Seck 16-8-2 Mixer
In the two years that it has been available, the Seck 1682 has achieved a reputation as a comprehensive and versatile mixing desk at a competitive price. It was initially designed as a mixer that would be equally suited to eight-track recording or PA work for it originally appeared built into a very substantial flightcase. Subsequently, the 1682 has been offered also in a 'studio version', at a slightly lower price, which is better suited to any situation where it won't have to be moved around very much.
The chassis of the studio version is the same as the 'road' desk but set into an attractively designed housing made from a very tough and rigid polyurethane material. The distinctive dark brown finish of the chassis and the white legending is very tough, mine has survived a year of constant use without any permanent marking.
The working surface is gently sloped towards the operator. At its rear edge a stylishly angled meter pod houses ten illuminated VU meters, one for each output group and a pair for the main stereo output. The choice of standard VU meters rather than LED column metering goes against current trends in this area of the market. If you are used to VUs, and know how to interpret them, then they are perfectly adequate, but for the less experienced user the faster response of the LED column and its eyecatching colour change at the 0VU point might be preferable.
The mixer is very clearly and logically laid out in three blocks - the sixteen input channels, eight group outputs with their associated monitor controls above, and on the far right the master outputs, auxiliary masters and two auxiliary returns. The master output faders being at the opposite end to the input channels, rather than in the centre of the desk where they are often placed, doesn't present any real difficulty when fading a mix as the desk is fairly compact, with an overall length of just over a metre. The top of each control knob is colour-coded according to its function which considerably assists instant identification of a particular control within a block.
At the top of each input channel lies the Mic/Line selector switch and gain control, the switches on channels 9-16 being labelled Mic/Tape. The 'tape returns' to the monitor channels are 'normalled' to these line inputs so no re-patching is necessary for mixdown. A 20 dB pad, operative only on the mic input, can be inserted to handle excessively high input levels, the gain control, however, remains active on both the mic and line input which can be very useful for making up level on an under-recorded track when mixing.
Three band equalisation is provided with a shelving high frequency control offering 16 dB of cut or boost at 12 kHz (does anybody really ever use 16 dB of boost at 12 kHz?). The low frequency control is also of the shelving type, giving plus or minus 16 dB at 100 Hz, an interesting choice of frequency, operating a whole octave above some of its competitors' 50 Hz bass controls. In practice, I find the 100 Hz control on the Seck to be just about right for adding depth to bass or bass drum, or real warmth to acoustic piano without running the risk of boominess at extreme low frequencies.
The Mid control is sweepable between 600 Hz and 10 kHz and the available 12 dB of cut and boost is all you should ever need. It could be argued that if you need that much equalisation in the Mid region where the ear is most sensitive, other than to create a special effect, then you should be seriously thinking about altering the sound at source, by changing the mic or mic position.
It might perhaps be preferable if the Mid sweep control were to operate a little lower down the frequency spectrum than it does, 300 Hz to 8 kHz would be more useful. As it is, the top end of its operation can often be duplicated by the treble control while the limitation on the bottom end of the sweep range leaves a bit of a gap before the low frequency control becomes effective. However, at 600 Hz it goes just low enough to be perfect for adding 'growl' to bass guitar while cutting in this region can be particularly useful for cleaning up close-miked drum sounds.
Overall the EQ is very easy to work with, not so much as a corrective device, the bass control won't take out hum or rumble or the treble control remove hiss from a noisy amp without detracting significantly from the wanted signal, but in its creative uses where it can be used quickly and instinctively to enhance and focus a sound. When used subtly it is a pleasingly smooth-sounding EQ which only begins to sound harsh at the most extreme settings.
Above each input channel fader is a fast acting LED peak overload indicator monitoring the level after the equaliser, which will often flash or glow when using significant amounts of boost EQ. It is important to remember that the solution is not to pull down the input fader or necessarily to reduce the amount of EQ used, but to turn down the input gain. The optimum gain setting both from the point of view of noise and overload margin is achieved by keeping the fader at its 'working position' ie. 75% of its travel, usually 10 dB from maximum. Any downward movement of an input or group fader from this position when setting levels or equalising is reducing the available headroom and increasing the possibility of distortion within the desk. Of course, once the gain controls have been set, any fader can be adjusted to alter its contribution to a mix, but if restoring the fader to the reference setting causes the meter to indicate overload then the gain should be re-set.
Three auxiliary sends are provided on the input channels, auxiliaries 1 and 2 being pre-fade and therefore most suited to foldback applications, while the post-fade auxiliary 3 handles echo or reverb. It would be very useful to have Aux 2 switchable pre or post-fader, for whilst two pre-fade foldback mixes are most valuable when recording, two post-fade effects sends would be equally valued when mixing. However I do recognise that for a console with this number of features to sell at this price, some compromises do have to be made and on the whole I think the designer has always taken the right option.
The auxiliaries are followed by the Pan control and its associated routing switches. Channels can be routed direct to the mix bus or to pairs of groups with assignment to a single output being achieved by panning fully left or right across a pair of groups. There is no channel mute provided but the Operator's Manual suggests that you use the routing switches to mute unwanted channels. This does work but it doesn't actually turn the channel off and its auxiliaries remain active, consequently the signal can sometimes still be heard via an auxiliary return. So if you want to mute a channel out of the mix by this method, you must remember to check that its auxiliary sends are turned off first.
The input channel is completed by a 100mm travel fader which has a pleasantly smooth action, and a PFL switch which activates a warning lamp in the master section and routes the channel's signal directly into the monitoring for quality and level checking in isolation.
Above the group output faders are the monitor channels, each switchable to monitor either the output of the group or the return from the tape machine. Apart from the level control there is a pan facility so your monitor mix can begin to build up the stereo picture that you will use on mixdown, and also a feed to Aux 1 which is used to create an independent pre-fade foldback mix of previously recorded tape tracks for the musician's headphones when overdubbing.
A PFL switch just above each fader permits instant quality and level checking of any of the groups in isolation. There is no direct provision for adding reverb to the monitor mix, as is often desirable when overdubbing, but as it is so easy to switch the tape returns into the input channels, the facility can be arranged if you need it.
On the far right of the desk are the separate left and right master output faders, an arrangement which I prefer to a ganged stereo master fader, and immediately above them lie two auxiliary return channels, each able to be fully routed and panned. Although I normally always prefer to return reverb into spare input channels, the fact that these Aux returns can be routed to the group outputs has been of particular value on an occasion when all the input channels were in use and it was necessary to record drums, with appropriate reverb, in stereo across two tracks. The three auxiliary masters each have enough gain to interface with a wide variety of different units and there is a useful PFL facility on each one.
The master control area is completed by a talkback mic switch, and its level control, which operates only into Aux 1. Unlike some desks this talkback circuit doesn't automatically reduce the monitor and foldback levels, making possible continuous two-way communication during overdubbing, which can be very useful under certain circumstances. An overall monitor level control is provided along with a stereo tape return selector for listening to playbacks or for A/B comparison when mixing.
All connections are made to the sloping rear panel behind the meter housing, the transformerless balanced mic inputs being latching XLRs, the eight group and two main outputs also XLRs, and all other sockets unbalanced ¼" jacks. Insert points for line level effects or processors are provided on all sixteen input channels, connection being made through a stereo ¼" jack with the 'send' on the tip and the 'return' on the ring. This is a convenient system which also saves space on the connector panel and helps keep the 'spaghetti' of leads in this area to a minimum.
Power to the mixer is supplied by an external 19" rack-mounting power supply occupying one unit of rack space (one 'rack unit' in a standard 19" equipment rack equals 1¾" of vertical rack space). The rear panel has a captive mains input lead and DC supply output lead which connects to the desk through a latching five pin XLR. The idea behind the use of an external power supply is to keep the AC (mains) components away from the audio electronics by sending only the necessary DC voltage into the mixer, thus minimising the possibility of 50 Hz hum pick-up.
The outputs normally operate at 0 dBm (0.775V) although conversion to the -10 format is easy and most good dealers will supply any configuration you want. The most common arrangement is probably to have the group outputs operating at -10 to interface with a Japanese multitrack, while the main stereo output remains at the higher level to drive a Revox or similar mastering machine.
Rather surprisingly there is no provision for 'phantom powering' of condenser microphones on this desk, although it is available as a modification from the distributors Bandive at modest cost, but I can't really see why it isn't included as standard.
The overall noise performance, particularly the transformerless mic amp, is very respectable, the noise contribution of the desk being insignificant compared to the tape noise on most multitracks, even with noise reduction in use.
The internal construction is very solid with all connectors and pots soldered directly to the circuit boards which are then interconnected with very solid wire. Whilst this method should ensure a robust reliability it might suggest that servicing of an individual board would not be too easy, but the fact that I have not yet had cause to find out speaks for itself.
The Seck 1682 has the virtue of being very easy to work with, even for the inexperienced user, the controls are clearly identified and the routing is always logical. It offers just about all the facilities you could ever need on an eight-track studio desk and the designer has chosen the necessary areas of compromise most sensibly. Interestingly, the logical upgrade for the Seck, to sixteen monitor channels, is expected to be available from Bandive before long and will no doubt give a further boost to its popularity.
When the level of performance and the comprehensive facilities are set alongside the highly competitive price it is easy to see how the Seck 1682 has gained its reputation for giving excellent value for money.
The Seck 1682 sells for £1092.50 and is distributed by Bandive Ltd, (Contact Details).
User Report by Dave Lockwood
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