This isn’t going to be a review, but I wanted to pat PreSonus on the back, along with myself, as one of the instigators, for a really great job with their first user’s conference. With so much product information being presented to us on web sites and on-line videos, it’s easy to forget how valuable live demonstrations, talks about related subjects (not just gear demos), and having face-to-face contact with the people who design and build the gear is in the world of complex studio and live sound gear.
The event was held in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, where the PreSonus headquarters is located. They chose a performing arts venue downtown for the event, where they had two rooms for the conference sessions plus lobby space for mingling, snacking, and (as I did with a couple of folks) drawing diagrams on napkins and going further in depth than we did in a general presentation. There were basically two tracks, live sound featuring the StudioLive mixers, and studio production featuring the newly released Studio One version 2 DAW program. My talk on system engineering (which was mostly about inputs, outputs, and gain structure) was part of the live sound “track.”
It’s important to recognize that while the focus was on a few PreSonus products, it wasn’t a sales event, it was an educational event. There was a good talk and demo on various approaches to miking drums by Doug Gould who, while having spent some time at Shure, these days is mostly an educator presenting workshops primarily focused on house-of-worship applications. Not only does he know his stuff, but he knows how to present it in a meaningful way. Ace Baker, who spent many years as house engineer at clubs around Los Angeles as well as on tour with such greats as Aretha Franklin, Sammy Hagar, Shiela E, and his current client Paul Gilbert showed step-by-step how he uses the StudioLive console in setting up and mixing his shows. Craig Anderton (who needs no introduction so he isn’t going to get one) demonstrated some cool outside-the-box creative uses for feature built into Studio One that were intended to do something else.
This wasn’t a huge event, perhaps around 225 attendees, which actually slightly exceeded PreSonus’ expectations. With that number, the “student to faculty” ratio was much better than you’d find at any trade show. More than two dozen PreSonus employees, from the president, the CEO, the VP of sales, chief technology officer (all of whom are skilled musicians and shared their musical talents with us as well as their technical knowledge), the major players on the software development team, and some other outside speakers (like me). And they didn’t just talk-and-run, they were around and fully accessible throughout the conference.
It was basically a one day event, with an opening party the evening before the sessions, with PreSonus hosting a traditional Louisiana jambalaya dinner followed by performances from a couple of bands made up mostly of PreSonus employees and a surprise treat to a performance by the band L’Angelus, a high energy band with their roots firmly in Cajun and Louisiana funk music. Music and jambalaya are very important to PreSonus (there’s a recipe in the back of their manuals) – this wasn’t a catered affair either. It was interesting to learn that they own a large pot and propane burner and often bring that along with them when the do dealer training to feed them something other than deli sandwiches and pizza.
For those who didn’t attend, “Post-registration” is still available. They’re putting together a DVD of the sessions which will be sent to all registrants in about a month, and for the same registration fee of $25, you can get get that DVD as well as the goodie bag (T-shirt, take-home materials, and the session DVD). Check the PreSonuSphere web page to sign up. I’m not a shill for PreSonus, I’m proud to have been a small part of making the event successful.
Perhaps the most memorable thing I heard during the conference was from Ace Baker. Paraphrasing since I didn’t take it down word for word: “Someone said that in order to really be expert at anything, you need about 10,000 hours of working experience. If you mix a two-hour show once a week, that’s 100 hours a year and you won’t live long enough to put in those 10,000 hours.” But he followed that up with encouragement to keep working at it and you’ll get better and better. That’s what I’ve always said.