Solid State Logic ORIGIN Mixing Console Upgrades the Infamous Criteria Studio
One of the most successful recording studios in the United States, Criteria Studios, established in 1958, has produced hundreds of gold records, along with chart-topping albums and singles too numerous to count. This year the multi-room facility was renovated and upgraded Studio D, installing a new Solid State Logic ORIGIN 32-channel analog mixing console fitted with an SSL UF8 advanced DAW controller and eight 500 Series E-DYN 611 E Series dynamics modules.
“It has been marvelously received,” says Trevor Fletcher, VP/General Manager of Criteria Recording Studios, of the new ORIGIN. “The console is easy to use and perfect for the modern hybrid workflow. Studio D has been packed since we reopened it. Now my problem is that I don’t have four of those rooms.”
Studio D was designed and built in the late 1970s primarily for vocal and overdub recording as well as mixing. “We were doing a lot of vocal-oriented work at the time, between Crosby, Stills and Nash, the Bee Gees, Julio Iglesias and so on, so it worked out very well,” he says.
Founded by jazz trumpeter Mack Emerman in 1958, Criteria has a long history of being the first in the region to adopt new record production technologies. The facility has also had a long relationship with Solid State Logic, installing its first desk — and the first SSL in Florida — in 1984, in Studio E. A second SSL was installed two years later. The complex currently houses two SSL 9096J consoles in Studios A and E, an SSL Duality in Studio F and an AWS 900 in Studio B in addition to the ORIGIN.
Feedback from engineers and producers who have used the new ORIGIN since it was installed has been very positive, Fletcher reports. “They tell me that the preamps sound great — modern, clear and open. And the ability to engage PureDrive for a little more grit is great, especially for tracking sessions. It’s reminiscent of how the old 9000 sounds. Although ORIGIN is a simpler console than the Duality or the 9000Js that we have, it builds on the legacy of SSL at Criteria in a complementary way.”
As for the eight E-DYN modules integrated into the 500 series rack in ORIGIN’s center section, “Our thought process was to provide clients with some dynamic modules since, aside from the SSL computer, the dynamics are probably the biggest difference going from one model of SSL console to another at Criteria,” Fletcher explains. The studio will add more SSL dynamics modules if clients demand them, he says, but there are no plans to add 500 series modules from other brands: “The majority of the other options provided by manufacturers of 500 series modules are already covered by the hardware already in the room.”
Measuring a fraction over six feet long, the new ORIGIN has replaced a much larger 80-input SSL 9000J in Studio D, which features a sizable live booth with floor-to-ceiling glass. “We had some custom wings fabricated for the ORIGIN, so it still provides the feeling of a giant large-format console in the room,” Fletcher says. “Essentially, it’s a smaller footprint, but now we’ve got large producer’s desks on either side of the console.”
He continues, “Some people prefer to record in the control room, some people in the live room. But we wanted to make it very inviting and not have such a separation between the control room and the live room. We also upgraded other elements in the room at the same time as installing the ORIGIN, in terms of crossovers, amplification and replacing drivers and subwoofers, as well as fabric and lighting. So, everything has combined for a completely different feel in that space.”
The time was just right for a refresh of Studio D, he says. “To keep a multi-room recording facility successful, you have to update. You must keep an eye to the needs of your clientele and adjust accordingly. And the ORIGIN is a natural progression. It dovetails nicely with the way a vast majority of records are being made these days. Plus, it’s economically viable — you don’t have to spend a quarter-million dollars for a nice, giant chunk of metal. ORIGIN still has the same SSL sonic consistency but it’s new, it’s clean and it just works — and you can get parts if you need them.”
Criteria has seen a steady stream of hitmakers come through the doors during its 64-year history. The James Brown 1965 classic “I Got You (I Feel Good)” was the first recording produced at the studio to be certified gold. Many, many other hit albums and singles have come out of Criteria since then, including projects by the Allman Brothers, Derek & the Dominoes, the Eagles, Eric Clapton, Fleetwood Mac, Black Sabbath, Jay Z, Lil Wayne, Nicki Minaj, REM and the Bee Gees, who made Criteria their home base for many years.
More recently, artists working across a range of music genres have booked time on the ORIGIN in Studio D, including Alicia Keys, who worked on her recently released Christmas album, Santa Baby, in the room. “On more of the urban side, we did a few days with Rod Wave in there,” Fletcher reports. “Then, on the Latin side, we did a project for Anuel AA and are currently mixing a project for Yandel, of Winsin & Yandel, in Studio D. Shenseea, a pop and R&B artist on Interscope, also did some work in there. So, it has been a pretty wide range in terms of stylistically, from pop to R&B to Latin to hip-hop.”
There are seven rooms at Criteria, Fletcher says, from Studio A’s 3,000-square-foot live tracking room, which can accommodate a 70-plus-piece orchestra and is used for film scoring and other projects, to slightly smaller rooms, each with different sonic characteristics. “We’ve tried to build a lot of different spaces to serve a lot of different purposes — live rooms, dead rooms, small rooms, big rooms. We can pretty much accommodate whatever it is that somebody’s looking for,” he says while offering consistent and similar acoustic environments that allow clients to move projects between rooms easily. “Every room has its own private entrance, private restroom, private lounge. And we also have a common area, so if people want to interact with other people, that can happen. So it’s the best of both worlds.”