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AMS-Neve Capricorn Digital Mixing Console (part 1)

It was 1985, if I remember correctly, when a major mixing console manufacturer issued a slim booklet explaining why the then state-of-the-art technology was insufficient to build a viable digital console.



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t was 1985, if I remember correctly, when a major mixing console manufacturer issued a slim booklet explaining why the then state-of-the-art technology was insufficient to build a viable digital console. If you can cast your mind that far back, you will probably remember thinking that digital consoles must be just around the corner, and you were wondering whether you could squeeze a couple more years out of your existing aging console before taking the plunge. That couple of years extended into the best part of a decade, and only now is it possible to think seriously about going into digital mixing on the large scale that multitrack music recording demands. I don’t think it will be long before there will be digital music recording consoles from a significant number of manufacturers. Of course, you might still be skeptical about digital mixing, and why shouldn’t you be? Bold steps into new and largely untested technology can be risky. There are still too few digital mixing consoles around for all the unforeseen problems to have emerged fully and those that venture forth may be considered brave or foolhardy. But if consoles like the AMS Neve Capricorn really do deliver, then early purchasers will reap the rewards of being leaders of the pack. They will be attracting the prime clients and charging prime rates. Don’t imagine that I can answer all your questions about the Capricorn, and digital mixing in general, in a few pages. But if I can persuade you to read on, I think you will be convinced that you should put this console on your list of potential major purchases. I’m sure you want to get straight onto reading about the console itself, but I think it is important to look at some of the factors that influence console buying decisions in different market segments. (I know that you know your own segment, but if you are thinking of buying a Capricorn you will want to know that you are backing an all-round winner that will be supported for years to come).

For a music studio, the only sensible reasons for buying a particular console are to attract more clients and to persuade them to pay more. It would be nice to have a console that you consider to be best for musical and technical reasons, but if the customers don’t come through the door and use it then you aren’t going to see much financial benefit. For ‘customer’, you wouldn’t necessarily read ‘the person who signs the cheque’. The real customer is the person who has most influence on the choice of studio. This could be the record company A&R department, the artist, the producer or perhaps the artist’s management (or travel agent!). How many of these people are properly qualified to say whether a console is good, bad or indifferent? Everyone knows you can make hit records on an SSL console - even the most junior A&R assistant - but how long will it take for Capricorn to be similarly regarded, even if it really is a better console? Of course, it could be the artist’s favourite engineer who has most influence on the decision about which studio to use. Now we have the problem that if an engineer is experienced on SSL, or VR, why should he want to change to Capricorn? This is potentially a more promising situation because the engineer is in a position to judge a console on its real merits rather than past reputation. But if you have ten years of SSL experience, do you really want to learn a new console? (The answer to this question should be yes, as I’ll explain later).

By David Mellor Thursday January 1, 2004

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