The Equinox represents all that is right about Peter Reardon and his Shadow Hills Industries products. It's beautiful, it's functional, it's innovative, it's a throwback to another time that anticipates the needs of the future, and it's not cheap; but it's probably worth triple its price. The Equinox is a two-channel preamp; 32-channel summing buss; and master section complete with talkback mic, dim switch, mono/stereo switch, and outputs to three sets of monitors and your headphone amp; with a pair of green "magic-eye" VU meters; all contained in a sturdy 2U-height steel case.
The first thing that people notice about Shadow Hills boxes is the use of black Bakelite knobs and glowing green filaments that scream contemporary Batcave... but the defining feature of Peter's work to date lies in the switchable output transformer settings. Each channel can be set to Nickel, Iron, or Steel. Steel is punchy, thick but bright, and is likely based on the vintage '70s API sound. Iron is essentially the St. Ives 1166 Neve hardware. And Nickel is softer and gooier and is based on a custom L.A. console. These three options not only are applicable on the two preamps going into your DAW but on the 32- channel summing buss coming out as well.
Therefore, you can route your digital signals out of your DAW and sum in the Equinox, switching the output transformer on your mix to emulate one of three heavy duty console textures-and remember, this is old-world hardware, not a digital simulation. The summing buss uses esoteric Holco metal film resistors (the same ones in Shadow Hills custom mastering consoles) located right next to the input transformers-wiring at its finest, which is reflected in the clean, fat sound.
The Equinox feels and sounds as if you are working on an actual console. This is no minor thrill for those of us who built our skills on computer DAWs. The talkback mic/dim feature in the master section will make communication with the performer far more convenient and professional.
The mic preamps have their own separate I/O, so you do not have to spend any time behind the unit changing cables when you are mixing versus when you are tracking. The Equinox comes with a separate 2U power supply. The required connectors and cords are not cheap to purchase and should be factored into the total cost. All 32 summing inputs along with the speaker outputs are D-sub. The preamp cabling is balanced XLR of course. There are also balanced XLR inserts on the 2- buss which I use for external processing after summing.
On the front panel, the master section has input choices for DAW, internal summing buss, external 2- track, and the built-in mic preamps. This makes it possible to toggle between in-the-box DAW and Equinox- summed mixes. You also have monitor volume control, stepped gain knobs for the two preamp/summing channels, and the expected phantom power, polarity, and pad switches. Finally, there is the speaker-select knob to choose one of three sets of speaker outputs, as well as a mono/stereo switch and talkback toggle.
The Equinox is so visually stunning and sturdy and has so many features that it is easy to overlook that the most inspiring and useful feature by far is the sound. Essentially two high-end mic preamps and hardware summing of the highest quality, this unit has improved my mixes immeasurably. As an early owner of one of the other summing boxes (I found it too transparent), I was skeptical of outboard summing, but the Shadow Hills Equinox has made me a believer. ($3995.00 thru vintageking.com; www.shadowhillsindustries.com)