Mercer Music at Capricorn’s API sound console merges classic and modern features

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Rob Evans and Steve Ivey work on the API sound console at Mercer Music at Capricorn

Solar energy offsets power used by console

Preservation meets innovation in Mercer Music at Capricorn’s custom-built, state-of-the-art analog sound console.

The API 40-channel 2448 Series console is the centerpiece of Capricorn Sound Studios, which was reborn as part of the larger Mercer Music at Capricorn complex on Dec. 3 after being shuttered for decades. 

“They’ve only been making this console for a couple of years now, and this is the first one made in the 40-channel format,” said Mercer alum Rob Evans, the studio’s chief engineer. “So this is the only one in the world right now, and it’s living right here at Capricorn Sound Studios in Macon, Georgia.”

The new console is like a modern-day version of what used to crank out the original studio’s Southern rock hits of the 1970s, Evans said. Among the features are a Pro Tools center console monitor screen and API’s new Final Touch fader automation system.

The result is the punchy sound of American rock ‘n’ roll that is classic to API.

“We can do automation. We can do all types of digital processes but still have that analog, fat sound,” said Steve Ivey, a Grammy-nominated producer and Mercer University alum who worked with Evans on customizing the console.

Music of legends such as the Allman Brothers Band, the Marshall Tucker Band, the Charlie Daniels Band, Wet Willie, Elvin Bishop and many others was recorded at Capricorn during its heyday.

Members of the Mercer football team help move the sound console at Mercer Music at Capricorn

ABOVE: Members of the Mercer football team help move the API sound console into Mercer Music at Capricorn. TOP: Mercer Music at Capricorn Chief Engineer Rob Evans, left, mixes music with Grammy-nominated producer Steve Ivey.

Now a new generation of artists — from musicians to producers to engineers — will have the opportunity to record within the historic walls.

“Rob and I have worked very hard to have a nod to what was done here, but also to be able to create music in a new way,” Ivey said. 

Getting the console into the control room was a major undertaking. It took six members of Mercer’s football team to lift and move the massive console, which weighs over 1,000 pounds. Then, an API technician did the installation. 

The sound console serves both the historic Studio A and the larger Studio B, which are part of the Mercer Music at Capricorn complex. The 20,000-square-foot complex also includes a music incubator; a museum; and offices, co-working space and meeting rooms. 

Capricorn’s rebirth coincides with the 50th anniversary of its original opening in downtown Macon. Maryland-based API also is celebrating its 50th anniversary.

“We’re kind of tying all of that celebration in and getting one of the best consoles in the world,” Evans said.

Powered by solar energy

Up above the studio on the roof of Mercer Music at Capricorn, six solar panels generate energy for the complex. Each panel is 500 watts each; in total, they have the capacity to produce 3,000 watts of power.

That green energy is enough to offset what is used by the console.

“It will be enough power to literally power the recording going on here at Capricorn Sound Studios,” Ivey said. 

Ivey introduced the idea of using solar energy at the complex. After spending 30 years in the music business, he entered the solar industry. He opened Simon Solar, a solar energy company, with his sons.

“I treat the solar panel as if it’s a microphone, and the sun is my artist that works every day,” he said.

From left, Dr. Michael MacCarthy, Esha Shah, Michelle Graham and Steve Ivey hold solar panels.

From left, Dr. Michael MacCarthy, Esha Shah, Michelle Graham and Steve Ivey hold solar panels that they later put on the roof of Mercer Music at Capricorn.

Using green energy at Capricorn seemed like the perfect fit, Ivey said.

“We wanted to make Capricorn a very innovative place,” he said. “And part of that innovation is powering this studio with new, smart, renewable energy.”

Ivey invited Mercer environmental engineering students to be a part of the project. Dr. Michael MacCarthy, assistant professor of environmental engineering and director of the engineering for development program, and two environmental engineering students, junior Michelle Graham and sophomore Esha Shah, helped move and install the equipment.

“I think it’s really good that Mercer is, as they revitalize, considering sustainability,” Graham said. “I think it’s important that as they continue to do more projects they include sustainable aspects like solar energy.”

Dr. MacCarthy and his students are working on finding low-cost environmental solutions for households in Middle Georgia. Assisting with the Capricorn project helped them see how the technology used at Capricorn could be incorporated into some of their other projects, Dr. MacCarthy said.

“This system is very, very easy to set up, so for future projects … we could install this type of system with just a qualified electrician and volunteer labor,” he said.

Booking studio time

Mercer Music at Capricorn officially opens for business in January, but musicians can begin booking time in Studios A and B now.

Studio rental includes eight hours of studio time, an audio recording engineer and use of house equipment. The cost is $1,000 for Studio A and $600 for Studio B. 

The API 40-channel 2448 Series console is the centerpiece of Capricorn Sound Studios

The API 40-channel 2448 Series console is the centerpiece of Capricorn Sound Studios.

While Studio A is the classic historic recording studio, Studio B “has lots of cool features,” Evans said.

“It has a fully automated control surface board that talks directly to the DAW (digital audio workstation), and it’ll also have classic analog preamps and EQs (equalizers),” he said. “And it also … is a more reflective room than the historic A room.

“So they just have different sounds.”

Studio B, which is formally named the Phil Walden Memorial Studio, also is great for strings and vocal groups, Evans said.

Anyone interested in booking studio time should complete the online form at capricorn.mercer.edu/sound-studios. Additional details about the studios and their capabilities are available on the website, as well. 

“All musicians, producers, engineers are welcome here,” Evans said.

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Jennifer Borage