Geared Up: Jeff Balding and his API 1608

In this inaugural episode of Geared Up — PAR's latest feature series focusing on an engineer's latest acquisition — we discuss with Grammy Award-winning producer/engineer Jeff Balding (Faith Hill, Trace Adkins, LeAnn Rimes, Trisha Yearwood, John Mellencamp, Carrie Underwood, Megadeth, among others) his recent installation of an API 1608 analog console (with the optional 16-channel expander) as the anchor of his home mix room.
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PAR: You had a lot of options when choosing a console for your mix room, including hybrid analog desks with integrated Pro Tools controllers.
JB:
I looked at all of those, but the API, even though it didn't have all the fancy bells and whistles, it's just solid. It's a real console. My priority was "It's got to sound good." Plus, this console has the vintage kind of vibe that I liked.

PAR: And it's a beefy, big-iron piece of gear.
JB:
Yes, that's 400 and some pounds.

PAR: It looks like you have room to expand by adding additional option modules.
JB:
I thought, "I'm just going to get into this thing where I can get into it" and then, it's easy to add modules.

PAR: How long have you been using your 1608P?
JB:
I ordered it November 1.

PAR: How many projects have you done on it so far?
JB:
I had a full project in December, and there've been several projects where I've done two mixes for this, two mixes for that. I've been working on Brooks and Dunn's new record; I just did a couple of mixes up for them last week. I've had a Sony Latin project, a female pop artist from Spain. I mixed her record in December. That was really the first full record. I mixed one other small project at the end of November. The console went in about the middle of November.

PAR: The console has a relatively shallow work surface, even with your keyboard and mouse in front.
JB:
I was so tired of standing sideways all those years (started getting a crick); you just go nuts. So I thought, "I'm going to go buy an LG screen and figure out how to sit forward." Of course, big letters don't hurt either. I took a laptop stand from Office Depot and cut it off. It's worked great.

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PAR: After years of working with behemoth consoles, is the 32-fader count enough for you?
JB:
Yes, I actually have 48 inputs, the center section has eight bus masters with stereo inputs. I was talking to Dan [Zimbelman of API] and was saying, "I may need to order a rack summing mixer, because I really want 48 ins because that's what I've got out." But I got to reading the manual, and I was like, "Oh, no way" — they're basically a left-right, just echo returns. So, I've had 48 inputs, and it's perfect.

PAR: Primarily you are using the console as a large summing bus and panner, in effect?
JB:
In a sense, yeah. I've been tempted to use the sends on the console, but I'm trying to balance my recall time. I can recall a mix now in 10-15 minutes with output gear, console pans, and so on. I take a macro photo of each fader, label them up, and export them to a folder. I use Teaboy Audio for recall; everything is stored on a cloud. It looks like photos of the gear, but all the knobs and buttons work so you can turn them and set them. Then I just print a PDF of the recall for that song and save it on the file with the photos and the audio. I have no documentation papers to worry about. Teaboy Audio has anything and everything that you'd want to document. Between that and photos, recalls come back great. It's a good convergence.

PAR: Do you miss having fader automation?
JB:
API has said they can add it when they get enough people interested. I would add automation eventually because I miss grabbing a fader.