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AMS-Neve Capricorn Digital Mixing Console (part 2)

Broadcasters and audio post production studios are in a more comfortable position when it comes to choosing a console, since they can judge purely on technical merit and are completely untroubled by marketing considerations.


Broadcasters and audio post production studios are in a more comfortable position when it comes to choosing a console, since they can judge purely on technical merit and are completely untroubled by marketing considerations. I doubt if many viewers would choose to watch a particular program just because the sound was mixed digitally! Although sound quality is of interest to broadcasters, they are more concerned with what you can do with a console, and how easily you can do it. It’s always a rule that the easier a piece of equipment is to operate, the greater number of competent operators of that equipment you will have available to you. This type of user will also want to turn round quickly from one piece of work to the next and the inherent ability of a digital console to store and recall every parameter will soon pay back a significant portion of the cost of the console in terms of productivity gains. I am sure that post production users will also appreciate the full automation provision. Not just mutes and faders, but auxes, pan, EQ, dynamics and more. Of course, film users are catered for, and any three consecutive multitrack busses can be set up as left, centre and right, and all pan controls assigned to an LCR destination will then operate with this law.

I am sure AMS Neve have thought carefully about who might be seriously tempted by this console. I’m not too sure about the home studio owner but I know that - providing a digital mixing console can be relied upon to work faultlessly night after night - the Neve Capricorn would fit very well into a theatre installation. For musical shows where putting the sound operator into the optimum position means taking out money making stalls seats, the compact size of the Capricorn could make up for its cost. Any size of Capricorn can be operated from even the smallest control surface configuration. I am sure also that Capricorn could be used perfectly well for PA since the console can be totally reset between songs. Whether a PA operator would be prepared to pay so much for this capability is another matter.

Design Considerations

You don’t design something as important as the AMS Neve Capricorn on the back of an envelope. With digital consoles, the designer is freed from many of the constraints of analogue consoles, such as the need for the electronics to be directly under the control surface, and can build a console that matches the users’ needs perfectly - if anyone knows for sure what the user really wants, that is. AMS Neve already had a perfectly good large music console in its range, the VR Legend, so the Capricorn would have to be at least as good and as capable as that. The designers realised that an important feature of the very large analogue console (shall we call it the VLAC as we are going to have to get used to a variety of abbreviations very soon?) is the fact that you just have to look at the controls to see where everything is. Capricorn’s control surface could have been shrunk down to one knob, one fader and a display (with probably around a thousand pages), or it could have mimicked an analogue console in virtually every way. In fact, AMS Neve - or just Neve as the company was while Capricorn was being designed - went for a middle position. You get lots of knobs and faders, and you can have plenty more bolted on if you want them, and any of the optional sizes of control surface can handle as many channels as you want up to the limit of 240 signal paths (would anyone ever want more?). A typical configuration, the ‘System 112’, would have 32 mic/line inputs, 24 AES/EBU stereo digital inputs and outputs, 48 track sends, 64 track returns, 16 auxes and 8 cues, 32 insert points which can be position anywhere in the system as required, 16 sub groups, four main outputs and all the other usual facilities. This all sounds very tempting to me and if my savings account was just a little bit richer I might even consider being the first home studio Capricorn owner (fat chance!).

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By David Mellor Thursday January 1, 2004

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