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Soundcraft 1600
Old 15th February 2020
Gear Head

Soundcraft 1600

There are some really cool threads about modifying the old Soundcraft boards on here. Could we try and get another sorta master thread in progress about what people have done to refurbish (or hot rod!) these desks?
Specifics on op-amps, transformers added, caps, etc, all would be tremendous. Routing tricks would be cool too- how are people using the separate monitor and tape returns?

Here’s my own story- As much as I have wanted to have an opportunity to explore mixing out of the box I’ve been really intimidated by the cost, and overall my setup has worked for me. The other week, I stumbled into a deal for a 24-channel Soundcraft 1600 AND a 32-channel 800B that made my jaw drop. I was hoping to get at least one of these boards optimized and operational, more for mixing than tracking, because I already have a lot of outboard preamps.

Jim Williams and Creation Audio Labs are such a great resource for these- I’m hoping to take the whole thing down to CAL because it’s just a few hours drive, and I can’t wait to see what I’ve got. Apparently phantom power has been etched off of some of the channels, but between the 800B and the 1600, should be able to still get enough functional channels to get a board operational!

I will probably need to have to have a good deal of the work done for me, partly because my schedule is jammed and I still want to have time to work on music- and partly because I have very little idea what the hell i’m doing. I’ve done some soldering and built a few pedals- but I’d also love to understand how to do some of the work myself, so I can keep this thing running as long as possible. Always happy to learn.

I’ve read that op-amp upgrades without adequate decoupling or other accommodations can lead to oscillations, poor headroom, etc... I also have seen folks mention using CAPI circuits as an option on the summing/master buss- any specifics about this stuff would be incredible. I’d love to beef up the power supply, modify some channels and refurbish some others. I’d love to have an option for transformers across the master buss, but I don’t have an idea to present for how to do that. Grounding seems to be an issue for these boards, but I’d love to make the most out of this thing! Any suggestions would be really great, and could hopefully be a resource for people trying to keep these consoles running for another 40 years. I do have friends who could help with some of this, but I’d probably need parts myself!

Finally- any ideas on a desk/stand that works for these?

Old 16th February 2020
Lives for gear
Brian M. Boykin's Avatar
If you haven’t read this here’s some good info directly from SC:

I favor Soundcraft desks because they’re so ripe for mods. I have a 400b I’m almost done with and a 500 that’s waiting to be gone through. I can’t comment much on the 800b/1600. I do know they’ll need a recap and get the tl071’s out if they’re stacked full of them. Go for low noise upgrades. Your gonna have to build a new power supply. I built mine using power one modules. Creation Labs builds them also. I spoke with Skip about having one built but opted to build my own. I also built a custom desk on casters to roll min around on. It also has racks for outboard.

Idk what your end goal is but unless you have the capital to do it all at once it takes a while to complete one a little at a time. Have the Master done first. Send that to Jim. He direct couples them and it will be as transparent as it can be. Then you can hear what’s happening as you go through modules. If you can learn to do the work yourself you can save mucho money and the skies the limit. My 400b input modules have had every resistor, cap, mic transistor pair, and op amp swapped and the necessary supporting circuitry added. The only mod left to do is the transamp mod. Doubtful I go to the trouble on the 400b. The 500 will get all the mods from day one.

These are great desks and people frown upon them. The 400b still has its own thing going despite the mods. I only realized this when I heard a vocal track that was tracked elsewhere and then laid on top of a mix I did with the 400b. I could tell it didn’t go through the 400b. Very subtle but I could tell. Could be because of the outboard on the mix bus as well.

Anyway, you’ll have your own signature sound. That can’t be duplicated.

And it doesn’t stop with consoles. All my outboard gets modded also.
Old 17th February 2020
Gear Head
rob f's Avatar

In my experience deals on consoles normally mean they need a bit of work. With that in mind I would just work on servicing the console to make sure it works properly stock before I started considering modifying it.
Old 19th February 2020
Gear Head

I’m still waiting to pick this board up, because it’s about a 400 mile trip- in the meantime, the gears won’t stop turning. I’m really, really excited about all this. I guess it’s not so much about doing it all at once, as it is having a plan that covers how I’d like to be using this board over the next decade or so... I’d hate to make a choice now that screws me up down the line.

Realistically, I’m located fairly close to Creation Labs, so I think I’ll end taking the whole rig to them, both the 800B and 1600 consoles, so we can see what sort of condition everything is in, check wiring, etc... I’m hoping I can speak with them about the process of refurbing recapping, and selecting op amps- but I really hope to be able to handle a bunch of the individual channels myself. Would love to send some to Jim also. The board isn’t going to make me a ton of money. I’ve been lucky to record in some really great places, I’m definitely inspired and hope to do the best with what I have. I’d love to have it all ready at once, but will likely be working on a lot of these myself.

Brian- do you have any schematics or anything for what you ended up doing for your 400?

One thing I’ve been stewing on- is there any practical reason to add transformers to the channel mic or line inputs? Or the channel outputs? Would this somehow be an improvement and add color on individual or subgroup channels? I know it won’t magically sound like a Neve- and the circuit doesn’t really call for transformers. I believe I’d be limited to 1:1 ratio transformers, which likely wouldn’t saturate much anyhow. Is this something I should even be considering, or am I basically just romanticizing the sonic impact of the transformers? There’s no long cable runs or interference to deal with.

At the same time- I really do like the idea of being able to have transformers attached to a toggle on the master buss. Being able to access color if I want it, and make the most of analog summing, would be huge- and something approximating the Colour cards that exist might be cool- any ideas what to do here? Do I want to modify the master buss, the summing circuit?

Sorry to ramble, just excited and unsure what to do. Thanks for any insight!
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