Audient caught up with Michael O’Dowd from the Technological University of the Shannon (TUS), Athlone Campus in Ireland, recently. He is programme lead for the B.Sc (Hons) in Music and Sound Engineering, a four-year honours degree programme which he teaches with the help of an ASP4816 mixing desk.
After establishing that the TUS Athlone campus was different from the TUS Moylish campus in Limerick – where they also have excellent taste in compact mixing consoles – we chatted about how the Audient desk is an integral part of his department. He starts off by describing the course content.
For some context, the B.Sc (Hons) in Music & Sound Engineering is a very unique programme on the Irish educational landscape which encompasses all aspects of sound engineering, instrument technology, and other creative professional development studies that are necessities for work in the creative industry.
ASP4816: “the most wonderful learning and teaching tool”
Our programme consists of three academic pillars that work together in harmony to give each of our graduates the best possible outcome for their professional career in the creative industry:
Pillar 1 – Sound Engineering: Recording Studio Sound, Live Sound, Music Production, Sound for Film & TV, Video Game Audio, Audio Programming, Radio Broadcast, Podcasting, and Foley.
Pillar 2 – Instrument Technology: Woodworking Basics, Mandolin Build, Acoustic Guitar Build, Electric Guitar Build, Acoustic Treatment Builds, Digital Audio, Audio Electronics, and Interactive Audio.
Pillar 3 – Professional Development: Creative Industry Work Experience, Communications, Music Marketing, Entrepreneurship, Event Management, Website Creation, Photography, Videography, and Audio-Visual Composition.
This diversity aims to give graduates of our programmes a range of real skills and the flexibility required to work within a highly competitive creative industry.
We are very fortunate to have a brand new, state-of-the-art facility that comprises of two music labs with 17 PCs in each, a wonderful control room and live room, as well as a 3-storey stairwell that acts as a natural reverb chamber and a very large open atrium space where we can record choirs and orchestras.
All of our main spaces are multi-functional, i.e. each room is an independent recording room, mixing room, and lecture space, and all of the rooms are connected back through an extensive patchbay that is in turn connected to our ASP4816 console.
“we are set up sufficiently to appeal to commercial engineers to rent our facilities”
We have a good mic locker and a range of outboard for our students to use to get hands on with and enjoy, as well as using DAW based plug-ins. This outboard features the main styles of compression (FET, VCA, Vari-Mu, Optical, Diode Bridge), and equalisers (Parametric, Passive, Inductor, Graphic and Baxandall) through a range of price points, but the star of the show where our staff and students are concerned, is our ASP4816.
While we are primarily an educational provider, we are set up sufficiently to appeal to commercial engineers to rent our facilities after semesters have come to a close and our students are taking a well-deserved break. This also affords our students to get invaluable industry experience in assisting visiting engineers in real world projects.
How does the ASP4816 fit in?
Our ASP4816 is the heart of our recording studio and the main focus of our student’s education in sound engineering modules. These modules take in all manner of audio work e.g. working with bands for either live or multitrack recording sessions, mixing work, radio broadcast creation, sound design, electroacoustic composition, film & TV audio, video game audio, foley, voiceovers – you name it, our students work in it.
ASP4816: “one of the easiest decisions that we have ever had to make”
Tell us about the courses which utilise your ASP4816.
We have three full programmes and two separate add-on years here, with a Masters en route. These are:
Higher Certificate in Engineering in Music & Instrument Technology – 2 Years
B.Sc in Music & Sound Engineering – 3 Years
B.Sc in Music & Sound Engineering Add-on – 1 Year
B.Sc (Hons) in Music & Sound Engineering – 4 Years
B.Sc (Hons) in Music & Sound Engineering Add-on – 1 Year
How many students will get their hands on it over the year, approx?
We currently have 80 students which will grow to 120 students from next year on.
How did you hear about ASP4816?
The ASP4816 was recommended to us by quite a few commercial professional engineers and academics here in Ireland in respect of the compelling price point, excellent quality, and overall utility versus the other competition that have in-line console offerings. Honestly, it was one of the easiest decisions that we have ever had to make and half a decade later, we are still absolutely thrilled with the console.
What do you enjoy about your desk?
I love our ASP4816, in particular the logical layout and signal flow of the console. It really is the most wonderful learning and teaching tool.
“a sprinkling of the bus compressor really adds a gorgeous weight and glue to any mix we run through the console”
Not only does the console sound great, we find that our first-year students get to grips with the basic operation of the console very quickly. Students in later years can also comfortably dive into more complex signal routing, incorporating outboard signal processing going to the DAW, as well as full analogue mixing. It just works for every situation we throw at it.
I think the Audient preamps are wonderful, the console EQ to be very sweet and musical sounding and a sprinkling of the bus compressor really adds a gorgeous weight and glue to any mix we run through the console.
What feedback have you had from other staff?
My colleagues are also saying the same thing in respect of the ASP4816 and its ease of use and overall utility as a learning and teaching tool. It has just about everything that they are looking for from a console – preamps, EQ, bus comp, routing, flexibility…all amazing!
“It has just about everything that they are looking for from a console”
What are students saying?
From Michael Cannon, one of our third-year B.Sc in Music and Sound Engineering students:
“What I love most about the console is how easy it is to use for all my project work. It doesn’t matter if I’m recording instruments, mixing tracks, or doing sound to picture work like foley or voiceovers, it has all the preamp gain I need, the EQ is great, and it’s simple to route in and out of ProTools…I’m looking forward to spending as much time as I can with console over the next couple of years.”
Was the desk’s arrival part of a larger upgrade of your music tech dept?
We have had our ASP4816 for the last five years, and at the time it represented a major upgrade on our older setup.
So far as my experience with working on consoles is concerned, I am of the opinion that the ASP4816 is as good as any of the other big-name offerings available on the market – you can spend an awful lot more money on this style of console that would invariably be just different than the ASP4816, but not better from an overall build quality or sonic point of view.
Are there any other Audient/EVO products you’ve got your eye on?
We will be looking to upgrade our ASP4816 to the new and totally beautiful ASP4816 Heritage Edition in the very near future! The main reason that we will look to upgrade are the new facilities that this console has i.e., the onboard headphone output, the new compressor meter, the added mix processing functionality, and even the new legends/descriptors on the EQ section.
How do you see the future of your programme?
We are at a very exciting point in our lifecycle as a programme and as a University. Having recently joined up with our friends and colleagues in Limerick to create the Technological University of the Shannon, Midlands Midwest, it feels like we all have the opportunity to plot and plan a very rich and vibrant future for our respective programmes that will only be limited by our ambition to create meaningful contributions to our students, the professional creative industry, and to the communities in our areas.
ASP4816: “as good as any of the other big-name offerings available”
Here at the TUS, Athlone Campus, we are currently writing a Masters programme that will be in situ for September 2023 and will be looking to grow our cohort on our undergraduate programme by taking in more first year students, as well as growing our international student cohort.
Due to our central location, the uniqueness of our programme and our facilities on the Irish educational and commercial landscape, we will look to solidify our position in the marketplace not only as an education destination, but also as an excellent option for commercial engineers to come and rent our space.
Ultimately, we are striving to build a community around our location of educators, students, professional audio engineers, and performers of every code and creed. Our ASP4816 will play an integral part of our development for years to come.
Where can we find you online?
You can find us at www.tus.ie and all the usual social media channels (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube & Instagram). Everyone is more than welcome to get in touch with me on firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange a visit to our facility, or to talk about gear!
This has been fascinating, Michael. Thank you so much for talking with us – we wish you and TUS every success in the future!