Maselec and Prism Sound are two of the most upper echelon companies in professional audio. These two companies offer some of the best made and most revered products in audio engineering. We are thrilled to own the Maselec MTC-1x Mastering Transfer Console and Prism Sound Lyra 2 at Continuum.
Maselec MTC-1x Mastering Transfer Console
The MTC-1x can be summed up as – the best mastering transfer console in existence (this is, of course, subjective – but does come with years of buying and selling gear before finally pulling the trigger on the MTC). Some might argue that others on the market such as the Dangerous Liaison, the discontinued Manley Backbone, the customizable Crookwood system (and others) compare directly with or beat out the Maselec regarding function at different prices points. At Continuum, we proudly use the Maselec and were beyond thrilled to sell others we have owned to afford this badass unit.
Each large metal knob serves one purpose. From its black-anodized front panel (which will never wear out or the markings ever fade) to the oversized knobs and precision-stepped attenuators, it is built to last a very long time.
It’s elegant, and there is a surprisingly little compromise in function with absolutely no compromise in sound. Touching the unit feel beyond robust. So robust that when your hands leave the unit, you will find excuses to keep touching it!
The front panel is laid out exceptionally well, with logical signal flow from left to right. On the inputs, I can select from two sources, invert the polarity of either left, right or both, Hi and Lo Pass “cut off” filters are switchable with six frequencies each (20, 25, 30, 40, 50, 60 and 27k, 22k, 18k, 16k, 14k, 12k respectively), followed by +-5 dB gain trims per channel in 0.5 dB steps and a 5 dB boost switch.
For the inserts, six of them, I can select all simultaneously in series or 1 and two can be flipped (reversed in the sequence to 2 then 1) as well as 4 and 5 (5 > 4). On Insert 1, a pushbutton enables an internal M-S matrix, allowing whatever is on that insert to operate in M-S (Mid-Side) mode, with a knob that enables Insert Balance to be adjusted (turning down the Mid or the Side return by up to 1 dB in .1 dB increments). Next, to Insert 4, a pushbutton allows the performance of that unit (or of the sum of Units 2 through 4) to be added to the sum of the previous inserts, enabling parallel processing. Alternately, selecting the Add button allows the Insert 4 signal to be added to the main signal, for adding reverb or an effect to the main stereo program.
The output of the mastering section allows for +- 5 dB adjustments in 0.5 dB steps and mute. In the Image Section, two controls were new to me: Elliptical Filter and Stereo Width. The Elliptical Filter is a holdover from the vinyl record mastering days, and it sums low-frequency signals below the cutoff frequency, variable in 20 steps from 40 Hz to 360 Hz. Stereo Width varies the signal from -100% to +100%, with -100 being completely mono, 0 is no change and +100 being extremely wide stereo. A Post Output 6 button enables the use of a peak limiter last (after the output faders and amplifiers) in the signal chain, just before the output XLRs.
The monitor section allows switchable monitoring of 4 stereo sources or Input or Output, with Main/Aux speaker select, a detented 55 dB-range monitor knob, with Dim or Left/Right Cut switches. The output can be monitored as Left only, Right only, Stereo, Mono and Difference, which came in very handy. The metering output can be switched from 0 to -6, -8 or -10 dB.
How does the MTC-1 sound? Well, that’s a trick question. It doesn’t really have a sound–precisely what you want from a transfer console. The purpose here is to allow easy and flexible functionality without hindering creative options. In that respect, the MTC-1 gets straight A’s. Being able to implement parallel processing easily and Mid-Side processing at the touch of a button is terrific. Being able to have six processors hardwired in and swap them around so quickly (albeit with limitations) is also delightful. It was a treat being able to trade three different brands of EQ in and out of the circuit and try different compressors and combinations with the touch of a button or two (or six).
The Image section is what sold us for mixing and mastering (mostly pop and EDM music). The Elliptical section and the Stereo Width control are used on every mix and master. Plugins don’t handle low end as well as hardware. Stereo widening plugins usually sound fake and can easily alter the phase of a track in less than desirable ways. With the Image section, the low end stays tight and mono compatible while the stereo image widens sweetly without losing any definition in the middle. For EDM music, the center, kick, vocal and bass are 90 percent of the track. These elements need to sound right and gave a massive impact! Being able to push the width of the stereo image out to extremes was terrific. Even more amazing was the fact that, when switching from Stereo to Mono, it was impossible to detect a difference between extremely wide (+100) and just plain stereo when monitoring in mono. Game-changing!
If you need transparent control of your routing, this is a serious contender. This unit would work equally well as a monitor controller or a final stage for mixing too. We run this unit with our Prism Sound Lyra 2 and feel the combination is fantastic. The Lyra offers extremely crystal clear audio for monitoring and printing mixes post-mix bus chain running through the MTC.
The Build: The Lyra feels solid and beautifully built. The front panel supplies two instrument inputs, a metering section, an assignable level control and a headphone output with dedicated level control. On the back are input XLRs for microphones, two-line input 1/4-inch TRS jacks and four 1/4-inch TRS outputs. In addition, there is a USB port, two BNC sockets for word clock in and out, two phono connectors for S/PDIF I/O and the ADAT lightpipe I/O sockets. Power is connected via an IEC mains connector so there is no external PSU to lose. There is also a pair of phono to XLR connectors so that the wired digital I/O can be used in AES format. The two microphone inputs also sound stunning. They are superbly transparent with a wonderful transient response and the overkill soft limiter which guarantees no overloads – any recording source will benefit from going through them. Just the pres alone would give plenty of other high-end units a run for their money.
The Sound: The low-end is incredibly precise and full, the mids smooth and detailed and the highs are superb and vibrant. Stereo imaging is excellent but it’s the depth of field that really wins you over. This unit thrives on delivering space, dimension, clarity, and an unbeatable professional gloss. From hard-edged EDM through to Acoustic, you hear every glorious detail no matter what the genre.
If transparent, clean, and sonically stunning audio is your end game, take a hard look at Maselec and Prism Sound gear. Your bank account will suffer a bit in the short term – but in the long run, you will have equipment that you won’t ever want to part with and will always deliver the highest caliber of audio.