Blog Post #7— What do the historic studios have in their control rooms? (Part 2— The Consoles)
Though it has changed dramatically over time, from the 1950s to the early 2000s, every recording studio facility has had an analog console at its heart. Now digital audio workstations and control surfaces have changed that dynamic, especially in small commercial and home recording studio ventures. However, the major large-scale studios still have incredible analog consoles that are at the heart of their control rooms. Think of these consoles as the hub for achieving all of the work that occurs in the recording studio environment. While many of these recording studio facilities are historic, so are the consoles that are in many of their control rooms. In fact, the vast majority of the consoles that I examined— were built prior to 2002. A few of the consoles that are located in the control rooms of the major recording studio facilities— two of them— were built before 1975. Only a few of the consoles, thirteen of them, were digital consoles that were not built by one of the traditional console companies such as API, Neve, Trident or SSL, and only two of the consoles were older units that were built by another manufacturer. In this blog post, I am going to detail the consoles that these major facilities have in their control rooms— both the brands and the models of each one. (Throughout this blog post, I use the terms "console" and "desk," which are interchangeable-- but, it is to be noted that the term "console" in almost exclusively used in the USA, while the term "desk" is used much more often in the UK, which is where almost all of them have their actual historic point of origin.)
It may interest you, but very few of the consoles that are at the heart of the major recording facilities were made after 2002. In my analysis, there are 73 consoles in these facilities— 23 are Neve consoles (this count includes one console that was created by Rupert Neve Designs— a company established by Rupert Neve that is located in Wimberley, Texas, which is not too far from the Austin metro area), 22 are SSL consoles, while there are 8 API and 5 Trident consoles, respectively. Only two of the consoles— one MCI and one Otari console, were not produced by one of the major historic console manufacturers. It may surprise you, but many of the Neve consoles are 80-series desks which were first produced in 1976 (others were produced earlier, but most of the consoles in the survey are the 8068 or 8078 models from this period). In fact, the most popular of the older Neve console models is the 8078. Most of the SSL consoles were produced from 1979-2002, while only five of them were produced after that time. The most popular console in each of the facilities collectively is the SSL 4000G+. Both the Neve 8078 and the SSL 4000G+ are fabulous consoles that have been prized by recording studio engineers ever since they were produced. There are thirteen SSL 4000G+ console models in these incredible facilities— more than any other model of any console brand. Only one of the five Trident consoles was produced after the late 1980s— two of the consoles are Trident A-Range consoles which were produced in the early 1970s. It is interesting to note that each of the eight API consoles are units that have been recently produced by the company and purchased by the facilities. API is a company that has made a major dent in the large-format analog console market for the major large-scale recording studios— especially in the Nashville metro area. If we were to break it down by location, there are more SSL consoles in Austin and Los Angeles, but there are more digital consoles in the studio facilities in New York City. Each metro area has a number of Neve consoles in the major recording studio facilities. A console model can define the sound of a recording studio facility to a degree, so it can be said, for example, “(That) Nashville is an API town, and it has the unique API sound to its music.” Whereas, Austin, is a town that is quite well known for its great live music scene, and the great recording studio facilities there definitely lend an SSL bent to the music that originates from there.
While the vast majority of the consoles are much older models, these desks are incredibly large. The smallest one is a 48-channel desk. But, we have to remember that these facilities are also large and have sessions which require consoles that have to possess the ability to handle them. It appears that this trend may be changing as the most recent consoles that have been purchased have fewer inputs and there are a number of new digital consoles— all of them are control surfaces made by Avid. For example, it is the large-scale recording studio facilities where you will find popular music being tracked or recorded, but they are also where projects that include sound for both film and video games are being recorded— and, in some cases, these facilities have to be able to handle, not only string or choral ensembles, but, full-scale orchestras, as well. Recording a full-scale orchestra requires not just having a massive space, but also having a console that is capable of handling this type of work. Plus, film and video game companies are also mixing their projects in these facilities which may include a large number of voices or effects and this would also require a console with tremendous sound and capability, as well. And it should be noted, while the trend in popular music is moving toward digital audio workstations and control surfaces, the sound of an analog console is still highly prized by quite a few of the producers, engineers and even a number of the artists who are working with the popular music of today. In the next installment of this blog series, I will examine the microphone preamps that can be found in the major historic recording studio facilities. If you wish to check-out the great consoles or the digital audio control surfaces that were mentioned in this blog post, you can check them out at the studio websites which will be listed below and I will also include the websites for the major console manufacturers— API, Avid, Neve, SSL and Trident, too. Have a great day—
Major Console Manufacturing Company Website Links: