Old ALICE mixers

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    Ted Fletcher

    Those old ALICE mixers!

    Sept 2014

    My first attempt to make a truly ‘portable’ sound mixer of professional quality was the Alice AD62. I hung some very basic circuitry onto a single-sheet front panel and suspended it in a wooden box. We sold a few of them but at the same time learned an important lesson in marketing….. weight matters!

    The first 828 dates from 1978 and was the result of a memorable meeting in the upstairs office at 38 Alexandra Road in Windsor. Byron suggested making it out of 1.2mm steel and Eric wanted to paint it a sort of military dark grey. Byron came up with the rabbit logo and I designed the very efficient ‘busrail’ system holding the circuit boards in place.

    The mk1 was an immediate success but there were reliability problems with the mic transformers and the distortion (as measured with our primitive test equipment) was not really up to professional standards, so I worked on an ‘improved’ version which uses one or two of those new-fangled devices called ‘ICs’.

    The Mk2 was even more successful, retaining identical appearance with the Mk1 but with improved performance…….

    But….. and here is the interesting bit:

    Now in 2014 I’m getting people asking me to fix old 828s and I can test them with 21st century precision… and, guess what, they were a whole lot better than we thought!

    Looking at the overload margins, the response curves, the distortion characteristics and the impulse responses, suddenly it becomes clear why those early mixers always sound so sophisticated and full of ‘body’. Now I can see not only the amount of distortion introduced by the circuitry, but also the exact way it affects and modifies the sound output.

    ‘In the box’ mixing and plug-ins may have come a long way, but even the very best digital equipment still tends to sound like plasticene when compared with a simple analogue path.

    I still have an ancient 828S (3 mono and 5 stereo channels) that I use as mixer and monitor and starting to use it again hung alongside my ProTools 9 system, it is a revelation of sweetness.

    It’s a huge temptation to go back to basics and design a new 21st century mixer/monitor but would anyone appreciate it? :D

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