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.
Above: 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.
…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?
While 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?
Much closer to Langevin than Fairchild, here we see the Altec 9300 circa 1970
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…