Back in the early days a lot of the mixers that were in use were one-of-a-kind or handbuilt by the "sound company". I know we built some strange creatures, and I used a few built by others.
What were some of your strangest encounters, either your own or from others?
Around Minneapolis there were several console builders in the 1970s.
My first "real" console, circa 1976, was an 18 channel Straight Up Systems board designed by Mark Wingo. I built the exterior from Honduras Mahogany, it featured a drink rack the width of the console beneath the rotary volume faders.
It had a 5 channel drum sub-master section, 4 auxes, and stereo main outputs.
The drum sub had it’s own pan controls, so for drum solos one could rotate the two seperately and get some weird pan positions for all the drums with just two knobs.
All Bourns potentiometers, that board is still in occasional use last I checked.
In 1978-9 Mill City Systems built a monitor console to my specifications, kind of a cross between a Yamaha PM1000 and a Stevensen Interface monitor console.
Stevensen was to my knowledge, the first USA company making dedicated monitor consoles with 8 aux sends.
Jim Giesler lost most of his remaining hair figuring out how to make the Mill City monitor board's features conform to my ergonomic requests.
It had an 8 position input pad, Jensen input transformers, 3 way tone with 8 switchable mid frequencies and 8 mixes. It was as strong as a Midas, 24 all steel individual channels. We had incorporated all the best features of the desks (other than parametric EQ, more difficult and knob intensive) current at that time.
As many board of the time, It was a one of a kind unit, stolen in 1985 with a complete system including a used Midas console that had just made it across the pond. We had just installed multi connectors for inserts and effects on the back of the Midas, I never got to mix on it in the week before it went on tour.
The Mill City Monitor console channels circuit boards each were imprinted with "custom made for Art Welter", that board probably never could have been fenced.
I recovered much of the speaker system and the splitter snake in 1994, I still wonder about the fate of those two desks.
The most interesting looking consoles of that erra were a pair of "Captain Nemo" desks built for Anicom (After Now Communications) in the late 1970's.
Like Clair's flip top console of that era, the Captain Nemo desk had parametric EQ, a rarity at the time.
The outstanding feature which led to it's nickname was triangular shaped channels allowing the bottom to be just little over the Penny & Giles fader width, while wider at the top allowing all the many knobs to have room to grab.
The pair of desks were 40 channels when linked, but the 40 channel and 10 sub and main faders only took up about 38 inches in width, while the upper portion of the console arced out in a semi circle. The board could be split so Anicom could do two 20 channel shows simultaniously. 16 channel boards were plenty for most groups back then.
Picture a pizza pie cut in half, a small semi-circle cut out of the flat side, then sliced into 50 slices and you have the visual. The semicircular Captain Nemo board had a steep up angle reminiscent of a Greek ampitherater.
The triangular channel feature should have caught on, all the 800 or so knobs and faders were within easy arm’s reach without having to move from the sweet spot at the helm of the Captain Nemo desk.
As was typical of many consoles of that era, grounding and connector problems were rife, the Captain Nemo boards were hard to keep functional and frequently buzzy, clients would request "anything that works" over what was viewed at the time as kind of a science fiction nightmare.
I can remember tales of Albert L. of Audio Analysts in search of sonic purity spending untold thousands of dollars and hours trying to eliminate transformers from from the audio chain.
Although it would work in the shop, in the field one off tolerance resister or capacitor out of thousands in a pair of Soundcraft desks could still make the entire system buzz.
The rest of us were resigned to buying expensive high quality input and splitter transformers and lift pin 1 on all the monitor inputs to avoid radio noise and ground loop hums and buzz.
It still amazes me that a pair of commonslob cheap & cheerful consoles costing less in today’s inflated money than the price of a 1975 era set of transformers can now be linked with simple “Y” cord connection and not make any noise.