Our MCI Mixing Console
The centrepiece of Beckview Studios is our vintage Sony MCI JH-600 mixing console. We love this console! It completes the workflow and aesthetic of the studio.
We love its layout! It is large enough to accommodate complex tracking sessions, yet it allows us to quickly and efficiently access all the functionality it has to offer.
The integrated patch bay [to the right hand side of the picture] is comprehensive and very flexible for routing signals in, out and around the console. Each section of the console can be patched in or out of. For example, you can patch straight out of the pre-amp, or insert processors before or after the EQ section.
Our console is transparent, and the stock preamps are great for capturing source material in an 'un-coloured' manner. We have modified some of the channels with the El Preamp design based on an API 312 preamp. These Preamps sound fantastic and have a real weight to the sound thanks to some big Jensen transformers and API op-amps.
See picture below of the modified API preamps [left] and stock MCI preamps [right].
A [very] brief history of MCI consoles
MCI designed and built three different consoles in their short existence. In 1974 the company introduced the JH-400 series console (one of the first in-line consoles), the JH-500 appeared in 1975 and then the JH-600 was released in 1979. It would seem that MCI made revisions and changes to the desks during each models production run. Some of these changes are not documented and some changes between models were due to the options and customisations available on purchase.
Alongside mixing consoles, MCI also built tape recorders. The JH-24 tape recorder is one of the final versions and is 24 tracks on 2” tape. We are proud to say that it is this model which also sits pride of place in our control room at Beckview Studios.
In the 1980's Sony bought MCI and simply added their badge to the existing desks, and tape machines without changing the machinery. It was only in subsequent models that they implemented their design changes and finally dropped the MCI name, for example in the SONY MXP3036 console.
Our [Sony] MCI console
We acquired our mixing console and 2” tape machine in March 2020. It weighs a lot and took eight people to carry it down our steps and into the studio.
The console came with all its original documentation, which, considering its age, is quite unusual. The documentation states that it was commissioned on 27th September 1984.
Because it was built in 1984, it is badged up as a Sony MCI. Its serial number is 649, and the product is listed as JH-636-28-AF/VU. The 636 portion means the model is a JH-600, the 36 means its a 36-channel frame and the 28 means that 28 of the 36 available slots are filled with channels. AF stands for automation. This automation is from the 1980’s and is very rudimentary, we have ours disconnected. VU stands for mechanical VU meters rather than mechanical peak program meters or plasma display light meters, the VU meters are the most reliable out there, and all of ours work. Reliability is key considering the age of the desk.
The documentation also lists the optional extras ordered with our board. There have been several incarnations of the channel strips for these board over the years, but by 1984 there were two EQ choices; the standard EQ; and the Vari-Q three-band option. Our conole features both of these options. Another optional extra that our console has is the Auxiliary echo return module. This happens to be quite a rare feature and gives the desk an additional 4 returns, making a total of 9 mono auxiliary returns. Our console also features the optional phase meter and VU meters for the sends.
We love this desk so much, that we even bought another 1979 MCI JH-636 for parts which will allow us to keep this console running in tiptop condition for years to come!
Thank you Jack, Ross, Alex, Justin, Will and Nick for helping us gently carry the desk to its current location!