So you want to buy a vintage analog recording console...
When choosing a vintage analog console to invest in, these days it is pretty much on the understanding that you will be the tech that is maintaining, repairing and modifying the board, you certainly want to choose a board that fits not only to your needs but also a board that can be easily worked on. Of the remaining analog mixing boards out there to invest in, you might want to stay away from ones with built in computers of a type, which was popular in the 90's. Soundtracs mixers like the Solitaire and the Jade, as well as many other great mixers out there do take on an attractive and unique look of their own because of their automated features and functions. These mixers can easily be rendered useless because of their internal computer malfunctioning or faulting, thus leaving you with one big useless recording console, or if nothing else, very frustrating to work with when recording your audio. In most cases, the mixers that have built in computers are using them for rather extensive internal processing, automated / flying faders & other features such as routing, gating & compression. The internal computers and their components are very small with few ICs, and can be a trick just to get out of the mixer to work on when in need of repair. Simple procedures like reinstalling jumpers incorrectly can permanently mess up the control room modules and logic boards of these old consoles. When choosing a vintage analog mixer, you might simplify your needs to just getting that analog quality sound and not trying to acquire large scale mixer automation processing. So with this being considered, if I was to buy a larger mixer than my humble Topaz, of the Soundtracs consoles I would consider the IN-LINE(IL), MEGAS & the MRX. The priciest vintage consoles that I took a serious look at was the Calrec S-series sidecar & the Neotek Elan II. Neotek and the Calrec sidecar really seems to be the way to go for a excellent sounding used console in the $5-15K range. Both of these classics sound great and seem to be pretty trouble free. Giving you a solid vintage piece of analog gear that will stand the test of time. I only cosidered these expensive boards at a point in my life when I was figuring on openning a small recording studio. I most likely would never consider these boards for a home studio, but you never know, more often than I care to swallow am I finding fantastic deals online. What I find most interesting is that the more massive consoles are in some cases selling for less than the smaller ones. Probably because of the surge in home studio enthusiest trying to acquire fantastic boards that fit the room space reqirements. But, if you can manage to store the big boy, you might just run across a deal you just can't pass up. They are out there!
No matter the scale of the mixer, if you are going to purchase a used analog console please be carefull. There are many fantastic offerings for used studio gear of this type because the world is migrating from analog to digital, tape recorders to hard drive recorders and studios are having to move on the newer components. The best advice I can give you when buying a piece of equipment like a analog recording console is pay for shipping, and when I say pay for shipping, go the extra mile. Do not leave shipping cost in the hands of the seller, who won't care and is only interested in getting the equipment out the door. If you have the opertunity to buy from someone local or within driving range, take a good look and listen to any used console before laying your money down. If you can't test drive the mixer or for whatever reason the seller won't let you get in and run the board through its paces, beware. Until you have had a chance to work with a mixer, you will never know its faults or problems, or even grasp how it might accommodate your home studio needs.
I am not going to try to sell you on the Soundtracs Topaz, because it fits to my situation, which is dictated primarily by available space in my home studio & my level of electronics understanding and repair. Of the later, back when I bought my mixer I can say now that I should have gone with a board more modular than the Topaz. Under the hood, the Topaz is one giant PCB making each repair and modification quite the undertaking. I also wish my Topaz had a patch bay, and I would give up 8 of my channels to have a built in one. But as you will see in time on my webpages, I will be building one. But with that being said, I love my Soundtracs Topaz, I love that I can fix it & the board is a perfect fit to my studio space. To brag about my almost twenty year old mixer, it's EQ's and mains audio out sound quality blows away all the currently manufactured mixers sold under $3000.
So you want to buy a new analog recording console...
When it comes to the newer & currently manufactured quality mixers on the market, Toft ATB boards & the Oram 8T-8&16 consoles, there seems to be as many bad comments from current users as there are good. One situation that seems to be common with both the Oram & Toft companies is that their first generation mixer boards produced seem to have many db leveling and alignment issues. Owners that mix by ear don't seem to have a problem, while perfectionist who expected more out of their purchase are disappointed. In both cases users have been frustrated by the company support after the sale. Sweetwater stopped selling Oram mixers because every Oram piece they ever sold came back for warranty work. This is heartfelt, because these two companies are of the last analog developers that home & small studio engineers are investing in when it comes to buying that mid-level purchase mixer. A $5-10,000 purchase is what I will call the top end mixer investment for a home studio enthusiast. I will not discuss purchasing a new Rupert Neve, API or SSL. Those type of purchases are really only there for the high end studio professionals and are not only an insane investment for your home studio, but a bit overkill in terms of scale. But hey, if you can get your hands on one, I could only say that I would be envious.
A last point of interest...
There are a number of engineers, developers and electronics enthusiest that are making racked pairings of the channel strips from these classic consoles. Running your main mix out or used in a mastering situation, these channel strip racks can give your mix that EQ tone found only on these vintage pieces of equipment. A way of achieving the fidelity of the classics in your recordings with out the hefty price tag.
So get your heart racing through these great dealers...
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