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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. 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!).

David Mellor

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David Mellor