|About ORAM Professional Audio Trident 8T-16|
|Russ Long, a Nashville-based producer/engineer, owner of the Carport recording studio for Pro Audio Review
With all the advances in digital consoles and direct-to-computer recording these days, its refreshing to see companies, such as John Oram's Trident Audio Ltd. willing to make high-quality analog boards with traditional routing options. Many engineers love the sound and straightforward, linear approach of an analog board for recording to analog or digital sources.
The Trident 8T is a classic example of a great sounding, relatively inexpensive analog board, still made in the UK — and it offers incredible flexibility. Yeah, it it does not use discrete components in the audio path, like the original Trident Series 80, but this op-amp-based board has serious enough sonic quality to showcase the increased dynamic range and detail subtleties of 24-bit/96-kHz recording.
The Trident 8T is based on the original Trident Series 80 design, especially the EQ section. The consoles configuration range from eight to 32-channels. The 8T is packed with plenty of features including eight aux sends, monitor buss, mono selection, optional meter bridge ($1,050). Each channel also has peak and signal-present LEDs for those working without the meter bridge.
The console features such goodies as balanced direct outputs for each of the channels (16 in the test unit's case), eight track busses, eight aux sends and the same high quality mic preamps as the S20 standalone pre, which PAR tested and recommended highly. The entire console input and output structure is balanced. The microphone inputs are XLR while the rest of the I/Os are 1/4-inch TRS.
As mentioned, the EQ section is based on the original Trident Series 80 EQ, to which Trident Audio, Ltd. owner Mr. John Oram contributed circuitry and sonic design back in the 1970s. The three-band EQ includes: high-shelf filter, high-mid level control, low-mid level control, and low-shelf control. The high-shelf turnover frequency is switchable to either 8 kHz or 12 kHz. The high-mid frequency control is adjustable from 1 kHz to 15 kHz. The low-mid frequency control ranges from 100 Hz to 1.5 kHz. The EQ section also includes 50 kHz low-cut filter; the low-shelf frequency can be set to either 60 Hz or 120 Hz.
This console has plenty of I/Os including the eight track busses, three sets of stereo outputs (L/R, main and closefield), as well as the array of aux send/returns The board also has a talkback output and mic input for talkback.
Each channel has balanced, quarter-inch connections for line, tape, aux send/return (TRS), and the direct channel output. The balanced XLR input connects the microphone to the preamp and can also be used as a balanced XLR line input with the "unity" switch engaged. The insert jack on each channel uses the common TRS unbalanced send/return scheme (also in the original Series 80).
There are a few interesting channel features not traditionally found on consoles in this price range including a "flip" switch, which swaps the tape inputs (on the rotary faders) with the live inputs (on the faders), allowing quick reconfiguration between recording and mixing modes.
For the money, the Trident 8T has a great subgroup section with the eight track (a.k.a. submix) busses. In addition to the L/R buss, each track can be assigned to any of the 4 track buss pairs; panning is used to isolate the signal to odd or even numbered busses of the pairs.. Each track buss has its own master output and buss solo button. An additional button on each pair allows discrete stereo soloing of each pair (as opposed to the traditional mono solo function).
Metering is done via two classic, oval-shaped, blue, backlit onboard VU meters, which can monitor the track busses, the main output bus, and two track returns. The meters are set at 0 VU at +4 dBu, with a -10 dB attenuator switch designed to match with high-level digital signals. In addition to the aforementioned EQ and buss-assign controls, each channel also features a solo engage button and a flexible aux buss section that gives a maximum of options using a minimum of space. The first two of three aux send level knobs are switchable between auxes 1 & 3 and 2 & 4 respectively. The third level knob is a stereo send that is switchable between aux pairs 5/6 or 7/8 and can be configured pre- or post-fader. The 8T is equipped with smooth, tight 100-mm faders for the channels and the main stereo output. Output controls are available for monitor section, track busses, solo, talk back section and headphone amp.
The 8T board boast great specs including ultra-low noise from input to output and a 45 kHz (- 3 dB point) frequency response to ensure a accurate top end past 20 kHz, which is good for those high resolution recordings. Other specs include 0.008-percent distortion.
The board is attractive looking; its wood trim and optional meter bridge give it a classy pedigree — even in a modest home studio decor. And with the power supply outboard and rack mountable, the 8T fits into quite a compact footprint. The 16-channel version, as tested, is only 29-inches wide and weighs a mere 40 pounds, making it ideal for tight-spaced pro home studios and live remote recording gigs.
According to a U.S. Trident dealer, most of the 8Ts have been sold into home studios in the U.S.
The Trident was easy to set up and use, which was a good thing since a proper manual was still in production. Subsequently, most of this review's specs and control features were taken off the Trident web site.
I recorded a bunch of acoustic guitar/vocal tracks mixed straight to two-channel high resolution PCM. Using several microphones, including my trusty Audix SCX-25s, a pair of Heil PR-40s and Shure KSM 32s. I routed the main outputs of the Trident to the Benchmark ADC-1 converter, set at 24-bit/96 kHz, which then fed either an Alesis Masterlink or TASCAM DV-RA1000.
When recording to the two-track recorder via the stereo mix busses, I not only routed audio to the main recorder at 96 kHz from the main stereo buss, but I simultaneously fed a second digital recorder running at 44.1 kHz from one of the other stereo outputs. This enabled me to make CD sample rate compatible references of the same recording without later having to sample rate convert from the reference 96 kHz. The 8T is a great board for feeding different sources. I also tracked to the recorder via the direct outputs and the track busses
So how does it sound? The stereo bus output tracks that were recorded with the Audix SCX-25s on Martin and Guild acoustic guitars, plus voice and a electric Gibson L5 jazz guitar, recorded with Shure KSM-32s, were all very good to excellent sounding. From the stereo buss, the 96 kHz stereo recordings were very accurate and clean with a touch of that analog warmth but not so warm that the dynamics and transients were lost. Stereo imaging was quite good as well.
The direct channel outputs, as expected, produced the most transparent recording with slightly more transient energy and less warmness, but the summing buss acquitted itself quite well.
As a testament to good design, this board is really quiet, with nary any hiss — even with the controls cranked way up. It is super clean with plenty of headroom.
On the pair of Heil PR-40 microphones, a great dynamic with extended bottom end response, I used the EQ to add some top end and air to a Martin D35, and the EQ delivered audibly pleasing results with out adding harshness. Just what you want in an EQ.
The control and fader integrity is quite good — especially the faders. The "Fleximount" rotary controls are a bit wiggly feeling, but not noisy and very linear. The push-button switches engage okay, but the plastic buttons can fall can fall off when transporting the board [The company assures this has been addressed. — Ed.].
Although the board can be used with its dual VUs, I believe those who do a lot of tracks are going to want the optional meter bridge. It contains so much more level information about multiple inputs and outputs versus the VUs. However, the meter bridge does make it more difficult to plug into some of the connections. The headphone jack and direct outputs, for example, were a bit of tight reach since they are the furthest in.
Also, the meter bridge legend illumination is too dim to easily read the reference level numbers. I think it could use a little bit more backlighting.
The Trident 8T is a quality, pure analog console that bridges the gap between the low-buck utility recording mixer and the high-end, without much compromise in audio quality of the latter. Its logical, easy-to use layout and plethora of I/Os and adept monitoring and routing flexibility make it well suited for all kinds of recording tasks: studio, live recording, etc. Clearly a best buy console in my book.
Russ Long, a Nashville-based producer/engineer, owns the Carport recording studio.
He is a regular contributor to Pro Audio Review.
Audix SCX-25 microphones, Heil PR-40 dynamic microphones, Shure KSM-32 microphones, TASCAM DV-RA1000, Alesis Masterlink, Benchmark ADC-1 24-bit/192 kHz converter, Westlake Interconnects, Esoteric DV-50 Universal DVD-A/SACD player.