DESKS FOR MULTITRACK RECORDING IN A SMALL SETUP
Today’s recordists are a different breed from yesteryear. Many work in small production rooms or have sophisticated rigs at home, often without machine rooms, three phase electricity or air conditioning. Nevertheless, master quality recordings can be made using a combination of new and old, digital and analogue technology.
We’re currently experiencing an increase in demand for more traditional relatively compact production desks and consoles. Why? Reasons include audiophile sound quality, the convenience of real-time working, a central operations centre providing control, monitor and level switching, metering, foldback and aux sends, inserts and (in some cases) DAW control.
The most successful (and by far the largest selling) professional small format desk is the SSL AWS. The AWS924 offers 24 inputs (mic and line), eight groups with monitor/effects return, moving fader automation (awesomation…urgh), aux sends and returns and DAW control. Compact but sturdy it comes with legs and is reliable, relatively cool, self-contained (therefore having no need for external power supplies or a machine room), connects to patchbay and outside world by user-friendly industry standard D-subs and holds its value. It comes with 24 mic pres and the legendary SSL bus compressor. Also available in a sixteen channel (expandable) option…the SSL AWS 916.
The most recent addition to the AWS stable is the AWS948, similar in most respects but with twenty four STEREO mic/line inputs, offering 48 inputs on both record and mix. This has proved an outstanding success, filling the gap between the AWS924 and the (in-line) Duality in a compact format.
For those on more modest budgets or requiring less comprehensive facilities, the SSL XLdesk offers a uniquely versatile solution. The standard (unloaded) desk offers eight mic preamps, an SSL buss compressor, auxiliaries and 16 slots designed to take SSL or third party 500 series eqs, mic preamps or dynamics allowing users to configure to their own requirements. Solidly built with the usual SSL looks, metering and facilities (speaker selects, direct outputs, Dsub connectors etc), the XLdesk has become extremely popular with clients wanting uncompromising SSL quality on a limited budget.
The API 1608 is a small format desk offering the legendary full-bodied ‘vintage’ API sound. Although available unloaded, it comes as standard with sixteen mic preamps, twelve ‘classic’ API 550 three band equalisers and four 560 ‘thumbwheel graphic’ equalisers, eight main busses, eight auxiliary busses, a stereo bus, 5.1 centre section monitoring and D-Sub connectors. Roughly the same price as the SSL AWS924, many users prefer the vintage sound to the more limited facilities. A wonderful front-end for digital recording where returns can be merged ‘in the box’ so the lack of inputs is not an issue. An optional automation system provides DAW control and fader automation.
A modern take on the now classic Trident 80B, the Trident 88 was designed and is produced by some of the same team responsible for the original. An in-line desk available in eight, sixteen, twenty-four, thirty-two, forty (and beyond) channels (and therefore twice that many inputs), the desks feature top flight mic preamps and versatile eq and auxiliaries. Fully modular and designed with ease of serviceability foremost in mind. Well priced (a good deal cheaper than anything comparable) and great sounding, these desks are finding homes with musicians, producers and commercial studios worldwide.
A scaled down version of the 88 in several standard formats, this new desk breaks the price/quality barrier by rationalising format and construction; for example, input modules are in blocks of four rather than individual. In line (monitor and main fader doubling inputs on each channel) with four band eq, filters and comprehensive auxiliary and routing, the 78 is a compact solution where no-compromise audio quality is required and a budget price.
Described as ‘Analogue design with DAW control’ the Genesys is the current offering from the legendary Neve stable. The modular design allows users to add on options to their own recording or financial requirements to the basic 16-fader configuration – 16 channels of mic/line preamps plus 16 channels of DAW mixing and 32-channel analogue summing at mixdown. In addition the desk offers eight auxiliary buses, eight group buses and 5.1 monitoring. Motorised faders and DAW control are standard. Eq and dynamics hardware can be added as required and the desk can be expanded if required.