Consoles of the 70s : part 2

Auditronics_Grandson2_1975Above: the Audiotronics Grandson II console circa 1975

Way back in October of 2010 I ran a short piece about some 1970s audio consoles, and now 70s month rolls on with an extensive image gallery of some iconic and some obscure mixing desks from that decade.  I’m a hardware mixer fan; I learned audio production in a studio with a Trident Trimix and my brain often just defaults to finding solutions and working-methods that are faster to do with a real console rather than via a DAW.   I would never give up my Pro Tools, no way… but I honestly can’t imagine giving up the flexibility and endless options that a good-sounding, full-featured console offers.  At Gold Coast Recorders, our Wheatstone SP6 has been going strong for two years now; I’ve had to replace the control room section due to a weird intermittent issue, but I since I had planned ahead and bought a spares-board it was pretty painless.  If you look past the real fetish-brands like API and Neve (great stuff, no doubt) there are a million bargains to be had if you are able to do a little tech work (or pay a decent technician).  I bought both of my SP6s for about $1500, TOTAL, with shipping, and put about 60 hours into arriving at a single great-functioning piece, fully cabled to my patchbays, and with a lifetime worth of spares.  Considering that these SP6s cost around $40,000 each in the mid nineties, this is a pretty great deal.  I guess I’d sum it up this way: if you record bands, if you have the physical room for a console, if you have the patience and/or where-with-all to do some basic troubleshooting, and the board is modular (very important….), I feel like you really can’t go wrong.  Given the outrageous prices of vintage outboard gear on the market today, vintage consoles represent an amazing bargain.  And a potentially amazing headache.  So be careful.

Quad8_2082_Console_1972Above: Quad/eight 2082 console circa 1972

Interface_series_100_mixer_1973Above: Interface Electronics Series 100 console circa 1973

SAIT_Console_Belgium_1973Above: Sait, a Belgium maker, offered this board in ’73

Allen_Heath_248_1973The Allen+Heath 248 portable mixer circa 1973

ADR_Consoles_1973ADR console circa 1973

Auditronics_Grandson_Console_1973The earlier iteration of the Audiotronics Grandson, this one from 1973

API_1604_Console_1974The API 1604 as-seen in 1974, and as still-seen in studios worldwide

Sphere_Alpha_Mixer_1975Sphere was a high-end console-maker that I know almost nothing about; here we see their ALPHA, a compact model from 1975

Interface_104_108_1976In 1976 Interface offered the 104 and 108 series consoles

Trident_1977Above: the Trident range circa ’77.  Apologies for the poor scan, I think I may need to invest in a new scanner.  As I mentioned at the head, I learned on the Trident Trimix, which was a ‘portable’ unit (portable but still around 150lbs!) that was offered a bit later.  I later learned the dark side of the Trimix is that…  aside from the mic inputs, none of it is balanced and the signal-to-noise ratio is very poor.  Which brings up a good point: before investing in one of these things, research the specs.  What I hadn’t known then is that the Trimix was originally conceived of as a live console… designed especially for Queen, if I recall correctly…Anyhow, yes the EQ sounded amazing and the build quality was high but it was far too noisy for modern productions.

SpectraSonics_consoles_1977Above: Spectra Sonics console circa 1977.

Yamaha_PM200_1980The Yamaha PM2000 of 1980, successor to the -“Japa-Neve” PM1000.  And apparently even better?  Weigh in…

Langevin_Consoles_1970The Langevin AM4A of 1970.

Fairchild_portable_Console_1970Here’s an unusual one: The Fairchild Portable Console of 1970, likely one their last pro-audio products.  I have never seen one of these before.  Anyone?

Fairchild_Integra_Console_1968…and not quite the 70s, but…  Fairchild introduces their INTEGRA console, 1968, with the bold notice “No Audio In The Console.”  It’s pretty incredible how ahead of its time Fairchild was.  Anyone ever use an INTEGRA?  Did it sound good/work well?  Bits and bobs from these monsters seem to surface on eBay all the time, but I doubt there is still a complete unit out there.  Anyone?

Fairchild_Integra_Components_1968…and here’s a breakdown of all the aforementioned bits+bobs.

Langevin_AM4A_Console_1968While all of the Fairchild Integras may have been carved up, the Langevin AM4A, certainly the opposite end of the technological spectrum, seems to have fared quite a bit better… I often see these on the market in the $10K range, and I have to admit I have often been tempted…  Can any one tell us how these compare in terms of noise and response to a modern summing mixer?  Anyone using these to mix thru?

Wigend_WAL100_ChannelStrip_1969Wiegand Audio Labs offered their Model 100 channel strip in 1969

Olive_2000_Console_1972Montreal represent!  I KNEW there had to be a Montreal maker of boards in the 70s… and sure enough, we find OLIVE.  Here’s the Olive 2000 circa 1972.  Seems lost-to-history…  anyone?

Altec_9300A_Console_1970

Much closer to Langevin than Fairchild, here we see the Altec 9300 circa 1970

Studer_189_Console_1972Above: Studer 189 circa 1972.  Just $148,000 (no typo) 2013 dollars! 

SpectraSonics_Consoles_1972Spectra Sonics 1972

Olive_2500_Console_1972Olive also offered a 2500 model in 1972

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If any of y’all are actively using any of this stuff, write in and let the world know how they are in terms of sonics, reliability, and general utility.  There is very, very little information online concerning some of these pieces, so you could end up being very helpful to some potential future user of these these machines…

18 thoughts on “Consoles of the 70s : part 2”

    1. Wow, the benefits of google.. I was a fresh out of high school kid, with a junior college education, when I began working at Sphere. There were some smart people (in the midst of chaos), but with an bold idea for 1982. While Neve and SSL were trying to create (as far as I can remember) automated boards with motorized potentiometers, we were trying to create a fully optical system that tracked (via LED) the finger movements on the “sliders”. The biggest fear everyone and back then, was noise from the motors controlling the pots. The theory was that by going fully optical, we could eliminate any of that noise.

      Great theory, huge engineering challenge. When I left in early 1983, it is my recollection that the few installations that they had were incredibly bug ridden, and knew that their theoridical system, was never going to bye a reality with their incredibly limited budget.

      For a kid who loved music and electronics, I got to design the circuits, do all of the drafting, build and test what could have become the cutting edge in recording technology. But in the end, the internal issues sunk their ship, and I chose triathlons.

  1. I’m particularly impressed by those Fairchild turntables….but new rubber parts would be needed. One model had a three phase tube oscillator for full variable speed!

  2. So cool! I really enjoyed this blog, Ive never heard of sait or olive, and its seems like olive is canadian to boot. i used to use a few of these consoles here and there, particularly the audiotronics. I n0w want a fairchild turntable. i also own a Chilton, which could be on this list.

    I hvae NEVER found anything but eyewitness reports about the British Console manufacturer Zoot Horn but Is love toknow more, I have one of their power supplies. so if you ever find anything out about that one….

  3. Oh, man. This page is chock full of console inspirational material.
    funky old designs. wow. Loving it.
    I’m in the works of putting together a small format Auditronics 110 console.
    Debating about whether to use full length faders, or rotary pot’s, and that Langevin AM4A is providing some definite points on the space-saving rotary pot side of the argument!

  4. This site seems to have a good history of the OLIVE console. There were only two or three of these consoles that were put into service, (not sure why).
    Caribou Ranch installed one, to be replaced later by a Neve . Andre Perry also had one, (church studio?), in Canada. There’s a Andre Perry web page with photos, and you can see it there.

    http://www.historyofrecording.com/Olive_Console_and_Caribou_Ranch.html

    http://www.andreperrystudios.com/biography/index.php?lang=en

    1. Holy S%^& greg i just read that article… WOT A FKKN DEBACLE!!! is every industry filled with these sorta tales of idealistic entrepreneurs who get in way, way over their heads? wild man. dude had a dream tho, didn’t he…

    2. Hi Greg and Chris:

      That article about the Caribou Ranch is indeed very interesting. Like Chris said, what a debacle!

      One nit to pick — the beginning of the article talks about pioneers of “channel strip” modular console parts, in the mid-60s. It neglected to mention Audio Designs and Manufacturing (ADM), and its founder Bob Bloom. Bob was a pioneer in this market. One of his first modular consoles was installed in Fine Recording Studio B, in late 1967. It was originally designed for 8-track (and included 8 monitor channels, which fed 8 speakers), and was later modified to accommodate the short-lived 12-track (Scully) 1″ format. Quad-Eight was a later entrant in this market. I do think the other companies mentioned were early payers.

      — Tom Fine

      1. Caribou Ranch’s Olive console was not so much a debacle as it was the forward thinking of owner Guercio to fulfill a need. That need was full creativity without distractions. While it was ahead of its time , it was put into the studio prematurely. More R&D and time to fully develop the protocols was needed for flawless operation. as far as the ranch itself destination recording studios were just coming into acceptance yet there were few. Caribou was one of the first with All Inclusive @ $16,000. a week for up to 15 persons : Engineer if needed ( tape xtra) , Studio instruments, Historic lodge and cabin accommodations, 24/7 meals, phone calls, Horses, vehicles to run into nearby Nederland or Boulder, various Pool tables, Foosball, Pinball games. Fresh air and elbow room .

  5. Keen to hear thoughts – pro’s / con’s on Yamaha PM2000 vs Auditronics consoles.
    Debating whether to go for one or the other, or custom console using combination of Auditronics 110 and 501 channels, with custom mix buss etc etc (prob too much work!) vs no console, and just keep the routing a bit more direct / with digi control etc..

  6. Flickinger went out of business as I recall and the head honcho got sent to prison for infringing on Spectra Sonic designs.

  7. I won’t directly compare the PM2000 with a Neve 8078, because I’ve never heard them side by side. Without a true ABX comparison, it’s just opinion. So, I won’t take the bait 🙂

    I will however state that the design, build, and sound of the PM2000 is astonishingly good. The only shortcomings are a relatively uninspiring but utilitarian EQ section and “swiss army knife” routing that does almost anything but specializes in nothing. And, they were Japanese, in the snobby, xenophobic market of the 1970s.

    The construction and tolerances of these boards is absurd, with transformers everywhere, the high-headroom punchy 80200 mic pres, hand-wiring and trussing, and a (I think) cherrywood frame that looks like it was built in the piano factory. To build a 32 channel board to the level of build quality present in these boards would cost $150K+ in today’s markets, and a good quality survivor can be had for as little as $5K.

    Snobbery is rampant in the vintage gear world, and no, the PM2000 is not an 8078 Neve. It might not even quite be an API 3208, whatever those cost these days.

    What I can say for sure is that, at under $200/channel the PM2000 has to be the most ridiculous deal ever for a piece of true big-iron mixing history.

  8. The ad for the Fairchild portable console caught my eye. We had one at Sonad Studios in Milwaukee in 1970. It was built into a larger console and was pulled out to do remotes. The board was lightweight and ran on 12 D cells that went in the armrest. The big problem on the remotes was moving the Scully 8 track. That was a beast.

  9. I purchased one of the Audio Designs and Manufacturing consoles (ADR console) back in 1976 and, OMG, what a SOUND that thing had! All discrete, the first console with reed-relays used for buss & aux assignment, GREAT sounding EQ. I listen to mixes done on that thing 40-years later and they’re still big and fat!!

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