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Home | Library | Articles | Handle Bigger Projects

Handle Bigger Projects

by Dale Manquen
Dale was Flying Faders product manager from 1987 to 1999.

Article summary: Expanding your existing system. Detailed description of ACX features, and integrating ACX with your Flying Faders.

Featured in Audio Horizons Fall 1998 PDF 520k | Newsletter List
Flying Faders ACX Product Information

If space is at a premium in your control room and you are turning away projects due to the limited number of automated inputs in your mixing console, we have the answer to your prayers. You can now handle those bigger projects with the full-featured, moving fader channels of the Martinsound Automated Console Expander (ACX), an automated 'sidecar' that may be fully integrated with the host console's multitrack, auxiliary, stereo and solo buses, and integrates completely with Flying Faders.

Martinsound first became involved in the automated sidecar console business in 1993 with the development of the original 'Miniconsole' for film dubbing rooms. The Miniconsole offered the bare necessities for studios seeking to add more inputs to their consoles: 24 channels of fader and mute automation, with assignment switches to 6 buses. Four of these Flying Faders-automated units were built for rental, and during the next 4 years were used on over 70 major motion pictures by 11 major dubbing theaters.

We soon noticed that the projects in music recording studios were outgrowing the 60-, 72- and even 96-input consoles. Buying a new, larger console is expensive and, in many studios, there is often no space in the control room for a bigger desk. Consider, too, those studios with older 'classic' consoles that are no longer manufactured. Finding vintage modules to match their particular model of console is near impossible, not to mention the prohibitive costs of custom-engineering a larger frame.

Adding an inexpensive analog or even digital outboard mixer would seem to be the logical solution, but many studios are simply not prepared to compromise their audio quality. The engineer also loses the ability to conveniently save the automation mix information for all of the channels, making remixes a nightmare.

The minimal functionality of the Miniconsole was not a problem for dubbing theaters, where many of the tracks being mixed had been processed during the pre-dub stage. Music recording studios also needed more inputs, but they required more features than those offered on the Miniconsole. The situation called for a 'sidecar' that could be fully integrated into the buses and automation system of the studio's console, and with faceplate features that were closely matched to those on their own desks. The Martinsound design team responded with the ACX.

The versatile ACX input module was designed to include a 4 band equalizer with sweepable high- and low-pass filters, 4 auxiliary sends, assignment to 8 buses plus a stereo mix, panning, direct output, insert, manual mute and non-destructive solo switches. All inputs and outputs (including the direct output and the insert send and return) plus the summing buses are balanced to provide maximum noise immunity and dynamic range.

The equalizer features two switchable Q settings on the two mid-frequency bands and peak or shelf selection on the High and Low frequency ranges. The frequency and boost/cut controls are continuously variable. The two filters may be individually switched into the signal path.

Each channel strip features two line inputs with separate detented trim controls and associated screwdriver-adjustable calibration pots. The two inputs may be selected individually or summed, doubling the number of inputs that may be monitored through the console, or allowing easy comparison between two stem mixes, for example. The Input Select and Sum switches may be automated.

Complete integration with Flying Faders allows mix data for the console and the ACX to be saved as a single computer file and permits the ACX to be included in global solo and group assignments. Additionally, four module switches - Input Select, Input Sum, EQ In and Insert - may be automated with the optional events control features of Flying Faders.

A 24-channel, 48 input ACX measures just 30 inches (76.2cm) wide and only 32 inches (81.3cm) front-to-back, fitting easily into control rooms with limited available floor space. Sixteen and 32 channel frames are also available. All configurations include an extra module slot for customization.

Martinsound's Senior Vice President, Dale Manquen notes, "For the studios that are dedicated to preserving vintage analog consoles, the ACX permits the addition of more high quality channels at an affordable price. On the other hand, studios poised to make the plunge into an all-digital console may choose to hold back for a year or two while the features and pricing improve. A modest investment in an ACX will help to keep the studio competitive during the interim." ACX systems are also offered for rent.

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