Abbey Road Penthouse Studio (part 1)
Abbey Road's Penthouse was the first studio to have an AMS-Neve Capricorn digital mixing console installed. It was quite a novelty at the time, around five years ago, and the studio took a while to find its niche in the market since it wasn't initially clear exactly where the Capricorn's capabilities could be used to best commercial advantage.
Other than in having a digital mixing console, the Penthouse was a fairly conventional studio with a large recording area and small control room. The control room became even smaller when surround speakers were brought in, together with the number of people in attendance in the control room in a typical surround mixing session. It rapidly became clear that the recording area wasn't going to find a lot of use and it didn't justify the space that it took up, considering the relatively small size of the control room. Ultimately a rethink and rebuild was called for, which has now successfully taken place.
Walking into the new Penthouse, it is difficult to visualize how the old studio was set up, so much has changed - and definitely for the better. The new Penthouse is configured primarily as a surround mix room. There is a small recording area, that doubles very conveniently as a lounge (and has the feel of a lounge too). You can mix in stereo if you want, but surround mixing is now the principal activity and everything, including the upgraded and refurbished Capricorn, has slotted nicely into place. One question that might come to mind at an early stage is why a digital console needs to be refurbished, surely there isn't anything to wear out and degrade the signal path as there is in an analogue console? Certainly, a digital console such as the Capricorn is more resistant to wear and tear since the console itself only handles control signals and not audio, either in analogue or digital form. But switches in any application have a limited life span and the rotary encoders, although more robust than potentiometers, from time to time do need replacement. Also, technology moves on and there are better and more efficient ways of doing things, so the processor rack has received attention from AMS-Neve too. The result is a console that looks and sounds brand new, and is ergonomically improved by the new colored button caps rather than the old gray ones that engineers were sometimes known to highlight with a chinagraph pencil!
Also new is a surround monitoring panel which allows any of the common surround formats to be used. At present this operates in the analogue domain, and since it is purely for monitoring does not affect the recording directly, and, as the requirements of surround become more established, lessons learned will be applied in the design of a replacement digital panel in the not-too-distant future. By the way, I am sure you will find that the Capricorn has enough inputs for your needs. Will 120 be enough?