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MCI JH 500 Consoles
Old 11th October 2010
  #1
Here for the gear
 
🎧 10 years
MCI JH 500 Consoles

These boards along with 400 series are rarely mentioned in the same breath as other vintage consoles like Neve and API. A little research has revealed that a huge sum of recording was done on these back in the 70's to early 80's and big names at that. The MCI's seemed to fall out of fashion.... but not due to the sound. I am surprised that more of the audio design houses are not releasing more MCI JH series inpired racked preamp designs. Given the incredible recording done on these consoles.


Gold Singles

Bee Gees - Tragedy *
Bee Gees - Too Much Heaven *
Bee Gees - How Deep Is Your Love
Bee Gees - Jive Talkin
Bee Gees - You Should Be Dancing *
Bee Gees - Love So Right *
Bee Gees - Staying Alive *
Bee Gees - Saturday Night Fever *
Eagles - One Of These Nights
Eagles - Lyin Eyes
Eagles - New Kid In Town
Eagles - Hotel California
Eric Clapton - I Shot The Sheriff
Elvin Bishop - Fooled Around And Fell In Love
Andy Gibb - I Just Want To Be Your Every Thing
Andy Gibb - Lover is ( Thicker Than Water )
Andy Gibb - An Everlasting Love
Andy Gibb - Shadow Dancing
Joe Walsh - Rocky Mountain way
Samantha Sang - Emotion
Andy Gibb - Our Love (Don’t Throw It All Away)
Grand Funk Railroad - We're An American Band
Rod Stewart - Do You Think I’m Sexy *
Jimmy Buffet - Margaritaville

Gold Albums

Bee Gees - Saturday Night Fever *
Bee Gees - Children Of The World *
Bee Gees - Here At Last – Bee Gees Live *
Bee Gees - Main Course *
Andy Gibb - Flowing Rivers *
Andy Gibb - Shadow Dancing *
Eric Clapton - 461 Ocean Boulevard *
Eric Clapton - History Of Eric Clapton
Grand Funk Railroad - We're An American Band
Eagles - One Of These Nights *
Eagles - Greatest Hits *
Eagles - Hotel California *
Joe Walsh The Smoker - You Drink The Player You Get
Average White Band - AWB
Average White Band - Cut The Cake
Marshall Tucker Band - Together Forever
Soundtrack - Grease *
Crosby, Stills, Nash - CSN
Stills, Young Band - Long May You Run
Old 11th October 2010
  #2
Lives for gear
 
🎧 15 years
MCI

Quote:
Originally Posted by worldsapart ➑️
These boards along with 400 series are rarely mentioned in the same breath as other vintage consoles like Neve and API. A little research has revealed that a huge sum of recording was done on these back in the 70's to early 80's and big names at that. The MCI's seemed to fall out of fashion.... but not due to the sound. I am surprised that more of the audio design houses are not releasing more MCI JH series inpired racked preamp designs. Given the incredible recording done on these consoles.


Gold Singles

Bee Gees - Tragedy *
Bee Gees - Too Much Heaven *
Bee Gees - How Deep Is Your Love
Bee Gees - Jive Talkin
Bee Gees - You Should Be Dancing *
Bee Gees - Love So Right *
Bee Gees - Staying Alive *
Bee Gees - Saturday Night Fever *
Eagles - One Of These Nights
Eagles - Lyin Eyes
Eagles - New Kid In Town
Eagles - Hotel California
Eric Clapton - I Shot The Sheriff
Elvin Bishop - Fooled Around And Fell In Love
Andy Gibb - I Just Want To Be Your Every Thing
Andy Gibb - Lover is ( Thicker Than Water )
Andy Gibb - An Everlasting Love
Andy Gibb - Shadow Dancing
Joe Walsh - Rocky Mountain way
Samantha Sang - Emotion
Andy Gibb - Our Love (Don’t Throw It All Away)
Grand Funk Railroad - We're An American Band
Rod Stewart - Do You Think I’m Sexy *
Jimmy Buffet - Margaritaville

Gold Albums

Bee Gees - Saturday Night Fever *
Bee Gees - Children Of The World *
Bee Gees - Here At Last – Bee Gees Live *
Bee Gees - Main Course *
Andy Gibb - Flowing Rivers *
Andy Gibb - Shadow Dancing *
Eric Clapton - 461 Ocean Boulevard *
Eric Clapton - History Of Eric Clapton
Grand Funk Railroad - We're An American Band
Eagles - One Of These Nights *
Eagles - Greatest Hits *
Eagles - Hotel California *
Joe Walsh The Smoker - You Drink The Player You Get
Average White Band - AWB
Average White Band - Cut The Cake
Marshall Tucker Band - Together Forever
Soundtrack - Grease *
Crosby, Stills, Nash - CSN
Stills, Young Band - Long May You Run
Those consoles sound fantastic.. I had 2 and fully rebuilt them and when I sold them the kids really told me they thought they sounded awesome..
Old 11th October 2010 | Show parent
  #3
Lives for gear
 
🎧 15 years
It always seemed to me that the 600 series really hurt MCI. I can't say that at the time I had enough experience to really understand what was going on technically.

But even I could sense that the 600 was not being accepted the way the previous designs were.

BTW I think some of those records on that list were cut on the console that predated the 400. I never really knew the model....might not have had one. But it had a gate an each track, Davan faders, and one of those patch bays that used push pins to make the connections. My mentor Paul Leka owned it for a while....I think he got it from Criterion.
Old 11th October 2010 | Show parent
  #4
Lives for gear
 
🎧 10 years
Interesting facts about this:

The SSL 4000 was based on the same circuit, signal flow, same CHIPS, same VCAs. (largely a Harrison design from his time at MCI)

Back In Black was also recorded with JH500 and JH24 tape machine

Gus Dudgeon, producer of Elton John, XTC, etc., found the JH500 to be his favorite all-time console, based on SOUND

The console's preamps changed over time (xformer, then no xformer)
Even their less popular pres, the solid state ones, sound fantastic on almost everything I have ever used them on. Nevertheless, MCI anticipated the widespread "outboard preamp movement" by 25 years, by having a patchbay that easily allows for external pres.


My own opinions:
1. 90% of all JH500 that are still around have been negelcted and are in very poor condition, so no one wants to use them.

2. Many of today's engineers learned the ropes on these consoles in the 70s and 80s, and they don't like them because its like "going back to school"

3. In the 70's and 80's, they did a lot of turn-key equipment packages for studios, SO they were UBIQUITOUS, kind of like Digi/Avid is today, which created alot of resentment, just like today.

4. The early ones (rev A and B) were a little noisey becaue the eq section was POST FADER.

5. MCI was a leading developer of Differential I/O circuits using opamps, and of course OpAmps will never make it on gearslutz

(they also devleoped the 2" tape format, the autolocator, DC Capstans for tape machines, and the console "inline" concept)


here is my 500:
Attached Thumbnails
MCI JH 500 Consoles-crmain07.jpg  
Old 11th October 2010 | Show parent
  #5
Lives for gear
 
analogtodd's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
I question that list...
I don't question that a 500 is a pretty cool console though.

They are big, they are old, 90% of the ones still running are in crap shape. It takes a big of knowledge to get them tuned up! heh

But yeah, they are cool
Old 11th October 2010 | Show parent
  #6
Here for the gear
 
🎧 10 years
The MCI brand was predominant at Criteria Studios which generated alot of hits in the 70's. Can anyone compare the sound of the NEVE 1073 and the early API preamps (especially their effect on electric guitars) on the earlier consoles with the MCI 400 and 500 series preamps?
Old 11th October 2010 | Show parent
  #7
Lives for gear
 
SoZo's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
I believe Pantara Cowboys from hell on a MCI 500 also... Some metal guys really like the 500...
Old 11th October 2010 | Show parent
  #8
Lives for gear
 
analogtodd's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
sometimes a 1073 works, sometimes it doesn't.... I don't focus on the individual components too much anymore.

Whats your workflow like, how can you get around on the console, those sorta things are important.

I don't think the MCI 500 EQ is nearly as wide as a 1073, its cool in its own way though. Sometimes the VCA's totally suck, sometime they rock... Sometimes stacking up a bunch of 1272's on a Neve sucks, sometimes its cool
Old 11th October 2010 | Show parent
  #9
Gear Maniac
 
Don Hearl's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
So what is it about the 600 that hurt the MCI rep? The MCI guys I know dig it.
Old 11th October 2010 | Show parent
  #10
Lives for gear
 
🎧 10 years
Here are some "lesser known, yet commercially available" entries for the JH-500 list, recorded on our JH-536, off the top of my head:

Cas Haley "Connection" 2010 Easy Star Records, Many basic tracks and overdubs, including his acoustic cover of Alecia Keys "No One", which was done with a few channels of the JH-500 solid state pre.

Tim Urban (American Idol) forthcoming album tracked 95% on the JH-500, using board pre's.

Drowning Pool "Full Circle" 2008, with the song "37 Stitches" (#5 billboard hit) tracked almost completely on JH-500

Drowning Pool "Loudest Common Denominator" 2009, live album mixed on the JH-500, with 1 studio song recorded and mixed on JH-500, using the console pre's.

Butthole Surfers "Hairway To Steven" 1988, one of the first digital multitrack recordings done in Texas.

Gravity Kills- some of the early recordings

The Neville Brothers "Live At Tipitina's Vol 2" 1992 extensive overdub and mix on the JH-500
Old 11th October 2010 | Show parent
  #11
Lives for gear
 
🎧 15 years
A portion of Pink Floyd's The Wall was done on a 400 series (link to pics below).... I heard they had some of the drop in modded preamps, done by Valley People, I have a few they sound good and compliment the transformer based preamps well...... PS for those with the 500 or 400 series. Sage electronics has a drop in discrete op amp replacement that sound wise puts the consoles over the top and truly up there with the best..... Think about it..... how many chips does an ssl or the like have in a single channel, let along the whole console. In a 400 there are 6 amplifier stages in the whole console, including the eq, which can be switched out. That is about as clean as audio gets in a console.... well worth the investment, or even just a call. He is a really cool guy.

Britannia Row Studios
Old 11th October 2010 | Show parent
  #12
Motown legend
 
Bob Olhsson's Avatar
 
🎧 20 years
The JH-500 was a great sounding console for the first few years of its life. Then the cold solder joints started going bad and most of the top studios sold them rather than paying somebody to re-solder everything. Used ones have a terrible reputation for good reason.
Old 11th October 2010 | Show parent
  #13
Lives for gear
 
🎧 15 years
I know the 500 has a lot more going on with it, but my 400 is from 1976 and it is as clean as could be. I thinks anybody that buys ANY console in bad shape (without knowing what it takes to get it back in shape) should not be a console owner.
Old 11th October 2010 | Show parent
  #14
Gear Addict
 
Tousana's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
It was one of the boards I learned on, and was one of my favorites. The one I worked on was huge 48 inputs. It had the primitive tape based automation and the plasma metering. As I remember it had big headroom and sounded pretty good. I don't know if John Hardy still makes a version of his pre that drops right into the board.thumbsup
Old 11th October 2010 | Show parent
  #15
Lives for gear
 
Harvey Gerst's Avatar
 
🎧 20 years
Here's ours:

MCI 556D
Old 11th October 2010 | Show parent
  #16
Gear Maniac
 
bewareofdogs's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by TRJanuary ➑️
1. 90% of all JH500 that are still around have been negelcted and are in very poor condition, so no one wants to use them.
It couldn't be more true!
Old 11th October 2010 | Show parent
  #17
Lives for gear
 
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Don Hearl ➑️
So what is it about the 600 that hurt the MCI rep? The MCI guys I know dig it.
Thats a good question. But I think even if you search around here you will find a few 500 over 600 posts. As us always the fashion in consoles, the 600 has more features in less space (hmmmm..the 500 had bigger knobs...).

I would assume the trannies were gone, although that was also the fashion of the time.

I see people seeking out 500s to refurb. Not so much 600s.

Basically, the 500 had the big reputation that the 600 never quite lived up to, not that it was/is a bad board.

BTW you can add all the great J. Geils to that list. Dome in the house at Longview Farms. Before they had the studio in the barn they had run lines from the 500 in the house to the barn for drums.

I was taught on a 400 and JH16. Mt memories of the 400 are not nearly as rosey of the 400 as of the 500.
Old 11th October 2010 | Show parent
  #18
Gear Maniac
 
🎧 15 years
Quote:
I don't know if John Hardy still makes a version of his pre that drops right into the board.
I have the MPC-500C that is a direct plug-in for the MCI JH500C series consoles and SOME of the 500D series. There were a couple of versions of mic preamp cards in the "D" series, with a different connector arrangement for each version. My MPC-500C card only works with one of those versions.

John Hardy
The John Hardy Co.
The John Hardy Co. Home
Old 11th October 2010 | Show parent
  #19
Gear Maniac
 
mattallen's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
From the MCI consoles I've heard in action, at a session, the 500 was the winner. The 500 just has great sounding mic pres. There is no way around it, they just got it right on that console. The 500 channel strip has over 1000 parts per module. Many say they are maintenance heavy, but I know of a handful that have been maintained or properly restored and they have been extremely stable, good consoles. Lots of headroom!!

The 400 is a nice simple little desk. I always tend to hear a kind of hashy undefined sound in the situations I've been around them. I think that's partly because the 2 Mix really can't handle all that much. There are some 400s out there with many mods and poor opamp replacements. Recapping them makes a large difference, and don't forget the power supplies! 400's do have a sound, it's just figuring out if it's good for you or not. Overall a very simple console that's decently easy to work on, though there have been quite a few head scratching moments with Blevin's and I staring at the audio motherboard!

The 600 was trying to get back to making a simple console but combining features from the 400 and 500 series. The console has a transformer-less mic pre. I can not remember for sure, but I think they lost the transformer in/out also. It would make sense for the times. The 600 has a pretty mediocre sound. It's not bad, but it's not great. A quote from Blevin's was a meat and potatoes console. You have everything in a nice and easy to use package, for a reasonable cost. The MCI slogan really. It's just not the winner sonically compared to the 400 or 500 though pretty easy consoles to keep running and easy enough to work on.
Old 11th October 2010 | Show parent
  #20
Lives for gear
 
Bill@AudioVision's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
I've got to wonder what Sony had to do with MCI's demise. Few of these 'big guy takes over little guy' acquisitions bode well for the 'little guy'.
Old 12th October 2010 | Show parent
  #21
Motown legend
 
Bob Olhsson's Avatar
 
🎧 20 years
I heard the little guy got caught trying to start a new company while he was still on Sony's payroll.

To be clear, MCIs ARE very much fixable but you can't just assume that they've been fixed.
Old 12th October 2010 | Show parent
  #22
Lives for gear
 
analogtodd's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Better pick some 500 modules up on ebay!!!!

eBay - New & used electronics, cars, apparel, collectibles, sporting goods & more at low prices
Old 12th October 2010 | Show parent
  #23
Lives for gear
 
Outlaw Hans's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
The 400 and 500's are very good sounding consoles. There are people who question if those consoles had anything to do with the sound of those records (Early Elton John etc.) Well, I invite anyone who is of that opinion into my studio to record a bit of drums on my jh-428. I've had crispy (yet good sounding) drumkits in the studio. I swear; once they hit the console they're soft and old school. Everything the mci touches has that seventees vibe to it. This is may not be for you but personally I love it.
People who come to my studio are looking for that sound and they hear it even when we're not using the jh24 2" and tracking to protools. It has that tape-like quality to it.
I do have V72's and such but I use the onboard pres more and more. Instruments blend really well with the jh-400.
There are upgrades like replacing the old opamps. However I find that the character of those consoles really is in the design and tranny's. You can make it a little more hi-fi by modding it which is cool. But there's little wrong with them stock.
Old 12th October 2010 | Show parent
  #24
Gear Addict
 
Philip S Bova's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Not to get too off the jh500 topic... but I think the best part of the 400's signature sound is in the transformers, and the not so best part is in the 2001 IC. Once those 2001s are out of the console and a discreet opamp is put in place everything from the mic pres to the EQ's to the master bus really shines IMO. From what I've heard (never seen though), the first six 400's ever made were actually discreet.
Old 12th October 2010 | Show parent
  #25
Lives for gear
 
analogtodd's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Everything you've ever needed in a console is in a 500.... sometimes its just not labeled what you think it should be....
Old 12th October 2010 | Show parent
  #26
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Outlaw Hans's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Hey Philip! I really want to hear some proper comparisons between your opamp and the stock 400. I have a couple of strips modded with opa604's and the improvement isn't that earth shaking. Mind you, I think the mci's sound very good stock. How bout you mix and/or record something with the 2001's and the discreet opamps. Your opamps aren't cheap and I just want to hear if it's worth the investment ' cause I've been thinking of modding at least the master section and two channels with your opamp. It isnt just for me I think many 400 owners would be interested.
Old 12th October 2010 | Show parent
  #27
Gear Addict
 
Philip S Bova's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Hey Hans. My father is actually the one who designed and builds these opamps. I know it's confusing, we share the same name and a studio to work in but he runs Sage. I'll pass along your message to him. You can email him directly [email protected].

All the best.

Philip
Old 12th October 2010 | Show parent
  #28
Gear Maniac
 
Don Hearl's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
I appreciate the comments. I've seen the comparisons on slutz, and I have my own experiences to add:

I own a 1984 JH618 and a recapped, transformer coupled JH110A 1" 8 track (built in 1979 with quick punch capability and Woelke erase heads). I get all the tone, mojo, whatever you call it, you can stand...I mix to 1/4" tape at 15 ips then back to the box through Lynx converters.

The board feels good, is massively SOLID, is well laid out, and the small size makes it perfect for a small studio space. I think it's the perfect front end for mixing OTB, as well. Getting headphone mixes is a snap. The board has really impacted my workflow in a positive way and sounds good too.

The 600 series gets slagged alot. I just want to bring some perspective.

Don
Old 12th October 2010 | Show parent
  #29
Lives for gear
 
analogtodd's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
ohhh come on now, lets have none of that "first hand experience" stuff Don!

Its all about 2nd hand and pure speculation around here!
Old 12th October 2010 | Show parent
  #30
Lives for gear
 
analogtodd's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
you know I'm joking right.....
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