The Shadow Hills Equinox is like a complete small-format recording console in just 2 rack spaces. It features 2 GAMA mic preamps, 30 channels of analog summing, and a mastering-grade monitor controller.
The mic preamps are the Golden Age Microphone Amps. Each has 60dB of gain, 24 position gold-plated stepped attenuators, 48V Phantom Power, 20 dB Pad, Phase Reverse, and 1/4” DI Input. The most exciting feature of the amplifier section is the switchable output transformers, which allow for several different sonic flavors in the same box. The transformers and characteristics are as follows:
- Steel Transformer (hand wound to match a favorite 1970's American output transformer.) Tight and punchy, the most colored with the biggest low end. The sound of rock and roll.
- Nickel Transformer (hand wound transformer based on a L.A. custom console.) Super clear and wonderful sounding, but with a subtle and musical smoothing of the transients.
- Iron Transformer (modern version of the classic St. Ives 1166 Neve output transformer.) - Warm and round, with a super detailed and present mid-range.
The summing buss is a 30-channel mixer utilizing copper buss bars and esoteric resistors, for simply the finest sounding passive summing. DAW inputs 3-24 are STEREO summed and distributed odd to left and even to right, while DAW inputs 25-32 are sent MONO to both channels of the summing network. The summed signal then passes through the Golden Age amplifiers with selectable output transformers. Effectively allowing the user to choose between the sounds of three different consoles on the mix bus.
The monitor section features: choice of 4 input sources, choice of 3 speaker outputs, 24 step Monitor Level control, Monitor Level DIM switch, switch to engage built-in Talkback Mic, Cue output, and Stereo/Mono switch.
With the INPUT SELECT switch IN:
- DAW 1-2 position the Equinox monitors the stereo mix output of the user’s DAW. In this mode, the incoming DAW 1-2 signal bypasses the GAMA amplifiers and feeds the Monitor Level control. This allows the user to employ the Equinox’s mic preamps standalone and record/monitor them through the DAW’s I/O.
- MIX 3-32 position, the Equinox monitors the summing network after passing through the GAMA’s.
- EXTERNAL position, the Equinox is able to monitor an additional balanced stereo source via rear panel XLR connections.
- MIC PRE position, the Equinox routes the mic preamp output directly to the Monitor Section. This allows the user to monitor the signal coming directly from the preamp, prior to any converter artifacts or intermediate processing.
The monitor section also features 3 pairs of Speaker Outputs and a Cue (or headphone) Output. Both reproduce what the Input Select is set to. Only one speaker output pair may be selected at a time. The speaker output level is control by the Monitor Level knob. The Cue Output is unaffected by the Monitor Level, and switches to the Talkback signal when the Talkback Switch is engaged. Simultaneously, the Monitor Level dims when the Talkback Switch is engaged.
With all these features in a rugged 2U enclosure the Shadow Hills Equinox is equipped for the demands of modern recording, but styled and crafted to the high standards of a bygone era.
Note: This unit requires the Shadow Hills PSU (not included).
The Equinox represents all that is right about Peter Reardon and his Shadow Hills Industries products. It's beautiful, it's functional, it's innovative, it's a throwback to another time that anticipates the needs of the future, and it's not cheap; but it's probably worth triple its price. The Equinox is a two-channel preamp; 32-channel summing buss; and master section complete with talkback mic, dim switch, mono/stereo switch, and outputs to three sets of monitors and your headphone amp; with a pair of green "magic-eye" VU meters; contained in a sturdy 2U-height steel case.
The first thing that people notice about Shadow Hills boxes is the use of black Bakelite-style knobs and glowing green filaments that scream contemporary Batcave... but the defining feature of Peter Reardon's work to date lies in the switchable output transformer settings. Each channel can be set to Nickel, Iron, or Steel. Steel is punchy, thick but bright, and is likely based on the vintage '70s API sound. Iron is essentially the St. Ives 1166 Neve hardware. And Nickel is softer and gooier and is based on a custom L.A. console. These three options not only are applicable on the two preamps going into your DAW but on the 32-channel summing buss coming out as well.
Therefore, you can route your digital signals out of your DAW and sum in the Equinox, switching the output transformer on your mix to emulate one of three heavy duty console textures; and remember, this is old-world hardware, not a digital simulation. The summing buss uses esoteric Holco metal film resistors (the same ones in Shadow Hills custom mastering consoles) located right next to the input transformersâ€” wiring at its finest, which is reflected in the clean, fat sound.
The Equinox feels and sounds as if you are working on an actual console. This is no minor thrill for those of us who built our skills on computer DAWs. The talkback mic/ dim feature in the master section will make communication with the performer far more convenient and professional.
The mic preamps have their own separate I/O, so you do not have to spend any time behind the unit changing cables when you are mixing versus when you are tracking. The Equinox comes with a separate 2U power supply. The required connectors and cords are not cheap to purchase and should be factored into the total cost. All 32 summing inputs along with the speaker outputs are D sub. The preamp cabling is balanced XLR of course. There are also balanced XLR inserts on the 2-buss which I use for external processing after summing.
On the front panel, the master section has input choices for DAW, internal summing buss, external 2-track, and the built-in mic preamps. This makes it possible to toggle between in-the-box DAW and Equinox-summed mixes. You also have monitor volume control, stepped gain knobs for the two preamp/summing channels, and the expected phantom power, polarity, and pad switches. Finally there is the speaker-select knob to choose one of three sets of speaker outputs, as well as a mono/stereo switch and talkback toggle.
The Equinox is so visually stunning and sturdy and has so many features that it is easy to overlook that the most inspiring and useful feature by far is the sound. Essentially two high-end mic preamps and hardware summing of the highest quality, this unit has improved my mixes immeasurably. As an early owner of one of the other summing boxes (I found it too transparent), I was skeptical of outboard summing, but the Shadow Hills Equinox has made me a believer.
Jim Roll, TapeOp