In this post I will explain my reasons for upgrading my console and reflect on why I ended up with the one I have now and the people I met along the way.
The original console in my studio was a 16 channel Panasonic RAMSA WR-DA7 digital console. It was connected to my PC via a M-Audio Profire 2626. This was my first console and I learned a great deal about signal flow and mixing by trial and error. The DA7 is built like a tank but the 16 channels was very limiting to my workflow. I like to pull a whole session down onto a desk, mirroring the Pro Tools session. The channel count was too small for my needs so it was time for an upgrade.
Deciding on a Replacement Console
There was several features that I needed in a new console. These features include: all analog, large format, minimum of 24 channels, quality preamps, mix bussing, and a quality EQ section.
There were a several options that I looked at when choosing a new console. One limiting factor was that I had a budget of 60k and this included outboard gear.
The first console I looked at was the SSL AWS 924. There are a few selling secondhand for 50k plus so that would pretty much wipe out my budget for anything else. The AWS is a fantastic console with all the features of a pure analog SSL console, it could definitely be an option for the future.
The next console I looked at was a Trident Series 78 selling for around 13k. The Trident suited my needs but they were very hard to find in Australia and I would have to order one. I tried a few sources and was informed about an alternative.
I was told by Mixmasters about a second-hand Toft ATB 32 that was for sale within a 30 minute drive. It was the former main console of Airlock Studios, owned by Ian Haug from Powderfinger. I did some research on the Toft and found that it suited my needs exactly. I was picking up some 500 series preamps from JLM Audio and got to speaking with Joe Malone. Joe very helpful and very knowledgeable and informed me that the console was in good condition, as he had recently serviced it. He also told me that he had conducted a full opamp upgrade, doubled the bus driver opamp and upgraded the group and master sections with capacitor filters. This seemed like the right console for me so I made contact with Ian via Facebook.
Ian Haug and Airlock Studios
After contacting Ian on Facebook, he called my phone and we talked about the board. I asked him what price he was looking to get and he said he hope to get as close to 10k as he could. We arranged a meeting for later that day at Airlock Studios.
Meeting Ian was great. He was welcoming and approachable (although I was very nervous being a big fan of his) and he showed me around his studio. Airlock is a well thought out and practical working recording studio in every sense. The spacious live room sounds great and I have heard some fantastic drum recordings that were tracked and mixed at Airlock.
We shifted our attention to the Toft and I told Ian that I would give him his asking price of 10k if he let me intern at Airlock. He laughed but agreed and helped me load the console into my vehicle. I look forward to working with Ian in the near future.
Because I was effectively doubling my channel count, and I intended to incorporate a patchbay within the studio signal path, I needed to get a lot more cables. During the installation, I suffered a fractured hand (not while installing) and as of writing this post, I still have 10 days left with the cast.
The hand fracture was a setback because I couldn’t finish connecting the console and patchbay. I remembered Ian suggesting that Warren Huck from Hux Electronics was a guy I should talk to if I needed any help with studio wiring. I called Warren and arranged an appointment. Warren inspected the studio and came up with a plan. He impressed me as a very professional guy with a wealth of experience and a great sense of humour. Warren will be connecting the remainder of the studio connections and optimizing the patchbay layout.
Testing the Toft
With Travis Coss, the Drummer from my band Pig Mouth, we conducted a drum tracking session and the console performed very well. I particularly liked the EQ section and how well it shaped the sound for the drums. Having worked on Audient, Neve and Avid S6 consoles, the Toft is an outstanding console for an outstanding price.
Replacing the DA7 with the Toft was a huge upgrade for my studio and I look forward to many hours of recording and mixing on it. The people I met during this activity are well established in the local audio industry and great contacts for the future, I look forward to future dealings with all of them.