‘Student response to Drexel University’s Music Industry programme has grown exponentially since it was introduced in 2001,’ says Allen Sabinson, dean of Drexel’s Westphal College of Media Arts & Design. ‘We recognised the need to expand the recording, mixing, production facility to effectively support the two tracks of our popular Music Industry programmes Recording Arts & Music Production (RAMP) and Music Business.’

Drexel UniversityA global research university with over 24,000 students, Drexel University is one of America’s 15 largest private universities and ranks among the country’s top 100 institutes of higher learning. A US$4.5m fundraising campaign followed, allowing Drexel to engage the WSDG Walters-Storyk Design Group to design its 21st century audio production and education complex.

‘Our RAMP and Music Business programmes had achieved immediate success thanks largely to an exemplary faculty endowed with impressive music industry, arts, production and management experience,’ Dean Sabinson explains. ‘While our original studios met our initial needs, growth in enrolment and advances in technology required that we build a facility worthy of our ambitions. From the beginning, our cadre’s combination of real-world smarts and technical/creative skills inspired our early students to embrace the entrepreneurial requirements as well as the hands-on recording proficiencies essential for success in this field. WSDG founding partner, John Storyk, had guest lectured for our early classes. We were familiar with WSDG’s extensive educational facility credits, and the company was the obvious choice to create the new teaching/production studios.’

‘Drexel’s new One Drexel Plaza Building provided us with a superb blank canvas to create a teaching/production facility that would meet all their initial needs and provide the luxury of additional space for future expansion,’ says WSDG Partner and Project Manager, Romina Larregina. ‘In 2016, we developed a design programme that incorporated their flagship studio, which features a corner window from the student collaboration area with views into the main recording room. A postproduction control room, two Midi labs, a spacious student lounge and a unique archive suite. This state-of-the art facility, designed with the latest audio and video equipment, custom acoustic treatments and fully isolated environments provides students with the ultimate hands-on learning experience.’

‘The first critical listening course I taught in Studio 1 sounded absolutely beautiful. The low-end extension is very precise and the mids are really detailed. WSDG did a great job,’ reports Drexel Assistant Teaching Professor Music Industry Program, Ryan Schwabe.

Drexel UniversityFor mixing, Drexel turned to AVN Systems to provide a Rupert Neve Designs 5088 console, as well as all the equipment and integration services for the WSDG-designed flagship studios. The console is a 32-channel 5088, loaded with 24 Shelford 5052 mic preamp/EQ modules and fitted with Rupert Neve Designs’ proprietary SwiftMix automation.

‘We are all familiar with the quality and transformer-rich tone of classic Rupert Neve designed modules like the 1073, and we recently added some of Rupert Neve Designs’ 500-series 511 preamps to two of our existing recording studios,’ says Recording Studio Manager, Ryan Moys. ‘We were really impressed with the quality and character of the preamps and when it came time to pick a board, Rupert Neve Designs was an obvious first choice. We wanted a console that would provide fantastic preamps as a frontend, as well as a design that compliments the modern workflow that our students expect.

‘The extremely low noise floor was jaw-dropping at first listen,’ he adds. ‘The 5052 preamps sound a bit more transformer heavy than the 511 mic preamps – in a good way – but more modern and open compared to a classic like the 1073.’

‘The console imparts a great blend of transparency with a bit of transformer thickening that adds some size to any signal passed through it. The ability to add harmonic content via the Silk features makes the signal path extremely versatile. For mixing, the simple signal path, busing features, Stereo bus insert bypass, 5052 EQ and SwiftMix automation all combine to help make modern mixing effortless – the console sounds fantastic.’

‘The early success of Drexel’s Music Industry programmes was primarily faculty based,’ says Director/Associate Professor Music Industry, Jim Klein. ‘Our professors have substantial real-world credentials, hit records and business accomplishments. They’re dedicated teachers and committed to preparing next generation pros for an industry that constantly morphs through warp speed changes in production technology, music styles and distribution formats. From day one, our students revealed a passion for the industry and an appreciation for the knowledge we share with them. Our new facility is designed to immerse them in a literal rather than a virtual environment.’

Drexel UniversityAssociate Professor Toby Seay points to the Drexel Audio Archives as a key example of the studio’s ability to combine ‘old-school’ chops with ‘new-world’ realities. In 2003, when Sigma Sound Philadelphia’s landmark recording studio closed its doors, Drexel was entrusted with the studio’s 35-year multi-format (quarter-inch mono to 2-inch multitrack) tape library. This priceless collection of more than 6,000 master tapes is now housed within the One Drexel Plaza archive, and is available to aid students in learning the art of multi-track mixing, and preservation practices.

‘Drexel does not own the copyright to these master tapes and we cannot exploit them for gain,’ Seay says. ‘But, they represent an irreplaceable font of recordings in every conceivable style, rock to pop to soul to the inimitable Sigma Sound itself, and they afford our students the opportunity to learn from the best of the best.’

‘I have been designing recording studios for nearly 50 years, and have had a lifelong commitment to audio, acoustic and architectural education,’ says WSDG Founding Partner, John Storyk. ‘Lecturing at schools, colleges and universities throughout my career, and speaking with students and educators in the US, Europe and South America, has tremendously enriched my own education. I learn something new almost everywhere I speak. Questions from sharp young students and tenured professors alike have deeply informed my design thinking. We always welcome the opportunity to help create teaching facilities like this new Drexel complex. It’s a privilege to apply our skills to creating studios dedicated to training tomorrow’s engineers, producers, recording artists, studio owners, educators and potential clients.’

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