So what the dickens are Euphonix all about, then?
In or around 1990, several companies had been searching for the holy grail of complete, utter total-total recall for recording consoles. SSL had forged the way with their VCA fader automation and visual representation of eq, dynamics and auxiliary levels. Recalling mixes was cumbersome and time consuming, though. There had to be a faster, better way. There was.
Digitally controlled analogue.
Various companies produced early attempts at making a desk that was in reality a sophisticated, dedicated computer surface that controlled external analogue electronics. The theory was simple; the computer allowed for the storing and recalling of ALL parameters, whereas the analogue processing offered full-blooded, high quality sound quality.
The most successful of these desks was without doubt the Harrison Series Ten, one of the best sounding and most powerful consoles ever made. Many users still prefer the sound to the best Neve consoles, and having heard a Series Ten at work, I’m minded to agree. However, the sexiest was the Euphonix CS2 (shortly updated to the even sexier CS2000). Compact, sleek and futuristic in appearance the Euphonix offered a huge number of inputs in a relatively small space, in no small part because the electronics rack and computer were designed to be housed remotely, in a separate machine room.
By the mid 1990’s it seemed that Euphonix were firmly on the map. Although pricey (prices ranged from $150,000 to almost $half a million), hundred of consoles were sold into recording, film dubbing studios, post production and broadcast. The problem, though, was that engineers either loved them or loathed them – there was no mid way. Everyone agreed that they looked great. Most agreed that they sounded great. Opinion was sharply divided as to ease of use.
Unlike a conventional console, where all parameters can be modified or edited in real time, the Euphonix was not intuitive. Indeed, many engineers felt they had to programme the console rather than operate it. To change eq, for example, involves assigning channels to the central editing facility one at a time, editing, then reassigning. For those that knew the desk, this presented no problem and many users (particularly private producers and programmers) found this straightforward and a small price to pay for the benefit of the comprehensive reset functions. This way of working was not popular in commercial facilities though, and as digital came of age, many users found the desk an unnecessary encumbrance to their Protools rigs. The upshot was that prices plummeted, making the Euphonix one of the biggest bargains on the current market place.
So, why buy a used Euphonix? Well to start with they’re extremely reliable, easy to install and have a full bodied, in your face analogue sound. Complicated analogue mixes can be set up, stored and recalled with ease. These desks continue to offer the dual advantages of digital recall and analogue sound. For any producer, musician or studio wanting a state of the art, sexy looking digitally controlled analogue console at a fraction of its new price, the Euphonix has to be first choice. Hundreds remain in use, loved and cherished by their loyal owners, making records, movie soundtracks, jingles and the like day in, day out. If I were looking to equip a studio from scratch today, I’d certainly consider a well maintained Euphonix. More reliable and less clumpy than on old SSL, less hassle and maintenance than an old Neve and infinitely more attractive and solid than an Icon, the Euphonix remains the ideal centrepiece for many modern studios.
A few notes…
The main difference between the CS2000 and CS3000, apart from cosmetics, is that the 3000 has moving faders as standard (it was an option on the 2000). However, the signal doesn’t pass through the faders; all audio levels are controlled externally from the desk. The moving faders therefore merely offer an easy visual representation of signal levels rather than relying on the built in LCD. Bearing in mind the large difference in price between the 2000 and 3000, this is something that many potential buyers are happy to live without.
One of the great innovations of Euphonix was to make both the consoles and patch bays modular to a novel extent. Every block of four main faders contains eight complete ‘layered’ channels and uses one complete bank of 1U patch. The consoles are therefore a piece of pi…er, a doddle to install, as all cabling is supplied with EDAC multi pins at both end ready to plug straight into the console and patch bays. For example, I was reliably informed by tech, Bill Ward, that Trevor Horn frequently moved his 96 input CS2000 between studios and that the desk took an average of two hours to set up and less than an hour to dissemble – amazing when one considers the weeks involved in installing a similar sized SSL or Neve
Euphonix manufactured a matching block of dynamics (compressors and gates) in a 3U rack format, each unit comprising eight dynamics. These are easy to add to the system (each patch bay has provision for a dynamics unit) and settings can be stored in the computer along with desk settings (eq, aux levels, fader levels, returns etc).
All in all, a Euphonix offers a uniquely powerful and versatile package in an attractive format. Check them out – it might be just what you’re looking for.
Euphonix developed the concept of Digitally controlled analogue mixing consoles to new levels. What this means is that the control surface resembles a conventional mixing desk (although maybe sleeker and more futuristic than most) but the actual analogue electronics are mounted remotely in racks or towers. This offers many advantages. Firstly, the consoles takes up less control room space, with a huge number of channels in a compact, attractive surface. Secondly, the console offers the same degree of recall as a digital desk - full and simple recall of all parameters including eq, sends, returns, dynamics, levels - the lot - at the recall of a floppy disc. Thirdly, because the signal doesn't pass through the control surface there can NEVER be scratchy pots or sticky buttons. Fourthly, superb integration and synchronisation of machines or hard disc recorders.
The sound is full and rich, as with the best analogue desk (and better than most) and the facilities are superb. These desks cost a fortune new and at present they offer absolutely the best value in reliable, cost effective and modern mixing consoles. Happy users past and present include Trevor Horn and Max Martin Strongroom Studios, Lillie Yard (top film and post) plus hundreds more.
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