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AMS-Neve Capricorn Digital Mixing Console (part 5)

There are some controls on the strips, but you must have at least one AFU (Assignable Facilities Unit) and this looks pretty much like what you would find on any assignable console.


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Equipping Your Home Recording Studio There are some controls on the strips, but you must have at least one AFU (Assignable Facilities Unit) and this looks pretty much like what you would find on any assignable console. The AFU has a physical control for each parameter you can adjust in the strip path, sometimes duplicating controls. Of course, not all mixing applications can be managed by just one operator (certainly not with a 240 path system), so it is possible to have multiple AFUs and each can be associated with its own strip section. Something you can only have one of in your Capricorn is a Monitor section. This isn’t used for multitrack monitoring since that is handled by the strips. Just so you know, here’s a list of what you control from here:

  • Control room sources
  • Loudspeaker controls
  • Master solo controls
  • Main console output controls
  • Global automation controls
  • Main aux/cue controls
  • Machine transport controls
  • Track enable/record controls
  • QWERTY keyboard
  • Talkback
  • Oscillator
  • Track ball

If anything has attracted your attention from this list it’s probably the machine transport controls and record enable facility. Hidden away in the rack is an Adams Smith Zeta 3 synchroniser which can handle up to six machines and provide enable and record functions for up to 144 tracks (3 x 48) plus twelve ancillary tracks. Surely this will be enough! The other item which will have caught your eye is the track ball. Many people hate track balls, but having seen the system and played with it I can assure you firstly that it’s necessary and secondly that it’s very comfortable to use. Of course, if a track ball is necessary then there must be a monitor somewhere. Yes there is, and this high resolution colour monitor is central to the operation of the whole system, not just for the automation. It would be nice if it were tastefully finished in the AMS Neve colours rather than Taiwan beige seeing as it is so important, but I’m sure that’s a detail that will be attended to soon. The monitor, by the way has a posh name - the Graphics Display System or GDS as AMS Neve put it. In conjunction with the track ball you can direct a screen cursor for pointing and selecting, modify parameter values, and to move and configure audio processing components in the signal path. This last point is really interesting and throws the difference between analogue and digital mixing sharply into focus.

Figure 1 shows the Path Configuration screen where you might spend a lot of your thinking time during recording and mixing. To give you an idea of the power of this concept let me mention a couple of points you might ponder over in an analogue console: should the insert point be pre or post EQ? Should the dynamics section be pre or post EQ? Would it be a good idea to send a clean signal to the tape recorder and only monitor the EQed and compressed version? Where should the meter be in the signal path? I don’t suppose you have spent all that much time on these matters, probably because with an analogue console you are stuck with what you are given and there are few options. On the Capricorn there are many options, not too many - I would say just enough. Looking more closely at Figure 1 you will see on the left the source supplying the signal path. Next along is the track send point. If the positioning of this is not to your liking, just grab it using the track ball and move it along to a more appropriate position. Fancy a filter? Just click on the filter box and move the jack plug to where you would like the filter inserted. The same applies to EQ, insert point, limiter, compressor and expander gate. You will notice system resources graphics further down the screen. Obviously it would be overkill to supply enough processing power to enable absolutely every type of processing to be carried out on every signal path. It would make the console more expensive to no good purpose (and this is what has to happen in an analogue console). The three horizontal rectangles are the Capricorn’s ‘fuel gauges’ showing you how much processing power you have in reserve. This may be a limitation in extreme cases but it is totally insignificant compared to the way in-line analogue consoles force you to share valuable resources between the channel and monitor paths.

By David Mellor Thursday January 1, 2004