When Kirt Shearer became Commercial Music Program Director at American River College, he made it his first priority to purchase an Audient ASP8024-HE large format analogue console. Far from being a shot in the dark, his decision was based on solid experience teaching with another ASP8024-HE during his previous tenure at Sacramento City College (SCC). It just so happens that he specified that one as well.
Coming from 30 years of day-to-day studio engineering and production – with several well-known credits to his name including Tesla, Toni Tony Tone and Cake – Kirt is well placed to specify the studios’ upgrades.
Audient catches up with him to find out a bit more about what’s happening in the Commercial Music department at American River College (ARC). We started by asking him about the setup with the new desk.
The Audient is installed in the larger and newer of two purpose built studios at American River college, originally constructed from the ground up in 2010.
The studio currently has a large Pro Tools HDX system with Burl converters, and a good selection of outboard gear. Originally there was no analogue console in the room, only an Avid D-Command. We really wanted that room to have the flexibility of a true large format analog desk.
Now that we have the ASP8024-HE, we will be adding a 2” 24 track tape machine soon.
How much input did you have in the upgrades?
I was not involved in the initial design and construction of the room but I did specify many of the subsequent upgrades along the way. When I knew that I would be moving from running the Sacramento City College (SCC) recording program to the American River College program, literally the very first order of business was to purchase an ASP8024-HE for Studio B.
Was there any resistance to your choice when you suggested Audient?
No resistance, although I’m the one who gets to make those decisions! The board at SCC had more than proven itself, so it was the easiest choice in the world to purchase a second one for the ARC studios.
“literally the very first order of business was to purchase an ASP8024-HE”
This desk has an additional 12 channels compared to the SCC ASP8024-HE. Were there any other additions/changes to your previous desk?
We see the ASP8024-HE as a very long term solution for the program so we didn’t want to be wishing for more channels down the road. The 24 channel desk at SCC did everything we asked but the ARC studio is a little bigger. We have 40 mic lines running from the theatre for recording concert performances. Also, we routinely track and mix large groups in the studio, so we wanted to make sure we had the inputs we needed.
The other two differences between the two desks would be the patchbay and the moving fader controller. We already had an extensive rackmounted patchbay in the studio, so it made more sense to have all the patch points externally rack mounted.
Also, unlike the SCC desk, we chose this time to not include the DLC controller. Although the DLC works well on the SCC desk, we wanted to try something different. So we decided to order the ASP8024-HE with a double producer’s desk instead. We placed a 16 channel moving fader controller there. Additionally, if we decide we want to upgrade or change the controller, it doesn’t affect the desk itself.
Any other features that stand out for you with your new ASP8024-HE?
Pretty much everything. I really love the upgraded master buss with the switchable Carnhill transformers and the 990 op amp summing circuit. The headroom of the desk is really great. And I still say that the ASP8024-HE is amazingly well thought out. It has 14 aux sends! It also includes the very unusual feature to route different aux busses together so you almost never run out of routing options when using both small and large faders at the same time.
Speaking of busses, having a full 24 output busses puts this console in another class from much of the competition. And using busses 1-8 as group busses with inserts makes parallel compression very easy.
“the intuitive flexibility of the 8024 just stays out of the way and allows for absolute freedom and creativity…oh, and it sounds great!”
The class-A mic pres are clean with just a touch of character, sounding noticeably better than another British console we have. I love the fact that the EQ is not only great sounding and super flexible, but can be split in part or whole between the short and long faders.
Have you had feedback from other staff members?
Everyone without exception has been very excited about the upgrade. Jon Talbot, who runs our labs commented that “the intuitive flexibility of the 8024 just stays out of the way and allows for absolute freedom and creativity…oh, and it sounds great!”
What have you heard from the students?
We did the installation over the summer, and we couldn’t keep the students away from the studio! They were so excited about the installation that they all wanted to be a part of it. So far they have been very happy with the features and sound of the console. Just as with the SCC installation, we have had students enrol in classes because they wanted time on the console.
Students of which course(s) will be getting their hands on the desk? How many is that?
We have four studio techniques classes, one sound design class, and a mixing and mastering class that will all be using the console. We also will be using it on our “Friday Sessions” series, where we bring bands in from the community for an “all class” extended recording session. All of these will exclusively be using the studio with the new ASP8024-HE.
“we have had students enrol in classes because they wanted time on the console”
Approximately 120 students per semester will be using the studios.
What plans have you got in your role as Commercial Music Program Director for American River College?
I have already been able to accomplish a few major goals including installing the ASP8024-HE, creating an Audio for Video/Sound design Class, a dedicated Mixing and Mastering class, and an advanced studio techniques class.
Our next project is adding a new hybrid mix room with a Pro Tools HDX system and a full array of outboard gear. This room (as the three others) will have a great selection of virtual instruments in and will be available all day for students to work on their own productions.
After that we are looking at expanding our current 5.1 mix rooms to Dolby Atmos.
How do you see the future of American River College?
We are all very excited about the growth of the department and the future directions. We’ve hit a good era here at the college; we have an amazing list of commercial music faculty who are working professionals in the industry and are bringing that experience to our students. Our live sound professor owns a successful live sound company. Our music business professor has a great deal of experience – including being a senior editor at TapeOp magazine. Our songwriting professor is a professional musician and songwriter. I come from 30 years of studio engineering and producing. Our Pro Tools instructor wrote the textbooks for Avid.
“last year we had about 10 students that were hired directly out of our classrooms for jobs in either studio or live sound production”
The other thing we’re doing as a vocational program is making sure that our students have every opportunity to move into workplaces in the industry. We are developing relationships with multiple local audio related businesses. In fact, last year we had about 10 students that were hired directly out of our classrooms for jobs in either studio or live sound production.
We are so excited about the growth we are seeing in the department. It was a little tough coming out of the Covid restrictions with very few students on campus, but we have seen major increases of enrollment now and it’s great to see students interacting with each other in the studios again.
It’s our goal to graduate students who really know their way around the studio and have great practical skills and experience in studio production.
Kirt, this all sounds extremely positive. Audient wishes you every success with all your plans! Thank you for chatting with us.