Audioarts LM-80: Built to last!

Bill Whitney and the Audioarts Wheatstone. (Photo by Steve Wollkind)Bill Whitney and the Audioarts Wheatstone. (Photo by Steve Wollkind)

It all started when Bill Whitney sent what seemed like a routine request to Audioarts' technical support department.

I have an old 40-channel Audioarts Wheatstone console, and i'm
wondering if any sort of documentation or owners manual still exists
for this mixer.

Jerry Jacobson caught the case and, based on the serial number provided with the inquiry, discovered something surprising. This wasn't just any Audioarts console!

In 1981, Audioarts Engineering, already a pioneering force in the audio console industry, designed the LM-80, its largest mixing console to date. Codenamed the "Wheatstone Project," the console -- and its name -- became so well-known that later that year, the company changed its name to Wheatstone Corporation, maintaining the Audioarts name as a separate product line.

In November, 1983, a company called NJ Communications in New Jersey ordered their own 40-input LM-80 "Wheatstone" console, serial number 13874. That was a long time ago, and we don't know very much about what happened to the console between then and 2010.

Bill Whitney is a sound designer who works for Harmonix. You may recognize them as the company which developed the original "Guitar Hero" video game, later selling the franchise and starting over with their current product, "Rock Band." Working from his home, Whitney, a bass player, transcribes bass parts from songs for the game, creates note charts, and does various additional sound design for Rock Band. He was looking for a console for his home studio, where he does all of his audio work.

Meanwhile, a sound company in Florida had apparently fallen on hard times and was selling its entire rig -- line arrays, amps, racks, and one Audioarts LM-80. The console, complete with its own road case, was up for bids at a very attractive price. Whitney had never heard of Audioarts or Wheatstone, but asked around. The consensus among his co-workers was that Wheatstone's products were "pretty solid," and he reasoned that "with a 40-channel console, even if half the channels don't work, it'd still be a bargain." He bid $400 on the console and won the auction.

Whitney quickly learned that the logistics of transporting and installing a large, heavy 1980s-era mixing console were anything but routine. A family connection enabled him to accomplish the trucking of the console from Florida to his Boston home for $100, but once it was there, the work had just begun. "Getting it into my house was quite an experience -- it took four guys and a lot of swearing to get it into place," he remembers.

Once the console was in place and he began plugging things in, he found himself surprised by the general condition and sound of the console. "It was in absoluely pristine condition. I was really surprised; aside from a few scratchy pots, the console sounded so good, and mic preamps are so transparent. I particularly like the flexible signal routing; there are a lot of different options for getting things from here to there. It's particularly well-suited to the way I work."

Indeed, Whitney now uses what he calls a "killer" console daily in his sound design work; hardly a day goes by that he's not rehearsing something, mixing something, or tracking something, and the Wheatstone's become the centerpiece of that work. He has done no technical repair or restoration on the console at all. He was kind enough to send us the photo you see at the top of this story as well as those below for this feature and for our archives; all are courtesy of photographer Steve Wollkind.

We think you'll agree that this piece of Audioarts history is extremely well-preserved for a 27-year-old, and we're proud that it's a testament to Audioarts' slogan: Flexible. Affordable. Built to last.

.LM-80 (Photo by Steve Wollkind)LM-80 (Photo by Steve Wollkind)LM-80 (Photo by Steve Wollkind)LM-80 (Photo by Steve Wollkind)LM-80 (Photo by Steve Wollkind)LM-80 (Photo by Steve Wollkind)Whitney002

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