Analog summing boxes have been a hot topic in the world of music-making over the last few years and with the release of the 8816, AMS Neve has been added to the long list of companies manufacturing these boxes. The 8816 is a versatile 16:2 summing mixer which, in addition to its summing capabilities, includes comprehensive input, mixing and monitoring functions. Recall software is included with the 8816 as well as an optional digital output card and a fader pack.
Studio, broadcast, post production
16 input channels, recall software; optional fader ack and digital card.
AMS Neve | 212-965-1400
The 8816 ($3,250) is a seven pound, 2RU steel box that is 15.4 inches deep and has a classy blue/gray anodized aluminum “Neve-esque” front panel. The unit is powered by an external freestanding power supply with a universal input, which eliminates the need to set a voltage. The unit’s input is balanced +4 dBu and with an impedance >20 kohm. It has dual outputs, the first is balanced +4 dBu at 50 ohms and the second is unbalanced –2 dBV at <100 ohms. The maximum input level is >+26 dBu, the maximum output level (balanced) is > +26 dBu into 600 ohms and the maximum output level (unbalanced) is > +20 dBu into 600 ohms. The frequency response of a channel input to the main output is 20 Hz to 20 kHz ±.5 dB and better than –3 dB @ 60 kHz. The THD of a channel input to the main output from 50 Hz to 20 kHz is better than 0.02% measured at +20 dBu into 10 kHz with 80 kHz filter. The 8816 uses the same transformer mix topology as the classic Neve 80 series console with a pair of custom Carnhill transformers on the stereo bus output (although the line inputs are electronically balanced).
The 8816 is divided into three sections: mixer section, cue section and master section. The mixer section is comprised of 16 small channel strips that include a cut/solo button, a rotary level control, a rotary pan control and a cue select button. The level control sets the levels going to the main L-R Mix Outputs and to the Utility Aux Bus. If the optional fader panel is being utilized, then the level control becomes an individual aux bus send level. The pan control is a standard –3 dB center pan, with S Law shaping. The Cue Control button takes the input of the channel (pre level and pan) and sends it to the cue mixer via the cue level control to feed the cue output to headphones.
The Cue section of the 8816 includes the 2T to Cue button that sends the two-track return – post level control – to the headphone mix. The HP Mon (Headphone Monitor) switch selects the prefade LS Outputs onto the cue headphone outputs, so the artist hears the same sources as the engineer feeds to the monitors. The Headphone Control knob adjusts the main headphone levels and has a range between -infinity and 0 dB. The headphone control also incorporates a switch that feeds the 8816’s built-in talk back mic (adjustable by a small screw) into the headphone output when pressed. There is a parallel 1/4-inch jack on the rear of the unit allowing footswitch operation. Parallel headphone jacks on the front and real panels are provided and parallel +4 dBu line outputs are provided on the rear of the unit, used for cue feeds to the studio.
In the Master Section, the Alt Spk button selects a second set of speakers for monitoring. The iMon input is a 3.5mm jack socket for connecting an iPod to the unit’s LS selector and feeding to the LS outputs or cue headphone outputs. The INS MIX (Insert Mix) switch routes the IMR signal to the main two-track mix output pre-output level control but post the insert. The IMR (Insert Mix Return) Level Control allows the IMR signal to be mixed directly into the main mix output post insert but pre mix output level control.
The INS (Insert) switch activates the main mix prefade insert return (the send is always active) via the input and output connectors on the back panel. There are two modes, which are selectable by pressing the mix level control. The button illuminates yellow when a normal prefade insert is selected and red when the insert point has been changed to a sum and difference insert. When the sum and difference mode is selected, the standard stereo signal is converted into a mono common or sum signal on the left output and a mono difference signal on the right output,allowing the engineer to apply different processing to the common (or center) image than the difference (or stereo) image. At the insert return the signal is reconverted to a standard stereo signal (essentially making the insert an M/S encoder and decoder).
The 2TR MIX (2 Track Mix) switch sends the two-track return signal directly to the two-track mix bus. The 2TR Level Control allows the two-track return level sent to the Cue Mix or two-track mix bus to be adjusted. It has a range of -infinity to +10 dB. This feature is useful for sending two-track mixes to the cue headphones or as a reverb return to the cues or two-track mix bus.
Pressing the Mon Level control determines what is selected to the LS monitor. Pressing it once selects 2TR to Mon, pressing it a second time selects CH1/2 prefade sources and pressing it a third time selects iMon input. Pressing it a forth time returns the monitor to the main mix output.
The Mon Level knob alters the speaker’s output level. The Width Control knob alters the stereo image from mono through stereo to enhanced stereo. The Width Control Switch switches the width control into circuit across the main mix output (post insert). When it is selected, the button illuminates yellow.
The Mix Level control alters the main mix level and has a range of -infinity to 0 dB. It can be used to control the output level from the unit to the DAW. The control can also be augmented with fader control if an optional fader pack is fitted. In this case, the mix level control no longer has any function.
The main left and right meters are sourced directly from the main outputs. The meter is a pseudo PPM type with a special scale that ranges from -16 dBu to +26 dBu. I found the master section of the box to be so complete that beyond its small size, it actually feels like you are working on a legit console (not the case with any other summing box that I’ve encountered).
There are five 25-pin D-sub connectors on the rear panel of the 8816. Connectors 1 and 2 are used for channel inputs, Connector 3 for auxiliary outputs, Connector 4 for master section inputs and Connector 5 for master section outputs. The connectors follow the standard pin plan used by Pro Tools and TASCAM DA88. My studio has harnesses that match this pin-out so getting up and running was a piece of cake. The Earth Lift Switch lifts the mains earth connection from the chassis of the unit and the Slave Bus Switch activates the 2T bus input onto the unit’s main mix bus. This allows two 8816 units to be joined together to create a slave and master system expanding the number of inputs. It also automatically sets the unit to be part of the Recall system as the slave or master.
The USB Type B male connector provides interfacing with a computer to make use of the Recall software. The 8816 Recall application is a simple and easy way to store and Recall 8816 settings. The software, which is both Mac and Windows-compatible, captures a snapshot of all knob and button positions and writes them to a 32 kb text file. The application has buttons for creating, loading and saving snapshots of settings. During the recall process a picture of the 8816’s front panel appears with the knobs that need to be changed highlighted (the buttons reset automatically). A large view of each knob needing adjustment is provided with a purple hash mark indicating what direction and how far each knob must be turned to reach its store setting. When all of the knobs have been reset a “Unit is Reset” confirmation appears on the screen.
The 8816 has an optional digital output card that converts the analog mix to any standard PCM sample rate up to 192 kHz or DSD. Output PPM meters are complimented by overload LEDs to indicate clipping at the ADC or analog output. The monitor section selects between Mix Out, 2 Track Return, Channels 1 and 2 (DAW mix replay) and iMon front panel input mini jack, handy for quick mix comparisons. The monitor level is independent of the mix level and the monitor outputs can be switched between Main and Alt speakers.
The optional Fader Pack provides 16 Input Faders with cut solo controls and post fade direct outputs plus two Master Faders. The input faders have a range of -infinity to +15 dB. The master faders have a range of -infinity to 0dB. When the fader unit is attached, the rotary channel level controls become aux send levels, which increases the functionality of the unit. Recall of the faders and mutes can be stored using USB and the Recall application so that they can be included into the multiple unit Recall system provided on the 88 outboard range.
I’ve been slow to jump on the summing box bandwagon partially because of my need for quick mix recalls. The 8816’s Recall software eliminates that concern completely. After doing a quick alignment with a 1 kHz tone, I split a mix that I had already completed into half a dozen stereo pairs and a few mono outputs. I used my iZ Technology RADAR as a 16 channel D/A box and went to work. The box sounded fabulous. In comparing the result to my original mix I was surprised at the way the Neve mix had a perception of being more dynamic but without losing loudness. I don’t have a scientific explanation but when I compared the waveform of the in-the-box mix with the 8816 mix they looked almost identical, yet the 8816 sounded like it had a far larger dynamic range. I assume it has something to do with some nice sounding analog distortion happening in the 8816, but whatever it is, it sounded noticeably better than summing in the box.
I went on to mix the rest of the album (11 more songs) on the 8816 and by the time I was finished, I was sold. The thing sounds wonderful. It has an amazing amount of headroom, great metering and its master section makes it about as powerful as any full size recording console. As I continued to experiment, I had good results using the IMR (Insert Mix Return) Level Control allows the IMR signal to be mixed directly into the main mix output post the insert but pre-mix output level control. It has a range of -infinity to +10 dB and is perfect for DJ style mixing or where the engineer wants to mix some compressed or EQed main mix source back into the main mix outputs without the compression or EQ dominating the mix as it would using the insert.
As great as the 8816 is, there are a couple of things about it that bug me. The first is the short cable on the power supply. I’ve carried this box around to several studios and when I set it up I typically set it on top of a rack close to my mix position. The power supply never reaches the floor. It isn’t that heavy, but it is far too heavy to hang from the eight-pin cable that connects it to the 8816, so I’ve always had to use cable ties to hang it from something in the area. Two or three more feet of cable would have completely eliminated this problem. My other complaint is in the wiring scheme. Neve has chosen to comply to the age-old TASCAM DA-88 standard, which is a good thing. Every company that I’ve encountered using D-sub connectors has done the same, which is good. The thing I don’t like is that the input follows logic (D-sub 1: Channel 1 – Input 1, Channel 2 – Input 2, etc and on D-sub 2: Channel 1 – Input 9, Channel 2 – Input 10, etc.) but my logic tells me that on the 5th D-sub, Channel 1 and Channel 2 should be output left and right respectively; instead, Channel 1 is cue right output and Channel 2 is cue left output. The main outputs are found on Channels 7 and 8 (with 7 being the right output and 8 being left) – now there’s some confusion for you. Before I read the manual I thought that someone must have accidentally wired my connector backwards,but someone actually decided to do this on purpose. These things aside, the 8816 is a great box at a truly great price.
The AMS Neve sound has been a benchmark of audio recording for generations. The 8816 makes this sound easily available to DAW-based facilities. The AMS Neve 8816 provides comprehensive input, mixing and monitoring function facilities. The 16 input channels include level, pan, cut and cue controls. A +15 dB gain range accommodates both -10 dBV and +4 dBm input levels. The AMS Neve 8816 Summing Mixer covers all of the bases while utilizing classic Neve transformer mixing topology and thus making the legendary sound of Neve mixing desks available to DAW based studios. At $3,250 the box is a remarkable amount of mixing and monitoring technology.
Russ Long has done 5.1 DVD mixes for Allison Moorer and Mercy Me and is an in-demand engineer for live sound recordings, having multitracked live performances for Chris Tomlin, Lisa Loeb, Salvador, and Nichole Nordeman.
Apple Macintosh 2 GHz dual processor G5 with 2 GB RAM; Digidesign Pro Tools 7.1; iZ Technology RADAR; Lucid Gen-X-96 clock; PMC AML-1 monitors.