Consoles are iconic – for decades they were the nucleus of every professional studio. The first time I stepped into a control room and saw one I knew, right away, that was where I wanted to sit, with the faders and meters jumping to life all around me. Now with the shift to more boutique (or private) facilities, the sight of a console as the centerpiece is no longer a given. The culture of making records has been irreversibly changed by the DAW, and the industry now takes that flexibility for granted, leaving little patience for the rituals of the analog age. So, when putting my own room together, I needed to reevaluate my setup. Should I now dive fully into the box for mixing, thereby benefitting from all the convenience it has to offer? We are long past the sonic debate of digital versus analog, so it's now just a matter of taste.

But when I sit behind a console I'm instantly put in a creative headspace. I didn't grow up dreaming of clicking around in a computer; I want a more visceral experience from my workspace. Recordings have always sounded more like a record to me when made on a console, by lending cohesion to the tracks that can be more difficult to achieve with a mixed bag of tools. I wanted a solution that could compete with the efficiency of in-the-box mixing while still getting that inspiration and sonic unity. I needed a smaller format with fast recall, automation, and modern DAW integration. I had been working on an AMS Neve 88R – for me the pinnacle of large format console design – so it was natural to check out the Genesys, which, like the larger 88R console, is also designed by Neve's Robin Porter.

The modular nature of the Genesys appealed to me. I could make the initial purchase to suit my needs while keeping the option open to expand later. The 16-channel base model is not difficult to lift for two people, and with its legs removed will easily pass through a regular doorway or stairwell, sparing the expense and trauma of craning it through a window high over city streets. The console's power supply is internal, so there's no need for a machine room or industrial level HVAC. All audio connectors are D-sub, so paired with off-the-shelf D-sub patchbays I easily planned and wired the room myself without burning any fingers. There are also optional AD/DA converter cards allowing for direct digital connection from the Genesys to your DAW.

AMS Neve has packed a lot into the Genesys that may not be obvious at first glance, but it's a fully-featured analog console capable of all the functions I've become accustomed to. Each "in line" channel strip pays tribute to Neve's past, with the inclusion of a fully featured 1073 mic pre – the real deal. Also, on each channel you'll find switches to engage EQ and dynamics, but there are no accompanying pots on the channel – the first break from tradition. AMS Neve decided to move these analog circuits onto cards located in the belly of the console and use the Genesys' software to digitally control the EQ and dynamics. Hardware parameters are displayed on the software's GUI. Adjustments are made by using a set of encoder pots located on the Master Section.

These easily installed eight channel buckets allow for customizing the console by offering a choice of 1084- or 88R-style EQs. The 1084 is a vibey, broad stroke EQ true to its heritage, and the 88R is a versatile four band parametric capable of more extreme shaping while always sounding musical. The Dynamics cards (also descended from the 88R), offer a VCA compressor and gate operated in the same fashion as the EQ. The compressor has a soft-knee feel, a little touch is nice and gluey, and with the fast attack engaged I can smash things up pretty well.

The Genesys software manages the order of each channel's processing. The EQ, Dynamics, and two insert points for integrating your outboard gear appear on the GUI as icons that can be dragged and dropped in any order across the main channel or monitor path. I love how this allows me to audition and decide the order of my chain without any digging into the patchbay.

Each channel has a direct output, with eight buses and six aux sends (four mono and two stereo) that allow for all sorts of routing scenarios for effects sends and returns, parallel processing, headphones, or 5.1 mixing. The four stereo effects returns include a very cool width control to help dial in spatial effects.

All faders are motorized and fully automatable. You can choose to use AMS Neve's Encore automation software or write to your DAW using the Active Faders option. Fader automation is the sort of needle and thread I use to sew a mix together, and the Genesys allows me to follow my instincts in a free-flowing manner. The eight Group Faders can be used as sub groups or additional inputs. With the click of a switch these can be re-assigned to become a bank of DAW faders. I find this is useful when setting levels or automating submixes within the DAW. The Master section brings all the features of a large format console: Stereo and 5.1 monitoring, a four-way speaker selector, multiple solo modes, an oscillator, a talkback mic, and much, much more. The console is topped off by a beautiful high resolution multi-functional Meter Bridge.

Now here's the genius part of all this; every switch position, routing assignment, analog EQ or dynamics setting can be saved or recalled with one click. The pots are recalled using the more traditional Total Recall function in the Genesys' software, so I can fully and accurately recall even the most reckless mix or tracking template in just a few minutes. This is key. I can quickly move between songs without the aid of an assistant or a folder of notes. For example, last year I found myself mixing Australian artists Vance Joy and Missy Higgins simultaneously. I would often have five different songs on the console in a single day as notes came from multiple time zones. The Genesys insured I wasted no time on changeovers.

This is a smart console with an immense feature set that allows for a deep level of personalization – more than I can detail here. I've never found myself limited by its abilities, nor have I had my workflow interrupted by its operation. Most importantly the Genesys sounds phenomenal, is not overly colored like some vintage consoles, and is not too transparent like some of its modern counterparts – it's got just the right amount of Neve character for my taste. The lows are deep and tight, the highs are open, and the mid harmonics have a three-dimensional quality. I can push the level forever and it just sounds better – there's serious headroom but with a nice hue to lean into.

A few years after the release of the Genesys AMS Neve followed up by releasing the Genesys Black. This edition of the console is based around the concept of the DAW being the heart of the studio. AMS Neve has essentially dropped a DAW workstation, complete with 16 dedicated control faders, meters and a touchscreen, right into the middle of the Genesys Black. To the left you'll find Genesys' channel strips, and to the right is the extensively featured Genesys Master Section. This setup takes DAW integration to the next level by providing total control from the console's hardware with an analog front and back end.

Both versions of the console are brilliant pieces of engineering, and AMS Neve backs up the design with first class technical support. They have made me feel like part of the family, from installation through current day updates and maintenance. I love that digital has challenged analog to do better. Each analog piece in my room has to offer me something I can't replace with software. Sometimes that means sonically, while other times that means inspirationally – ultimately we all need to find that balance. For me the Genesys ticks all those boxes.

Tape Op is a bi-monthly magazine devoted to the art of record making.

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