Solid State Logic AWS Console Goes RVing With Mobile Sessions Studio
February 27, 2020 PSW Staff PSW Staff
“We were thinking about ways we could give artists, producers, and songwriters new and different inspiration by bringing them outside of their usual environment, and we thought what better way to achieve that than with a studio that can literally take you wherever you want to go.” – Christine Hufenbecher
In early 2018, mix and recording engineer Kenny Moran and music manager Christine Hufenbecher teamed up on a unique venture, converting a Class C RV into a professional-grade roving studio –incorporating a Solid State Logic(SSL) AWS 900+ SE console — that could go wherever inspiration might take them and their clients.
Hufenbecher, who has managed writers and producers that have written for major artists like Justin Bieber, Dr Dre, Jason Derulo, Nicki Minaj, Selena Gomez and others, came up with the initial mobile studio idea based on how she observed the daily creative writing process.
“We were thinking about ways we could give artists, producers, and songwriters new and different inspiration by bringing them outside of their usual environment, and we thought what better way to achieve that than with a studio that can literally take you wherever you want to go,” explains Hufenbecher.
Moran and Hufenbecher’s vision for their Mobile Sessions studio went beyond that of an everyday portable recording environment — they envisioned a “big studio experience” on wheels that could serve multiple in studio and live recording purposes.
Moran and Hufenbecher spent nine months designing and outfitting the RV. “We wanted people to walk in and immediately feel like they’re in a studio rather than an RV,” says Hufenbecher, That experience begins with the look of Mobile Sessions’s RV interior that provides a clean, modern aesthetic that mixes earthy tones with clean lines and leather seating in recalling the familiar look of big studio rooms.
The AWS 900+ SE was the first piece of audio gear specified. “As an engineer I really grew up on SSL consoles, so the idea of getting one for the RV came up right at the beginning,” says Moran, who has worked with artists like Earth, Wind & Fire, Chaka Kahn, JLo, Carly Rae Jepson and Theron “Neff-U” Feemster in his career as a recording and mix engineer. “We also knew we wanted to maintain the echelon of clients that Christine and I have been accustomed to working with over the years, which includes a number of serious hitmakers who expect to see the level of quality that SSL provides when they walk in the studio door.”
With space at a premium, the duo sought the sound and performance of an SSL console in a compact and power-efficient package. “Fully operational, the whole studio uses only 9.6 amps, due in no small part to the efficiency of the AWS console and our custom power design,” Moran says. “We can run the whole studio with the exception of AC off of a single bedroom outlet.” The studio can also operate fully on generator power or from the RV’s auxiliary batteries if needed.”
The light weight of the console also helps: “Console included, we only added 600 pounds to the RV in total, which is amazing and really key for fuel efficiency.”
Moran wired a 500-point patchbay to work with the console’s connectivity options. A pair of Antelope Audio Orion 32HD interfaces provide the I/O he needed, and a pair of Dynaudio LYD 48 monitors completed his core mix environment. They then outfitted the studio with a selection of outboard gear, musical instruments, and DAWs as requested by their network of clients.
Moran utilizes the AWS’s stereo returns as eight additional channels for 32 channels of input during mixing. He also employs the external A and external B inputs to keep his selection of vintage and modern synths, drum machines, and other instruments wired and ready for use. “The console’s totally maxed out input-wise so that when you walk in and the console goes on, all the keyboards are live,” he says.Read MoreGroup One Ltd Named Exclusive North American Partner For Solid State Logic
Moran relies on the tactile mixing experience provided by the AWS’s faders. “I love working with faders on a console,” he explains. “Even if I’m working in the DAW I’m not one to sit there drawing in automation with a mouse, it’s much quicker for me to just grab the fader and do it. I’ll just put the AWS into DAW control and write my automation that way. I’ll typically start at -10 dB on the analog side with the DAW coming in, which leaves me with plenty of headroom.
The flexibility of the analog EQ section has also proved valuable for Moran in the mix and a big part of the sound of the console. “It’s great having access to SSL EQs across all 24 channels on the AWS, especially with the switchable curve types,” he notes. “The G EQ curves are my go-to for that familiar J Series experience that I’m used to, but I love that I can switch over to the E EQ curve on any given track with the push of a button as I see fit.
The console is configured for Moran’s personal workflow, but it also easily accommodates guest engineers and producers. “All of the major clients that Christine works with, which include some of the industry’s biggest producers, work on their laptops,” Moran says. “Then, when they’re ready to take the music to the next level by recording a vocal or live instruments, they move to a console to get that part done. The way we wired the studio, an artist or producer can connect their own laptop to the entire system with one USB cable and one Ethernet cable. No file transfers or anything, and you have full control of the SSL. So that’s a big deal because it’s not something you can do easily at any other studio in LA.”
In addition to hosting artists and producers in-studio, Mobile Sessions is designed to bring the capabilities of the AWS 900+ SE to live recording environments. “We recently worked out the record path for Earth, Wind and Fire with a live orchestra at the Hollywood Bowl,” Moran says. “Working with Earth Wind & Fire front of house engineer Terry “TJ” Jackson and Monitor engineer Terrence Chism, we looked at routing all of the band’s vocal mics and instruments directly into the SSL, while grabbing audience inputs and orchestra mics via Dante from FoH and Madi from monitor world.
“We came up with a 108-channel input list of analog, Dante and MADI signals all coming into the studio matrix with redundant dual systems recording ALL channels,” he continues. “Even the major broadcast trucks don’t have an analog circuit path. They’ve got everything coming in digitally from FoH, where we’re able to take all of our key elements direct to console so that we can control the preamps like you would on a studio recording. So it’s an audio-first approach that’s pretty unique and delivers a superior sonic result.”
Mobile Sessions has also become a popular festival attraction for big name musicians and producers. “It’s like a playground for every musician that walks in here,” Hufenbecher says. “The first reaction to the lounge area is ‘this is a vibe’ — and then they walk back to the studio and they see the AWS console and they’re completely blown away.”Read MoreSolid State Logic Previewing New ORIGIN Analog Studio Console