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SiriusXM Goes Live With SSL C200 HD

"The speed of this thing is something else… I can literally can close my eyes and mix."

Oct 22, 2015

SiriusXM Director of Operations Jackson MacInnis (left) and Engineer Michael TaylorSiriusXM Director of Operations Jackson MacInnis (left) and Engineer M...

Washington, DC - Satellite broadcaster SiriusXM has over 200 satellite channels, 400 web channels, and 30 million subscribers. To service all of these, the company currently has several main production centres – New York, Washington, Nashville, and LA with a total count of about 150 broadcast studios, along with five music recording and live music broadcast studios. Two of those studios, in Washington and New York, have recently upgraded by installing SSL C200 HD Live Production Consoles.

Jackson MacInnis is Director of Operations at Sirius and directly responsible for the music production studios. "We produce the special recording sessions and live music broadcast events for 200 channels of everything from hip hop, to heavy metal, to classical," he explains. "We have produced around 20,000 songs over the 15 years that we've been active. Often we only get three hours with the artist, and we'll try to get 45 minutes of music out of them… Speed and quality is our game."

Sessions range from multitrack recordings with an audience and a fast-turnaround mix, to live broadcast performance sessions. To get through such a busy schedule takes planning, and practice. Before the session, MacInnis will have already briefed the artists or production manager and offered them the wide selection of instruments they keep on tap at the studio, which cuts down on load-in and set-up times. "We put everyone on headphones and personal monitoring systems," continues MacInnis. "So each artist can mix themselves… That eliminates a huge amount of sound check time.

"Our operations are so fast turnaround that even that extra few minutes to reset a console versus the speed of the C200 HD can make a difference…

"We've got it down to just walking in the door, putting on headphones, and plugging in... Everything is already lit up, and within 45 minutes we're hitting Record. We've been doing it for 15 years so we've got it down to a science... They are usually happy when they leave."

The C200 HD is a digital live broadcast production console with 48kHz or 96kHz operation, a variety of redundancy and fault-tolerant features, and a traditional analogue style ‘knob per function' control surface with an in-line channel format and 48 multitrack busses. The luxury of having every control available all of the time was a major factor in the SiriusXM choice: "You can stand in front of it and instantly know the channel layout," explains MacInnis. "Even if you haven't worked on an SSL you can still see exactly what's going on and not need to get into the menus or any of that.

"I can hit the lead singer's high pass filter in the blink of an eye, as opposed to having to access it, then hit another button, and so on. The speed of this thing is something else… I can literally can close my eyes and mix."

It's that layout and operational speed that allows freelancers to come into the SiriusXM studio and work with minimal thinking time.

"It's also the sound and the pedigree of SSL," continues MacInnis. "We love the dependability and stability of having the SSL as a front end... We trust it. When I phone for support I get to talk to an experienced engineer – That was a huge part of us buying from SSL."

One of MacInnis' favourite aspects of his role at SiriusXM is the variety and quality of music that comes through the door. "It's a dream job for an audio engineer," he comments. "To list the great acts we've had in is difficult – it's much easier to list the ones we haven't had in! …I come to work and get to watch concerts every day."

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