Desktop size analogue mixer?

Profile picture for user Henry Turner Ward
Submitted by Henry Turner Ward on Fri, 11/24/2017 - 15:59

In search for a desktop analogue mixer, I've become particularly interested in Soundcraft's EFX8, based on its size and specs (suits my personal preferences)eg i/o functions

To give you a bit of background, I'm an audio engineering student based in London- I'd like to have a mixer to practice various signal flow techniques as well as an over all feeling for mixing/ getting to know the console.

If you anybody out there can let me know; based on the fact I'm a bit of a novice when it comes to consoles, why the EFX8 would be ideal for me? Also, what my pricing options are as a student and how the Soundcraft compares to other brands/competitors and/ or whether you're able to recommend better products for my preference?

Many thanks,

Henry

it's fine. all the stuff in that price range performs pretty much the same. choices are feature driven at this level. if you like it it should be fine.

I know that our esteemed RO colleague Boswell ( @Boswell ) has used an Allen and Heath Zed mixer for some time now, and he sings its praises...
And Bos is a REALLY smart guy... so we like to pay attention to what he says.
No foolin', either.
;)

Well, there are OK ones and excellent ones. The one I talk about is the Zed-R16, a 16-channel analogue mixer with A-D and D-A conversion built-in. You need a big-ish desktop, though.

Thanks, chaps for all of your discussions. My heart is still set on Soundcraft's EFX8- do suggest any others if you think I'm making a mistake?

Perhaps if you could mention some specific scenarios...
Are you looking at an analog mixer for use as a front end for tracking? ie for mic preamps, EQ, etc
Does conversion quality enter into this purchase...or do you already have a conversion system in place that you like?
Will this mixer be used for mixing? Tracks, stems, etc...
Do you want this mixer to double as a DAW control surface?

Henry, in addition to what Donny said, do you need this mixer to connect to a computer, or is it to be just an analogue stand-alone unit? If stand-alone, how do you intend to record the 2-track output of your mix?

Hi Donny and Boswell,
As discussed, I'm looking to simply get a feel for using an analogue mixing console (just bare with)- This weekend however I've been looking into the various components and taken into account what I'd like to ideally incorporate in an semi/in-line desktop size mixer (source; Carlos Lellis Ferreira's 'Recording'. - In response to Donny's question about mentioning specific scenarios, It'd be preferable for me to have
1. Input (mic/line) (obviously...)
2. Aux's (2 minimum, featuring chan/mixB assignment, PFL+AFL control + maybe bypass.
3. Inserts (i.e access to in/outboard FX that I can assign to chan/mixB and/or bypass) inc. EQ and dynamic processing ctrl.
4. Module faders should ideally have a solo, mute, pal/afl switch and because it's inline one pot for MixB ctrl, and preferably a fader for channel control.
The console should ideally have mic pre's as well as EQ ctrl, (although I do own an interface (APOGEE's One, which I find invaluable for my workflow)- regarding conversion, I'm really not fussed.
Following on from Donny's questions and Boswell's query... *This mixer will be specifically used to feed my curiosity, ideally I'd be recording, mixing my own tracks using this console and should be firewire compatible with my DAW, which at the moment is ProTools.
I've been looking into (as I'm sure you know so far) Soundcraft, Zed as well as some quick google searches...
Would like to say thank you very much for your help and interest in my case and looking forward to hearing what you guys suggest.

P.s- please consider the size (desktop) and price range- pref. (£200-500max)

The experiences I've had in the past, using SAE's facilities at London's Bankstock, have included a Neve, in line SSL console as well as a split digital desk- all I can remember is that it was an SSL. Something I've not discussed with you two is that due to my poor health at the moment, I've had to defer from my much loved Audio Engineering course. Hence why I'm desperate to still keep my mind buried in all of this pro-audio equipment. I'm sure you two can understand just how I'm feeling.

Henry Turner Ward, post: 454212, member: 50950 wrote: The experiences I've had in the past, using SAE's facilities at London's Bankstock, have included a Neve, in line SSL console as well as a split digital desk- all I can remember is that it was an SSL. Something I've not discussed with you two is that due to my poor health at the moment, I've had to defer from my much loved Audio Engineering course. Hence why I'm desperate to still keep my mind buried in all of this pro-audio equipment. I'm sure you two can understand just how I'm feeling.

I'm sorry to hear you are going through a rough patch with your health. I can totally understand. In 2016 I was diagnosed with prostate cancer ( I'm fine now but at that time it consumed my life with stress and pain). I had been a member of RO for a couple years at that point, and it really helped me to keep my mind active with positive thoughts, and to be able to talk about this craft we all love with all my friends here. I also used that time to research all kinds of new audio tools and instruction, watch videos, get opinions, read articles and white papers ...so I encourage you to hang out here and keep your thoughts geared towards what you love to do. RO is a special place, a haven for those who love to teach, learn, solve problems, help others to solve their own, and discuss this craft of ours with like minded friends.
There's always a chair open in the lounge, here. Have a cup of coffee and join in. I will be the first of many members to extend a handshake and to let you know that You are welcome here. ;)
-donny

Hope you will recover soon Henry!!!! I've been to the SAE in Amsterdam some 18 years ago to do the course for engineer......So we are sort of schoolmates!!!

Get well soon, and try to keep the spirit up, it welp help you in the end to be positive.

Thank-you, Donny for being so genuine and welcoming. I'm so glad to hear that you're on the mend and that RO have been supportive of your health, as well as encouraging you to remain intuitive and curious about the many wonders of the audio world! I will for certain be visiting RO frequently from here on out, posting queries, interests etc... Sat here with a coffee now so looking forward to seeing what other suggestions may be brought up for my case!
- many thanks again, Henry!

miyaru, post: 454217, member: 49780 wrote: Hope you will recover soon Henry!!!! I've been to the SAE in Amsterdam some 18 years ago to do the course for engineer......So we are sort of schoolmates!!!

Get well soon, and try to keep the spirit up, it welp help you in the end to be positive.

Haha, thanks miyaru- perhaps one day we'll cross paths, I'd love to visit the Netherlands... Only to see the ''tulip fields''- of course...

I too hope you get better soon!

As for the analog mixer.
I always address those with the same questions :
1 - Why ? Are you gonna do live sound ? Or recording a band live ?
2- How many inputs ?
3- What level of quality are you looking for ?

Having an analog board is fun. But regarding sound quality, at equal amount of inputs, an audio interface is a better choice.
Many of them have real time mixers now the only thing is you don't have the knobs and faders.
Why I say that, it's simple ; let's say you have an 8 channels for 400$.
With the audio interface, they have to produce the unit, preamps converters and the firmware (real time mixer) so in the end you get 8 preamps worth 30-40$ each.
With an analog mixer, you get the expense of the preamps and converter but also the knobs and faders which cost more. So your preamps may be worth 20-30$ instead.
We're getting far from highend audio gear don't we ? (1 highend preamp would start around 400$ a piece)

Mackie, Soundcraft, Allen & Heath, Yamaha, they all make average and good mixers. They all come from the analog world of the past and adapted to computers along the way.
My first choice would be Allen & Heath for recording + live and Soundcraft for live + recording.
Another alternative is a company that started with audio interfaces made for recording and created mixer afterward which is Presonus.
Their digital mixers are very good for the price and maybe something you want to consider as well.
The good thing about digital is that you can recall settings and once in digital the signal is kept cleaner.
Of course it's not because it's digital that it's not good to learn. They have a lot of similarities with analog board but have more effects available (compressors on each inputs is good to have) And if you ever go live, most venues have digital board now... They are so convenient, bring your usb drive and load your show !! Dawm that was easy !! ;)

In my situation, I went with many highend preamps and a good audio interface and a controler.

pcrecord, post: 454220, member: 46460 wrote: I too hope you get better soon!

As for the analog mixer.
I always address those with the same questions :
1 - Why ? Are you gonna do live sound ? Or recording a band live ?
2- How many inputs ?
3- What level of quality are you looking for ?

Having an analog board is fun. But regarding sound quality, at equal amount of inputs, an audio interface is a better choice.
Many of them have real time mixers now the only thing is you don't have the knobs and faders.
Why I say that, it's simple ; let's say you have an 8 channels for 400$.
With the audio interface, they have to produce the unit, preamps converters and the firmware (real time mixer) so in the end you get 8 preamps worth 30-40$ each.
With an analog mixer, you get the expense of the preamps and converter but also the knobs and faders which cost more. So your preamps may be worth 20-30$ instead.
We're getting far from highend audio gear don't we ? (1 highend preamp would start around 400$ a piece)

Mackie, Soundcraft, Allen & Heath, Yamaha, they all make average and good mixers. They all come from the analog world of the past and adapted to computers along the way.
My first choice would be Allen & Heath for recording + live and Soundcraft for live + recording.
Another alternative is a company that started with audio interfaces made for recording and created mixer afterward which is Presonus.
Their digital mixers are very good for the price and maybe something you want to consider as well.
The good thing about digital is that you can recall settings and once in digital the signal is kept cleaner.
Of course it's not because it's digital that it's not good to learn. They have a lot of similarities with analog board but have more effects available (compressors on each inputs is good to have) And if you ever go live, most venues have digital board now... They are so convenient, bring your usb drive and load your show !! Dawm that was easy !! ;)

In my situation, I went with many highend preamps and a good audio interface and a controler.

Hi PCRecord! Thank you for this^ some really compelling and interesting scenarios you discuss.
I'm looking to do recording rather than live for now. Preferably 6+ inputs and best quality regarding budget.
ATM I'm using an Apogee ONE interface, downloaded the software (interface-Maestro 2) and like you say it doesn't feature knobs. Their layout/signal flow is simple, yet I know I'll need to train myself to use analogue.
A digital interface controller sounds useful and I'll certainly look into investing in the near future. However, I'll take your advise and do some research on Mackie, Yamaha + Presonus desktop size, inline analogue consoles. If you're able to suggest any models in the meantime that'd be very much appreciated. (y)

PreSonus doesn't make an analog console. a lot of people who frequent this forum are pretty dedicated to the itb concept so they are quick to discourage the use of analog mixers. i on the other hand have observed that most of the "real" records i hear and read about being made (backed by labels, produced by credited producers) are being made with large format consoles. i applaud your insight in that your feeling a need to familiarize yourself with the "inz-an-outs" of an analog board.

again, at the price point, features should drive your decision.

The attraction that most people have for consoles is two things:
The first is the "sound" of the desk; preamps, Filters, GR, etc, all of which lends to a particular console's sonic vibe.
The second thing is the ability to work tactically. You can actually push real faders, turn real pots...and there is something to that. I find it a valid attraction - like many other RO veterans here I learned and came up on consoles and tape machines. There was a lot of things to touch. ;)
But ultimately, the sound is what matters most to engineers.. I have no desire to use a console in my workflow just because it's a console.
There was most certainly a lot of great sounding analog gear back in those days, and sonically they still hold an attraction because of their various sonic vibes. But, there was a fair amount of dreck, too.
It wasn't cheap to do analog "right"... and really, it's still not.
While I think our dollars go a little further these days, because technology has been amazing ( just think of the DAW in and if itself, that alone is amazing software), to get into good analog gear is still pretty pricey. Maybe even more so now, because so many of those pieces of gear have reached an iconic, highly collectible status.
I remember buying a Teletronix LA2A in 1989 for around $400 bucks... it was used but in beautiful shape. VintageLA2's now command prices at least 8x as much, and even reissues by UA are around $3 grand. I faired about the same with my 1176's ...(the EL Distressor was a little cheaper) but ... they were pieces that did require servicing.
If you are looking mainly for the tactile side of tracking/mixing, or to get familiar with hard routing and such, then there's nothing wrong with that... but sonic quality should figure into the priority list, too. Even the cheapest mixers will let you get signal from point A to point Z; the difference between the cheap models and the more expensive ones is how it sounds while you're getting them from point to point.
Is it noisy or quiet? Is the EQ responsive or do you have to make broad strokes to change tone? Do the preamps offer enough gain? Do they sound "thin", "harsh" or "pinched", or full, warm, present and silky?
These are just suggestions as to what I think you should consider.
FWIW
-d.

Hi Donny! Totally agree with this and understand where you're coming from, even some of my fellow audio comrades have said I'm a little 'old school' in my approach to learning, but I think it's important to touch base once in while with old techniques- because like you say, at the end of the day it all comes down to sound. When I listen to old records- I can 'hear', the talent (Fleetwood, N. Young etc..), unlike some of the over processed, in the box crap around today. Needless to say, i do embrace new techniques- check this guy out... All comes down, in my opinion to the engineers attitude, knowledge and passion for sonic quality- always helps though when there's a Neve console involved too- so I've done a little research and found this page- think it's helping to put me in the right direction.... :D

The song and the music - and the performances - are always the most important things.
You could capture a crappy song and a mediocre performance on a Neve or SSL, and it's still going to be a crappy song. It might sound very good thru gear like that, but what you'll have is a sonically superior recording of a crappy song or performance.
There are some engineers who care only about the fidelity, the technical end, and that's okay, because that's part of the job... and yeah, I'm an engineer, and a decent enough one I suppose, , I know which end of a fader is up, LOL, but there are plenty of "decent" engineers, and a handful of great ones, but I'm a musician/producer first. For me, There has to be something there to record to begin with, regardless of the quality of the gear available. ;)

Your link took me to Mix, which is certainly a trusted source for information. I have several boxes in storage filled with old Mix magazines, some issues going back to 1981/82. Lol, those were the "SSL Years"... for awhile, it seemed like every other page was either an article or an advert for Solid State Logic at that time.

Another trustable source is Sound On Sound Magazine ( SOS), which do very well-written and informative reviews. TapeOp is another great trade mag, though it is geared a little more towards analog tools.
And, RO is also a good source, too ...to get educated opinions on certain tools that you may be interested in. There are many veterans here, from both the analog and digital world. I wouldn't go as far to say it's totally unbiased, because opinions generally are not; but, you can get informed opinions from members, many of whom have actual hands-on experience with a great many and different audio tools, including both HW and SW.
:)
-d.

Performance is Key/king. As I've always been taught as a musician, and it's obvious to me that that is the key element in session recording and live performances for that matter! I have completed a diploma in Music at college (not the same in the US, college is further from secondary education), as well as top marks for an O-Level/GCSE in Music. (secondary education level here in the UK). If it wasn't for my extensive background and genuine interest in instruments, the components involved and the environments in which things are created/recorded etc.. I'd never be where I am today. Just.. ugh, such a set back for me with my poor health.

DonnyThompson, post: 454231, member: 46114 wrote: Your link took me to Mix, which is certainly a trusted source for information. I have several boxes in storage filled with old Mix magazines, some issues going back to 1981/82. Lol, those were the "SSL Years"... for awhile, it seemed like every other page was either an article or an advert for Solid State Logic at that time.

Another trustable source is Sound On Sound Magazine ( SOS), which do very well-written and informative reviews. TapeOp is another great trade mag, though it is geared a little more towards analog tools.
And, RO is also a good source, too ...to get educated opinions on certain tools that you may be interested in. There are many veterans here, from both the analog and digital world. I wouldn't go as far to say it's totally unbiased, because opinions generally are not; but, you can get informed opinions from members, many of whom have actual hands-on experience with a great many and different audio tools, including both HW and SW.
:)
-d.

Been signed up to SOS for while now! And I will for sure get my head stuck into TapeOp ;) Loving RO so far!

DonnyThompson, post: 454231, member: 46114 wrote: TapeOp is another great trade mag
-d.

i agree TapeOP is a great publication! what's not to like? it's free!! i actually wish everyone here at RO would subscribe and read it. it would open some eyes for sure!

what i enjoy about TapeOP, it is geared towards the actual people who are "in the trenches" doing actual production rather than towards the sales and marketing types for large scale manufacturers who are doing large scale production offshore or large retail outlets like Sweetwater. You will notice a distinct lack of Sweetwater advertising in TapeOp.

i surmise that is one of the reasons TapeOp is perceived as being tilted towards analog, the reason being people who are actually making real records (backed by labels, major distribution and sales) use analog (consoles and tape) more than the powers that be would like the general public to know. There's no money in hawking old used analog gear. They are way to invested in pushing software, plug ins and hardware to run it, all which by the way has a comparably short shelf life when compared to quality analog equipment.

It's an easy sell too. Lot's of people want to hear they can do things on the cheap. no one wants to be told that it's very expensive to accomplish a goal. It's easy to lead them down the garden path to the kool aide.

@Henry Turner Ward ;
Most of us dream of the gear only the elite can afford.
But if you get a little mixer or an audio interface to record your stuff and learn, having knobs or not won't stop you from learning what gain staging or an EQ or a compresor is.
Those are universal audio knowledge that will always be true regardless of the gear you use ;)

pcrecord, post: 454236, member: 46460 wrote: @Henry Turner Ward ;
Most of us dream of the gear only the elite can afford.
But if you get a little mixer or an audio interface to record your stuff and learn, having knobs or not won't stop you from learning what gain staging or an EQ or a compresor is.
Those are universal audio knowledge that will always be true regardless of the gear you use ;)

Awesome! Is that your console?! Been signed up to UAudio for a while now, love their outboard equipment and plugins. Could you maybe suggest some sources for me to learn about gain staging? I have lots of texts books, one I'm loving right now is Carlos Lellis Ferreira's 'Recording', I have also read Bobby Owinski's series on Engineers (Mixing and Recording Handbook) and Dittmar's 'Audio Engineering 101'. I know it sounds unrealistic but I just want to learn as much as I can ("evil laugh"; nothing can stop me!) and if you can help me buy introducing the basics/ refer to some sources you used while starting out that'd be awesome! :D

Lol. Im sure Marco wouldn't mind if I jumped in here to tell you that this is not his console - no one here owns a desk like that.i agree with Kurt that TapeOp is a great mag, but he's our resident analog purist. There are plenty of big records being made in digital. Tracking analog is popular to be sure, but mixing is done in the box (ITB) by many big engineers, on many huge and successful records ...and I can also assure you that plenty of software is being used as well.
There's not a thing wrong with familiarizing yourself with analog. But few own the kind of gear that Marco posted the picture of. ;)

Henry Turner Ward, post: 454238, member: 50950 wrote: Awesome! Is that your console?!

No ! Only a dream one..
This is my actual setup.. What seems like a mixer is a controler ;)

pcrecord, post: 454236, member: 46460 wrote: @Henry Turner Ward ;
Most of us dream of the gear only the elite can afford.
But if you get a little mixer or an audio interface to record your stuff and learn, having knobs or not won't stop you from learning what gain staging or an EQ or a compresor is.
Those are universal audio knowledge that will always be true regardless of the gear you use ;)

Studio A @ Oceanway. The Rupert Neve designed ISA 110. One of 10 throughout the world.

Davedog, post: 454242, member: 4495 wrote: Studio A @ Oceanway. The Rupert Neve designed ISA 110. One of 10 throughout the world.

We've got a winner !!
You all know I love ISAs ;)

Davedog, post: 454242, member: 4495 wrote: Studio A @ Oceanway. The Rupert Neve designed ISA 110. One of 10 throughout the world.

And priced accordingly. ;)
I don't think all ten exist anymore though; I know at least one was lost in a flood during a hurricane.

DonnyThompson, post: 454245, member: 46114 wrote: And priced accordingly. ;)
I don't think all ten exist anymore though; I know at least one was lost in a flood during a hurricane.

Yes there is a video about those mixers. Someone researched them and made contact with the owners..
AH ! there I found it :

Hiya chaps! @DonnyThompson , @miyaru, @pcrecord @Kurt Foster @Davedog! Been doing some intense revision since my last post/comment-
Focusing primarily on console types (in-line and split), console functions and the signal flow involved;
1. auxiliaries (pre/post/pre-cut etc)- perhaps give me a few examples of how you use PFL and AFL in everyday, studio scenarios?
2. inserts (acc. to outboard equipment/ overall processing effects whole selected channel)
3. fader section: (chan/ mixB, mute, solo types etc...),
...as well as just starting work on...
4. patch bays; (main functions, layout, normalising)
5. Routing matrix (acc. to group +/ main output busses and pan control)
6. master-section...
Now... breathe ;)
I'm fairly competent in my understanding of the input section (mic/line), EQ section, as well as dynamics (which I know in most consoles is not featured that much/ more insert sends to external/ outboards dynamic controls (like gates, expanders and compressors) but when available you can use to side chain signals etc)...
'????????????????????????????'
I guess what i'm asking is that... is this 'summed' (audio pun defiantly intended) up correctly, how'd you improve/ ammend some of the information and how can I learn to understand the numbered sections better (1. Auxes and their functions, 2. inserts and their functions, 3. fader section and their func... yeh you get the point). Would be really helpful if I can get some professional overview of my, admittedly, v. basic understanding of signal flow and i/o module basics. :)

just from reading your post i think you have a better grasp on it than you seem to think.

the thing is there really aren't any set in stone rules on how to use a console. it is best for you to just get a grasp on what each section does and then you get to decide how to use it.

AFL / PFL (after fader listen or pre fader listen respectively) are soloing functions. auxs can be sends for many things. pre sends usually go to monitors. (headphone system/ in ear/ wedges). post sends usually go to effects, reverbs/ delays/ flangers/ time shifting effects, but can also be employed to facilitate side chain or parallel compression or alternate mixes. however you really are only limited by your imagination.