Tempe, Arizona, December 05, 2023 — The Conservatory of Recording Arts & Sciences (CRAS) in Arizona, one of the premier audio education institutions in the United States, installed two Solid State Logic ORIGIN 32-channel in-line analogue mixing consoles in July. The two new ORIGIN consoles are installed in Studio B at the main CRAS campus in Tempe and Studio B at the satellite campus in Gilbert, where students are first introduced to the signal flow and operation of large-format recording consoles.

“Students who enter our program have access to both consoles,” says Robert Brock, Director of Education at CRAS. “On any given day, we’re running the same class at both locations in parallel.”  

The two new ORIGINs have replaced a pair of 25-year-old consoles that were used by CRAS teaching staff to instruct students on the concepts of audio signal flow and the features and functionality of analogue consoles. With those two older consoles at the end of their serviceable life, it was time to replace them, he says. “We didn’t see any need to change the core concepts of the training, so it was just about what piece of equipment helps us illustrate those concepts well, that is new and that is going to be reliable.”

An SSL legacy at CRAS 

The staff did their due diligence, Brock continues, evaluating all the large-format analogue consoles currently on the market. Ultimately, having been teaching on four SSL consoles, two 4000 Series and two AWS 948s, in other rooms at CRAS for many years, they selected the newest large-format console from the manufacturer. “The ORIGIN sounds good; it’s a pro-level console,” he says. “It’s an SSL — whether it’s a small interface or a large-format console, SSL is not going to put out something that doesn’t sound great.”  

Everything revolves around signal flow at the school, Brock explains. “A core concept of CRAS on a technical level, when we’re training a student to be a professional, is to think in terms of signal flow more than anything else. If you can understand signal flow you can navigate your way through almost any situation. We’re big believers in teaching it from an analogue standpoint, because it’s easier to see, touch, grab and feel, which we have always felt is helpful for our students. They can visualize the signal flow even when they move into DAW-based environments.”

‘Knob per function’ ease of instruction 

Since the two new ORIGIN consoles were installed CRAS instructors have found that their jobs have become a little simpler, he reports. “The instructors that teach this console fundamentally feel it’s an easier console to teach. It allows us to get to the core concept of what we’re trying to teach relatively easily — easier than it was before. And we feel like the ORIGIN really allows us to get to those core concepts with little confusion.”  

SSL developed the ORIGIN for modern hybrid music production workflows, which is exactly what CRAS teaches. “We have Pro Tools in the rooms, and we have two-inch analogue tape machines,” Brock says. Students may not go on to work with tape machines after graduation. “But they’re going to be in DAW-based environments that mimic a lot of that, or even specifically emulate it, and they will have that mental library,” he says.  

In fact, there is a good chance that students might go on to work with an ORIGIN. While examples of the console model previously installed in the two rooms were few and far between in the industry, he comments, ORIGIN has become a popular choice at commercial studios as well as educational institutions worldwide. “Students may go and intern at a studio — because a requirement for graduation at CRAS is an internship — that’s running this specific console. So it’s nice to see ORIGIN’s install base,” Brock says.

Modern applications in the hybrid studio

At a quarter-century old, the previous consoles were also no longer representative of modern mixing desk design. “What’s nice about ORIGIN is that it is a modern desk,” he continues. “It’s a console that SSL obviously decided there was a market for because people are still using that more traditional workflow in tandem with modern DAWs. It allows us to teach and give students the opportunity to see a hybrid DAW/analogue workflow, which is what we were doing before in the rooms. So that’s another thing that we liked about the ORIGIN.”  

The traditional in-line analogue signal path of the previously installed consoles served an educational purpose. “It’s where students learned the small fader/large fader concept, routing, how to subgroup, how to build headphone cues — all these basic principles of mixing,” Brock says. He observes that ORIGIN’s fader, switch and knob layout perfectly demonstrates those same core concepts, just with slightly different, and easier to understand, terminology. For example, the legend on the ORIGIN input channel faceplate names the small fader (SF) and the large fader (LF), rather than referring to a fader or monitor channel or a track or mix pan, as the previous consoles did. “If we call something what it physically is by name, how you choose to use it is based upon how you set things up,” he says, “and that makes things simpler.”

CRAS has had sidecars fitted at each end of both ORIGINs that perfectly match the ORIGIN’s profile and offers integrated 19-inch rack space. “It was a total custom build. We had a guy come in and 3D-scan the side of the console. We teach the use of patchbays, so there is a patchbay in there, and we’re loading up some additional equipment into the sidecars, including 500 series modules,” Brock reports. “I also dig the flexibility of ORIGIN’s center section, where you can add equipment. We have plans to also load that up.”  

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