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Sound Craftmanship

The Soundcraft 200B.


The Soundcraft 200B 8:4:2 Mixer is the successor to the popular 200 series design and incorporates some worthwhile improvements.


The 200B series of mixing consoles which supercede the 200 series offer 8, 16 or 24 input formats and a rack mounting version is also available incorporating eight input channels. Under review is the 8:4:2 which offers 8-track monitoring in addition to 4-band EQ and 48v phantom power.

In terms of frontal area, the console is very compact, but because of its layout and the choice of small control knobs, it's still uncluttered and easy to operate. All connections both to and from the mixer are situated on the rear panel and the mixer case is unusually deep to accommodate this. Even with this larger than average cabinet volume, the power supply is still kept separate to ensure minimum hum pick-up and this is housed in a strong steel case which connects to the mixer via a locking multi-pin cable/connector system.

Though the mixer's features look pretty conventional, the mechanical and electronic design is to a very high standard and the Series 200B is obviously designed with professional use in mind. A modular design has been adopted for ease of servicing and this also helps in manufacture as the same channel modules are used throughout the 200B range of consoles. Another advantage is that the input module can be replaced by a stereo line module for broadcast use if required.

Channels



Transformerless electronically balanced inputs are employed for both the mic and the line inputs and there is a pushbutton 20dB mic pad as well as the 30dB attenuator for line use. The mic input is via an XLR connector and phantom power, individually switchable on all the mic inputs, is a standard feature. A differential low noise PNP transistor pair is used in the front end, which is similar in design to that used in many mixer circuits to date, and the gain is variable from 20dB to 60dB by means of a conventionally positioned gain pot.

Moving down the panel we come to the EQ section which is a fixed frequency 4-band affair, again using conventional tried and tested circuitry. AH the controls offer +/-15dB of cut or boost at their respective frequencies and as you might expect, the high and low frequency controls have shelving characteristics whilst the mid-ranges have a fixed bandpass response. From high to low the frequencies chosen are 12kHz, 5kHz, 250Hz and 60Hz respectively and all the controls have centre detent positions.

Auxiliaries can be defined as those knobs of which there are never enough, but this little desk gives us four which is a good start. Less logical is the method of selecting pre- or post-fade however as this must be set up inside the mixer using plug-in jumper connectors on the circuit boards. The arrangement is that the auxiliaries are treated in pairs, 1,2 and 3,4. Each pair may be linked to operate as pre- or post-fade and may also be selected as being fed from the pre- or post-EQ signal. This is a fine selection of choices but if you want one pre-fade send for foldback use during record and four post-fade effect sends during mixdown, you're stumped. Even at the expense of cluttering up the panel design, the addition of selector switches would have been well worthwhile.

The centre detected Pan control works in the usual way in that it pans the signal from left to right during mixdown and, in conjunction with the routing buttons, decides the destination output group when track-laying or bouncing is in progress. This is a true pan control using a double pot to ensure that the sum of the output levels is constant for all positions of the control.



"The console is very compact, but because of its layout and the choice of small control knobs, it is still uncluttered and easy to operate."


Below the Pan control are five push buttons, two of which are used for routing to the output subgroups. These are labelled 1,2 and 3,4 and the pan control position determines the amount of signal going to odd and even group busses. For example, if you want to route channel one to output group four, you would select button 3,4 and turn the Pan control fully clockwise. The button labelled Mix routes the signals to the stereo output busses and this position would normally be selected when the off-tape signals are being mixed down into stereo.

Rather than the conventional mute type of arrangement, this console uses the opposite approach and gives you Channel On buttons with green indicator LEDs to show you when the channel is active. This is a nice touch as it's sometimes difficult to see the position of a push button without some kind of indicator.

Completing the complement of buttons is a latching PFL switch, and below this is a Peak indicating LED that lights when the channel circuitry is about to run out of headroom. Intelligent use of the level control whilst keeping an eye on this LED lets you steer a course between the Scilla of distortion and the Charybdis of noise.

Use of a PFL button causes that channel only to be present at the monitor output, all the others being muted, and a red LED on the master panel lets you know when at least one PFL button is selected. This indication is essential as an undetected PFL or AFL button pushed in can cause a lot of head scratching.

The long throw channel fader is one of the smoothest that I have ever encountered on a mixer of this price and indeed, all the controls have a very upmarket feel to them.

All the input channels are in the form of plug-in modules built onto a steel front panel which has folded sides for strength. Two rather useful plastic scribble strips run the length of the mixer above and below the channel modules for marking with a Chinograph type of pencil.



"I would be very happy to use this desk for 4-track work but I would think twice before using it for any length of time in an 8-track configuration."


Master Module



The master module houses the illuminated moving coil VU meters, the output groups, the auxiliary masters and the monitoring system. In addition there's a talkback facility, and an alignment oscillator as well as the obligatory phones output.

Normally the four VU meters will be used to monitor the output groups though they may also be used to monitor the stereo output in remix mode or the auxiliary levels. If a PFL or AFL button is depressed, the meters will monitor the PFL/AFL busses which will also be fed to the headphones and there are eight monitor return channels which means that this mixer could be used for 8-track recording without too much fuss. Each monitor return has its own Level, Auxiliary and Pan control, the auxiliary being connected to the Aux 1 buss. Returns five to eight are dedicated tape or FX returns whereas sections one to four are used to monitor either the group outputs to tape or the tape/FX returns. When the button labelled RET is up, the group output is monitored. All eight monitor channels have their own PFL buttons and channels one to four have SUB buttons, use of which causes the group fader below to override the return volume control. If RET is selected in this mode, the Volume control still controls the signal from the return socket and routes it to the group below. In effect this gives you extra inputs with Level, Pan and Aux controls if required. This sounds a bit confusing on paper but it all starts to make sense when you come to use the console.

The group faders control the four group output levels and employ the same high quality faders as the input channels.

Auxiliary Masters



All four auxiliary busses have master level controls and an associated AFL button for use in setting up levels, and to the right of this section is the Oscillator Level and On switch. The oscillator frequency is 1 kHz and it may be routed to the group and auxiliary busses. Uses include setting up levels, calibrating meters between mixer and tape machine and putting cue tones on tape.

Beneath this latter section is a built-in electret talk-back mic which has two routing buttons in addition to its Level control. It may be sent to the four group busses plus the auxiliaries or only to auxiliaries one and two (as decided by the routing switches). The stereo headphone output socket is sensibly located at the bottom right hand side of the front panel.

Rear Panel



On the rear panel are all the input and output connectors (with the exception of the headphone socket). Each input channel has a mic input in the form of an XLR socket below which is a low profile toggle switch for enabling the phantom power. XLR wiring is to the currently accepted standard of pin 1 ground, pin 2 hot and pin 3 cold.



"Some may see the fixed frequency EQ as being a limitation but the ranges have been well chosen."


The line input is in the form of a balanced jack input at the bottom of the panel and the insert point is right at the top. Again this uses a stereo jack socket where the tip is the return and the ring is the send.

Moving our attention to the master section of the panel, we find that the four group outputs and the main stereo outs are again on XLRs with tape returns one to eight being on balanced stereo jack sockets. During remix, these sockets may be used as extra effects returns.

There are insert points for the master stereo outputs (which are connected prefader) and both the 2-track returns and the control room monitor outputs are balanced, again on standard stereo jack sockets. This leaves only the power socket which is a polarised 5-pin device connecting via its lead to the remote power supply. Though the mixer is configured to interface with professional equipment having +4dBu signal levels, there's internal switching and linking that enables the desk to match semi-pro -10dBv systems. These options are fully described in the handbook.

In Use



In electrical terms, the mixer is quiet, or at least as quiet as you can reasonably expect a transformerless mic input design in this price range to be. Some may see the fixed frequency EQ as being a limitation but the ranges have been well chosen and are, for want of a better description, musical in use giving rise to no further noise problems unless inordinate amounts of top boost are added.

In its capacity as a 4-track mixer this unit is ergonomically quite sound though it would have been far more sensible if some form of switchable routing for the tape returns to the input channels had been provided. As it stands, you have to split the tape machine outputs and tie up four of the channel line inputs if you don't want to have to re-plug during a session.

It would probably be possible to live with this if you run a four-track set up, but when you try to do an 8-track session, as this mixer is intended to be able to cope with, you find that things get a bit awkward. Firstly, as there are only four group outputs, you need to unplug in order to access tracks five to eight on the recorder. This could have been overcome by providing eight group output sockets with switching so that group one could be routed to either output one or five and so on. This type of switching arrangement is employed in the Seck 18:8:2 which services a 16-track machine using only eight output groups.



"...there really should be a remix button for each input channel to save re-plugging, and eight tape outputs switched from the four groups would make a lot of sense."


The fact that there is no remix switching makes life quite awkward for the 8-track user as to leave the set-up permanently wired, you would have to tie up all eight line inputs which is clearly not very satisfactory. You can of course use an external switching box or patchbay to overcome these problems but you shouldn't really have to on a mixer of this calibre.

In all other respects, the mixer performs very well and you get the feel that you are working with a professional piece of equipment rather than the budget compromise that some cheaper desks appear to represent.

Conclusions



Electrically and mechanically, this console cannot really be criticised taking its price and its position in the market place into account. By way of criticism in other areas though, I would have liked to have seen the Aux pre/post-fade switches located on the front panel rather than having to set up internal links to give a configuration that's effectively inflexible, though the link system for pre/post-EQ is fair enough.

Ergonomically the control layout makes a lot of sense and it does make for a great deal of flexibility, but there really should be a remix button for each input channel to save re-plugging, and eight tape outputs switched from the four groups would make a lot of sense.

The noise figure is fine, the EQ smooth and musical and the panel layout very clear so how did they overlook these extra simple switching options that would have made the unit so much easier to use if you're stretching it to drive an 8-track machine?

As a last word then, I would be very happy to use this desk for 4-track work but I would think twice before using it for any length of time in an 8-track configuration purely for the reasons outlined earlier. Its a soundly designed and attractive British mixer that will appeal to those who want professional facilities and flexibility but have limited space.

The 200B 8:4:2 costs £1550

Further details from: Soundcraft Electronics Ltd, (Contact Details)


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Home & Studio Recording - Copyright: Music Maker Publications (UK), Future Publishing.

 

Home & Studio Recording - Jan 1986

Donated & scanned by: Mike Gorman

Gear in this article:

Mixer > Soundcraft > Series 200B

Review

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