Six of SD’s Top Recording Studios

We highlight six of San Diego's best recording studios

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Ever wonder what it would sound like if the Beatles hadn't recorded at Abbey Road? Well, most likely, they would have sounded brilliant anywhere. but history shows us that a recording studio definitely plays a huge part in the character of a recording. The shapes and sizes of the rooms are different, the equipment changes from place to place, some just feel stale and clinical while others inspire and ooze creativity. To underestimate the importance a recording studio plays in the creation of music is to overlook one of key ingredients of some of the best music you have ever heard.

Would Jim Morrison have given us his cathartic, earth-shattering performance in "The End" at a studio other than Sunset Sound? Would we have ever heard the thunderous booms of John Bonham's drumset from Led Zeppelin's III or IV if they hadn't borrowed the Rolling Stones Mobile Studio and headed over to Headley Grange? Thankfully, we'll never know.

This week, we're highlighing a few of the top recording studios in San Diego. While we can't list every one of them (and if we've left out a prime candidate, please let us know in the comments below or on Facebook), we feel that these six are leaving their indelible mark on San Diego music. In alphabetical order:

  • Big Fish Recording Studio: This long-running studio boasts a killer locale in the coastal hills near Rancho Santa Fe in North County and an even more killer lineup of bands who have recorded there: Blink-182, Switchfoot, As I Lay Daying, Jimmy Eat World, POD, Megadeth and more.
  • Chaos Recorders: Owned, operated and located within Christoper Hoffee's 102-year old house, Chaos Recorders has become a favorite of local artists, including  El Monte Slim, Dirty Sirens, Transfer, Hills Like Elephants, Okapi Sun and Steve Poltz. 
  • Earthling Studios: A paradise for vintage gearheads and analog acolytes, the place is run by Mike Kamoo (of the Loons and formerly Lights On, among others). Lady Dottie & the Diamonds, the Heartaches, Soft Lions, Flaggs and the New Kinetics have all laid down music here.
  • Phaser Control Recording Studios: Located in Mission Valley, this recording facility has definitely made a name for itself by hosting Metric, the Beautiful View, the Palace Ballroom (frontman Timothy Joseph runs the joint), the Donkeys and Silversun Pickups.
  • Signature Sound: One of the more well-known recording facilities in town, the Miramar-based studio has been in business for more than 20 years and has hosted such big-name artists as U2, Blink-182, Randy Jackson, Akon, T-Pain and more.
  • Thunderbird Analog Studios: This place is any tape-lover’s dream. Run by Thomas Yearsley of the Paladins, this all-analog studio is a throwback to legendary recording facilities like Sun Studios, Motown’s Hitsville U.S.A. and Muscle Shoals. Besides his own band, Yearsley’s clients include Candye Kane, the Red Fox Tails, the Honkys and more. 

Here's a few of the other lists we've put together:

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