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API The Box vs. SSL XDesk/Xrack/500 series console Consoles
Old 15th March 2015
  #1
Here for the gear
 

API The Box vs. SSL XDesk/Xrack/500 series console

My friend and I are building a studio in our home and want to buy a small/limited high quality console. We have narrowed the search down to API The Box and buying an ssl XDesk with a few xracks or 500 racks(https://www.gearslutz.com/board/new-...xingtable.html) What would be the pros and cons of each? Would one sound cleaner or less noisey? What is a better value? We only have 8 tracks on our tape machine so we don't need anything crazy just high quality!

Gear we already have: Otari mx5050 8 track, purple biz pre, moog 500 delay, Demeter rv1, Lauten Oceanus, 2 little blondies, sm57s, mackie 24 8, ns10s, Beringer composer.
Old 16th March 2015
  #2
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chrisrulesmore's Avatar
 

Would you be looking to spend the same on either setup, i.e. $15k for The Box vs. an X-Desk and $12k worth of outboard? I would probably go for the API and add to it over time as budget allows, unless you are trying to save $$$, in which case the SSL would definitely be a cheaper option.

Best,
Chris
Old 16th March 2015
  #3
Here for the gear
 

Thanks Chris!

Yes we are looking to spend 15k either way.
Api the box or xdesk($3300) + 2 xracks or 500 racks($1600-2000) + $9500 to fill up as many spaces as we can and maybe some meters. With the xdesk/rack combo we would have around the same amount of functionality for the same price i.e. auxes, cues, inserts, preamps, comps, eqs.

So the main question is which set up will sound more professional(bigger, quieter, more headroom)?

Thanks!
Sam Winsor
Old 17th March 2015
  #4
Your looking at two very different products for 15k max budget!

Ssl xdesk/2xracks = 8 channel eq/comps/faders
Api the box = 4 pre's, 2 eq/comp 20 faders.

Your purchase should be driven more by your workflow and channel needs instead of the sound. How many eq's/comps do you need? How many summing channels?

If you looking for a console also check out the Aurora audio ivar st., you could get a 8 channel set up for about $15k with 8 channels of eq/pre and a 8 channel mixer. Although it only has 1 aux.

You should also be looking at the Great river mix master and 500 rack with eq's/comps. Not sure if it will meet your needs but most people believe its in the same sound class as the Api the box at a much cheaper price point. The great river has 4 channels with pre's, inserts and auxes. Then it also has 16 summing channels.

Comparing apples to apples the great river set up is $10,700 and similar to the api the box set up at $15k. That would save you $4,300 for more outboard!

Great river mix master $7000
500 rack $500
2 Great river 32 eq $1550
2 Great river pwm-501 comps $1670

Last edited by tribedescribe; 17th March 2015 at 02:44 AM..
Old 17th March 2015
  #5
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Thanks for the response!
Yes i realize they differ in some ways( 8 channels instead of 16). But as far as aux sends, busses, inserts, they are similar and I could even get the xpanda to make it 16 channels.
Xdesk and racks + 4 pres, 2 eqs, 2 comps, and the xpanda would be the equivalent in functionality and price.

The point I'm getting at is will the xdesk set up sound like a real console?

I am aware of the great river mixer but it would not work for mixing off of my 8 track. The aurora seems like a cool product but i need at least 3 aux sends for my Stereo reverb and delay. The xdesk set up will meet my needs but I need it to sound like a real console and I'm not sure if it will?

I'm pretty sure there aren't many others options for a quality set up.

Thanks!
Sam Winsor
Old 17th March 2015
  #6
Any chance you can extend the budget for an X-Desk XL? I always thought they made a lot more sense then 'the box'.
Old 17th March 2015
  #7
Audient 4816 console and your done!
Old 17th March 2015
  #8
Deleted User
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Go to VKLA and try them both for yourself.

I would personally go API for sound, if you later decide to set up somewhere
commercially it would be a nice draw with the tape deck.

Best of luck.
Old 17th March 2015
  #9
Solid State Logic
 
Jim@SSL's Avatar
 

demo them. Use your own ears.

The internet can tell you which features work for you, your own ears tell you which ones really work.
Old 17th March 2015
  #10
Gear Nut
Why not get a decent control surface, good A/D Converters and as much outboard as you can? You'd get miles more sound and equipment going that route versus the API The Box or X-Racks. In todays modern Home Studio the Console really isn't needed. You can get tons of gear and a control surface for the budget used on either. Also, another significant bit of information, with all the money saved going this route you can afford to get all the different flavors of gear that you desire and not just be stuck with the board preamps.
Old 17th March 2015
  #11
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MIKEHARRIS's Avatar
The Box & Symphony make beautiful music together.
Old 18th March 2015
  #12
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Thanks for all of the responses!

The xl desk seems great but it is a little out of my range but maybe I will just have to wait a bit longer and save my pennies. I will definitely head over to VKLA to compare all of these options! Jim you are very right!! That is really the only way.

Thanks but I record to tape and definitely don't want to throw money into a protools rig.

Are any of these console more reliable or easier to service than the others? Also which console has the lowest amount of noise? I am working with a 1/2" 8 track so I already have enough hiss.

Thanks!
Sam Winsor
Old 18th March 2015
  #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Trabuco Records View Post
Thanks for the response!
Yes i realize they differ in some ways( 8 channels instead of 16). But as far as aux sends, busses, inserts, they are similar and I could even get the xpanda to make it 16 channels.
Xdesk and racks + 4 pres, 2 eqs, 2 comps, and the xpanda would be the equivalent in functionality and price.

The point I'm getting at is will the xdesk set up sound like a real console?

I am aware of the great river mixer but it would not work for mixing off of my 8 track. The aurora seems like a cool product but i need at least 3 aux sends for my Stereo reverb and delay. The xdesk set up will meet my needs but I need it to sound like a real console and I'm not sure if it will?

I'm pretty sure there aren't many others options for a quality set up.

Thanks!
Sam Winsor
Xpanda has been discontinued...
Old 18th March 2015
  #14
Lives for gear
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Leak1989 View Post
Why not get a decent control surface, good A/D Converters and as much outboard as you can? You'd get miles more sound and equipment going that route versus the API The Box or X-Racks. In todays modern Home Studio the Console really isn't needed. You can get tons of gear and a control surface for the budget used on either. Also, another significant bit of information, with all the money saved going this route you can afford to get all the different flavors of gear that you desire and not just be stuck with the board preamps.
Missed the part about the 8-track tape deck?
Old 18th March 2015
  #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Trabuco Records View Post
Thanks for all of the responses!

The xl desk seems great but it is a little out of my range but maybe I will just have to wait a bit longer and save my pennies. I will definitely head over to VKLA to compare all of these options! Jim you are very right!! That is really the only way.

Thanks but I record to tape and definitely don't want to throw money into a protools rig.

Are any of these console more reliable or easier to service than the others? Also which console has the lowest amount of noise? I am working with a 1/2" 8 track so I already have enough hiss.

Thanks!
Sam Winsor
If you are planning to use the tape deck, forget all of the above. The X-Desk would be closer to what you'd need with tape, but you'd still have to buy preamps and EQs, and dynamics if you want/need them.

Someone else mentioned the Audient ASP4816...that is what I would buy. 16 preamps and EQ's, a bus compressor and really good routing. Very highly regarded, and a hair under $15K.

For a little less money, I would go with the Toft ATB 16 with the meter bridge. 16 preamps and EQs...usable routing. Well regarded, $6,100.00.

But you probably should do a little more workflow/business plan stuff. Is it going to be a "private" studio, or are you looking to bring in outside work?

Is there untapped demand for a tape-based studio? Is there a big "indie" scene...they're doing more tape and vinyl than other genres.

What genres will you be looking at if you take outside work? Not much demand for tape in hip-hop or EDM.

But, it's just like anything else...first, figure out what you want to do, then figure out what you need to do it.

And good luck...
Old 18th March 2015
  #16
Gear Nut
Quote:
Originally Posted by bdenton View Post
Missed the part about the 8-track tape deck?
No, he can still record his 8 channels to tape. What's the point in a 16 channel board and only 8 channels of tape, unless he plans on doing stereo inputs?

Why not invest in more preamps and compressors. Use Pro Tools as a medium then print the final mix to tape? Seems a lot smarter to me honestly. Also, the ability to use Pro Tools adds way more flexibility to your front end as well. Honestly, everything is Digital now, get on the band wagon. Print your final mixes to tape and enjoy the best of both worlds!
Old 18th March 2015
  #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Leak1989 View Post
No, he can still record his 8 channels to tape. What's the point in a 16 channel board and only 8 channels of tape, unless he plans on doing stereo inputs?

Why not invest in more preamps and compressors. Use Pro Tools as a medium then print the final mix to tape? Seems a lot smarter to me honestly. Also, the ability to use Pro Tools adds way more flexibility to your front end as well. Honestly, everything is Digital now, get on the band wagon. Print your final mixes to tape and enjoy the best of both worlds!
I'm gathering you haven't worked with tape much...

Think about all of the major studios you've seen with 64 - 96 channel consoles...while you can sync multiple tape decks, by and large it's so you can record multiple sources to a smaller number of tracks.

While a "standard" drum kit takes 8 mics (bass, snare, 2 rack toms, 2 floor toms, 2 overheads), you really only need to record two tracks. Often you'll also simultaneously record bass and rhythm guitar to those same two tracks, sometimes keyboards and a scratch vocal on additional tracks. So, right there you've got 12 inputs (13 if the keyboard is stereo).

Also, you don't get the sonic advantages of tape if you track to a DAW and then dump to tape.

You've got preamps in your board, why do you need more? And tape has a natural compression, you don't always need outboard.

While there's all sorts of hybrid stuff going on now, if you're doing a "totally tape" project you'll have a totally different workflow.

BTW...I'm up to a little over 20 years doing sequencing on a PC, and 12 years doing audio in a DAW. Do you really want to talk about bandwagons?
Old 18th March 2015
  #18
Gear Nut
Quote:
Originally Posted by bdenton View Post
I'm gathering you haven't worked with tape much...

Think about all of the major studios you've seen with 64 - 96 channel consoles...while you can sync multiple tape decks, by and large it's so you can record multiple sources to a smaller number of tracks.

While a "standard" drum kit takes 8 mics (bass, snare, 2 rack toms, 2 floor toms, 2 overheads), you really only need to record two tracks. Often you'll also simultaneously record bass and rhythm guitar to those same two tracks, sometimes keyboards and a scratch vocal on additional tracks. So, right there you've got 12 inputs (13 if the keyboard is stereo).

Also, you don't get the sonic advantages of tape if you track to a DAW and then dump to tape.

You've got preamps in your board, why do you need more? And tape has a natural compression, you don't always need outboard.

While there's all sorts of hybrid stuff going on now, if you're doing a "totally tape" project you'll have a totally different workflow.

BTW...I'm up to a little over 20 years doing sequencing on a PC, and 12 years doing audio in a DAW. Do you really want to talk about bandwagons?

Being someone who went from tape, to using Pro Tools and dumping my 2-buss to tape, to just using ITB for my mixing, I can guarantee you anything you're getting from the tape can be 85-90% emulated ITB. Now, I understand he/she just wants to use tape and not open his/her mind to other possibilities. I love the dynamics and there is an indisputable sound from using it that's not quite captured elsewhere. But, why limit yourself to ways of old when we have all this new and quite good sounding gear and options?
Old 18th March 2015
  #19
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chrisrulesmore's Avatar
 

Guys, the OP didn't ask anyone to give their opinion about his workflow or preference for recording medium, he asked about a few console options.

To the OP, there are a couple of Harrison consoles on the classifieds in your price range that you may want to check out...

Harrison 950m, Ecoplate II, Sonics Animas, Greiner Summation

Harrison 950mx 20 channel console

And if you do get a chance to evaluate the X-Desk or XL-Desk next to The Box, please let us know your experience. I'm very interested in your findings.

Best,
Chris
Old 18th March 2015
  #20
Here for the gear
 

I will definitely demo the audient!
As for the toft.......no thanks! The build quality is poor and they are a bit to noisey.

We will accept outside work but the studio will not depend on money from clients. We love recording!

I wouldn't say untapped because most pro studios in Southern California have the capabilities to be fully analog. The untapped market is affordable pro studios!

I would work with any style of music that a customer wanted to.
The point is that we are recording in a way that pleases us and if other folks want to use our services then they will be all analog.
Thanks bdenton

Yes I use the extra channels to mic the sources how I would like and then combine them on a stereo bus into 2 tracks.
Also during mixing it is helpful to have more channels for parallel processing. And I would like to be able to accommodate more recorded channels when I need to.

I appreciate all of the suggestions but itb/digital recording is not my thing.

Thanks Chris! I have no problem with digital recording but that is not my interest. All I wanted to know were peoples opinions on the quality of each option I listed.

I will check them out and will definitely be posting about my experience testing all if these products!

Thanks!
Sam Winsor
Old 18th March 2015
  #21
Gear Nut
Using analog gear, then using Pro Tools as Digital Tape Machine and then sending your final 2-buss to a Tape Machine is hardly "digital recording". I could understand if everything was done in the box, all your pre's were cheap 003's and everything was "pro tools" based. But, tracking with amazing outboard and then finishing the mix on tape still gives all the sonic qualities you desire. Everything is done out of the box as well! The only difference, you have all the added perks of using a pro tools rig.

But, as far as 16 channel board, why not get the Aurora Audio fader pack, and 16 channels of your desired preamp? Atleast then you end up with exactly what you want and fader.. Problem solved.
Old 18th March 2015
  #22
Gear Nut
 

if you commit to 8 tape tracks old school , you have to check the roots console from tree audio
Old 18th March 2015
  #23
Lives for gear
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Leak1989 View Post
Being someone who went from tape, to using Pro Tools and dumping my 2-buss to tape, to just using ITB for my mixing, I can guarantee you anything you're getting from the tape can be 85-90% emulated ITB. Now, I understand he/she just wants to use tape and not open his/her mind to other possibilities. I love the dynamics and there is an indisputable sound from using it that's not quite captured elsewhere. But, why limit yourself to ways of old when we have all this new and quite good sounding gear and options?
If I may be permitted a brief wander into "The Grapes of Wrath"...it's like Ma Joad said, "You can cook small things in a big pot, but you can't cook big things in a small pot."

Which is find I find your "limit" comment curious. You can use a full-blown mixer with a DAW, but you can't really use "The Box" with a tape deck (the X-Desk can do both, but you have to buy a bunch of outboard).

Regarding the "85-90%" comment, you are correct, you can get that close with a DAW. But think about how often we read threads on here where someone is considering dropping $20,000 to get "that last 1%". It all depends upon what you're after...
Old 18th March 2015
  #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by chrisrulesmore View Post
Guys, the OP didn't ask anyone to give their opinion about his workflow or preference for recording medium, he asked about a few console options.

To the OP, there are a couple of Harrison consoles on the classifieds in your price range that you may want to check out...

Harrison 950m, Ecoplate II, Sonics Animas, Greiner Summation

Harrison 950mx 20 channel console

And if you do get a chance to evaluate the X-Desk or XL-Desk next to The Box, please let us know your experience. I'm very interested in your findings.

Best,
Chris
But, if you don't look at workflow/medium, you end up with a "which is better, a hammer or a screwdriver" exercises.

Were the comparison between high-end consoles from Neve, API, and SSL, they can all pretty much cover the same set of bases.

But when you're looking at boxes with somewhat more specialized capabilities, you really need to look at "suitability to task".

As perspective, I'm an old guy, going through the "do I blow all of my retirement money on toys and croak out with a big grin on my face or do I do the practical thing and end up with a bunch of 'if onlys'" thing. So I've been looking at analog and tape gear.

That said, I initially found the Harrison consoles interesting, but there was something about them that, to me, would not work well in a tape-based studio. Unfortunately I can't remember what it was right now.
Old 18th March 2015
  #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by themixbedroom View Post
if you commit to 8 tape tracks old school , you have to check the roots console from tree audio
I haven't really looked at the Tree consoles, but for just pure "flash", they are something!
Old 18th March 2015
  #26
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myles's Avatar
 

With all due respect to the MX5050, I'd be putting my money in a better tape machine before I did anything else.

We did a bunch of stuff to an 80-8 in the early 80's, using dbx noise reduction. If you're meticulous with calibration and alignment, they work really well. But that's for trying to get clean recordings. If you're going to tape so you can slam the meters and get "tape compression", they're not necessary.

But something like a 1" 8-track will get you much closer to where you want to be. The difference between that and 1/2" 8 track is much greater than any difference between the consoles/sort-of-consoles on your short list. And if you're doing the console route, there are a ton of older real consoles specifically made to work on 8 or 16 track machines.

If you're not integrating the machine and console into a DAW workflow, there's no reason not to look at an older console, get it recapped and brought up to snuff. Get a few external pre's for variety and off you go. It would also give you some room to improve your microphone lineup which will, again, make a bigger difference than any console you buy.
Old 18th March 2015
  #27
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chrisrulesmore's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by bdenton View Post
But, if you don't look at workflow/medium, you end up with a "which is better, a hammer or a screwdriver" exercises.

Were the comparison between high-end consoles from Neve, API, and SSL, they can all pretty much cover the same set of bases.

But when you're looking at boxes with somewhat more specialized capabilities, you really need to look at "suitability to task".

As perspective, I'm an old guy, going through the "do I blow all of my retirement money on toys and croak out with a big grin on my face or do I do the practical thing and end up with a bunch of 'if onlys'" thing. So I've been looking at analog and tape gear.

That said, I initially found the Harrison consoles interesting, but there was something about them that, to me, would not work well in a tape-based studio. Unfortunately I can't remember what it was right now.
I totally hear what you are saying, and I do realize this is gearslutz where opinions are bountiful, but I have to chuckle when I see a thread asking Console A vs. Console B and people reply 'ITB, because that is what I do/like.' You are also making a huge presumption that the OP hasn't already gone through that thought process. It isn't "hammer or screwdriver" if the OP has whittled down his direction to a few avenues and needs help deciding.

I do think the suggestion about upgrading the tape machine is a good one. Perhaps get in line for one of the restored 1" machines from Chris Mara at maramachines.com? One of those with an X-Desk and some selected outboard and you would have a setup most only dream about.

Best,
Chris
Old 18th March 2015
  #28
I am going to second the mara 8 track 1" upgrade. I think the x-rack is your best option. The workflow on the x-desk is amazing for the price. For example below is one of my "dream" systems I build around the x-desk and jh110 8 track.

mara machines jh110 8 track 1" $6500
ssl x-desk $3300
10 space lindel 500 rack $500
4 kush eq $2200
2 lindell 6x-500 pre/eq $670
1 igs 500 s-type bus comp $850
2 lindel 500 fet comp $670
2 warm wa76 comp $1200

= $15,900

This would give you:

2 more preamps
6 eq
4 mono comps
1 st. bus comp
Old 18th March 2015
  #29
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tribedescribe View Post
I am going to second the mara 8 track 1" upgrade. I think the x-rack is your best option. The workflow on the x-desk is amazing for the price. For example below is one of my "dream" systems I build around the x-desk and jh110 8 track.

mara machines jh110 8 track 1" $6500
ssl x-desk $3300
10 space lindel 500 rack $500
4 kush eq $2200
2 lindell 6x-500 pre/eq $670
1 igs 500 s-type bus comp $850
2 lindel 500 fet comp $670
2 warm wa76 comp $1200

= $15,900

This would give you:

2 more preamps
6 eq
4 mono comps
1 st. bus comp
This would give you:

2 more preamps
6 eq
4 mono comps
1 st. bus comp


Compared to which option?

[SOAPBOX ON]

Or we could add $1,750 and jump to a 24-track Mara tape deck. How about $199,000? That would add a 24-channel Duality.

While in a later post, Trabuco Records indicated he finds tape more attractive than digital, in the original post, tape was more a "we also have" kind of thing.

The only reason I made mention of tape at all is it is something that might should be considered when evaluating things.

While I am sure Trabuco Records will let me know if I am wrong, I didn't get the feeling he/they were looking for a "pie in the sky" solution. My impression was he/they have a pretty good idea of what type of solution they were looking for...they were looking for options within that type.

Again, I'm sure Trabuco Records will let us know their thinking, but I'm just wondering if "pie in the sky" is what he's looking for, and if we should be going off in 14 different directions. I mean, I will be happy to go on for hours about that sweet API Legacy Plus console I've been eyeballing, but I would just wonder if that might not be a case of more noise than signal...

[SOAPBOX OFF]
Old 18th March 2015
  #30
Here for the gear
 

The aurora audio set up seems pretty cool but I don't know where I could demo it and there's doesn't seen to be any us dealers?

The tree audio console is too expensive and lacks a lot of features I need and I'm not looking for a tube based set up.

I would prefer daw recording be left out of this forum since I never inquired about it! Let's stay on topic.

I agree that the 1" machine would be great but at the moment my mx5050 is not the weakest link in my chain. I have heard the toft atb, mackie 24 8, and ssl aws 900 paired with an mx5050 at my friends studio and the ssl really makes a huge difference. A vintage/used console would be great but it's hard to find a good one from a reliable seller.

My plan was to get a 1" 8 track after I take care of the tracking and mixing situation and have some more $$. The Mara machines are cool but I think I would prefer an otari because they are very reliable!

I'm confused about the "we also have" comment? I have no interest in the Analog vs digital argument!

Thanks guys!
Sam Winsor
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