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New Studio and TAC consoles Consoles
Old 1 week ago
  #1
Here for the gear
 

Thread Starter
New Studio and TAC consoles

Hey gang,

Long time lurker here, never posted before, but I've recently gotten the opportunity to open my own studio. Things are still in the preliminary stage so nothing is set in stone yet, but with a little luck we'll be doing so in the next few months. It will be a video production studio during the day, recording studio at night (when the neighboring businesses close so we can make noise). Should be fun!

Anyways, I've been working ITB for the last several years, though I trained on API and Tascam boards back in college (yes, very wide spread between quality levels); I've also had limited experience using Allen & Heath and Mackie live boards. Currently I'm running an Apogee Element 46 for just doing stuff at home. However, i'd like to make a serious upgrade and dip my toes back into the analog world for this new studio. A producer I interned with recommended I look into a TAC Matchless mixer as they're good value for the money. However, was reading an article (https://www.proaudioeurope.com/info/...ixing-consoles) that trash talks TAC/AMEK a bit for their unreliability these days made me a bit concerned.

Matchless consoles seem to be hard to find but I've seen several TAC Scorpions for sale on Reverb, and they have the same EQ and Preamps (I think, finding the history of these has been challenging). Has anyone had any experience with these desks? Since I'll need an A/D converter/interface (was looking at antelope audio orion??), I can't drop as much money as I'd like on an analog desk, trying to keep the total price for desk and A/D under $5k. Apart from the TACs i've seen, i've seen some old Soundcraft and Tascam mixers pop up in my budget.

An alternative route is to abandon the idea of full analog and get a Presonus or Allen and Heath digital board, and maybe save up to go analog later. I only have 5 microphones to my name, and though I have the hook up on a lot of cables and SM57s (I work for a dealer), more money for odds and ends around the studio is always good. I would like to have at least 24 channels (32 is optimal), but if I get a high quality board with good sounding preamps I can go as low as 12 without complaint. Yes, I know what I'm doing is a huge leap.

TLDR: $4K to spend on a mixing desk but also need A/D interface. Anyone have any experience with TAC Scorpions?
Old 1 week ago
  #2
Gear Nut
 

I used to help maintain an AMEK Mozart. Overall, it wasn't unreliable in the sense of completely failing and stopping work. It seemed like it always had something wrong with two or 3 channels at any particular time, though -- mostly related to socketed ICs needing reseating (often manifested as crackling noise), failed electrolytic coupling caps, and dirty switch contacts (with the socketed ICs and the switches being somewhat more common problems than the caps). We did routine cleanings of all switches and pots once per year, and cleaned or replaced switches as needed. I don't personally think AMEK/TAC would be any more or any less reliable than another console of a similar age. For your budget, you could probably get something more modern and more trouble-free. But, if you like vintage, then... I wouldn't say it's a *bad* choice.
Old 1 week ago
  #3
Lives for gear
 

Hi
The Matchless is a relatively simple desk compared to the Mozart mentioned, a Scorpion is even simpler IIRC. As a result they run a lot cooler (prolonging life of capacitors, pots and switches). Pots and switches suffer in 'hot' desks because the heat drags dirty air through which results in dirt on contacts.
Apart from the pots, all components are 'industry standard' of the time and just about everything can still be found nowadays.
The only tricky parts might be the chips in the lightmeters which were custom made for AMEK/TAC (if that particular desk uses then I can't remember).
With any desk it is worthwhile having the power supply cleaned out and probably recapped then any further problems will be individual channels which is far less serious.
AMEK/TAC made about 25 different desks over the years so it is difficult to say they were all the same.
Some were a lot more similar to other manufacturers offerings than other AMEK desks.
Matt S
Old 1 week ago
  #4
Here for the gear
 

Thread Starter
Wow, thanks for the speedy replies!

For either of you, was the upkeep of a desk that age pretty high? How difficult/expensive is recapping? I haven't had the opportunity to do any soldering myself, but I have a friend and tech who is willing to help me restore (and as a bonus, teach me a little so i can fix minor problems) in exchange for some time recording his band.

I don't mind going a little more modern, depending. I really enjoyed working with vintage gear, but I'm really just wanting an analog desk that has good pre-amps because I think that will give me an edge where I'm at. Lots of people here do ITB recording as there's two colleges with recording programs nearby. So, the ability to do a full band at once is my top priority, and analog (vintage if possible) sound is a close second. If you have any suggestions of other desks I'll check them out

Also, Matt, I heard that the chips in the meters are one of the problems that cannot be fixed so that must have been some in house stuff as you mentioned.
Old 1 week ago
  #5
Here for the gear
 

Thread Starter
btw, not that it matters but i just discovered i have posted before from way back in recording school, i guess I just haven't logged in or posted in ages lols
Old 1 week ago
  #6
Lives for gear
 

i had some terrible experience with tac desks (when mixing live) and very good experience with amek angela, amek media 51 (in the studio) and amek recall (both live and in the studio), but i don't recall from which area the tac desks were... - have an experienced tech with you to check the desk before you buy it.
Old 1 week ago
  #7
Here for the gear
 

Thread Starter
Quote:
Originally Posted by deedeeyeah View Post
i had some terrible experience with tac desks (when mixing live) and very good experience with amek angela, amek media 51 (in the studio) and amek recall (both live and in the studio), but i don't recall from which area the tac desks were... - have an experienced tech with you to check the desk before you buy it.
The live desks, were they mobile, or installed in live sound locations? I'll bear that in mind, it makes buying on Reverb a heck of a lot more risky
Old 1 week ago
  #8
Lives for gear
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Veritas521 View Post
The live desks, were they mobile, or installed in live sound locations? I'll bear that in mind, it makes buying on Reverb a heck of a lot more risky
both, but mostly got moved around (so maybe this led to their malfunction?)

(have an eye on the recall: it's a great desk! i got to work on several that travelled for long periods of time and did not get badly affected. or maybe they were serviced better? dunno... - i keep on using some amek/neve gear to this day and would not wanna miss it!)
Old 1 week ago
  #9
Lives for gear
 

Hi.
AMEK and TAC were essentially the same, just pitched at different 'price points' in the market. The modules were often assembled by the same young ladies using the same parts.
If you had a 'blown' bargraph chip, there are findable but not at a usual electronics retailer.
Recapping itself is not a particularly technical job but being able to desolder and solder carefully and neatly without breaking any copper traces is essential as 'fault finding' becomes technical at that point and can take a while to do. You should consider doing this for any desk over 20 or more years old.
The biggest issue is when you have a lot of pots (and switches) that are dirty. You MUST spend an hour or two 'playing' with any proposed purchase, putting some music through each channel and adjust pots and press switches listening for any 'crunchiness'. A recap will get the desk back to 'factory' condition and once done it will happily work for another 15 years or more. Dirty pots and switches will drive you nuts and are a LOT more effort and cost to change. These comments apply to ANY desk not just AMEK/TAC.
I was commissioning AMEK desks from the factory for many years.
I would be interested to know what 'problems' Deedeeyeah had with TAC desks.
Happy hunting.
Matt S
Old 1 week ago
  #10
Gear Head
 

Scorpion

I had a TAC Scorpion for a while, can't remember if it was a II or not. Paid $2k for it in the year 2k.

At the time I thought it sounded OK - better than anything new I could have bought for the same price. I liked the EQ, and the mic pres sounded good to me. But there were two main issues that eventually drove me to dump it.

The busses were pretty much useless except as a means to route individual signals. When I ran a drum submix through a pair of them the sound just kind of collapsed in an unpleasant lofi way, like it's little circuits were struggling to keep up. So I only used the direct outs.

But the direct outs, and tape returns (I had a Tascam ATR-60) are wired in a funny way. They use TRS jacks, but are not balanced - they're dual level. The tip and sleeve carried two different levels of signal: +0 (not +4) and -12 (not -10). I guess this was supposed to be a convenience so you could connect it to any given tape deck. But in my case the ATR-60 made that even weirder because it wanted you to manually short its hot and cold pins together if you were connecting to an unbalanced mixer. I had to make custom cables for it - that was fun!

I sold to a friend who still loves to take pictures next to it because it looks like a big console.

How's that for a recommendation...?

Cheers,
Pete
Old 1 week ago
  #11
Lives for gear
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Matt Syson View Post
I would be interested to know what 'problems' Deedeeyeah had with TAC desks.
since i was mostly using them live, i didn't get the time to troubleshoot any of the desks - and there are a few thousand gigs between now and the time i used them! if remember right, i had broken power supplies (not as many as with soundcraft desks though), phantom power being too weak with several power hungry mics connected, faulty busses and some sort of crackling i could not isolate, overshooting eqs and the usual crappy (pan?) pots. don't remember routing/patching...

don't get me wrong: i was trying to love the desks but they let me down a little bit too often plus ramsa and yamaha were just more reliable (btw: got a 40 channel pm3500 here - anyone?) no doubt tac can be fun if brought up to specs. but will this fit into the op's budget?


p.s. i posted a pic of my v-shaped amek angela in another thread a few months ago - eventually swapped it for an mci jh500: now that desk needs lots of maintenance (and is mucho more difficult to service, some parts being mostly unavailable: anyone has a quad fader? and no, ssl's won't do and i don't wanna gang replacement stereo faders with a vca...)

p.p.s. 'AMEK and TAC were essentially the same' - is that so and can you tell from doing tech work or were you told so? - as a modern equivalent, many folks talk about soundcraft vi and studer vista desks essentially being the same, 'just pitched at different price points' but even though vi's are based on the same technology (and code possibly written by the same folks), they are nowhere near close to the vista's!

Last edited by deedeeyeah; 1 week ago at 09:22 AM.. Reason: p.p.s. added
Old 6 days ago
  #12
Gear Nut
 

As far as working on the AMEK/TAC stuff: as folks have already mentioned, apart from the pots and LED VU meter drivers, there's not much in those that isn't just standard components (last I'd checked, the switches could even be bought cheaply from Digi-Key and Mouser). Recapping isn't bad, though we didn't do "wholesale" recapping of equipment (mixer or anything else), because the studio owner didn't want to deal with that much downtime; rather "we" (i.e., I) simply repaired things as they broke down. Personally, I advocate a moderate approach: on vintage gear, recap the power supplies and replace any caps where a failure could destroy unobtainable parts and don't worry too much about replacing every single other capacitor. Other people have different opinions on this. Switches are not much fun to replace, and that wouldn't be where I'd learn to replace components -- but your tech friend shouldn't have any big problem there.

I second Matt's advice: check everything you possibly can before you buy. Even if the seller seems honest, people really do sometimes forget about problems with gear if they've gotten used to working around them.

If an AMEK/TAC came my way, in good condition at a fair price, I would buy it. Just like with car maintenance, if you learn to do at least some of the basic stuff yourself, you can keep older models going even when less "handy" people would have written them off. I'd certainly rather work on an AMEK than any of the modern non-modular stuff, where disassembly and reassembly involves removing and reinstalling approximately 2,900,483 knobs.
Old 6 days ago
  #13
Lives for gear
 

Hi @deedeeyeah. Phantom should be OK, the supply gives 48 Volts and used the 'standard' 6K8 resistors so that is a mystery. The other items should have been fixable easily enough by a decent tech, there is nothing much that sounds 'AMEK specific' in terms of problem.
The AMEK factory was in Salford, near Manchester England. The TAC factory was in Nottingham. There was a place that only assembled boards on the South coast of England. If you look at the directors list for TAC and AMEK the same names appeared on both. There was of course some change over the years and they started as separate companies. There are a couple of websites which would fill in the actual history with much more detail. Typically the same 'circuit blocks' (like a mic amp stage or a balanced output stage) would be used by both and of course there were many variants of mic amps over the years.
At the time I was there Einsteins and BIGs were built at both factories. Some other models were as well, it depended who was busiest at the time.
There were about a dozen 'types' of power supply and around 20? models of desk and they changed designs for the sub circuits over the years.
Pots were sourced from Radiohm, OMEG, Sfernice, Clarostat, Preh, Ruwido and Alps (+others?) depending on the different desk designs and time period they were built. They are not interchangeable by the way!
Matt S
Old 6 days ago
  #14
Lives for gear
 

thx for sharing some insight - i'm sure your comments will help others to base their decision on whether to buy a used amek/tac on somewhat safer ground.

speaking of the amek big consoles: i couldn't afford one at the time, so got a tascam m3700; would have preferred the amek though! - and now i'm gonna send some elektrons through my amek cib: (one of) the best channel strips ever :-)
Old 4 days ago
  #15
Here for the gear
 

Thread Starter
Quote:
Originally Posted by Pete J View Post
I had a TAC Scorpion for a while, can't remember if it was a II or not. Paid $2k for it in the year 2k.

At the time I thought it sounded OK - better than anything new I could have bought for the same price. I liked the EQ, and the mic pres sounded good to me. But there were two main issues that eventually drove me to dump it.

The busses were pretty much useless except as a means to route individual signals. When I ran a drum submix through a pair of them the sound just kind of collapsed in an unpleasant lofi way, like it's little circuits were struggling to keep up. So I only used the direct outs.

But the direct outs, and tape returns (I had a Tascam ATR-60) are wired in a funny way. They use TRS jacks, but are not balanced - they're dual level. The tip and sleeve carried two different levels of signal: +0 (not +4) and -12 (not -10). I guess this was supposed to be a convenience so you could connect it to any given tape deck. But in my case the ATR-60 made that even weirder because it wanted you to manually short its hot and cold pins together if you were connecting to an unbalanced mixer. I had to make custom cables for it - that was fun!
Has anyone else had this experience with Scorpions or any other TAC/AMEK? I'd be bummed to not be able to use the busses. I won't be using tape, I'll be going back into the computer post fader for a tape mix, so I don't know if the unbalanced outs will be a huge problem or not, I've never dealt with that before. Will that cause some issues?

There is a TAC scorpion listed in "Very good" gondition for $1100, does this seem like a good deal? I'm also open to suggestions if anyone has any other thoughts on a good first mixer.

The bummer is the listed one is 8 hours drive away from me
Old 4 days ago
  #16
Here for the gear
 

Thread Starter
oh, and the listed desk is 32x8x8, so I wouldnt have to worry about size
Old 2 days ago
  #17
ccg
Gear Maniac
 

I had a TAC Scopion for a few years around 2003-2007 or something like that. It was an ok desk. The EQ worked, the pres worked, not super exciting. My light bar died in some spots. My power supply died, but that was a pretty easy fix.

Should you buy it? I don't know. Some Soundcraft mixers may sound better.

I can tell you NOT to buy a Tascam. I worked with a buddy who had one of these before I got the Scorp. It was a battle and it didn't sound good.
Old 2 days ago
  #18
Lives for gear
 

Hi
When considering any gear that is 25 + years old you have to have some regard to maintenance.
Would you buy a car with 500,000 miles on the clock without at least looking over it?
Matt S
Old 2 days ago
  #19
Here for the gear
 

Thread Starter
Quote:
Originally Posted by ccg View Post
Should you buy it? I don't know. Some Soundcraft mixers may sound better.
were there any particular models you'd recommend? I've seen lots of soundcraft stuff for sale, most of them are live boards though. How do they sound compared to other brands?
Old 2 days ago
  #20
Here for the gear
 

Thread Starter
Quote:
Originally Posted by Matt Syson View Post
Hi
When considering any gear that is 25 + years old you have to have some regard to maintenance.
Would you buy a car with 500,000 miles on the clock without at least looking over it?
Matt S
Absolutely, anything I consider I'm taking my tech friend with me to look at and give me a thumbs up first. I want good analog tone, but with minimal headaches. If i had the money, i'd probably splurge on something more modern such as Toft just because I'd hope it would last a while before it developed a problem.
Old 2 days ago
  #21
ccg
Gear Maniac
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Veritas521 View Post
were there any particular models you'd recommend? I've seen lots of soundcraft stuff for sale, most of them are live boards though. How do they sound compared to other brands?
Perhaps a Ghost. I have no idea what these are selling for these days.

Others here can give you more info on Soundcraft than I can. I've never owned one.
Old 2 days ago
  #22
Lives for gear
 

I have a TAC Magnum. It's the last console TAC built. For my ears it's fine. I use it mostly for tracking although sometimes I'll mix through it. Analog sounds different (not better or worse just another choice to enjoy) and it suits certain styles.

I can't tell you what to get but I can tell you why i got mine (a while ago).

1: When tracking it's great to be able to configure all your headphone mixes and monitoring with all faders and knobs at your fingertips.

2: I don't own 24 mike preamps and teh board came with 26. Yeah some would say not the best but great records have been made with far less. They can be upgraded (look below for link) if you wish.

3: Yeah it looks cool! But seriously having a mixer for tracking sessions makes things flow along quite effortlessly.

More reasons but they are all personal and not entirely practical.

Yes the meters sometimes flake out. Mine are still all intact. But if you calibrate the levels between the mixer and DA converters your DAW meters should suffice.

Ok weaknesses other than meters. Power Supply! That is the weakest part of the TAC series. But not insurmountable so if you find a board that looks in great condition but the power supply does not (or just doesn't work) it can also be either repaired/overhauled or just replaced. More money though right?

Check out Audio Maintenance Limited - Support Zone for all things AMEK and TAC.
There is also a firm in CA that repairs and also sells full built power supplies for the AMEK and TAC range. Google them.

If you could get a better impression or hear one in person enough to judge for yourself that would be best. There are cleaner mixers and also worse ones. Check out D&R for clean with lot's of headroom if you like that. My Magnum has plenty of headroom for me.

That last thing I'll say is you should have some confidence in maintenance or have someone handy that does. The good thing is that they are modular so if 1 channel goes bad you take it out but your board keeps on working (if you have enough strips you just move them around to fit the configuration you want). The circuitry in these mixers is not overly complicated. My console has some small issues that I have not taken care of but they are minor and the same ones that were there when I got my board 15 years ago.

Ask me more questions if you need more info as I find it hard to recommend anything without knowing your particular needs.

Cheers

Jim
Old 1 day ago
  #23
Lives for gear
 

Hi
Realistically you must audition the pots on any desk you may wish to buy. All pots are designed to 'self clean' but of course this means they have to be physically rotated quite regularly. I would expect a desk with decent pots for them to 'clean' and give crackle free performance when rotated say 20 times or thereabouts. Ant that are not at least near clean should be flagged for possible replacement, or cleaning if the deal is a really good one.switches, again if they self clean you get an idea of how they might be and can decide. Caps MIGHT need replacing but that is not as tricky or expensive than wholesale pot or switch replacement and if it is recapped with decent, 105 centigrade types can be ignored for another 20 years plus.
Matt S
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