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A non-pros methods for checking out a console
Old 5th February 2009
Gear Nut
🎧 15 years
A non-pros methods for checking out a console

Hi. I'm wondering if anyone has suggestions for methods for non-techs (ie. "laymen" or "musicians") reasonably "check out" a used console, in a reasonable amount of time, when shopping around, especially when the console can only be plugged in but isn't fully "set up" (with, say, signal running through all inputs, auxes/groups hooked up, masters and monitor outputs connected to spekers/recording devices, etc.). This is a question that's plagued myself and friends for quite a while. I'd just like some suggestions for "the rest of us" to make sure a console isn't seriously messed up.

I know there are myriad methods and tools that techs use for a comprehensive check-out. For example, I have an iBook with a tone generator on it and an Apogee duet. Is there something I could do with those tools and headphones and some cabling, like sweeping tones out of the generator into each channel and then sending the direct outputs, auxes, masters, etc. back into the laptop? What to watch for - bumps or dropouts during the sweep?

Please let's try not to read too deeply into this question. I know a tech, or even an expert, would start to debate my definition of "reasonable" amount of time, or what's "reasonable" depth in checking something out, or how checking out a 12-channel Mackie would differ from checking out a 128-channel SSL. Let us not overthink this too much. Let me, for the sake of argument then, even define some parameters for the sake of simplicity - so then people can scale the time/effort involved themselves when looking at more or less complex consoles:

-24-channel Midas Venice or other mid-size board
-1-3 hours to check it out (give or take)
-Person checking it out is not too technically proficient on "the bench" and prefers to limit himself to portable, basic tools (tone generator, laptop, audio interface, maybe a multimeter)

Hope other people find this thread useful. Again, I know there are loads of technically proficient people on here, but I think often we musicians, producers, and hobbyists who usually need bring our gear to shops to get fixed find ourselves on our own when shopping and need some guidance when kicking the tires on a used console.
Old 5th February 2009
Lives for gear
dubrichie's Avatar
1 Review written
🎧 15 years
if you can't test drive the board, with SOMETHING connected to all ins and outs, don't buy it.

the ideal situation would be if the board was currently in a working setup and you could bring a hard drive with a multitrack recording of your own to mix on it.

check every switch, pot, fader, the lot.

mix your track on it.

happy? = buy it.

not happy? = don't buy it.

i'll say again, if you can't test it properly and thoroughly, DON'T BUY IT.
Old 5th February 2009 | Show parent
Gear Nut
🎧 15 years
Good advice. Obviously running a mix through is great, but my post was taking into consideration that it is not always practical...in my experience, it happens infrequently as people have often de-installed the console being sold. I'd hate to not buy a really nice desk because it was in a storeroom rather than currently being used, that's why I'm wondering about a kind of portable, simple, one- or two-channel-at-a-time solution (ins through channels while monitoring/testing outs/sends/etc). Anyway, keep the advice coming...thanks...
Old 5th February 2009 | Show parent
Gear Guru
Brent Hahn's Avatar
1 Review written
🎧 15 years
Actually, you can often hear subtle problems in a signal path (harmonic distortion, intermittencies and the like) much easier with a 1k tone than you can with musical material.
Old 6th February 2009 | Show parent
Gear Nut
🎧 15 years
Yes, my thoughts too...
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