Ultra Sound Rehearsal Studios
New York, New York
by Chris Burgess
So what exactly is Ultra Sound?
We are, first, the biggest music rehearsal studio in New York City, and we have without a doubt the finest gear of any rehearsal studio in the world. But we are also one of the largest boutique guitar amp dealers. We’re not a recording studio; our business is a little different. New York is different from anyplace else. Kids don’t have basements to practice in, and people don’t have cars to drag equipment around in, so the rehearsal studio business in NY presents a band with a fully functional studio with all the equipment, so they can just walk in with their drumsticks and guitars—everything they need is there… we took that to the next level.
Rehearsal studios for a long time were thought of as a “second banana,” meaning you go to a recording studio like Avatar, Power Station, someplace like that, and the equipment would be very high quality. You’d go to a rehearsal studio and it would be the lowest common denominator. Rehearsal studios tried to get away with the least expensive stuff they could. When we got into this, very early on, I became friends with some guys who actually built really high-end guitar amps. That led me on a quest to put in these studios some of the finest, finest stuff you could ever put in a studio.
It sounds like you just decided to go “above and beyond” in every way.
My goal at first was to get rid of the guys who just bash away at gear, and bring in the pros. That was very successful, starting in the early nineties bringing in Tony Bruno’s amps, and Matchless—and it even extended to when I redid the sound systems in the studio. I’ve got two of the finest sound systems in the world. My biggest thing is, I’m really into promoting and creating a place where new music can thrive, where it’s not just the rich professionals that can afford to come here. The younger bands that are the new life of music for the future can also afford to come and use great gear. We also donate a lot of equipment to the public school system. When we got new sound systems, we took our old ones and instead of selling them, we donated them to the New York City public schools, and installed them. I think that’s an important thing.
If you’re going to drop a big chunk of change in a recording studio, the ability to dial in beforehand exactly what you’re looking for, with the best equipment you can find—that seems like a smart move for a band to make. It is, especially when you consider that our equipment is probably better than what many recording studios have. We don’t have all the recording equipment—that’s not what we do— but if you’re going in to do pre-production, which is what smart people do… look, you can go to a recording studio for $400 or $500 an hour and start writing songs, but that’s not really an advantageous way to spend your budget. You can come into our studio for preproduction, and in the daytime for $25 an hour you can work on what you’re actually going to do on your album. The unfortunate thing is that sometimes then these bands go to the recording studio, and it doesn’t have anywhere near the quality of the stuff we have here—but actually, then we start getting calls from the studios, looking to rent the amps that they did pre-production with here.
So instead of figuring out how to round up the gear they used in your studio, they can rent it from you?
A lot of studios know that guys who are looking for something really special, like Trainwrecks or Dumbles, you know… we have all that stuff. I have more Trainwrecks than anybody in the world. That’s kind of what we do; we don’t buy anything except the finest quality.
We were initially getting all these incredible quality amps at a time, back in the early nineties, when guitar amps had really hit a low point. There were a few who were building incredible amps. But nobody knew much about them. We were lucky enough to find out about those very early on and incorporate them into our studios—we were putting Brunos, Matchless, Dumbles and Trainwrecks in our studios where guys would rehearse with them every day. People were flipping out, saying, “I love this amp, where can I get one?” There was no place to buy one. They’d say, “Can you get one for me?” and I’d say, “Okay,” and it turned into sales. We’re not a music store, and we never really meant to sell stuff, but people liked the fact that they could come here and actually play these things in a real studio environment, in a non-sales environment without pressure, where the studio is not only soundproofed, but also sound-tuned… so all the acoustical anomalies go away, and yet you still have a lively room. It really paid off. People can come in and play the amps and listen to them in a real-world environment, and really know how they sound. There are very few other places where that can be done. The special thing is you can be as private as you want to be, or you can have your friends come in with you and give you opinions, or you can come in with your band…
We are a studio first and foremost, and yes, we are one of the biggest boutique amp dealers, but you don’t have to be looking to buy an amp to come and try these amps or play them. You’re more than welcome to just book the time and play.