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Meet the Manufacturer - Calrec Audio (part 7)

The trend towards cheaper (or more cost-effective, depending on your point of view) music recording consoles has been apparent for several years. Is there a parallel trend in consoles for broadcast use?


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The trend towards cheaper (or more cost-effective, depending on your point of view) music recording consoles has been apparent for several years. Is there a parallel trend in consoles for broadcast use?

“Music studios have to be much more conscious of fashion than broadcast studios. They have to attract people in against the competition and a music studio will always want to have the latest product. Unfortunately you have still got to pay for the equipment over a period of time, so if you are going to chop and change more frequently the products have to be cheaper to enable you to do it. In broadcasting, while there has definitely been a trend towards cheaper products, the cost of changing is much more expensive because the whole of the studio system is designed and constructed around the mixer - the wall boxes, all the wiring and the bays. To take the studio out of service to change a piece of equipment more frequently would be much much more expensive even though the product itself might be cheaper, therefore broadcasters will always look for products with a long life cycle. The other aspect is that a product with a short life span does not have a healthy life right up until the last minute and then fail. What happens is that it tends to become unreliable much sooner, which is intolerable in broadcasting studios. Reliability is of the utmost importance and downtime for anybody costs a lot of money in lost bookings, and in broadcasting terms it is gross inconvenience. What is tending to happen is that rather than the product becoming cheaper it has better facilities and a better performance so that the customer is getting more horsepower per pound than he was a few years ago.”

Current Products

“The backbone of Calrec’s products are the Q Series and the Compact consoles. The Q Series is a large console for broadcasting available with full stereo channels. I think we are unique in that we can produce stereo microphone preamplifiers and stereo 4-band EQ and filters, so if you are swapping from mono channels to stereo channels there is no reduction in facilities whatsoever. All the stereo channels have stereo width controls, input balance controls and MS convertors. In the near future stereo channels will be regarded as the norm, as mono channels are now. More and more stuff that the broadcasters are turning out is stereo and it’s much more convenient for them if they can use stereo channels. There are now so many stereo sources that if you only have mono channels they just gobble them up, and they are more difficult to operate as well.

“The RQ Series of modules contain the electronics from the Q Series console. The Compact was one of the first standard products we made when we returned to Hebden Bridge and it’s a small to medium broadcast or post production console which can have anything from twelve to forty channels and up to eight mono or four stereo groups. Again, we can supply it with mono or stereo channels.”

It seems that there is a lot of activity in Calrec’s Nutclough Mill premises, and that despite the recent calamitous suck-out of money from the Independent Television companies there is a strong demand for custom and semi-custom products. We wait with considerable interest Calrec’s future moves into digital technology.

New at IBC

Calrec announced their new T-Series digitally assignable console at IBC in July. Unlike other digitally assignable consoles, there is no separate rack of audio electronic circuits. This is seen as a disadvantage that adds to the cost and inconvenience of digitally assignable consoles. The T-Series design is suitable for consoles of twenty-four channels and above with up to eight stereo groups and four stereo main outputs, with provision for VCA grouping. A music recording version can handle up to a forty-eight track recorder. Calrec claim a number of advantages for their digitally assignable consoles:

  • Consoles are smaller than conventional consoles above thirty-two channels and much smaller above seventy-two.
  • Channels or groups can be routed to faders in any position in mono or stereo.
  • Versatile grouping and VCA subgrouping.
  • Automatic self test.
  • Preparation of console set-up on a remote PC.
  • Long service life since switches are electronic and there are fewer controls.
By David Mellor Thursday January 1, 2004