control room and the final sound mix as the end product are produced. The mixer can also be purely virtual; Most of the time there are controllers that can be used to remotely control the computer-simulated mixer.

Virtual mixing consoles in digital devices such as sound cards and recording devices and the software in PCs have the advantage that virtual devices, so-called plugins, can be used much more easily and can be integrated more directly. They are also much more cost effective, but cannot always be easily and precisely controlled with a mouse or a MIDI controller. This is why professional studios usually use large mixing consoles, so-called digital consoles. Pure analog consoles are also still in use.


In the case of sound recordings, the music producer , the sound engineers (with a hierarchy: first sound engineer, etc.) and sound technicians , as well as the performers , gfs. a background choir and studio musicians present. These are musicians who are more or less firmly connected to the recording studio and usually take part in recording sessions by different artists. The arranger and composer / lyricist may still take part in order to be able to make any necessary changes to the work during the sound recording.

Technical terms

Sound recordings are usually made in individual steps ( takes ), from which the best are selected. Audio effects such as compressor , equalizer , reverb , chorus or echo can be used during a recording . If the finished takes are available, further technical improvements can be made in post-production. The different takes are then put together (“edited”) to form a “final mix”, which serves as a master tape for the subsequent sound carrier production. Unused, incorrect or otherwise unusable recordings are called " outtakes ". Finally, when it comes to sound carriers, a distinction is made between the products created in recording studios (“studio recordings”) and live albums . The recording studio produces a recording sheet in which all technical data of the sound recordings (including all takes) and the musicians involved are recorded.
See also: List of audio terms

Sound characteristics

Some independent recording studios have developed a distinctive and identifiable sound. The reason for this can be the premises and their specific acoustics, a certain music producer ( e.g. Chips Moman ) or the studio's own session musicians . A combination of these causes can also be responsible for a particular sound. In pop music, the "Motown sound" (session musicians: The Funk Brothers ), " Memphis sound " (session musicians: Booker T. & the MG's , Memphis Horns ), "Westcoast sound" (session musicians: The Wrecking Crew ) are particularly popular. or "Philadelphia or Phillysound " became known as a music genre. Although the pieces of music associated with a certain sound can have heterogeneous characteristics, their specific sound is associated with a certain recording studio.

Economic situation

At the moment, the market is concentrating more on integrated studios, for example at radio stations or record companies . As a result of falling equipment costs for sound engineering , more and more small so-called " home recording " studios are emerging . B. amateur bands can record and mix their demos . However, the acoustically and spatially optimal design is usually opposed to financial restrictions, as no significant income can be generated in advance. Nevertheless, there are many small studios that make the effort to find a suitable compromise when it comes to room acoustics. Here, professionally usable recordings can be made. For almost all published records of modern electronic music such as hip-hop, R'n'B and electro, the recordings are now made initially in small studios and later mastered externally. This development, together with the increasing digitization of recent years, led to the creation of specialized studios. Universally and technically first class equipped recording studios have to charge appropriate prices, whereas their customers can often only use part of the possible services. Independent recording studios in particular are under enormous pressure to recoup their high fixed costs through a high level of utilization .


  • Michael Dickreiter, Volker Dittel, Wolfgang Hoeg, Martin Wöhr: Manual of the recording studio technology. 7th completely revised and expanded edition. two volumes. Verlag KG Saur, Munich 2008, ISBN 978-3-598-11765-7 .
  • Thomas Görne: Sound engineering. Hanser Fachbuchverlag, 2006, ISBN 3-446-40198-9 .
  • Hubert Henle: The recording studio manual. GC Carstensen Verlag, 2001, ISBN 3-910098-19-3 .
  • Christoph Reiss: Guitar Recording. Wizoo Publishing, Bremen, 2010, ISBN 978-3-934903-75-3 . (with CD)
  • Horst Zander: The PC recording studio. Franzis Verlag, 2001, ISBN 3-7723-5373-8 .
  • Geoff Emerick, Howard Massey: You made the Beatles! - How I invented the band's sound. Random House publishing group, Munich 2007, ISBN 978-3-442-36746-7 .
  • David Gelly: How a pop band works. Tessloff Verlag, Hamburg 1978, ISBN 3-7886-0801-3 . (Recording studio recording technology for children explained)

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Ross Laird: Tantalizing Tingle. 1995, p. 66.
  2. ^ Walter Leslie Welch, Leah Brodbeck: From Tinfoil to Stereo: The Acoustic Years of the Recording Industry 1877-1929. 1994, p. 98.
  3. Pekka Gronow, Ilpo Saunio: International History of the Recording Industry. 1999, p. 11.
  4. Ross Laird: Tantalizing Tingle. 1995, p. 66.
  5. Marcus Felsner: Operatica: Approaches to the world of opera. 2008, p. 23.
  6. ^ Allan Sutton: Camden, Philadelphia, or New York. ( Memento of May 8, 2013 in the Internet Archive ) at: , 2008.
  7. BBC Hand Book 1929: The Problems of the Producer , p. 180. (translated from English)
  8. Eberhard Sengpiel: Reverberation times. In: EBS, October 2007, accessed July 2020 .
  9. Eberhard Sengpiel: Echo threshold and reverberation times. Sengpielaudio, 2007, accessed 2010 .