Rates and Deposits

Rates

New, Improved Recording’s studio day rate is $250 if booking a house engineer. Our house engineers charge their own day rate on top of that—the range tends to be from $300-500 for ten hours of work so check with your engineer for specifics. The ten hours includes an hour break for lunch, as well as any setup or breakdown necessary. Start and finish times are generally somewhat flexible and should be discussed with your engineer when your session gets booked.

If you absolutely need a shorter session, half-days are bookable. We much prefer to book full days, for obvious reasons.

The room rate if you bring your own knowledgeable, responsible, experienced engineer is $300, but they may be required to hire a house assistant to teach them the room. We reserve the right to deny the use of an engineer we feel is not capable of handling our equipment, and deposits are not refundable if your engineer does not meet our standards, so to be safe have your engineer come meet us a few weeks before your session for an “audition”.

As for digital storage, just bring a hard drive on the last day of the session.  We all know America has shitty infrastructure.  Despite living in the tech capitol of the world we’re still getting < 100mbs upload… so don’t count on the internet to be a valid means of getting your files.  Have you ever tried uploading 30GB+ of data without fiber?  It’s not a great way to spend your (non-billable) time.

Deposits

Deposits are $100/day, due ASAP after the session is booked.  Your session is not confirmed until the deposit is received.

Deposits are non-refundable in case of a last-minute cancellation, barring emergencies.

The balance for the session is due at the end of the session (or at the end of the last day for multiple-day sessions). No analog or digital masters will be released until the full balance is received.

Equipment

Floor Plan

NOTE: Our control room was tuned by Bob Hodas.

Console
Neve 5316 Custom Console built in 1978.  All Discrete.  57 inputs at mix, 16-bus, 40 33114s, 5 1073s.  Recapped 2018.

Digital recording
Pro Tools Ultimate HDX on Mac Pro
Burl Audio B80 Mothership with 24-in/ 24-out
Lynx Aurora 8-In/8-Out
Euphonix/Avid Artist Mix control surface
Universal Audio UAD-2 OCTO Satellite (Thunderbolt2) w/ all UAD plug-ins

Analog recording
Otari MTR-90 Series II 2″ 16/24-track
Ampex ATR 102 2-track serviced by Mike Spitz.  1/4″ and 1/2″ heads available at 3.75IPS-30IPS

Monitoring
ATC SCM 25A
ADAM Sub12 Subwoofer
Yamaha NS10m
Crown K1000 Power Amp
Q-Mix headphone distribution systems
Audio-Technica, Beyerdynamic, and Sony headphones

Microphones

Ribbon
AEA R84
AEA R92
Beyer M160 x2
Coles 4038 x2
RCA 44 BX
Royer SF-12 (stereo)
Royer R-121

Large diaphragm condenser
Beyer MC740
Beyer MC834
BLUE Bottle with B6 and B7 capsules
BLUE Dragonfly Deluxe x2
BLUE Baby Bottle
Josephson C715
Lawson L47
Mic Shop MS12 x2 (C-12 clones)
Neumann U48  x2
Neumann u87
Se 4400

Small diaphragm condenser
AKG 452EB  x2
DPA 4006TL x2
Josephson C42 x2
Neumann KM256  x2
Neumann KM-184 x2
Schoeps 221B  x2
Schoeps CMC 6 w/mk4 capsules x2
Sennheiser MKH405
Shure Beta91A
Shure Beta98 x2

Dynamic
AKG D12E
AKG D112
Audio Technica ATM-25
Beyer M201 x2
Beyer M380
Beyer TGX50
BLUE Encore 100 x2
ElectroVoice RE20
ElectroVoice PL20
ElectroVoice RE15
ElectroVoice N/D 308
ElectroVoice N/D 408
Heil Sound PR30 x2
Heil Sound PR20
Sennheiser 421 x3
Sennheiser e604 x2
Sennheiser e609
Sennheiser e904 x2
Sennheiser e906 x2
Sennheiser e902
Shure SM57 x4
Shure SM7B
Shure SM58
Shure Beta 58a x2

Outboard Preamps/EQ
Ampex MX-10 preamp/mixer
Ampex 351 preamp  x2
API 550A EQs  x2
API 560B EQs  x2
Bogen RP-2 preamp
DW Fearn VT-2 Dual Preamp
E.A.R 822Q EQs  x2
GML 8304 Quad Preamp
GML 8200 Stereo EQ
Millennia Media HV-3D 8-Channel Mic Pre
NTI NightPro EQ3D
Solid State Logic 611EQ x7
Stromberg-Carlson preamp

Dynamics
Alan Smart C-1
Anamod AM660
Ashly Audio SC55 Compressor
dbx160 VU  x2
Empirical Labs Distressor (2)
GML/Nova Research Dynamic Gain Controller II
Manley Vari-Mu
Manley ELOP
Neve 81069 Stereo Compressor (33609)
Retro Sta-Level
Shadow Hills Dual Vandergraph
Universal Audio 1176LN
UREI 1178
UREI LA12
Valley People Dyna-mite
Westrek 33609 Stereo Compressor
SPL Transient Designer
Aphex 622 Stereo Expander/Gates x3
dbx 902 De-esser x2
Empirical Labs Derr-esser

DI/re-amp boxes
Avalon U5 x2
Electrical Audio DI and Reamp x2
Radial JDI x2
Little Labs Redeye (passive DI, 1 re-amp output)
Custom Jensen passive DI x2
Tech 21 Sansamp Bass Driver DI

Outboard Effects
AKG BX20 spring Reverb
Allison Passive Filter
Bricasti Designs M7 Reverb
RCA Passive Filter
Cinema Eng. Passive Filter
Demeter RV-1 Spring Reverb
Eventide 949
Ibanez 405 Multi-Effect
Lexicon PCM70 Reverb
Lexicon PCM41 Digital Delay
Little Labs IBP phase correction tool (x2)
Marshall 5002A Time Modulator
Roland SDE3000 Delay
T.C. Electronics M5000 Reverb
T.C. Electronics D-Two Delay
Tube Works Real Tube Spring Reverb
Yamaha SPX-90II Multi-Effect Processor

Amplifiers
Leslie 147 speaker with 122 electronics with Trek pedal
Ampeg V-4b
Ampeg 4×10″ speaker cabinet
Fender Bassman (1967)
Fender Champ (1971)
Fender Dual Showman (1966)
Fender Bassman cabinet
Epiphone Pathfinder guitar amp
Galanti Minute Man guitar amp
Gibson Falcon GA19RVT
Gretsch/Valco 6152
Magnatone Varsity guitar amp

Instruments
’60s Ludwig champagne sparkle 4-piece drum set
’60s Slingerland wood snare drum
’80s Yamaha oak snare drum
’60s Ludwig Supraphonic snare drum 5×14
’60s Ludwig Jazz Festival snare drum 5.5×14
’70s Ludwig Acrolite snare drum 5×14
’50s WFL snare drum 6×14
Various cymbals and hi-hats
1927 Steinway M Baby Grand Piano
Fender 1966 Precision Bass
Fender 1964 Jaguar
Yamaha YC30 electric organ
Fender Rhodes MarkII 73 with Bass Boost
Wurlitzer 200A
Hammond C3 organ (w/ pedals)
Farfisa “Professional”
Full-sized marimba
Various percussion instruments

Plug-Ins
UAD-2 OCTO Satellite with ALL current UAD plug-ins
SoundToys 5
Lots and lots of plugins
Melodyne Editor

How long will it take?

We get this question a lot. It’s not a stupid question, it’s just an impossible one to answer precisely. There are many factors that come into play when budgeting how many days you’ll need to see a project from start to finish. Here are you a few that you may use to determine how long you will need:

1. How creative do you want the engineer/producer to be?
Undeniably, it’s a lot of fun to experiment on other people’s dimes. Of course, we don’t go that route unless we feel like our clients want us to, so it is up to you to set the tone for how crazy or how conservative you want the session to run. We may spend an extra ten minutes and find some sounds that have never been heard, or we may spend an hour and decide to scrap everything ’cause it sounds like doo-doo. That risk is yours to take, so calculate in a little extra time if you want to live on the edge.

2. How well-rehearsed are you?
No matter what style of music you play, the better everyone knows the material the faster the session will go. This seems silly to point out, but we sit through a lot of band rehearsals that probably should have happened at the practice space the day before. The only benefits of rehearsing in the studio are: 1) it lets the instruments settle into the new space a little, and 2) it gives us extra time to dial in sounds. But a few takes of one song is usually sufficient for that, not starting from scratch on every song. Your money would be better spent paying the musicians to rehearse, if that’s what it takes.

3. How much of a perfectionist are you?
No matter how well-rehearsed the band is, with limited studio time everybody has to know when to say when. The better you are at understanding the limitations of your musicians and yourself the faster things will move. That’s not to say we shouldn’t all strive for the best performances we can give, but sometimes the drummer just isn’t gonna be able to play the chorus without speeding up, and it’s time to move on.

4. How long will overdubs take?
The process of overdubbing instruments once the basic tracks are down has its own quirks that can lengthen a session considerably. The most important thing is to know which takes you want to use of each song before you start adding tracks willy-nilly! This generally means taking a little time between the tracking and overdub sessions, in order to listen to rough mixes (see #6 below).

5. How long will vocals take?
Vocals are the hardest thing to estimate, because you never know when the human voice will just give out. Some singers blow their voice after a few songs, and some can make it through an album’s worth of material in one session. If your singer can only pull off a few songs at a time, plan on interspersing vocal takes throughout a day of instrumental overdubs. If you think they can nail it all in one go, a block of time just for vocals is often preferable from a technical standpoint. Allow a little extra time for comping (compositing different takes into one master vocal track) if you think it will be necessary. Also allow extra time if you want different vocal sounds for different songs.

6. Do you want to leave the tracking/overdub session with rough mixes?
A lot of people’s answer to this question will be yes, but it’s always surprising to me that bands don’t realize that this takes time! Sometimes it is practical to run rough mixes while doing the initial tracking, saving the time it takes to do the mixes at the end of the day, but in most scenarios the task is better left for later, especially if any overdubs are being done the same day. In any case, make sure you let your engineer know ahead of time if you’ll be expecting to leave that day with roughs.

7. How long does it take to set things up?
Getting a great drum sound usually takes around two hours from the start time of the session. It can take less if we get lucky, it can take more if you really want a super-duper or specialized sound, but I’d say in general two hours is the average. Bass generally takes fifteen minutes or so, unless you’re just going direct. Then it takes about two minutes. (We generally prefer to run bass through an amp.) Guitars maybe a half-hour each, and if you are doing live vocals budget another half-hour or so. Obviously the more instruments, or the more particular you are about your sounds, the longer the setup will take. In general, the more you let us know about how you’d like to be physically set up and what kinds of sounds you like at the beginning of (or prior to) the session, the more smoothly setup will run. Bringing in reference CDs of bands you like can sometimes help us get an idea of what you’re going for, although the perfect matching of sounds is, as a rule, pretty impossible.

8. Is clean-up time included in my ten-hour day?
Definitely. If your session runs until 10 PM, for instance, that means the engineer should be locking the doors at 10. There are some exceptions now and then, but our engineers do reserve the right to ask for overtime pay once the clock hits 10 hours (from the scheduled start of the session, not when the band actually arrives). If you are really nice to your engineer or a repeat customer, a little bit of overtime here or there will probably be overlooked unless it starts becoming habitual. Please keep in mind that 10 hours already makes for a long day , and chances are your engineer has had a number of them that week already. Bottom line, budget the cleanup time into your scheduling. This applies the most to tracking days but it does take some time to clean up after overdubs and mixing as well. When in doubt, ask your engineer. Nicely.

9. Analog is not necessarily more expensive than digital.
Tape costs are certainly high (and getting higher). In my experience, however, that cost is usually offset by the limitations that working in analog imposes upon the session. The lack of editing capabilities, the lack of near-endless plug-ins to try out, and the energy gained by not staring at a computer screen all day make the analog tracking session a lot more efficient, not to mention a hell of a lot more pleasant. The fact that you can’t keep all eight takes you played means less listening time later. The fact that everyone has to play their parts right at least once means no moving snare drum hits around later. Don’t get me wrong, I actually really enjoy a lot about working in Pro Tools, but I am not convinced that it is always a more efficient way to work, especially once micro-editing begins. I think our clients who record to analog often have a faster, more pleasant experience, which more than makes up for skyrocketing tape costs. (P.S. We often have “studio reels” available which we rent to our clients for a session at a great price.)

10. Don’t forget the mix.
A lot of bands forget that it takes time to mix the songs, sometimes as much time or more than it took to record the stuff. Depending on the complexity of the music and the level of quality desired (more is usually more when it comes to mixing!), it can take anywhere from two hours to a whole ten-hour day to mix each song. The only remedy for this is to record straight to two-track, which very few bands (think small jazz combos) can pull off. If we’re transferring to Pro Tools to mix, allow time for the transfer (the length of the material plus a short setup time).

11. OK, OK, I get it. There are a lot of factors. Now how long will it really take?.
Some bands can track four to six songs in a ten-hour day, including setup. (Unless that band is XBXRX, then they can track fifteen songs in one day.) Other bands might make it through one or two. If you want to do a bunch of overdubs, plan a day or two just for that. And for the mix, the average is between two and four songs per ten-hour day (although we LOVE to have a full day for each song, budget allowing). That means the average full-length record is going to take around five to seven days to make. You can do it spending less, to be sure, although if you’ve got some extra cash to throw in you might be happier with your record in the long run. But don’t forget to save some of your dough for mastering…

Contact

New, Improved Recording

960 Arlington Ave.
Oakland 94608

Email: newimprovedrecording@yahoo.com

Staff

Owner/Engineers

John Finkbeiner

John Finkbeiner

John is an engineer and multi-instrumentalist. He has studied engineering with Myles Boisen, guitar with Morris Acevedo, Myles Boisen, and Richard Festinger, and musical drinking straw with Aaron Bennett. John has worked on records with Fred Frith, Crime, Knights of the New Crusade, Tango No. 9, Aphrodesia, Edmund Welles, and many others. He plays guitar in many bands, including Go-Go Fightmaster and Bait and Switch.

ian marvs at neve  Ian Pellicci

Ian blah blah blah a Recording Engineer blah blah something something has been doing this a long time.

jay-smiling    Jay Pellicci

Jay is a recording engineer who’s been working out of San Francisco for over 13 years.  He loves recording people.
Besides working at New, Improved Recording, some of the places he’s worked at are: the Music Annex,  Jackpot!Hyde Street Studios, and was also a house engineer at Tiny Telephone for 13 years. Some of the bands that he’s been lucky enough to work with are: Sleater-KinneyDeerhoof, the DodosSubtle, Erase Errata, Cody Chesnutt, and Yann Tiersen.
He’s been a member of 31knots, Okay and Natural Dreamers, and has also toured with other groups. Slightly more info at: www.jaypellicci.com.