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
“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
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.