The esteemed Musicians Institute in Hollywood, California has a brand new tool for its incoming students: a 16-channel 5088 console. Jonathan Newkirk, MI’s Program Chair for Audio Engineering, recently sat down with us for an interview in Los Angeles.
What is your background, your role with MI, and how long have you been with the school?
I have been in the audio industry for over 14 years, with my start on a Studer 24 track 2” tape machine and a Trident 80B back in 1994. Over the course of 5 years, I was the chief engineer at a local recording studio called Music Box Studios. I engineered for artists like Carmine Appice, Roger Daltry, SST Records, Slash, Dishwalla, Epitaph Records, and Sanctuary Records. Then in 1999, I purchased the studio, rebuilt it and renamed it to Studio Atlantis. During its 10 years of operation, we had just about every major urban act come through the doors – from Snoop Dog, to Chris Brown, to Ludacris to Janet Jackson. In 2009, I sold the studio to Michael Jackson’s former producer, Rodney Jerkins, and then ran Power Chord Academy, a nation-wide summer rock-n-roll camp for teenage musicians, for 2 years. Afterwards I got an Executive MBA at the University of Southern California, and was then picked up by Musicians Institute to be the Program Chair of Audio Engineering. My role is to ensure that the school has the latest state-of-the-art equipment for the students, and that their education prepares them for the real world of audio engineering, whether that is for music, post, or live sound. I’ve been with Musicians Institute for just over a year.
Tell us a bit about the studio in which the 5088 has been integrated – what is its purpose, and how is it run?
The RND 5088 is located in our Studio D, and its primary purpose is to teach new students the basics of console operations. This includes signal flow, channel strip operation, and recording into a DAW, as well as the having students understand the process of basic tracking, overdubs and mixing. In a typical week, students spend lecture time understanding the theory of the console, and then spend lab time putting the theory into practice. In addition, students have the ability to book studio time when the room is open. When booked, they can record their friends’ bands, other MI musicians or just themselves. All of this gives the students a lot of hands-on experience on the Neve.
What made you specifically choose the 5088 console for the school, and why did you configure it the way you did? Are there plans to expand it further?
We chose the Neve primarily because of the Neve brand and because it is one of the best-sounding analog consoles on the market – also, we wanted a console that was durable and easy to use. Since most of our students have never seen a console, we wanted to make sure they were taught on a board that could carry them through the learning process. Thus, no crazy computer systems, moving faders, or complicated signal paths. Lastly, we picked the Neve to help round out our console portfolio. Currently we have an API 1608, Euphonix Fusion S5, SSL Duality, Yamaha M7CL, and an Avid Icon. The Neve was the missing piece to the puzzle. The board is currently 16 channels, but we plan to add another 16-channel bucket when we build a new studio for the Neve next year. When we do, I also plan to add a slew of new penthouse modules.
Tell us a bit about the installation process, and how the 5088 was integrated.
Westlake Pro in North Hollywood was our contact for this purchase and install, and they helped make it quick and easy. Prior to the Neve, we had a custom built 16 channel SSL G+ in the room. Decommissioning this console and transporting it away took about 2 days. The frame set-up and console “drop” for the Neve took a day, then there was about four days’ worth of wiring. All in all, we were up and running in about a week.
Is there anything in particular you’d like to share about the studio, or the console? Favorite aspects, thoughts on Rupert Neve’s latest equipment, etc.?
The Neve brand transcends itself and we are very happy to have a Rupert Neve Designs 5088 here at Musicians Institute. The console itself is built so well, so simple to use and sounds so wonderful, it is truly in a class by itself. If anyone knows how to build consoles, it’s Rupert, and it’s no wonder that this console, with its discrete op-amp cards, Class A circuitry, and transformers, is an excellent product.
For more information on the 5088 console, click here.
For more information on Musicians Institute, click here.
For more information on Westlake Pro, click here.