Blackbird Studio owner John McBride brought in industry gear experts, musicians, and educators Kevin Becka and Mark Rubel to create a new studio and curriculum for his vision of The Blackbird Academy – Professional School of Audio. Becka chose Dangerous Music equipment for the new studio, including the company's 2-Bus analog summing, the Liaison programmable analog router, the BAX EQ, and the Monitor ST monitor controller to complement and integrate with the Avid Pro Tools HDX recording system.
"Dangerous Music came to mind for three reasons: first, they were the first to adopt the summing model, second was their design philosophy and third was the build quality,” said Becka. “They keep the gear out of the way – the audio path is transparent and all analog relay-switched, which preserves the tonal quality of the gear that you're putting at the front end: pre-amps, outboard gear, and microphones. This is a true professional environment, and one that will be reliable over the long haul.
"We have a sizeable Pro Tools|HD rig with the HDX card wired for 48-channels, but we are starting with 32 ins and 32 outs. I figured linking two 16-channel Dangerous 2-Bus summing systems would do the trick. The patch bay, created by Mike Rhodes of SkinnyFish Studio Services, is set up for mixing with Pro Tools normalled to the 32 channels of Dangerous 2-Bus, but we can reconfigure the inputs easily for tracking.
"We have the Dangerous Monitor ST, and while right now we're not in surround, that room has potential for expansion. All we'd have to do is buy the SR surround 1RU expansion option for the Monitor ST, so it's future-proof."
Becka also outfitted the new Studio I at The Blackbird Academy with the Dangerous Liaison programmable analog router. "The Liaison gives us the ability to patch different pieces of gear into a chain and then swap the order around, take a piece of gear in and out, and A-B it.
"Part of what we're going to teach at The Blackbird Academy is what we call Ears On challenges," said Becka. "The students are going to be able to hear and compare plugins modelled on a piece of gear versus the actual piece of gear – like a Fairchild – that we actually have at the studio. They will also listen to and compare the differences between microphones, for example a company's attempt to make a microphone that sounds like a Neumann U47, versus a real U47. There are many opportunities to do these Ears On challenges, and the Dangerous Liaison will make this possible and instructive for the students.
"The other piece of gear from Dangerous I love is the BAX EQ," said Becka. "Because of what it lets you do on the filtering end, taking out frequencies at the extreme ends of the spectrum and giving yourself more headroom. And also to put that really nice smile on a mix, where you're just boosting the low-end and boosting the high-end. We're also teaching a little bit of mastering, and the BAX EQ takes us into the mastering realm – there has to be a little bit of a finish on your final mix, and the BAX EQ is a really simple and great-sounding way to do that."
"Being associated with Mix, Pro Audio Review, and Audio Media magazines over the last 15 years, I've seen the changes in the industry – how it's evolved with the monolithic studio model and desktop model running in parallel. We teach both models here at Blackbird. In building this curriculum for The Blackbird Academy, we decided to incorporate both workflows because that's what students are going to see, that's the reality of production now."