Like a lot of people, I've been watching the trend towards DAW mixing "out of the box." Systems like the Dangerous 2-Bus were pretty appealing, but then I started seeing these old Neve broadcast consoles on eBay. Hmm, I thought, I wonder if this would work out kinda' like a 2-Bus but also have some mic pres and maybe even some EQ and aux sends? I have a couple of racked Neve pres and love the way they sound. When I saw this particular board on eBay, I made the plunge. All of these boards are configured differently. The board I bought is configured with 16 channels, four sub groups, two aux sends and three-band EQ. I was also fortunate because it had direct outputs on each channel that were factory installed with transformers. Apparently, some of these boards were retrofitted for direct outs, but they didn't have transformer outputs.
This board sounds awesome! Yeah, it's not Class-A and there are some chips in there, but whatever, the proof is in the pudding. Check the Adam Samuels interview in this issue, where he talks about using these boards on the new Daniel Lanois album. I've had several clients who've worked on much more expensive Class-A consoles say that this board sounds as good if not better and that is has more character than a lot of pricier, larger consoles they've worked on. It's like a little baby console with attitude. There are some limitations however. Only one aux send can be used at a time on each channel. With Pro Tools this works out okay since I'm usually using a mixture of hardware and plug-ins. There's also a tape return that can be mixed into the stereo bus which allows for 18 line inputs total. I usually use this as my effects return in Pro Tools for reverbs and such and send it out the S/PDIF out to a separate DA converter. One other drawback is that you need to assign a channel to a subgroup and then the stereo bus adding a bit more signal path. It doesn't seem to sound bad though, so again, whatever. There are no inserts and the EQ is limited but sounds great. The high is fixed at 10kHz (but sounds like it reaches down to 3kHz) while the mids and lows have three selectable frequencies. There is no bandwidth, just cut or boost. Another anomaly is there are not separate mic and line inputs, just a mic/line switch. This make installing it a bit odd, but not impossible. On the plus side there is over 115 dB of gain at the trim and the ability to really drive the board hard and get some great overdriven sounds. Finally, every channel sounds a bit different and it would be impossible to use this like a Dangerous 2-Bus and get repeatable mixes out of the box. You also can't rack mount it, and because of all those transformers, it weighs a ton even if it is pretty small. But factor in the mic pres and EQ and it might work out for you. Plus, mine came with six talkback mic outputs and ten cart style tape remotes which look kinda' cool even if I'll never use them. I see these on eBay for between five and ten grand-not cheap, but it's a solid piece of gear. If it's old, the usual cautions about recapping apply.