Mixing console from modules - possible?

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Feinstrom
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Mixing console from modules - possible?

Post by Feinstrom » Tue Mar 17, 2020 5:50 am

I have a question:
For live use I usually take out an old Boss BX-16 mixer.
It's light and has got exactly the features I need: two auxes with stereo returns, hi and lo EQ per channel, gain per channel, pan per channel, tape out and phones. OK, a mid band for the EQ would've been useful, but who cares.
There are two things I could do without: one thing is the noise, especially in the FX sends, and the other thing is that I could use more channels, as I have a bunch of small circuitbent toys, buddha boxes, Kastles and stuff, many of them in stereo or with stereo FX.

So here's the question: Do you know of a manufacturer that makes a mixer like that, preferable small, preferable configurable/expandable, in good audio quality?
No MIDI, USB, or other modern wotnots needed, not even inserts or subgroups or meter bridge - basically just a kinda "high-end BX-24 or BX-32" - there MUST be something like that. Channel faders would be really fantastic, but in a pinch I could live with pots, too.
Maybe there's something in eurorack, maybe there's a DIY solution or a custom shop - I just haven't got a clue where to look.
It certainly doesn't have to be as cheap as a used BX-16 or two - I'm fully prepared to pay what it takes...

Thanks in advance,
Bert

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Re: Mixing console from modules - possible?

Post by BugBrand » Tue Mar 17, 2020 6:06 am

Having thought a lot about mixers for setups.. I still come back to something off the shelf. Going the modular route tends towards either compromise or greatly excessive cost - or both!
Though not sure what to suggest regarding the actual mixer.

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Dave Peck
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Re: Mixing console from modules - possible?

Post by Dave Peck » Tue Mar 17, 2020 3:50 pm

For replacing a BS-16, I would suggest just getting a 16 channel Mackie or Allen & Heath and problem solved.

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Re: Mixing console from modules - possible?

Post by johnnywoods » Tue Mar 17, 2020 4:13 pm

I just got a used Ashly MM 508 which sounds like it would be ideal for your setup. The MX508 is the same thing. I got mine used on ebay for $250- which is an absolute steal considering the sound and quality of this thing. Great pres and line drivers and transformers on the outputs!

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Re: Mixing console from modules - possible?

Post by Feinstrom » Wed Mar 18, 2020 1:28 am

Thanks a lot for your replies!
What I need, though, is a small, light, desktop (I should have stated that as well, sorry) mixer with considerably more channels than sixteen.
Believe me, I have searched for a mixer like that for ages now, and I think I know most of the smaller standard mixers by now.
What I was hoping for is a DIY solution, something modular, some custom guy who could make me one or something like that.
Maybe there is help somewhere...

Cheers,
Bert

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xcc
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Re: Mixing console from modules - possible?

Post by xcc » Wed Mar 18, 2020 9:03 am

Small and light with more than sixteen channels sounds like a dream. The closest I can think of is a Mackie which tops at sixteen without being gigantic.

You could go with something digital and rackmounted like the Soundcraft Ui24R maybe, but that's probably heavier than a 24 channel board.

What about an expandable eurorack mixer like the Tesseract Tex Mix? That in a 4ms pod would meet your requirements I think, except you'd need some preamps for non euro stuff.

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Re: Mixing console from modules - possible?

Post by Pelsea » Wed Mar 18, 2020 12:36 pm

Mackie FX30 matches your list most closely-- you don't need to use the USB or effects. Of course it's kind of big.

Your best bet may be to combine several mixers, either by bringing some rack expanders (ART MX821S, Ashly LX-308B) into a small desk unit, or by getting desk mixers that can be linked-- two Mackie 1402s for instance can be linked by the stereo return to give you 28 inputs. That's about the same capacity as the FX30 in a better footprint. Maybe you could set a Mackie on top of a couple of Ashlys.

DIY is definitely a possibility if you are looking at line levels only. Adding mic pres and EQ pushes the complexity up to where it's a wash with commercial gear. Mixers are about the easiest DIY projects, and the number of inputs is not an issue.
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Re: Mixing console from modules - possible?

Post by Dave Peck » Wed Mar 18, 2020 1:28 pm

Maybe track down a used Mackie LM-3204?

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Re: Mixing console from modules - possible?

Post by muleskinner » Thu Mar 19, 2020 4:00 am

Anything like that with 16 channels is gonna be pretty damn big!

I have a Soundcraft Spirit M12 which I managed to get on eBay as it was the only thing I could find that had all the features I wanted without any new-fangled digital crap. OK, it has an SPDIF out but I can ignore that.

It has 12 mono channels and four stereo channels but it's massive and I can't really see how you'd make it much smaller without really fiddly ergonomics.

Might a compromise be to use a smaller mixer with less channels alongside one or more passive mixing devices like the ART SplitMix 4? I use a couple of these in my home studio and find them great little utility devices.

Or alongside a custom (expensive) Euro one using the Frap Tools mixer modules!
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Re: Mixing console from modules - possible?

Post by Mr. Aloud » Sat Mar 28, 2020 10:51 am

I was on the same road and started with a WMD PM LE. Great unit, really love it, but I´m running out of channels already. Planning a few things in MG I realized quickly that building a mixer in Eurorack will be almost as big and way more expensive than getting some external unit.

If you look at it: Those rack mountable mixers have a UI density that is pretty close to Eurorack already, unless you can accept plain shafts and buttons made for ants for things you want to operate all the time. Given the number of channels is 16+, you can only cut on space with a reduced I/O section (ok), short faders (meh) and ridiculous density (no).

I´m currently torn between A&H MZ4 (16:2), lots of direct access, but probably sonically inferior to their SQ-5, which doubles as a soundcard, has total recall + animation (nice) but lacks direct access (ie EQ: Select channel, select band, turn knob). I´m sure there are more companies offering similar products, A&H are just those that I have recently researched. What worries me most is level gap and sound quality. I have no idea whether live mixers are a step down or on par considered what you get out of a modular.
It would seem that still, after all these years, perception is essentially thought to be a passive process.

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Re: Mixing console from modules - possible?

Post by gentle_attack » Sat Mar 28, 2020 2:00 pm

I just use a BX-8 as a submixer and then run that into the BX-16 (or vice versa)

Another configuration I've done is
BX-8 master out -> Octatrack 'a' and 'b'
BX-16 master out -> Octarack 'c' and ''d' inputs
you can even use the OT 'cue' out to send some OT sounds back out into the submixes, then back into the OT and to your speakers. A little goes a long way in terms of avoiding unintentional feedback loops but I have really enjoyed this little setup.



The BX-__ Mixers definitely color the sound but (among other things) if you run acid lines into them with the gain up and some delay in the loop, you can get some great RDJ type sounds going. Totally not transparent but in a good way, for me at least.
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Re: Mixing console from modules - possible?

Post by Dave Peck » Sat Mar 28, 2020 4:15 pm

Another option - see if you can find a Crest X20R (not the X20RM). Twenty channels (12 mono + 4 stereo) with eq, several sends, rack mounted.

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Re: Mixing console from modules - possible?

Post by Dave Peck » Sat Mar 28, 2020 4:20 pm

Dave Peck wrote:
Wed Mar 18, 2020 1:28 pm
Maybe track down a used Mackie LM-3204?
Quoting myself here to provide an update - I got curious and it looks like you are in luck. These rarely come up for sale and this price is really good.

If I were looking for what you are looking for, I would buy this immediately:

https://www.ebay.com/itm/Mackie-LM-3204 ... SwuNZefQ0e

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Re: Mixing console from modules - possible?

Post by Pelsea » Sat Mar 28, 2020 4:56 pm

Interesting bit of trivia-- at one time all mixing consoles were modular. Fader modules, routing modules, eq modules, etc were mix and match, so if you wanted, say a Neve in 24 tracks, you could have it your way. The really big boys still have that construction but prosumer and many digital boards tend to be one big unit.
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Re: Mixing console from modules - possible?

Post by Mr. Aloud » Sat Mar 28, 2020 5:51 pm

Which brings me to a question that has been discussed elsewhere, but I still didn´t get it yet. What about levels when mixing and matching Eurorack with standard studio/consumer devices, especially mixers or AD/DA converters?

I´m not so much concerned about clipping, as I´m just in the studio and don´t do live. If clipping occurs or levels are too low, I can always patch some attenuator/preamp in between and start again. What concerns me is possible damage from, say, a filter going berserk into self-oscillation. Or me fat-fingering a full on CV out (think 0.1 Hz pulse LFO) into the ADC. I´m not a fan of magic smoke in that context. So what could possibly go wrong?
It would seem that still, after all these years, perception is essentially thought to be a passive process.

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Re: Mixing console from modules - possible?

Post by Mr. Aloud » Sat Mar 28, 2020 5:55 pm

Pelsea wrote:
Sat Mar 28, 2020 4:56 pm
The really big boys
Yes! I´ve once seen a LAWO digital desk that allows for ripping out a whole channel and replace it - while the unit is still running :eek: Hot swaps like a SCSI array drive. Broadcast stuff for broadcast people... and broadcast :75:

With the recent renaissance of Modular, I wonder if this will extend to the mixing landscape as well. We do have that in software already, every DAW is doing that. So.... the use case is given.
It would seem that still, after all these years, perception is essentially thought to be a passive process.

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Re: Mixing console from modules - possible?

Post by wuff_miggler » Sat Mar 28, 2020 5:57 pm

Pelsea wrote:
Sat Mar 28, 2020 4:56 pm
Interesting bit of trivia-- at one time all mixing consoles were modular. Fader modules, routing modules, eq modules, etc were mix and match, so if you wanted, say a Neve in 24 tracks, you could have it your way. The really big boys still have that construction but prosumer and many digital boards tend to be one big unit.
I have 12 x Neve V51 channel amp cards, 12 x send amps...i bought them 10 years ago - still dont have the diy chops to do anything with them.

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Re: Mixing console from modules - possible?

Post by MindMachine » Sun Mar 29, 2020 12:33 am

Dave Peck wrote:
Sat Mar 28, 2020 4:20 pm
Dave Peck wrote:
Wed Mar 18, 2020 1:28 pm
Maybe track down a used Mackie LM-3204?
Quoting myself here to provide an update - I got curious and it looks like you are in luck. These rarely come up for sale and this price is really good.

If I were looking for what you are looking for, I would buy this immediately:

https://www.ebay.com/itm/Mackie-LM-3204 ... SwuNZefQ0e
They might not tick all of the boxes, but few will, but these old Rolands might be a best choice:
M-480, M-160, etc.

Or get some Speck mixers.
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Re: Mixing console from modules - possible?

Post by Graham Hinton » Sun Mar 29, 2020 8:09 am

Pelsea wrote:
Sat Mar 28, 2020 4:56 pm
The really big boys still have that construction
Not so much now. The classic SSL 4000/6000 consoles had modular channels with each section on a daughter pcb. Each console came with a spare channel and a complete set of spare cards for the centre section. If there was a fault while it was in use in took no longer that five minutes to swap it out and continue the session. Bays of eight channels could be powered down and the channel swapped while the rest was in use.

With mixers of that size and limited market the product is really the channel strip, you just sell 64 or whatever in one package. SSL had one factory just making channels and another making the frames and assembly.

When they came out with the 9000 the channels were two large pcbs with smt components and you didn't get a spare. They "guaranteed" that in the event of a fault that a service engineer would arrive within two days with a replacement channel. Two days in the middle of a recording session? They had totally lost contact with their customer base and now they are in the same group of companies as Allen & Heath. How the mighty have fallen.

Also, in the 80s, SSL made a modular broadcast mixer called the 5000 series which was a total disaster. The BBC described it as "like a car that had just scraped through its MoT, but you wouldn't want to drive it". They've written this out of their history.

To make a modular console now every combination on sale would have to have separate EMC testing and certification. Or support customers putting their own systems together. That's why you don't see many.

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Re: Mixing console from modules - possible?

Post by Mr. Aloud » Sun Mar 29, 2020 11:24 am

I hope they did their market research and don´t just claim that "nobody wants that / wants to pay for that". It´s something I see quite often in the company I work for and ever so often my customer meetings suggest otherwise. Then again, my company and it´s market is a wee bit bigger than most pro-audio corps, so you tend to get more management layers and this leads to that.

BTW, we give our customers limited support for "DIY" to keep that in check. And then there is an army of Professional Services engineers that deliver everything turnkey as an option. Why can´t the audio companies follow that model? Scale? Don´t they have a partner/distri network?

But back to Euro, we´re lucky that modules don´t fall under that testing and certing spell... yet.
It would seem that still, after all these years, perception is essentially thought to be a passive process.

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Re: Mixing console from modules - possible?

Post by DSC » Sun Mar 29, 2020 3:38 pm

I feel for you. I finally gave up and started working on my own. 48 channel euromixer in 150hp with FULL size faders.
It's turning out to be almost a two year project though! But it's exactly what I want.

Image

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Re: Mixing console from modules - possible?

Post by wuff_miggler » Sun Mar 29, 2020 4:02 pm

^ damn it DSC...your set up doesnt need to look any more impressive than it already is :P

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