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?  When this site was first constructed, typical processional transformers cost about £50; they now (2019) average £75. Typical custom front panels cost just over £21; they now cost well over £30. Just about everything has risen in cost by 50% or more. About the only thing that hasn't changed much is the price of the tubes used and the price of PCBs which has tumbled thanks to the plethora of Chinese manufacturers vying for business.. In response to the general increases in mechanical parts, the design has evolved from using expensive off the shelf extruded aluminium enclosures to a simple low cost approach using  commonly available stand offs, tapped blocks and single sheets of steel. To further reduce mechanical costs, channel width has been halved so twice the number of channels can be contained in a standard 19 inch sub-rack. 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                      £10

Input Transformer                       £75

Tube Amplifier (3 tube)                 £70

Output Transformer                      £25

PCB and connectors                      £17

 

Module Base Cost                        £197

 

The input transformer cost is based on a typical Sowter, Cinemag or Jensen microphone transformer but if you want one of their specialised types like the REDD47 input then it will be somewhat more. Lower cost substitutes by  OEP are under investigation.

 

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. 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. When this site was first constructed punching followed by painting and silk screening was the standard way to manufacture front panels in quantity, but in the intervening years things have changed rapidly. Companies like Schaeffer began to offer CNC machined front panels and engraved legends. These were ideal for small quantities where the set up cost associated with punching, painting and silk screening are prohibitive. The main downside of this approach is the limited graphics capability and the relative high cost of engraving followed by infilling. Nowadays UV printing has replace engraving for front panel legends and allows much more complex legends to be produced at low cost. Front panel cost is now dominated by the panel size, the number and different sizes of holes plus a fixed cost for the entire legend. A typical 6U front panel cost in the region of £30 to £40.

 

Channel Module Example

 

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

 

Module Base Cost                        £197

EQ inductors                            £ 50

4 rotary switches                       £ 45

10 knobs                                £ 10

Front Panel (1 of 8)                    £ 30

 

Sub Total                               £332

Plus 50%                                £166

 

Module Cost                             £498

 

 

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:

 

ALPS ‘Blue Beauty’ rotary                                   £15

ALPS carbon 100mm slider                                    £15

TKD CPA7000 conductive plastic 100mm slider                 £20

P&G 8000 series conductive plastic 100mm fader              £30

 

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 (the standard CTC tube amplifier that will drive two VU meters has now been replaced by a low cost semiconductor VU buffer board).

 

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 (3 tube)               £ 80

VU Buffer (semiconductor)               £ 20

Two output transformers                 £ 50

P&G stereo fader                        £ 60

Two SIFAM VU meters                     £160

3U Custom Meter Panel                   £120

Sub Total                               £490

Plus 50%                                £245

 

Total                                   £735

 

Enclosure

 

The modules, faders, mix amplifiers, VUs and other controls are housed in an overall enclosure. In the early days I attempted to standardise on a sloping 19 inch rack unit made by Rackz in the UK but unfortunately they have now one out of business. So now (2019) this has been replaced by a custom wooden enclosure made by SoundDesks. The opportunity has been taken to deepen the top 3U space so full depth modules can be included (for bus amps, talkback etc).

 

In the old Rackz unit, 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. In the new SoundDesks unit , the fader space has been deepened to take 100mm throw faders as standard.  The new 6U modulkes are half the width of the old style ones allowing uo to 12 to be fitted in one sub_rack.

 

The typical cost of a single enclosure is:

 

SoundDesks Enclosure                         £275

6U sub rack                                  £115

3U sub rack (meter bridge                    £ 60

4U sub rack (faders)                         £ 80

Mic/line imput panel                         £ 80

Output XLR & insert panel                    £ 80

 

Sub Total                                    £610

Plus 50%                                     £305

 

Total                                        £915

 

Power Supplies

 

All CTC  mixers have an external power supply, usually housed in a 19 inch rack mounting case. It provides an HT supply, regulated dc for tube heaters and a regulated 48V for phantom power. 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 8 into 2 design with 8 modules with 3 band EQ, plus VU meter and mix bus amplifiers, housed in a single enclosure:

 

12 off channel modules with 3 band EQ @ £498 each                £5976

12 off ALPS slider faders @ £15  + 50%each                       £ 135

1 off Mix and Monitor with SIFAM VU meters                       £ 735

1 off Single Enclosure                                           £ 915

1 off  Power Supply (single enclosure)                           £ 415

 

Total                                                            £8176

 

At current exchange rates, this is just over 10,000USD so another way of looking at it is that, in very broad terms, a basic custom tube console is going to cost about £1000 per channel.

 

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