The No.1 Website for Pro Audio
 All  This Thread  Reviews  Gear Database  Gear for sale     Latest  Trending
Large format vs. small format consoles
Old 4th April 2014
  #1
Lives for gear
 

Large format vs. small format consoles

The thread I found recently debating the merits of a Neve 5088 vs an API The Box got me thinking. On the thread there was a near-hijack level debate about how much money is reasonable to spend on a console.

I'm not a pro, I'm a serious hobbyist with extra money from my day job that allows me to buy pretty good gear. What I want to know from those with more experience than I have is: how much difference is there between a large format console like the $50,000 Neve 5088 and, say, a Toft? Or an API 1608 vs say, a Midas Venice?

I have no doubt that the Neve/API are better, but are they 10 times better?

What are the big differences between the two levels of console? Can a person make a record on a sub-$10,000 small format console that will sound as good as he or she could make on a $50,000 plus console?

Just curious. Thanks for your opinions.
Old 4th April 2014
  #2
Lives for gear
Of course you can record anything on anything and hits have been made that way. The bigger the console, the more things it can do. I wouldn't even call a Toft or a Midas a console--those are mixers. In my book, a true LFAC has inline channel strips, direct outs, 3 or more speaker selectors, multiple external source monitor inputs, and truly is the hub of a studio because it can control transport on external machines. If you can't press play on it, you've got a mixer.
Old 4th April 2014
  #3
Lives for gear
 

You also will not find the construction issues in the better consoles.


If you have channels dying, scratchy faders, etc in the first couple years of owning a console..... run away.



Many old consoles are still running fine 30-40 tears later.
Old 4th April 2014
  #4
Lives for gear
 

Well.. Ryan Freeland records and mixes with two API 8200 type units which total
to 4K mixed with some nice outboard.

Very good sounding records that have won Grammy's etc..
Old 4th April 2014
  #5
Lives for gear
 

The typical differences are going to be modular construction making servicing easier with quick module exchange / work around possible if something goes down (new small desks are not modular and have surface mount electronics which means when it goes down likely it's a toss away and purchase another PCB board replacement), better signal flow options including full control room functions in it's master section, and lastly headroom. You can download some manuals online and some of the differences will become more obvious. You can't expect a new desk that sold for $5k new to compete with one that sold for $40k new do you? The good news is that many expensive desks are now selling for 10-20% of their original price. The trick is finding one close to you as shipping costs can kill a deal quickly, and inspecting/testing the desk out yourself so you know what you are in for. Post your budget and needs and some will chime in with a short list to research further. If you are close to Chicago PM me for more info (I've got one of my two large frame desks available).
Old 4th April 2014
  #6
Lives for gear
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bassmankr View Post
If you are close to Chicago PM me for more info (I've got one of my two large frame desks available).
No, I'm all the way down in Alabama. Plus, I don't have much room in my little space for a large console.

I'm really just curious as to people's opinions on the results that are possible with the "mixers" vs the real consoles. Do you have to spend $40,000 to make something sound like it was done on a Neve? Or is it just additional features/overbuilt quality that you get from the $30,000-$50,000 and up price point?

Thanks for the replies so far.
Old 5th April 2014
  #7
Lives for gear
 
jindrich's Avatar
 

There was a time when the record biz exploded around the early 70s, when to make a record, with the quality a Major Label required, you needed in terms of equipment a 16-24 track 2" machine, a good 24ch+ console, plus a few expensive processors and reverbs, not counting the techs to keep this stuff in shape. Anything less and all you got was a demo.

That was to make "straight-band" record, though. For a slick sounding record like those that came later from MJ, Madonna, PeterGabriel and the like, with all those tricks and ear candy, the only way to get there was to use a 48track DASH (or two) and a 64ch+ SSL, plus a ton of outboard processors.

Fast forward to the present day. With the infinite resources of modern computers and software, you can do exactly the same slick Madonna/Seal record without even using a console or a mixer. A laptop and a 12U rack houses everything you might ever require. From tracking to mixing.

The only thing you need now is a pro at the wheel. The gear and $2M studio have become almost negligible.

In Broadcast, Post, Live and Film, there's nothing left but transducers (mics and speakers) and amps (preamps and power amps). Everything else is a computer in-between.
Old 5th April 2014
  #8
Lives for gear
 

And yet consoles are still being sold and people are still buying them.

So throwing out the idea that consoles are obsolete, what's the difference in the price points?
Old 5th April 2014
  #9
Lives for gear
 

First you don't have to spend $40K to get quality used analog desks as there are decent $100k new price desks now under $10k used with smart shopping. You don't even need to spend that much as there are some nice used desks for $2k-$4k. If you are looking for a Neve color however the fastest way there is with Neve hardware.

Next, not to start another needless analog vs. digital debate but in MY OPINION based on MY experience and ears, the sonics are different than digital and obviously more 3D. However with EVERYTHING audio related you pick your poisen, with desks it's recall time (there are some digitally controled analog desks that cut that down). Get your own hands dirty to figure what your priorities are. While some have made informed decisions and chosen digital, many more who dismiss the sonics and workflow of desks have never heard or used them (again my personal experience with talking to real audio people as opposed to internet posters). There are good reasons why digital has tried emulating both it's sound and workflow including separate digital control surfaces. One only has to compare a mix done on a laptop in a hotel room to one done on a desk and likely you will hear quite a different mix. While that pro behind the wheel is a critical element, I disagree with Jindrich's above opinion in that a pro with a laptop and rack of choice outboard would not get the same results on Madonna's work compared to her prior product coming out of the Hit Factory or Larabee Studios. Then again how many here are at that level as engineers or musicians so it's not bad advice for many, it's just not comparable results as he states.

Computers and software have their own set of limitations (just like all other audio tools) as they are FINITE especially with real time operations. The classic examples are emulations. One other glaring example is comparing the sonics of hardware convolution reverb (Sony, Yamaha) to ITB convolution reverb. The hardware works solely in the time domain in real time through the use of parallel processing via a crap load of expensive DSP chips. The computer however needs to change time domain info into frequency domain info to do it's serial calculations and then changes the results back into the time domain as it can not physically do the calculations hardware units do in real time (you run into the computer's finite resources). When you compare what should mathmatically be the same outcome, hardware wins with it's sonics. Bottom line is use your own set of ears and get very specific about your needs and what compromises you will accept (there will be compromises no matter what path you take). You take it to the level you want as you can record with a micocassette (analog) or a phone answering machine (digital). Not many engineers daydream about siting behind a laptop but most of them do about sitting behind a top line desk.

As for comparing desks based on price points, given the huge deals available with used desks its best to compare what is available to you within your budget. Each desk will have it's own set of features/routing/sonics/automation. You can start by downloading short list canidates manuals to understand it's features and signal flow - routing options.
Old 5th April 2014
  #10
Lives for gear
 

Thanks for the reply, and I should have given more information.

I'm already a convert to using a physical mixer. In fact, I'm already a convert to using tape. I'm not speaking for anyone else, but when I tried my tape machine through my current console (mixer) and hardware outboard two things were instantly obvious to me:

1. Tape is a superior format, at least as far as what my ears want to hear
2. Hardware (including the console) is rather vastly superior to ITB, again with the same stipulation

I know some people can learn to "emulate" both of those factors fairly well digitally, but I'm not one of them, nor I'm I interested in becoming one (why, when I can just push the faders up on tape playback and have it right there?)

So all of that is an aside for me-I avoided mentioning it it from the beginning because of what you stated in your previous post-I don't want to get into that debate.

I'm at the stage at which I'm looking at my Jim Williams modded Soundcraft Delta 200 and wondering how much better things would sound with a better mixer. I think I've got a handle on routing needs, I just want to know from those who have experience about the real-world sonics, which are not always told by the specs.

What people seem to be saying so far is that assuming a console is used at all, more expensive sounding mixes do require more expensive consoles, but that those consoles should be purchased used at a steep discount.

Am I hearing everyone correctly so far?
Old 5th April 2014
  #11
Lives for gear
 
dandeurloo's Avatar
Jw modded deltas are excellent and one of the best bang for buck mixers around. They do most everything except color, but you can get color from your outboard. I have a little neve mixer and a delta and I have worked on a number of other consoles. Be happy with the soundcraft and buy some great color pieces including fx.
Old 5th April 2014
  #12
Lives for gear
 

Jim Williams is one of the best out there for getting the most out of an existing bit of gear and making it as CLEAN as possible with his mods. Your question is asking more about the color of desks though with clean desks of a better caliber than your Delta they will have more headroom. That headroom in itself will effect the sound of individual tracks because of how hard you push them and their interface with outboard. Now take a desk with it's own color and that headroom and you get farther away from the Delta. Now take a desk that adds transformers to complicate color even more. Given hardware outboard clones are not the exact same sounding if they don't use the exact same original transformer you can see the variations of color out there just with transformers.

The best way to answer your question is for you to interface with others in your area and run some reference material through their desks listening on a set of your good headphones that you bring with to minmize the natural variations of their rooms and monitering chains. If you have the time to put up one of your projects on their board, even better for getting an idea of what the board will do. Once you narrow down to a short list, paying for a few hours of time to audition a particular desks sonics and finding out about the pluses/minuses of that particular model from it's owner would be money well spent in your search/education process.

In a general way when you look at original price of a desk, the lower priced ones usually have very limited signal routing options (this is their design and thats it, anything else and you have to figure a work around) and limited control room functions. Sound is just a get your hands dirty type of thing as until you hear something yourself it will never be within your "frame of reference" as you have already found out with your purchases.
Old 5th April 2014
  #13
Lives for gear
 

Thanks again for your replies. FWIW, I am the only person I am aware of in my town who owns a mixing desk. There are no pro studios here. That's why I'm asking.
Old 5th April 2014
  #14
Lives for gear
 

Well the Muscle Shoals Swampers in your state used Neve on all those classic rock and roll albums however those desks have been sold off. A road trip there would still be fun. One must remember how good they were as musicains before they started their studio so it just wasn't just the gear, it was their ears knowing what sound they wanted and using the gear to get it.
Old 5th April 2014
  #15
Lives for gear
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by jindrich View Post
There was a time when the record biz exploded around the early 70s, when to make a record, with the quality a Major Label required, you needed in terms of equipment a 16-24 track 2" machine, a good 24ch+ console, plus a few expensive processors and reverbs, not counting the techs to keep this stuff in shape. Anything less and all you got was a demo.

That was to make "straight-band" record, though. For a slick sounding record like those that came later from MJ, Madonna, PeterGabriel and the like, with all those tricks and ear candy, the only way to get there was to use a 48track DASH (or two) and a 64ch+ SSL, plus a ton of outboard processors.

Fast forward to the present day. With the infinite resources of modern computers and software, you can do exactly the same slick Madonna/Seal record without even using a console or a mixer. A laptop and a 12U rack houses everything you might ever require. From tracking to mixing.

The only thing you need now is a pro at the wheel. The gear and $2M studio have become almost negligible.

In Broadcast, Post, Live and Film, there's nothing left but transducers (mics and speakers) and amps (preamps and power amps). Everything else is a computer in-between.
Yeah but most young people agree music doesn't sound very good these days and is almost not even worth owning..
Old 5th April 2014
  #16
Lives for gear
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by MichaelAngelo View Post
Yeah but most young people agree music doesn't sound very good these days and is almost not even worth owning..

Hmmm.. I don't know, I think it's because it's virtual - they don't
physically feel their buying anything.

But, hey I'm way off topic..

I would say a top quality expensive console in a good room should
pay for itself many times over - Neve's and API's are perfect
because you don't need any extra pres - much quicker workflow
and more coherent mixes..

If you have the cash and clients - a no brainer..
Old 28th June 2014
  #17
Gear Nut
 
rjfreeland's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jack P View Post
Well.. Ryan Freeland records and mixes with two API 8200 type units which total
to 4K mixed with some nice outboard.

Very good sounding records that have won Grammy's etc..
Just ran across this thread and thought I'd chime in (especially because Jack P brought up my setup).

First off let me admit to having has a serious large-format console desire/obsession for at least 20 of the 30 years that I've been thinking about such things. And why not? Recording consoles are probably the most beautiful, sexy part of the traditional studio setup. Everything was designed around the console and it was the control center of the audio universe. The best ones not only sound amazing but look and feel like you are controlling something big, something important. They make the control room an impressive space and they make the engineer feel extremely important. I absolutely love them.

I've had the privilege of working on some of the best consoles ever built. Part of me always wished that if I didn't need a house, a car, a wife, or future college education for my children I could own one of these extraordinary pieces of history and do work that was better than anything possible without one. But reality set in and I suffered through my love/hate relationship with my old Trident Series 65 and then testing all the various summing systems finally settling on my current api setup. I also built an extensive two buss rack controlled with the Maselec MTC-1: Smart C1, api 5500 eq, Manley Vari-Mu (mastering version with T-bar mod of course), Retro 2A3 Pultec style EQ, Tube-Tech LCA-2B, Maselec MLA-3 multiband compressor, and a Mara Machine JH-110 analog 1/4” machine to finish it all off.

But then a funny thing happened. Large-format consoles started pissing me off a little, and I’ll explain why:

First of all, the major studios put the ProTools rig facing the sidewall. So if you need to work on the computer you always have one ear facing the speakers and one ear facing the back of the control room. And you’d be amazed at how much you need to look at the ProTools screen even when you are working on a console. All your final metering is on the computer, so you need to constantly be checking that. And if you need to make edits, switch between takes, etc. A good 50% of my life in a major studio is spent trying to engineer with one ear.

Also, somehow the engineer never gets to be in the middle of the speakers during tracking sessions in a major studio with a large format console. The engineer sits off to the side (where the ProTools rig has been positioned). All sorts of other people sit in front of the faders and you need to reach around them to adjust levels. And all of these people are sitting in chairs that block your view of the outboard gear and block your access to the door so you can’t get to the live room to adjust microphones.

And another thing is that somehow the large format console has become a place for people to lay all sorts of things on top of: lyrics, chord charts, and restaurant menus. Just trying to get to the EQ setting for channel 6 can be an exhausting process, which makes you wonder if you really need to adjust the EQ after all.

All this to say that I believe the classic style major recording studio was designed for the engineer to sit comfortable and be in control of his domain – but in the modern day I’ve just not experienced it that way.

In my new studio I’m the one in the center. The computer is set-up between the speakers and I’m always in the sweet spot. Almost every control is within arms reach of this center position and no one stands in front of those controls (a comfortable couch is behind me). I’ve have 32 channels of mic-pre, 32 channels of compression, all my 2-buss outboard (mentioned above), my MCI 1/4” analog machine, my EMT 140 plate reverb, analog spring reverbs, Watkins Copicat echo, api summing system – all just an arms reach away from whatever tweak I need to do. Also I’ve been able to hand pick all sorts of great gear from all sorts of great manufactures to essentially create a custom 32 channel console.

And most importantly, my setup sounds as good as anything else I’ve ever worked on. And why shouldn’t it? The large format console was primarily designed to give the engineer control over all the necessities of sound manipulation: level control, panning, EQ, compression, aux sends, talkback, speaker volume, etc. I’ve replaced all of these controls without the need of a console and with no disadvantage (except for the pained console lusting part of my inner psyche). I’ve never worked on a classic console and thought that it was doing something better than anything I could do in my own studio. In fact, quite the opposite usually happens. If I’m mixing on a large console at a major studio and I end up bring the tracks back to my place – I can always better them. Some of that is familiarity with my space; some of it is having total control of my gear and how I interface it.

Sound is a very subjective thing and I’ve had discussions with people about the merits of the NAB or IEC settings on analog tape machines as well as all other debatable aspects of sound (and that’s everything).

In my opinion the best reason to have an expensive large format console is that you enjoy working on them. The other is that they are a @#%&*! impressive and beautiful part of our collective recording history. But I would never say that they sound better than any of the hundreds of others ways one can make records. The most important part of how a record sounds is the engineer - that our job. To make things sound good (or at least good to us). When I first started working with Joe Henry he had a Mackie at the center of the studio and we made some really beautiful sounding records with that setup.

So I’ve given up on my large format console obsession and it’s been very liberating. When you stop thinking that the gear is responsible for why your work doesn’t sound as good as it could, or even worse that just because something is expensive your work will automatically be better, all you have is your ears, your aesthetic, and hopefully a good bottle of Scotch.

“In art, one idea is as good as another”
Willem de Kooning 1949

Ryan Freeland
Engineer
Stampede Origin Studio, Culver City
[email protected]
Old 28th June 2014
  #18
Lives for gear
 
chrisrulesmore's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by drpeacock View Post
how much difference is there between a large format console like the $50,000 Neve 5088 and, say, a Toft? Or an API 1608 vs say, a Midas Venice?
I don't understand the question...there are high quality small mixers and there are high quality large mixers. The price difference is simply a function of channel count and additional circuitry required for enhanced bussing capabilities. My Aurora Audio Sidecar is sonically on par or better than any large format Neve, but it costs far less because it is only 10 channels with no bussing, monitor section, etc...

If you are honestly asking if there is "much difference" between a high quality piece of gear hand-built to last using good/expensive components versus a piece of Chinese crap then I don't know what to tell you. Go test drive a BMW M5 and a Kia Sportage and then get back to us with your findings.

Best,
Chris
Old 28th June 2014
  #19
Quote:
Originally Posted by jindrich View Post
The only thing you need now is a pro at the wheel. The gear and $2M studio have become almost negligible..
funny though how most pro's, Ryan Freeland aside, seem to prefer working on a console
Old 28th June 2014
  #20
Lives for gear
Quote:
Originally Posted by vintagelove View Post
You also will not find the construction issues in the better consoles.


If you have channels dying, scratchy faders, etc in the first couple years of owning a console..... run away.



Many old consoles are still running fine 30-40 tears later.
Is that a freudian typo?
Old 28th June 2014
  #21
Quote:
Originally Posted by rjfreeland View Post
J

First of all, the major studios put the ProTools rig facing the sidewall. So if you need to work on the computer you always have one ear facing the speakers and one ear facing the back of the control room. And you’d be amazed at how much you need to look at the ProTools screen even when you are working on a console. All your final metering is on the computer, so you need to constantly be checking that. And if you need to make edits, switch between takes, etc. A good 50% of my life in a major studio is spent trying to engineer with one ear.

Ryan Freeland
Engineer
Stampede Origin Studio, Culver City
[email protected]
Ryan let me start by saying I'm a fan of your work, I especially love the Bonnie Raitt record you did, of course that's easy, it's Bonnie. But these days there are carts and stands and wireless keyboards and controllers so that it's pretty easy to engineer with both ears. I think also if YOU are going into a studio to do a project, the facility would probably move some things around to accommodate you. Also the cost of consoles has certainly gone down. From what I've read of your work you wind up needing to be portable, so your rig makes sense, and you certainly get a great sound.
Old 28th June 2014
  #22
Lives for gear
 

Ryan, I understand the point you make about the bad ergonomics of having computer functions off to the side instead of in front of you. I personally think that setting up a studio with a large frame desk should have it's live room off to the side instead of in front of the control room and then use a large video moniter(s), front and center between your midfield speakers for computer functions. I'm not a fan of outboard being behind you either and prefer that located to the side or even in pull out wheeled racks that go under the large frame desk (on each side of you with the gear facing up). Keeping your head in the sweet spot is a very important issue to bring up in this thread. There will always be some compromise to be made with audio setups as there is only a limited amount of space we can reach without moving. You have to decide if the additional outboard tools or desk channels are worth moving around, but for many they are. To further your point of view though here is a pic of fellow Gearslutz member "The Dman" control room setup where I designed this desk/racks for him to use with a small frame Delta mixer. He has everything in arms reach without moving from the sweet spot and still has decent sight lines to the live room in front of him and a vocal booth (front right, not in picture). It represents the best compromise for his space / needs / budget and allows him to do OTB / Hybrid / ITB depending on project. He simply doesn't need the function of a large frame desk but he also knows that using a large frame desk will give him a different sounding mix than is possible with his setup.

I'm still a fan of the large frame desk even though I've designed for the other side (LOL). You just have to be smart about it's setup. Like Lou mentioned, having the mouse and keyboard right at the large frame desk is not a big deal to work out and if the studio is setup right you can have the video in front of you too. With a bit of effort you can re-label channels on a big desk so that channel 1 is in the center with higher numbers going farther from the center spot (pretty sure I read the CLA set up his SSL that way). So bottom line, you can set up a large frame desk for decent ergonomics too but not everything is going to be in reach from one static position. That's a good reason to be using midfield monitering too as your sweet spot will be larger.
Attached Thumbnails
Large format vs. small format consoles-daves-studio-2013.jpg  
Old 28th June 2014
  #23
Gear Addict
 
Deuce 225's Avatar
 

Monitoring ?

Quote:
Originally Posted by rjfreeland View Post
Just ran across this thread and thought I'd chime in (especially because Jack P brought up my setup).

First off let me admit to having has a serious large-format console desire/obsession for at least 20 of the 30 years that I've been thinking about such things. And why not? Recording consoles are probably the most beautiful, sexy part of the traditional studio setup. Everything was designed around the console and it was the control center of the audio universe. The best ones not only sound amazing but look and feel like you are controlling something big, something important. They make the control room an impressive space and they make the engineer feel extremely important. I absolutely love them.

I've had the privilege of working on some of the best consoles ever built. Part of me always wished that if I didn't need a house, a car, a wife, or future college education for my children I could own one of these extraordinary pieces of history and do work that was better than anything possible without one. But reality set in and I suffered through my love/hate relationship with my old Trident Series 65 and then testing all the various summing systems finally settling on my current api setup. I also built an extensive two buss rack controlled with the Maselec MTC-1: Smart C1, api 5500 eq, Manley Vari-Mu (mastering version with T-bar mod of course), Retro 2A3 Pultec style EQ, Tube-Tech LCA-2B, Maselec MLA-3 multiband compressor, and a Mara Machine JH-110 analog 1/4” machine to finish it all off.

But then a funny thing happened. Large-format consoles started pissing me off a little, and I’ll explain why:

First of all, the major studios put the ProTools rig facing the sidewall. So if you need to work on the computer you always have one ear facing the speakers and one ear facing the back of the control room. And you’d be amazed at how much you need to look at the ProTools screen even when you are working on a console. All your final metering is on the computer, so you need to constantly be checking that. And if you need to make edits, switch between takes, etc. A good 50% of my life in a major studio is spent trying to engineer with one ear.

Also, somehow the engineer never gets to be in the middle of the speakers during tracking sessions in a major studio with a large format console. The engineer sits off to the side (where the ProTools rig has been positioned). All sorts of other people sit in front of the faders and you need to reach around them to adjust levels. And all of these people are sitting in chairs that block your view of the outboard gear and block your access to the door so you can’t get to the live room to adjust microphones.

And another thing is that somehow the large format console has become a place for people to lay all sorts of things on top of: lyrics, chord charts, and restaurant menus. Just trying to get to the EQ setting for channel 6 can be an exhausting process, which makes you wonder if you really need to adjust the EQ after all.

All this to say that I believe the classic style major recording studio was designed for the engineer to sit comfortable and be in control of his domain – but in the modern day I’ve just not experienced it that way.

In my new studio I’m the one in the center. The computer is set-up between the speakers and I’m always in the sweet spot. Almost every control is within arms reach of this center position and no one stands in front of those controls (a comfortable couch is behind me). I’ve have 32 channels of mic-pre, 32 channels of compression, all my 2-buss outboard (mentioned above), my MCI 1/4” analog machine, my EMT 140 plate reverb, analog spring reverbs, Watkins Copicat echo, api summing system – all just an arms reach away from whatever tweak I need to do. Also I’ve been able to hand pick all sorts of great gear from all sorts of great manufactures to essentially create a custom 32 channel console.

And most importantly, my setup sounds as good as anything else I’ve ever worked on. And why shouldn’t it? The large format console was primarily designed to give the engineer control over all the necessities of sound manipulation: level control, panning, EQ, compression, aux sends, talkback, speaker volume, etc. I’ve replaced all of these controls without the need of a console and with no disadvantage (except for the pained console lusting part of my inner psyche). I’ve never worked on a classic console and thought that it was doing something better than anything I could do in my own studio. In fact, quite the opposite usually happens. If I’m mixing on a large console at a major studio and I end up bring the tracks back to my place – I can always better them. Some of that is familiarity with my space; some of it is having total control of my gear and how I interface it.

Sound is a very subjective thing and I’ve had discussions with people about the merits of the NAB or IEC settings on analog tape machines as well as all other debatable aspects of sound (and that’s everything).

In my opinion the best reason to have an expensive large format console is that you enjoy working on them. The other is that they are a @#%&*! impressive and beautiful part of our collective recording history. But I would never say that they sound better than any of the hundreds of others ways one can make records. The most important part of how a record sounds is the engineer - that our job. To make things sound good (or at least good to us). When I first started working with Joe Henry he had a Mackie at the center of the studio and we made some really beautiful sounding records with that setup.

So I’ve given up on my large format console obsession and it’s been very liberating. When you stop thinking that the gear is responsible for why your work doesn’t sound as good as it could, or even worse that just because something is expensive your work will automatically be better, all you have is your ears, your aesthetic, and hopefully a good bottle of Scotch.

“In art, one idea is as good as another”
Willem de Kooning 1949

Ryan Freeland
Engineer
Stampede Origin Studio, Culver City
[email protected]
Ryan,
Thanks for sharing your experience and the importance of ergonomics to your workflow. I am curious about your monitoring setup since you said you can often 'better' the mix by bringing the work home. Thanks again for stopping by this thread.
Best,
Tim Cochran
Old 28th June 2014
  #24
This is my opinion on the large vs. small format console debate--fit the gear to your budget, clientele, location, preference, and style. Neither is better or worse, they just bring different realities to the table.

Large Console
+Generally provides 80% of what you need gear-wise in a single package.
+Requires less outboard equipment to be purchased.
+Visually impressive, which can get more clients to "close" than you think.
+A joy to work on once you get the hang of it. Very tactile!
+"Gels" productions with more character (all/most channels get the "sound").
+Simpler workflow--you tend to work with what you have.
-The cost is very high for any quality large format console.
-Maintenance costs do add up over the years
-Moving them around is a major chore. Permanent installation is de rigueur.
-Sonics may not be optimal for all projects.
-If it fails your studio is at a standstill until it is repaired.
-Very little ease of recall in most units.
-Automation can be prohibitively expensive if not already installed.
-Most of the classic vintage consoles are dogged by aging, kludgy computer interfaces.

Small Console
+Modern ones have become very workflow-efficient!
+Often interface with DAW's quite well; many feature automation/recall.
+Still more attractive to clients than a boring old C24 or equivalent.
+Often work with existing gear without too much overlap.
+Fun to work on for what they were designed to do.
+Easy to move around onsite or off (comparatively).
+Often affordable to affordable-ish.
-Usually lack some features you need, forcing you to work with your DAW more than you would like.
-Sonics usually not up to the standards of a large format console (maybe).
-Generally speaking, too few aux busses/sends/returns.
-Fewer techs are going to know much about these, making repairs problematic.

Don't forget there are plenty of non-console options! To be honest, one of the major factors should be the number of simultaneous inputs you need to record at once. For most home/hobbyist engineers you are probably not recording more than a few at a time so I recommend getting one ::killer:: stereo channel happening first.
Old 28th June 2014
  #25
Lives for gear
 
12tone's Avatar
 

most salient distinction/non-distinction:

not taking into account workflow, ergonomics, etc(as myriad factors will factor into this)...

either can produce first class results...this is the irrefutable difference; maybe a decade or two ago multi-track projects that would have been only possible with a large format console are now possible today through other means - there are other options that can produce results just as good, if not better...
Old 29th June 2014
  #26
Lives for gear
 
chrisrulesmore's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by drpeacock View Post
That's an interestingly snotty, condescending attitude for someone who seems to sell gear for a living. And you went pretty far out of your way to make your snotty, condescending remark too, as this thread is pretty old now. Bad day? (BTW, that was my emoticon to attempt to make you think I'm not really being as caustic as I am actually being.)

As any moron knows that there is going to be a difference, the real question was how much difference is there between a certain class of mixer vs. large format consoles (which only seem to come in a certain class…I'm not aware of Chinese made budget large format consoles.) Plenty of other people understood and responded appropriately. Nothing in your post helped with the real question. I did find out how much of a jerk you are, but that's all.
Seriously, I meant that to be some humorous ribbing, nothing more. Sorry to have offended you!

-Chris
Old 5th July 2014
  #27
Gear Nut
Quote:
Originally Posted by rjfreeland View Post
Just ran across this thread and thought I'd chime in (especially because Jack P brought up my setup).

First off let me admit to having has a serious large-format console desire/obsession for at least 20 of the 30 years that I've been thinking about such things. And why not? Recording consoles are probably the most beautiful, sexy part of the traditional studio setup. Everything was designed around the console and it was the control center of the audio universe. The best ones not only sound amazing but look and feel like you are controlling something big, something important. They make the control room an impressive space and they make the engineer feel extremely important. I absolutely love them.

I've had the privilege of working on some of the best consoles ever built. Part of me always wished that if I didn't need a house, a car, a wife, or future college education for my children I could own one of these extraordinary pieces of history and do work that was better than anything possible without one. But reality set in and I suffered through my love/hate relationship with my old Trident Series 65 and then testing all the various summing systems finally settling on my current api setup. I also built an extensive two buss rack controlled with the Maselec MTC-1: Smart C1, api 5500 eq, Manley Vari-Mu (mastering version with T-bar mod of course), Retro 2A3 Pultec style EQ, Tube-Tech LCA-2B, Maselec MLA-3 multiband compressor, and a Mara Machine JH-110 analog 1/4” machine to finish it all off.

But then a funny thing happened. Large-format consoles started pissing me off a little, and I’ll explain why:

First of all, the major studios put the ProTools rig facing the sidewall. So if you need to work on the computer you always have one ear facing the speakers and one ear facing the back of the control room. And you’d be amazed at how much you need to look at the ProTools screen even when you are working on a console. All your final metering is on the computer, so you need to constantly be checking that. And if you need to make edits, switch between takes, etc. A good 50% of my life in a major studio is spent trying to engineer with one ear.

Also, somehow the engineer never gets to be in the middle of the speakers during tracking sessions in a major studio with a large format console. The engineer sits off to the side (where the ProTools rig has been positioned). All sorts of other people sit in front of the faders and you need to reach around them to adjust levels. And all of these people are sitting in chairs that block your view of the outboard gear and block your access to the door so you can’t get to the live room to adjust microphones.

And another thing is that somehow the large format console has become a place for people to lay all sorts of things on top of: lyrics, chord charts, and restaurant menus. Just trying to get to the EQ setting for channel 6 can be an exhausting process, which makes you wonder if you really need to adjust the EQ after all.

All this to say that I believe the classic style major recording studio was designed for the engineer to sit comfortable and be in control of his domain – but in the modern day I’ve just not experienced it that way.

In my new studio I’m the one in the center. The computer is set-up between the speakers and I’m always in the sweet spot. Almost every control is within arms reach of this center position and no one stands in front of those controls (a comfortable couch is behind me). I’ve have 32 channels of mic-pre, 32 channels of compression, all my 2-buss outboard (mentioned above), my MCI 1/4” analog machine, my EMT 140 plate reverb, analog spring reverbs, Watkins Copicat echo, api summing system – all just an arms reach away from whatever tweak I need to do. Also I’ve been able to hand pick all sorts of great gear from all sorts of great manufactures to essentially create a custom 32 channel console.

And most importantly, my setup sounds as good as anything else I’ve ever worked on. And why shouldn’t it? The large format console was primarily designed to give the engineer control over all the necessities of sound manipulation: level control, panning, EQ, compression, aux sends, talkback, speaker volume, etc. I’ve replaced all of these controls without the need of a console and with no disadvantage (except for the pained console lusting part of my inner psyche). I’ve never worked on a classic console and thought that it was doing something better than anything I could do in my own studio. In fact, quite the opposite usually happens. If I’m mixing on a large console at a major studio and I end up bring the tracks back to my place – I can always better them. Some of that is familiarity with my space; some of it is having total control of my gear and how I interface it.

Sound is a very subjective thing and I’ve had discussions with people about the merits of the NAB or IEC settings on analog tape machines as well as all other debatable aspects of sound (and that’s everything).

In my opinion the best reason to have an expensive large format console is that you enjoy working on them. The other is that they are a @#%&*! impressive and beautiful part of our collective recording history. But I would never say that they sound better than any of the hundreds of others ways one can make records. The most important part of how a record sounds is the engineer - that our job. To make things sound good (or at least good to us). When I first started working with Joe Henry he had a Mackie at the center of the studio and we made some really beautiful sounding records with that setup.

So I’ve given up on my large format console obsession and it’s been very liberating. When you stop thinking that the gear is responsible for why your work doesn’t sound as good as it could, or even worse that just because something is expensive your work will automatically be better, all you have is your ears, your aesthetic, and hopefully a good bottle of Scotch.

“In art, one idea is as good as another”
Willem de Kooning 1949

Ryan Freeland
Engineer
Stampede Origin Studio, Culver City
[email protected]


Hi Ryan
Do you have worked on neve portico 5088 and api1608 console or other modern console?
Topic:
Post Reply

Welcome to the Gearslutz Pro Audio Community!

Registration benefits include:
  • The ability to reply to and create new discussions
  • Access to members-only giveaways & competitions
  • Interact with VIP industry experts in our guest Q&As
  • Access to members-only sub forum discussions
  • Access to members-only Chat Room
  • Get INSTANT ACCESS to the world's best private pro audio Classifieds for only USD $20/year
  • Promote your eBay auctions and Reverb.com listings for free
  • Remove this message!
You need an account to post a reply. Create a username and password below and an account will be created and your post entered.


 
 
Slide to join now Processing…
Thread Tools
Search this Thread
Search this Thread:

Advanced Search
Forum Jump
Forum Jump