Meeting held June 5, 2007 at the Art Institute of Seattle
Section Chair Dan Mortensen opens the meeting.
Phil Nickolay, Virtual Earth Professional Audio, begins his presentation.
Phil removes a channel module to illustrate a point.
The PNW Section June 07 meeting featured an in-depth look inside a typical large-format mixing console along with maintenance and repair strategies. The presenter was Phil Nickolay, a former employee of both Neve and Solid State Logic (SSL) and now an independent console consultant with his Virtual Earth Professional Audio company based in Vashon, WA. The meeting was held at the Art Institute of Seattle in their Studio A, with its SSL G+ series console as the guinea pig.
Chair Dan Mortensen conducted introductions of the 39 attendees and a drawing for a copy of "Recording the Beatles" from those turned away from that meeting (won by Steve Goegebuer). Committeeperson JJ Johnston conducted the annual Section election. The slate had been presented last month, and after a quorum of exactly 15 AES members was counted, and no calls for write in candidates, the slate was approved by acclamation.
Attendees squeezed into the control room around the SSL, and a video camera provided close up views to all.
Phil Nickolay is originally from London, England, and after his technical education worked for Neve for 4 years, SSL for 13 years, and the last 10 years as an independent console consultant, mostly in Los Angeles.
He began with an insider's view of the history of these fabled UK console (desk) manufacturers. Starting with Rupert Neve and Co Ltd.'s first custom vacuum tube mixers in 1961, he described the progression of their models and their details. Phil joined Neve in 1979, about the time they were working on their radically redesigned 81 series.
Phil left Neve in 1984 to join their arch competitor Solid State Logic. His insights into the two companies contrasting histories and characters were illustrated by amusing stories. Neve began at a time when sound engineers wore white lab coats and broadcast business was king. He characterized the company as more staid and respectable, like their annual Christmas staff event held at King's College in Cambridge. It started with a sherry reception, then a formal dinner and speeches.
SSL, in comparison, had a more freewheeling rock 'n roll personality, as evidenced by Phil's first SSL Christmas event, which ended in an epic food fight. SSL at the time was Europe's fastest growing company and was winning many awards and high profile customers. He recounted when the Neve/SSL rivalry was tweeked when Neve once recruited near SSL, and SSL sent two busloads of SSL employees to the Neve recruitment - who were not so amused.
Phil covered the history of SSL starting in 1969 with founder, the late Colin Sanders, making church organ systems. The organ spinoff, Solid State Organ Systems, operates today from Virginia. SSL began making consoles in 1977 with the innovative SSL 4000. He described the SSL evolution of B Series, E series, Total Recall , G Series, G+, 9000J and K, and finally the latest AWS 900+. He did not cover their digital range.
Next came an overview of the SSL Master Studio System, including the console, computer, disc drives and power supplies. There are several variants of the general system for video and broadcast production, as well as evolutionary changes. He described the options such as the fader automation and "Total Recall" computerized setting of the controls.
After a refreshment break, door prizes were awarded. water bottle - Rick Fisher T-shirt - Dave Franzwa cap - Ken Meyer golf towel - Ed Gruse
CDs from Starbucks Hear Music - Bob Gudgel, Steve Wilkins, Charles Oxley, Doug Hayman, Gary Louie
Landscape photo enlargement from JJ Johnston - Andy Heye
Fluke adapter set from Fluke/Rick Rodriguez - Joe Glisso Fluke electrical tester - Jim Markovich
After the break, console architecture was described, with the console at hand partially disassembled for examination. Phil said the design was generally straightforward and easy to service, which helps account for their popularity. The channel modules, voltage controlled amplifier (VCA) fader system, bussing and grounding, master section, metering, patchbay and power supplies were all discussed in detail.
The computer came under scrutiny, notable for its quaint antiquity and nostalgic floppy discs. It resides in its own closet.
Lastly Phil went over routine service procedures such as cleaning, switch exercising, calibration and performance tips. He recommended the Caig products for contact cleaning and lubrication, and listed some familiar studio "don'ts" that help, such as no smoking, no burning of incense/candles, no food or drink, and no spray products in the vicinity. He showed some of his recommended tool kit.
Reported by Gary Louie, AES PNE Section Secretary
Last modified 10/15/2007.