Recently, Vintage King Audio Consultant James Good helped outfit Belmont University in Nashville with not one, but two Solid State Logic Origin consoles—one in Studio B of the Belmont-owned Ocean Way Nashville, and the other in Robert E. Mulloy Student Studios, located on Belmont’s main campus.
The Origin has garnered quite a bit of praise in the small amount of time on the market, so we sat down to get the scoop from Michael Janas (Belmont’s Chair of Audio Technology) and Patrick McMakin (Director Of Operations, Ocean Way Nashville). Continue reading to find out how these new consoles have helped streamline sessions and give students the skills they need to succeed in the studio.
What made you choose the SSL Origin over some of the other consoles on the market?
Michael: We looked at several different options in a few different price ranges, from options that were well under $50,000 to those that were about the same footprint with a much higher price point. Our big consideration was, “What do we want the students to learn on? What would transfer skills best to the way records are made now?” The hybrid workflow is what’s typical now and we wanted a console that would fit into that process. Of course, we also wanted to choose something that students were likely to work on again, like an SSL. Other consoles we’ve had were fine, but they’re not as indicative of what’s on the market now. With an inline console like the SSL, your DAW signal path mimics the same path that the desk follows. We find that students transfer that knowledge very well using an inline console.
We looked at a lot of console options and I began talking with James Good at Vintage King, who mentioned that SSL had just released the Origin console, which he thought we’d be interested in. I started reading all about it during AES that Fall. James was able to set us up with a demo console in town and I brought a couple of projects to work on. Joe Baldridge went over and we both came to the same conclusion: it was so flexible. This was the desk we wanted.
How do you feel your workflow has changed with the new installations?
Michael: Using the SSL Origin is so much more efficient than some of the previous consoles we had installed. Additionally, some of the parts needed to maintain our previous desks are no longer made. The search for replacement parts became a problem. We didn’t want to be in the parts business. The heat factor has gone down as well. Of course, having both the bus compressor and the listen mic compressor at our disposal has been great, too. The students have responded very well to the way it integrates—SSL got it right with the Origin.
Pat: Our previous console had reached the end of its serviceable life, so we’re more than happy that maintenance issues have been reduced. The new gear is more reliable as well, which is important when you’re serving as part of a school whose studios are so heavily booked.
What sort of outboard gear have you paired with the SSL Origin consoles?
Michael: On campus, we have a couple of different flavors of Neve preamps. We have one pair from the 8078 console and the other pair, we built from 1272 modules. What was really surprising to me was how close our SSL sounds to the Millennia preamps we have. I was impressed by how comparable they sounded. We’ve also got some Sphere preamps, which are slower. We have an MCI channel around here too that has a great color to it. I’m really pleased that the sound of the SSL preamp was complimentary to the other preamps we have.
Were there any particular challenges during the installation process?
Michael: Honestly, we were staring at the previous patch bays for twelve years, so learning the patching has been the only challenge. It took a little while to get used to the communications section, but it wasn’t too bad.
Pat: We had to spend a little time learning the desk; learning how to get around on it and what our workflow should be; learning what the eight master faders can and can’t do. Little things of that nature. We wish it had remote talkback accommodations, that’s really about it.
You’ve had a bit of time since the installation to familiarize yourselves with the Origin. What’s one thing that stands out to you about the desk?
Michael: I can’t say it enough how much we enjoy working with the EQs. They really stand out to me. It’s so easy to use and it feels like you’re not using as much EQ. The efficiency of the signal flow and the way it integrates with the DAW is ultimately our favorite part. Lastly, it just sounds like an SSL.
Pat: I think the footprint is great, too. And I think SSL nailed what they were going for with this desk—something that’s a good representation of what the recording market wants right now.
How do you think students overall will benefit from the installation of the new desk?
Michael: We no longer have to teach idiosyncrasies of nuanced consoles. We can teach students workflows that they’d be utilizing in modern studios. We really feel that of all the options, this console fits the hybrid workflow best. The other thing is that, if you have students learning on much older consoles, they probably won’t see or work with them much again. Of course, with an SSL, learning the signal flow comes in handy because they’ll probably work on one again. With the inline console, students look at this and use it the same way they’d use the Mix Window in Pro Tools.
Pat: By having the same model console the students will see in other studios, we simplify the learning process. Now, students learn the console once and then go deeper into the recording arts and principles. By virtue of the way we interface with this console, I think it lends itself well to a DAW-based workflow. In past tech, consoles were set up for tape machines. Now, this console feels like it was designed to work with a DAW. Finally, the number one thing is they won’t have to use toothpicks anymore to keep the buttons down.