A Conversation With Conversion Studios

10th Oktober 2016

Conversion Studios, Dorset

A Conversation With Conversion Studios

Posted on Posted in Blog

Way back in the annals of time, Owen Thomas of Conversion Studios made the brave decision to invest in what was then an unknown brand: Audient. His new analogue desk – only the second ASP8024 ever to be made –  was installed personally by company founders and console designers, David Dearden & Gareth Davies. Certainly a formative time for both Audient and Conversion Studios.

Fast forward seventeen years and the desk continues to serve Thomas, whose own career has grown and developed as time has progressed, thanks to a hard-working ethos coupled with a positive outlook.

Audient caught up with him to find out where he’s at seventeen years on, and make sure he’s still a satisfied customer. (Spoiler – it’s good news.)

 

We’re so pleased to hear that as one of the earliest users of the ASP8024, you’re still happy with your choice of desk.

Very much so, love the board yes, and it’s fantastic to see how Audient products and company have evolved since my early investment in the ASP8024. At that time despite being told wonderful things about the desk, the company was very much in its infancy, and it was a little leap of faith based on the history and popularity of DDA that Audient would be around in the coming years should we need maintenance. Now, not only is Audient still around, it’s flourishing, AND (touch wood) the board has barely needed any maintenance.

 

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In seventeen years, the ASP8024 „…has barely needed any maintenance.“

 

Do you remember what your reasons for choosing Audient were originally? Was your studio brand new at the time, or were you replacing another desk?

There were indeed many reasons for choosing Audient, although I would have to say the primary being bang for buck. Conversion Studios was also just starting out, and I recall at the time being torn between the digital route of a couple of the Yamaha O2R’s, which I’d had some experience working with, but found not to be as fast and intuitive – especially when you’re tracking lots of live bands. There’s nothing quite like having the full array of EQ’s lined at your finger tips and not constantly having to flick through on-screen menus.

 

„There’s nothing quite like having the full array of EQ’s lined at your finger tips“

 

Analogue being a preference, space was another issue, trying to maximise the control room space benefited greatly having the Inline architecture. Lastly, maintenance. This can get costly with large format console, but with the Audient being constructed in modules (as opposed to channel strips) the occasion that we did need some pots replaced and some metering re-calibrated, we simply lifted the module out – took it to the lovely engineers at the Audient warehouse, where we were given a temporary replacement to drop in, and be back rolling that same afternoon. That is of course if the lovely pubs of Hampshire weren’t too distracting on the return 🙂

If I recall correctly it was 1999. There were a couple teething issues, and understandably so, as this was the second Audient console ever made – the first landing on Ian Broudie’s barge. Gareth and David did indeed come down, got their hands dirty and spent a few hours with the ol‘ soldering iron.

Conversion_Dub Room  PianoEdit8 (1)  The Chamber_0236

 

Tell us a bit more about Conversion Studios.

Conversion Studios, as the name might imply, is actually old converted farm barns. The studio footprint has somewhat remained the same over the years, but we have expanded the accommodation. It’s a fantastic place to lock yourself away and stay for a few weeks. If/when the weather is good, as I always say, there’s no place quite like Dorset.

Conversion is very much a boutique studio, very relaxed and welcoming. We have two live tracking rooms, one with a fantastic high vaulted ceiling and lots of natural light, and home to our rather grand Yamaha piano. Conversion’s control room is still home to the IZ Radar, which is also a fantastic tracking machine, stability like no other, it’s an absolute workhorse that has never failed us. A lot of our clients love the converters on that and even when tracking into ProTools or Logic, will still run through the IZ converters.

 

How have things changed since the ASP8024 was first installed? How have you – and your ASP8024 – handled the changes in technology over the years?  Are there particular features of the desk that have stood out to you?

The ASP8024 is still the centrepiece of the studio and very much in action.

The console frame is 4 bays, 2 x 12 channel modules, master module and a blank/expansion bay – where originally the Radar sat comfortably. As time progressed – as did the use of computers – we became frustrated having the computer monitor off to the side of the desk (and not wanting to block the sight line to live room), so we shifted the Radar and utilised the blank bay to integrate the computer monitor.

I think my hands-down favourite feature of the board is the bus compressor. Subtle or slammin‘, it’s pure glory.

 

Conversion Studios, Dorset
ASP8024 at Conversion Studios, Dorset

 

Describe the setup there. Have you got any other Audient products in your arsenal? (If not, why not?)

Sitting around the Audient, we have the IZ Radar, and an array of outboard, pre’s, compressors, some old tape delays and space echo’s – that sadly don’t get used nearly enough now.

Hmmm, we don’t have any other Audient products right now. I mean, what am I missing that we don’t have in the ASP8024 board? [Good point – Audient] Please enlighten me and I’ll let the ASP8024 know to expect a lovely anniversary gift from you 🙂

 

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What are your proudest moments to date?

Keeping the studio alive and functioning in this challenging industry. We’ve witnessed many commercial studios’ doors close since starting Conversion; it’s been far from smooth sailing, but we’ve trekked through.

 

I think my hands-down favourite feature of the board is the bus compressor. Subtle or slammin‘, it’s pure glory.

 

Who is your biggest inspiration?

Musically, I draw inspiration from every single person I work with. That really is the joyous part of the creative industry, the meeting of minds, and as a writer/producer, I have the pleasure of this pretty much on a daily basis.

 

 What/who are you working on/with at the moment? Anything big/exciting/interesting coming up?

I actually have a very exciting project at the moment with an emerging artist called Samuel Jack. Incredible guy, incredible voice, and right now is starting to get the recognition he so deserves. Also a very close friend, we’ve been working together quite intensively for the past couple of years, over which time he’s evolved immensely as an artist and only now starting with releases. I can assure you will be hearing and seeing lots more of SJ over the next year 🙂

Aside from this, my projects are heavily US based, with a lot of songwriting and production, and involvement with the sync world of TV/film and visual productions. Myself and co-writer Lily-May Young have a production house called T.Y Songs; our songs & music have featured in over 200 TV shows, feature films, trailers and commercials.

As work takes me Stateside often, I have an amazing studio manager/engineer Josh Parker who is on the ground taking good care of people at Conversion.

 

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What are the challenges facing Conversion now and going forward? How would you describe the future of Conversion Studios?

I’m actually quite relaxed about the future of Conversion. Primarily because I’m immersed in so many projects that when I’m in the UK I’m flat out in there. Josh is now picking up his own personal roster of clients and I have another local engineer using the space more and more. We have a solid core of returning clients. We have noticed more writing retreats / songwriting camps coming down to stay/write/record. For right now we’re just rolling with it, we’ll continue to embrace change, and who knows what the future may bring.

 

Oh, and as an aside.. what do you think of the brand new ASP8024-HE launched earlier this year? Do let us know if you might be upgrading any time soon…

Ahh, ok perfect, I was struggling to think but since you offer, that sounds like a wonderful anniversary gift for the ASP8024. And jumping back to the previous question – maybe the future brings a second control room..?  😉

The ASP8024-HE looks stunning.

 

Owen, it’s been a pleasure – thanks so much for taking the time to chat with us!

 

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