I had a music project that just screamed for an old-school rock ’n’ roll, hands-on mix using a proper analog console. So I used this opportunity to take a first look at the only Trident Series 88 console currently in the U.S. [first orders were expected to ship this month]. The 24-channel version of the Trident 88 had been under final revision and real world testing for about nine months at Charlie Waymire’s Ultimate Studios in Van Nuys, Calif. This console is representative of the production models that come in 16, 24, 32, 40, and 48- (or more) channel frame sizes starting at $17,999 MSRP for the 16-channel model.
The Trident 88 is a split, inline console with fully-discrete Class-A microphone preamps, stereo mixing bus, eight buses (or Groups), eight auxiliary sends and effect returns, and complete monitoring and headphone facilities. It builds on the Trident heritage—a heritage I’m familiar with over the years of recording and mixing in many L.A. studios that had Trident 80 A, B and C desks, the larger TSM boards, and the revered A-Range consoles, of which only 13 were ever made.
With a total width of less than 44 inches, the 24-channel Trident 88 has everything within comfortable reach—moving out of the sweet spot is unnecessary. All models vary in total width (depending on channel count) but are all the same 36.2 inches deep and 13 inches high.
Like all the Trident consoles I’ve used in the past, the 88 is intuitive and ergonomically laid out to handle a quick and responsive workflow from any recording engineer/mixer.
On the front is a set of jacks for each channel strip and Master section. At this studio, all of these jacks were connected to the TT patch bay. For each of the 24 channels there are XLR mic input, then TRS jacks for Direct Output, Mic Insert (for substituting an outboard mic pre in the channel path), Channel Insert and separate line inputs for both the 100mm fader channel path and the monitor path.
The Trident 88 has a 4-band sweepable Series 88 EQ (based on the Trident 80 C console EQ) near the top of each of its 1.25-inch-wide removable input modules. You can order any number of modules fitted with a Lundahl 1538 microphone input transformer ($150 option per channel) pre-installed. My console had transformers installed in Channels 1 and 2. You can also order Lundahl 1517 transformers (a $200 option) on the stereo mix bus output. The 24-channel model without transformers sells for $25,000 MSRP.
My guitar- and drum-heavy rock song was tracked in Pro Tools, and after I configured the sessions for multitrack outputs, it was easy to spread out the drums, bass, keys, guitars, vocals and backing vocals across the 88. I’m mixing “old school”: hands on with most of the vocal rides made inside of Pro Tools. Coming soon, Trident will offer the TriMix fader automation package as an option for the 88.
Any channel can feed both the stereo bus and any number of bus groups at the same time. So I also routed all the drum track channels (except the kick drum) to buses 1 and 2. I would bus-compress these and mix it in parallel with the channels already feeding the stereo bus. The eight bus (Group) output faders will feed either the monitor path or the stereo mix bus and include 12kHz and 80Hz shelving equalizers, mute, pan-pot and fader/monitor flip.
I had many more than just 24 tracks coming from Pro Tools to mix. I used the channel’s monitor section’s line-level inputs to feed additional tracks to the stereo mix bus at the same time as its 100mm fader channels, so it was possible (with track organization and patching) to have 48 channels of audio in front of me in less than four feet of console width. I tried to arrange my mix so that instruments and vocals that needed hands-on fader moves and the full EQ came up on the channel faders.
The module’s Input Reverse button “flips” the monitor and channel paths. If you want to use the Trident Series 88 EQs in the monitor path, then the monitor’s Tilt EQ automatically goes to the channel. Normally, I preferred the Tilt EQs on the monitor section. Essentially it’s like a simplified car radio tone control: turn a single knob clockwise and boost highs and reduce lows, or turn it the other way and the opposite will happen. The Tilt EQ is centered at 650 Hz and has up to 6 dB of boost/cut using a 12dB/octave shelving EQ. Occasionally the Tilt EQ was the better tool for the job, such as for printed effects and occasional noises. Having the ability to flip the EQs back and forth is awesome. For most of the well-recorded keyboard tracks in this song, it is all I needed.
Besides the 48 channels for more inputs to mix, you can also use the eight stereo effects returns that have pan pots, level and the same 12 kHz and 80 Hz shelving EQs as the Groups. Those broad EQs reminded me of the A-Range consoles. At this studio, the DAW’s reverbs and effects are routed to these returns with the 88’s eight Aux sends (with submasters and pan pots) used to send out to the DAW effects.
Once everything was routed and labeled, I got a rough mix up fast with the console working flawlessly on all channels. It was like mixing a live show! The Series 88 EQ is responsive, and I could get that cool, low-end boost on kicks and bass guitars that I have always loved about Trident boards.
The console was quiet and clean sounding, and I had plenty of fader travel range for making big mix moves if I wanted. At one point the console showed that one channel of I/O had gotten noisy, and it was comforting to realize that I could hear that immediately during mixing and take care of it.
For monitoring, the Trident 88 has a main control room monitor and two alternate speaker choices called Alt 1 and Alt 2, each with its own volume control. I switch between monitor speakers while mixing, especially for checking the bass on big speakers and the midrange mix on small speakers. With individual volume controls, once I had them set this process was seamless, with no surprising jumps in monitor levels; however, there is no dim monitor button.
There are also 2-Trk 1 and 2-Trk 2 external stereo playback sources available that included a 3.5mm, 1/8-inch stereo mini jack input for playing music out of cell phones or portable music players. Handy dandy.
The Trident 88 uses the same size aluminum knobs in different colors for everything, including the monitor level pots. Although these small knobs keep the overall size of the console compact, I would like to change the knob size and color of certain controls here and there to quickly recognize and easily find them. I like to see different colored pan pots with center-detents and a larger, more precise-feeling master volume control knob.
Back to the Mix
The mix of the rock song went well and started to sound finished. I had large stacks of backing vocals stemmed out in Pro Tools and playing out on stereo pairs of adjacent channel faders. Static track elements such as tambourines, cowbells, shakers, loops that did not require riding, I relegated to the monitor mixer path. In general, the Tilt EQ worked fine for percussion, loops and virtual instruments—these sources were dialed in already “in the box” and only needed slight tonal adjustment if at all.
But my lead vocal required external compression and the full facilities of the channel strip’s 4-band EQ. I like the EQ’s high-frequency section, where I boosted in the 12- to 15kHz range for a shelf of air. To me this has also been a big part of the sound of British consoles. My singer had no “S” problems, and boosting at 15 kHz opened up her sound and the space she was recorded in! Loved it.
However, there were other frequencies that also needed a look. I supported a drop of 3kHz by boosting around 200 Hz with the EQ’s low-frequency shelf section but also using the 50 Hz, 18dB/octave highpass filter. I also used the channel’s Insert path for compressing the lead vocal. I especially like being able to change the insert point routing between post and pre in the channel’s equalizer section.
For the lead vocal the compressor was post EQ, but for the bass guitar track (dropped-tuned down to D) I used the EQ pre the compressor. The ability to quickly audition the exact insert point of the compressor is a very pro feature.
There are both AFL and PFL solo modes with master solo level control and LED warning indicator. However, there are no Solo-In-Place mix solo facilities on the Trident 88. I got into the habit of soloing inside of Pro Tools.
For its size/footprint and cost, the Trident 88 is a solid choice for small- to medium-size recording studios. Made in the U.S., the Trident 88 gives you everything you’ll need to record and mix music or produce sound for film/video projects.
Barry Rudolph is an L.A.-based engineer and educator. You can visit him at www.barryrudolph.com.