Oakland’s 25th Street Recording has a found its niche with a very large tracking space and a
64-channel API Vision console.OAKLAND, CA—Newrecordingfacilitiesare something of a rarity these days, and large tracking rooms are even rarer. But after spotting a niche in the San Francisco Bay Area market, producer, engineer and musician Dave Lichtenstein has opened a studio in Oakland that harkens back to the analog facilities of yore, with a 1,400-square-foot tracking room featuring 17-foot-high ceilings, and a 64-channel version of API’s topof- the-line Vision mixing console.
In business parlance, the design of 25th Street Recording is a unique selling point. “It was a way to separate myself,” observes Lichtenstein, erstwhile drummer and engineer with John Cale (ex-Velvet Underground) and former frontman and guitarist with mid-’80s New York band Cowboy Mouth. “There are plenty of small studios in the Bay Area,” he notes, though all but a couple of large studios have closed.
The single-room design, by Fran Manzella, who worked with Lichtenstein at New York’s Skyline Studios in the ’80s, was a judicious decision, he continues. “We did some plans for two studios in the space. It could have worked, and would have made more sense, probably, from a business standpoint. But I just wanted something different,” he says.
It took about a year to find a suitable building with the right dimensions and construction, he reports. The former auto repair shop is located in an increasingly gentrified neighborhood: “I was lucky. It’s an up-andcoming art area.”
Lichtenstein brought his own aesthetic to the interior finishes. “I wanted to keep it comfortable and lowbrow: unfinished wood, reclaimed where I could. The floor is comprised of reclaimed stadium benches from the University of Southern Illinois.”
The console selection reflects both the API’s performance and its widespread acceptance by recording engineers. “API is one console that nobody doesn’t like! It was the last thing I even checked out,” he admits, “but it became apparent that this was the one.”
Although the control room is well stocked with analog outboard gear collected over the years, the recording medium of choice is Pro Tools. “We’re not recording to tape, but we have the infrastructure,” he said. “I’m keeping my eyes open for a multitrack [machine].”
One barrier to installing a tape machine is the cost to clients, however: “People barely have enough budget for a normal recording session, let alone having to buy a $150 roll of tape every 15 or 30 minutes.”
Monitoring is set up to take advantage of the Vision’s multichannel surround capabilities with a 5.2 (twin sub) ATC system. The center and surrounds are SCM150s: “I’ve loved them ever since I first heard them.” The soffit-mounted SCM 400 mains were selected after auditioning the model at L.A.’s EastWest Studios. “At a lot of studios, people don’t even use the mains, except for loud, impressive playback for the band. But these are a pleasure to listen to, and very revealing,” he reports.
Bookings to date have been largely short-duration indie projects. “Joe Chiccarelli has taken an interest in the studio,” shares Lichtenstein. “He was another reason why I went with the API.” Chiccarelli, a big fan of the brand, mixed an Eleni Mandell project and also worked with jazz singer Roberta Donnay at 25th Street.
Engineer Mark Wilshire, who often works at Skywalker, also visited with a string quartet, he adds. “So we’re starting to get some things when people can’t get into Skywalker. It’s a viable alternative.”
Indeed, the studio is well appointed for the type of music that has come through thus far, he says. “It’s our own building, and the rooms are completely isolated, with triple-thick walls, floating on concrete slabs floating on springs. Acoustic music is what would take advantage of the studio the best, because it’s so quiet.”
25th Street Recording