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Page 2: Trident Audio Developments 78 Series

Analogue Mixing Console By Hugh Robjohns
Published December 2017


The top of each sub-group module carries a long bar-graph meter which can be switched to show the sub-group output, group monitor return (pre-fade) or the corresponding aux master send. These LED meters are in the sub-group modules because the space above in the meter-bridge is occupied by a pair of large VU meters for the main stereo output/monitor signals and PSU status LEDs.

Aux send master controls sit below the bar-graphs with a rotary output level knob, AFL solo, and a button to send the post-fade aux output to the corresponding sub-group’s meter. Moving down the strip, the next section controls a stereo effects return (which routes directly to the stereo mix bus), with level, balance, and mute controls. On the Trident 88, the eight stereo effects return inputs are relatively well equipped, each feeding directly into the stereo mix via rotary level and pan/balance controls. They also have a basic tilt EQ, mute and solo buttons and, importantly, the ability to send the effects signal to the stereo aux 7/8 artist cue bus, which is switchable pre/post-fade and has a balance control. The Trident 78 loses several of these facilities (presumably to save costs), but its effects inputs are balanced, which the 88’s currently aren’t.

The channel and group strips (the groups are pictured here) are semi-modular. Each module hosts four channels, but beneath the panel there’s a separate card for each channel/group, which should make repair and maintenance fairly efficient, while reducing manufacturing costs significantly.The channel and group strips (the groups are pictured here) are semi-modular. Each module hosts four channels, but beneath the panel there’s a separate card for each channel/group, which should make repair and maintenance fairly efficient, while reducing manufacturing costs significantly.Here, the stereo effects returns still feed the stereo mix bus, via a rotary level control and pan/balance control with a mute button, exactly as before. But the tilt EQ has gone (fair enough), as has the solo button (so you can’t quickly check the EFX signal, which is a shame but no deal breaker). Critically, though, access to the artist cue bus (stereo aux bus 5/6 in the Trident 78) has been lost; the aux controls seen on the group modules are only accessible from the group/monitor path. So if you want to route effects into the artist cue mix (for a ‘comfort reverb’, say) you can’t use the effects returns. Instead, you’d have to patch the effects signals into some spare input channels and access the aux busses from there, or (possibly a more practical solution in many cases) use the group module’s monitor inputs for the EFX returns. In this way, the re-patched return signals still route directly to the stereo mix bus via the monitor level and pan controls, but they also gain an AFL button and pre/post access to mono auxes 3 and 4 and the stereo aux 5/6. The group monitor inputs are mono, so eight groups could handle only four stereo returns, but that shouldn’t be a problem for comfort reverb, or for the few occasions where you want to route one effect output on to another effect send (something else that can’t be done directly from the dedicated returns).

As I mentioned earlier, the sub-group signal has its own balanced pre-fade insert, although the switch to activate the return is strangely hidden away between the aux master and effects-return sections. Again, there’s no EQ here, but the sub-group can access aux sends 3-6 (two mono auxes and the stereo one) for effects and artist headphone mixes, with the sends derived pre or post the monitor level control. The group output is controlled by a long, red fader and this feeds the stereo mix bus via a rotary level control labelled ‘Monitor’, and a pan-pot. There’s also a mute button and AFL monitoring, and a button to replace the sub-group signal, at the point it reaches the Monitor level control, with that from a separate external monitor line input. The post-fade sub-group signal always remains available at the corresponding group output.

Master Module

A blue stereo fader is provided to control the main stereo mix output, with a button at the top of the strip to activate the balanced insert return. The master module hosts a button at the top to switch in the optional Lundahl LL1517 output transformers, where installed.

The monitor control section defaults to reproducing the stereo mix-bus output, but buttons select either of the balanced stereo two-track returns (the first of which can be substituted by a front-panel 3.5mm mini-jack input for a portable media player). There are no facilities to adjust the relative levels of these external inputs.

If any of the console’s solo buttons are pressed, the monitoring automatically switches to reproduce the soloed signal(s) with a ‘solo active’ warning light, and the solo level can be adjusted with a rotary control. Facilities are also provided for switching the monitoring to mono, to adjust the monitoring volume, and to dim (-30dB) or mute the signal. The monitoring output can also be despatched to a set of alternative monitor outputs, but there’s no provision for balancing the relative levels of the main and alt speaker outputs.

The console’s main output metering above the sub-group modules is derived from the monitor signal path, so it shows the levels of whatever is being monitored, including the two-track returns (if selected) and the soloed signals. I noticed that this meter feed is taken after the mono button, which is unusual but potentially useful. The two high-powered headphone output sockets (a 3.5mm mini-jack on the monitor panel, and a quarter-inch socket under the armrest) are wired in parallel, with a shared volume control which is independent of the speaker monitor volume.

Talkback facilities include both an internal electret mic and provision to connect and select an external mic (phantom power is provided). A rotary control sets the talkback level, and buttons despatch the signal to all eight sub-groups and/or all six auxes. Activating talkback to the sub-groups automatically dims the monitors to avoid feedback and aid speech clarity, but not when talking to the auxes. The Trident 88’s line-up oscillator has been omitted.

Overall Impressions

Many of us share a deep-rooted attraction to large mixing consoles that are liberally covered in knobs and buttons, and the Trident 78 doesn’t disappoint — this is a proper old-school analogue multitrack console built to an imposing scale. The construction is solid, elegant, and nicely finished, with a comfortable armrest and smoothly weighted controls that inspire confidence. The overall styling pleasantly reflects Trident’s heydays, with those characteristic straight-sided shiny red, green, and black anodised metallic knobs, back-lit VU meters, and lots of illuminated buttons. The control layout is logical and familiar, and the signal paths are straightforward enough that the learning curve is minimal — which can’t be said of many large-format in-line consoles!

While the feature set is slimmed down compared with that of the Trident 88 series, the Trident 78s are nonetheless a very capable, high-quality, and versatile consoles and the feature-to-cost ratio has been well judged. Even the smallest versions of the Trident 78 can accept a lot of inputs for mix-down — a 16 input, eight mono bus model can accommodate 56 mix inputs, with 88 on the 32-channel model.

The 32-channel model is the largest currently available, and is pictured here with the more affordable LED meter option.The 32-channel model is the largest currently available, and is pictured here with the more affordable LED meter option.

Inevitably, there are a few things I’d have preferred to be done differently, although I’m sure not everyone will share my views. For example, it’s a shame that the high-pass filter travels with the full EQ section when switched to the monitor path; most engineers would like to be able to apply high-pass filtering as they’re recording, but to molest the monitor return with the main EQ as the guide mix is built up. There are work-arounds, of course, but I’d prefer the high-pass filter to be part of the input preamp, rather than the main EQ.

Something Paul White commented upon in his Trident 88 review ( also applies here: visually, the monitoring volume control is indistinguishable from the solo, headphone and talkback volume controls; most big console manufacturers employ generously over-sized knobs for the monitor volume, as it’s a control you often need to find in a hurry. (Familiarity and daily use would mitigate this issue to a large extent.)

Of more concern is the evidence of the design’s ongoing development, such as the redeployment of the optional output transformers from the monitoring to the main outputs, and the re-working of the channel direct-output options (which I feel, as discussed above, still need work). Also, being unable easily to route an effects return into the artist cue aux may well be a cost-saving measure too far for many. There are workarounds, but I found these foibles rather disappointing.

On a more positive note, when used conservatively the preamps sound neutral, clean and quiet. But they sound musical and appealing, rather than clinical, and deliberately pushing things harder introduces an attractive thickening before you hit the (very high) overload point. So this is a console that can, if you wish, be ‘played’, to develop a sound character. The EQ is also very easy to use, and allows nice tonal shaping without ever becoming muddy or screechy — it’s the attractive behaviour that has long been associated with Trident-console EQs.

While there are obvious advantages to ‘mixing in the box’, mixing on a big analogue console still has its benefits too, and the sheer physicality of it makes it a more enjoyable experience for me. In many ways I think the inherent limitations of ‘manual mixing’ help me focus on the big sound picture, rather than getting lost in minutiae, so I find I arrive at finished mixes quicker. I think they sound better too (although that could be confirmation bias!). There was a time when integrating a large mixer with a DAW was expensive and difficult, but the profusion of audio interfaces with a lot of analogue I/O makes that much easier and than ever before.

The Trident 78 consoles have a lot going for them. Despite some practical limitations and a few foibles, they’ll undoubtedly appeal to those who are attracted to old-school recording consoles and manual mixing, but lack the budget for the equivalent 88-series model.  


Since Allen & Heath retired their GSR24 last year, the only direct competition comes from the similarly priced Audient ASP8024 HE. More money would buy you an equivalent API, or an SSL Matrix hooked up to outboard preamps and EQ. Or, for that matter, a Trident 88.Since Allen & Heath retired their GSR24 last year, there aren’t really any alternatives at this price. The Audient ASP8024 HE is perhaps the nearest competitor, though it’s rather more expensive. More money still would buy you an equivalent API model, or an SSL Matrix hooked up to outboard preamps and EQ. Or, for that matter, a Trident 88.

Trident History

The Trident name stems from a highly influential multitrack recording studio that opened in central London in 1968 and created hits throughout the ’70s for the likes of The Beatles (Hey Jude), Bee Gees, Black Sabbath, Chris de Burgh, David Bowie (Ziggy Stardust), Genesis (Nursery Cryme), Elton John (Candle in the Wind), Queen (all the early albums), Carly Simon, Soft Cell, Supertramp (Crime of the Century), James Taylor, Yes, and countless more. The original owners, the Sheffield brothers, sold the studio in 1981, and it has undergone several major refurbishments and name changes since then. However, it now provides audio post-production facilities under the name Trident Audio Post, and earlier this year a blue plaque was unveiled on the wall outside at 17 St. Annes Court, London, in recognition of the many David Bowie albums recorded there!

The advent of multitrack recording at the end of the 1960s required far more complex mixing consoles, but there were very few commercial console manufacturers with anything to offer at that time — Cadac, Helios, and Neve had only recently started in the UK, and the control room at Trident was too small for their rather bulky designs. Consequently, the studio’s engineers — including a certain Malcolm Toft, well known for his later console and outboard designs — persuaded the owners that they could build their own bespoke multitrack console.

That became the first Trident A-Range in 1971, and it quickly gained a reputation for its sound character (especially its musical EQ which was controlled on sliders instead of knobs). The console’s success inevitably led to build requests from other studios all over the world, and soon this console-building side of the Trident studio’s business was spun off as Trident Audio Developments (TRIAD).

After the A-Range, TRIAD came up with a less expensive and ‘scaled down’ B-Range console in 1973, and that was followed in 1979 by the Trident Sound Mixer (TSM) and the Flexmix live sound console. The original Series 80 studio mixer was introduced in 1980, and then the Trimix before the best known and most successful Series 80B in 1983.

Since then a lot of other Trident consoles have appeared, one of the more notable examples being the digitally controlled analogue Di-An console in 1986. Confusingly, the Trident brand was assigned to a wide variety of consoles and outboard products built by a number of different companies for a while, all asserting direct lineage from the original company, but today the marque is definitively owned by the American PMI Audio Group.


The 78-series consoles are available in configurations with different numbers of input channels, and a couple of cost options. Prices exclude VAT.

Input Channels Meter Bridge Price ($£)
8 LED 14,99911,506
8 VU 15,99912,273
16 LED 17,99913,807
16 VU 19,24914,766
24 LED 20,99916,108
24 VU 22,99917,642
32 LED 24,99919,117
32 VU 26,44921,035

Lundahl output transformer option: $250£192.


  • Impressive preamps with massive headroom.
  • Classic Trident EQ character.
  • Attractive old-school analogue console layout and styling.
  • Available with as few as eight input channels —or as many as 32.
  • Versatile signal path and configuration options.
  • A lot of mix-down inputs!
  • Choice of LED bar-graphs or VU meters in meter-bridge.


  • No preamp direct out option (yet).
  • High-pass filter travels with main EQ.
  • No aux access or AFL on effects returns.
  • Still a work-in-progress?


Derived from Trident’s flagship model and retaining the old-school charm and character associated with Tridents of yore, this console strikes a good balance between feature set and cost.


See 'Pricing' box.

PMI Audio Europe +33 (0)603 820 456

See 'Pricing' box.

Trident Audio Developments +1 310 323 9050