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Berklee NYC Power Station Studios Turn to Allen & Heath for Monitoring

ME-1 personal monitor mixers at Power Station recording studios in New York City

The historic Power Station recording studios in New York City have been host to many legendary artists, such as Paul Simon, Bruce Springsteen, Tony Bennett, Lady Gaga, and David Bowie (to name a few). As part of a recent partnership with the renowned Berklee College of Music in 2017, the studios underwent a major renovation – featuring state-of-the-art equipment upgrades and studio redesigns. As a top-tier full-featured media production facility, the updated Power Station at Berklee NYC offers diverse media services, including high-end video capture, professional lighting, 360 cinematic VR, spatial audio, broadcast and live streaming.

“It’s an interesting hybrid,” noted Mark Rucci, Studio Technician and Audio Engineer at Power Station. “It’s a fully commercial studio, which now has an academic side to it as well.” Rucci explained that the revamped Power Station holds daily sessions for big names such as Amazon, Netflix, Hulu, Disney/Pixar and popular Broadway performers, as well as musicians who have the option of recording both audio and professional video of their studio performances.

As part of the studio upgrades, Rucci remarked that there was a need for an improved in-ear monitoring solution. “We had a custom analog system in place before, which was great – but it was limiting when recording some of the larger Broadway casts.” The team went through a few options before landing on Allen & Heath’s ME-1 personal monitor mixers. ME-1 offers 40 channels of mix inputs, as well as channel grouping, user presets, built-in ambient mic, and a dimmable OLED display with channel names. ME-1 mixers can also be added indefinitely to a system to suit the needs of large performance groups.

When asked how many ME-1 mixers the studio has in its inventory, Rucci admitted he’s lost count. “Somewhere between 80 and 100. When Berklee took over in 2017, the very first purchase that was made was two ME-Us and forty ME-1 Mixers.” The units are distributed between four large-format studios and one production room, as well as a live performance space. In order to interface with the various vintage analog mixers used in Power Station, intermediate matrix processors handle the analog-to-digital conversion. A Focusrite interface then manages the sample rate conversion before hitting an Allen & Heath ME-U distribution hub with a Dante module installed. The ME-U features ten PoE outputs that can both power and feed audio to the individual ME mixers.

Since Power Station studios often need more than ten monitor feeds, each ME-U feeds a large 48-port PoE switch to multiple wall outputs in the studio live rooms. The engineers can then use any of those connection points to connect the performers’ ME-1 mixers. Rucci recalls using between 60 and 70 ME-1 mixers simultaneously during one particularly large session. “We could theoretically use more, but it would get a bit crowded in the studio.”

When many ME-1s are in use, the studio team prepares the mixer configurations in advance using a unit in the control room, then transfers it to a USB drive for convenient copying to the various mixers that will be in use for the session. Rucci notes that the last key on each ME-1 is typically reserved for talkback. “We actually set it as a group of three inputs – since the actual control room talkback may be combined with a producer or conductor who needs to communicate with the performer from a remote location over the internet.” The performer can then adjust the overall talkback level, or the level of the individual mics within the talkback group. “We also made a ‘More Me’ group for our standard template – Button 8 is a group with Channel 8, and 25-40. This way every singer (or just about), or every horn player, has their own personal level. We just adjust which channel is turned up on the group at each mixer, and it makes things so easy. Everyone can get a truly personalized mix, with themselves as the featured sound.”

A studio assistant trains the performers on the ME-1 before each session, but Rucci notes that it’s very simple for artists to pick up. “It’s quite intuitive. You press the key, it lights up, and you use the encoder to adjust the level of each channel. The ME-1’s have also been a blessing when we are tying multiple studios together for larger groups and cast albums, just one cable and the other room has the same monitor feeds.”

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