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"The Last Great British Console"

Discussion in 'Vintage Analog Gear' started by DonnyThompson, Jul 2, 2014.

  1. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    "This desk was originally designed around the ISA 110 Preamp and the ISA 130 EQ, which were built by Rupert Neve exclusively for George Martin. It really is the last great British Console, there's been nothing since that could touch it."
    -Crispin Herrod-Taylor, Focusrite

    "Bear Tracks installed this console. The room with this console was idyllic. Everything that was recorded through it was the ultimate in fidelity."
    - Joe Chicarreli, Engineer/Producer; Frank Zappa, Jason Mraz, Glenn Frey

    "The noise floor on this console was so low that you'd bring up the volume on the console, and you'd think the speakers were muted."
    -Allen Sides, Owner/Founder, Ocean Way Recording

    "On acoustic guitar, on drums, really anything acoustic, I don't think it's touchable."
    -Jack Joseph Puig, Engineer/Producer, John Mayer, U2, No Doubt, Bette Midler

    Enjoy. ;)

    View: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bJd8606oNNk&feature=youtu.be
    kmetal and Kurt Foster like this.
  2. ric3xrt

    ric3xrt Active Member

    Sat thru All 38 + mins, Great video
  3. Reverend Lucas

    Reverend Lucas Active Member

    Interesting video. I had to chuckle at the guy who had one in his parents' spare bedroom. Definition of overkill?
  4. Jensenmann

    Jensenmann Active Member

    I talked to a guy who owned the Metropolis Focusrite for some time. He mentioned that it didn´t bring him more clients in. So he replaced it with a smaller, new ADT-Audio 5MT desk. He mentioned that the ADT sounded just as good - if not better - as the Focusrite.
  5. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    I wouldn't doubt it... huge strides have been made in console manufacturing since that desk was originally made.

    That being said, having George Martin come out and say that he loved the console probably didn't hurt sales any.

    Although, as technology grows, and time goes by, I'm not sure that consoles in general will be around in the same population as they once were. I'd wager that there's already been a decline in their use. More and more studios are headed towards control surfaces, with handfuls of pres and strips from their favorite desks complimenting their DAW workflow(s).
  6. Jensenmann

    Jensenmann Active Member

    Absolutely! A lot of the younger guys have never used a console and don´t know how beneficial it can be for the workflow. Hence they will never want to own one. I find it irritating, though, how much money people spend on buying micpres, EQs, summing boxes, monitor controllers if the could have all that in a desk for even less money and with more functionality.
  7. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    LOL... Oh boy... look out... heated debate ahead....;) waiting for Chris in 3...2....1....
    pcrecord likes this.
  8. pcrecord

    pcrecord Don't you want the best recording like I do ? Well-Known Member

    Having problems keeping 30$/hours customers does not allow new studios to spend 100K on a mixer. Don't forget that those owning pro mixers still have outboard preamps and EQs and ... the good old days of studios Worth millions is fading, any shmock in his basement can record with 1k investment. Will it sound good NO, but will he give up one day and turn back to a pro studio? Again NO !

    I recently bought 2 LA610, do you know how much is Worth a mixer based on 610s ??
    I also have 4 ISA preamps, to I get 2 great sound flavor Under 5k, How about that !! ;)

    PS I've used big board in the past.. unless I win the lotterie it'll stay in my past...
  9. kmetal

    kmetal Kyle P. Gushue Well-Known Member

    The thing is, if you do a lot of tracking, a high end board, is going to be more economical, than the comparable array of outboard boxes. If you also intend to use the board for mixng, then even better, value wise, all other things being equal.

    For the person at home recording 2 tracks at a time, a console makes no sense. For a facility that does a lot of tracking, and is a full professional deal, then a console still has a place, becuase it's far more efficient money wise, and workflow wise, (time=money).
    Kurt Foster likes this.
  10. kmetal

    kmetal Kyle P. Gushue Well-Known Member

    That console is really cool, great watch. One thing that immediately comes to mind, with the amount of attention they put into the originals, is companies cheapening their own product. I'm not saying focusrite is guilty, and I liked the isa solo when I heard some tracks done w a 57 at GC one day. The 8ch is going to be in the running for a drumstrip when the time comes. But.

    Manufacturers should have to disclose changes in components, if they are going to sell new incarnations of gear based, on the heritage of the original. Like UA always mentions van halen in their 610 boxes of today, but it's not even the same input channel they used, it had some differences. Not saying it's not a good piece of kit, I liked the la-610 when I heard it w vocals and apogee conversion, especially for the price, but it's a bit sly of the companies to use the legacy of LA, and 610, and names like van halen, when really it's not the same. It's "based on", and that's what they should say, and give it its own name. Especially the LA, part from UA in particular, when I compared the two, not really close, and missing quite a few tubes compared the big guy. Maybe I'm way off, and I'm addmittiedly new to thinking like a tech. all I'm saying is if your going to sell a product based on legacy, it should be made in legacy fashion and matched as closely as possible.
    Focusrite had such an attention to detail, on the component level it would tough to be economically viable to sell the new incarnations to that standard. Maybe I'm wrong. I'd love to know what a tech who has compared both has to say.
    pcrecord likes this.
  11. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    Good points Kyle...
    I've often wondered if these newer versions of older classic pieces are using the same components. Some of it may be economical, in that original parts are hard to come by, or are so expensive to make that it would make the device galactically expensive, and too prohibitive for people to buy; or, as in the case of the Yamaha Ns10s, materials for original construction aren't available anymore at all, so substitute components are used instead.
    In the case of UA/Urei/, Bill Putnam is long gone, so who is minding his legacy for developing and building great gear with care taken on every piece? I'm not saying UA is bad gear...
    Also, we both know that there was a lot more to Van Halen's sound than just one particular limiter or preamp. ;)
  12. pcrecord

    pcrecord Don't you want the best recording like I do ? Well-Known Member

    Builders use the parts they can buy in great quantity. It's very true that they can't build with the exact parts today because many of the company that made the parts closed their door many years ago. So the tech team needs to search for equivalents or redesign the circuit with new parts with the goal to reproduce the same sound. If they succeed or not depends on how long and how much the spend on research and developpement and how serious they are.

    The most important thing for me when I use a piece of gear is that it does sound good regardless of it's origins.

    Anyway, in 1975, I was 5 years old. I can't remember how those classic boards sounded because ! ;)
    I think that if you and I went back in time and entered the best studio on the planet to mix a song it would still not sound like what they did at the time. I think our brains are wired differently because of all the HD and Digital we are exposed everyday but we are still looking for the right balance between precision and sweetness...

    As for buying a big mixer; In Quebec right now, there ain't a lot of big studios still surviving the homestudio trend.
    I doubt I'd ever have enough customers and/or money to build one.
    Of course, I wouldn't say no if they'd invite me to track a band and mix on one of those focusrite board !!

    One of the biggest legend we had in Quebec :

    Le Studio at Morin Heights :

    View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V9JgjykNi3w

    And now it looks like this :

    View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6GOha8adhPA
    bigtree likes this.
  13. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    How can I resist, I will not disappoint! :D

    If this was 1970 and Rush was on my radar, we had a choice to use a DAW or a console to mix. After a 10 minute demonstration I'm pretty certain it would be a mutual agreement. Console = tracking, after that, not even close in all regards to workflow, sound/ time and money.

    generally speaking

    The gas guzzling beautiful vintage console :love: was designed the way it was because it needed a multitrack tape machine attached to it.
    You had to track to tape, had to return tape back to the console, had to capture the mix back to tape again, and then master to tape. Talk about accumulative distortion and phase smear. No wonder bass was so undefined and there was far less top end. And we aren't even talking overdubs and vinyl.
    Vintage Console workflow
    source>vintage console>multitrack tape>vintage console>2 track tape>mastering console> tape/vinyl master> commercial press.

    If I walked into this same studio I would roll out and attach a complete 2 DAW mixing and summing system to the vintage console that works in a similar way but gets it all done in one pass, one direction. It knocks the doors off anything from the past. Each part to my system is connected to the source, yet uncoupled like analog but never returning backwards to phase smear. I don't have to reset anything either because each process remains dedicated to that process. I can record, mix and master any place in the session at will without loosing a beat and it is all basically automated. My very minimal analog tweaks are pretty easily remembered. If not, I take notes. If its a ridiculous amount of analog tweaking, something is wrong so I will go back into the DAW to rectify the problem there.
    Hybrid Vintage Workflow
    source>vintage console>DAW 1>summing console>DAW2>Master.

    Taking both methods into consideration, how much do you apply old school methods in your current workflow? What do you do to compete with these ideologies and compensate for the one DAW fits everything approach today?
    I mean, are we all using way too many plug-ins, overkilling the entire recording process and expecting one DAW to sound like a vintage workflow? Are we using cheap gear in replacement to the old days then going on about how how great the old days were?

    What's ironic, I don't know one person loving vintage other than me on this planet who is actually using a similar workflow to vintage. Most into hybrid are doing the round trip. Does it really look like the workflow of vintage?

    Its no wonder most people are scratching their heads when I talk about how great my vintage hybrid workflow is, at a fraction of the cost of yesteryear. No wonder old school is complaining or reminiscing about the "good old days" lol.

    How does your DAW approach compare to the 70's?

    Food for though: How many of us are even attempting a similar hybrid vintage workflow?
    The first step is to build this. The next step is to uncouple it all and learn how to monitor every part of the chain, hybrid style. The last step is you.

    From this perspective, most DAW based studio's are a broken approach full of backwards thinking.

  14. kmetal

    kmetal Kyle P. Gushue Well-Known Member

    I mix ITB. But I also track a lot that I mix, and unlike most not afraid to heavily eq or compress on the way in if I feel it.

    Now I think in general your points are valid Chris. I submit these questions for conversations sake, not necessarily cuz I've formed a solid opinion yet.

    All other things being equal, ie two daw system, all plug-insloaded ect. Take CLA and his dated ssl. Do you think you could mix faster, and or with better results, with an ITB setup as the console? I use the ssl as an example, cuz of the ssl channel, and bus comp, being available, and it's a fairly consistent sounding board from one to another, as opposed to an old neve, or tube based desk.

    I say the board would win most times, based on efficiency, which correlates directly to a studios earning potential. So it's not exactly fair, unless, the daw had a dedicated control surface like an s6 or icon, but something that mirrored the console. But then The compromise is space, and also the purchase of a very expensive mixing surface that makes no sound. The advantage to this would be instant recall. So while a good intern can recall a full mix in 15 min (so I've been told...), style and scope of a project would really determine which was better.

    The next question would be sonics. I think one thing people forget is that the sonics of consoles, things that made some remarkable, like a low noise floor, aren't important anymore.

    So while I think most people agree a consoles place in the current state of the art is, undoubtably maximsized (financially, efficiency wise) in a tracking based setup, I still think it's interesting, although personally I feel impractical, to consider its role as a mixing device.

    The hard part of this type of anylsis is assessing the contribution of tracking to the overall studio. Also maintenance and operating costs as well. And since the plug-insdon't run without a computer, it's necessary to my twisted mind, ;), to include the daw and associated cpu costs revolving around those types of updates. Since the cpu, an interfacing is necessary in both cases its a wash.

    So what I've been tossing around lately in different facets of my life has been the concept of 'value' and 'perceived value'. It's intersting because value is more of an intellectual concept than a hard number. And this is where it gets tricky.

    Quick example, I reclently bought a relatively expensive high end job site saw, that cost about the price of a 414. Now I'm not a full time trade worker, but I do a fair amount, and have a nearly complete basic tool kit, a typical carpenter would have. I got the 2nd best money could by, with the next step being German engineered (naturally) and twice the price. Was this saw 1/5 of the projected profits from the job, yes. Good value, yes. To me, it's a good value, even if a bit overkill. Hers why. It's a better crafted machine, so it's safer, delivers far more consistent results, and and cut more at once. Could I buy a cheaper brand for a couple hundred, and replace it evry 3-8 years, sure, and have less money out upfront at a time (less oeverhead), yes. But that to me is less overall value, becuase, it's a less safe machine, less accurate, and also break probably when the store is closed, or I'm broke. :)

    So while my example really kinda just said buy the best you can, it does sort of illustrate my conversational point of perceived value, which cannot always be directly correlated to a dollar amount. The mass market brain washers will confuse good value, with cheap price, which speaks only of numbers directly, not numbers weighted against overall satisfaction, and product longevity.

    This works both way as well. There are many many people who would agree, a neve 1073 sounds better than an average interface stock pre. Almost evryone will pick the neve, in a test based purely on sonics. Now when you enter price, the opinions may be swayed a bit, but the answers would likely remain the same about the sonics. This is where it gets intersting. Among the people asked, how many, would value the somics enough, to come up w the money (assuming relative equality), how many would be happy w a simple interface pre, and how many would spend more money on junk, chasing that sound. That's where the question of value comes into play, and is very unique to each person.

    Again I dont have a strong opinion formed I'm just kinda exploring thoughts.
  15. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    If I were interested, and if I had the technical know-how, and if I had the money (and the space), my luxurious preference would be to track through a high end console. I used to really like the SSL G - and having tracked and mixed on it several times, along with Neve, Harrison, Trident, Neotek and MCI desks over the years, my personal favorite would probably be an SSL G, just by by a "scoodge". ;)
    - I'm now putting my flame suite on for all the Neve lovers out there....

    Relax, I didn't say that I don't like Neves...or any of the other desks I mentioned. They were all beautiful to track thru.
    I'm saying that personally, I felt the SSL sounded best - to me - and for what I was working on at that time.

    I liked the transparency, I liked how it felt somehow "faster". I don't have any other word to describe it... I just always thought that SSL had a certain response that was, well... faster. LOL.
    I also loved the G Series EQ and in-line compressor/gate.

    But, these days? As far as mixing on them? I can't see it.

    Beyond missing the tactile part of it ( which I could probably satiate with a nice controller surface), I don't think that there's anything I could do on that console that I couldn't do just as easily - and maybe even better - using an SSL pre to track with, and then mixing in the box.

    And if I was after "that" particular sound, there have been amazing strides made in console emulation plugs in the last couple years.

    For those who like to use high end plug ins (I admit to being one of these types), the emulation of these now-classic channel strips is pretty amazing. I downloaded a trial version of Wave's SSL Collection last week, and I was very impressed by the G Series channel strip/EQ plug. I did some quick EQ settings on it - based on some "common" settings that I used to use on my own vocals, in the past when working on a real SSL - and it was spooky as to how close it sounded, and, how accurate the overall response was. The only thing that was missing was the sound of the SSL preamp... which is most certainly an important part, but there are other options these days to achieve that as well - options other than dropping anywhere between 40 - 80 grand, and parking a 10' -12' behemoth desk in my living room .

    The first would be to get something like an SSL Alpha - a single channel pre/EQ based on the G Series strip. The other option - or addition - would be to get a library of well-designed, well-coded, great sounding plugs that emulate "those" sounds. I could do both of these things for under 2 Grand.

    Either way, I have a lot more space, a lot less cabling, and no need to go back to school for an electronics degree that would give me the knowledge necessary to fix the desk when it breaks down...
    And, it's not a question of "if" it breaks down - it's a 95% certainty of "when". ;)

    IMHO of course.
  16. paulears

    paulears Well-Known Member

    The trouble I suspect, is that our expectations have changed. I've spent a while now sourcing on CD or download all my old LPs from the 70s and early 80s, when I was a teenager. I've noticed two things when I also find my own recordings from that era. Mine all suck! Big time. Technically, they are streets away from the commercial recordings of that time. The digital downloads and CDs I've managed to get are clean, virtually hiss free and to all intents and purposes, match todays quality quite well. If you listen to something you know on Spotify, you often hear a 2014 recording next to one done in 1980, and you don't suddenly jump. They are very similar. The contemporary version is often more sparkling at the top, and perhaps has bass that isn't quite so buried in the mix, but technically they are close. Looking back to an old live Jazz recording we did - 1981, I think, it lacks definition, has excessive hiss (4 track Teac), and sounds quite compressed, odd, as we didn't actually have any compressors then - so it's two lots of tape compression, plus whatever the eventual transfer to DAT added when we bought one of those. I found another band recording from the same time and it's very similar.

    My point being that these old excellent consoles sounded so much better than the 'average' at the time, that this made them special. The noise floor comment, for example - we put up with every single item of kit hissing away, and if your monitors hissed, then you didn't mix anywhere near the bottom end when you'd hear it!

    Now we all have access to such high sound quality - by comparison - that we are trying to find extremely subtle differences between X and Y. Back then, you could buy a new product and the difference was immense. Now, I can't hear any difference in any of my kit that can have a mic plugged in. I'm not interested in listening really, really hard, and then trying to find vocabulary that explains it.

    Those old super consoles were wonderful, but only if you had an on site service engineer to keep them going.
  17. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    indeed. same back at you. its all fun. :)

    If I used my rig, which consists of 2 DAW's and my monitoring system , without a doubt.

    I'm not comparing CLA to me. This is in response to mixing and summing.
    If it was possible: I'd prefer including a vintage console in any demonstration where front end comparisons could be made.
    I'd personally request a rack of boutique Pre's and Pulse Techniques Pultec's just in case ;)
    No SSL EQ is going to be better than Pultec's combined with ITB processing.

    (But, a mix is what it is... so on that note... You mix what they give you.)

    Once I was familiar with the room, my system would sound noticeably better and be able to take every style of music to outstanding levels in comparison to a large format console. There is no doubt in my mind.

    I'm not one to be in a rush nor do I look for speed related opportunities (We learn more when we have time for mistakes) but, if speed is the goal, to spit something out as fast as we can... . there really is no tactile speed issue with me and a mouse either. I know what I'm doing and my system is so proficient, its broken up into sections for very good reasons. A console could never compete because it can't remotely do what two instances of Samplitude Pro X 2 does. :)

    Lets also assume the mixes CLA gets are recorded well. Anyone that knows better, knows good recordings mix themselves. Its not rocket science on that.
    Therefore on that note alone, the 2 DAW workflow would not only have improved dynamics and more size, it would be mastered and processed faster.

    If detail editing and creative flow was needed, the SSL is not even a contender. Its now wasting space for the good stuff. :)
  18. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    Gonna have to respectfully but firmly disagree with you on that one.
  19. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    yikes, I'm gonna have to respectfully ask... you can't be serious? Was that necessary ? ... :p
    Okay, you are either baiting me, way too serious, confusing " good recording" or you have been around automation wayyyy too long?

    Lets put it another way, :D

    Without talent and a recordist able to capture like a pro, we have nothing good to work with, and plenty to fix. How is slated for that? A guy on a SSL or a guy that knows his $*^t on a DAW?

    On that note: I doubt poor recordings are heading over to CLA without some repair before hand. What do you think?
    Do you think CLA would have an easy time mixing problematic work on an SSL? If you say yes, I would be speechless.

    So, I say... Great recordings mix themselves. Especially back in the day when people could play an instrument.

    It would be interesting to know how much of the console a lot of these old school guys are actually using together with Pro Tools. I'm thinking the SSL is basically a summing box with too many wires and a monitor system on the wrong spot lol.

    I know a guy that straps on a few 1A3's on the master bus of an SSL so it doesn't sound like an SSL. http://www.pulsetechniques.com/videos

    Good recordings that are well produced talk to you. If you have ears (a good listener), good songs mix themselves because they are basically wonderful works of art that shouldn't require a heavy hand. :love:
    Good recordings shouldn't take a DAW to fix yes/no?
    Good recordings shouldn't have ridiculous problems...
    Good recordings are much easier to mix in comparison to home grown low fi work with all sorts of sonic inconsistencies; which, I might add... is where Sequoia, Pro Tools and other quality DAW's rivals any console.

    Poor recordings on the other hand, require the heavy hand all consoles fall short. Consoles work their best when the music is full of talent and we are basically mixing the cream that was given to us. That's the truth.

    So, I doubt CLA is going to be blazing along, on an SSL if the mix is in trouble. An SSL or any console for that matter works best when there is a lot of talent in the mix already and it was tracked by someone who is worthy to CLA's demands.

    fwiw, my comment (good mixes mix themselves) = " the mix talks to you" This was something I actually heard CLA say himself . Its a figure of speech I've heard more than once and is something I totally get the meaning of. I'm surprised you didn't get the deeper meaning of it, Donny?

    Watch them all but Allen's interview nails it. I could go on but I have a feeling, I'm boiling it on this one. http://www.pulsetechniques.com/videos

    SSL comps can be duplicated, "better" in Samplitude. SSL has of sound of what I would call, smaller and boring. Samplitudes comps are more transparent, open sounding and you can use them in side-chain apps no Outboard will rival. They can be made to go slow or deadly fast. Samplitude comps are nothing short of deadly! There is no comparison imho.

    just poking back. ;)
  20. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member


    check this out.

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