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Layla, elton john, beegees, eagles +1000s more=mci. So why no MCI standalone Pre?
Old 7th September 2015
Lives for gear

Originally Posted by cathode View Post
Received a reply from Mr. McKnight:
"To the best of my knowledge, Jeep Harned was never a paid consultant to Ampex, I'm absolutely sure that I never made a statement to the effect that he had been a consultant to Ampex."

How about it Danny ?
Stretching the truth ?
Rewriting history ?
Hmmmm... It seems that this came from a statement that I read on the Ampex list.
Perhaps I mis-read what was told to me, but I definitely recall Mr. McKnight telling me something like this.
It is possible that he was talking about something involving Scully machines (which Mr. McKnight was also involved in.)

I have no reason to make stuff up.
What motive would I have?

Truthfully, if I went back and searched all of my emails I probably do have the ampexlist response from Mr. McKnight.
However, I don't have the time or motivation to do this right now.
Old 9th September 2015
Lives for gear
DarkSky Media's Avatar
Leaving aside the politics and the technological aspects (eg that the circuit designs were not significantly differentiated from various others of the era), my take is that while the MCI consoles certainly did not sound bad, they made less of a contribution to the success of the many recordings made with them than a variety of other factors - and perhaps their 'sound' made less impact than the sound of some of the other pres from that time.

Clean has become commonplace and (relatively) boring, and in the search for character or sonic pedigree, a number of other contenders have been more striking.

For me, no complaints about any of the work I did with MCI boards back in the day, but I don't find myself motivated to search out racked up pres from those desks the way some folk have done. Too many other great options already an arms reach away. YMMV
Old 9th September 2015
My experience back in the 1980's using MCI's was the signal quality live off the monitors easily exceeded the sonic quality of the tape playback. Tape was more of a problem than the console. With high end modern conversion, now the MCI is the limiting factor. There are ways to fix that.
Old 9th September 2015
Here for the gear

It may be that the imperfections in the MCI sound are what make it attractive to some. If you "fix" them, won't they lose their vibe and no longer have the "MCI sound"?? What if a client wants "that sound from the BeeGees record?" What people like sonically is based heavily on the records that inspired them to be artists in the first place. That is why so many people don't like the sound of an ultra clean doesn't sound like their favorite record from whenever and whoever that used MCI or whatever. I bet that as time goes by younger artists will begin asking for the sound of whoever......2015 artist inserted here, and it will eventually be an artist who tracked through Apogee Quartet and mixed completely in the box with stock Logic plugins. When that day comes, the colorful gear of yesteryear will possibly become unwanted.....but those old records have a lot of staying power, and they might just be more inspirational to a lot of young artists than what is coming out now. Time will tell, and in some ways.....time has told.
Old 11th September 2015
There are models for everything now, as long as a simulation is acceptable. So far I haven't heard about anyone pineing for the old mushy 1980's MCI sound lately. Many owners come to me for solutions to their limitations. They can sound as punchy and fat as stock, but with the tops opened up to modern 96/192k conversion and noise specs.
Old 11th September 2015
Lives for gear
Wiggy Neve Slut's Avatar

Jim's sonic description is spot on... A well maintained 428 is a good console.

I sold mine before i heard about Philip Bova's discrete opamps.. sounds like a sexy option for those looking for drop in 2001 replacements.

I'd not rack the channels either... but my 428 could swing +28 dbu so it was a pretty decent sounding mixer, with good pres and OK EQ. add some tasty pre/eq/comp and your off to the races.

ll if not most of the 'Sparklehorse' albums were done on a 428b.

Old 27th November 2015
Gear Nut

Well, i'm a desperate owner of a MCI 536 C for 2 years now, and before that I had a rack of mci 500 b, and sorry, in the 70's i cared way much of trying to walk steady than anything else.
So yes MCI preamps are very bad, so bad when i first heard what my guitar and piano sounded like thru it, I sold my API 3124 in a week cause I figured I would never use it again, so bad that I use them daily for the last two years, and the desk is so bad that i run everything thru it.
And for the "caring" of the desk, I'm really pissed of, 1 oamp blew off in 2 years, what a nightmare!
I just cleaned it last week, what a pitty, took me 3 days to do it.
What a shame, I would never recommend this desk to anyone but I'll let you my phone number if you want to sell one in case you wanna buy a beautiful Neve VR for 20 000 k, from what I heard it's an amazing, care free, desk.

Last edited by ram75; 27th November 2015 at 11:36 PM..
Old 28th November 2015
Here for the gear

Im By all means Not an expert, But i love the Mci Preamps and eq. Some of the best Metal albums of all time have been recorded using them. I almost always utilize them over my vintage neves on heavy guitar every time. Theres something in the midrange that just works! Sound Great on heavy drums too.
Im currently on the hunt for some original 400 series modules. The fully discreet prototype ones.

Rant over lol

Attached Thumbnails
Layla, elton john, beegees, eagles +1000s more=mci. So why no MCI standalone Pre?-mci.jpg  
Old 28th November 2015
Lives for gear
Wiggy Neve Slut's Avatar

Originally Posted by Immortal Sound View Post
Im By all means Not an expert, But i love the Mci Preamps and eq. Some of the best Metal albums of all time have been recorded using them. I almost always utilize them over my vintage neves on heavy guitar every time. Theres something in the midrange that just works! Sound Great on heavy drums too.
Im currently on the hunt for some original 400 series modules. The fully discreet prototype ones.

Rant over lol

Why are there 2 small faders?

Nice racking job.
Old 28th November 2015
Here for the gear

One is the mic pre / line output the other I think it was a send to the busses??

Joe Russo at sonic circus did a stellar job racking these puppies. He built a custom psu to proper specs and put the whole thing together.
Old 29th November 2015
Lives for gear

On an MCI JH-538C INPUT CHANNEL STRIP there are the long throw VCA based faders at the bottom and the short throw non-VCA fader above them.
These can be flipped where the MIC or LINE INPUT can be on the big fader and the TAPE RETURN can be on the small fader or vice-versa.
It is common to track with the MIC or LINE feeding the short, non-throw fader since it is a shorter signal path and has no VCA in the signal path.
This way you don't run the input signal through the VCAs twice.

The two black knob, short throw faders above the white knob, short throw faders are AUX #1 and AUX #2 .
AUX #3 and #4 are each on their own rotary faders and AUXES #5 and #6 have one rotary fader that feeds a pan pot (left is AUX #5 and right is AUX #6 .)
Old 29th November 2015
Gear Addict

Does anyone know what micpre's were in the MCI 500 Series that resided in Compass Point Studios in the Bahamas around the late 1970's through to the mid 1980's?

There were some stellar sounding albums tracked there including AC/DC's 'Back in Black' and Roxy Music's 'Avalon' to name but a couple.

I believe a Valley People Transamp upgrade was available for the MCI 400 Series which replaced the small rather anemic Beyer transformers but I don't know much about the 500 Series preamps.
Old 30th November 2015
Lives for gear

I talked with Terry Manning a bit regarding the JH-500 console that was used on all of the classic tracks at Compass Point and as far as I recall it had the stock mic pres.
The common "upgrade" for the JH-500 series was the John Hardy mic pre.
Old 30th November 2015
Gear Maniac

An interesting feature of the MCI 500C-series consoles (perhaps other variations of the 500-series consoles) was the fact that most of the 5534 op-amps were powered by +/-36VDC power supplies (eventually turned down to +/-32VDC if you wanted to keep the op-amps from failing). Even at +/-32VDC, the op-amps would have failed quickly. To make a 5534 work with such high supply voltages there were two transistors added (and a few resistors), one transistor with the collector-to-emitter path in series with the positive supply going to the op-amp, the other transistor with the collector-to-emitter path in series with the negative supply going to the op-amp, the bases of the transistors controlled by the output of the op-amp. When the audio output signal was positive, the negative supply was more-or-less shut off by one transistor. When the audio output signal was negative, the other transistor shut off the positive supply. So the 5534 never saw more than something like 36V across its supply pins. I call this the “swinging op-amp” circuit. It provided several dB of additional headroom, which was likely the goal.

My MPC-500C mic preamp card took the +/-32VDC and regulated it down to +/-24VDC so the 990 op-amp had appropriate voltages that were well regulated, without swinging between a couple of transistors.

I can only speculate as to how the swinging op-amp circuit affected the sound. It is my guess that it caused a fair amount of headaches. If I recall correctly, there was a service bulletin advising everyone to turn down the main supplies from +/-36VDC to +/-32VDC. The 600 series went back to straight +/-18VDC supplies. There was an option for on-card regulation of the power supplies for the 600 series, but I don't know if any were actually built that way.

The stock preamps in the 500C series used a Jensen JE-115K-E input transformer and a 5534 op-amp, complete with coupling capacitors in series with the gain pot and the output. The JE-115K-E (now known as the JT-115K-E) has the highest impedance ratio of all the Jensen input transformers (150:15k ohms), compared to the JE-16-B (now the JT-16-B) that I use with its 150:600 ohms impedance ratio. Basic laws of physics: the lower the impedance ratio of a mic input transformer, the better it will perform: lower distortion, wider bandwidth, etc. The trade-off is, you don't get as much voltage gain from the lower ratio transformer as you do from the higher ratio transformer. But the 990 has its lowest noise when driven from a low source impedance, so it is the ideal match for the low-ratio JT-16-B. There were no coupling capacitors in the signal path. Input bias current compensation circuitry and DC servo circuitry dealt with the DC issues.

Some of my MPC-500C customers did not own a 500C console. They put the mic preamp cards in their own boxes and power supplies so they could have superior outboard mic preamps that they could take with them.

Thank you.

John Hardy
The John Hardy Co.
The John Hardy Co. Home
Old 4th December 2015
Thanks for the the history, John. I do remember that "swinging op amp" circuit featured in print ads of the day. They really called it that!

I also recall that not all 5534/5532 opamps were identical: there were some differences between brands. I don't remember whether this showed up in the data sheet specs or if it was just something people noticed over time. Perhaps you or Jim Williams know more details.

David L. Rick
Seventh String Recording
Old 4th December 2015
Lives for gear

I'm wondering!

If there was to be an MCI Mic Preamp and/or Channel strip with EQ would seem a touch like an Eventide scenario, so many designers, differing types, made to order and which, eq the end, you could custom order the channels so...possibly a big ask with to many others to consult -Sony are gone from Pro Audio though!

That's not disputed!
Harrison would seem to near cover it anyway?

Written with iOS Apple junk corrective spell wreck!
Old 18th May 2018
Old 19th May 2018
Gear Nut
rwsand's Avatar
Originally Posted by MIKEHARRIS View Post
I walked into the control room at Criteria during a Bee Gees session and was surprised to see pencils and tape reels stuck into Speedys' acoustical treatment around the room. The loop was actually that. The drums were mixed to two tracks on 1/4 tape that was run around the room on those pencils & reels.
What fun! Really, I think I would have loved doing that.
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