Electrodyne Summing Station

Console centre section

Electrodyne Summing Station

Review by Russell Cottier

Electrodyne has been in operation in several different incarnations over the past half century. In the late 1940s and early 1950s they manufactured valve broadcast gear.

In the 1960s Electrodyne made consoles under the Quad-Eight brand. Electrodyne were behind some big innovations such as the input module, as we know it today, and the padded armrest. The latest incarnation of Electrodyne Audio offers units designed for the modern studio workflow.

Inspired by 1970s large format consoles, the Summing Station JHOC Special Edition is a 16 channel active summing mixer. It started life as a series of custom built problem-solving devices for producer Joe Barresi’s studio, Mix with the Masters seminars and ProSoundWorkshops. The mix path uses the newly developed Electrodyne A5000 discrete opamp, a six transistor opamp designed using original Electrodyne opamp components and factory engineering notes from John Hall (Altec Lansing, Langevin, Electrodyne, Sphere) and David Geren (Electrodyne, Cinemag). The transformers are custom built by Cinemag to Electrodyne’s design.

The black 1U rack unit has a satin-like front panel and chunky plastic controls, with the retro look completed by white block capital labelling that transports you back to the early 1970s. At the left we see the SUM section, two circular grey buttons implement mono mode for inputs 1-2 and 3-4, status is indicated by red LEDs. A large black plastic top hat style knob controls level of the summed output. There is a smooth action with 31 detented steps and a range of up to +6 dB boost, plus a recessed pair of trim preset pots for fine calibration. It seems like there is plenty of headroom here and it was hard to make this stage sound bad.

Electrodyne Summing Station

Adjacent is a white button with an LED indicator that patches an insert, accessed via a DB25 on the rear, into the main output. The WARM/TIGHT button toggles the mix bus output section from Electrodyne’s original classic 1970s amplifier circuitry to a transformer feedback configuration typical of vintage “superlinear” tube amplifiers of the 1950s and 1960s. The difference between these two modes is not huge but there is a more cutting sound to the top end in TIGHT mode whilst the Electrodyne WARM sound fattens up the mix somewhat.

The CUE section features a red momentary TALKBACK button and small black pot beneath this to control level. Incidentally there is a 1/4” input on the rear panel for a talkback remote. A recessed talkback mic sits below the front panel and when pressed DIM is implemented on the control room and Headphone outputs. To the right of this is another button and pot. This time a grey latching button and level control for the CR LISTEN. This function allows the currently selected control room source to be mixed into the artist cue feed. The two level pots in this section are a little tightly packed and can be a somewhat awkward to adjust. Next up we have the CONTROL ROOM section. There are four white buttons for source selection, EXT1, EXT2 CUE and MIX, these of course function as a radio button group allowing only one selection at a time underneath these is a single mini-jack input that overrides EXT 1.

Another large top hat style knob sets control room volume to the monitors and again this is stepped with detents and is labelled 0 to 10. A minor gripe with these two larger knobs is that they rotate slightly off centre but the detents are useful if you use several calibrated loudness monitoring levels. Finally the section sports three latching grey buttons with LED indicators. These offer MONO, DIM and MUTE functions for the control room monitor outputs. Again these changes are implemented on the front panel headphone output too. The MONITOR section has a chunky latching button to switch between the MAIN and ALT monitors, and there are recessed calibration trim pots below the button to level match. Finally for the front panel, we have a small pot and Stereo 1/4” socket for the 14 Watt headphone amplifier. The headphone amplifier has a decent amount of headroom and sounded nice and clean, so the real detail of the transformers and summing can be heard.

The rear panel has a fused IEC socket for power and optional spaces for wordclock input and AES I/O expansion options. Which along with a 24 channel summing input expander module will be available in 2017. There is a stereo input for EXT1 on TRS and the TB REM for remote talkback mic operation. Next up is a cluster of four DB25 connectors, two for inputs 1-8 and 9-16. Mix inserts and Cue mix I/O are accessed via another DB25 with the final socket providing outputs for the monitors and Mix plus a Stereo Metering output. The main Mix output also has its own pair of balanced XLR outs and adjacent to this are a pair of XLR inputs for EXT 2. The Summing station manages to pack a good deal of connectivity into the 1U height via the use of DB25 connectors. The main mix output having dedicated XLRs is useful, but crucial outputs like the monitor and cue are on DB25. Remember your breakout cables when travelling to another studio with the unit for example.

Electrodyne Summing Station

In operation the mixer functions well, the monitor controls and talkback are sturdy and give the impression that they will endure significant use. In terms of the sonic fingerprint, the Summing Station definitely pushes towards that classic large format console sound, but with any summing mixer of this nature it is not possible to drive an input and fade down that channel’s level into the mix bus. That said it behaves nicely when the inputs are pushed and a thick sound can be achieved without as much processing as a straight in-the-box mix. You would definitely want to be mixing into the mixer rather than thinking of it as something you slap into the chain when you finish your mix. The insert button makes A/B comparison nice and easy and removes issues associated with the use of compressors that might have a character even in bypass mode.

Transients are mellowed out nicely by this unit, a heavily played snare for example can be driven loud and will sound fat, yet not have the spikes that might sneak through in a digital mix. There seems to be a significant addition of harmonic content when pushing the unit, and mixes take on a fuller and more “glued” sound. The transformer options are strangely addictive, but with them both sounding great it can be difficult to make a choice.

It should be noted that there can be slight crosstalk from the mix bus into the headphone output when listening to the external and cue sources, but this was probably only noticeable because the headphone amplifier is so loud and this crosstalk doesn’t seem to translate to the main outputs.

At UK £2,699 (inc. VAT) this is not a cheap unit and sits at a higher price-point than some big name summing mixers — several with more inputs and features. But summing mixers, like consoles, are not directly comparable to each other: this is a unit for a fan of the old school sound and functionality who doesn’t have the desire, need or budget for a full console. It is certainly a pleasure to work with and might just be what you have been looking for.