How Much?

Since this site has been set up, the most common question asked is, not surprisingly, how much will it cost? This page attempts to give you the basic tools to allow you to work out an approximate cost for yourself.

 

The short answer is it will be the cost of all the major components plus 50%.  Since CTC is intended to be a non-profit organisation, this 50% covers all the minor components, nuts, bolts, internal cables and small pots and switches, plus a contribution to the cost of development equipment, development expenses and a small contingency. My time you get for free. Since everything is paid for in pounds sterling, all cost are worked out and quoted in pounds sterling.

 

So, the question becomes, what are the major components and what do they cost? We can divide the major components into a number of categories that reflect the way a custom tube mixer is constructed.

 

Channel Modules

 

All modules are built in screened enclosures. Early model mixers employed die cast box modules with separate connectors for inputs, power and outputs. Current models employ a  standard PCB based screened module with connections made via one or two rear connectors that plug into a back plane. A typical channel module consists of a PCB and screened enclosure housing an input transformer, a tube amplifier and controls. These plus a custom front panel are the major components. If EQ is included, then there may be one or more additional inductors. Excluding controls and the front panel, the base cost of a channel module is as follows:

 

Screened enclosure                      £21

Input Transformer                       £50

Tube Amplifier (3 tube)                 £56

PCB and connectors                      £20

 

Module Base Cost                        £147

 

The input transformer cost is based on a typical Sowter microphone transformer but if you want one of their specialised types like the REDD47 input then it will be somewhat more. Most other makes such as Lundahl, CineMag and Jensen can be used and their prices are similar.

 

To the base cost you need to add the cost of the controls, knobs, any EQ inductors and the front panel. The most expensive controls are rotary switches. If you want really good quality Grayhill or ELMA rotary switches then you can be looking at anything from £10 to nearly £40 per switch. Other controls like rotary pots and toggle switches are relatively inexpensive and are assumed included in the 50%. The price of knobs varies very widely from well below £1 to around £10 depending on the size, the manufacturer and the technology (collet knobs are generally the most expensive type).

 

EQ inductors typically cost as much as an input transformer so if you want an EQ section like the Pultec MEQ-5 you will need to allow about £150 for inductors.

 

Custom front panels are a little more difficult cost accurately but as a rule it will cost about £120 to tool up and manufacture from 4 to 10 identical channel module front panels. This covers the material cost, punching, spray painting and silk screening. So a channel module front panel will cost somewhere between £10 and £25 depending on how many are made.

 

Channel Module Example

 

A typical channel module might include phase reverse switch, 20dB pad, phantom power switch,gain trim control, three band EQ using just one inductor (for mid cut/boost), pan and two aux sends switchable pre/post.

 

Module Base Cost                        £147

EQ inductor                             £ 50

3 rotary switches                       £ 45

10 knobs                                £ 10

Front Panel (1 of 8)                    £ 15

 

Sub Total                               £267

Plus 50%                                £133

 

Module Cost                             £400

 

Note: Standard CTC tube amplifiers provide an unbalanced output so if need a balanced direct out you will need to add £50 for a suitable output transformer.

 

Channel Faders

 

You can have just about any channel fader you like from a low cost conductive plastics rotary pot right up to a full spec. P&G slider fader. Typical costs (not including the 50%) are:

 

Low cost conductive plastic rotary                          £ 1

ALPS ‘Blue Beauty’ rotary                                   £15

ALPS carbon 100mm slider                                    £10

TKD CPA7000 conductive plastic 100mm slider                 £20

P&G 8000 series conductive plastic 100mm fader              £26

 

Mixing and Monitoring

 

The left and right buses and any aux buses will need a bus mix amplifier and group fader (stereo faders are roughly twice the price of the mono faders listed above). One of the standard CTC tube amplifiers will mix two buses. This is usually housed in the meter bridge along with any VU meter drivers (a standard CTC tube amplifier will drive two VU meters) so die cast boxes are not required. As before, the standard CTC tube amplifiers produce unbalanced outputs so for a balanced output you need to add the cost of an output transformer.

 

VU meters are available from several sources. SIFAM and Hoyt, for example, still make excellent VU meters for about £80.

 

A typical cost for a stereo mix bus with P&G faders and twin SIFAM VU meters would therefore be:

 

Mix Bus Tube Amp (2 tube)               £ 40

VU Tube Amp (2 tube)                    £ 40

Two output transformers                 £100

P&G stereo fader                        £ 52

Two SIFAM VU meters                     £160

3U Custom Meter Panel                   £120

Sub Total                               £512

Plus 50%                                £256

 

Total                                   £768

 

Enclosure

 

The modules, faders, mix amplifiers, VUs and other controls are housed in an overall enclosure. At present I am attempting to standardise on a sloping 19 inch rack unit made by Rackz in the UK. This has the advantage of being very economic (costing just £125) and has rack mounting at its rear where commonly available pre-punched XLR panels can be used for inputs and outputs and low cost blank panels can be used to fill in any gaps. One such enclosure will take 8 standard width CTC modules so it will make a 6 into 2 as it stands. Two bolted together give enough space for 16 standard modules. The channel modules are fitted into a standard 6U high 19inch sub rack that simply drops into the Rackz unit.

 

Unfortunately, the sloping part is only 8U high which is room enough for a standard CTC 6U high module leaving 2U for rotary faders and/or a scribble strip but not enough room for slider faders. To accommodate slider faders, an additional meter bridge is used, bolted to the front of the mixer and providing a 3U long flat surface on which to mount  100mm slider faders.

 

The typical cost of a single enclosure without fader extension is:

 

Rackz Enclosure + Meter Bridge               £125

6U 19inch sub rack                           £ 45

Blank Panels (3x3U)                          £ 18

XLR pre-punched panel + 8 XLRs               £ 30

 

Sub Total                                    £218

Plus 50%                                     £108

 

Total                                        £326

 

Power Supplies

 

All CTC  mixers have an external power supply, usually housed in a 19 inch rack mounting case. It provides an HT supply, smoothed but not regulated dc for tube heaters and a regulated 48V for phantom power. Heater voltage regulation takes place on a per module basis within the mixer. There are two standard sizes of power supply, one that powers a single enclosure and one that will power a pair of enclosures. The cost of each of these, including the separate heater voltage regulation and the 50% is:

 

Single Enclosure Power Supply                £415

Double Enclosure Power Supply                £585

        

Complete Example

 

We are now in a position to make a ball park estimate of the total cost of a typical custom tube console. We will have a simple 6 into 2 design with 6 modules with 3 band EQ, plus VU meter and mix bus amplifiers, housed in a single enclosure:

 

6 off channel modules with 3 band EQ @ £400 each                 £2400

6 off ALPS ‘Blue Beauty’ rotary pots @ £15  + 50%each            £ 135

1 off Mix and Monitor with SIFAM VU meters                       £ 768

1 off Single Enclosure                                           £ 326

1 off  Power Supply (single enclosure)                           £ 415

 

Total                                                            £4044

 

At current exchange rates, this is just over 6000USD so another way of looking at it is that, in very broad terms, a basic custom tube console is going to cost about 1000USD per channel.

 

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