The T.C. Electronic System 6000 is as high-end as it gets. Regardless of whether it's a piece of gear that is appropriate for your particular recording set up, there are several innovations that are worth learning about. I'm sure you'll start finding them both in other pieces of T.C. gear and other manufacturer's gear. Furthermore, the System 6000 does things that I didn't know were actually possible, so when you are ready to master your mixes, you may want to look for a mastering studio that has a System 6000.
The setup I reviewed was a 2RU mainframe with three analog I/O cards and a T.C. Icon remote with a remote CPU (1RU). You can control up to eight mainframes on a LAN with a single Icon remote or use a regular PC keyboard, monitor and mouse. The mainframe is capable of running four simultaneous effects engines of any available algorithm. It will even run a full blown VSS 5.1 reverb or 5.1 dynamics processor. The patches are stored as banks of both Scenes and Engines. There are 49 ROM and 49 User scenes which are groups of four engines (except in a few cases where two engines are required for 5.1 use) and internal and I/O routing, making recalls as easy as using a plug-in. There are 14 banks of 100 ROM Engine presets and 100 User Engine presets with T.C.'s Wizard to help you find what your looking for.
Set up was easy. It's got all the standard ins and outs, and it's obvious how to connect the two different rack units and start your single mainframe LAN. The Icon was so easy to use that I was able to set up my routing and navigate to any parameter effortlessly without even glancing at the manual. The Icon is a remote controller/programmer with six assignable, touch-sensitive faders and a touch-screen inspired by the touch-screen cash registers that waiters use in restaurants. It's such a great interface that I'm surprised there aren't far more devices with this type of control. The Icon's main page is so well laid out that between the screens and faders, you can adjust any commonly used parameter within one press of the screen. The rest are available within two. Faders will adjust the full range of the parameter, or with a quick tap of the screen you can put the fader into a high-resolution mode for micro-fine tuning. This interface is so intuitive that I think we will start to see it trickle down to both programmers for other T.C. gear and even touch-screens for DAW editing. Now all they need is a food parameter so that I can order lunch right from the Icon without having to stop the session. It was inspired by that use after all...
The learning curve was interesting. For operating the device, there was none. But now I had access to a lot of parameters that I had never seen before. Things like room shape (fan, horseshoe, prism, etc.) or the type of twist and its percentage made me feel like I had to learn how to program reverbs all over again. I had to spend some time getting myself up to speed learning the options, but that's more my shortcoming than the device's.
How does it sound? It sounds amazing and immediately improved my mixes. I found that I was able to add a lot more ambience and depth without sounding artificial and digital. The soundscapes that you can create with the System 6000 are beautiful and enveloping. At one point during a vocal tracking session, I switched from a System 6000 reverb to another box and the singer immediately asked what happened. He said the reverb all of a sudden sounded "cheap."
So the System 6000 sounds very good and is very easy to use, which is what I expected. If they'd stopped here, I'd have been satisfied and considered it a good value. But, they've gone a lot further. They have a Wizard function that helps search through the presets. Once you enter the Wizard screen it guides you through narrowing down the presets to audition. I think the Wizard can be found on other T.C. gear, but with the hundreds and hundreds of presets that the System 6000 has, it's really essential. Another cool feature is the ability to change the converter filters. There are five different options: standard, bright, vintage, natural and linear. Each one really changes the tone of the effect to where it's like you're using a totally different box.
However, the biggest innovation is how T.C. manages its intellectual property, meaning the optional algorithms. I've mainly been focused on the effects engines that are used in recording and mixing, but there are nine optional engines which are primarily for mastering, film work and postproduction. The System 6000 comes with all of the algorithms onboard, but you only pay for the ones you need. You start with all the core algorithms and demo time on the rest. When that time runs out, you can rent or buy the optional algorithms as necessary. It's a great way to have what you need while keeping expenses down.
Suppose you primarily mix. Then one day a regular client brings you something that has peaks that went over 0 dBfs and asks for your help fixing it. One of the features of the Brickwall Limiter in the MD3 package is to find and remove 0 dBfs peaks. Why buy that package if you only need it for this one job? In that case, rent. All you have to do is go to www.tc-now.com, fill out a form,, and you can rent the tool you need. What if you're not sure it will work? There's an option to demo the algorithm first. Activating the algorithm with the license key is quick and easy. I'm surprised that more companies haven't provided a rental option.
The optional algorithms are the Massenburg Design Works HiRes EQ (in stereo and 5.1); the MD3 dynamics algorithm with the Brickwall Limiter; Backdrop, a noise reduction algorithm which allows you to sample and remove noise; Unwrap, which is a stereo to 5.1 converter; Engage, which deals with 3D sound in headphones; the VP2/VP8 pitch controllers; and the 5.1 toolbox. For a more detailed look at each algorithm, see T.C. Electronic's website.
The System 6000 is also innovative in its DSP. The surround reverbs use true 5.1 algorithms rather than modulated delay lines, which makes the System 6000 very popular in the film post industry. It also allows you to spread one algorithm over more than one Engine for cases where you're running true 5.1 reverb at 96 kHz and generating over 300 million instructions per second, which is what's required to make those great surround sounds at that resolution. No plug-in can do that.
The T.C. System 6000 excels at everything it does. It's got great sounds, innovations, and features that no other box has. But it's an investment in the same price range as a new car. So while it's not in everyone's budget, it's a device to learn from and know about for unique abilities that you may need, whether it be in the mastering context, the forensic/repair context, or in just making great sounds that can't be made any other way. (www.tcelectronic.com)