What should you consider when choosing a place to record? First of all, you should ask for a copy of something that was recorded at the studio. Listen to the overall sonic quality of the recording. If you have the capability, try to A-B compare the recording to some professional recording that you want to sound like. To truly A-B compare, you will need some way to play two CDs at a time, and then switch back and forth between the studio demo and the professional recording. This will allow you to compare the two in real time. That way you can hear the differences much more easily than if you rely on your memory.
If you can’t do that, at least give a really good listen to the professional recording and get used to the overall sound. Then put in the studio demo and see if it stands up to the professional recording. Remember that your recording is much more likely to sound like the studio demo than the professional recording. You need to really focus on what you are shooting for, or you will not be happy with the overall sound of your final product. If you don’t think the studio can give you the quality that you need, don’t waste your money recording there.
If you are satisfied with the studio’s demo, or you just don’t have too many other studios in your area, you may be ready to proceed further. You should ask some very important questions. First, find out what recording equipment or software/hardware the studio uses. If you are not familiar with studio gear, find a friend who is and have him explain what’s needed to make a good recording. Or you can always search the Internet for more information. Of course, digital recording is not necessarily the only way to go, but you will find that it can save a ton of time. You can fix things such as errant notes or drum hits, and you can also cut/copy/paste parts together without having to resort to the old splicing method. These and other shortcuts aren’t available on analog or even digital tape recording machines such as ADAT recorders.
Next, ask about their microphones, their microphone preamps, and other outboard gear, such as signal processing. The better the quality of the microphones and microphone preamps, the better your recording will sound. If you don’t know about microphones, you can always search the Internet for more information. You can ask questions in newsgroups, discussion forums, or even the Web sites of the manufacturers. Most companies are happy to explain their products if they think there is a sale in the making. But remember that most manufacturers are going to say their stuff sounds the best! You can always try to download sound snippets to compare different products. Do your homework and learn as much as you can. You’ll be glad you did.