choosing an older analog board....

general questions, comments and ideas about recording, audio, music, etc.
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pk
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choosing an older analog board....

Post by pk » Tue Feb 08, 2005 12:28 pm

I've been mixing in the box for a few years and have been itching to go through a board for a change. Not only for the sound difference it may impart, but also to learn the technique and get my 'hands dirty'. I don't have any outboard yet, and do mostly electronic music, but I do mix rock and other projects in PT and enjoying the process, knowing I want to do more of this (production for others) in the future, alongside my own music.

I run a modest setup around a Digi002R + Powerbook. I'd also like the board to have decent pres for tracking guitar, bass and vox. I know that getting outboard pres would be much easier and perhaps even better sounding, and I do plan on getting some later on, but there's something to be said about having a board, at least once in your life.

I got to familiarize myself with a few names over the past couple of months, mostly by reading this board, doing searches, findiing out what people like or dislike about certain boards, etc.

Here are some of the ones I've been looking at, looking for any advice, do's and don'ts, reasons why one would be better than the other, etc. I realize there's the cleaning and maintenance factor to reckon, which I already considered, so we'll skip that part and focus on the sonics of board itself.



- Allen & Heath System 8

I've read much praise about these, though a common caveat was the cleaning process, as it's not modular. Good pres and eq's, inserts and direct outs, can be had pretty cheap in 16 or 24 input config. Of course, there's always the occasional negative "I hated that thing" review, which makes you wonder, oh well.


- Soundtracs

Topaz being the most popular, but there's a lot of models to choose from. Is it safe to assume all Soundtracs boards are "a good thing?". Here's one I found on Ebay, it's a re-list and seems like a great deal, surprised no one's jumped on it for that price. I researched that particular board but in vain, which was kind of weird. I asked about inserts and direct outs and it has both, according to the seller.

http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?Vi ... eName=WDVW


- Soundcraft 200B/500/etc.

These I know are always revered for their simplicity and good sound. No direct outs, however, which isn't that big a deal just yet. I may later find out it is, which I guess is the point of me starting this thread.


- Tascam M50/M512/M520

Cool looking boards, sucks about rca connections on the back but nonetheless, some folks seem to really like these, despite Tascam sounding rather old-time from a mixing board's perspective. I've read polarized reviews on these, however, like dark pres and eq's, but cool if you dig that sound. There's a Burr-Brown modified from a TapeOp-er which is now on eBay, perhaps that's a great value?



Thanks for any advice.

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nacho459
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Re: choosing an older analog board....

Post by nacho459 » Tue Feb 08, 2005 3:12 pm

I would try to find an old 16 channel MCI, Auditronics, Trident, or something that someone would have had in their "project" studio back in the 70's. These usually sound pretty cool, and are built better than most contemporary small format consoles and are similarly priced.

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pk
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Re: choosing an older analog board....

Post by pk » Tue Feb 08, 2005 4:07 pm

Yeah, I scour eBay every couple of days and have searched the ones you mention, even if I expect more expensive results, it's fun to look at and see what certain boards are worth in the marketplace. I am trying to stay in the sub $1k range, which is why I can broaden my search by much. Missed out on an Auditronics last month, sweet lookin' thing.....didn't know there were affordable Tridents out there.

I could just as easily buy a new Allen & Heath Mixwizard, Soundcraft M-Series (Ghost prosumer), or even, dare I say it, a new Mackie Onyx, but seeing what you can get for the same price - or less - when going with older gear just seems more appealing, regardless of cleaning issues. It takes a bit of patience to zero in on a seemingly great deal, but I feel it's worth it. Plus, older boards just look way cooler than all this new crap.

Until then, I'll keep on keepin' on with 002R pres and plugins....

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Re: choosing an older analog board....

Post by andrew embassy » Tue Feb 08, 2005 4:46 pm

pk wrote:I've been mixing in the box for a few years and have been itching to go through a board for a change. Not only for the sound difference it may impart...
...Thanks for any advice.
+1

If anybody on the west coast has any spare mixers of this type...
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Re: choosing an older analog board....

Post by nacho459 » Tue Feb 08, 2005 4:53 pm

pk wrote:didn't know there were affordable Tridents out there.
I didn't think there were either, but my buddy says he bought a 16 ch Trident for $2K

You might try looking into picking up a summing bus rather then a whole mixer. a lot more bang for the buck.

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Re: choosing an older analog board....

Post by mechanic » Tue Feb 08, 2005 5:00 pm

...maybe not what you want but...

I got a soundcraft k1 - 16 channel live board for 800bucks (with a road case!)...

yeah, it's a live board, but it has direct outs, and to me, it sounds great. (I have a similar setup 'cept still using the digi001)

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Re: choosing an older analog board....

Post by Jeremy Garber » Tue Feb 08, 2005 5:02 pm

I bought an old 16 channel analog Biamp mixer. I can't give you the exact model number because it's put away right now. I picked it up for $125 which included a 16 channel 100' snake. I bought it from a guy who no longer needed it, and it was originally the stage mixer for the Radiators.

Have you looked at any Behringers?

Since you like to edit on your PC, perhaps an audio interface/control surface would best suit you. That's what I'm looking into now. I love recording on my PC, but I hate mixing with a mouse. I want a surface with motorized faders, but I'm wondering if I can save some money by getting one with stereo XLR inputs as well (instead of buying two seperate units).

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Re: choosing an older analog board....

Post by pk » Tue Feb 08, 2005 5:29 pm

Since you like to edit on your PC, perhaps an audio interface/control surface would best suit you.
Different strokes, I suppose, but I really don't care for control surfaces. We had a couple of Digidesign ProControls at my old workplace, what a waste of plastic, imo, not to metion what they charge for that crap. That alone would make me want to boycott Digidesign, but alas...

I appreciate the suggestion, however, but I want to learn the board and it's routing, I want to hear the music going through it's circuits, I want to see the mixdown being recorded in real-time vs. bouncing to disk, etc. I don't want to just push faders up.

SLEEPY BRiGHT EYEZ wrote:Have you looked at any Behringers?
I wouldn't buy Behringer guitar picks if they made them. Thanks, though....

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Re: choosing an older analog board....

Post by T-rex » Tue Feb 08, 2005 6:02 pm

Obviously if you have the budget go for the better gear. I didn't have the budget, so when I found a Tascam M520 in pretty much perfect shape at a local shop. I jumped on the deal. I couldn't be happier. I had a mackie 1604, the pres were fairly accurate on most sources but very thin. The Tascam's pres are the exact opposite, I wouldn't say dark but very thick. I think they sound great on rock n roll guitars and drums.

There is a track at http://www.velvetaudio.com/music.html called knights and daggers and it was recorded through the Tascam minus bass and vox.

I agree you can learn a lot from a board. The talkback features and the routing is great. Also the sweepable EQ makes it SO much easier to find those sweet spots to cut or boost when mixing as opposed to moving a mouse and typing in values.

One last thing to consider would be a newer smaller board and a rack for portability. Judging from your last post you probably aren't going for this, but using a powerbook and a digi 002r in an SKB DJ Station or Gig Rig yeilds the perfect mobile recording rig. You could add a few outboard pres and a comp or two and you are good to go; powerbook, rack, mic's, cables and stands.
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Re: choosing an older analog board....

Post by andrew embassy » Tue Feb 08, 2005 8:53 pm

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Such an awesome show.
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Re: choosing an older analog board....

Post by jmiller » Wed Feb 09, 2005 12:22 am

The cool thing about those older boards is that they really impart a character to the sound, which i like since everything is sounding so clean these days. It's the main reason i keep my old desk around.

They can be pretty needy, though. Also, I find myself looking at my desk and thinking, "sweet, 32 channels" until i realise i've only got 8 outs from the computer. So really you're grouping things, and not doing so much mixing of individual tracks. It's still nice to add some personality to the chain, though.

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Re: choosing an older analog board....

Post by bigtoe » Wed Feb 09, 2005 5:08 am

try a studiomaster...

'The cool thing about those older boards is that they really impart a character to the sound, which i like since everything is sounding so clean these days. It's the main reason i keep my old desk around.'

amen - everything that would suck about the studiomaster i have is actually a benefit when mixing with the da38...it softens things up...it adds a noise floor...it messes up your audio perfectly...

Mike

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Re: choosing an older analog board....

Post by Scodiddly » Wed Feb 09, 2005 5:20 am

Keep an open mind about obscure brands, too. There are a fair number of high quality mixers from the 80's and 90's with 16-24 channels. Last year I ended up buying a 16x4 DDA, never had heard of DDA but I knew the seller to be a reliable guy. Turns out it was some of the Soundcraft people who later went to Midas, and in between built DDA stuff.

I ended up with a very nice recording and live sound board, with a road case, for $1000 shipped. I just wish the case wasn't so huge!

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Re: choosing an older analog board....

Post by Doublehelix » Wed Feb 09, 2005 6:09 am

I just picked up a used Sountracs Topaz Project 8 (32:8 ) with meter bridge for US$1,400 that they had laying around my local Guitar Center. Turns out I know the cat that owned it before, so I was able to get some inside scoop on the workings.

It was not a "killer deal", but it was a good deal. (It is hard to get a killer deal at GC anymore...they pay way too much for used gear, and then try to sell it at absurd prices).

Anyway, the board rocks, and sounds AWESOME!!! I am in the process of rewiring the entire studio to accommodate it, which is a real pain! (I am soooo sick of soldering right now, I could puke!)

This thing imparts a certain sound that I have not heard from mixing ITB, and the EQ is just as sweet! :)

Problem is that you need to mix the song and finish it in one go...there is no automation (not quite true, there is a VCA automation unit which I don't have, but it involves mixing with a mouse on a computer screen. Yuch!). I am used to doing a rough mix on an album, burning a quick CD and having a listen or two over a couple of days before completing the mix...and sometimes I end up with Mix 3 or mix 4 before I am done.

So barring taking a picture of the fader/knob layout for each song, I am going to need to mix it once, and move one...which actually could be a good thing!!!

Should know more in the next month or two...
DH

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Re: choosing an older analog board....

Post by Coco » Wed Feb 09, 2005 6:50 am

The Ward Beck boards go for pretty cheap. The old ones are all discrete. They are broadcast boards and would have to be modded for recording. They were dubbed the "Canadian Neve". I think the 460 series are the ones to look for. Cheap and awesome, but you have to get it modified with inserts ect.
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