The Art of Vintage Recording Console Restoration
For 25 years, Vintage King has been restoring classic gear from a golden era when some of the highest quality equipment in history was produced. As the world's leader in the premium servicing of vintage recording consoles, the Vintage King Tech Shop has brought new life to hundreds of desks, including historic desks from Neve, API, EMI, Helios and more.
One of the most common questions asked at Vintage King by potential vintage console buyers is "What does premium servicing mean?" Read on to learn more about our premium servicing process, meet the team behind each restoration and find out why we offer this level of repair work to customers.
When a vintage console is being considered for a studio space, there is a lot that can potentially go wrong and ruin the dream of a smooth recording session. The wear and tear of decades of use in the studio, not to mention the damage provided by smoke, spills and more, can result in a desk that is in need of a real makeover.
"The frustrating thing about buying a vintage console is that it can be a complete headache if you don’t buy it right. If a console is properly restored, on the other hand, then it can be as reliable as a new, top quality factory desk," says Vintage King co-owner Mike Nehra. "The primary goal in our premium restoration of vintage consoles is for customers to enjoy frustration-free performance for years to come."
The first task our console technicians tackle when taking on a premium servicing project is the testing of the electronic components of the desk. The team inspects every module, knob, wired connection and more, to properly understand what is working and what is need of their attention. This information is carefully documented for later retrieval during the restoration process. If the technicians discover modifications to the console's original make-up, they will confer with the client to decide whether to return them to stock form or leave the mods.
"We go through the basic maintenance of recapping and troubleshooting the board to make sure that everything functions well," says Vintage King Technical Services Team Lead Cedric Yee. "We break down every console into sections, the preamp EQs, the routing modules, center section, separate amplifiers for different busses and more. We break them into groups and different techs work on certain sections. It’s a large team effort and we are lucky to have the experience and resources here to tackle any job."
After servicing all sections of the console, each individual piece goes through a bench test to ensure that is working according to original specifications. Once these have all been tested, they are placed back in the frame of the console and connected together.
Since there are hundreds of connections and wires in each console, there can be a breakdown at any of these points. Throughout the next two weeks, our console technicians quality check every aspect of the desk and make tweaks to anything not performing properly. After ensuring everything is in order one last time, the electronic portion of the premium servicing of the console has been completed.
Parallel with the electrical work, the tech shop team also works on reviving the cosmetic aspects of the console. The main priority is to keep the console as original as possible. Once a thorough cleaning of the console is done, the team inspects every component of the desk and decides whether wear is so great that re-silkscreening of worn scales, logos and indicators on faders, modules, and meters is necessary. For faceplates that are extremely worn, technicians will re-silk screen the artwork so that all indicators are clear and bright.
"When they arrive, many of these mixing boards are in heavily used condition. They've been worked on in a commercial studio for many years and have been subjected to smoke and other contaminants," states Vintage King Senior Technician Rich Hunt. "Once we start working on them, it's like uncovering a work of art that's been covered in soot."
In addition to the cosmetics of the modules, technicians also work on other parts of the desk to refresh their look. This portion of premium servicing includes reupholstering armrests, repainting or replacing side/back panels and redoing any woodwork that may have been broken or rotted over the years.
After all is said and done, the premium servicing of a vintage console can take anywhere from around 150 - 200 hours on a smaller desk like a Neve BCM10, up to 600 - 800 for a bigger console like a Neve 8078. Not only does this level of service ensure that you will have a fully-functioning console for years to come, it means you have a piece of history that will continue to accrue value since it has been properly restored.
Not only does Vintage King premium service consoles we have in stock, but thanks to the quality of our work, we also have customers from around the world who send us vintage desks to service.Our staff can coordinate arrangements for a hassle-free shipment of these consoles to Vintage King’s Tech Shop. Customers buying brokered desks purchased from Vintage King also have the option for their new console to be serviced prior to shipment to their recording studio.
After servicing and shipping a restored console, we offer a variety of technical services to enhance your purchase and ensure it fits soundly into its new home. Our technicians can travel to your studio to carefully power up the console, debug any faults that arise during shipment and make sure it's ready for your next session. Additionally, we can design an entire patch bay and wiring solution to tie the console into an existing studio set-up or provide complete turnkey solutions for a new studio build including layout and design. No matter your situation, we can help with entire studio design, acoustics and construction solutions.
"We spend a lot of time and a big chunk of our lives here at Vintage King working on these consoles. To be able to install the console in its final destination after leaving the tech shop, it's great to see the excitement in the customer's eyes," Hunt says. "When you see it broken apart in pieces, it doesn't really look that impressive. When you put it together, everyone gets excited. It's the perfect feeling because our goal is to make the client happy and do the best we can."
If you're interested in buying a vintage recording console and would like to know more about Vintage King's premium servicing, our helpful staff of Audio Consultants can walk you through the entire process. Please reach out to our team via email or by phone at 888.653.1184.
Watch our new video below to get a further look at the console premium servicing process and see our restoration team in action. Continue on afterward to see photos of the recently completed vintage Neve 8058 that has been shown throughout this blog.