Project studio larger format mixing for debat

Hiyaall !

As sequencing / producing software packages are getting better and better and as plug ins available really start to be on-par with their HW equivalents (occassionally even better) there are less and less people using middle size analog consoles in their studios. Beautiful mixes can be done completelly ITB and every single mix can be recalled by a flick of the button.

Having said that, there are still few old skool farts like me who would occassionally want to mix OTB with true outboard analogue gear and analogue mix bus insert compressor. And if you are recording a band you would anyway need to use quite a many channels for drums alone and at least I do not have that many rack preamps available so I need to use what ever my desk is giving me.

Some background…I was involved with a small hobbyist studio - normal reel-to-reel and later on digital multitracking devices without computers. I was working with Studiomaster and Fostex mixing boards and later on we bought Soundcraft Spirit Studio 24. I loved that desk. Serious bang for the buck - adequate preamps and really nice, musical EQ and good routing options. True in-line design. 6 Auxes. Fairly silent and enough headroom on mix bus. 8 groups, DI’s and inserts on every channel and you were able to split EQ per channel for monitor / channel inputs. Complete with sine wave generator. Nice.

Time moved on and I needed to move abroad (Yorkshire, Lorraine, North Carolina) and my mate sold this Spirit console and bought a Ghost. I did some work on that and I liked that a lot as well. Preamps were even better but I did prefer Spirit EQ. Anyway - I was lucky and the guy who acquired our Spirit wanted to get rid of it so I bought it back 'round ten years ago and have had it with me everywhere I go. Still love it. Haven’t had single problem with it and EQ still sounds wonderfull…long story, sorry…

Okay, let’s get to the point…

I know that my desk will die sooner or later and I need to get a new one. The problem is that I would like to have at least 16 channels if there are 4 stereo aux returns and preferably 4 groups. And the preamps should be okay even if slightly abused. And EQ must work for boosting as well (I can always cut in Cubase but I’d rather boost in analogue). And I want to have at least semi-parametric high mids and low mids. Possibility of varying Q would be a bonus (do not have that option with my current desk anyway).

So that rules Mackie and infamous bear-ringers out. Allen Heath ?

I got A&H PA and GL series mixers already stored in flight cases my Garage for live PA but I would not record or mix with them. Never tried this Zed series. Any comments anyone ?

Audient 2802…looks good and can be integrated with DAW but no EQ and only two auxes (would like to have 4 at least).

SSL Nucleus - really interesting one but not really an analog mixing board…and no EQ. X-logic desk…too small and not enough auxes.

…well Toft ATB 24…has all I need on paper…looks good…wooden armrests and sides…trident legacy ? But lots of bashing in forums…everyone is saying that EQ is good but other things $uck. Dunno. Never heard this desk in action…so, any comments anyone ? Not something you read or heard someone has said but something you have actually heard when using this thing for mixing ?

…and no, I cannot have SSL 9000+ series or even AWS as I need to eat every now and then as well. Otherwise I would…


Been fancying one of these for a while,

…same here…you know you could change the valves and have dedicated channels for drums, guitars and vox. But is rail voltage high enough to make them valves work ? Routing and matrix options are still bit limited for the price stamp imho. Any comments on toft anyone?


Bought a ZED series for a live application. Tried using it for a live recording, it is stereo only over USB. The biggest problem was the lack of a dedicated ASIO driver. Ended up using a line out into the trusty Tascam US144.

I was lusting after this on E-Bay this morning

Silly money considering what it is, but like you said gotta eat too!

My God, the consoles on EBay right now…

I wonder how much that was new?

Calrec desks are excellent. I used to engineer on one at The Lodge studios in the early 1980s. Lovely warm sound.

This is why I no longer have a desk. I sometimes (rarely) miss a big desk. Not having a desk made me a lot better at microphone placement/selection/preamp combination things. I still use outboard eqs when needed.

When I moved from desks to racked preamps, I made sure I had diverse tranny, tube, opamp flavors transparent to colored so I can assign elements of a song a particular character. I don’t have too many of any flavor so to me, It holds a balance.

I have 24 motor faders to mix and a touch screen to “touch” the plugins.

I know I mention this a lot and it is because this event left a big impression on me: I was in a meetup with Kevin Killen with about 20-30 other people. I asked him a lot of questions and he himself said plugins are up to par and that Sonnox eq it one of his top plugins. He has also seemingly moved very into the box, at least that was my impression looking at his PT session and how he talked about how he now works. He had plugs inserted all over the session and it sounded damn good. He joked about how he had forgotten his ilok too in his studio and had to get temp licenses to open the sessions to show the group how he works and this seems to affirm the ITB mode I was picking up from him. This led me down the road to Sonnox, which I have now btw! They are good plugs, fer sher.

At an AES meetup a bit back, there was some big name dude (forgive me for not remembering his name) who had his right hand man mix solely ITB a song he had already mixed OTB to see if his right hand man could duplicate it ITB and in the meeting the two were compared. The big name dude was seriously impressed with how close it sounded. It was hard to tell for me since the listening environment in the AES convention rooms isn’t really good enough for critical listening…

Anyway, that’s my deal and what I have picked up in my travels round the desk topic. I know people who swear by desks too. Just not me… And I am glad I don’t have to recall a session over a huge desk anymore.

Why is Mackie ruled out? I have a 1604-VLZ3 and love it. 16 channels; 4 subgroups; 4 aux; fixed hi and low EQ but sweeping mid; etc. I does not care if you’re sending in balanced or unbalanced (regardless of the jack type), and the preamps are quite good for built-in. There are only 2 send/return loops though so maybe that’s why you haven’t considered it…

Hi Larry !

I really do not like their preamps for what I’ve tried. Quoted THD figures do not match listening experience and they become really harsh when operating at ideal S/N window IMHO. I would also need two sweepable mids and I prefer long-throw faders.

Having said that I do not mean that my trusty-old Spirit is way better ‘coz it isn’t - but I prefer its’ preamps and EQ which to me is quite warm.

Tom -wery interesting comments. My problem is that I do not have enough preamps to record a band without using mixer preamps as well. And one importanthing to me is to be able to make artist foldbacks really easily…I know that Cubases new control room utility is perfect for that but it limits the trackcount as I have only 18 I/O to and from DAW available to me.

Okay…$$$$$ spent for new mixer would buy me quite a few preamps but somehow making the decision to have a mixerless setup frightens me…and I do have quite a few outboard compressors and effects, nice ones as well, which I would still like to use.

MarkOne…Matrix is just a matrix w/o EQ which is one of the nicest things (with compressors of course) what SSL makes…I did like this new Audient DAW controller / summing mixer but it lacks EQ.

Allen Heath ZedR is now the closest match - I believe both mid EQ’s are even with Q. If it only was 24 channels…I like to route some of the aux fed effects to channels so I can decrease width (snare gated reverb for example) and you cannot do that using standard effect returns.

Anyone tried or using Toft ??? In US forums opinions are heavily polarized, nothing in middle. ATB console has had quite nice reviews in mags but same mags tend to give quite good scores to stuff which is next to unusable - guess it goes hand in hand with ad money coming in ?

I guess that the wisest thing I could do would be to sell my outboard stuff, upgrade computer to be able to use more plug ins and get good hands on- controller and fill empty spaces of my X-rack with preamps. But I do not feel that wise yet :slight_smile:

Thanks for your replies !


What do you mean by artist foldback? Cue mixes? Cubase and central station use 2 outs for stereo mix and 2 for cue.

What do you plan on spending on a mixer?

Yup, cue mixes. With an in-line mixer with groups it is fairly quick to provide multiple cue mixes. If I have a situation where there’s band playing and using cans for monitoring it is easy to create different cue mixes to all the players by using HW auxes - if that is needed. If instead of doing HW monitoring I need to use cubase control room facility I have to run my DAW at really low latency which I still consider as a risk. And low latency is needed if drummer is playing to click.

Price I’m planning to spend for a mixer…it has to have four digits, no more. So all the fancy stuff is beyond my reach. I was even considering Midas Venice (one without FW) for recording console as it would double as an occassional FOH mixer and I could sell my existing live mixers. But I really do not know how Midas is working as recording front end. And anyway it does not have in-line option.

I am seriously thinking about ditching mixer from the setup and getting few preamps instead. But I like my hardware…something you buy and can feel solid chassis, weight…a pleasure that plug ins cannot provide :slight_smile:


You don’t have to run at really low latencies if your computer cant handle it.
FWIW, I record at 88.2 and during tracking, I am at 1.5 ms latency with direct monitoring off. If a computer isn’t up to that task, Direct monitoring goes on. Or: you start the mix production, insert plugins and have to raise the buffers then decide to do overdubs and need realtime, direct monitoring gets turned on.

It is a different flow without a desk. I’m not sure where you are, but if you are in the area, you are welcomed to visit to get an idea of what it is like using a rig like mine. I love it and I built it a few channels at a time. And I am serious when I said, not having an EQ on every channel forced me to learn microphone placement better, using the placement and different microphones to do the eq for me.