CONSOLE BUYERS GUIDE

If you are like many recordist nowadays, you may be gearing up to get away from mousing and clicking, and ready to go with an actual console or control surface. It’s a big decision, and one that cannot be made hastily or without a solid knowledge-base under you. What do you need to know, and what are the right questions to ask? PAD Group, with decades-deep experience selling, servicing and installing hundreds and new and used consoles, is here to help guide you in the right direction.

ANALOG vs. DIGITAL

It’s the timeless debate. A digital control-surface will help with ergonomics and workflow, keeping all audio “in the box,” while going with analog can provide unmatched character and color. This decision comes down more to your sonic preferences than it does budget. There are good choices out there in both analog and digital domains for almost any budget-range. 

ALL DIGITAL CONSOLES
CONTROL SURFACES
ANALOG CONSOLES
HYBRID CONSOLES
DIGITAL TOTAL RECALL & RESET
ANALOG AUTOMATION SYSTEMS
PREOWNED
HOW MANY CHANNELS DO YOU NEED?
BUDGET CONSIDERATIONS
TECH REPORT
SHIPPING & INSTALLATION
PATCHBAY & WIRING
DO YOUR HOMEWORK AND BE READY
SMART SHOPPING
NEW CONSOLES

PROJECT BUDGET TO $25K

Stripped down summing with hi-quality sound can be found with API’s 16-input “The Box.” Conversely, the
Audient ASP 4816, which has loads of features including DAW control. The new Trident 88, Aurora Audio’s
beautiful all Class-A “Sidecar,” and the SSL XL Desk are other offering in this market segment. In a class by
itself is the SSL Matrix 2, which has full DAW control and Superanalogue sound, but is a line mixer only; it does
not have mic preamps. All of these boards have their upside, primarily great sound, but none has a patch-bay,
for example. That means you’ll have to add an external bay and will need to budget for that.

API The Box

Building on API's rich heritage of extremely highquality recording consoles, THE BOX is a small-format recording/mixing console designed for professional project studios, home studios, and production facilities of all kinds. Optimized for the digital era, THE BOX handles all the functions needed for production not provided by most DAWs, including mic preamps, input signal processing, high-quality mix bus, cue sends with talkback, monitor control, and more, without the redundant capacities of larger consoles. Most importantly, THE BOX provides the legendary "all discrete" API sound in an efficient, cost-effective package.

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Aurora Audio Sidecar

The Aurora Sidecar. Fifty years of electronic design and production experience, 40 of those years specializing in Class A discrete audio equipment, and 15 years of everyday practical experience by the Aurora Audio team manufacturing Class A discrete audio electronics used all around the globe, Geoff Tanner brings to you his highest achievement yet. A magnificent piece for the audio professional, the Aurora Sidecar delivers 10 channels of pure Class A discrete fury complete with 4 band EQ and super thick, transformer coupled two bus output for the user. Each channel of the Aurora Sidecar features Aurora Audio’s renowned DI input, individual analog VU metering, direct channel output connectivity, bus assign switching with pan, and top of the line Penny+Giles (P&G) faders.

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Audient 4816

SP4816 provides the key features of a large format recording console in a compact, cost effective form. Designed by audio guru, David Dearden and featuring Audient’s legendary analog circuitry, ASP4816 is the perfect center piece for production studios and educational facilities. The main input channels feature Audient’s renowned Class A preamp and 4 band EQ - a combination found in hundreds of ASP8024 equipped studios where many users no longer feel the need to reach for their outboard preamps and EQ. In addition, the console also features 40 faders, 16 bus routing, 6 auxes, 2 dedicated cue sends, 4 stereo returns, stereo bus compressor and a comprehensive monitor section

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MIDDLE OF THE RANGE TO $60K

There are a few very nice options in this budget zone. You might call it a sweet spot in terms of sound-quality and bang for buck. Given that professional consoles were once a $100K and over proposition, buying in to a good analog desk is more now affordable than ever.

Audient ASP-8024

A fully analog in-line desk that comes in buckets of 12, Heritage Edition features solid sounding mic-pre, sweet British EQ, and an SSL style VCA mix-buss compressor. The HE revision adds a “retro-iron” feature where you can insert Carnhill transformers in to the mix buss, introducing a classic British chunk to the tone. Other options include inboard patchbay and Dual Layer DAW control module.

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API 1608

One of the more popular and best-sounding small analog consoles to emerge in the last decade, API’s 1608 is based on their vintage 1604 “sidecar” of the 1970s. Starting at 16 channels and scalable up from there, the all-discrete desk has a 312-style mic-pre on every channel as well as an on-board 20-slot 500 series chassis. The base model fitted with 16 API EQs starts at $50K. Double the size to 32 and add the optional automation, and the console hits $100K mark.

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AMS Neve Genesys Black

AMS Neve’s recently-introduced Genesys Black might be the perfect hybrid console. It marries the modern DAW control with the famous British tone of lore and legend. Like the API 1608, it starts in a 16- channel frame size and can build from there in eightchannel buckets. The base GB has eight 1073 classic mic-pres, digitally controlled analog EQ, and super-smart touch-screen DAW control. Option upgrades to Neve 1084 EQ, dynamics, and AtoD modules are available.

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PRO BUDGET, $60K PLUS

If you’re a pro studio competing in this business, these are the top-flight desks that will bring business in your door,
with high-performance and sound quality for days.

AMS Neve BCM-10

More a reimagining than a reissue of Neve’s legendary 10 x 2 sidecar, the new BCM10/2 MK2 gives you all the auditory glory of the classic, with updated routing and monitoring features never found on the original. Loaded with ten 1073N mic-pre/EQs and plenty of 1272 line-amps throughout, you also have upgrades like direct outs on each channel, a pair of 2264a buss compressors, 4 mono aux sends, stereo cue, dual inputs per channel, and even 5.1 monitoring. The MK2 comes in 10, 16 and 32 channel models; no automation, patchbay not included. Pricing starts in the $60k’s.

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AMS Neve Genesys

The hybrid Neve Genesys grafts together superb Neve analogue circuitry with hands-on DAW control and connectivity for Pro Tools, etc. Being modular, you don't have to wait until you can afford the full 64-fader system to become a Neve-equipped studio. In its basic 16-fader configuration Genesys offers 16 channels of 1073 mic/ line preamps, plus 16 channels of DAW mixing and 32- channel analog summing at mixdown. There are eight auxiliary buses, eight group buses, and even 5.1 monitoring. Genesys has a 'classic Neve' look and feel to the controls, but take a closer look and you'll see they're ultra modern too: every switch is ‘soft,’ meaning all settings can be saved and instantly recalled/reset. Encore automation provides moving faders for analog mixing and/or DAW control. These are just the top of the list of Genesys’ huge feature set. Expandable to 64, patchbay not included.

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AMS Neve 88RS

Sir George Martin calls it “The Rolls Royce of consoles,” and deservedly so. AMS Neve’s 88RS is the elite analogue console in the world today, and the first choice of many top-level professionals. Known for it’s peerless fidelity, the 88RS is built not just for traditional mixing, but for film scoring and surround as well. The desk’s 100kHz analogue bandwidth surpasses 192khz digital recording quality, and has been engineered to deliver recordings at the purist conceivable quality onto any format at any sample rate. There are no VCA’s in any audio path, including the monitor section. 88RS is Neve’s completely new electronic and mechanical design, while based on classic Neve attention to audio quality and ergonomics.

    Highlights include:
  • In-line design
  • Stem mixer
  • Eight track scoring panel.
  • Encore Plus automation with recall
  • Acoustically streamlined frame
  • Soft knee compression
  • Remote mic amplifier option
  • With or without patchbay

The Neve 88RS starts at 24 channels (48 mix inputs) and is expandable by 12-channel buckets.

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API LEGACY AXS

API’s Legacy consoles have been going strong since 1989. The newest incarnation is the Legacy AXS analog recording and mixing console. Featuring the traditional API analog signal path, the 24-buss AXS also offers a powerful feature set, including a 500-series bay with 550A and 560 EQ’s, fader and mute automation, a 2500C master buss stereo compressor and 200 type modules on every input (212 mic pre, 225 compressor, 235 gate, and more). API’s are known for their fast, midforward sound. The Legacy AXS can be built from 32 to 80 channels in 16 channel buckets. Pricing starts in the mid $100K range.

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Custom Series 75

In the world of purely analog desks, the CS75 by Burbank Audio Systems has no rival at its price point; starting in the $60K range. Essentially, the console has the guts of a Neve 8078, one of the most legendary and sought after desks in recording history. The made-in-the-USA CS75 is licensed by Neve to build certain vintage circuits, so you get authentic Neve sound in a modern context, with up to date routing and monitoring functions. The channel amps are 1081 pre/4-band EQ modified to Class A (the original Neves were Class A/B), along with a pair of 2254e centre section compressors. This one is a true analog hunk of iron, with no DAW control. A factory patch-bay is available, and automation is in development for the future.

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SSL AWS948 Delta

Not to be outdone, Solid State Logic, the other major UK-based console builder, offers beautiful hybrid desks as well, getting your hands on smart DAW control, and your ears on hyper-clear Superanalogue sound. In the $90K to $100K range you’ll find the very popular AWS948, a 48 input dual inline board in a small footprint. The AWS workstation gives you the best of both worlds both without ANY compromise in either sound quality or range of functions. Analog-wise, the 948 is a complete 24-channel/8-bus standalone mixer with 48 analog inputs. You get 24 hi-fi SuperAnalogue mic pres, stereo line-level inputs, a stereo 4-band EQ, and a stereo compressor — all drawn on the tried and true SSL tech that mixed thousands of hits. THEN, push a button, and the fader bank instantly becomes a smooth, moving-fader control surface for your DAW, including comprehensive plug-in control! Price without patchbay, just under $100K

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SSL Duality Delta

SSL Duality Delta, SSL’s flagship hybrid analog/ digital system has become a worldwide industry standard for large-format professional consoles. The new-gen Delta Control delivers seamless SSL analog console automation and DAW based workflow. Duality sizes go from 24 to 96 faders, expandable in 24 fader buckets. Price begins well in to the $100K’s

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CONTROL SURFACES

Tactile interfaces that make the DAW workflow a dream.

Slate Raven Z3

The RAVEN Z Series of Multi-Touch Production Consoles offer a state of the art workflow center for the Elite Modern Studio. Choose from two models, the fullsize Z3 or Z3C, our more compact offering. Both models feature a center 46” multi-touch panel and two 27" multitouch panels along with the Slate Control fully analog monitoring system. The Z3 series can be configured according to the client's needs with specific rack spaces and locations, custom colors, and much more. Having three world class multi-touch panels allows engineers, producers and artists to have an extremely versatile workflow with a variety of options.

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Slate Raven Core Station

At Slate Media Technology, one of the most common requests we've received is for a genuine piece of RAVEN furniture designed to compliment the MTi. We knew we had to offer a solution that was elegant, versatile and cutting edge, but also affordable. What we came up with exceeded our expectations. We're happy to introduce the RAVEN CORE Station. The CORE Station is a beautiful console enclosure made by your partners at Zaor and exclusively distributed by Slate Media Technology, that can come stock with one or two MTi second generation touch screen consoles. Current MTi2 users can get a Core Station through any Slate MT dealer. We are also in the process of developing a retrofit version as well for MTi1 owners as well as optional add-ons like spaces for rack gear.

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Avid Artist Control Avid S3

While their S6 falls at the upper end of the budget range, Avid offers a whole suite of more affordable tactile control tools. For around $1000 there is the Artist Control, a small desktop, go-anywhere controller with four faders and a touch-screen. The S3 is a 16-fader EUCON based controller which also has a 4-in 4-out audio interface and comprehensive control over faders, bussing, transport, and plug-ins. S3 has a list price of $4,999.00.

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Avid Dock

Avid Dock is another EUCON protocol controller which can be used as a stand-alone device or in conjunction with Artist or S3. It employs an iPad as its touch screen, and comes in at $1,200 not including the iPad

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Avid CI24

Avid CI24 has been around for over a decade, and is a popular controller that looks and feels very much like a real analog console. The 24 fader controller also comes with 16 hi-quality mic preamps and a full monitoring section that includes 5.1. CI24 runs $9,999.

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Avid S6 | M40 & M10

Avid’s flagship control surface, the S6, is the result of combining it’s previous technologies, the S5 and ICON, in to one super control surface. The result is far and away the most advanced and immersive DA Workstation in pro audio. The modular, scalable system enables you to build your own version, or purchase a pre-configured model. The list of features of the S6 is huge, and includes EUCON automation, center touchscreen, center automation control, full control over plugins, advanced routing and monitoring, and much more. The illuminated, color-coded soft controls (real knobs) and plasma-style metering give it ergonomic ease and make it really cool-looking in dimmed control rooms. Two versions of S6 are offered, the M10, starting below $20K, and the M40, starts in the $60K range for a 16- fader system.

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Fully Digital Consoles

Ergonomically they tend to look and feel like analog consoles,
but under the hood there’s a whole lot of digits flying around.

Presonus Studio Live

Among the most popular and affordable alldigital mixers on the market is the PreSonus Studio Live Series, now in its third generation. The compact, USB-based consoles come in 16, 24 and 32 channel sizes, and are packed with a plethora of parameters and can be used for stage or studio. You get motorized faders, a newly re-designed “Fat-Channel,” Sonically solid Class-A mic pres, remote control by iPad or iPhone, full recall/reset, and even stand-alone recording via SD card with no computer/DAW attached. Studio Live comes with PreSonus “Studio-One” DAW software, (will work with a host of other DAWs), and a suite of sweet plugins. Series III pricing ranges from $1,999 to $2,999.

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Midas M32 Behringer X32

The Midas M32 carries the respected Midas name in to the digital mixer world with impressive results. Although Midas is known for live sound reinforcement, this compact console could easily adapt to a DAW-based studio environment. This 40-channel Digital Mixer boasts 32 Midas Preamps, 25 Mix Busses, 25 Midas Pro Motorized Faders over 50 Built-in Effects, 7" TFT Display, and 32-channel, 48kHz USB 2.0 Audio Interface. For $3,999, MM32 has already become an industry standard in FOH. The Behringer X32 is a 40-input digital mixer with all the features you’d expect, and maybe some you don’t, not the least of which is 32 high-quality mic preamps designed by Midas, along with 16 XLR aux sends. While the X32 tends to be geared for live mixing, there is no doubt it could be applied to the project studio user. For $1999 it’s hard to beat.

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AMS Neve 88D

Neve does not just make great sounding analog consoles, they are also at the forefront of digital console design. The 88D is arguably the finest digital desk available. Using classic Neve transformer mic inputs and gigabit-linked Super High Definition converters, the Neve 88D represents the pinnacle of digital console design and brings the legendary Neve Sound to contemporary music production. 88D combines a DSP engine capable of mixing 1000 tracks at 96kHz with classic 1081R mic preamps, dedicated 8.1 surround monitoring of multiple sources and the latest Encore Plus automation for efficient and creative mixing. Entry level price on the highly configurable 88D is $130K

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SSL C300

SSL’s large scale digital desk is called the C300, and offers many of the same features that the Neve 88D has. C300 displays an ergonomic work surface with excellent visual feedback vertical fader stacks simplify mapping complex track layouts to a fixed console configuration, highresolution TFTs display routing and processing, direct (HUI) control of up to four DAW simultaneously, 500 inputs on mix, 128 x 8 monitor matrix, four x 7.1 monitor outputs, each with an independent 8 x 8 format matrix, and much more. Scalable and configurable, entry level price starts over $100K.

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USED DIGITAL CONSOLES

Buying a used digital console can offer the benefit of getting what was once a six digit priced item for a fraction of that. The downside is that digital technology can become obsolete quickly and may no longer be supported by the manufacturer. Having said that, you might consider a used 88D, C300, SSL Axiom, Euphonix S5. Make sure you buy from a dealer that can insure the console is up and running and working properly.

SSL 9080J

Beautiful pre-owned Solid State Logic SSL 9080J recording and production console. Formerly housed in Hollywood's legendary NRG Studios, this console has had hundreds of hit songs mixed on it, including Papa Roach and Evanessence, and it's ready to pump out hundreds more. Very nice condition, professionally serviced and maintained throughout it's life, this console represents the pinnacle of large format modular console design. Fitted with 80 channels (160 inputs at mix) this console features all your favorite SSL options: Ultimation Moving Fader Automation, Total Recall, selectable E & G series equalizers, and of course the unmatched bus compressor. Includes Remote Patch Bay, Tower rack, J Series Computer, Power Supplies, manuals.

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SSL Duality 48

Beautiful pre-owned Solid State Logic SSL 9080J recording and production console. Formerly housed in Hollywood's legendary NRG Studios, this console has had hundreds of hit songs mixed on it, including Papa Roach and Evanescence, and it's ready to pump out hundreds more. Very nice condition, professionally serviced and maintained throughout it's life, this console represents the pinnacle of large format modular console design. Fitted with 80 channels (160 inputs at mix) this console features all your favorite SSL options: Ultimation Moving Fader Automation, Total Recall, selectable E & G series equalizers, and of course the unmatched bus compressor. Includes Remote Patch Bay, Tower rack, J Series Computer, Power Supplies, manuals.

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SSL Duality 72

Solid State Logic Duality 72, Beautiful preowned console, two years old, excellent condition. Includes total recall, automation, all manuals and current software. Also available is a complete TT patchbay system including wiring.

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Quad 8 Virtuoso

If you love big, fat, detailed, analog consoles, this Quad 8 Virtuoso may be just the console for you. It is a 60 channel inline console, giving you 120 inputs at mix. 24 bus, 4 band fully parametric Equalizer with sweepable frequency and bandwidth, shelf or bell on high & low bands, HPF and sweepable LPF, and Dynamics on each channel, 8 Aux sends, 4 mono and 2 stereo aux returns, 2 stereo mix busses, onboard spectrum analyzer. Integrated Right hand patch bay.

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SSL Axiom MT+

Axiom MT combined the proven technology of the A Series system with SSL's instantly familiar and world-wide accepted control surface to provide a digital multi-track console with an analogue-intuitive operator interface. 48 channel frame, Inline console with 96 channels of Analog and Digital I/O. Each channel has 48 bus assignment, full dynamics processor, 4 band parametric EQ with splittable HPF and LPF, 12 Auxiliary sends, 24 remote control Mic Pres, Bar graph meters, and console also has 3 x Mytek DDD-603 Digital meters mounted in the meter bridge. Includes Tower rack with SSL Computer, Digital patch panel, Optical storage drive, and 4 x RIO 48 channel converters (2 Analog RIOs and 2 Digital RIO’s). Also includes Full remote patch bay (12 x 96 point bays) with wiring looms attached to the patch bays. (Connectors have been cut from the cable ends but are included for reconnection).

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Let's Talk About Your Next Console

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