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ACL Upgrades Control Room for Upcoming 49th Season

Taping of the 49th season of Austin City Limits is underway with a newly installed SSL System T in the audio control room.

The audio team of Austin City Limits.

Austin, TX (July 17, 2023)—Taping of the 49th season of Austin City Limits is underway with a newly installed SSL System T in the audio control room at the 2,750-capacity Austin City Limits Live at The Moody Theater.

The new System T is the first mixing platform to be installed in 22 years in the audio control room at the ACL Live venue, the show’s permanent home. The system comprises a 48-fader S500m console and dual TE1 Tempest Engines with a variety of Network I/O interfaces providing microphone preamps, multi-format connectivity and A-D/D-A conversion.

Key Code Media, guided by the company’s senior solutions architect, Andrew Twenter, integrated the new System T into the control room infrastructure, also implementing the production’s first-ever Dante AoIP network and upgrading the DAWs.

“This is a major step for the show. It’s going to put us in the 21st century, as well as up our audio game quite a bit,” says Randall Reynolds, audio supervisor for ACL, which is produced for PBS by KLRU-TV and is the longest-running music show in the history of U.S. television. During the decision-making process, he says, “One of the selling points for us during the demo was the mic pres; these are the best that there are. We’re super stoked about this desk.”

The first performance recorded through the new S500 console, by L.A.-based electro-pop band MUNA, was tracked via the production’s transformer splitter and exclusively through System T’s microphone preamps. If permitted by the artist, ACL will simultaneously generate a live stream of the performance through the console. The audio control room also takes a stereo mix from the artist’s FOH engineer. The MUNA taping provided the first opportunity to hear the System T in action for ACL audio director David Hough, who has mixed almost every broadcast since the pilot episode featuring Willie Nelson in October, 1974.

NASA Lifts Off with System T

“When Sachiko [Robertson, audio recording, ACL] put up her mix, compared to the mix that was being fed to us from front-of-house, I liked hers better. It was sweet, it was smooth and it was creamy. It was just wonderful,” Hough says.

The show’s workflow involves two operators at the console during recording, one mixing the live stream plus a feed to the show’s director and one controlling the redundant 128-track Avid Pro Tools systems and monitoring the gains to the DAWs. A typical show uses around 100 channels, including talkback, but a large band, especially one featuring Taping of the 49th season of Austin City Limits is underway with a newly installed SSL System T in the audio control roommulti-instrumentalists, can require many more, Hough reports.

The ACL Live venue hosts around 100 shows a year, 20 of which are captured for broadcast on PBS. Those performances are edited down to 13 one-hour episodes, with some ACL shows spotlighting a single artist and others featuring two. Austin City Limits has announced that Lil Yachty, Rodrigo y Gabriela featuring the Austin Symphony Orchestra, DOMi & JD BECK, Jenny Lewis, Margo Price, Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit, Tanya Tucker and Jorge Drexler are currently scheduled to record shows for season 49.

Artists such as Lyle Lovett and Steve Miller have also independently commissioned the ACL audio team to record their concerts at the theater. “That was one of the selling points of this console,” Reynolds says.