the modern desk/console in 2021...

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vintagelove

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Call me crazy, but I think these days computers do a great job of setting up headphone mixes. Near 0 latency, multiple mixes, the ability to monitor with fx etc without committing to the track. I also don't particularly see the need to monitor the preamp's pre-conversion.

I really see all these extra bells and whistle's as just more stuff to break down when you really need it. Give me a short clean signal path any day.
 

groselicain

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Well I say modern because things have changed so much. As mentioned something as simple as 24 multitrack sends, are they needed in 2021? Yes we do but do we need a full 24? There in lies the question.
being able to scale things would be key. So doing something that could easily be expanded and or scaled down is essential.
Multitrack sends are a must, but I don't care for desks that completely eschew busing. The first desk I personally owned was a TL Audio and I couldn't believe that there was no busing. Going back to treating the computer as a tape machine, I want to be able to commit at tracking as much as I can and that usually involves at least some busing. The same goes for mixdown—I use buses a ton in all my mix work on desks with and without VCAs. On top of that, I get more and more artists that request stems in addition to the typical alternate mixes. I hate having to go through and record multiple passes just to accommodate that. I also agree that scalability is very important.
...but i miss knob-per-function UI and good enough nonlinearities.
I'm glad you mentioned this because I hadn't thought of it. I understand that physical size comes at a premium, but packing two or three functions onto multiple knobs and switches per channel is just too much. The SSL 4000 is still incredible for how much it can do and I've never found it confusing to set up. The Genesys, on the other hand, is so needlessly complicated. I really thought that was going to be a desk of the future—and in a lot of ways it can be—but I don't want to spend a year of sessions learning which combinations of buttons I have to hit to just do one thing.
 

boji

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Agree with lots of the comments on center section. For folks starting outside the field, or without a lot of design knowledge, the tendency (for me) was to focus on the channels because they had more reference material and made more intuitive routing sense. Consequently by the time the center section / I/O aux routing was approached, it didn't get the design love/energy it could've.

My advice to someone building up a modern desk would be: Save the most duplicated sections of the desk for last in design process.
You'll have to finish them if you want a working desk!
Whereas put center sections last, you'll have a working desk where center section and I/O can be somewhat neglected.

Example: I left all my aux's mono when designing channels. Now that I'm into aux sends/returns and cue, I see why it would have been very useful and relatively easy to have included cue panning or a wet/dry mix option.
 
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ruffrecords

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Well I say modern because things have changed so much. As mentioned something as simple as 24 multitrack sends, are they needed in 2021? Yes we do but do we need a full 24? There in lies the question.
being able to scale things would be key. So doing something that could easily be expanded and or scaled down is essential.
Again, the answer depends on the market segment you aim for. Is there a segment that needs 24 multitrack sends - yes there is. Do all segments need it - no they don't. So before you can answer the question you need to define the market segmant.

Cheers

ian
 

PermO

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Ok, I'll bite...

From a spoiled hobbyist / small project studio perspective;

I think I would go for a "split type" design.

I would like to have 8 "recording" channel strips, these should have mic pre, DI input, balanced direct out, EQ section and a switchable balanced insert, a couple of aux sends would be cool to have.

A rather simple centre section with master bus, and two stereo sub groups, with switchable balanced inserts.
DAW transport controls would be great, also room for PC monitor, mouse and keyboard,... and maybe a cup of coffee.

O the right side I would love to have something like a summing mixer, 24 - 32 ch inputs, with level fader, pan pot, 8 auxes, insert and basic routing.
Some (8?) 500 series slots for inserting goodies.

That would be cool.
 

emrr

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Well I say modern because things have changed so much. As mentioned something as simple as 24 multitrack sends, are they needed in 2021? Yes we do but do we need a full 24? There in lies the question.
being able to scale things would be key. So doing something that could easily be expanded and or scaled down is essential.

it’s only ever been the rare session that needed more than 16 live tracking inputs here. For all the modern techniques that would expand that count, people do less and less together at the same time.
 

calaverasgrande

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Well I say modern because things have changed so much. As mentioned something as simple as 24 multitrack sends, are they needed in 2021? Yes we do but do we need a full 24? There in lies the question.
being able to scale things would be key. So doing something that could easily be expanded and or scaled down is essential.
I think that is a great example.
When I've used analog desks and multitrack tape decks, track assignment was important. You are putting kick and snare on outside tracks because wow and flutter is less apparent on transient sources.
You also buss multiple sources to a single track in some cases. Such as with drum mics.
Using a DAW as your tape machine both of these cases are irrelevant.
Any track input to the DAW can be output on any arbitrary track on playback.
As well as bussing multiple sources to one output before it returns to the console on playback.
This is arguably an obsolete feature and good riddance.
That is a lot of copmlexity and points of failure for an edge case scenario.
What I've done for the past 20 years or so is just stick the DAW on the direct outs and bring the returns in on line ins.
On some mixers I had to do split monitor style for this to work.
But on an inline console it works beautifully. Just hit the line or flip button for each channel.
Likewise, with so many excellent effects in the box, I find it less and less necessary to have outboard.
That said, more and more I want hardware EQ and dynamics!
So inserts yes, 8 aux sends not so much.
 
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abbey road d enfer

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It's important to distinguish groups and multitrack sends.
In a typical Jeep Harned/Dave Harrison arrangement, tehse are confounded.
Today, a typical session would use very few groups; on the contrary, many sources that used to be reduced before hitting tape, are sent to indivisual tracks.
 

pucho812

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o.k. since scalability is a big factor, lets separate the console similarly to how old neves are. You have a channel(pre with eq) and then you have the rest of what would be on a channel strip in a separate module. For ease of description you have the upper and lower half, upper being pre/eq section, the lower half (aux, busses, panning, solo, mute). The lower half can have direct output and be controlled by a fader and take it's input either directly from the output of the upper half or insert return. I am thinking 8 aux sends, and 8-24 multitrack busses, panning circuit can be inserted or removed, L & R assignments that are individual vs 1 stereo button, solo and mute circuits. This allows for scalability. Want more monitor returns, add more lowers. Need more eq's add more uppers. The upper itself will have both mic and line inputs, pre eq insert, post eq insert, 4 band eq with hi and lo filters. it can be removed and run as a standalone should one desire. I think this gives more flexibility then a lot of current desks on the market. I also don't see a need for compression on every channel most wanting a desk would have those in outboard anyway or use their daw
 

john12ax7

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I think 8 aux sends is a good number, they can all go on one dsub. The question then is the breakdown, all 8 mono, 4 mono, 2 stereo?

If you have non-automated faders a nice feature is unity gain bypass switch, that can make summing through the desk easily repeatable.
 

Brian Roth

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500 style modules for Mic preamps and EQs seem sensible to me, but figuring out a "tight" mechanical packaging for those is a challenge. 12 times 1.5" width only comes to 18", versus a standard 19" rack width. Then it becomes a matter of packaging design so it "looks correct" if there are many modules all lined up from left to right in the console frame vs a bunch of 19" buckets side by side.

When I was a "baby" in the early 1970's I cut my teeth on MCI 400 series inline desks and 16 (later 24) track tape recorders. While having to submix things like some drum mics was a given, I realized that most everything was "one mic to one track". So when I designed and built my desk (actually two were built) I decided on 8 tracking buses with a simple switching solution to "automagically" send a direct out to a tape track. My ramblings on that critter....many functions were a "MCI 400 on some steroids"...are here:


That was then, this is now. I have some thoughts about features gleaned from many more years from sitting behind a desk. In no particular order:

1. Stereo solo...non destructive.

2. I don't know what to call this solo function. Adjustable level for the "main stereo mix as it sits behind the stereo solo bus as you listen." Gives some context as you solo.

3. LOTS of CR speaker source selections. I liked Neve's "Internal/External" switching concept.

4. More than two speaker choices for control room listening. Main/alt...not enough.

5. Although individual headphone mixer units for each musician are popular, they can be a headache. I've worked in studios with "hearback" and other systems, and I spent a lot of time out in the tracking room with headphones on as I de-fuc!ed whatever the guy/gal had done with their individual "mixer" unit. So, a function that allows the CR monitor mix to be sent to cue feeds, with "more me" control via aux sends at the desk. That ASSumes the session engineer does a decent mix to start with! Four stereo cue outs derived from the CR monitor mix with the "more me" via aux sends seems to handle even large live band tracking sessions and prima dona (sp??) players.

6. Ability to feed a pair of speakers in the tracking room so the folks can take off their headcans to hear playback of a take. That needs to be independent from whatever also needs to be heard in the CR...."I wanna hear what track might have an unwanted buzz" without disturbing the playback in the tracking room.

7. In the CR, switching to mute left or right speakers with a mono option. YES...mono because so much music is heard in essentially mono...Iphones, etc sitting a few feet away from the listener, cheap TV sets, etc.

It's late so I won't expound about inline vs. split monitoring. I grew up with inline, then "met my match" with the complexities of an inline Amek 9098i desk...I ended up routing/patching that desk into a split to be able to work.

Bri
 

groselicain

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2. I don't know what to call this solo function. Adjustable level for the "main stereo mix as it sits behind the stereo solo bus as you listen." Gives some context as you solo.
Is this different from solo-in-front? From what you've described, it sounds like it's similar, if not the same.

7. In the CR, switching to mute left or right speakers with a mono option. YES...mono because so much music is heard in essentially mono...Iphones, etc sitting a few feet away from the listener, cheap TV sets, etc.
There's a separate thread somewhere that talked about the value of checking mixes in mono, and I feel like what you've mentioned here wasn't really discussed. I recently came across a feature I hadn't seen before—On page 26 of the manual for the Custom Series 75 there's an explanation of how the control room mono and cuts work. I thought this was invaluable, if for no other reason than the ability to really check things in mono without having to move around too much.

I think 8 aux sends is a good number, they can all go on one dsub. The question then is the breakdown, all 8 mono, 4 mono, 2 stereo?
Just from my perspective, I think the latter is best. The ability to feed something like the entire drum sound to a single stereo aux send is great during tracking. It also adds to the creativity that an engineer can use during mixdown. There are a lot of times that I'll have a stereo room sound set up on an aux, but I'll pan the sends to the opposite side of the mix from the sources. Having two stereo sends makes this a breeze.
 

calaverasgrande

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If I had my druthers; 4 stereo auxes which could be individually broken to dual mono.
In the olden days most effects were mono in stereo out.
But for the past 20 years most reverbs and such are stereo in and out (though I am sure more than a couple sum to mono internally).

Personally I rarely see the need for more than 2 effect auxes. Maybe 3.
But then are we counting Cue separate from Aux? 3 effect sends and one cue send sounds perfect to me.
Btw I'm actually pretty aggressive with effects. I just don't see the need for many global effects which apply to more than one source. For single sources I get that done in the box. But I'm sure some insist on all hardware effects.
If I had a few of Richard Devine's racks I would too.

As far as monitor control you need at least 3 control room monitors and it would be nice to have studio mains on a knob as well. Additionally sub management should be in there.
Ideally you would have a little cover you flip up to access trimpots, operating level and phase settings so you can get it all aligned. Then not have someone come along and crank MON B to senses-shattering levels. As was my experience in many edit suites with those damn Mackie Big Knob things.

One thing I've noticed is that the discussion seems to be trending in the direction of the API Box or SSL XL Desk. How are these deficient I wonder?
 

Brian Roth

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@ groselicain "solo-in-front" is probably the term I was thinking of. I have only run across a few times, and is a great feature.

@ calaverasgrande Sub management is one other thing I forgot to mention. I also like the idea of "semi hidden" trimmers for the various monitor sets. And, this design process does wander into The Box and XL desks which are kinda pricey.

I propose there should be the ability to feed at least four CR speaker systems in any combination.

I just remembered an "aha!" idea from a few years ago. 1/8" TRS and/or TRRS jacks on the CR monitoring front plate to allow phones or tablets as a source for monitoring. Of course nowadays, you will also need a Bluetooth receiver (seems like maybe sketchy because of the addition of digi-stuff inside an analog desk) after Apple dumped the headphone jack. The feature allows someone to connect to the CR speakers for "...hey...listen to this..."

Busing becomes a point of discussion. Sometimes we need buses for tracking, sometimes for FX or cue sends, sometimes for subs/stems during mixing, etc etc. Hence busing needs to be very flexible.

Bri
 

Spiritworks

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Ok, I'll bite...

From a spoiled hobbyist / small project studio perspective;

I think I would go for a "split type" design.

I would like to have 8 "recording" channel strips, these should have mic pre, DI input, balanced direct out, EQ section and a switchable balanced insert, a couple of aux sends would be cool to have.

A rather simple centre section with master bus, and two stereo sub groups, with switchable balanced inserts.
DAW transport controls would be great, also room for PC monitor, mouse and keyboard,... and maybe a cup of coffee.

O the right side I would love to have something like a summing mixer, 24 - 32 ch inputs, with level fader, pan pot, 8 auxes, insert and basic routing.
Some (8?) 500 series slots for inserting goodies.

That would be cool.
API The Box II , except it doesn't have the DAW control part
 

FIX

Paul Wolff
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The FIX console has 3 stereo auxes plus 2 mono, has a blend in the insert, has 3 stereo MIX busses that can have the sound of any console, Has a high pass and low pass filter and a TQ (similar to a tilt Eq), It can be as small as 8 channels, and has an inline mode for monitoring, with 3 inputs that can all be turned on at the same tome for 24 channels summing for every 8 channels, plus an aux input that can be used as an input to the 3 stereo aux sends or a effects return into the module..
 

ruffrecords

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The FIX console has 3 stereo auxes plus 2 mono, has a blend in the insert, has 3 stereo MIX busses that can have the sound of any console, Has a high pass and low pass filter and a TQ (similar to a tilt Eq), It can be as small as 8 channels, and has an inline mode for monitoring, with 3 inputs that can all be turned on at the same tome for 24 channels summing for every 8 channels, plus an aux input that can be used as an input to the 3 stereo aux sends or a effects return into the module..
There is on one 'S' in bus and a total of only two in buses. It still surprises me that so many manufacturers still make this elementary spelling mistake; even Rupert has done it.

Cheers

Ian
 

PermO

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API The Box II , except it doesn't have the DAW control part

Yeah that's a nice kit, but it does not involve a soldering iron, the pure joy of scourcing parts, holes drilled in the wrong place because you had the panel upside down, blown fuses and scratched paintjobs... and the click click, why doesn't this.. click click... why doesn't this .. click .. work ?

That's no fun !
 

groselicain

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The FIX console has 3 stereo auxes plus 2 mono, has a blend in the insert, has 3 stereo MIX busses that can have the sound of any console, Has a high pass and low pass filter and a TQ (similar to a tilt Eq), It can be as small as 8 channels, and has an inline mode for monitoring, with 3 inputs that can all be turned on at the same tome for 24 channels summing for every 8 channels, plus an aux input that can be used as an input to the 3 stereo aux sends or a effects return into the module..
I don't know if this is Paul or not, but I've always been interested in the FIX console since it was briefly mentioned on Gear Club Podcast. I've always been sad that there wasn't more information readily available about it online—at least where I looked. The routing alone sounds incredible from what you've described. One thing I was never clear on was whether or not the console has its own preamps—pictures always show a lot of 500 series equipment slotted in, so it seems more like a mix console. Can you give us more information?
 

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