Seck 1882 Mixer
Jim Betteridge on Seck... drugs and Rock'n' Roll?
I've always had a bit of a soft spot for the Seck 16:8:2. Looking back I have fond memories of this large and rather ungainly console perched all consumingly atop my dining room table, resplendent in its positively unsubtle brown paint job and gaudy array of variously coloured knobs. For over nine months it sat quietly(ish) in my flat with unerring humility and dedication whilst I and a series of incompetent friends proceeded to shunt all kinds of voltages and hard-edged wave forms through its innards in the name of creative expression.
The size and location of the mixer meant that those months were unusual for a conspicuous absence of any civilised form of cuisine or indeed any social activity at all, save for brief discussions over delay line noise floors and the like. The first thing to strike me about the new Seck 1882, then, was the pleasantly moderate nature of its physicality – 48mm x 463mm x 995mm. Sleekness has taken over where once there was bulk; aesthetically conceived control systems now reside where the past had seen big coloured knobs and, seemingly in answer to a great international cry for sobriety, like so many other manufacturers Bandive have produced their machine in grey. Very pleasing it looks, too. The knobs were specially designed for the Seck range and hence are blissfully unlike the standard colour capped variety. Including all faders, knobs and buttons there are only four colours on the board: white, black, cream and blue, although the layout makes each section easily identifiable, and the knob design is such that their settings are reasonably clear even without bright lighting. All input sockets are located at the top of the control panel, rather than inaccessibly to the rear of the mixer, and thus any replugging is easily done. Mike, line and tape inputs are all electronically balanced, although only the mike inputs are on XLRs, all the other audio connections being on ¼" jacks.
All input channels and group outputs have insert points using the standard single three-pole jack configuration for send and return. The power supply is a separate unit, and connects to the board via a six-pin XLR. Very neat, tidy and hum-free.
The talkback system includes a built-in electret mike and can be routed to tape and/or foldback, and you can also slate a 30Hz tone to tape for identifying the start of tracks in fast wind mode.
Though diminutive in size, the 1882 is packed solid with circuitry and weighs in at a forceful 17.2kg. The first model in this new Seck range to hit the shops was the compact 12:2 stereo mixer which had the ingenious inclusion of a tough, metal detachable carrying handle allowing it to be quickly and conveniently whisked from gig to engagement with hardly a grimace or complaint. In the name of continuity the handle remains on the 1882, and although this is of little use to the home recordist, if you are in the PA tour business it really does add to its portability. In standard form there are only two built-in meters (with switchable peak hold) for left and right master outputs, but an optional bolt-on 18-way meter penthouse is available for around £345.
The design is non-modular and in fact every component is mounted on the same huge PCB (printed circuit board) that covers the whole surface area of the mixer. This apparently keeps down costs and increases strength and reliability. One of the less subtle tests to be carried out on 1882 was to lob it down a long flight of stairs: we are told that even though it was a little dented, and a couple of knobs fell off, the desk performed normally. The basic disadvantage of non-modularity is that, should a circuit break down, you can't whip the offending channel module out and send it off for repair, you are forced to lose the whole console and thus go without your mixer for what could be a lengthy period. Other non-modular consoles, whilst using a one-piece top panel, have individual PCBs with ribbon cable and easily detachable connectors stringing them together. In this case it is generally a simple matter to remove the relevant circuitry and link the two connectors. This method undoubtedly makes things more expensive. Other cheaper designs employ solid bar bussing to interconnect the PCBs, and this offers untold grief when attempting to do more or less anything in terms of maintenance/removal. The Seck has been designed with high tolerances for reliability and its record to date suggests that it should live up to its expectations. To have the same facilities and performance standards in modular form would put it in another price bracket altogether – it would be nice to look at and easy to fix, but most people wouldn't be able to afford it in the first place.
It is generally said that there are two types of console design: 'In-line' and 'Split'. This Seck might be classified as an in-line design in that the tape monitor controls are physically positioned in-line with the input channel controls rather than to one side of them in their own 'monitor section'. However, it is also akin to a split-console design in that there are eight separate group output faders to the right of the input channels in what, on a split design, would be the monitor/group section, and these control the overall level being sent from each of the eight group outputs to the 8/16 inputs of the multitrack. On 'proper' sessions, when you might find yourself engineering for a producer with a mind of his/her own, one of the great advantages of a split console is that it allows such a person free and simple access to the monitor controls during overdubs/playback.
In contrast, it is very easy for the inexperienced hand to get confused and start twiddling your carefully set input gain controls or equalisation settings, etc, instead of the monitor gains, and to add insult to injury they are forced to lean obtrusively across you to do it. On the other hand, one of the great benefits of an in-line design is that, due to there being no monitor section tagged on, it is far more compact. Some people, therefore, might say that the Seck offers the worst of both worlds: untoward leanings and confusion, plus greater bulk. However, after using the desk for a couple of (admittedly simple) sessions, I have to say that I consider this cross-breeding an effective and sensible one.
The desk has been designed with eight-track and 16-track recording in mind, and to this end each of the eight group outputs has two jack sockets wired in parallel allowing a 16-track machine to be fed – output one feeding tracks one and nine, output two feeding tracks two and ten, etc. To cram 16 monitor channels (let alone the 18 offered by the Seck) with level, pan, foldback and echo send into the area above the group output faders would have meant a far larger area or a very cramped, fiddly monitor section. As it is, everything is clear and has sufficient space for easy operation.
Another advantage of this design is that during mixdown, the eight group output faders can be used as subgroups by depressing the 'Groups to Masters' buttons above the relevant faders: odd numbered faders automatically go to the left and even to the right. All very sensible.
In the space that would otherwise have been used for the monitor section, we find no less than four fully routable (all eight tracks plus left and right) effects returns each with PFL, level, pan and two-band eq. This is excellent, and allows you to have the outputs of your four most used effects units permanently wired up, and quickly available to be recorded to the multitrack or the stereo machine during mixdown. Unfortunately, they can't be routed to the monitors in 'Channel Monitor' mode, but more on that later.
The monitor channels have stereo echo sends, the outputs of which emerge on two mono jack sockets to be sent to your reverb device. There are then stereo return sockets which bring the reverb signal back into the stereo monitor buses. This sounds all well and good, and that you should be able to have proper stereo reverb in the monitors or cans is a fine thing indeed. The problem is that there are two basic monitor source modes in which you can operate: 'L-R' or 'Channel Monitor', and they work completely independently of each other. In the first mode you are listening to the main stereo (remix) outputs and hence any signal routed to 'L-R'. In the second mode you are listening to the stereo monitor outputs – ie whatever you've set up using the monitor channel controls, and this doesn't include anything routed to 'L-R'. The problem is that having connected your highly expensive reverb unit into the monitor send/return circuit, you can't return it to a routable effects return without replugging. Similarly, if you do bring it back via a routable effects return, you can't get it into the monitors if you're working in the 'Channel Monitor' mode, or into the foldback in any mode.
The fact is that if you're going to record an effect to the multitrack during overdubbing, you will have to either mute all channel echo sends save for the one you want to record, or use another send, and so the inability to use the same send in both channel monitor and L-R modes is unimportant. It would be nice not to have to replug the returns, however. This separation between 'L-R' and the stereo monitor outputs also makes it impossible to use both the line inputs and the monitor inputs simultaneously during mixdown – a facility offered by other consoles to provide extra effects/auxiliary source returns when mixing.
The eq section is three-band with a sweepable mid: HF – 11 kHz, shelving; MF sweep – 300Hz to 6.5kHz peak/dip; LF – 45Hz. These are unusual centre frequencies, and the gap between 300Hz and 45Hz is a little concerning as that area is often critical in warming-up certain sounds (especially vocals). In practice, however, I found them very musical and effective, with the 45Hz shelf being useful for doing away with low frequency interference from the next door neighbours and distant lorries, etc. In fact the desk sounded very good, was a real pleasure to use and, although I had had no previous experience of it, I was able to plug it up and almost immediately start a session. Not only does it sound good, but it also looks like it belongs to a new generation of consoles that have spurned the big knobs and Mickey Mouse colour schemes for something a little more subtle and pleasing. I'll be sorry to seethe 1882 go.
SECK 1882 RRP: £1608.85
METER PENTHOUSE RRP: £345 approx.
Review by Jim Betteridge
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