The Consoles that Could Have Been

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The Consoles that Could Have Been

Postby GJC Designs » Sun Nov 05, 2006 4:53 pm

I have recently heard of a pro-audio article (magazine or net-based I don't know) about consoles that could have been industry-leaders, had circumstances not conspired against them. Two that were included were the Focusrite Forte (Neve's Focusrite, not the present Focusrite), and Calrec's UA8000 (great console, shame about the automation).

Has anyone actually read this article?

Does anyone know where I could get hold of a copy?


Many thanks,
Gareth
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Postby Matt Syson » Sun Jun 17, 2007 4:43 am

The UA8000 relied on automation from an external provider, the main contender being Mastermix if I remember correctly. AMS had been asked to provide a system too but although the hardware got built I don't think their heart was into writing good software for it. After all, the 'war of the roses' is still on!
Was there an article in Resolution magazine about desks that may have been?
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Postby porkyc » Tue Jun 24, 2008 9:45 am

The Calrec UA8000 was essentially a design for Polar Music (Abba's Studio) put together by their Technical Director, Leif Mases. (Later of Maselec).
Calrec were/are broadcast console manufacturers and although they sold some 8000s, they didn't sell studio time and the Neve VR range effectively blew them out of the water. They were well built, but they were HUGE. We looked at one when I was working for RedBus Studios in London, but it would never fit in the room, so we left the MCI there, and hot-rodded that.
Odyssey Studios, also in London, actually bought an 8000, but it was soon replaced by another SSL, might have been a VR, can't remember.....a long time ago!

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Postby GJC Designs » Sun Feb 01, 2009 2:16 am

As the forum's membership has grown, I thought it a good idea to bump this up to the top as some of you who have joined over the past two years may know of the article that I am looking for.........

There is a pro-audio article, either magazine or internet based, that discusses consoles that could have been industry-leaders, but for various reasons failed to make adequate impact.

The Focusrite Forte (by Rupert Neve's Focusrite, not the present Focusrite), and Calrec's UA8000 were featured.
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Postby Tim Halligan » Sun Feb 01, 2009 4:56 am

Trident Di-An springs to mind.

It had a great advertising slogan that went with it:

"Knobs are for doors"


:D


There was a console that was made by a bunch of ex-SSL guys that looked good on paper (from memory...) but failed fairly miserably in the marketplace.

Naturally, I'll remember its name at 3 o'clock tomorrow morning and promptly forget it again... :roll:

Cheers,
Tim

PS. Can't help with the article...sorry.
An analogue brain in a digital world...
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Trident Di'/An/Sony Oxford

Postby porkyc » Mon Feb 02, 2009 7:09 am

The Di'An pretty much broke the Company Trident, (as did David Harrison's Series10). In the case of Trident and Harrison, the owners did have an unswerving belief in their own ability/opinion, one might say. I don't think many were sold (of the Di'An). There were, I gather at the time, some fundamental flaws. It might have been a concept too far.
As I recall, the Sony Oxford was developed by the main design engineers for SSL, who "left" when SSL was sold to some big company who did not understand how geeky people work. (ie not 9-5). There was an HR difference of opinion and they all "left" together.
Sony UK picked them up and funded them to develop the all digital Oxford console. It was 48 or more faders wide, had a large "shared" section where you called up one channel and all the knobs etc for that one channel were thus available to you. This was the concept too far for the Oxford; Harrison had the same problem with the Series12. Freelance engineers wouldn't/couldn't learn how to use them in the time allowed for the sessions.
Peter Gabriel had/has one I think, there were a couple in Paris, but generally a glorious failure in commercial terms.
At the time, the only consoles really selling (in UK) were SSL and DDA into their respective markets, because 3 letters were all the A&R people in the record companies (who booked the studios) could remember. Whether you had the best sounding console became academic. SSL's "total recall" (ie match the knob to picture of where it once was!) was the only thing that mattered to the record companies, and as a studio in a commercial environment, there was no choice; you had to have an SSL. (The Neve V-series joined this "club" a bit later). The Calrec U8000 had this problem as well; it did not sell studio time. Nobody cared what it sounded like. "Does it have "total recall"?"
The digitally controlled analog consoles and the fully digital ones had "total reset" whereby the console did the work. In the case of the Euphonix C2000, you went and made a coffee whilst it did it, though! I was used to the Harrison S12 that reset a template in 5 seconds, tops.
The Oxford also highlighted the latency (ie delay) inherent in all digital consoles. The foldback having been into the digital domain, was now late and unusable. So you had to have pre-console analog foldback.
I am told that the SSL digital music console (later) had the same issue.
A generation later, this conversion/processing/conversion process is no longer a problem, but that is not to say it is not there.
In return for the failure of the Oxford, Sony did make the BEST digital multitrack, the 3348. This just blew the Otari/Mitsubishi away. You turned it on and it did want you wanted. Great stuff.
As always, forgive my wittering on, but since the subject came up..........
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Postby Matt Syson » Mon Feb 02, 2009 11:58 am

Hi
Calrec had their 'Assignable' which had some success, certainly technically but like offerings from Audix, (AMEK APC) and others was struggling with the concept of central assignment panels with only a few knobs to play with while operators of the time wanted knobs with everything. The concept was pretty easily technically, just the operators were a problem!
I was slightly involved in the Audix assignable and at that time I believe there was a 'scheme' of some sort for Audix, Calrec and Neve to offer the possibility of many channels in a 'reduced footprint' with I believe the BBC as one possible 'outlet' but may have been part funded by the DTi or similar. I was not party to any of these discussions just into making sub circuits and possible modules work.
Now you can control a hundred or more channels in 'surround' format from a laptop 'screen' which would have been impossible with technology available at the time.
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Postby GJC Designs » Mon Feb 02, 2009 1:07 pm

One thing I remember about the Di-An when it was demonstrated at an APRS show (remember them?) in London in 1980-something was that it had very few variable controls; everything was on step-up / step-down switches. To my mind this was a first-class way to alienate mix engineers.

Calrec, Harrison and other assignable manufacturers took the logical and progressive step of putting "pots" on their assignable consoles - rotary encoders to use the more correct term. Mix engineers could adjust variable parameters in the tried, trusted and user-friendly ways they had been accustomed to. It's worthy to note that today Calrec's digital desks have the rotary controls, and a definite evolutionary line can be followed back to the T-Series assignable console and its predecessor, the AMS-Calrec VCS.

At a first-glance, SSL's Axiom digital console looks like a traditional sea-of-knobs analogue desk - quite a departure from the minimal knobs plus assignment panels that Harrison and Calrec chose to use.

I don't recall anything significant about Soundcraft's foray into the assignable console business.
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Assignable Consoles

Postby porkyc » Wed Feb 04, 2009 7:57 am

The Broadcast people accepted the assignable concept a console generation (or more) ago. Harrison had a hard time with the S12, even though a couple were built that really looked like music boards, they, along the concept of a shared panel, failed pretty much.
Broadcast peole also accepted (and wanted) the ability to "map" the console so the input strips were in a different order, so you could have 5 mono then 6 stereo, etc. depending on the job in hand. (You understand this, but other people reading this might not). Calrec understood the possibilities of the console surface being a big keyboard and mouse very early on, and persuaded the Broadcasters that this was indeed, wonderful, or the other way round. Whatever, he music people in the meantime, were stuck in, "Has it got Flying Faders?". Why doesn't it work like a Neve?"
For some of you reading this, there is a vey good reason why there were 3 types of console, music, broadcast, film. THey are very different beasts and in some cases the feature sets are mutually exclusive. You cannot use a film board for music: there's no foldback. Aux sends, yes, but no interruptible foldback. No seperate control room/studio monitoring; you ARE in the studio with a film board.
Running a music recording studio is about selling studio time. API, old Neves, the Calrec U8K, Euphonix S5M don't do this. Neve V and SSL9K do.
Emerald Studios in Nashville, for example, had 80% studio time sold with an SSL, bought a S5M, went broke.
The Di'An was a dog by the way, never going to work, and it didn't. The Harrison S10 did work (eventually) and they sold about 45 of them and the technology developed begat the totally automated film board developed for Sony Pictures that became the MPC and subsequently the Series12.
So not only do you get application specific consoles, you get application specific manufacturers. Without a doubt, Calrec are the leading broadcast console manufacturer in the world. In the end, the final console of most TV/Radio networks will be a Calrec, but they never ventured into film, for example. Stagetech make some beautiful live and broadcast boards, their foray into film was laughable, so 95% of the film consoles in Germany are Harrison; couple of DFCs, about it.
Best music consoles, SSL9K and Neve VR. (In that order I might add!) Although the API Legacy is the best sounding, but there was a studio in Nashville that had an API as its main console, went broke.
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Assignable Consoles

Postby porkyc » Wed Feb 04, 2009 7:59 am

I can't feeling that if I'd of had my gaasses on for my last post, there wouldn't have been so many typos!
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