Since 1992, the Commercial Music program at Sacramento City College has grown to offer students in-depth training on analog and digital gear. While the program advanced over the years, the studio had not. When Kirt Shearer came on-board as the program's Director in 2016, he saw that there was a need for an immediate renovation.
"I'm not going to lie, necessity," Shearer says of the reason for a studio upgrade. "We had an Otari 54 from 1992 that was just at the end of its life. Plus, the overall facility just had not quite kept pace with trends and technology, so it was very much time for an upgrade."
For SCC's sonic update, Shearer reached out to Vintage King's Chris Bolitho. Together, they put together a dream list of gear centered around an Audient ASP8024 Heritage Edition console and built out an immaculate recording space. In the time since the console's installation, student enrollment in the program has gone up over 50%.
Continue on below to read an interview that we did with Kirt Shearer and learn more about the studio install, the benefits of an Audient console and Kirt's views on why its important for students to be knowledgeable in both analog and digital.
How important is it to you that students learn how to use both analog and digital gear in the studio?
Extremely important. First of all, I feel that analog equipment is crucial to teach new students about signal flow, routing, and gain staging. Second, it's important for them to have experience on the actual piece of hardware that the plug-in is emulating. Third, they need to have knowledge of hardware including tape, so that they have more value in the work environment. Lastly, I think it's important to understand the evolution of recording to appreciate where we are now in regards to tools and practices.
What drew you to the Audient console?
There just simply isn't much competition in this price range. In order to get the features and quality that the 8024 delivers, you literally have to double the price. I needed a full-featured analog desk that was capable of a real 24 track 2" analog session with adequate headphone mixes and aux sends, and I needed a moving fader controller as well. The 8024 offered absolutely everything.
Plus, I was really happy with the updates in the "HE" version. The 990 stereo buss along with the Carnhill transformers is just awesome. So much thought went into the routing and flexibility of the design as well. There just isn't anything comparable.
Did you try out other consoles or did you know this was the one?
I have a good amount of experience on many different consoles, including the main competitors to the 8024. I looked at a lot of features on many boards, but every time I tried to really design a desk into the facility, the 8024 was the only one that did everything we need.
How did you come to the final decision on this desk?
It just was the entire package. Class A preamps, overall features, and price.
What have your students thought of working on the Audient console?
The student response has been fantastic. I had set up a little "in the box" vs analog summing test on the console. The students were able to sit at the desk and instantly switch back and forth between the "box" mix and one that was spread out on the console. No one preferred the "in the box" mix. The students are excited about working on the console. In fact, I have students that want to re-take classes so they can spend more time on it!
What other pieces of gear did you pick up from Vintage King?
We have made a good deal of purchases through Vintage King. We updated our mic locker, as well as expanding our Pro Tools HDX systems, including control surfaces. We purchased a couple of Antelope Orion HD interfaces.
We also did some fairly heavy outboard gear purchases through Vintage King from API, Chandler Limited, IGS, TC Electronic, Bricasti, Vintech, Skibbe, Burl, Trident, Kush, Adam Audio and Barefoot Sound. This includes setting up two rooms for 5.1 mixing. We are likely to purchase a Mara Machines 24x 2" deck to replace our aging Mx-80.
The equipment choices came from my ongoing studio experience, as well as consulting various people in the industry. Also, Chris Bolitho was fantastic in helping to guide our direction
What's the advantage of attending a recording program like the one at SCC?
It's great that people who are just getting into music production have so many affordable tools these days, as compared to the past, with $50k tape machines and $100k consoles. The challenge is that often it means that not everyone has a real foundation in the concepts and techniques that make for great recordings and productions.
It's exciting for me to be able to teach students the disciplines and give them an understanding of why things work the way they do, and to see them "get it" and start to make great choices for their projects. It's great to see them move from "knob twiddlers" to disciplined engineers and be excited about it. This is a combination of art and science, and it's amazing when they start to fit it all together.