I have friends who are into their audio electronics, and although I found electronics very difficult when I had to study it, I was still strongly interested in the power to make almost anything you like, with the dedication.
My friends were showing me schematics for neve preamps, ssl compressors, and all kinds of pro audio bits. For some things you can even get component kits with all the parts, like a super advanced jigsaw.
This made me wonder.
Could you just build your own mixing desk? Even with just 8 channels for tracking...
I got thinking about 500 series stuff as well, thinking they should make a format where the routing is already sorted (master section, metering and auxs routed etc) and then the blank slots for your own selection of preamps and EQs. Then I saw a thread on the forum somewhere where Pete's Place have been working on something like this format, which is great.
I wondered if anyone had built their own mini console, how thee planning and building and end product worked out for them. In many ways this is beyond my reach, but as far as I can see, the money for a decent mixing console is even further out of reach!
I bid on a console on eBay. I kinda bid without thinking, went back and was worried, and then I won it. It is a Wheatstone TV-600.
When I got it I did not like the load out at all. It had 8 mono and 24 stereo channels. The stereo channels can work mono, but the EQ was better on the mono channels.
I bought two more. 3 consoles worth of parts to load out one the way I want. Then, I really read the manual.
The master section is crap for music.
I was about to just try to grab audio off the main stereo buss and run into a Presonus Central Station. I realized to do this I would need to cut existing circuit cards and jump off the traces, or have a card (or cards) built.
I made bock diagrams, some layout drawings, and a list of I/O and I am having my own master section built.
So, can it be done? I am pretty sure. Should it be done? What are your resources like? Custom consoles (anything actually) are usually more expensive than other options.
What is it about what is out there that you don't like? What is out there that you do like that you can incorporate?
On eBay the last month or so I have seen several fine consoles for sale. I have also seen a center section from a Soundcraft, and Power Supplies for a Trident. I see channel cards all the time and I know I have a Soundcraft TS-24 frame, center section, power supplies, and 20 channel cards I would love to sell. So might it not be easier to piece together something?
So, I won't exactly answer your question, just giving you more data for thought.
Yes, but it's a big job! Not just all the circuits, but putting them together in a frame without having ground loops and hum. I built the console below from scratch in the mid-1970s, and it took me two years. I also designed and built about half the gear in the curved wooden rack.
UA consoles were one-offs or kits through their entire production.
It really wasn't until the very early '70s that many manufacturers started to build consoles as pre-made units.
MCI was kinda' at the fore-front of that.
There were other as well.
Yes, you could build your own console and like Ethan there have been people who DID build there own console.
Brian Roth who sometimes posts here built a really nice console in the mid to late '70s and it is still in operation,.
Even Wendy Carlos built his/her Tempi II console that is a 16 channel console THAT SHE STILL USES (I believe!)
The thing that makes it impractical unless you are really going for a specific use, design or application is that it would take a lot of work and unless you REALLY knew what you were doing YOU COULD BUY AN OFF-THE-SHELF CONSOLE AND SAVE A LOT OF TIME, MONEY AND EFFORT.
There really isn't a good reason to build your own.
You wouldn't save that much money and it would be a HUGE under-taking.
Besides, if you buy a console you are benefiting from other people's expertise in design/manufacturing. That alone is worth the price.
As I predicted, this is beyond me. I can still dream though
None the less, electronics is worth learning a bit about, and I might have a go at the compressor or pre amp sometime in years to come. Anyone recommend a good book to cover a bit of the learning curve?
Here's an example why NOT to worry about dreaming and why NOT to stop dreaming:
In about 1969 I had my mom drive me to Radio Shack where I bout a grab bag of potentiometers, a bunch of 1/4" jacks and a project box.
I was going to build a mixer!
I drilled the box and installed everything, but I don't recall ever having it working.
I do recall a family friend who was an electronics engineer giving me some pointers and I think he also gave me a circuit cookbook.
Still, I was fourteen and the job was beyond my abilities.
In 1971 I bought an Akai "quad" 4 track reel to reel.
The night before I bought it vividly recall realizing that it didn't have sel-sync.
I was sixteen and I was gonna' buy that deck!
I bought it and after tearing away at the thing I managed to add sel-sync to it.
It took me about six months, but I made it work.
I learned a lot of stuff!
I learned where to buy op-amps because I blew up the amps in the record section at one point!
I learned to read a schematic, too.
Those "crazy" dreams are what drive you!
It is nutz to have a full studio in my garage
Re-building a thirty year-old console like mine is nuts, too.
Still, you gotta' do that stuff.
IT IS HOW YOU LEARN!
Being just a beginner, making a true blow console like Ethan might be a bit much for you. But if concentrate on learning how build circuits around op amps, you should be able to build something basic and nice for your studio.
Here are some excellent books by a real DIY guru you can find at Amazon.com on a search for Forrest M. Mims III:
It is a sometimes funny, but cheaply animated cartoon series where they don't take the time to slow down the speed of the character's after they recorded them VSO'd way up thus making the dialog nearly unintelligible.
Thank you for the advice. I am aware that the SRMC project will consume a considerable amount of my free time but it's probably the most expensive thing I'll own right after my house, which includes costs of labour.
Indeed the modular approach is, in theory, a great advantage to every process of creation of the console. I will construct as I manufacture the modules in a manner that will enable the motherboard and other non-modular components to handle partial assembly. I will start with the master section and make my way onto the channels, all the way up to 48 and this will take as long as my hands can build. I will be assisted on the way by experienced engineers, of course. By the way, the channel strip will obviously come as the left column of modules. They will be connected at the rear inside the mixer frame via simple wire connectors.
Of course it can be done, but that doesn't mean that it'll be cost effective. For the time and money that you spend it could very well be cheaper to buy one.
I think if I was going to build one I would use three 500 series racks: preamps, EQs and comps and stack them to make channel strips. Then just link each channel along the line. The last part that would need to be completely custom would be the fader strip, routing and panning. You would be limited in your routing options and your aux sends though. The benefit of a system like this would be that you could remove any single part of a channel and replace. You could also remove an entire rack if you needed to take it somewhere.
Building some preamps, EQs and comps in 500 series is definitely a way to get started and build experience.
Check out the GroupDIY forum for some amazing custom builds.
Yes, you can build a console, but you can get very nice consoles for way cheaper than you can build one. Most of the people that designed and built consoles had at least a ham radio or electrical engineering background and really knew the theory and math behind the consoles.
These days it's almost worth it to find the console you want with the features you want and somewhere close to the sound you want instead of even getting a console that's something else and sitting and modifying it. There are a few guys on here (Jim Williams, for one) that do good work on upgrades, they are pretty much always sound quality upgrades, not feature additions or total sonic overhauls - a modded Soundcraft might sound very nice but it won't sound like a Neve.
Also, one word of caution on the Neve preamp/EQ's. As soon as you start to get a reasonable number of channels you will have bought a lot of transformers and EQ inductors, and they ain't that cheap. From what I recall it was at least $300 of iron per channel - three transformers and three EQ inductors. Not to mention the triple-layer switch and the concentric pot/switch combinations. None of those parts are super-expensive but they all do add up to hundreds of dollars per channel.