Dave Dearden has excellent ears and knows what an analogue console needs to do.
The man behind many classic early Soundcraft desks, his own DDA series and the current Audient range has never garnered the kudos of a Rupert Neve or Dick Swettenham but maybe one day he will.
The problem with so many Dearden designs is that they are unfussy, uncomplicated and bristle with audio common sense. He is a man who knows how records are made, what an engineer needs to do a good job and designs consoles accordingly with a minimum of bells, whistles or unnecessary extras.
Audient consoles offer excellent value for money. Admittedly, manufacturing corners have been cut to produce a versatile, good sounding console at an attractive price, but these desks are reliable, functional and attractive. Rather than being modular, input channels are fitted in blocks of twelve which makes maintainance something of a drag. Faders and pots are adequate if lightweight to the feel and metering is basic. Facillities are well thought out and include two parametric mid range bands (plus selectable high and low), eight aux's (expandable to 30 by using groups and direct outs), in line monitors, eight groups and fx returns and a useable buss compressor inthe centre. Standard consoles lack a patchbay, are only semi-modular and have limited headroom but many great albums have been made on Audient.
In this digital age, more and more musicians and producers are moving back to an analogue front end. For the vast majority of mere mortals, Audient offers professional facilities and a musical sound at an affordable price.
Check them out. You might be surprised.