Консоли Trident-MTA Series 924.
There is nothing quite as effective in stirring up the competition as an aggressively priced and specified new product. And when that comes from a direction you might not expect, and with a pedigree guaranteeing serious intentions, you have to take notice. MTA established a niche for themselves in mid-market consoles a few years ago and now have three consoles - the 980 flagship (see Audio Media, March 1999), the simpler 900, and the in-line 990 - in that area. This new console, the 924, is designed with a different market in mind: that of the medium-sized project/musician's studio. But what makes this console particularly interesting is the fact that this is a full 24-bus/24-track-ready design that draws heavily upon the ideas and facilities of the larger MTA consoles to provide a compact yet well-featured mixer.The Input Channel
While MTA may be new to consoles at this price point, Malcoim Toft, the man behind the 'MT', isn't. He was one of the first to realise that there might be a requirement for lower-cost consoles for musicians/producers over 25 years ago, with the Trident B-Range, followed by such models as the Fleximix and Trimix that were important 'creative' consoles through the '70s and '80s. The design concept of the 924 was to create a 24-bus console at a price point that is traditionally eight-bus, with very few alternative choices. The console also had to provide the right amount of infrastructure to support 24-track work, in terms of large numbers of aux sends, flexible EQ, and good monitoring facilities. Equally it had to be compact to fit the space availability found in most musician/project studios. The completed 924 is a 24-bus console available with 24-, 32- or 40-input channels with the smaller sizes expandable - just remove the side cheek and add an eight-channel expander, plug in the ribbon connectors and add the meterbridge extension. This is a very straightforward console to operate and it should take about five minutes for the experienced user to figure out. There are only minor points that require any explanation beyond the legends on the panel. Although the combined group/monitor section is positioned on the input channel, this isn't really a full in-line-type console, but more of a convenient hybrid that includes various ideas to maximise facilities and minimise space requirements.
The channels begin with mic/line switching, selecting between electronically balanced mic input or line input, with switchable phantom power on the mic input and a phase reverse switch that functions on both inputs. Input gain is a single pot for both inputs. The EQ is a fundamental section of this mixer. This is a full four-band design that will be familiar to anyone having worked on many of Malcolm Toft's other designs - the ranges and frequencies are the same as on the larger MTA mixers. All the bands overlap, with the HF covering from 1k to 15kHz, the HMF from 700Hz to '10kHz, LMF from 100Hz to 1.5kHz, and the LF from 40Hz to 650Hz. All are+15dB with centre detented zero gain positions. What is particularly noticeable is the degree to which the bands overlap in the lower frequencies, allowing real control of bass signals. Additionally there is a fixed 50Hz high-pass filter that can oniy be activated when the EQ is in circuit. It is worth noting that this EQ remains permanently in this signal path - there are no 'flip' or 'split' functions to the monitor.
The Master Sections
What is noticeable about this EQ is how powerful it is. The choice of bands and EQ curves allow you to really shape sound - you know something is happening as soon as you start adjusting; but it is equally possible to make subtle changes. LED indication on the 924 is kept for important switching such as the EQ in/out, mutes and certain master functions. MTA have found an unusual button cap that has a black base which disappears under the front panel when pushed and so, following the module layout of knobs to the left and buttons to the right, it is very clear to see which buttons are selected. Each channel has access to eight aux busses with the ability to send to any six. Aux sends 1 K 2 are mono sends permanently prefade. Unusually for a mixer in this price range there are individual mute buttons on each send. Auxes 3 & 4 are set up as a stereo pair with pre/post and a separate centre-detented pan control. Auxes 5 & 6 are also stereo with pre/post and mute buttons, and pan control but an additional button switches their output between aux busses 5 8 6 or 7 & 8.
They cari also be switched to take their feed from the monitor section rather than the input path. The use of six sends selectable over eight busses is becoming common practice with manufacturers of more moderately priced consoles. In practice it is quite acceptable because it is unlikely that you will need to send to all eight auxes from every module. MTA did consider a full eight aux sends but rejected it on grounds of space.
Next follows the Output/Group Monitor section, which sets the level for the group outputs and determines, courtesy of the Tape button, whether the monitor section is following the group outputs or the tape returns into the console. This section is headed by the Group Output trim control that sets the level for the send to the recording machine so, on Channel 15, this will trim Group Qutput 15. Metering is handled by the ten-segment bargraph peak action meters in the meterbridge (calibrated -20dBm to+8dBm) that align with the respective channel. They follow the position of the Tape button to meter group output or tape return. The rest of the controls in this section relate to the monitor path, first being the monitor EQ controls in the form of fixed frequency high and low shelving controls offering *15dB at 12kHz and 80Hz together with an illuminated bypass button. Remaining is a monitor level and a pan control plus buttons for stereo AFL and an illuminated mute. In the mixdown mode all the monitor paths can be used as additional inputs to the main stereo bus, doubling the input capability. This is not an uncommon facility but this secondary path is actually well catered for with its own level, pan, EQ, solo and mute buttons plus the use of stereo aux sends The last feature on the strip is the channel pan with AFL and illuminated channel mute. Below that there is signal presence indicator (a green LED) which illuminates at -20dB, so that you know if any audio is there, and a peak red LED that indicates +'IOdB levels. Both LEDs are monitoring the output of the channel, after the fader. The routing buttons run down the side of the fader enabling the channel signal to be sent to the main stereo bus or any of the 24 output groups in pairs, with buttons for groups 1 K 2 through to 11 8 12. A shift button then converts the same buttons to cover groups 13 & 14 to 23 8r 24. The 100mm channel fader has a very smooth feel to it - a decision was taken to use a good quality fader and these are Alps' K Seiies, fully enclosed metal-bodied types. As they use the same mounting, it would also be possible to fit PRG conductive plastic types.
Three modules at the right-hand side of the console handle all the master duties. The first two strips contain the four effects return modules, positioned two pei strip, one above the other with both long-throw faders at the bottom. The EQ is the same two-band shelving type as used on the monitor, while the aux sends are identical to the channel inputs, less the ability to take a feed from the monitor path. Following a pan control, mute button and the faders, the output routes direct to the main stereo bus. The Master strip starts with individual master level controls and solo buttons for each of the eight aux busses. An oscillator generating 50Hz, 1kHz and 10kHz can be routed across ali the output groups, or to just appear on the rear panel. A Solo Master section sets the AFL level and has a large associated LED that flashes to indicate a solo is in use on the console. There is provision for the control of three sets of speakers - the Studio playback speakers can be fed to the main stereo bus or aux sends 1 R 2 or 5 K 6, and also receives the studio talkback signal; the Alternate speaker feed would normally set the level for nearfield monitors, taking a feed of the stereo bus; while the Main Control Room monitors can select from one of three external stereo sources, or monitor main stereo bus or the output groups, according to the position of the illuminated Mix button. It is also possible to mono sum or mute the main monitors using illuminated buttons. The Mix button is the only status button on the entire console. In the unselected mode you are bypassing the master fader and listening to the output of the 24 output groups. When mixing you would select Mix, and then the monitoring takes a feed following the stereo fader. In this mode, the monitor paths can also feed into the main stereo bus - giving a total of 52 inputs including the effects returns on a 24-channel 924. Aside from the main stereo fader, Talkback is the final section - it has its own built-in electret mic and you can talk to aux sends 1 R 2 or 3 & 4, make a slate announcement to the groups or speak to the studio. All of these functions dim the monitors by 20dB.Other Matters
The console is attractively finished in greys with black panels. All the knobs are colour-coded by function, have a 'soft-touch' feel and were selected because of their pointer that runs the full height of the knob so minimising parallax error. The power supply is externally rack-mounted, enabling a very slim console profile so that it could easily be flightcased. At the time of writing there isn't a mixer stand in existence, but there is one in development. While the mixer appears fully modular, closer inspection reveals that it is in blocks of four channel strips although the channels only share the panel itself. Underneath they all have individual circuit boards positioned at r ight angles to the panel. Removing a channel's front panel knobs and the four ribbon connectors to its board allows complete removal from the panel, and then it can be serviced as easiiy.as an independent module. All the I/O sockets are on the rear panel and are not mounted on the channel board. They are a mixture of XLR, jack and TRS sockets which are variously balanced or unbalanced according to their role. The group outputs are balanced, as are the tape returns and the mic and line inputs. The majority of the other channel I/Os are unbalanced. Also found at the rear and not indicated on the channel strip are channel insert points and channel direct outputs, plus all the master I/O connections. The console was quiet in use and MTA say that you can easily get+28dB out of the master busses while the channels themselves will give +25dB with no problems. They are also quoting a dynamic range well over 100dB, which is good at this price point. The 924 is to be supplied pre-wired for Optifile console automation as standard to enable easy user installation.
This is a compact console with numerous significant features. In many ways it is just a simplified version of MTA's established larger consoles in a compact and lower cost form. The four-band EQ section is a major asset to the 924, as is the selection of the facilities included, showing the hand of experience in the design - particularly true in the use of centre detent positions on critical knobs, and the liberal sprinkling of mutes. Although there are a lot of facilities in a small space, intelligent layout of the knobs and switches actually gives a relatively spacious feel to the user.
Keith Spencer-Allen /Audio Media, 1999