New Toft Console Setup vs New ITB Setup Help me decide

Discussion in 'Consoles / Control Surfaces' started by ChrisH, Sep 11, 2012.

  1. audiokid

    audiokid Chris Staff

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    I have 8 SPL Premium mic-pres and they sound unreal. The power supply with these is huge also.
     
  2. bishopdante

    bishopdante Guest

    The points I'm making are as follows:

    #1: There's a lot of pro-audio stuff out there, if you have a limited budget, do some hunting around and you can get professional gear for a lot cheaper than new or vintage-king. There's a current fashion for certain pieces of equipment and a certain sonic aesthetic, but if you step outside that you can get stuff for incredible prices. It's good to think in terms of equipment that does a job. Discrete component simpler, older stuff will be easier to maintain, but there are a lot of bits of kit that are off the mainstream / gearslutz radar.

    #2: Having "the best" class A transformer-buffered microphone pres, or ±60V summing boxes isn't necessarily what it takes to produce the best mix. If you consider yourself "a novice", I'd recommend getting equipment that allows you to work fast and learn. Using a split layout on an analog board allows one to work nice & fast. Getting stuff to sound good isn't just a question of having the ultimate most expensive kit, although that helps somewhat, it's a question of user and usability. Having equipment that's "really good" will serve you well, you don't have to have "the best" to be able to produce a great sound. There's many, many more important facets of the recording process. One should look for the weakest link in the chain, putting racing wheels on a car with a busted engine won't make any difference.

    #3: What's good about a mixer isn't just the summing, although that is one of the reasons. Digital summing has its issues, but it also has its advantages. One should use a bit of both if working OTB. But a big benefit of a mixer is that it's a way of working, and it's an important skill. Perhaps it's because I've done a fair amount of live engineering as well as studio work, but I find that fiddling about in the computer with edits and plugins is a process that if one isn't careful introduces a lot of friction (don't get me wrong, I love the computer and all its software capabilities, it's the one thing I'd never want to do without {the nightmare of trying to do a record using just RADAR} and I speak from some experience), but it does slow you down, you can go down the rabbit hole of confused tweak. I've seen people spend a year, fulltime, mixing an album because of fiddling encroachment, and the end result was really no better. Being agile with a mix and pushing stuff around is really important, I'm prepared to sacrifice some sound quality to have that ability. A split board doesn't bother me, I actually quite like it.
     
  3. audiokid

    audiokid Chris Staff

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    Great points but at the end of the day, we all need to become proficient and controlled with the DAW. The DAW is the direction this industry is going, like it or not. And if you are young, you might as well get good at it and learn to control the "curse" that comes with the territory (coined by Eric ( aka mixerman) . Love that term "The curse".
    After working with digital for most of my 35 years in this business, the greatest piece of advise I can offer anyone is the less digital fiddling the better. You are so right about that!

    I believe the main reason music sounds so artificial today is because of oveuse and ABUSE of the editing abilities and overuse of plug-ins on every track. To mean, they all sound like ass and do something unhealthy to sound. They box the sound in right away. And before you know it, you are fiddling. So... what goes in, comes out so no piece of gear will help that.
    But the basic DAW tools have a place in clinical processing. A digital comp and limiter is fast and tight. Surgical EQ,s, perfect. But rest of the gimmicks (tape simulators etc) IMHO, better for an effect over fidelity from what I hear. , ...

    I do think a console sets you right though. Because it is the core and hub of sound engineering. Its right there in front of you. If you can do it on a console, the skills you get there will be an asset for the rest of your life.

    Examples: One pen, one paper, write a story. Here are the chords, write a song. Here is a hammer and finishing nails, don't damage the wood.
    And if we are all talking fundamentals, great advice in this thread.

    Cheers!
     
  4. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

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    but you don't address the issues of maintenance. you keep dancing around it. my guess is you are tech savvey and that's great for you but remember most of us aren't. we need plug and play solutions, not ongoing maintenance schedules.

    it's not a panacea of just hook it up and it runs forever. any of the used gear you are pointing towards is going to have issues. why do you think it's for sale? people are getting rid of their problems and moving on to something newer in many cases. if someone buys something like that, they better have tech skills or deep pockets. any older piece will likely need at least a partial re cap and installation in it's self will be costly not just for the interfacing but for the patch bays needed to put it to full production abilities.
     
  5. pan60

    pan60 Active Member

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    It is my feeling anyone running a studio even a small project studio should take some time to learn a bit about service. Many an issue is miner and easily solved. A generator and scope is not that costly and should be a part of any set up I think at least, and the needed soldering tools.
    I am trying to learn more about comps so I do know how it feels to be ignorant in some areas. And I am no electrical engineer but like I say many issue are not that difficult to track down and repair.
    Plus lots of people out there willing to help.
    I worry about service on a lot of newer gear!!! A lot of this stuff is really not designed to be serviced.
     
  6. Davedog

    Davedog Distinguished Member

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    "Fiddling Encroachment" Three thumbs up!
     
  7. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

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    bad math skills, huge fat fingers and bad eyes make getting into soldering and working on circuits is out of the question for me. it's all i can do to solder an XLR neatly. but i won't let that keep me from doing audio.

    comps are easy. for starters, ratio no more than 4:1 medium attack fast release, no more than 6 dB gain reduction. huyuk huyuck, i lerend that in ardio skool
     
  8. pan60

    pan60 Active Member

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    LOL
    I have fat fingers, bad eyes, and get my buddies o do the math : )
    I need new glass!
    It would help if I could find the ones I have?
    thumb(y)
     
  9. audiokid

    audiokid Chris Staff

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    Indeed. that was funny Kurt. I can't get used to my glasses at all. I miss my target now. Typing is crazy. I need 3 pairs of glasses cause those 3-in-ones just don't do it for me.
     
  10. bishopdante

    bishopdante Guest

    Indeed, but not that I haven't seen a power supply spontaneously die on a (basically) brand new console that's a year old, either. Generally speaking, properly made stuff is reliable. Yes, a console will eat parts from time to time, but it seems ironic to me that the stuff that's really sought after is 40 years old, whereas the stuff that's going cheap is 5 to 10 to 15 to 20 years old and the level of reliability is somewhat different, mixers were more of a more mature technology by that point. Digitally controlled stuff from the 80s can be a bit scary, and certain ICs or chips may or may not be available, and I certainly wouldn't invest in a mixer without doing a lot of homework into how maintainable it'll prove to be. You do need somebody technical on hand to run a monster, yes. Something smaller, especially if you're not relying on it for intensive day-to-day use in a facility, probably not.

    Something of say 20:8 or 16:8 with good routing options and a sensible size and age, rather than a high-end fully automated behemoth or an early '70s high voltage modular piece, aside from some caps and faders / pots needing replacing, which are well within the realms of DIY to take care of with a bit of internet help, shouldn't expect serious problems, and those are really cheap to get hold of. If a PSU goes down, that's a bummer, but can switch to working ITB for a while until it comes back from whoever fixed mail order, or buy a new one. Should be able to get a decent (not amazing or enormous) mixer for well under $2000. Then add 8 or 12 channels of nice outboard pres (I wouldn't buy those new, either).

    My including links to serious high end mixers is more to illustrate the point that mixers are not remotely expensive these days, even the really big ones. There are a few mixers that are still expensive (eg Neve A88, 80X8, EMI etc), but even those are dropping in price somewhat thanks to the various fully computerised ways of doing things. I wouldn't buy a console as a financial investment, in order to sell it 10 years later. Only sensible reason to buy one is to use it, and they're genuinely affordable at this point.
     
  11. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

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    for me the holy grail is hi volt console quality summing and patching in a table top format. new(er) is generally more reliable. in that arena the only things i have seen would be a 1608, a SPL NEOS or an SSL X Rack. another much less expensive alternative is a PreSonus 16.4.2. or it's smaller brethren. any of those shoukd be "good enough pig" .....
     
  12. Davedog

    Davedog Distinguished Member

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    I'm gonna let you in on a secret. The reason I know it is simple math. I used em both. The Toft, which seems to have irked Kurt with its design somehow...has a nicely built external power supply...rack mounted...delivers 17volts to the rails, doesnt sag when loaded down with condensers.. and does its job well. The consoles have a very 'musical' sound to them. The gains on the pres could be more but they dont add any noise if you have to crank em to get your ribbon or SM7 up to level. They have a touch of color to them as any FET might....The separation is complete...no crosstalk at all...Quiet, nice feel to the faders and the knobs.. the board itself is a fairly robust construction with the wood siderails and the fairly heavy gauge of metal on the frame. On inspection the interior wiring is neat and easily traced and the looming is efficient and well done. The EQ is , again, really musical. I have no problem adding or subtracting at tracking simply because it holds up so well when pushed. The response is fast and deep. It has a great frequency curve I have not found a lack anywhere. And you can patch this thing is so many configurations it'll make you dizzy with the possiblities.

    While I like the Presonus and had enough money to buy one recently, it pales in sound to the Toft. Its also a different animal in its design. I believe they were meant to market to Houses Of Worship, live sound companies, and budget studios. Where the pres are really good with both, I think the Toft is much better as a front end to a DAW simply because it sounds bigger and has more of that PUNCH that pres with a tendency to sterility cant quite get to due to design.

    The Toft ATB is NOT a vintage Neve, API, or Harrison.....or even an MCI (which I like and would buy if I could find a little one.....preferably{for me} a Sony one) but its a really good properly designed niche mixer/console with a lot of the right stuff in the right places.

    I use mine....an 8 channel, for my drum front end....actually as the front end for the second room at my shop. Its been drums for the last month and tomorrow it will be doing some guitar tracks. It isnt my only choice for this but I'm curious as to how it handles what I'm gonna pound it with. The drums are done and cleared out of the room its full of Fender and other tube amps and mics.

    As to a recommendation All the early problems with the first run Toft ATB's was solved and features were updated as they evolved the units. The company listens to their customers and Malcolm aint bad at designing source capturing amplification devices. I always like Trident stuff and these are kinda Trident in what they impart to the sound.

    The Presonus is kinda neutral and thats not bad either.
     
  13. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

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    not at all. you (Dave) have a much better knowledge of the ATB i'm sure. i haven't had a chance to get my hands on one. you must be thinking of what bishopdante said earlier;

    i know there are some negative anecdotal comments written by users (as well as many positve remarks) and i've read what Jim Williams has to say about the specs and performance. which again had it's good and bad points.

    pricing and Chinese manufacturing / import issues aside, i'm sure it's a perfectly fine mixer.
     
  14. audiokid

    audiokid Chris Staff

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    I agree with Dave on the Studio Live. Its not even in the same league for analog summing or as an option for what we are all discussing here. Its an incredible value, amazing actually, but ideal for general live production and project studios. I have a new 24 in a box for sale btw.

    NEOS is the king in hybrid solution and belongs in a different category along side Dangerous and other hybrid summing solutions. Everything else discussed in consoles becomes personal flavours and workflow. We're really touching on three different concepts.
     
  15. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

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    The Holy Grail ?
    i would never steer anyone towards an MCI because of the maintenance issues. you need some real cash flow through a facility to make a "real" analog console a sustainable proposition. of course if you have 50+ grand and the business to support it, an API 1608 would be nice! i agree the Neos is da kine ... 120 volt rails in the Neos and a neutral sound.... what's not to like there? and again i also like the SSL XRack (same concept).

    if Dave likes the Toft there must be something to it. the ATB's are cool in that they have through hole construction and chip sockets ... they are built it seems with upgrades and mods in mind. i guess 17 volts + / - is fine ... i think that's in the same ball park as an API??? once i have the chance to play with one i will get a better feel for it i guess.

    will a Studio Live sound as warm or sweet as an old MCI or even the ATB? maybe not but the cost of admission for a top of the line PreSonus is half that of a the next to smallest Toft 8 channel and you get a lot more bang for buck ( graphic and parametric eq's, compressors, mastering processors, reverbs, delays, converters etc. etc. ) ... plus you don't need to do a bunch of expensive mods to get them quiet. and remember once you have modded the ATB's the warrenty is void.

    when you factor in the free DAW software that comes with the Studio Live it's a value that's hard to beat. You have on-board processing as well as itb processing and the ability to use hardware too. it's a very powerful package. someone talented with a Studio One can make some great recordings we have already heard them. how good does it need to be? after all it's probably going to end up as an MP4 on EwwToobe. i would lean towards the PreSonus. I already have good mic pres and i just cannot overlook the features of the Studio Live vs. any other small format analog console for the cost.
     
  16. audiokid

    audiokid Chris Staff

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    Studio Live is without question, the best deal on the planet.

    This info is on their website:

     
  17. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Member

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    This would likely also indicate that they have used some discrete parts in their design concepts. Not all based on inexpensive, run-of-the-mill chips. Especially since I know of no chip that runs on ± 30. Actually when I read PreSonus' marketing rhetoric on the high voltage microphone preamps with 30 V rails, I instantly assumed they were talking about just combining ± 15 V? Which is a 30 V swing. So not entirely sure that they are advertising and marketing rhetoric works out from a circuitry standpoint? I've never looked at the Studio Live schematics? And that's not to say that a similar trick hasn't been played?

    For instance, I've had consoles that utilized IC chips that were powered from ± 15 V bipolar supplies. There was an additional ± 24 V to provide that extra voltage boost for the output transistors on those power rails. So wasn't really as if the input stage was running on that higher voltage, it wasn't. Again this could be more marketing BS that can be backed up with well engineered answers.

    Nevertheless, I find their microphone preamps to be quite pleasing as opposed to quite annoying, to listen to. And if they are indicating that their microphone preamps are Class A, then it's still possible most of the preamp operates at ± 15 were a single output power transistor gets 30 V, making it a high-voltage, class A preamp, that actually isn't but sort of is. And at least it sounds accordingly. Though certainly not the same aggressive edge I get from the crappy, low powered, API and Neve stuff. And so if you're not running transformer in everything and transformer out everything, that's slightly more subdued sounding preamp, I would think a good coupling for digital recording purposes. And so I find their concepts quite sound!

    Both literally and figuratively.
    Mx. Remy Ann David
     
  18. pan60

    pan60 Active Member

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    Remy beat me to it, but there is some miss info floating here.
    0 volt to 30 volts is a 30 volt swing and i am also not aware of any chips doing but having said that even if there is, it is still no more swing than a 15 volt bipolar swing. -15 volts to + 15 volts, IS a 30 volt swing, 30 volts, just is, no if ands or buts. you measure from the - to the + and your will read 30 volts. and my guess is that that is what they are saying as well.
     
  19. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Member

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    Not sure if anybody should be excited about a 30 V swing? About 30 years ago, when I was at the AES, I was talking to Burgess McNeil, George Massenburg's partner in SONTEC, after ITI and therefore GML He would tell me that George would give them directives. It was then up to Burgess to work the circuitry out. He was going off about George asking him to do all sorts of crazy things like asking him for a 50 V transistor for his microphone preamp. So Burgess would go out and get a 50 V transistor. And that was 30 years ago. Not 30 V ago. So 30 V swaying is no big whoop when you realize George had preamps running with a 50 V rail, 30 years ago. And probably why his gear had outrageous headroom and which also has been extremely fast sound. Nothing to slew there.

    He also used DBX VCA's in his limiters
    Mx. Remy Ann David
     
  20. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

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    I understand the tactile thing. There is something about reaching up to physically tweak EQ as opposed to using the scroll button on the mouse.

    That being said, I don't miss the enormous amount of space required for a mixing desk, nor do I miss hard wiring and maintaining a 384 point TT patch bay.

    I think that having a rack of nice pres, EQ's and GR devices is the best way to go; it allows you the processing and coloration that analog OB gear offers, it still allows you to make those tactile/hands on adjustments without sacrificing 20 sq feet or more of space required for a console, along with the miles of wiring to go with it.

    But it all depends on what you are after. I have a friend who still uses an old custom built 24 x 16 x 24 CAD split config console, and he swears he'd never move to an entire ITB rig. His product sounds mighty nice, always has, although I suspect that with his knowledge and skill level he could probably mix through a beat up Tangent 16 ch live board and it would still sound good... LOL

    The lunch box set up seems to be the way to go, in that you can configure it to meet your individual needs - you can have certain pre's, EQ's or compressors/limiters/gates that sound great on certain things (like vocals or drums) from different manufacturers and it would allow you to custom flavor your tracks as you needed - as opposed to using the same pre's, EQ's and gain reduction for every track or input that a console would give you.

    As a side note...Remember that in the case of much of the gear mentioned by Remy, Kurt, Dave and others, in many situations, you don't even need to really process the signal through the various devices in the rack. Sometimes just busing the signal through a unit like an LA2 at unity gain can give you the coloration and " magic glue" that is desired.

    In my humble opinion, of course.
     
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