Audient Console Jazzes Up University of Central Oklahoma Recording Studio

Local benefactor Rusty Aldridge & Brian Gorrell at the Audient console at UCOIn summer 2011 the Jazz Lab Recording studio at University of Central Oklahoma took delivery of an Audient ASP8024 console as a part of a major upgrade to the facility. Music technology retailer Sweetwater won the bid to provide the equipment, and studio director Brian Gorrell oversaw its installation, ensuring it was up and running in time for the first classes of the 2011/12 academic year.

Now into its second semester, Gorrell (pictured, standing at the desk) tells us why Audient came out on top, and how the desk is fitting in.

What research did you do in the process of deciding on the ASP8024? What features of the desk do you particularly like?

I spent the better part of 6 months researching all of the available options that would fit our overall recording studio upgrade budget. There are many options on the market today, but it seemed every option meant some type of compromise for us. The many digital consoles offer unending routing flexibility, but at the cost of clarity for teaching purposes, and the lack of any sort of real analog character.

After deciding we wanted some type of analog/digital hybrid the search was narrowed. The ASP8024 with the addition of the DLC was the only option on the market in our budget range that fit the bill perfectly. I loved the idea of a fully in-line 24 channel analog console with the integration of the DLC for HUI type control, along with the fully integrated and substantial patch bay.

I like the familiarity of the 24-channel in line design, as many engineers and producers like myself that came up in the 80s and 90s spent time on these types of consoles! I especially love the quality of the 24 matched preamps and the very nice EQ as well. The flexibility to route portions of the EQ to both the Short Fader and Long Fader is very usable for us.

Although the patch bay, being very "British" in design, took a minute to get used to for us, we now love the layout and the great flexibility it is giving us for a variety of situations. The layout of the console itself is very logical, clean and fairly intuitive. Our students thus far have been thrilled to work on this console, and now feel they are getting a true professional studio experience in our degree program.

What is the studio mostly used for?

The UCO Jazz Lab Recording Studio, justASP8024 at UCO Jazz Lab Recording now celebrating its 10 year anniversary since opening, has changed over the years. In the beginning (Jan 2002), I was originally hired to build a recording studio and make it a profitable commercial business as one aspect of the Jazz Lab facility.

Almost from the beginning there were students obviously interested in learning in the studio, so over time an apprenticeship program developed, music technology courses developed, and we eventually added (to our knowledge), the only Master of Music Jazz Studies Degree with a Major in Music Production in the United States. Combining the Graduate Jazz Degree with Music Production makes perfect sense to us because so many creative professionals in music production are required to be musical chameleons, to make quick, intuitive, creative decisions, and have great ears in general. This is just as true for engineers as for musicians and producers. We feel being a well trained jazz musician along with technology skills is the perfect match for the ultra competitive music industry that has changed so dramatically in the past 15 years.

Today, our newly updated Jazz Lab Recording Studio is utilized 80% of the time for recording sessions with our students (both undergrads and grads) and about 20% with commercial outside clients.

How are you using the desk?

I am using the desk for tracking sessions, mixing, mastering, and teaching our courses with students that includes: Computer Music Technology, Advanced Recording Technology, CD Album Pre-Production, and CD Album Production. We love the fact that 3 or 4 students at a time can sit at the console and be involved in the process, it has provided the level of professionalism we needed.

What other equipment is employed in the studio?

Along with upgrading to the ASP8024 last summer, we also purchased Pro Tools HD Native w/ two of the new Avid I/O interfaces; we purchased a 4-channel API outboard pre that sounds great, but I must admit I find myself just using the pre's on the ASP8024 most of the time because they simply work fantastic and sound ultra-clean. We also purchased a new compliment of mics that includes typical Neumanns, Pelusos, Audio Technicas, Earthworks, and more.

We love our Genelec 1032A Monitor Speakers, along with our new iso booth - the Whisper Room, in our studio space. We are using Pro Tools 9, and some with Logic Pro. However, my DAW of choice is Digital Performer, which I find to offer an incredibly well balanced and logical feature set. A more extensive list of our equipment is located here.

What do you feel makes the Audient ASP8024 good for teaching?

The ASP8024 is EXCELLENT for teaching because of the clear design layout and pure analog in-line design architecture. The fact that EVERY student needs to master the basics of signal flow is essential, and with the typical in-the-box laptop based systems that so many people are using, they simply don't get the chance to really "get it". The ASP8024 however integrates well with the DAW environment and students get to experience all of this at one large format, real world console.

I love using the ASP8024 for in class recording sessions in which the students are tasked with setting up headphone cue mixes and must think through a hundred small signal routing and mixing decisions with a typical 5 piece band. The ASP8024 allows us multiple choices of how to accomplish this task, and none are incorrect. I think there is an inherent creative aspect to engineering, and our new console is helping greatly in this regard.

Another class project is to take a 24-track project in-the-box and route each individual track back out to the ASP8024. My students get the chance to physically put there hands on the console and put together a basic mix "old school". This is such an important, and missing skill, that the laptop brigade doesn't understand!

What made the console stand out from the competition?

Well #1 is the price for what you get. We seriously looked at the SSL AWS 924, but at almost twice the price, it was obvious we would not get twice the product. Even though the 924 offered automation and flying faders on every channel, that became more and more of a bell and whistle, and just not essential - not to mention the added complexity. At the price range of what we spent on the ASP8024, there was simply no competition...

Audient at the University

The courses being taught with the ASP8024 include a series of four graduate courses in connection with the Master of Music in Jazz Studies with a Major in Music Production: Computer Music Technology, Advanced Recording Technology, CD Album Pre-Production, and CD Album Production.

Yes, the courses have changed for sure. Although we have only completed one semester since the upgrade, it is obvious the console is providing my grad students with a real world professional environment to learn and grow as musicians, producers, and engineers. Our program is designed to give each person training in all three of those areas. The console is putting a greater focus on engineering, signal flow, and patch bay utilization for sure!

The University of Central Oklahoma

Although a "regional state university" by definition, UCO is a forward thinking, pioneering school. From the fine arts perspective, we have the only nationally recognized jazz studies program in Oklahoma, and one of the more respected jazz programs in the Midwest. The UCO Jazz Lab facility is a one-of-a-kind experience - our students study and perform under one roof and have the opportunity for more live performance experiences every semester than most any jazz program in the USA. In addition to the Jazz Lab and our Master's in Jazz degree, we offer a full compliment of standard music coursework and are in the process of adding undergraduate degree offerings in Music Production in the near future.

Fall semester 2011 we had a little over 17,000 students at UCO, and we are based in Edmond, Oklahoma - a suburb on the North of the Oklahoma City Metro area.

In downtown Oklahoma City, 3 years ago we started the "ACM@UCO". This is the Academy of Contemporary Music at UCO. There is connection to the original program in Guildford, England, and this has been an innovative program as well - another partnership with our friends "across the pond"!

Courses

I started the Master of Music Jazz Studies Degree (w/majors in either Performance or Music Production) in the Fall of 2006 with only two students enrolled. As of today we have graduated 19 students with our degree and have 27 currently enrolled, which is actuallyBack to school with Audient more than our planned limit of 24 students at any one time. It has been tremendously successful thus far. Our major studio upgrade this past summer is a reflection of the success and the willingness of our administration to support us with the funding!

We will have about 12-14 graduate students using the studio in the Spring semester, along with myself, our professional engineer, and commercial clients. The graduate students pursuing the "MM Jazz Studies - Music Production" degree culminate their work with a fully completed professional CD Album. They are responsible for all arrangements, at least two original compositions, all tracking, editing, mixing, and final artwork. It is as real-world of an experience as I think we could have dreamed up for them!

We have a larger focus on recording acoustic instruments than modern electronic pop stuff. Although our students have examples of many styles of music from rock to reggae, the focus is mostly based around acoustic instrumentation and jazz music.

This year we have also established a scholarship scheme for a deserving Music Production student, with the kind help of local benefactor Rusty Aldridge (pictured above with two MM students).