“Analogue console design – that’s probably what I’ve done more of than anything else,” says David Dearden, best known as designer of Audient’s flagship ASP8024. Affable, supremely knowledgeable and humble to the last, fate seems to have earmarked him for consoles from the outset.
Dubbing himself “a high-school drop-out”, his first job was at a Johannesburg studio in 1968 where he quickly established himself. “I knew a bit about electronics, so I was commandeered into helping to build their new valve console.” On arrival in the UK in 1970 for what was intended to be a short work experience, 20-year-old Dearden secured a position as junior maintenance engineer at Advision Studios where he was involved in converting the studio’s in-house built 8-track console into a 16 track system. In 1973/74 he specified the design and construction by Quad Eight of two new consoles for Advision, one of which was arguably the first automated console in the country. By 1997 he found himself honing his skills at console manufacturer MCI, then Soundcraft. In 1981 he joined forces with Gareth Davies to form DDA.
It is testament to their design that many Dearden-designed DDA and MIDAS consoles are still in use today, but it was the culmination of his 30 years’ experience with analogue consoles – and the formation of a brand new company Audient, with the accompanying clean sheet of paper – that brought his most significant design, ASP8024 into existence.
Introduced in 1998, it was unashamedly analogue and described by Dearden as “…a very flexible, good sounding, simple to operate console”. True enough, ASP8024 is a straightforward, inline design with no digital accoutrements thus ensuring a future-proof design which is still manufactured today (over 500 sold!). “In essence it has barely changed, just a few additional frame sizes, optional patchbay and the DAW interface option.”
Early customer feedback confirmed that ASP8024 was something special: “Customers were saying how easy it was to use, how they never had to look at the manuals.” In particular, educational facilities across the board praised the console’s versatility and easy intuitive signal path.
Dearden has just celebrated a ‘significant’ birthday yet is still up to his elbows in future Audient product design. “I haven’t been put out to pasture yet!” he quips.
Hail to the boffins! Genius! is all about celebrating those clever people whose inventions have transformed the world of professional audio. Mailed out with the February print edition of PSNEurope, the 36-page supplement is also available to read in handy digital-edition form. Read it online, or download as a PDF, at psnedev.wpengine.com/introducing-genius.