Being Green: Recycling Audio Gear

What to do with an aging, digitally-controlled analog console?

That was the question posed to the recording department at the Minneapolis Media Institute (MMI), former home of FLYTE TYME studios, where Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis made their home for nearly 20 years. The console in question – a Harrison Series-10 – had not aged well. We all know what time does to electronics, especially in a facility that was on 24/7. In addition, an interim studio owner let the humidification system go dry, resulting in the perfect environment for static electricity over several dry Minnesota winters. No amount of Static Guard could tame the beast and by the time MMI took over, the damage had been done. Countless static charged fingers gradually weakened the sensitive CMOS electronics inside until the console was a shadow of its former self.

Earlier this year, I stepped in to removed power from the I/O modules and master section so that only the mic preamps were functional. Channel-to-channel preamp consistency improved after a capacitor upgrade. While not know for a classic vintage tone, these preamps are neutral, clean, quiet and plentiful – 40 channels in all! Come September, the console will be replaced with a control surface and the preamps racked into groups of eight channels and rack mounted.


A quick web search for ‘card cages’ yielded a company called UNITRACK. I purchased one of their Versacage models to protytpe the project and in about six hours had the unit assembled with modules. While there are still some tweaks to be made, but at least I know the mechanical side of the project is covered so we can order 4 more cages.

Harrison Aux modules doing their mechanical duty for the prototype.

The Harrison preamp module height, including top and bottom rails, is 3.5 inches – exactly 3 rack units (3U)! The mother board height, however, is not the same. When mounted to the rails the height is 4.5-inches – more than 3U but less than 4U. We’ll probably use the extra front panel space for labeling.

Once in the warehouse, the console will be disassembled. I am hoping to make use of the Light Meters and the Faders. Hopefully there are users who have need for the modules.

I got the idea from using a similar product years ago for custom patch bays with multi-pin connectors. It would be fairly easy to build a card cage for 500 series modules, for example, using the Versacage or similar Unitrack product.

Middle Atlantic Products also makes customizable rack hardware that is especially useful for mounting connectors, adding ventilation screens and fans.

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