Mixing console, as opposed to tracking console?

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Lost on side
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Mixing console, as opposed to tracking console?

Post by Lost on side » Fri Feb 03, 2012 5:10 pm

Hello All,
Once again I come to you humbly...

So I have a Ramsa WR-S4424 that I have upgraded the op amps in. It sounds pretty good, has nice routing, etc. What I am wondering is, how important are the line amps if the console is only being used for mixing?

I use outboard preamps for tracking to an 8-track Tascam (all analog, no computers at all). Should I spend my money upgrading or replacing the console? Perhaps just buy a nice line mixer with direct outs to feed the console though the inserts? Or is my money better spent on things like compressors and mics, etc.?
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Post by drumsound » Fri Feb 03, 2012 5:30 pm

Put the money into mics and compression now. Use the console and see what it does for you. If it's not giving you what you want, think about upgrading. Keep in mind, the mics and outboard with still be useful tools when you get the new console.

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Post by Lost on side » Fri Feb 03, 2012 5:58 pm

If I'm not getting what I want, how do I determine where I'm not getting it?

It isn't clear to me from my readings, how big of a role the mixers line amps are expected to play. It seems as though the preamps, and the tracking are what is stressed in most discussions about mixers. And "cleanliness" seems to be what many are after for mixing. For instance, I often read that someone will track on an API board, but use an SSL for the mix.

I like the mixer already, but I can't say that I don't think I can improve my recordings (I am working on the space, adding bass trapping, etc). One problem is that the leap up to the next level would be costly. I paid $400 for the Ramsa, and spent about $100 on the op amp upgrades (I did the swaps myself with the help of a knowledgeable friend). What's between Ramsa and an API? A Raindirk?

The fact that any new mics and outboard will continue to be useful, is a good consideration. I just wanna spend my time and money wisely.
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Post by chris harris » Fri Feb 03, 2012 7:43 pm

Learning to make better mixes with what you have is free! If you can't tell what the weak link is, then it's probable that YOU are the weak link. Keep practicing. When you really need to upgrade something, you won't have to ask.

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Post by The Scum » Sat Feb 04, 2012 8:59 am

What's between Ramsa and an API?
A cost factor of about 100...the entry level API console starts at roughly $40K.

The underlying technologies are different, too. As you know, the Ramsa is full of plain ol, off-the-shelf chip opamps. An API uses custom made discrete opamps, and all of the important interface points are balanced using transformers. API has a tradition that's rooted in about 1974-era technology.
For instance, I often read that someone will track on an API board, but use an SSL for the mix.
A couple other things come into play here:

Sometimes the switch comes when a project gets sent to a big name mixer to be finished. Those guys often work on SSL.

Some of that approach comes from the perspective that the sounds should be captured properly up front, and not altered too much during the mix. Thus, tracking through Neve and API.

SSLs are loaded with features that are useful for full-on production-line factory-style mixing - full recall, VCA or fader automation, intetrnal compression. Some even have an automatic fade-out option...set the desired time for the fade, and press "go" when it should start.

But neither of those mean that you can't experiment with similar techniques at home. No Autofade? Try a manual fade. No recall? Try a digital camera.
It isn't clear to me from my readings, how big of a role the mixers line amps are expected to play.
From a sonic standpoint, most line amps are just kinda there...neither wonderful nor horrible. Yes, there's some magic in a Neve 1272 or an API 325. But it's not mandatory.

From a practical I'd expect them to unbalance gracefully when the need arises. There are situations where galvanic isolation is a good idea.

One thing that separates your live-sound Ramsa from a board intended for recording is that it doesn't have is a control-room section, for selecting different sets of speakers, and switching between several inputs. On my rig I can route the 2 mix, the 2-track output, an iPod or CD player to any of 3 sets of speakers. Referencing on different sets of speakers is useful, as it being able to see how the console output changes as it goes through the 2 track, or compare my mix with other music.

Mackie, Presonus, Dangerous and Coleman all make boxes that do that.
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Post by Snarl 12/8 » Sat Feb 04, 2012 12:26 pm

I always thought that having headroom on the two buss and other points in the "mix section" was important in a "mixing board." And a place where the cheaper boards fall flat. I don't have much experience with this phenomenon, although I think I've heard it on some cheaper boards I've worked on. Are there "mix section" mods and upgrades for that Ramsa?
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Post by Lost on side » Sat Feb 04, 2012 1:56 pm

I know there is a big difference between a Ramsa and an API, what I meant was "If I have to go to the next level of mixer after a modded Ramsa (I modded the Master and Group modules as well), what might that be?", knowing full well that an API is tens of thousands of dollars. "Raindirk?" was kind of meant to be a joke, because even those would be a huge leap in cost compared to a $400 Ramsa,

The Ramsa has enough bells and whistles (though I would love if it had a couple more Groups) to function as a studio console (monitoring etc,) for my purposes (24 tracks, 4 groups, 4 Aux).

What was mentioned about the Line In circuit just kind of being there, is more what I'm curious about. I'm satisfied with the routing, it is the sound I'm trying to improve. It's hard for me to determine how much effect the board is having during mixdown. What mine might be taking away, or what a higher class board might add. If there is some fairy dust expected from the Line In's when mixing, that would be an area that I would think about improving by either getting a new board, or finding outboard line amps to feed the console with. One option might cost 2 grand, the other considerably more.

I have poked around on DIY Kit sites, and it is always Mic Preamps that are offered, rarely Line Amps, This is what raised the question in my mind. With so many people owning outboard preamps, and only using the mixer for mixdown, why aren't people just upgrading the line amps on their consoles, which looks like a much cheaper upgrade to make?

For instance here: http://www.seventhcircleaudio.com/products.htm They offer an API style Mic pre kit for $279, but lower on the page they offer a DI (as far as I know, that is the same as a line amp, no?) for $79 (with an option to add a transformer).


I'm not searching for ways to unload my wallet. I'm not gear obsessed. Just tryn'na, improve my tools at the same time as I improve my own abilities.
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Post by leigh » Sat Feb 04, 2012 2:39 pm

Lost on side wrote:What was mentioned about the Line In circuit just kind of being there, is more what I'm curious about. I'm satisfied with the routing, it is the sound I'm trying to improve. It's hard for me to determine how much effect the board is having during mixdown. What mine might be taking away, or what a higher class board might add. If there is some fairy dust expected from the Line In's when mixing, that would be an area that I would think about improving by either getting a new board, or finding outboard line amps to feed the console with. One option might cost 2 grand, the other considerably more.
As others have mentioned, unless you're looking at really pricey, discrete (non-IC) opamps, you're not going to get "magic" from a line amp. You can certainly get clean/keep outta the way line gain, but not pixie dust.

But all is not lost! Look at the whole signal flow in your console - there's a bunch of stages between line amp and summing amp. You're focusing here on the "line amp", meaning, the first input stage of each channel, probably with a variable trim control. But on a console like your Ramsa, there's probably a dozen other opamps between that first stage and the summing buss. Did you upgrade those ICs as well? That would be one way to gain more clarity (power supply allowing, depending on the current draw of the replacement opamps).

You can also gain clarity by bypassing the EQ section (if there's not already an EQ bypass switch on the board), since that probably has half the opamp stages right there.

In fact, here's some folks on another board talking about doing just that with your same model Ramsa:

http://www.gearslutz.com/board/geekslut ... s4424.html

In the end, I don't think it would be worth it to put high-end discrete opamps into a console like yours. Just a few channels' worth would cost more than the entire board! However, you could probably squeeze some more clarity out of the circuit, at a much more affordable level. Hell, bypassing EQ sections costs only time!

Leigh

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Post by Lost on side » Sat Feb 04, 2012 2:44 pm

Haha...yeah, that's me (Bannny)! I posted a link to it in the OP.


I swapped the IC's in the Master, Group, and half of the 24 channels (I only have an 8-track RtR).

I have thought about bypassing the EQ because I really think it is the weakest part of the circuit. I would just insert an out board EQ when needed.

It's not terrible, but I'm always curious to find ways to improve...
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Post by leigh » Sat Feb 04, 2012 3:24 pm

Lost on side wrote:Haha...yeah, that's me (Bannny)! I posted a link to it in the OP.

I swapped the IC's in the Master, Group, and half of the 24 channels (I only have an 8-track RtR).

I have thought about bypassing the EQ because I really think it is the weakest part of the circuit. I would just insert an out board EQ when needed.

It's not terrible, but I'm always curious to find ways to improve...
Ah ha - I don't see a link to GS in your original post, but glad you had found that thread already. So, you did in fact replace all the ICs in the channels you modded?

If you like the EQs and find them sometimes useful, you could add a bypass switch to a few of them rather than hard bypassing them. Circuit-wise it's easy, just need a mini toggle or push button type switch, DPDT - but there may not be enough room to fit switches in there.

Also, for further signal path cleanup, there may be some coupling caps you can replace with just wire. Not really sure how you determine which caps are ok to remove, but it's a mod I've seen done...

Leigh

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Post by Lost on side » Sat Feb 04, 2012 3:49 pm

Oh, you are right!

Sorry, I had posed this same question on the GS board with a link to the posts about the mod. "My bad" as they say.

Another good thing about this board is that there aren't a ton of components on the PCB, so adding a switch might not be too complicated. I rarely use the EQ (because it' not very good), and it is just more components that the signal has to run through.

What about the DIY line amp circuits? Do you think it would be worth the effort to build (or buy) 8 line amps to feed the console. It seems way more cost effective than investing thousands into a replacement. They aren't nearly as expensive as Mic Pre's.
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