Located in Indianapolis, Indiana, Butler University is home to a recording studies program that has seen impressive growth since 2003. With an average of 80 majors and minors working in the program at any given time, the school offers an incredibly wide range of industry-related courses for students to attend.
"Audio Production is only a portion of our curriculum," says BU Technical Services Coordinator Mark Harris. "The majority of our graduates work throughout the music industry in Publishing, Copyright Law, Artist Management, Ticketing, Promotions and Broadcasting."
Thanks to increased interest in the recording studies program, the BU staff began to realize that there was a need to makeover their existing studio. The school teamed together with Vintage King's EDU Department and Audio Consultant Chris Bolitho to bring in a new API 1608 console. Continue reading below to learn more about the studio upgrade at Butler through our recent conversation with Mark Harris.
What was the studio like prior to your recent upgrade?
We had converted a videotape library with some sound treatment, a 24 channel inline console and some second-hand monitors. It was good enough for us to grow into, but our equipment was showing its age and it was affecting the quality of the work our students were producing. We addressed the acoustics of the room with Gavin Haverstick of Haverstick Designs and then upgraded to an API 1608 console, Avid S3 & Pro Tools Dock, Ocean Way Audio HR3.5 studio monitors and a custom desk from Sound Construction.
Why did you decide to go with the API console?
We had three main criteria for the new console. It had to have superior sonics, it had to be intuitive with a short learning curve and it had to be well built and rugged enough to last a decade or longer in an educational environment that includes both classroom sessions, as well as full weekend-long tracking and mixing sessions. We asked a lot of professionals what they would buy given our budget and workflow and the response was overwhelmingly in API’s favor. The 1608 also gives us some future expandability options with their 500 series modules.
How have students taken to the new studio set-up?
Everyone who has worked or listened in the room so far has been impressed. The API combined with the Avid S3 and Dock give us a lot of flexibility in both tracking and mixing. The 1608's layout has really made it possible for our students to adapt to the console very quickly, so they can concentrate on making quality recordings and mixes. The upper-level level students who worked in the room prior to the renovations and upgrades can immediately tell the difference in the quality of their work and that’s ultimately what we were aiming for.
Talk about some of the other essential elements of the space. What was your gear selection process like?
About a third of our budget went into custom built acoustics designed by Gavin Haverstick of Haverstick Designs. We are very fortunate to have consulted with music retail veteran Richard Ash on what we wanted to do with the control room. We had upgraded our recording studio over the last five years and were ready to finish out the build by upgrading our control room equipment.
We submitted a capital request to the university which gave us the budget to carry out the plans, as well as address our acoustic issues in two spaces. Chris Bolitho and Vintage King were instrumental in helping us narrow down a wish list into a package that fit our budget and addressed all of our needs. Without their assistance, it would have been difficult to have addressed the monitor situation along with the console upgrade.
We wanted high quality, professional equipment that gave our students a variety of audio interface experiences. In addition to the main control room, we installed twin Slate Raven touchscreen interfaces in one project room and an SSL Nucleus in another. In the main room, the API along with the Ocean Way 3.5 monitors really gave us a professional quality control room. The custom designed desk from SCS really gives the room a functional arms-reach workflow and a high-end look.
What do you like most about working with the next generation of audio engineers?
I enjoy watching our majors grow through the learning process and getting to know them as people. Some of them enter our program with limited experience while others have been recording at home or doing live sound throughout high school. In their time at Butler, we get to see them find their niche in the music industry and grow a skillset that is based on their experiences here. It’s rewarding to see so many of them doing quality work throughout the industry.