45th Anniversary Celebrations Rock Venerable Studio
Pictured at Ardent Studios in the the new Studio C control room are (L-R) chief technical engineer Chris Jackson, founder John Fry, and studio manager/Big Star drummer Jody Stephens. Photo by Don Perry.
As the touchstone of its 45th Anniversary, Memphis’s legendary Ardent Studios has completely remodelled the control room of Studio C and installed a Duality console from Solid State Logic. The studio’s prized workhorse Neve V 40 x 40 console has been decommissioned and resides as a classic sidecar to accompany the state-of-the-art Duality, giving Ardent the best of both vintage and new.
“The musical energy at Ardent and in Memphis is really inspiring,” said studio manager Jody Stephens. “We have a video competition, a special series of 48-hour marathons
with 16 bands recording over two days, and a celebrity session and new song to benefit Memphis’s St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.”
“It was time to bring Ardent into the 21st Century world of recording, yet keep the legacy intact,” stated Ardent founder and the studio’s first engineer John Fry. “Studio C has a star-studded history that includes landmark work by Bob Dylan, ZZ Top, 3 Doors Down, R.E.M.,and B.B. King, among so many other great artists, and we are keeping that traditional acoustic tracking space alongside our new control room with SSL’s flagship console.”
Adjacent to a 32′ x 26′ tracking room with three isolation booths, Studio C’s control room houses the SSL Duality SE 48-channel console with in-board patchbay (RHS). Also, the SSL I/O package consists of one Delta Link HD-MADI unit and two Alpha Link converter units for a total of 48 analog I/Os. Duality’s innovative hybrid approach combines a traditional analog path and signal processing along with exceptional DAW control, all within a single hardware surface.
ABOUT ARDENT STUDIOS
Memphis’ renowned Ardent Studios was founded by John Fry in his family’s garage, where he recorded his first Ardent Records 45’s. In 1966, the operation moved into a new building on National Street, and the original equipment came from the garage operation: Altec tube console, Ampex 2-track, Pultec EQ and Neumann mics, some of which are still in use today. Legendary engineer/producer Tom Dowd was consulting with Auditronics on an early multitrack console for nearby Stax Records, and Fry ordered the same input modules for his second console. Next came a Scully 4-track, the first EMT plate reverbs in the area, and the beginnings of a world class collection of gear.
Clients came from near and far: Led Zeppelin, Leon Russell, and James Taylor were among the first. Ardent also became a second home for Stax artists, including Isaac Hayes, Sam and Dave, the Staple Singers, the Bar-Kays, and Booker T. and the MGs. In 1971, Ardent moved to its present location on Madison Avenue, followed by the acquisition of 24-track recorders, bigger consoles, and more gear, attracting artists such as ZZ Top, Freddie King, Cheap Trick, and Joe Cocker. The 1980s brought the Replacements, R.E.M., Jimmie and Stevie Ray Vaughan, Robert Cray, Luther Allison, Albert Collins, and B.B. King, to name a few.
21st Century stars continue to walk through the doors: Three 6 Mafia, Cat Power, North Mississippi Allstars, Three Doors Down, White Stripes, a reunited Big Star, Bob Dylan, John Hiatt, the Raconteurs and Smashing Pumpkins. Today Ardent has three studios equipped with large format Neve and SSL desks alongside Pro Tools rigs, and is managed by Big Star drummer Jody Stephens. Ardent’s passion for the music has translated into more than 75 gold and platinum albums and singles — and still counting.