The Windy City is often overlooked by the uninitiated, who turn their gaze to the two coasts and their shining beacons of music culture: New York and Los Angeles.
But no matter, you know better than them, don’t you?
As one would expect, America’s third-largest city is a multidimensional, eclectic, and vigorous center of artistic expression and creative culture.
Heck, they even have a band named after ‘em.
Chicago plays host to radical and elevated forms of originality, and the city features cultural hubs, live music bars, and a smattering of world-class recording studios to further the mission of the musical.
Chicago welcomes creators with open arms, and whether you fall into the grown-up jazz, urban hip-hop, or garage rock camps, you’ll find a cast of dedicated technicians and mentors who will take the raw material of your talent and package it into something formidable.
Check out our list of the best recording studios in Chicago!
1. Gravity Studios
Founded in the heady, iconoclastic days of the early 90s, Gravity is a heavy hitter that holds its own with internationally acclaimed studios in rival cities.
They have a particular passion for alternative, rock, and emo, and they make quick work of clarifying, streamlining, and elevating your demo tracks.
The most brazen, self-assured, and groundbreaking alternative acts in the last three decades have put their masterpieces in Gravity’s hands – we’re talking Smashing Pumpkins, Veruca Salt, Goo Goo Dolls, Hawthorne Heights, Fall Out Boy, and Rise Against.
They have isolation booths and a high-quality mastering studio, along with a songwriting and mixing consultant on hand.
You’ll be performing at Lollapalooza in no time.
Contact them directly for rates.
2. Mystery Street Recording Studio
The ever-trendy, alluringly-appointed heart of Chicago’s music industry, the enticingly named Mystery Street is full-service and then some – offering the highest quality equipment, spacious rehearsal rooms, and incisive audio remastering tools around.
Their full-spectrum services run the gamut from restoration to mastering to podcast recording to remote recording to format transfer and beyond.
Due to its peerless reputation, it has a higher price tag, starting at $75 an hour for basic services, but the staff on hand won’t leave until your songs rival the perfection of the Sistine Chapel.
For all you bleeding hearts out there, Mystery Street’s Chicago recording studio is one of the few studios worldwide that is solar-powered.
Chew on that.
3. Soundscape Studios
Soundscape got its storied start as a home-based studio, and now it plays host to some of the biggest names in rap and hip hop, like 2 Chainz, Jamila Wood, Tinashe, Ludacris, and Chance the Rapper (a Chicago native himself).
Creator Michael Kolar has been steeped in the Chicago music scene for 26 years, and he has over one billion streams to his production credit.
The stiletto-red walls and imposing art fixtures lend grandeur to the studio and help foster the sensation that you’ve already made it into the big leagues.
Studio A features the formidable Phantom Focus Speaker System, and the control room features slotted diffusers and suspended bass trapping for all you tech-obsessives out there.
4. Sound Vault Recording Studio
Sound Vault is a down-to-earth, openhearted, generous space where artists can take a moment of creative solitude and clear their heads.
The staff takes a holistic, relatable approach, and they seek to foster confidence, relaxation, and creative collaboration with their clients – they’ll even pitch in and help you craft your next songs with their lyric editing service.
The multi-room studio features superlative recording, mixing, and mastering tech and equipment, along with isolation booths and meticulously-appointed control rooms.
The sleek, clean, uncluttered space allows you to focus on the task at hand and experience a deeply generative, client-focused session.
Contact them for rates.
5. Transient Sound
Transient is the beginning and end of Chicago, as far as all rap, metal, punk, hip hop, and R&B creators are concerned, and in that regard, it is something of a ground zero for some of America’s best street culture.
Transient has session musicians on hand if you need some professional star-power to back you up, and their founders are fond of reminding prospective clients that they have 40 years of recording experience between them.
Their elegant, lushly wood-paneled studio and space-age control room offer a classy and top-of-the-line aesthetic experience.
Previous clients include artists as diverse as Halsey, Los Lobos, Astro Samurai, and Ben Patterson.
Contact them for rates.
6. Chicago Recording Company
Well, they certainly do what they say on the label – and then some, and with three studios across the city, you don’t even have to sweat your commute.
Founded in 1975, they are a fixture in the Chicago music scene and work passionately and thoughtfully with industry bigwigs and independent newcomers alike.
They have various studio spaces on offer and an impressive suite of recording and post-production equipment available.
They hire a full roster of sound engineers and technicians, all of whom come to the table with their own unique CVs and set of skills and attributes.
Buckle in – this is a long list of the artists who trust CRC with their unique sonic vision: Kaleo, Coldplay, Wilco, Smashing Pumpkins, The Hives, Liz Phair, and Chance The Rapper.
Contact them directly for rates.
7. Uptown Recording Studio
No need to be an Uptown girl to haul your creative self over to the OG mainstay of Uptown, appropriately located in the beating heart of the sprawling entertainment district.
Uptown has cultivated a reliable and consistent reputation since they wrenched open their doors and store of expertise in 1995, and they take a practical, supportive, and patient approach with their artists.
The aesthetics of the space can be described as a sophisticated marriage between modern sensibilities and vintage accouterments, with sleek wood floors and opulent oriental carpets.
They typically work with indie, rap, and hip-hop artists, and their recording, mixing, and mastering sessions begin at $75/hour.
8. Studio 11
Founded by Alex Gross and Dan Scalpone twenty years back, Studio 11 prides itself on its top-notch recording equipment, consoles, and instrument selection.
With two rooms, it is intimate, well-appointed, and stocked with gear from big names like Yamaha and Avalon.
The adventurous and admirably unconventional team of tech obsessives and music addicts do their best work with rock, EDM, hip-hop, and jazz.
Clients include international hip-hop legends like Akon, Flavor Flav, Lupe Fiasco, Snoop Dogg, and Three 6 Mafia.
Hourly rates start at $75/ hour and come with a talented, “star-making” sound engineer.
9. Stonecutter Records Recording Studio
A fiercely independent Chicago record company with its own record studio?
Established in 2012, their studio arm features the best amps, preamps, plugins, and engineering software in the game, and they offer rehearsal spaces and marketing services, making it a real one-stop mecca.
Their decor is a part debauched vintage lounge, part Twin Peaks red room, and it serves to expand the horizons of your own visionary journey.
Stonecutter, under the leadership of Chris Steinmetz, will help market, polish, and streamline your band’s project and will give you a generous helping of insider tips.
Rock idols like Paul Simon, KISS, and Alice in Chains have made use of Stonecutter’s gracious approach and amicable, laidback expertise.
10. ByrneOut Productions
If you fancy yourself something of a hipster, an indie iconoclast, or an eclectic niche-dweller, we kindly implore you to strut on down to ByrneOut, Chicago’s preeminent studio for the disrupters among us.
Owned by songwriting coach, performer, audio engineer, and producer Jimmy Byrne, you can trust that you are getting bespoke strategies from someone who understands the craft (and the struggles of the creative journey.)
Byrne and his small, hand-picked crew will hold your hand, pat your back, and stoke your creative fires throughout your journey.
Jimmy’s diverse experience has led him to narrow down and specialize in metal, folk, rock, jazz, and soul.
Prices for professional editing start at $100 per track.
11. Pressure Point
The name that rises above the rest, Pressure Point is nothing short of revered for its stratospheric acoustics, its SSL 9000K console, and the multidimensional services on offer.
They consider themselves a tasty full-course audio meal, which we’d wager is an apt description of the broad services and “lush acoustic environment” that they provide.
They offer five studio rooms, wood-paneled isolation booths, and thoughtfully designed rehearsal areas, all of which have hosted names like Mariah Carey and Timbaland.
Pressure Point is priced on par with the authority and expertise they have in the recording space, and they ask clients to contact them for a quote.
12. Studio 2020
With its atmospheric boudoir red lights and sumptuous interiors, Studio 2020 is a launching pad for creativity but is also a veritable sensory Eden.
Founded in 1988, their reputation rests on the technical mastery of the staff, the professionalism and incisive eye of their founder Sam Boumoujahed, and the sonically measured space.
They do things a little eclectically over here, with a diverse and curious blend of stylistic clients: anything from Afro-rock to Chicago jazz to Latin to world beats to true blue rock n’ roll.
Their rates begin at $60/hour for the room and $85 an hour for engineering and post-production, well in line with industry norms and a smashing deal indeed when you consider their track record.
13. Classick Studios
One of the Chicago hubs for the rappers among us, Classick was founded by buzzy industry it-guy Chris Inumerable in 2006, at the height of the radio rap glory days.
Apologies in advance if we sound like a broken record, but when it comes to genres like rap (and jazz), Chicago puts on a more impressive show than most, and the city has become the focal point of the national scene.
Radio darlings like Chance the Rapper and alt-rap names like SZA and Juice WRLD have made Classick their Chicago home base.
They are open 24/7 for when inspiration inconveniently strikes, and they offer a full-service suite, with mastering, engineering, and remixing, for $85 per hour.
Be advised they do require a two-hour minimum booking.
14. Untold Stories Recordings
An independent, anti-mainstream outfit with an intriguing name and a laudable mission: to promote local, raw, undiscovered talent and raise the collective indie profile of Chicago.
Owner Ian Fell promotes a calm, down-to-earth environment where artists can focus on their craft rather than sheer commercialism and marketing glitz.
In Fell’s own words, he aspires to serve the vibrant local community and provide genuine accessibility and affordability to anyone committed to their craft.
You can get a song recorded and remastered for $40 an hour and join the ranks of the 700+ artists who have worked at the studio in its four-year history.
15. Sonic Palace Recording Studios
Cheap, cheerful, and committed to producing innovative and original independent music, Sonic Palace has been graced by alternative cool cats like Candlebox and Mudd Puppies.
They have a soft spot for metal, indie rap, and alternative rock, and despite their Y2K-core website, they have a sturdy and reliable reputation in Chicago music circles.
Their staff prides themselves on their experience as both performers and engineers.
Sonic Palace has two studios, which feature zany wall art, lipstick-red drums, and a luxuriant vintage wooden piano.
Studio bookings, sans engineer, start at the dazzlingly low price of $30/hour, and sessions with engineers will only set you back $60/hour.
Be advised that there is a minimum two-hour commitment for bookings.
Best Recording Studios in Chicago – Final Thoughts
Well, why not?
It’s got a musical named for it, after all.
Leave the two coasts behind and hit the bustling, strident heart of the Midwest to expand and capitalize on your creative talents.
You can rest assured that you’ll get laser-focused, customized mentorship without mortgaging the house and taking a night job.
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