Vintage Analog Mixers (small format)

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Vintage Analog Mixers (small format)

Postby tomorrowstops » Fri Aug 15, 2014 1:53 pm

Anybody on here have current experience with some of the older recording or live sound consoles? In the vein of the Tascam M or Yamaha PM series type stuff.

They're cheap and cool to look at, but are they of any value sound-wise? Modern stuff is all focused on transparency - I wouldn't mind hearing a little color for this new project.

My needs are basic - 8 mono inputs, a couple auxes for effects, tape ins/outs, main outs for monitors. Useable/musical eq would be nice, but most likely set flat.

Maintenance/repair is not a problem for me.

I'm converting my room into 100% analog, with the option of digital recording...
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Re: Vintage Analog Mixers (small format)

Postby pflosi » Fri Aug 15, 2014 2:31 pm

I use a Tascam M35. It's certainly on the "colored" side, but I like its sound. I don't record everything through it, but it's available (via patchbays) if I want to.

What's really cool about it is that it's actually an inline mixer, so you have access points all over the place. Direct out from individual channels is easy for example. I also use it for a one-take to 4-track cassette project for which it's perfect with the four groups.

It's a very heavy bugger though...

They're cheap as chips so nothing stops you from trying one :thumbleft:
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Re: Vintage Analog Mixers (small format)

Postby tomorrowstops » Fri Aug 15, 2014 2:44 pm

Cool. That's good to hear, I was looking at one of those M35's.

I'm attempting to avoid buy/try/sell for this. But that's never worked before, so I shouldn't expect it now!

Anyone else?
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Re: Vintage Analog Mixers (small format)

Postby pflosi » Fri Aug 15, 2014 4:49 pm

Well, I think if you "wouldn't mind a bit of color" you'll be happy!

The M35 particularly is extremely nice to service as well. You can just slide out the individual channels without any soldering, not even disconnecting any multi pin headers is necessary!

Some small things to be aware of with the M35:

  • The two EQs are halfparametric, but only bell curves, so no low- or highpass, if you need that.
  • You need cinch-jumpers for the "access snd / rcv" jacks for each channel. Or you need to bridge it somehow otherwise (e.g. via a patchbay). This allows inserting effects, like an insert on non-inline mixer. The direct out is post everything (which is great). So maybe make sure it comes with some cinch-jumpers when buying.
  • The tape inputs on the submodules can be either used independently of the 8 main channels (i.e., mixed directly into the submodule, 1+5 on sub 1, 2+6 on sub 2, etc.) or you can route them to the main channels.
  • The fx loop can either be routed to the four submodules independently (patching required), or you can have it at sub 1, normalised to the other three subs. That's not really ideal for me, and I also want two sends... So what I do is splitting the return from the fx loop to sub 1 + 2; and I "misuse" the cue system by using it as another send, then routing the return again splitted to sub 3 + 4. If you want to work with two stereo subs, you wouldn't need to split the stuff...

I definitely recommend to check the manual of this thing. Definitely more complicated than your standard mixer...

Cheers!
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Re: Vintage Analog Mixers (small format)

Postby tomorrowstops » Fri Aug 15, 2014 7:58 pm

Interesting. This one is definitely sounding like a possibility.

The minimum EQ isn't a big deal, I usually try to sound design with final mix in mind. That being said, this project most likely is going to end up in Pro Tools for final mixing and mastering anyways, so if I really need more control, I'll have it.

The tape connection options are pretty cool, like the fact that there are options, ha. I haven't figured out what I'm going to use for a tape recorder yet....but that's another thread entirely! ;)

For effects, I'll be definitely running my space echo and maybe a stereo reverb unit. I'd prefer to have them patched in all the time, with the ability to add them to whatever channel(s) via a knob. Versus patching them inline to a specific channel. Looks like this is possible, I just can't wrap my head around it in the manual yet. Not without the machine in front of me!

The other mixer I'm looking at is the Yamaha PM430. There's a lot less going on with it than the M35. Its only got one echo send/return and its mono. There's aux outputs suitable for tape sends and a couple of aux ins suitable for tape returns. No direct outs, and no fancy matrix routing.

As attractive physically as it is, I'm thinking the PM430 is going to fall short in the flexibility department. I could make it work, but the more I study the M35 manual, I'm seeing a heck of a lot more potential there. And really, they both go for about the same amount of money.

Any chance you could tell me the dimensions of the M35? Its the only thing I don't see mentioned in the manual and Google hasn't helped much either!
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Re: Vintage Analog Mixers (small format)

Postby tomorrowstops » Fri Aug 15, 2014 8:11 pm

So of course, one of the only mysteries that remains is how much 'color' is 'color.' Like most people, I'm very used to modern transparent recording devices. The only gear I use these days that boasts 'color' are mic preamps - API, Neve, etc. These pres definitely have character, but are also made with high end modern components - i.e. - clean sounding.

I'm expecting something like the M35 to have a 'dirtier' colored sound. Like the difference between a modern Moog and vintage Moog. Does that sound about right? Maybe a little rough around the edges almost distorted character to it? Or at least the ability to distort nicely if you push it too far?
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Re: Vintage Analog Mixers (small format)

Postby pflosi » Fri Aug 15, 2014 8:57 pm

Yeah, a bit of distortion if you push it, and a bit more background noise compared to straight to a standard ADC. There can also be some crosstalk between channels if you push stuff very high. I maybe should also mention that I only used it with line level equipment so far, no guitars or mics, so that might make a difference...

The manual of the Tascam is a good read. They explain stuff very extensively. Should you have any questions, let me know.

(When I said "stereo" re: send/returns, I really meant mono > stereo; there's an output for the fx send and one for the cue send; for the return, you can go to the main channels or the sub channels. Each sub has an fx return jack, and there's a switch for normalising the fx return jack of sub 1 to the others. But it's not breakable. So to have room for two returns, I split (via a splitting cable) the first mono fx to sub 1 + 2, the second to sub 3 + 4. If you have mono > stereo fx you can use that to go to sub 1 + 2 (resp. 3 + 4), but that would assume that you also always use the subs as two stereo channels... Alas, the thing is flexible enough to find a workaround for most problems I guess.)

The dimensions are ca. 58.5cm width x 62cm depth x 12cm height at the front and 19cm at the rear...

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Re: Vintage Analog Mixers (small format)

Postby tomorrowstops » Fri Aug 15, 2014 9:48 pm

Yeah, that manual is intense. I like it!

I think I get how the FX stuff is going to work. Thanks for the dimensions - its big, but I think I can make it work!

One more question: have you ever run a record player through it? I currently run mine thru two channels on my interface using a Radial phono preamp. How do you think it would sound through the Tascam? Not a deal breaker per say, but none the less.

Now, if this gentleman would get back to me regarding the one he's got for sale...
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Re: Vintage Analog Mixers (small format)

Postby tomorrowstops » Sat Aug 16, 2014 1:40 am

hmmm...dude wants $200 + shipping. Not the worst deal on the planet for a cool mixer, but it looks like similar condition M35's can be had for less than 2 bills shipped.
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Re: Vintage Analog Mixers (small format)

Postby madtheory » Sat Aug 16, 2014 7:18 am

IME the Tascam mixers generally gave a very muddy and veiled sound, but I never used anything bigger than 8 channels. The bigger Yamaha PMs sounded good, not great so I assume it's the same with the smaller ones. You're not going to get good sound or good "colour" (an oxymoron) for the money you're spending. You will get the convenience of a board, personally I wouldn't trade that for the sonic compromises. Why not up the budget for a used Mackie? Nice distortion on those.
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Re: Vintage Analog Mixers (small format)

Postby tomorrowstops » Sat Aug 16, 2014 12:30 pm

That option isn't completely off the table yet. I think the old stuff is something I'm just going to have to bite the bullet and experience for myself. As I'm discovering, one persons 'muddy' is another person's 'color' (the good kind).

The particular sound I have for this project in mind would also lend it self to something a little less than perfect, hence my foray into this world. In any case, I still have all the gear that allows me to capture in the most modern way possible...
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Re: Vintage Analog Mixers (small format)

Postby pflosi » Sat Aug 16, 2014 5:11 pm

tomorrowstops wrote:hmmm...dude wants $200 + shipping. Not the worst deal on the planet for a cool mixer, but it looks like similar condition M35's can be had for less than 2 bills shipped.


I paid 150.- for mine, dude delivered it to my door for another 10.- (CHF, swiss francs - almost same as $). As said it's very heavy, so definitely get a shipping quote before you buy!

tomorrowstops wrote:One more question: have you ever run a record player through it? I currently run mine thru two channels on my interface using a Radial phono preamp. How do you think it would sound through the Tascam? Not a deal breaker per say, but none the less.


In terms of whole songs just my own tunes back from the 4-track cassette down to stereo and to the DAW... A bit dirty to begin with but I like it. Vinyl or so I haven't run through it, my turntable is in another room. I guess I could run anything you want through it if you fancy a demo...

BTW I enjoy Mackies too, the new VLZ4 are very good for the money (perfect for gigs), and the color of the old CRs can definitely be interesting for certain styles.

Cheers!
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Re: Vintage Analog Mixers (small format)

Postby tomorrowstops » Sat Aug 16, 2014 6:21 pm

If you have time...anything run through a channel would be great. And of course a version run through your regular interface to compare. Doesn't have to be fancy!

I've used a smaller vlz4 before - the 1642 will be my fallback plan for sure.
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Re: Vintage Analog Mixers (small format)

Postby pflosi » Mon Aug 18, 2014 7:26 pm

Alright mate, I've quickly put something together over the weekend. For copyright reasons (commercially available track) I don't wanna post it publicly though... @tomorrowstops, PM sent. If anyone else wants to hear the files, PM me or post here.

I've used Ableton (all samples unwarped and on hi-q) and you get three files: the original just bounced out of Ableton again (all bounces are undithered 24 bit .aif of individual tracks); one version run through the M35; and one merry-go-round out the audio interface and straight back in just to show the sound of the converters (MOTU 828 MK3, 44.1 khz). A Neutrik patchbay was in there as well for patching (not on the original version of course). I didn't touch any of the faders in Ableton, so the levels are obviously different.

My conclusion: once levelmatched (I confess that I mostly "guesstimated" the level-differences, no proper measurements apart from the peak indicator of Ableton as a ballpark proxy), you can examine the differences. I hear a little loss of dynamics from original to MOTU to Tascam, and there seems to be a slight loss of top and bottom end on the Tascam version compared to the other two. Couldn't notice much more noisefloor or anything like that, but there probably would be a slight increase if you measured. But it's very minute differences IMO, most people in most situations probably wouldn't hear. I'm monitoring in a treated room with Adam A7 and a Dangerous Audio D-Box for DAC and monitor control, it's a nice sounding room - I have to listen carefully to hear something. Granted the MOTU converters are not the best known to mankind, not sure in which direction better ones would shift the test... Levelmatching is imperative of course.

Hope that helps,

Cheers!
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Re: Vintage Analog Mixers (small format)

Postby zoomtheline » Mon Aug 18, 2014 10:16 pm

I have not tried many mixers at all so I'm not the best to advise but I'm really happy with my tascam m208. It's lovely and warm in colour. I bought it to pair with my teac 80-8 but I end up putting most things through it because I like what flavour it gives everything.
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