Servicing A Mixing Console
Your mixing console is probably the heart and soul of where you work the most, whether you’re in the recording studio or out on the road engineering, it would make sense that this vital piece of equipment that is so detrimental to your work is well maintained.
This guide will hopefully be a great insight into ways to keep your console running smooth day to day or a guide to follow should anything catastrophic occur.
We’ll start with a list of items that are not only good for servicing purposes but can also be helpful with day to day cleaning.
- Can of compressed air – to remove the dust and grit from the pots and sliders
- Can of contact cleaner (Aero-Klene) – to clean up any scratchy noisy pots or sliders.
- Kitchen roll – to clean and absorb any excess liquids.
- Washing up liquid – to clean all the grease and muck off all the knobs and sliders.
- Cotton buds – to reach in those tiny spaces for cleaning.
- Antibacterial wipes – these will be great to give the areas where your hands are the most a good cleansing.
- Microfibre cloths – excellent for finishing those final touches.
- Paintbrushes – probably the most useful tool for keeping dust levels on a desk to a minimum, their long hair can easily reach in those small spaces between the knobs in little time. Perfect for day to day use.
- Tools – like screwdrivers, Allen keys and spanners to disassemble to the desk.
- Tupperware containers – to keep all the knobs, slider and screws in a safe place.
- Rubber gloves – working with contact cleaners its recommended by the manufacturers not to contact the skin.
- White electrical tape – this will be great to label any cables that are going into the desk to make the reinstallation process of the desk much faster by not having to spend hours working out which cable was where.
- Sharpie permanent marker – to label anything up
Phase 1 – Preparation
Label, Label and Label
Always start by powering the desk down and if you have any XLR cables already in the desk set up, now would be a great time to use some electrical tape and label what they lead to or the channel number.
Just a point of reference for yourself as 12x XLRs all the same colour bunched together are going to be quite challenging to identify later once they’ve been unplugged. It’s all in the prep, fail to prepare means to prepare to fail.
Next, all the siders and knobs will need to come off. Again, it’s probably a good idea to prep yourself, either take some detailed photos of your desk or make a note of what colour knobs belong where for example, as it’s going be difficult to remember once they’re all in one big pile.
The knobs and sliders can be pulled off using your fingers, so it’s a good idea to use Tupperware containers to store all off the items that will be coming off the desk in order to conduct the maintenance. The last thing you want happening is a vital screw or knob going missing. Even label the Tupperware boxes with what’s inside to a make the reassemble stage easier.
Phase 2 – Cleaning
Step 1 – Knobs
Once all the knobs and sliders are removed, you can begin cleaning these. It makes sense that the items your hands come into contact with the most are kept clean and hygienic, plus you don’t know where everyone else’s hands have been.
Pour some washing up liquid into the Tupperware boxes and using warm water, put the lid on and give it a good shake. You can leave it to sit for a few hours or using a cloth, give them an individual wipe, depending on the time you have available. Once cleaned, rinse them off to remove any left over washing liquid and dry them off using a cloth.
Step 2 – Disassembly
With all the knobs and sliders removed you can start the disassembly of the desk. Remove all the screws and sockets from the mixing console, use the Tupperware containers to safely store all the screws and even label up if you see fit.
Once all the screws have been taken out remove the panels of the desk to expose the internals. Again it may be wise to photograph, take note, label up anything now as to avoid any confusion when reassembling.
Detach any looms connecting the modular boards, and then remove from the panels of the desk, so you are left with the models and the panels separately. Then using a microfibre cloth, paintbrush or compressed air give the panel and good once over to remove the dust and anything else that may have found its way onto the panel. Then use anti-bacterial wipes to give the panel a good clean.
Step 3 – The Cleaning Itself
Now that the outer panels are clean now you can move to the internal modular. Start by using the compressed air over the entire modular front and back to remove any dust and dirt that has found its way in through the gaps.
Also, use the compressed air around all the pots and rotate the pots while spraying to get the maximum effect, this will prepare these areas as possible much before the cleaning stage.
Once the dust has been removed from all the pots you can now start prepping the faders. The fader chassis will have rubber shields to protect from dust falling in, using cotton buds and compressed air give these a thorough cleaning to remove as much dust as possible.
With the modular, pots and faders all dust-free the next stage will be using contact cleaner to lubricate and clean the components, this will physically clean the components and reduce any unwanted noise from the desk.
Just like clearing the dust from the area using compressed air, apply the same technique of spraying the components with contact cleaner. You only need a small spray, less is more. While using the contact cleaner with the faders spray, and then like with the compressed air technique, move the fader up and down to get as much of the component lubricated by the contact cleaner. The same theory applies with the pots and buttons. Afterwards, you’ll notice each component to have no resistant when moving, this is a good sign you’ve adequately lubricated and cleaned each element.
You can also give the ribbon cables a clean using the contact cleaner, just remove the loom, spray contact cleaner and using either cotton buds or a small paintbrush, give the pins a rub.
Bonus – For Good Measure
Any noise issues you may have with specific channels will hopefully be resolved thanks to this. Worth noting, while cleaning using contact cleaner use protective gloves, anything to stop it coming into contact with your skin. And lastly for good measure, if you want to give everything another blast with compressed air to dry everything up.
Phase 3 – Reassemble
The last step, probably to most time consuming, will be the reassemble of the desk. Reattach the ribbon loops to each modular, and then place back into the panels. Screw all the screws back in and reattached all the knobs and sliders. Revisit any photos or notes from the beginning stage to ensure correct reassemble. Then test each channel to ensure everything is working fine, then enjoy your crystal clean and sounding desk.
Overall by keeping a couple of paintbrushes handy and brushing down often after each use and following steps like keeping your desk covered with a towel. You will ultimately keep your desk cleaner for longer and extend the amount of time between time-consuming services like this. Little and often will go a long way.