Gear, Space, Sounds: Experiencing Dreamland Recording Studios

A interior view of Dreamland Recording Studios.

In upstate New York, there is an old church with stained glass windows and vaulted ceilings where worshipers used to congregate for prayer.

In the 1980s, the building was forever changed into a world-class recording studio that has as unique of a sound as it does a look.

Dreamland Recording Studios, owned by Joel Bluestein and managed by Jerry Marotta, sits high up in the hills just outside of Woodstock, NY.

It houses one of the finest privately-owned mic collections in he world, a handmade API console, and vibe for days.

Inside Dreamland

The sonics at a play are noticeable upon entry, with your first steps through the double doors into the large live room with a 40′ x 50′ wooden floor with a 35-foot vaulted ceiling, complete with arches, wooden beams and antique lanterns.

Scattered throughout the floor plan are keyboards from every era, including a vintage Hammond B3 (complete with Leslie cabinet), a Mellotron and a few Rhodes electric pianos, not to mention the 1934 Steinway B grand piano.

A closeup view of Dreamland’s API console.

Dreamland’s control room has plenty of space to feel comfortable in, with an incredible view from its 15-foot- wide window into the live room.

There is an abundance of smaller rooms as well, for isolation, if intimacy is your desire.

The “marble room” has two chambers of isolation for drum, vocal, amps or a simple upright piano. There is also a smaller, alternative drum room towards the front of the building that looks out into the spacious live room, and several other compact isolation options that have excellent sight lines to he main space.

And gear… well, let’s leave that up to you to visit there well stocked website gear list for all the information. But to name a few choice pieces, the 48-channel API discrete console is a thing of beauty, especially when matched with the Studer A820 2-inch tape machine, and an overflowing rack of Pultec and Tube-Tech EQs and compressors.

The Sounds

An aerial view of the Dreamland live room.

I had the good pleasure of tracking a band during my visit. Here are a few clips of a mic’d up drummer in the main room.

In the video, you’ll notice I present an example of the close mics, the first set of room mics, and the second set of room mics and a blend of everything.

Ariel Shafir, house engineer, producer, booking, talented drummer (and now a good friend) acted as my assistant for the day.

Ariel’s intimate knowledge of the room, console and mic collection were imperative to getting the big clean sound that I desired without fuss or excess experimentation.

The band for the occasion was a group I’ve worked with on a few productions—The Fem Doms—and their drummer, Brendan Galvin, was in heaven.

“Since the beauty of the sound came from the room itself,” Galvin says “it was a wonderful place to play without being overwhelmed by technology.”

We tracked drums, bass and scratch guitar live to the Studer 2″ tape machine. To hear the sound of the space in action, check out this video with the raw drum tracks added in and see a list of the equipment used.

Often times I’ll crush the room mics with compression, but the balance of sound was so beautiful that I’ve left them wide open so you can hear the natural character of the room.

Mountains of Gear

Dreamland’s immense acquisition of gear was a built up over the years by owner Joel Bluestein , through purchases at auctions and by getting a little bit lucky in the earlier days.

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  • Dwayne Hunt

    Where do you start the discussion on something as multi-faceted as this?
    Just the beauty of the facility overwhelms you. I can imagine the sound just causes every nerve in your body to quiver from the shock of sound clarity. Probably the finest studio facility I have ever seen…and in a beautiful part of New York. Outstanding article, Brian Speaker. Can we see more on this with some audio samples?

  • Justin C.

    Gorgeous and well-written agreed! We’re glad to have Brian writing with us.

    It’s easy to miss, but he actually did include some audio samples. The video may be low-res (iPhone capture), but the sound is pretty much untreated, straight off the console. Some great tones there:

  • Dwayne Hunt

    I did miss the video before, Justin. I guessed right! the sound clarity was like fine crystal hitting the fireplace mantel. Wow….. I had a customer standing here when I listened and now they want to load up and head to New York to finish our tracking. Would probably be a good move. What a facility. When the view zoomed out , I swear you could hear the pastor’s sermons from years past.
    Love it and, again, thanks for a great article, Brian.
    Dwayne Hunt

  • Brian Speaker

    Hey Thanks Dwayne! It is a masterful facility indeed. The collection of gear is as spectacular as the ever changing sunlit room.

  • Brian Speaker

    Haha! Thanks Dwayne. Yeah the place is ready for any and all projects. I look forward to getting my drum sounds again there. 🙂