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Modern Console for Studio
Old 14th August 2017
  #1
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Modern Console for Studio

I have been tasked with pricing out a new console for a studio I work for. To my utter delight, price isnt much of a barrier. The owner wants something that will remain relevant for a long time. I have some thoughts on what we should look at, but I'd like to hear some experiences you all have had with some recently released (5 years old or so) consoles and why you would or would not recommend them. Our studio is multi purpose, multi genre, we would like at the VERY least 48 channels and DAW integration. Thanks!
Old 14th August 2017
  #2
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SSL AWS 948. Been on one for almost 2 yrs. Spectacular esp with Burl Audio converters.
Old 14th August 2017
  #3
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Zähl AM1.
Very open sounding Line Console built with interesting solutions. It is about 5 years on the market now offering mono and 2-channel strips. These you can either use as stereo or as 2 mono lines. Comprehensive master-modul. Very nice EQs.
Built to last forever.

ZÄHL - AM1 Mixing Console
Old 15th August 2017
  #4
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Anything with DAW integration or digital for that matter will not "remain relevant for a long time". Just look at all prior desks to see that. Daw software changes and the only apparent standard likely to be carried forward in time is the Mackie HUI protocal which is minimal at best and can be handled via an inexpensive and REPLACEABLE controller as things change down the line.

The other problem you face with looking for long life out of a new product is it's construction. Chances are you will find non-modular construction and surface mount electronics. If the desk goes down, you send the whole desk back to the manufacturer or an authorized service center. They then likely will replace a whole pcb card assemby instead of finding and repairing the bad electronic component(s). This means your studio is without the desk for a long period of time and that repairs will likely be extremely costly. The extra money the desk maker made by using cheaper surface mounted electronics was never passed on to you when you bought the desk and now when it comes time to fix it, you'll end up paying more. Additionally there is reasonable debate with real audio geeks that the thinner copper circuit traces used on the PCB boards of surface mounted electronics equates to lesser audio quality. I haven't taken a side yet on that debate but I see "wide copper traces" as a marketing point for some of the high end studio DIY projects.

There was a very good reason why prior studio desks used modules and through hole electronic components. They were expected to run 24/7 and if something broke you could put in a spare module in a few minutes keeping the session going and then repair the bad module yourself for minimal cost when you had time (or just send the module to a tech). You probably need to ask the studio owner if they want something new or something that will be relevant for a long period of time.

There are small companies out there that produce a new modular desk with through hole electronics BUT it will not have DAW integration (or at best minimal Mackie HUI protocal). Any of the older modular through hole component constructed analog or digital controlled analog desks out there will have their own automation systems, not via the DAW (but can be time synced to the DAW). Any of the DAW specific controller only desks (like Avid's) get orphaned fairly quickly each time they bring out a newer model. So basically you will need to figure out your real priorities as you can't have it all due to the nature of the beast. The more specific you get with a feature list and it's priority the more likely others will chime back with options.

Last edited by Bassmankr; 15th August 2017 at 04:33 PM..
Old 15th August 2017
  #5
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Originally Posted by Bassmankr View Post
Chances are you will find non-modular construction and surface mount electronics. If the desk goes down, you send the whole desk back to the manufacturer or an authorized service center.
Nonsense, any decent console in the 'moneys no object' sector the OP is looking for will be modular, easy to troubleshoot, and will have replacement channels/PCBS etc. available on an advance replacement basis.
Quote:
Additionally there is reasonable debate with real audio geeks that the thinner copper circuit traces used on the PCB boards of surface mounted electronics equates to lesser audio quality. I haven't taken a side yet on that debate but I see "wide copper traces" as a marketing point for some of the high end studio DIY projects.
Modern multi-layer PCBs allow for far better shielding of power and ground signals with completely seperate power/groundplane layers than older double-sided through-hole boards. I would be surprised if this didn't make for a lower noise floor and better performance.
Quote:
There was a very good reason why prior studio desks used modules and through hole electronic components. They were expected to run 24/7 and if something broke you could put in a spare module in a few minutes keeping the session going and then repair the bad module yourself for minimal cost when you had time (or just send the module to a tech).
A basic surface mount rework kit costs $50-100 dollars and a short learning curve. I regularly rework SMT PCBs with no issues. A good tech will not be put off by well designed SMT boards. How does through-hole design have anything to do with the board being more modular. Sure, consoles in the $1k-$5k range will probably be fairly integrated, but the examples mentioned here are all far in excess of that.
Old 15th August 2017
  #6
Old 15th August 2017
  #7
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Neve Genesys black looks super cool.. If a bit expensive for what you get.
Old 15th August 2017
  #8
Do you need an actual analog console that you intend to use primarily as a tracking desk, or do you want something more suited to mixing? Could you elaborate a little more on your requirements?

If you want good DAW control then I would suggest going with the latest Avid offering, in this case the S6 (M40). In terms of supportability, look at how their Icon desks (DCommand etc) are still supported in PT 12 with no announcement of end of support yet. That's a long span and the Icon desks are still awesome (I'm running one). The S6 is a very nice product, lots of wow factor for clients including things like the scrolling waveforms etc and WAY WAY WAY deeper DAW integration than anything Mackie Control/HUI based. Based on track record it is your best bet for long term DAW control support.

This of course assumes a certain workflow that you may or may not be comfortable with.





The SSL AWS 948 already mentioned is interesting, as SSL has done their DAW control via an AAX or VST plugin to get around the Mackie Control/HUI limitations, and that strategy should have good longevity. There are a few minor limitations around this (iLok dependency, having to insert plugin in your session each time etc), but nothing serious IMHO.

Again, really depends on what you are going for. I think the S6 M40 wins if you want to look ultra-modern, it definitely has that Star Trek type vibe. It's got solid monitoring, is potentially cheaper than AWS, but assumes you will provide your own preamps and related tracking hardware. The AWS wins if you want more of the analog desk feel including preamps with some nice digital trimmings and can part with around $100K USD. I personally think that is overpriced, but that's just my opinion.

Last edited by bambamboom; 15th August 2017 at 10:52 PM..
Old 15th August 2017
  #9
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Londonengineer, lets just say we have a difference of opinion. As with all things audio there are pros and cons to any choice.

"Advance Replacement" still means shipping a part to you and if needed right now (like with a Studio desk), the best they can do is overnight shipping at huge expense if you are not paying for their yearly service plan and/or if the part is out of warranty (check the fine print). Simply they don't wait to recieve the bad part before shipping a replacement and that replacement may or may not be a new part. Given we are talking about long life in this thread the OP will be dealing with "out of warranty" in a short period of time.

Modular for studio desk purposes in my opinion should really mean you have extra modules on hand and within 5 minutes you should be able to pull and replace a module in the desk to keep working. Many desks allow you to do this as it was a priority in their design, to keep them working 24/7.

Both the Military and Aerospace industry are keeping through hole electronics alive for very good reasons, some of those reasons translate to the audio industry. There is also the separate debate of how a through hole film capacitor vs. SMT ceramic capacitor sound.

For those reading this thread down the line . . . The issue of SMT vs. through hole could easily be it's own thread here and getting too far down this tangent won't help the OP much. Anyone wanting to know more on the subject could just start with a simple google search as there is lots of info out there on the net showing the pros and cons of both approaches.
Old 15th August 2017
  #10
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48ch API...

The 1608 on a lower budget...

If you can swing it... the API Legacy AXS.

Modular, relevant and holds it's value.
Old 15th August 2017
  #11
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The S6 will go down the same road the Icon did... eventually obsolete and replaced by something more expensive and with more flashing lights.

IMO
Old 16th August 2017
  #12
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The SSL AWS948 Delta is fully modular and very easy to do any work needed by a monkey.

I think the SSL is time proven in it's effectiveness as a great mixing console, DAW controller and practically bullet proof reliability.
Old 16th August 2017
  #13
MGA
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Other than the usual Neve, SSL and API suspects, these are worth adding to your list to check out:

5088: High Voltage and Discrete Rupert Neve Console
https://audient.com/products-2/conso...4-he-overview/

Also worth checking out if you pair it with a Slate Raven:

Burbank Audio Systems - Home
Old 16th August 2017
  #14
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Originally Posted by Bassmankr View Post
Londonengineer, lets just say we have a difference of opinion. As with all things audio there are pros and cons to any choice.
We do, but thank you for a fair and constructive reply. As you say, pros and cons to both, I am no longer scared of SMT these days and find the advantages outweigh the disadvantages (for me).
Old 16th August 2017
  #15
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Originally Posted by Bassmankr View Post
Modular for studio desk purposes in my opinion should really mean you have extra modules on hand and within 5 minutes you should be able to pull and replace a module in the desk to keep working. Many desks allow you to do this as it was a priority in their design, to keep them working 24/7.
This in particular is great advice to the OP - whatever you get, if you don't get a service contract then at least get a spare channel or emergency parts kit with it if 24/7 uptime is important. It will only be a small extra part of the budget and can save what would otherwise be a lost session.

Last edited by londonengineer; 16th August 2017 at 01:23 AM.. Reason: I can't write..
Old 16th August 2017
  #16
Quote:
Originally Posted by Utopiate View Post
I have been tasked with pricing out a new console for a studio I work for. To my utter delight, price isnt much of a barrier. The owner wants something that will remain relevant for a long time. I have some thoughts on what we should look at, but I'd like to hear some experiences you all have had with some recently released (5 years old or so) consoles and why you would or would not recommend them. Our studio is multi purpose, multi genre, we would like at the VERY least 48 channels and DAW integration. Thanks!
For recording or mixing?

For both - SSL Duality if you genuinely can afford it (you need proper automation if you're mixing, which negates some consoles mentioned here).

SSL AWS if you can't.

If tracking only - lots of good suggestions already. I like the 5088, I know people who like the Zahl, and there's any number of cheaper options.

With no automation or proper recall however, you can't really do a "proper" OTB mix and recall and tweak it properly.
Old 16th August 2017
  #17
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I have no real experience with the options above so take my thoughts with a grain of salt. I would worry that a Genesys Black (and Duality/AWS to a lesser degree) just becomes a boat anchor in a few years. Some digital dohickey gives up the ghost and the whole thing is useless.

From my perspective, something like the new Daking desk with an SSL Nucleus in the middle makes a lot of sense. Desk should be fixable basically forever and the DAW controller is easily replaced and work can continue even if it breaks.

But we all have different needs. Pros and cons, swings and roundabout. Just thought i'd put it out there.
Old 16th August 2017
  #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jupiter8 View Post
I have no real experience with the options above so take my thoughts with a grain of salt. I would worry that a Genesys Black (and Duality/AWS to a lesser degree) just becomes a boat anchor in a few years. Some digital dohickey gives up the ghost and the whole thing is useless.

From my perspective, something like the new Daking desk with an SSL Nucleus in the middle makes a lot of sense. Desk should be fixable basically forever and the DAW controller is easily replaced and work can continue even if it breaks.

But we all have different needs. Pros and cons, swings and roundabout. Just thought i'd put it out there.
I have yet to find anyone that runs / owns an AWS or Duality studio that worries about them being boat anchors.

The computer board for the AWS is 10"x5".
Runs a cheap as fu*k cpu and ram chips both of which are easy to replace and are going to be around for a long time - the also run at very low clock cycles so heat is not an issue. They are them same chips used in many satellites- you don't send those up if you're worried about failures.
Old 16th August 2017
  #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DannyMac View Post
I have yet to find anyone that runs / owns an AWS or Duality studio that worries about them being boat anchors.

The computer board for the AWS is 10"x5".
Runs a cheap as fu*k cpu and ram chips both of which are easy to replace and are going to be around for a long time - the also run at very low clock cycles so heat is not an issue. They are them same chips used in many satellites- you don't send those up if you're worried about failures.
I wouldn't worry so much about the actual CPU and RAM as much as all the other digital stuff in it. I'm thinking of the fate of the Sony DMX-R100 for example. Impossible to fix nowadays.

Maybe i worry to much , i thought it was a valid point to bring up. Some food for thought. Maybe putting all eggs in one basket isn't such a good idea, maybe it is, i don't know.
Old 16th August 2017
  #20
Quote:
Originally Posted by jupiter8 View Post
I wouldn't worry so much about the actual CPU and RAM as much as all the other digital stuff in it. I'm thinking of the fate of the Sony DMX-R100 for example. Impossible to fix nowadays.

Maybe i worry to much , i thought it was a valid point to bring up. Some food for thought. Maybe putting all eggs in one basket isn't such a good idea, maybe it is, i don't know.
The Sony was a digital desk. The AWS is essentially an analogue desk with a bit of digital involved for automation/recall. Different situation.

Your suggestion is pretty good for a hybrid situation, but doesn't really enable "OTB mixing" in the same way.
Old 16th August 2017
  #21
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Custom Series 75
Old 16th August 2017
  #22
I really like the Harrison 950MX
Old 16th August 2017
  #23
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Even after all these years despite ahead of the curve digital implementation e series SSL consoles are still ticking and been given a total new lease of life with THD labs upgrades. It's bought a dinosaur roar back into the modern age!
Old 16th August 2017
  #24
Quote:
Originally Posted by Rami Hashash View Post
The S6 will go down the same road the Icon did... eventually obsolete and replaced by something more expensive and with more flashing lights.

IMO
The Icon is not obsolete by any means. Still fully supported in latest PT.

Icon has been around for 13 years, without an end in sight yet. Let's assume it's 15 years, maybe more. And who's to say you always need to stay at the latest version of PT if they eventually drop support of it. You could probably get 20 years. That's exceptional for a DAW controller supported lifespan. Many studios don't hang onto consoles that long.

Don't forget that the OP did list DAW control as a desired feature, and the Avid offerings are king in that dept IMHO.

In my opinion a lot more people would love Icons and S6's if they just had more exposure to them. They are super-productive. The folks who dismiss them as a giant mouse with blinky lights are missing the boat. And FWIW clients have been more impressed than my previous analog 48ch power hungry monster.
Old 17th August 2017
  #25
SSL, AWS or Duality all the way. There are others but nothing quite hits the tracking, hybrid mixing/DAW control quite so well.

Integration that actually works, as apposed to "should work".

From a customer perspective I was involved in the purchase of a Duality SE and consequent support. You can't fault SSL on this front from my experience from sales to post sales.

The product has also evolved as AFADA gave way to the better Delta. Older consoles were able to be up rated, so far from "boat anchors", in fact the Delta software is very forward thinking to prevent exactly that.

I have friends who have purchased Duality/AWS second hand or new all fans.

Cheers
Old 17th August 2017
  #26
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bambamboom View Post
The Icon is not obsolete by any means. Still fully supported in latest PT.

Icon has been around for 13 years, without an end in sight yet. Let's assume it's 15 years, maybe more. And who's to say you always need to stay at the latest version of PT if they eventually drop support of it. You could probably get 20 years. That's exceptional for a DAW controller supported lifespan. Many studios don't hang onto consoles that long.

Don't forget that the OP did list DAW control as a desired feature, and the Avid offerings are king in that dept IMHO.

In my opinion a lot more people would love Icons and S6's if they just had more exposure to them. They are super-productive. The folks who dismiss them as a giant mouse with blinky lights are missing the boat. And FWIW clients have been more impressed than my previous analog 48ch power hungry monster.
The Icon was discontinued in 2013 and support will end in 2018. Once support ends it will become obsolete (like anything digital)

Exceptional... I totally agree with you. As a daw controller it really was. But again, support will end. For a busy facility, that's a problem.

Now all have to invest in the S6 line. 10-15 yrs later something new pops up.

For a post facility that's fine. For a music studio, an analog console like the API 1608 or the Vision could last you the life of your business. And it could take anything you throw at it.
Old 17th August 2017
  #27
Quote:
Originally Posted by Rami Hashash View Post
The Icon was discontinued in 2013 and support will end in 2018. Once support ends it will become obsolete (like anything digital)

Exceptional... I totally agree with you. As a daw controller it really was. But again, support will end. For a busy facility, that's a problem.

Now all have to invest in the S6 line. 10-15 yrs later something new pops up.

For a post facility that's fine. For a music studio, an analog console like the API 1608 or the Vision could last you the life of your business. And it could take anything you throw at it.
I don't disagree with your points at all. However DAW control was a desire listed by the OP. As nice as a 1608 is, it means separate investment in daw control.
Old 17th August 2017
  #28
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bambamboom View Post
I don't disagree with your points at all. However DAW control was a desire listed by the OP. As nice as a 1608 is, it means separate investment in daw control.
Both the consoles I mentioned have daw control with their automation package.

I'm just assuming the OP is a music studio. My way is better. jk.

Last edited by Rami Hashash; 17th August 2017 at 11:21 PM.. Reason: Autocorrect
Old 18th August 2017
  #29
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to me, the real advantage to a console is when you're tracking. A couple things that are valuable to me are: some ability to apply some EQ/HPF/LPF on each channel, and a full blown monitor section. Having a 24 channel or 36 channel console and having to run a split when tracking is a pain in the neck. Automation would be nice (I don't have it), but moving levels via automation in the box works fine. There are so many fantastic mixes done in the box these days...not sure fader automation is worth the expense. Just my opinion, which of course may be wrong at any time.
Old 18th August 2017
  #30
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jono View Post
to me, the real advantage to a console is when you're tracking. A couple things that are valuable to me are: some ability to apply some EQ/HPF/LPF on each channel, and a full blown monitor section. Having a 24 channel or 36 channel console and having to run a split when tracking is a pain in the neck. Automation would be nice (I don't have it), but moving levels via automation in the box works fine. There are so many fantastic mixes done in the box these days...not sure fader automation is worth the expense. Just my opinion, which of course may be wrong at any time.
Another major advantage of a console in tracking is to feed the headphones before they hit the computer. This is a true no latency situation, which is often much simpler than also having some additional software thing going that was bundled with your interface.
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