Well, it's a new year and this year I aim to get some new toys for my studio. Specifically, I want a good analog board.
Given the prices of vintage consoles, I figure I could get something fairly decent in the $2.5k to $4k range.
What I want is something modular with at least 24 channels, a solid, musical eq (parametric or semi-para, I don't mind), good mic pres (color or no color, but robust and full sounding), direct outs on every channel (or a matrix) and a great summing buss. O.k., a set of subgroups aren't bad, but not terribly important (if it's a modular board, I could add some later) and some aux sends (again, nothing major but say 4 at least) would be nice too. Mainly I want a great front end and back end to my Pro Tools rig, with the intention of upgrading to an analog 24 track multi-track. I don't like mixing in the box and eventually want to have the option to go all analog if so desired.
Am I dreaming or is there a good console out there in my price range that would suit my desires? I've been throwing names around in my head like Trident, MCI, Soundcraft, Neotek, Otari, etc. You get the idea. I just don't have good knowledge of the history of these classy high end boards but I know a buddy of mine scored a Trident 24 series years ago for like $2.5k and he's real happy with it (and it's a great looking and great sounding board).
I've owned an MCI 636, and I don't think that is good choice unless it was meticulously maintained and some of the pre's have been swapped out for John Hardy's. Otherwise, the consoles are cloudy sounding with not very usable pre's and only the "Q" Eq's are worth their while. The only redeeming quality of the 636 is amount of sends & returns and the built in patchbay. For your price range, you could do better by finding an Trident 70 Series or a Soundcraft. You can also search around for an MCI 400 or 500 Series, but the chances of finding one in decent shape for that price is slim.
It's funny that MCI got mentioned first because that's one of the two brands I was more gravitating towards, them and Trident. And I had seen that JH 636 on ebay. I guess I should have stated before that while I don't have the money right now, I am saving for one and hope to be able to buy my dream console before the summer.
But Soundcraft's name has come up and I've done some research on that TS-24, which looks good, but I've also seen that 600's go for dirt cheap these days and apparently those can sound really good too, especially after Jim Williams gets his mods into it (which I would totally, eventually do!) I think I've seen a good sized 600 go for around $1200, which is crazy considering a Ghost goes for that, and sometimes even a 200 or 400 with enough channels! I had a 200 at my studio on loan from a friend and it was pretty cool, but kinda limited for recording. And his was only 8 channels anyway. Still didn't have the outputs needed for serious multi-tracking (yeah, we half-jacked the sends and maxed out the auxes but I don't like that) but the pres were real punchy. Still, the 200 isn't really the sound I want.
I do like the way that 70 series looks though. But looks aren't anything until I hear it. Anyone got good examples of recordings made on any of these boards? I bet the 70 series made chock full of classic recordings I already know, I just didn't know it was done on that board. And I know oodles of hits were made on MCI. Couldn't tell you what songs though.
I think in your price range your most colorful option is Sound Workshop. They have balls and grit in stock configuration, a tad noisy, but are easily cleaned up with a recapping and some newer amps, the latter of which let you eliminate some caps in the process, which equals better clarity, transient punch, and phase accuracy.
I've done a lot of mixes on Sound Workshops, and by far they have the most character and personality of the options you're kicking around with the exception of the MCI and Trident. MCI will require a full time tech, though. Tridents are badass.
+1 for the Sound Workshop vibe BUT -1 for problems.I owned a series 30 Sound Workshop but by now those plastic molex connectors that connect the channel strips under the hood would have turned gluey or deteriorated and are not reliable at best.The chips in the stereo buss could also be upgraded with Burr Brown OP++++ forgot the numbers to get a bit more punch and lesss noise.I would not invest in any console without considering the who what and how for servicing.Be prepared to spend twice as much on patch bays and wiring.
The first large format console I purchased was a trident series 75. It was a good desk and I had very few tech problems for the 2 years I worked on it (I subsequently moved and eventually sold it since I didn't have a use or space for it in NYC). The tuchel connectors are a pain to wire and its a pretty crunchy sounding desk, so I wouldn't recommend it for work outside of rock or pop. The prices for tridents have soared. I wouldn't pay more than 5k for one.
I currently work on a Soundcraft 6000 24X16X2. The flexibility is great, but its been plauged by tech issues. I originally purchased it for some home tracking, but it wound up in the commercial facility I co-own. We're currently shopping for a console but for now its getting the job done. As a side note, I've had the master section and 2 input modules modded by Jim Williams. I've had to reverse the master section mods after two IC's went and I had to get the console up for a session the following day. Both modded input modules have issues. Also, the power supply went down on the first session I used it. I purchased the 6000 for under 2k without cabling. I would avoid a 6000 (or other older Soundcrafts for that matter) unless the switches have been replaced and you can get an idea of the history. Caps seem to have a pretty decent life in the 6000. I also would forgo the mods. The master section mod may be worthwhile, but the input module cost does not IMHO benefit the desk. I joke with our tech about it, but it really is polishing a turd. Not a bad desk as it sits, but not worth investing in, when after the costs you could have a better sounding desk from the factory.
Truth be told, we run a pair of A800's and so a console is a necessity, but if we weren't running tape I would probably get a summing mixer for smaller studio/projects. We're looking at a name vintage console this month, price tag 25K plus, so I guess I'm saying I'd either get something great sounding and solid or avoid a desk entirely unless its essential to signal flow. There is no worse feeling than a money pit desk which has surpassed its re-sell value multiple times due to regular maintenance.
Last edited by Myles83; 2nd January 2012 at 08:57 PM..
Reason: spelling :)
I have a Trident 24 36 by 24 which is over 17 years old and still sounds fantastic. I love the eq and pushing the output. Just put penny and Giles faders in it (given to me so I used them). But large format good condition boards will cost more than $2000 IMO and maintenance is going to happen sooner or later.
In this price range there are some great sounding old desks, but you'd better be good with a soldering iron.
On the plus side it's not hard to learn that stuff if you're practical..... and have the time, it's a real struggle having a busy studio and trying to recap the console between sessions, it can be done...... but I won't do it again.
I've spent some more money and got a really reliable old console that sounds great too, but if I hadn't got the cheaper old banger first I wouldn't have made the commitment to spend more. I had to go through it to understand it was worth it.
What ever you get enjoy it, I still love my old banger and being forced to repair pretty much everything that could have gone wrong with it means I'm not afraid of buying any second hand gear now, I can sort most problems, and this has saved me thousands..... really.
Not for nothing, but I'd get the Toft ATB before I'd get any of the vintage desks in this price range.
Gregory Scott - ubk
In a way, I would second this, i mean IMO a Toft cant compete with a fully refurbished Trident or MCI, but the Toft wont need even 1/10 of the maintenance and know how that an old vintage desk needs.
Getting a vintage desk for that price range would mean an "as is" condition, and trust me youll need a lot of work to get them back up, but once you do it, you can even go further and do some mods, etc... It really depends on how much electronics knowledge you have or how much are you willing to pay someone to keep it up to spec for you.
If you want to have less problems, go with the Toft, notice i said "less" and no "none"... its just something inherent about desks, they will always need maintenance at some point.
Sony MXP Console!
One suggestion would be the SONY MXP 2936- which can be found in your price range - probably in near mint condition.
Amazing summing tone in the MCI/ Harrison tradition-
but manufactured like a SONY tank- trouble free - great sound.
Soundcraft 8000 is a nice sounding desk and goes for pennies right now.. It is a live console, but if you could live with it it's fine..
Maybe also an Amek Classic, incredible features, nice full 4 parametric eq, sweepable hpf and lpf, 8 aux, penny&giles faders, modular.. It's huge and heavy though.. But it's reliable.. (at least IME).
You might get lucky an find a Studer 970 desk, which is a broadcast desk (so it might not have some features you're looking for) but sounds nice and it's reliable.
are you factoring into this budget cabling? transport and if it's an older console at least recapping some power supplies if not the console? I have an Otari Concept One and I can tell you that between replacing the cabling, shipping and installing, and recapping the powers supplies, this sucker has 3 big racks with all sorts of supplies in them, I probably spent another 7 thousand or so over what I paid for it. Of course I'm happy now, but you should think of that
Based on the advice of Fletcher and others, I bought a Trident Series 70 from a tech up in Massachussetts back in the early 2000's. The tech (Bruce) had done most of the recapping and op amp rechipping (Burr Browns, nothing super fancy). I finished up the work and upgraded the PS to handle the higher current draw and ended up with a desk that was the most stable and trouble-free piece of gear in my setup (to be fair - lots of old analog synths and ancient effects).
I recently had to sell it due to moving and a severe reduction of space and ended up with a Toft ATB24 in its place.
The modded Series 70 killed the Toft for weight of sound and overall lower noise floor (maybe just a better gain structure), but the Toft is still a nice desk and does have more flexibility in routing, inputs, and aux sends.
Pros for the Series 70 are all about the sonics - great sounding board and EQ. Servicing is simple - power down, pull a single channel card, power up and continue recording minus a single channel. Built in patchbay.
Minuses - the Schadow switches are getting brittle and it is very hard to find replacements. Pots need to be cleaned. A stock board needs to be recapped. If the board doesn't come w. Tuchel connectors, they are expensive to buy (approx. $50 each and you need 8 or more depending on your external connections). Size is about 7' wide, so you need a decent space for it.
ATB pros - new, still supported, parts available. Flexible routing, auxes, good sounding EQ. Compact size (less than 4' wide for the ATB24).
Minuses - a bit noisy (Jim's master section mod helps w. this), no patchbays, connectors are on the channel cards, so you have to be a bit careful about moving the desk and cabling around.
That is important to note because servicing is a royal PITA. Modules are in groups of 8. To pull a channel, you need to remove the bottom plates, undo the support brace for that group, remove all connectors in the back for that group, unscrew the group from the top, and lift it out. Now you have to pull the knobs, remove the nuts for the channel, and finally drop the channel out of the group. If you don't have easy access to the bottom, you effectively have to unplug the ATB from all cabling, flip it over, and start disassembling it. I suggest labelling and tieing your cables up to make repatching easier and only go in when you have multiple things to fix.
I once spent $2500 on a "vintage" [spelled O-L-D] console... $18,000 later it was AWESOME!!!
I bought a Soundcraft 3b for around 3500-4000 a couple years ago. I really love my console but this is after upgrading the bus section op amps to hardy 990s, recapping several channels and the master section, fixing several problems in the power supply, upgrading all of the mic/line amp it is now sounding fantastic and I really mean fantastic. Ive probably spent 8 grand on it in repairs/mods.
Is it worth 11(ish) grand? Well it came with a patch bay, a really solid monitor section 32 channels w/16 groups. 32 good eqs (a tad aggressive as of now and will be modded ) Id say yes, without a doubt. And I would also say that having a nice big console will give the right impression to all of the potential clients that walk into your studio.