Among America’s most recognisable recording facilities, SugarHill Recording Studios in Houston, Texas, recently upgraded its Neve Genesys Black console with the installtion of a GenesysControl plug-in.

SugarHill Recording StudiosSugarHill opened its doors in 1941, when it was founded by Bill Quinn as Quinn Recording Studio. Renamed Gold Star Studio in 1950, it became SugarHill in 1972 when it was acquired, and once again renamed, by notorious producer Huey P Meaux. The studio is now owned by Stephen Finley, Fred ‘Bubba’ Hightower and Ryan Youngblood, collectively known as The Hightower Group.

Counting 80 years’ continuous business, the studio has seen the diverse likes of Lightnin’ Hopkins, the Big Bopper, Freddy Fender, Willie Nelson, Ray Price and Destiny’s Child pass through its doors. One of the reasons why SugarHill has succeeded where others have failed is because it pays attention to the calibre of its engineering staff and the sonic quality of its studios, a combination that ensures customers always have access to the best human skills and the highest quality equipment. This drove the facility to install its Neve Genesys Black console, which now has pride of place in SugarHill’s Goldstar room, built in 1964 and designed by Jack Clement who also designed Sun Recording Studios in Nashville, Tennessee.

Designed to future proof analogue workflows, the Neve GenesysControl plug-in provides the final link to total integration between Genesys and Genesys Black consoles and Digital Audio Workstations. With GenesysControlon board, it is possible to mix traditionally using the console, work in-the-box, or combine both in a hybrid workflow.

SugarHill studio engineer Stephen Finley says investing in the GenesysControl plug-in has brought an entirely new dimension to the studio’s workflow: ‘I enjoy being able to automate my drum buses on the 8T section during choruses for extra excitement,’ he explains. ‘Also, being able to have the automation plug-in on all my tracks, put all the tracks in Pro Tools into the Neve at a touch and finalise any volume automation on the fly is very helpful. With the new GenesysControl plug-in and the console’s recall software, recalling a mix and making an adjustment is now a fairly easy task - depending on your patching, of course.

SugarHill Recording Studios ‘In 2018, we installed our Genesys Black G32 console with 16 analogue channels,’ he recalls. ‘It is a fantastic console and we all really love the pre amps and EQs. We have 16 Neve 1084s, which make everything sound better - just a little always helps. We also have one 8 channel bank of dynamics that I like to use while tracking drums as its helps to tame some hits. I use very little gain reduction.’

SugarHill’s Genesys Black is used for recording and mixing projects and Finley says it is equally versatile for both types of project: ‘Since the inserts are always sending, during recording I have my inputs into Pro Tools as the channel direct outs and the outputs in Pro Tools as the individual monitor outs. We use Pro Tools HD Native with an Avid Madi interface and Madi AD/DA cards for both the Channel and Monitor section of the console,’ he says.

‘When I’m recording, I drop INSert 2 into the monitor path, but I don’t engage the button to activate the insert return. I then patch the send of Insert 2 into my multi input headphone system, which gives me a total of 16 inputs, with 16 for talkback. This gives me 15 discrete inputs for beyerdynamic DT770 headphones that the band can adjust using their personal headphone mixer. I also use CueMix for the drums, with the kick and snare going to Aux 1 and Aux 2 respectively (CueMix 1) and the rest of the kit going to stereo aux5 (CueMix 2). These CueMix outs then go into the headphone inputs. Let’s say I have bass, two guitars and a vocal on various channels. On those channels I’ll place the INSert 2 into the Monitor path and then patch the Insert 2 output (send) to the headphone system inputs to create an alternate Cue mix for the artists to hear while performing.’

On mix projects, Finley uses the Genesys Black’s 8T Buses on drums: ‘I have the shells [kick, snare and toms] go to both 8T Bus 1-2 and 8 Bus T7-8,’ he explains. ‘Then I have everything else including Hihat, overheads and room mics, going only to the 8T 7-8 Bus. By inserting a pair of Distressors on 8T Bus 1-2 and smacking that bus fairly hard, I can get the punch I need. I don’t like compressing the overheads and cymbals as this keeps a more oen and less swishy cymbal sound.’

He also likes to parallel vocals, typically on the main verse: ‘I add a compressor on the bus and sneak that compressed bus up under the uncompressed vocal to smooth it out,’ he says.

Since acquiring its Genesys Black, SugarHill has completed sessions on the console for artists such as Chance the Rapper, George Thorogood, Kevin Gates, 21 Savage, Maxo Kream, North Mississippi Allstars, Metro Boomin, Young Thug, Trill Sammy, Vehement Burn, East of Eado, ESG and Bushwick Bill. Most recently, Stephen Finley has been mixing an album for The Killer Hearts, which will be released soon on Spaghetty Town Records.

More: www.ams-neve.com

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