Saturday, 10 July 2010

Stephens Console

Here is a great Stephens Electronics 2416 console from the early 70s. Its on ebay for a rather hopeful $50,000

From the ebay text:

First, if anyone is seriously interested in this console please call or email me directly - there is simply too much information I know about this console to type it all in an ebay listing. John Stephens made approximately seven of these consoles any only two are known to still exist. This is NOT a Stevenson console, do not be confused, this was handmade by John Stephens of Stephens Electronics in Burbank, CA. David Kean at the Audities Foundation has a larger one (48 input channels) and I have the other (24 input channels). The last photo is of the Stephens 2416 console owned by David Kean/Audities installed in the 1970's at Premore Studios in North Hollywood. Mine was never installed but was obtained by David Kean from the estate of John Stephens when he passed away several years ago. The console was saved from the trash by Doug Messenger @ harddrive studios in LA (who owns the Stephens 821B used to record Pink Floyd's "The Wall") when Premore Inc closed its doors after the death of Leo Hulseman of Solo Cup Company (who originally commissioned the consoles from John Stephens for an excess of $70,000 in the early 1970's). When John Stephens was still alive he bought the console back from Doug Messenger and it sat unused in his workspace until he passed away.

Console features:

Portable (Less than 100 lbs) - Main Section is in a road case that measures 49"x29"x6", Master/Monitor section is in a case that measures 25"x17"x6". Both cases can be carried by one person.
All discrete point to point circuitry using the same proprietary 618/620 amplifiers used in the 821B tape machines.
100% hand made and built by John Stephens himself.

Main Section:
-24 Microphone preamps with UTC ouncer input transformers and direct outputs to TT patchbay
-24 Line inputs
-18 Busses (10 primary, 8 secondary). Unique sealed flip switches for quick buss assignment.
-2 Sub Master Groups
-2 band passive inductor based EQ on all input channels with Stephens 621 makeup amplifier.
-Two large inductors for each channel. All eq controls are gold plated stepped switches.
-High eq selectable: 10K, 5K, 3.5K, 1.5K, .88K.
-Low Eq selectable: 50, 100, 200, 300, 500.
-EQ in/out switch, Solo switch. Channel On/Off Switch
-600 ohm P&G faders (primary outputs), Allen Bradley pots (secondary outputs/master/group outputs)
and more...depending on how you configure the console.

Master/Monitor Section:
-16 Subgroups
-12 Master Outs
-3 Headphone Outputs with 16 inputs on each for custom headphone mixes

I am currently only using the main section, which by itself is a complete 24x2x16 mixer (8 primary outputs, 8 secondary outputs, 2 subgroup outputs/master outs). The master/monitor section is useful if you want to use it as a master section, create headphone submixes or alternate mixes to different speaker sets, sends, and so on - it could also be used as a standalone 16x12 channel line submixer. Some features have not been implemented that could be implemented if you need them, please call me to discuss. The console has been in use in my studio for three years. I've restored the console completely with new audio grade high temperature, low esr capacitors and made it 100% functional despite limited documentation. The company that made the first set of fader panels for me did a bad job and I will cover the cost of new fader panels and help with the install of the console for the new buyer. Whomever buys this console should be willing to learn about the console design and have basic technical knowledge or capability. Since the console is essentially one of a kind I want to make sure whomever buys the console knows how it is built. Included is the smaller 3M 16 channel VU panel and the original, and larger, Stephens 16 channel VU panel with large Modutec VU meters. I also have many spare 620 amplifier modules, rare schematics, and documents including the console specs. I am currently using a 10A regulated HP power supply which supplies the 618 modules with -38V for tons of headroom. I had new metal EQ frequency select switches made since the original plastic ones needed replacing - and they are perfect replicas of the originals but metal so that they will last forever. As you can see from the photos some of the gold switch caps are missing - but I don't know where to get replacements. That said, it's purely cosmetic and not functionally problematic.

As one would expect the sound is hifi, pure, and second to none - anyone that has heard his tape machines knows that nothing compares to the sound of a Stephens. One of the great pioneers of recording technology, John Stephens was a genius and rarely gets the credit he deserves for the beautiful recorders and consoles he designed.


  1. I worked with John Stephens building the 821B recorders from 1978-82. John had one of his consoles as a permanent fixture in his private mastering room located in the center of the factory at 3513 Pacific Ave in Burbank, Ca. One Sunday afternoon John allowed me to record My friends 16 piece big band on that board direct to a Stephens (3M deck) 2 track. It was glorius! I've been out to Leo Hulseman's home in Brentwood, CA with John. Leo would record his wife "Broadway Rose". John would then 1/2 speed master the recordings on his record cutting lathe in his mastering room. John and Leo had a special relationship. Leo was very fond of John. He made a significant financial investment in John helping him to start his company. John was often at Premore, visiting with Leo or helping with some video related project they needed technical help with. There weren't many Stephens boards made. There was Johns, Leo's (in his home)and the one that Ike Turner had. They were the only ones I was aware of although it seems plausible that Premore may have had one also.
    By the way, Pink Floyds "The Wall" was recorded on a customer's machine that we had in our shop for a deck servo update. John rented the machine to Floyd in England. Some of the overdubs and the mix were done at Producers Workshop (owned by Liberace) in Los Angeles.
    The mix was done on the producers custom board that was built by Bill Wyatt (I think that was his name - I only met him once). One of the Producers Workshop machines and a portable machine(an 821B-16/24)that I had built for Randy Ezratty, the owner of Effanel' Recording located in New Yrok City. Mick Fleetwood took this machine to Africa and recorded an album entitled "The Visitor" with some of the natives in what I was told was an old WWII aiplane hanger located out in the jungle. The machine runs on DC voltage and a couple of car batteries were evidently used for power. This machine also used by Randy to record Pat Metheny on his live album "Travels" as well as many opf the "King Biscuit Flour Hour" live radio brocast concerts. Randy rented the machine to Producers/Floyd and it was sync'd to one of the Producers machine for 48 tracks. I was fortunate enough to get to service one of the machines while Roger Waters was in the studio mixing part of the record. By the way, that album received a Grammy for best sound that year! John Stephens was a brilliant man and was a good friend to me. Doug Cioce

  2. Hi,

    I just posted this to my archival group. Any info on the console's faders?

    Re: [ARSCLIST] The root of the slide-fader?Thursday, April 12, 2012 1:25 PM
    From: "Roderic G Stephens" View contact details
    To: "Association for Recorded Sound Discussion List"
    Cc: "ryland bouchard"
    I may be wrong about this, but my brother, John Stephens, developed a slide fader for his consoles that used a graphic taper that wiped the audio in and out. He developed it, because he was tired of dirt, etc. that got into regular pots creating noise. He probably didn't patent it, since like with many of his inventions, he felt that the process was too cumbersome with not much protection resulting. I'd like anyone to tell me if I'm correct about this type of fader, since we're setting up a web site honoring John and his accomplishments and would like to include any other items.

    Rod Stephens

    --- On Thu, 4/12/12, Stephen Anderson wrote:

    From: Stephen Anderson
    Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] The root of the slide-fader?
    Date: Thursday, April 12, 2012, 11:25 AM

    Having recently refurbished an early '70s ADM console (thanks, Tom!), I can state fairly firmly that the Slidex, which used a twisted piece of aluminum activated by the slider to turn a conventional Allen Bradley pot, was pretty crude, and very difficult to match mechanically, channel to channel.

    Teac/Tascam in their Series 70 mixers used a string to turn a standard rotary pot, if memory serves, this was much better.


    On Apr 12, 2012, at 11:08 AM, Tom Fine wrote:

    > Art Davis worked for Cinema Engineering, which was marketing a form of this kind of attenuator in 1953 and probably earlier.
    > See:
    > (I provided the scans, from old magazines)
    > As we know, slide-faders became the preferred interface for analog mixing boards, eventually replacing rotary faders in almost all applications (although small-format mixers sold by companies like Behringer, Mackie, Alesis and others still use rotary faders). There have been many varients on slide-faders over the years. In the 60's, Fairchild sold a fader that controlled the intensity of a light source, which then interacted with a LDR to control gain, branded "Autoten." In the 70's, Audio Designs & Manufacturing (ADM) patented a mechanical system that drove a pot that controlled a VCA to control gain. The advantage of the ADM "Slidex" attenuator was that liquid (perhaps coffee at a TV station, beer at a radio station or something more exotic at a recording studio) could spill across the slider section of the console and not short out anything, within reason.
    > Here is the Slidex patent:
    > -- Tom Fine

    Stephen Anderson
    631 E. Vista del Playa
    Orange, CA 92865