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Studiomaster Boards....thick meaty tone Mixers (Analog)
Old 1st September 2008
Lives for gear

Studiomaster Boards....thick meaty tone

Anyone else like these boards? I'm about to pick my third one up a 16-2. In all I will have got all three for under a ton.

What I like about them is the semi modular construction and more than anything the tone. I love using them as cheap summing units. The EQ is really colored and ideal for putting life and weight into a digital mixes.

They sound great when you push the 2 bus as well.

In the time of the credit crunch I am really enjoying working these little gems.

Any other users?


Old 1st September 2008
Blast9's Avatar
Iwan how are the pres on these boards - tone? headroom?

Have you used them for tracking?

How is the headroom of the boards generally?
Old 1st September 2008
Lives for gear

I haven't tracked a band with them yet, but done a couple of overdubs with an AKG D190 on a spanish guitar and I have to say they sound good. I don't have any issues with noise on the two I have at the moment.

Headroom - seems to be pretty good. Get a little saturation for pushing the 2bus, but not massive headroom like a Neve.

The EQ is my favourite thing about these desks

I had a singer whom I was mixing ITB. He had a weird hi hoarseness to his voice. Nothing in the box could sort it out. I must have tried all manner of Multi-bands, Pultec style EQS etc.

I had had enough so I brought the desk out stemmed a few things to the desk, brought the vocal up its own channel, cut a little hi end up a little bass and Voila, sounded full present AND natural.
Old 1st September 2008
Gear Nut
dcharrison's Avatar

Good Enough for Radio

I never knew much about these, but I came across one in use and I can say it is a solid, sonically useful piece of kit.

I live near Austin, TX, a town that bills itself as "The Live Music Capitol of the USA" and for good reason. There's a college here, a zillion clubs, 2 zillion guitar pickers, and, every year, there is SxSW or (South by Southwest), a huge showcase for bands and bookers and record company execs.

KUT, the college's public radio station at UT goes out of its way to present live on-air performances. Sometimes, particularly during SxSW, there will be 3 or 4 a day! I have always been blown away by how great the mixes sound, especially when they pick the year's best recordings and send them out on a CD during pledge week.

I know that Austin City Limits, who works out of the same building, Started with a Neve and then moved up (if you can do that) to something bigger and better, so I had always assumed the radio boys were doing the same thing.

Earlier this summer I had a chance to sit-in on a session and was surprised to see a big black Studiomaster running the show!

That was proof enough for me. All this great stuff that I thought was mixed on the latest and greatest was coming from a board that was installed sometime back in the 70s. (best guess).

When a little 8 into 4 came up on E-bay, I grabbed it for a side car I am building. I am glad to hear at least one other positive vote. It was a bargain, by the way. I haven't even plugged it in, yet. I wanted to clean it up first. I figure I paid about as much for the contact cleaner, the fader spray and the fader grease as I did for the console!

You can listen to some of those mixes on-line at kut .org.

Last edited by dcharrison; 1st September 2008 at 04:30 PM.. Reason: added link
Old 1st September 2008
Lives for gear
PhilE's Avatar
Wow- this is the first time I've ever come across enthusiasm for these things! I've only ever used them a couple of times but the experience was terrible- I found them muddy, noisy and inconsistent.
I know of a few people who used to have them and found they kept breaking.
Really glad you are having a good time with them.
Old 1st September 2008
Lives for gear
Ozzy's Avatar

The first studio I worked in had a massive 32 channel 16 buss studiomaster board.

I always enjoyed the pres and eqs, like everyone said, a seriously warm tone, perfcect for warming up the nasty 16bit recorder they had there tutt

The thing fell apart slowly over the time i was there.
It always felt "flimsy" and the the switches would often be very noising when routing etc

For under a ton, you really cant grumble tho. I should imagine summing through it could be just the ticket for certain genres.

Old 1st September 2008
Lives for gear

I just paid £10.50 for the 16-2.

Going to pick it up later this week.
Old 1st September 2008
Lives for gear

It is by no means pristine, but I do find it makes up fro the tone that I was lacking from my ITB mixes.

The EQ is great for shaping stuff. I use Waves SSL on most channels which gives me the exact opposite in terms of tight control. Working well so far.

I'm monitoring back through my A/D- D/A into Pro Tools which means I can if need be add 2 Bus compression or EQ ITB if need be, but in general I have been going from Studiomaster to a TFPro unit to my convertor.
Old 1st September 2008
Blast9's Avatar
Ok you know what we're gonna ask next...

A/B!!! (MP3 of course heh)
Old 1st September 2008
Harmless Wacko

Get one the early 4 or 8 buss ones BEFORE the "thin script logo". When they start getting that "Built by Ross" look yer screwed. Build quality and sound went OUT THE WINDOW.

Before that... They are HILARIOUSLY great.

Bottom end for days.

I switched out from one of these to a Tascam M-600 at my little home studio back in the mid-eighties and it was a GIGANTIC step in the WRONG direction sonically.

Studio master 24x4 cost me $600 used. Tascam was $8-10k if memory serves me. I dunno, it's too horrible to remember, like a head-on car smash.

*Disclaimer* They are NO FLAVOR of "Hi-Fi". They just SOUND GREAT.

Go figure.

Old 2nd September 2008
Lives for gear

I picked up the 16-2 last night. Doesn't seem to have the same thickness as the other two unfortuantely. Looks in excellent cosmetic condition but pots are very crackly. I haven't got the time to clean all thepots at the moment, but I only paid £10.

My 6-2-1 smalll Studiomaster desk has been with a techie for a while to fix the output rotary faders. That has 3 band eq and direct outs on each channel (no +48v) and sounds very deep.

I put the stems from Radiohead through it when I got it a few months ago and was blown away by the quality.
Old 2nd September 2008
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robmix's Avatar
I had one in the late 80's. The stuff I recorded and mixed on it still holds up. As slippy said, definitely not hifi.

Vibe for days . . . . . . .
Old 2nd September 2008
Lives for gear
Mid 80's Brit stuff.

Back in that period it was Allen and Heath, Soundtracks, a few Aries desks, a lfew Ramsa, Sound craft came down to that market.

Basically a buch of companies trying to define the ultimate home dest or project stio console.

Of coure project studios were a new idea then.

And sound Workshop. AlAlways sounded good...built a bit flimsy. Good general Brit concept engineered with the same a period Jaguar.

Most of the stuff was slightly down market from the bigger boys.....the pres were often X pairs of transistors in front of a TLO72....or 5534 .

They collectively ruled that rather small market until Greg Mackie ran the table with the 1602 and 8 buss series.. Which were generally quiter and pleasant, but which had negative mojo.

Nonetheless....for five or six years you were considered suicidal if you tried to compete in that market. What Mackie DID do was to prove you could make a decent console on one big board. Although I'm not a big fan of that, It has lead to many companies doing blocks of 4 or eight with success, which definitely cuts cost and an bring the user more bang for the buck.
Old 2nd September 2008
Lives for gear
ssaudio's Avatar

Studiomaster desks are truly awful, (with the possible exception of the earlier models mentioned above) with absolutely no redeeming features.
Back in the day they were the only thing to buy if you had no money, but it was a purchase decision quickly regretted by everyone.

They sound **** and the pots all shreik and squeal after a short while - we used to call the top shelf the Studiomasterdisaster knob.

Old 2nd September 2008
Gear Maniac

I still have 2 Studiomaster boards, one 16:4:2 and another one with an extra 4 channels bolted on.
The components are nothing special, TLO72 opamps like Steffmo said. Pots could get gritty and the IDE cable that bussed the desk together could work loose.
The design was basic but easy to fix when it went wrong with all channels being on a separate PCB. One of mine has done over 2000 gigs with only the 100mm faders being replaced due to wear.
Soundwise they are warm, they do suffer from noise though especially in the aux returns and there's a fair bit of crosstalk between channels. I still have the manuals, circuit diagrams and some spares if anyone needs any.
Old 3rd September 2008
Lives for gear

Back in the day they sucked. I could never sell them against a Soundcrap.
Old 4th September 2008
Gear Guru
Karloff70's Avatar

Seem to remember really liking the distortion you get off the input gain for dance sounds....good for burning stuff and back out through the direct or insert and then up a decent desk. Can't mix for s*** on these, all stuck in glue, can't part it, no space. Maybe the early ones Sipperman is talking about are 'special'........
Old 4th September 2008
Lives for gear
Bought a Mixdown Classic 8 on ebay a couple years ago. Couldn't wait to get my hands on a "real" British console. Noisiest piece of crap I've ever heard. Behringer probably makes better sounding stuff. And the auxilliary routing took weeks to figure out. Happy to say I now use an Onyx 1620. Nice clean signal, great eq, simple auxilliary routing and takes up 1/3 of the space of the Studiomaster. Hopefully someday I'll find someone to take it off my hands for half what I paid for it (without having to ship that monster). Just my 2 cents.

Old 4th September 2008
Gear Maniac
hautacam's Avatar

I had a studiomaster mixdown 16-8-16 last summer. It would be cool to have as a giant effects box for distorting and dirtying things up. But that really isn't that practical given the size. Had the mixdown for a couple weeks and bought a Tascam M-520 which was a huge step up for the studiomaster. Which says alot! Sold the studiomaster and I am going to be selling the Tascam. Unless you could find a small studiomaster for super cheap I woudn't bother.
Old 4th September 2008
Gear Guru
Karloff70's Avatar

Originally Posted by hautacam View Post
I had a studiomaster mixdown 16-8-16 last summer. It would be cool to have as a giant effects box for distorting and dirtying things up.
That's exactly what I remember. The burn sounds great, but as a mixing desk forget it, smeary swamp. It's a 16 channel-solid-state-budget-culture-vulture.......
Old 24th September 2008
Gear Addict
Fenris's Avatar

Dang, I work at a college radio station that does live-in-the-studio shows similar to the station in Austin, TX, and they gave away an old/awesome Studiomaster after replacing it with a new/crappy Studiomaster.

The new one (Mixdown Classic 8) isn't bad. Nice preamps, nice EQ, and no noise problems once I cleaned the pots. The mic pots have this annoying non-logrithmic taper, and it's lacking polarity switches, HPF's, and balanced I/O. We had to wire up a balanced-to-unbalanced snake to hook up the MCI 1" 8-track. I set the MCI to monitor input, and daisy-chained a signal through 8 channels and 8 groups in series, and I didn't hear any noise, just a small amount of phase shift that became evident when I combined the first and last channels. The main bottleneck seems to be lack of headroom in the 2-bus, so maybe we should upgrade the 2-bus amps.

Here's 2 pics of the old one, which was bought new around 1983:

Question for Slipperman, is that what the good ones look like? I think it's sitting in some guy's barn, should I try to get it back and get it working again?
Old 25th September 2008
Harmless Wacko

Originally Posted by Fenris View Post

Question for Slipperman, is that what the good ones look like? I think it's sitting in some guy's barn, should I try to get it back and get it working again?


That's after "Ross Electronics"(I think) started building them and the sound went to dust in a GIGANTIC fashion.

Basically... If they don't have VU's, and look older than the hills... yer totally screwed in the fabric of my experience.

The easiest way to tell was always the "script" of the StudioMaster logo. Which looked more "flowery" in the later incarnations and was basically the seal of doom.

I'll see if I can't find a picture of mine from back in the day and post it.

In any event... as a note of further clarification... these things were never a HI-FI SOUNDING desk by any means... what they DID have was LOW END FOR DAYS and a meaty, kinda pissed off sound which(as I mentioned in my original post), DESTROYED any of the "Jap" boards of the day(Ramsa/Tascam/Etc) for Rock and Roll recording.

The only thing I ever found in TRULY "CHEAPO" boards that had the same serious amount of CLEAR low end was the Seck 1882 MkII, which certainly did have "big legs", but nowhere near the "mojo" of the early StudioMaster stuff. I bought one of those as a "sidecar" in desperation after I had the Tascam for a year or so.

After all this blabber... it's been just about 22 years since I last used/heard one... and I may be remembering a wholly delusional "Big Fish Story"... I dunno.

I CAN say, once again... the difference between my SM 24x4 and the Tascam M-600 was a HORRIFYING step in the wrong direction that came as a DREADFUL shock to me , as the Tascam was was the first "serious loot" I had ever spent on a desk.

I have vivid memories, back in those days, sitting in front of that big piece of crap(M600) hating my life, with clients happily remarking on how I was obviously "going somewhere" with the newer, bigger desk... and me thinking to myself... "Yes(Sonically)... Hell in a friggin' handbasket".


De Troof Hertz.


Old 25th September 2008
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johnnyjellybean's Avatar

Old 25th September 2008
Gear Nut
EJW's Avatar

I have a 16-8-16 mixdown gold. It is pretty noisy, and has very little headroom in my experience. It's fun to mess around with and, as some have said, can really thicken things up. If you do quiet stuff, I wouldn't be a fan. I do a lot of punk and rock, so it can be ok to use most times. For someone like me that has more money sunk into plugins than anything else, it's a big help when trying to make my stuff sound less...well digital.
Old 26th September 2008
Gear Addict
Fenris's Avatar

But it's endorsed by Phil Collins!

Thanks Slipperman, I almost wasted a month fixing it up. I'll keep an eye out for an old one, it could be our only chance to obtain a cool board since our equipment budget is about negative five bucks.
Old 26th September 2008
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lozion's Avatar

This is an early one, maybe the one refered to by the Soffit cell inmate heh:

I had an even older pre-Studiomaster 12x2 under the name Recording Studio Design.
Low end my friend...

Studiomaster Boards....thick meaty tone-16-4a.jpg
Old 27th September 2008
Lives for gear
matyas's Avatar

I have no love for the old Studiomaster that was in one of the theaters where I used to work. Some of the problems were due to poor maintenance, rather than bad design, like the noisy pots and unresponsive faders. But the thing had no headroom to speak of, and the sound was just too grungy for what we needed it to do. I would have vastly preferred a Mackie.
Old 27th September 2008
Lives for gear

I learnt EQ and faders on one ages ago and it sounded pretty damn good at the time!
So Brown!!!

What ever happened to them?

I know they went stupid when they started adding MIDI into their desks.
Old 27th September 2008
Lives for gear
vincentvangogo's Avatar

Originally Posted by Fenris View Post
But it's endorsed by Phil Collins!
Sounds like a good reason to avoid them.
Old 27th September 2008
Lives for gear

I still have my Studiomaster VU 16-4 that I bought new in 80 or so. It looks like the one in Lozian's pic above. I also bought two extra 4channel modules and bolted those on back in those days for 24 inputs. Haven't fired it up since about 87 or so but I did record 7 or so years of a lot of stuff through it to a Tascam 85-16 1 inch 16 track back in those days (which I also still have somewhere in the storage area). Those early Studiomasters were very similar in design to the very first Soundcraft Series 2, which I had been thinking about buying in the mid 70's.

Slipperdude is right about the sound. I was pretty happy with everything I ever did with that board. The sweep mid eqs were nice to have and the overall eq ...or no eq ... worked great for adding a nice fat sound to everything I ran through it. It also had/has inserts on each channel which I used for direct outs back in the days. The xlrs and trim had a really wide range for use as mic/line or tape returns. I must've submixed stuff back through that board four or five times on some songs to free up tracks on the 16 track and with sensible gain settings, everything always turned out fine.

The teenie silver routing switches got flakey over time and the routing knobs under the four meters got crackly, but I lived with it. The short-throw faders were easy enough to get used to. Had some useful pre and post sends on each channel. The only reason I eventually stopped using the board back then is that I finally was able to afford a Tascam M-3700 and really wanted the fader automation of that board (being the $16,000 Tascam was all I could afford back then ...what do they go for now? $500? Ha). Which I also still have somewhere up on its end in a corner somewhere around here.

I haven't thought about the Studiomaster for a long time. Maybe I should fire it up. This thread reminds me that EVERYTHING gets popular again.
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